Pete Belli
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Carrier Strike! is a classic game portraying naval combat in the WWII era. It is a “lite” wargame on the lower end of the complexity scale and was published in 1977 by Milton Bradley. It was designed for players at least eight years old and can be enjoyed by 2, 3, or 4 contestants. However, the game works best between two evenly matched commanders.

My wife is an occasional BGG lurker and I’m trying to introduce her to the wargame hobby. Her analytical brain and scientific training make her a formidable opponent in any competition, so Carrier Strike! provided a fun little game that allowed my beloved to experience the best (and worst) elements of a “lite” wargame.





In the finest tradition of archaic gender stereotypes I named my two carriers the USS Testosterone and the USS Ditka. Admiral Mrs. Belli christened her ships HMS Eleanor Roosevelt and HMS Eleanor of Aquitaine… my wife enjoys historical subjects and knows that “Tora! Tora! Tora!” was part of the Japanese code for the Pearl Harbor attack. I truly am the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

Each admiral controls two carriers and eight aircraft. The object of the game is simple: sink both enemy ships or destroy all of the enemy planes. Aircraft can launch torpedoes and/or function as a fighter on patrol to protect a carrier. The decision to assign torpedoes to a plane (like the Japanese commander’s choice of weaponry at Midway in 1942) can be crucial. Since the number of torpedoes available to each player is limited to just twelve and the odds of a successful attack on a carrier can be low every mission should be carefully evaluated. Don’t be fooled by the plastic toys or brief rule booklet because victory in Carrier Strike! can require planning and efficient logistical decisions.

During each turn a commander must decide if a carrier will be maneuvered or planes will be moved… a player can’t do both. The choice can be excruciatingly painful when a torpedo is aimed at your carrier but you must get aircraft in position to launch an attack on an enemy ship.

A simple die roll with a somewhat arbitrary 50-50 result determines if a ship will move forward one hex or execute a one hex turn. Maneuvering an aircraft carrier takes time in Carrier Strike! and the slow approach of a torpedo launched from six hexes away as it advances one space each turn increases the tension level in the game.

A standard six-sided die determines the number of “moves” a player has when planes are flown. The result can be divided among a commander’s aircraft in any fashion the admiral desires, and this excellent rule adds another layer of decision-making to the game. For game balance purposes I would have preferred to see an average die (2-3-3-4-4-5) used instead of a standard d6 but the joy of rolling a 6 is balanced by the agony of tossing a 1, so we’ll accept that rule.




As shown by the excellent photograph from the game’s gallery here on BGG a session of Carrier Strike! creates a marvelous spectacle.

Milton Bradley produced what might be called one of the finest presentations of an introductory wargame in the 1970s. The quality of the components is superb. The carriers and the WWII-style aircraft are wonderful. The torpedo markers are super cool and the planes can actually splash the weapons on the ocean board by tipping an aircraft miniature slightly forward. That must have delighted a generation of ten-year-olds as much as it did this middle-aged geezer Geek!

I did have a problem with the plastic markers used to indicate pilot quality. The dogfighting ability of each naval aviator is rated between 1 and 4 with the higher number representing “ace” status. The digits embossed on the discs were hard to read and this annoyed both admirals.

A vicious air-to-air battle can occur when planes are within four hexes of each other and a simple card system is used to resolve a dogfight. A superior pilot receives additional Dogfight Cards to choose from before the action is resolved with a nearly random (but not totally in the hands of Lady Luck) series of card matches. One (or possibly both!) planes will always be destroyed in a dogfight. Since all torpedoes must be dropped before a dogfight an aircraft not already in position to launch against an enemy carrier will be forced to abandon the irreplaceable weapon. As I mentioned earlier, this is a not just a simple game for children





The aircraft carriers are much more than impressively crafted toys. The flight deck functions like a real ship as planes are prepared for combat and moved forward to the bow. A plane returning from a mission must have room to land at the stern of the carrier. I discovered to my sorrow that a careless admiral who leaves his flight deck jammed with aircraft will permanently lose a plane which can’t make a landing.

Once again the visual presentation is outstanding. Planes line up on the flight deck. Extra torpedoes are stored along the starboard side. Moving aircraft into position and loaded them with torpedoes (or not, as the strategic situation might require) just feels right.

There are abstractions, of course. A carrier can take two torpedo hits. The first hit destroys all of the aircraft on a ship. Admiral Mrs. Belli saw a torpedo relentlessly approaching HMS Eleanor Roosevelt and immediately scrambled every plane on the ship. My torpedo damaged the carrier but Admiral Mrs. Belli lost no aircraft. On the other hand, her attack on the USS Testosterone caught one of my planes on the flight deck because I couldn’t prepare it for a mission after a low die roll. Once again, my aggressive but somewhat careless style of play cost me dearly. Ouch!

Once launched a torpedo will run continuously in a row of hexes until it hits something or exits the board. This is another unavoidable abstraction because tracking torpedo ranges would be a bookkeeping headache. The guys at Milton Bradley did add one rule that helps keep the number of markers to a minimum; if an admiral forgets to move a torpedo -- as I did twice during our session -- the marker is instantly removed from play.




