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Subject: Eric's Solitaire Review of U-Boat Leader rss

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Eric Lai
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Eric's Solitaire Review of U-Boat Leader

A new game in the Leader Series and I am afraid not one of its best. I am not going to walk you through the game flow, there are many great video reviews that does a wonderful job already. So straight into the meat.

First of all is the components: I am not sure what happened here, the various player aids and game board are made out of flimsy cardboard, the same one used in the original Field Commander: Rommel (which has since been upgraded), there was a slight curve in all these boards, which I had to straighten before play. No biggie, but not great. The cards that make up the game are okay, a little stiff but very nice. The rule book for some unknown reason I can't put my finger on... was very obtuse and took forever to read... maybe because it was long for what seemed to be a simpler game when compared with Thunderbolt Apache Leader and it just didn't flow very well. But no biggie again. As a side note: My box lid was torn on arrival, the box seemed to be made from different stuff compared to say..Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations... Not a biggie really, I am sure I could return it and get a replacement easy with the great service at DVG, but I am not going to bother them with shipping to Hong Kong (The only winner then is USPS!).

My Gameplay experience:

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 (I recommend playing just the short game), 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 captain/commander of a small squadron but this is not how submarines command 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.

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, I am giving this game a 5 out of 10, 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), I 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.

If you want to read more solitaire games reviews you can head on over to my geeklist here: http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/71266/erics-solitaire-revi...?

Enjoy
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Steve Herron
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I got my copy for Christmas (2011) and after playing it feel pretty well the same you do, I was able to beat it once I figured out how. It is a ok game but sort of a dissapointment.
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Eric Lai
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Yes, you are correct, I will rectify the review. Its been awhile since I played phantom leader, but I do remember that the SO point system wasn't as tight as it is in TA: Leader and I ended selecting the same sets of weapons every-time, one for when I have SO points and one for when I did not. The end result was the ordinance selecting system wasn't as exciting as it is in TA Leader.
 
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Ron Emch
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I agree that the game is not very much fun. It may be the first DVG game that I would be willing to part with.

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Mark Robinson
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Garfink wrote:
......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.


With a WWII submarine you are limited to torpedo or deck gun. Not having different ordnance may well be a turn-off to some. EDIT - OK some may have had spotter aircraft which they could tow.

Always good to read the negative, or rather not-so-good, reviews as well as the positive, especially when the reviews have substance to them.

Thanks.

Diff.
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Ronster Zero
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I''m glad it's not just me. I was really looking forward to this game, but after 3/4 through a medium campaign I just quit.

I was even lucky enough to meet Dan at a con and talk about the game. A great guy and I have been a huge supporter of all his games.

I guess they can't all be home runs. IMO if you want a great easy to learn solo game, I'd go with Field Commander: Rommel.
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Francis K. Lalumiere
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Yeah, I hate to say it, but I feel pretty much the same.
I really wanted to like this game, but it feels so flat.
(And this is coming from a big Phantom Leader fan.)

I'll give it one more shot, but I think it'll end up on the trade pile.
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David Ainsworth
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Well, I have to agree in the end too. I got through the first (long) campaign and halfway through the second before I gave up and haven't returned. This was the only "Leader" game I could find when I got it due to the others being out of print, and I'd be lying if I said my experience with U-Boat Leader had nothing to do with why I still haven't bought any of the other games, which I've been able to pick up for quite some time now.
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Andrew Kluck
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I appreciate critical reviews, it makes the designs a reviewer does like stand out. I bought Up Front and Empires in America in part because of Eric's thoughts on them and really like both.
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Doug
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Wow, I'm REALLY happy to learn I'm not alone in my opinion of this game. I agree with many of the points in the review. The game was monotonous and had very little thrill for me. It was my first foray into solitaire gaming and I was so disappointed. Luckily, I decided to order Field Commander Napoleon and my faith is completely restored! THAT is a fun, challenging and engaging game. I'm also glad to learn that people seem to think there is a big difference between this game and more popular games in the leader series. Perhaps now I will reconsider Thunderbolt Apache Leader or HL:CAO.
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Andre Oliveira
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Great review! And I couldn't agree more with you.
Thunderbolt is a blast, but this one is not really good.
 
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Luke Hughes

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Good review. One thing to note, Dan was not the designer of this game.
 
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Jim Lederer
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Check-out Dean's Tactical Expansion variant in the files section. Turns this game from good to awesome (for me).
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Jeff Fike
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If any of you are still around to see this post...do you feel the 2nd edition kickstarter will address the issues you had with the game?

For what it's worth, I've not played this game (yet) but Hornet Leader:CAO is my favorite solo game with Thunderbolt/Apache a close 2nd.

(I prefer the campaigns in HL, they feel more congruous - I also feel Thunderbolt is more fiddly - and I feel HL has more RPG elements to it as I see noob pilots go all the way to Ace....but with all of that said, Thunderbolt is still an awesome game and the way the ridges are implemented is pure genius).

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