Torpedoes Away! Naval Battles in Archipelago Conquers the Seas – Game Review
Naval Battles in Archipelago Game Review. Publisher: Forsage Games Designer: Pedrag Lazovic and Dragan Lazovic Price: $80.00
Passed Inspection: Beautiful components, complete “sand box” allowing for any number of scenarios and modifications, easy to learn rules, family friendly, completely fun, addicting
Failed Basic: Abstractions may alienate hardcore gamers, needs a critical hit system, initiative rules are unclear, map boards could use an identifier for creating scenarios, needs a few deep water (no island) map boards, rules could use an index and little more English language editing
Remember the thrill of getting a big box of toy soldiers and then opening the box and seeing the massive possibilities for playtime battles? For me it was getting the toy soldier set I believe was called “Bridge Attack” back in 1969 or so which was put out by Marx. That sense of wonder is something that adults don’t usually experience but I experienced it again when I opened up the review copy of Forsage Game’s Naval Battles in Archipelago! The box was stuffed with plastic ships and aircrafts (all nicely sorted in labeled zip lock bags) and their stand-up counterparts, modular map boards, data sheets, a beautiful full color rule book, storage boxes to keep your components in, dice, missiles and torpedoes, etc. It was over whelming and felt just like Christmas and playing it hasn’t diminished my enthusiasm for this amazing game!
Naval Battles in Archipelago (here-in-after referred to as “Naval Battles”) features tactical battles in the littoral regions of the sea which are water regions near the land. The game’s modular maps are dotted with reefs, islands, shallows and other navigation hazards. The maps are divided in to triangular sections with different color dots at their vertices. Dark blue dots represent deep water; light blue represents shallow water; white, orange and red dots represent various land formations – red for points that can only be occupied by helicopters or aircrafts in flight, orange can be occupied by aircrafts and hovercrafts and white points are areas where helicopters and VTOL aircrafts can land. Bases are represented and can provide ports, ammunition dumps, workshops, fuel depots and such. Bases are defended by garrison troops. Larger ships can only move in deep water areas while smaller ships and hovercrafts as well as special “littoral” designed ships can move just as well in shallow water as in deep water.
A wealth of different types of vehicles are represented both as miniatures and as stand-up counters depending on the whim of the players. Players have access to different types of aircrafts and helicopters, hovercrafts, torpedo boats, corvettes, destroyers, ammo ships, missile boats, hydrofoils, cruisers, submarines, even the Russian one of a kind vehicle – the Ekranoplan! See the pictures at the end of this review which showcases the stunning variety of units covered in this game.
Each unit is rated for its maximum speed, durability, armament, other special features and a point value. Durability runs from one point for things such as torpedo boats to three for cruisers. Armament can consist of torpedoes, guns, machine guns, mines, air to air missiles, air to ground missiles, air to sea missiles, cruise missiles, etc.
Each unit has a control panel which includes spaces for ammo load outs, tracking damage, troops carried and even speed trackers for helicopters and planes. Each unit is represented on the board by the player’s choice of either a plastic miniature or a card board stand up. Both have their charms but, as can be seen from my review photos, I leaned towards the miniatures.
Special features include ammunition carriers, repair functions, fuel transports, troop carriers and helicopter platforms.
A handy turn and fuel tracker is also included.
The turn sequence is as follows – roll for movement and then take actions. The game abstracts movements in that one or more blue die are rolled and to that number the unit’s maximum speed modifier is added. The unit can then move up to that number of points on the board. Torpedo boats can speed around the water while cruisers tend to move much more slowly. Rules are included for hovercrafts traveling on to land, helicopters moving vertically or horizontally and aircrafts speeding over the horizon.
When it comes to taking an action, units can shoot different types of munitions, drop sonar buoys, use magnetic anomaly detectors, land troops to capture land targets, etc. With this system, the possibilities are almost endless!
Submarines can either move on the board or, with advanced rules, use hidden movement. The designers have thoughtfully provided small submarine movement notebooks in which hidden movement can be recorded.
The rule book is nicely designed with plenty of examples. It uses a modular learning layout which makes the game very easy to pick up and play. Advanced rules are provided which adds depth to the game (no pun intended).
The pace of the game is very fast, in fact, a whole multi-ship and aircraft battle can easily be played in less than three hours.
If Naval Battles has any flaws, they are few and far between. An index would have added value to the rule book. Initiative needs to be explained in more detail. The rules could use one more editing pass from a native English language speaker.
The modular map boards need an identifying number or letter on each one to aid with the proper layout for scenarios or for the creating of additional scenarios by the players.
Naval Battle’s combat system could use some tweaking. As it stands, each ship’s weapon is rated for how many red and green dice the player rules. If the result is equal to or greater than the range from the firing unit to the target, you hit! Each hit does one point of damage. Most ships can take two points of damage and they sink. Larger ships can take three points of damage while smaller ships can only take one. I think an alternative system for hits and damage could be added as an optional/advanced rule. A critical hit table could also be added to make battles less abstract.
In addition, I would add one or two “deep water” map boards to spice up the scenarios.
What the designers have done with this game is to provide a full sand box environment in which players can recreate any modern naval war littoral combat. While the abstractions may annoy more detail oriented gamers, the broad appeal of this game comes from its easy to learn yet moderately detailed rules. Naval Battles in Archipelago is a wonderful feat of game design which is perfect for the whole family!
Armchair General Rating: 91 %
Solitaire Rating: 4
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)!