Advanced Mission is the latest iteration of the classic Battleship game that we've all played since infancy. The basic premise of the game holds true here; the object of the game is to locate your opponents five ships on a large grid board and sink them before he does the same to you. In the classic version of the game, you had the option of alternating turns regardless of outcome, allowing successful shots to result in an additional turn, or the dreaded "salvo" game, which involved firing once for each ship shill afloat on your side each turn.
Advanced Mission builds on these basic game modes and adds its own spice. First off, if you've ever played other typed of Electronic Battleship, then you will be very accustomed to AV. Turning on the game results in some good old tinny sound effects and a lithium-female voice asking you to input number of players (yes you can play against teh computer). Included in the rulebook are several ship setup configurations you can choose from for setting out our units. These make it easier to get the game started, as all you have to do it select a configuration, enter the code for your choice, and place your ships according to the diagram. You can choose to place your ships manually, but you will have to enter the location of each ship into the computer before starting. If both players do this, it will be 10-15 mintues before the game begins.
Players can choose from the classic game variations mentioned above, but for your money's worth, the option to pick is to play the Advanced Mission. In this variation of the game, each ship has its own special firing pattern that can be used once per game. The firing patterns are clearly explained, and are pictured on the game unit itself. If a ship is sunk before you use the special ability, it is lost. The special abilities don't vary much, with the exception of the submarine, which allows you to launch a "torpedo" down any row on the board. The torpedo will check every space in that row, stopping only if it makes contact with an enemy vessel, at which point it will tell you the spot where it made contact.
In addition to the new firing options, players can also launch two planes from their aircraft carriers. If the carriers are sunk before the planes take off, they are lost. The planes are used in the upper grid, and can be used to "scan" for enemy craft using two different scanning patterns, variations that scan the 3x3 space surrounding the plane. Instead of firing, a player may use a turn to either scan with their plane or move it to a new location. The pegs used in AV have holes in them that allow the planes to be pushed in on top of them. This allows the planes to be put anywhere on the grid, regardless of peg positioning. If the plane scan detects a ship, it will simply tell you that a ship has been located in one of the spaced it scanned. The game comes with blue pegs that can be used to mark areas that have been scanned and may contain enemy ships, but need to be fired upon.
In order to combat these little snoops, each player also has the option of spending a turn to fire his "anti-aircraft" gun to try and blow his opponents planes out of the sky. By listenting to the scanning results of the other player's planes, one may be able to guess the location of the enemy plane and fire upon it. The anti-aircraft gun can only fire at one spot on the grid at a time.
Play continues as in the classic game, until one player is devoid of ships and his opponents declared master and commander of the high seas!
Now onto the nit-picking.
Design & Quality: 6/10
In an effort to be non-biased, I will say that the've done a good job of the overall game design. Both lower grids fold up and lock against the center of the console, and recessed handles on the bottom of each wing edge make it each to carry if you don't have the box with. The bottom grid opens like a lid to store the ships and planes, and a storage bin on each side of the center console store the massive amount of pegs. The storage bins have grey soft-plastic lids to keep the pegs in, and during gameplay these lids are opened to reveal the different special abilities available to your ships. The Grids are made of translucent plue hard plastic to simulate the ocean, and the buttons for entering coordinates are well placed at close to each player.
The sound on AV is terrible. My wife and I frequently play games at the coffee shop, and we were sad to find that the basic background noise of an empty coffe shop completely drowned out the sound coming from this game. I understand that some parent somewhere is very grateful for this, but they should have had the forethought of sound level options. Even when playing at home, there must be no noise at all to hear what is happening. The designers thoughtfully added a "repeat" button in case you missed something, but we frequently found ourselves in an odd ducking position usually reserved for fire drills, trying to hear what happened.
The pegs that come with the game are soft plastic to allow them to be adequately pressed into the hard plastic ocean grids. However, several of the holes on the grid are not small enough to properly hold the pegs, and several times we had pegs fall from our upper grid, bringing with it a piece of vital information that we may not be able to replace if we didn't see where it came from. On the other hand, some of the holes were so tight that it took a ridiculous amount of effort to remove them from the board. In classic battleship, this would not have been an issue until the end of the game, but in AV, there are several occasions in which you need to replace blue pegs with red or white. If you need to remove a stuck peg and pull too hard, your loose pegs will rain down from your grid. This is a major flaw for a game in which the entire mechanic depends on those little pegs being in the right place.
Well written and organized.
Here's the gist: I'm going to put a nickel in one of my hands, and then I'm going to put my hands behind my back. Now you guess which hand the nickel is in! Repeat five times. That, unfortunately, is the overall gameplay of Battleship in all its variations. Very little strategy can be squeezed out of a game in which the basic concept is to simply guess where the other player's ships are located.
AV tries to improve on this gameplay with the addition of special firing options and planes, but the result is the same. The airplanes are a throwaway feature that are difficult to use in practice. It requies a full turn to launch a plane. After you've scanned in one location, is takes a full turn to move the plane to a new location. The planes do nothing but tell you that some part of a ship is somewhere in a 3x3 area. The next turn you can fire on it. That's three turns to fire at a ship based on an educated guess rather than an uneducated guess. You could instead use those three turns to fire three times at the same 3x3 grid in a diagonal, and at least have the three chances of hitting something. But should you decide to use the planes, the worst part is how the games suggests you mark its scanning area with pegs.... 9 BLUE PEGS to show where its scanning. Then as you fire within that area, remove the blue pegs and replace them with red or white. This is where you must have the skills of a Shinobi warrior to prevent the masochistic loose pegs from hurling themselves into the peg pit below. The amount of peg swapping in the game is absurd, and yet another reason to ignore the planes.
The special firing options add some needed pizazz to the normal game, but also result in wicked peg-pushing. For example, should you decide to launch a torpedo from your sub, and it flies along the entire row without hitting a blessed thing, you must now add 14 WHITE PEGS to the board. Even if the other player takes his turn while you do this, you may still not be done cramming those pegs in.
Hey, this is just my rating. The fact of the matter is that Advanced Mission sits unused in my closet, trumped even by the likes of Boggle and Monopoly when it comes time to play a game. I know that others would certainly see it differently. I know my kids love to play it. And I love watching them, because being a kid means you have NO CHOICE but to cheat and peek over the center console. If their Xmas gifts were right in the next room, they'd look at those too. That's just their nature. But there must be something about Battleship because its still everywhere.
Overall Score: 4/10
I'm a game geek. This is not a good geek game. Let's face it. Kids love Battleship because its easy to play and fun to cheat at :-). There is little or no strategy, the peg holes are poorly sized, the special options don't really enhance game much, the speaker is poor, and my kids want to play it all the time. If you're an adult, don't bother with this game. If you're buying for a ten year old, this will be right up their alley.