Victory at Sea (Mongoose Publishing) Review
Between 1939 and 1945, the navies of the world were engaged in battle. It would be the last great naval war as new technologies would ring the death knell of the battleship. Fleets of steel castles bristling with guns would face off against one another for the last time. Victory at Sea brings these conflicts to life. From German U-Boat attacks on merchant ships to Ernest Evans’ heroic last stand aboard the USS Johnston, players can recreate the epic sea battles of World War II.
Victory at Sea by Mongoose Publishing is a hardback 102-page book with a cover price of $24.95. The book is divided into several sections, notably the rules (both basic and advanced), scenarios, campaigns and the fleet lists. The last few pages are ship counters that may be photocopied and cut out for use during the game. The font of the counters can be difficult to read, and if you own any naval miniatures, they would be preferable.
In addition to the rules and counters, the game requires a large playing surface, a measuring tape, ship rosters and several 6-sided dice.
Rules, Mechanics and Game Play
The rules section is roughly 20% of the book and is very easy to comprehend. The game is played on a surface measuring 4 feet by six feet, so a large table or even the living room floor will suffice. Players either select or roll a die to randomly generate a scenario. Some potential scenarios might involve a port blockade, convoy duty or a head to head battle, winner take all. A historical scenario might also be selected. The book has several examples including The Battle of Denmark Strait or bombardment of Guadalcanal . In a historical scenario, the ships for each side are listed. In a random scenario, the players have a certain number of Fleet Allocation Points, typically five, from which they will generate their forces. The scenario will have a particular Priority Level, either mutually agreed upon or determined randomly, and ships are classified by these same levels. A ship of a lesser Priority Level costs fewer Fleet Allocation points and ships of a greater Priority Level cost more. The priority levels in descending order are: War, Battle , Raid, Skirmish and Patrol. As an example, the USS Missouri is a Priority Level:War ship. In a scenario with a Priority Level of Raid, the Missouri would cost 4 Fleet Allocation Points.
Once the scenario is chosen and fleets are allocated, they are placed on the playing surface. The scenario will describe where fleets may be placed relative to one another, often in an area which is measured from the borders of the playing surface. For example, in a Convoy Duty scenario the defending player deploys his ships 48 inches from a short edge and at least 18 inches from either long edge. His objective is to move his fleet the entire 48 inch distance to the opposite edge before his opponent sends him to the bottom.
Each turn is divided into four phases: Initiative, Movement, Attack, and End. In the Initiative Phase, each player rolls two six-sided dice, modified by the presence of civilian shipping. The player with the highest modified score wins initiative and gains a tactical advantage, deciding whether to move first in the Movement phase or to force the other player to move first.
Players move ships individually up to a maximum distance listed on their ship roster. For example, the HMS Hood has a speed of 6, which means it may move up to 6 inches during the movement phase. Turns are handled in a special way. After moving at least half their speed in a straight line, a ship may turn. A special turning template is laid on the ship and the bow is repositioned according to the turning rating of the ship. The HMS Hood has a turning rating of 1, meaning her bow is moved one space on the template. The ship may then continue in a straight line until it has no movement remaining. All ships must move a minimum of 1 inch, unless damage has left the ship dead in the water.
After all movement has occurred, the Attack phase begins. Like movement, players alternate firing their guns, although no ship is required to fire. Players declare the ship that will fire and the target. The attacking player may not pre-measure ranges or pre-determine if the target is within the correct firing arc. This simulates the split-second decisions that captains were forced to make and the poor range-finding technology of the time. The ship roster will list the weapons available to each ship as well as pertinent information. For example, the HMS Hood, in addition to secondary guns, AA and torpedoes, has several primary guns listed as A, B, X and Y turret. They have a range of 33 inches, an AD (attack dice) of 2, a DD (damage dice) of 3 and the special ability AP (armor piercing). If the enemy is within range, the firing arc is determined. A template shows which arcs each weapon may use. As an example, if the enemy were to the stern of the Hood, the A and B turrets could not fire. Each weapon then rolls a number of dice equal to their AD score. This is compared to the Target number of the enemy ship. The Bismark has a target of 4+ meaning a roll of 4 or greater per die is required to score a hit. Certain modifiers, such as range and silhouette will affect the attack die roll. Once a hit is scored, a number of dice equal to the guns DD score is rolled and compared to the Armor score of the enemy (the Bismark has an armor score of 6+). If the die roll meets or exceeds the armor score, a point of damage is deducted from the ship. A roll of 6 may cause a critical hit. The die is rolled again and a four or higher results in a roll on the critical hit table. This often leads to fires, loss of crew or speed or damage to weapons. When ships lose a certain amount of damage, they become crippled which results in reductions in speed, turning and some weapon systems. If the crew is reduced to a particular threshold, the ship is under a Skeleton Crew which results in deductions and limitations.
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