Obviously Carrier Strike! can be fun for kids of all ages. Our sample game was truly a see-saw battle with the prudent analysis of Admiral Mrs. Belli challenging my bold but often reckless actions. The fortunes of war turned against my opponent when dogfights between my two pilots with ability ratings of 4 and her stinky 1s and 2s resulted in air superiority for my remaining carrier. Naval aviators from the USS Ditka (affectionately known as “The Iron Mike” to her crew) launched a successful attack against HMS Eleanor of Aquitaine, my opponent’s last ship.

However, a pilot from one of the two aircraft left under the command of Admiral Mrs. Belli had also launched a torpedo at the USS Ditka. She quickly counted the hexes and realized that my torpedo would strike her carrier before her “fish” hit the USS Ditka. I won the game by what could essentially be called a two hex margin.

This might be a good time to discuss the so-called Sacrifice Attack rule. This is a type of Kamikaze mission that may be conducted by aircraft after a commander runs out of torpedoes. I didn’t approve of the term Sacrifice Attack so we agreed to call a final strike at a carrier a strafing run. Unlike torpedo attacks for which there is no defense, an enemy aircraft on a vectored four-hex strafing run can be challenged to a dogfight by a fighter on patrol near a carrier.

My opponent had one torpedo left on HMS Eleanor Roosevelt. That ship was already damaged and facing a certain hit from one of my “fish” in a few turns. To demonstrate her good sportsmanship, Admiral Mrs. Belli flew a plane to the doomed carrier to pick up that last torpedo instead of letting it go to the bottom of the Pacific so she could execute Kamikaze attacks. To paraphrase a line from the movie Top Gun, it was one of the gutsiest moves I ever saw.

I know she enjoyed the game because we had an extensive debriefing after the battle. This is a sure sign she liked Carrier Strike! and she did mention another session at some future date.

Mission Accomplished.
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pete belli wrote:
Mission Accomplished.

Achievement unlocked!

Awesome work as always Pete.
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Spencer Myers
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I knew you were in for trouble as soon as I contrasted the names she gave her carriers with yours.
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Hobie
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So...why do they have these overtext things anyway?
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Always great to see an oldie but goodie! I play this with my boys on occasion. Always a good time.
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Kurt R
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All life is only a set of pictures in the brain, among which there is no difference betwixt those born of real things and those born of inward dreamings, and no cause to value the one above the other.
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An old favorite. I remember the great tension in this one. Thanks for the trip down memory lane via your review.
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Bob
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Great work Pete! This game brings back plenty of memories. thumbsup
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Alan Richbourg
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We got this the year it came out, and I was 11. I think it's the only "wargame" my brother ever played with me. Good memories!
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A. B. West
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chargetheguns wrote:
We got this the year it came out, and I was 11. I think it's the only "wargame" my brother ever played with me. Good memories!

+1 and until this momment I completely forgotten about this one.
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Frank Branham
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New Dia die Los Muertos. Lighter, sillier, and Stickers.
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Always loved this game.

If you ever play it again, I suggest using a variant rule that allows you to move fighters as well as one carrier each turn. As you play, you realize that there is a flaw here, and it is that a head-on torpedo is very hard to dodge. Trying to do so means that you aren't attacking your opponent.

As a follow-on, I'd suggest Submarine (Victory/AH). That is such a good game, and totally dirt simple, with rules being added on in the typical AH fashion.


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Dave C.
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I think it's about time for a . . .

ninja

ninja

ninja

ninja

ninja

Fantasy Flight Games reprint!!!!!!

Eagerly awaiting playing my 1977 copy with my young one.
Soon.
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J Weintraub
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It was already reprinted - as Mission Command Sea. Also OOP, but easier to find than Carrier Strike.
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Dave C.
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Warbanner wrote:
It was already reprinted - as Mission Command Sea. Also OOP, but easier to find than Carrier Strike.


Yeah, I got that one too. But I'm talking about a big, bad, plasticky, card stuffed version with an even MORE oversized board, and SBD Divebomber minis, and PBY Search Planes, and Carrier-based Anti-aircraft units, and Ray Spruance "Carrier Tactics" cards, or Minoru Genda "Inspirational Leadership" cards, and Battle of Coral Sea and Great Marianas Turkey Shoot expansions, and . . . and . . . and . . .
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A. B. West
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Remembering this one caused me to remember this other one: Chopper Strike. Memoir 44? Move over to the grand daddy of plastic army units. Oh the memories!
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Dave C.
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adamw wrote:
Remembering this one caused me to remember this other one: Chopper Strike. Memoir 44? Move over to the grand daddy of plastic army units. Oh the memories!


Chopper Strike is already wrapped and awaiting placement under this year's Christmas Tree. That, and Battleship are for the little guy. I forsee great things from this one.
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jeff miller
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Pete thanks for the review. I got this game for Christmas when I was nine or ten years old and enjoyed it immensely. Now you got me wanting to drag this old classic back to the table.
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Mike Oberly
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This was the best of the deluge of ultralight board wargames from the '70s. The pieces were nice, and it was fun. Not something I'd choose to play now, but it beats the pants off of something like Memoir '44, IMO.
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