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Subject: The Two Erics rss

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p55carroll
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Has anyone else noticed how prolific these two guys are?

Eric Lai
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Eric Walters
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"...the art of manoeuvering armies...an art which none may master by the light of nature. but to which, if he is to attain success, a man must serve a long apprenticeship." -- G.F.R. Henderson
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I spent a good portion of last night and this morning reading Eric W's many comments on SPI games. That was after reading Eric L's inspiring review of Thunderbolt Apache Leader.

And those are but drops in the bucket compared to all that these two guys have contributed to BGG! Nor is it just a matter of overwhelming quantity; there's consistently high quality there too.

Every time I come across something by either of these Erics, I end up shaking my head and asking myself, How on earth can anyone possibly play that many games and play them so attentively as to be able to speak intelligently about each one?

Consider this post my "hat's off" to Eric and Eric. What you guys do is absolutely astounding to me. If that's what walking the walk is, I'd better just slink into my corner and stick to talking the talk.

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Eric Lai
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p55carroll
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is pretty darn prolific as well! and Eric Walters is of the o'guard! A wealth of experience to draw upon and I love reading his posts too and I respect any comments he makes about games (especially useful in the game comment section for individual games, as well as elsewhere)

Just finished playing U-Boat leader and its pretty bad. I am pretty disappointed actually. Thunderbolt Apache Leader is a hard act to follow, no doubt. But U-Boat Leader is pretty darn monotonous. After a quick introductory turn or two, I started the long campaign game (4 patrol/submarine) starting Sept 1939, you buy submarines with OP points like you did with the air leader games and you can save some for use later. Having played Silent War, I was wondering what my "squadron" of subs is suppose to represent? With the air series, I can pretend I am the commander of a small squadron but its not how submarines groups work. I ended up with 6 subs but I know historically that there are dozens more involved in the conflict at this early stage of the war... I accepted the abstraction and moved on...

You start the game moving the submarines into various areas and selecting random event cards to see what occurs during each move... totally out of your control, usually bad things happen... sometimes you can spend torpedoes/stress to get victory points! Which undermines the purpose of the actual tactical battles! Oh well... (you could argue that the torpedoes could be better spent elsewhere... but not by much in my experience.)

After the moving/patrolling, you roll dice to work out how many contacts your subs make with Allied Shipping. This seems to work fine (there are some modifiers, but you basically just roll a dice)... but since there really isn't much of a time limit to the game as a whole, I found that this part of the game not very tense. Yes... every turn you stay out at sea means you will pick up more of them bad event cards... but since your armaments can only last 4-5 battles max (3 is average)... finding a ton of Allied Convoys isn't going to do you much good.

Once you make contact, you pick out a convoy card and place the ships on a Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations like tactical situation board, but this time you don't even have to pick your ordinances before hand! Your options are being on the water surface to fire your gun & torpedoes OR being submerged and less exposed. There is a clever mechanic where the faster ships with move AWAY from the slower ships (including your U-Boat). But once you get use this relative movement, you'll develop optimal strategies that works best, then monotony settles in. The Allied Escorts, Naval & Merchant ships are simply not very varied. The combat is very deadly for both you and the enemy and that means, with careful planning you will sink tonnes of ships and any risk taking on your part is suicide. You are ALWAYS better off, running away as soon as there are any chance of coming under enemy fire! (That's a spoiler!)

Another thing that didn't translate well at all from the air leader series is the concept of "Stress", in the air leader series, your pilots got stressed and your planes got damaged, in Thunderbolt Apache Leader, the damage was further broken down to specific damage which had realistic affects on your plane's performance. In U-Boat Leader there are NO such thing as pilots, but they kept the concept of "stress" any way. When your U-boats are damaged by depth charges and cannon fire... it gets "Stressed"?!? Simply doesn't work conceptually and the game would've been much better if your submarines got specific damage that cause mechanical problems. This seems too tacked on for me and didn't translate well in this new system.

I ended up conceding the game about 33% of the way in... NOT because I was losing, but because I had already obtained 60% of the Victory Points to get a "Great" winning result! The outcome seemed rather predictable, so instead of plowing through a few more hours of monotony... I decided to quit. This coming from someone that played through both Silent War & Steel Wolves: The German Submarine Campaign Against Allied Shipping – Vol 1 both of which took many days to finish...

