Silent Victory – Board Game Review
Silent Victory — Board Game Review. Publisher: GMT Games and Consim Press Game Designer: Gregory M. Smith. Price $55.00
Passed Inspection: Easy to learn but complex and immersive game. Role playing elements. Tense historical action. Well laid out rule booklet with index. Tons of value for the money.
Failed Basic: Zip lock baggies would have been nice to include in the box. Dud torpedoes are very frustrating but accurately depicted.
“April 1942: Capt Martin of the USS Pike, a Porpoise class American sub, on their third war patrol; this time patrolling the Northern Marianas Islands. In our sixth week of patrol we encountered the 11,600 ton Japanese armed freighter Hie Maru with one smaller ship and a Japanese Destroyer. We engaged at medium and close range from submerged position. During our two hour attack, we fired 15 torpedoes at the Hie and the destroyer. Most torps hit but of those that hit all but one were duds except for the last torpedo which caused the Hie to explode. The destroyer pounded us for over an hour. We were heavily damaged and leaking fuel but limped back to Pearl Harbor after diving deep. All in a day’s work for a submariner. We will continue to report these defective type 14 torpedoes to high command but our past reports seem to have gone unnoticed.”
Silent Victory is an extremely immersive solitaire game from Consim Press and GMT Games. It simulates the missions of American submarine commanders from 1941 to 1945. This game is a sequel to 2013’s classic The Hunters which simulated German U Boat operations from 1939 to 1943. The Hunters received a 95% favorable rating from Armchair General and, if you can believe it, Silent Victory is even better! For the review of The Hunters check out http://www.armchairgeneral.com/the-hunters-boardgame-review.htm
I have a very good friend who is now American citizen but was born in Japan. He told me the story of his dad who was drafted in to the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. His dad was being sent to an island in order to reinforce the military there when his ship was hit and sunk by an American submarine. He was subsequently rescued by another Japanese ship which was then sunk the next day. His dad was then rescued by another ship which was also sunk by an American sub a few more days in to the journey. My friend’s dad was sent back to Japan with the other survivors. It is ironic to think that because my friend’s dad had his ships sunk three times by American submarines, his dad survived the war and had a son who became my friend years later. This story, alone, should testify to the effectiveness of American submarines in the Pacific during World War II.
Upon opening the Silent Victory box, the player will find a rule book, submarine log sheets, nice looking full color and die cut counters, three six sided and two ten sided die and one 20 sided die, five double sided card stock submarine control mats, two submarine patrol maps, five player aid cards, submarine combat mats and eight historic captain’s cards. There is a mat for each submarine type used in the game. Mats are also included for Combat during missions, Patrol Assignments and Encounters (merchant ships, capital ships and aircrafts), ship target rosters, random events and torpedo and deck gun to hit and damage charts and submarine damage and repair charts.
The rule booklet and the mats and charts are well laid out and logically presented. The rule’s index is complete and adds greatly to ease of use.
The player can command different types of submarines: the smaller Porpoise type submarines which are available starting in 1941, Tambor class, Salmon class, Narwhal class, Argonaut class, Gar class, the ubiquitous Gato class sub, Balao class, and finally the late war Tench class submarine.
Each submarine is rated for various features including how much flooding and hull damage it can sustain, status of internal and external systems such as the boat’s batteries, periscope, radio and engines, quantity and type of fore and aft torpedoes it can carry, number of torpedo tubes, type of deck guns and anti-aircraft guns as well as the amount of gun ammo storage, crew and captain status, crew quality, awards and medals won and patrol range and usual type of missions. Later subs have jammers and special radars.
In order to play the game, the player creates his submarine commander and crew and picks the type, model and name for the sub. The type of sub that he picks dictates the month and year that the campaign game starts, in other words, the later the model of boat the player picks, the later in the campaign the mission start. What this means from a player perspective is the later the player starts the campaign, the more difficult the mission are and the better the Japanese get at hunting down the American subs.
Before a mission, the player outfits their submarine mat with status markers which track the promotion level and medals of the commander, the skill of the crew, the number of steam and electric torpedoes (and acoustic torpedoes later in the war) and ammo for the deck guns. The player picks their home port which can include Pearl Harbor or Australia. Next, the boat leaves its port and dice are rolled in order to pick the mission area for the patrol which can include the Philippines, East China Sea, Sea of Japan, Java Sea, Indo-China Sea, Marianas Islands area, Solomon Islands, the Marshall chains and the Midway area. Each area is rated for the type and frequency of encounters.