The strategic situation was never tense at all and the game was way too easy, which is never a good thing in a solitaire game. On top of it all, the rule book for some unknown reason I can't put my finger on... was very obtuse and took forever to read...

Some comparisons are in order here, since both Silent War & U-Boat Leader are remarkably similar is many ways. Both are about submarine warfare in WWII and both games cover the war on a strategic and tactical level. Silent war has much larger scope and on the strategic level has extreme statistic accuracy and the random events were very historically inclined. In U-Boat Leader, the situation presented is historical but from this point on there is nothing historical about the game at all strategically! The random events are ... random, the number of U-boats you control seemed arbitrary and has no basis in military structure... totally game-y. Tactically, the combat in U-Boat Leader is if anything more complicated than that in Silent War, which isn't a good thing because the choices you are faced with is the same and even the results tend to be similar in both games... but its simply more drawn out with U-Boat Leader!

Overall, the tactical combat didn't do it for me, but it wasn't all that bad... it was at least quick playing compared to Phantom Leader because you dispensed with ordinance choices, which in that game took up a lot of your time (selecting ordinances), and unlike Thunderbolt/Apache Leader, ordinance is unlimited and free, so you ended up choosing the same configuration most of the time any way. The strategic game and campaign game fell totally flat for me. If I had to pick the CREAM OF THE CROP for the Leader series as it is currently (BY FAR!): Buy Thunderbolt Apache Leader, its unbelievably good.
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Martin Gallo
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One difficulty in switching over from aircraft to submarines is that an airplane has one pilot while a submarine has a captain and a "staff" and lots of crew all required to operate it (ground/port crews are abstracted out). It is easy to see how one pilot can be stressed/fatigued by close calls and is therefore not as effective while the stress in the U-Boat game is general wear. tear, nerves, equipment malfunctions and damage, time taken to repair leaks (reassigning crew duties) and disruption of the formation (which takes longer to reform without communications, unlike an aircraft flight which can reform visually and has open communications) etc. for a crew generally degrade the performance. While you could tack all of those factors separately for realism, it becomes an accounting exercise rather quickly.
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Eric Lai
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I understand what the abstraction represents, I just think it was better represented in Thunderbolt Apache Leader and that game has been out since 1991.
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Darrell Hanning
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I, too, played Silent War for multiple days.

And then gave up. The monotony was killing me. I felt like the instrument of some, esoteric statistical exercise.
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Eric Lai
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Its a lot better on VASSAL. The chit draws in the board version gets ridiculous after awhile.
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Lawrence Hung
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I haven't played the game yet. However, I can imagine what kind of stress it is in a submarine, when all you have is one periscope and a set of radar. You are never sure in darkness what does that beep mean on the radar screen, unlike a pilot who can have 360' degree of visual contact (well, 180' degree at least with eyeballs) with the environment and landscape outside. The pilot can always eject but the crew couldn't but trapped in a "box". If it sink, that's it. The kind of psychological "stress" is much greater in a sub than a combat helicopter. You can experience that kind of "stress" in Das Boot.

I saw that when people complained about the long dry patrol in the deep sea - duty of a submarine, the designer of Silent War always defended that it was what a submariner's life should be living through. I didn't come across in Silent War any strategy or tactics in terms of formation of a submarine squadron but at least U-Boat Leader made an attempt.
 
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Eric Walters
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"...the art of manoeuvering armies...an art which none may master by the light of nature. but to which, if he is to attain success, a man must serve a long apprenticeship." -- G.F.R. Henderson
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You guys are too kind. Actually, I think the description of some of those old SPI titles are best on the MAPS AND COUNTERS blog, if you've not checked it out. All I can do is hit the wavetops! Sadly, I don't get to play nearly as much as I used to, and a lot of the newer games just sit on my shelf, waiting for me to get to them. I do read the rules; it's just getting around to punching/sorting/clipping (sometimes) the counters and setting up the game with an opponent who is eager to play--

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