Aside for standard hunting for shipping, special missions may be assigned to the sub which can include evacuations, rescuing downed air crews, mine laying, recon, transport and wolf pack operations. Wolf pack operations don’t involve the large number of subs that the Germans used but two to four American subs.
Once the player knows where they are shipping off to, the player then rolls for encounters every few days they spend on patrol. Encounters include finding a convoy, single merchant ships, capital ships, Japanese submarines or even deadly aircraft attacks on the boat. Once a surface contact is established, the player then rolls for the type of ships encountered the name and tonnage of the ship and whether the contact was during the day or at night. The time of day matters because if the encounter is at night against an un-escorted ship, a surface attack with torpedoes and the deck gun may be more productive than a submerged attack. But beware, if you are caught on the surface by an escort, Japanese submarine or an airplane, your boat could end up at the bottom of the Pacific.
If the sub is attacked by an aircraft, the player still has a chance if they can effectively use the sub’s anti-aircraft guns. If not, the only hope is to try a crash dive and pray.
If attacked by an escort destroyer, things get interesting quickly. The escort will attempt to use its depth charges to destroy the player or force his sub to the surface. The player is given the option of exceeding the test depth of the sub by diving deep but, if the player is unlucky, the sub’s hull could rupture like an egg shell killing everyone on board. Using the optional rules, some escorts are more aggressive than others and will keep pounding away until either the player’s sub, or the player’s nerves, break. Other escorts will drop a few depth charges and then speed off. Unlike The Hunters, in this game the player has the option of attacking the Japanese escorts. This can be risky but if you can knock out the escort, the other ships are easier to pick off.
Damage to the submarine is tracked on the sub mat and can include everything from minor damage to flooding, hull breaches, damage to the electric or diesel engines, damage to other boat systems and crew casualties. While damage control teams can attempt to repair the sub on patrol, other damage may force the player to abort the patrol and head back to base.
If the boat has a good solution on its targets, the choice of torpedo type (or use of deck guns) and range can also affect the attack. Dud torpedoes are much more of a problem than they are in The Hunters. For the first year of the war American torpedoes had a 75% chance of hitting but not exploding. Even when the sub crews reported this, the powers that be in the Pentagon and the US congress and senate ignored the issue and blamed the “duds” on improperly trained submarine crews. This almost lead to a rebellion amongst sub crews until the problem was finally addressed by the top brass who found out the the Mark 14 torpedoes had issues with their firing pins. The game also handles the annoying habit of early Mark 14 torpedoes to circle around and home in on the sub which fire them. In my play example above, I fired 15 Mark 14 torpedoes at the Japanese ships and all but one failed to explode. It is realistic but very frustrating. As the players advance towards 1943, the military finally corrects the issues and duds are not as much of a problem.
The success of the patrol is based upon total tonnage sunk. Random encounter charts list the type of ship, tonnage and name for hundreds of real life vessels. Don’t expect to rack up the sort of “large tonnage sunk” missions that can be found in The Hunters. The Pacific is much vaster and the Japanese didn’t tend to form the huge convoys that Allied shipping did.
A random event chart provides for surprises which can include an interception of broken Japanese codes, your sub being swept by a giant wave which causes massive damage to the boat and even misidentifying targets which may result in a court martial proceeding.
Back at port, the player is evaluated and can win promotions, increases in crew skills and even earn more advanced model of submarine.
The role playing element of this game motivates the player to weigh each and every command decision. Does the sub make a dangerous close range attack or a more conservatively safer but difficult long range attack? Each and every decision may make or break the submarine’s crew.
There are many optional rules included with the game in order to amp up the realism. In addition, you can find fantastic player support and forums at http://www.consimpress.com/silent-victory .
I wish that GMT had included zip lock baggies in the game box but this, at most, a trivial complaint. The few flaws in The Hunters have been corrected in Silent Victory making this game one of the easiest to play and most immersive to experience. Silent Victory will go down as a classic World War II simulation!
Armchair General Rating: 98 %
Solitaire Rating: 5
About the Author
A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!