Saturday, November 15, 2014

Great War at Sea: Mediterranean

Great War at Sea: Mediterranean is the first game in a series of wargames published by Avalanche Press covering naval combat during, and around, the first world war.  This particular game focuses on historical actions in and around the Mediterranean (including Turks vs. Russians on the Black Sea), as well as encounters that could have happened, but didn't for a variety of reasons.

The game consists of two parts: strategic movement on maps covering the seas, and tactical combat on the Naval Tactical Map.  If you are playing a specific combat scenario then you only use the Tactical map.  Otherwise, you assign ships to fleets, put those fleet markers on the large map of the seas, and just move the fleet counters around.  Once ships come into contact and combat is initiated, then you move ships onto the Tactical map to fight it out.  There are basic and advanced combat rules, but the basic rules are boring, so I don't recommend using those.

Each scenario tells you what you are trying to accomplish.  You generally win by scoring more victory points than your opponent.  Victory points are obtained by sinking enemy ships and performing other actions (successfully laying mines in certain areas, bombarding an enemy port, delivering cargo to its destination safely, etc.).  You assign your ships provided by the scenario you are playing to one or more fleets, and then each fleet is given a specific order.  The trick is that most orders require you to pre-plan your movement.  This is done to simulate the lack of knowledge that admirals and captains had at the time.  Just because you can see the enemy fleet counter around Malta on the strategic map doesn't mean that your fleet captains would know those ships were there.  Thus, you can have two large fleets pass right by each other, though if they pass through the same space on the same turn there is a chance of contact.  Granted, some missions (e.g., the Intercept mission) gives you a much better chance of spotting enemy fleets, and you only have to plot movement two turns in advance, so you have a chance of catching your foe, especially if you can move faster and they are in restricted space.

The actual combat, even with the advanced rules, isn't complicated.  Ships have four weapons: primary guns, secondary guns, tertiary guns, and torpedoes.  Ship components have varying ranges of armor, such that maybe a battleships's hull can only be penetrated by primary guns, and everything smaller bounces off.  When you have an enemy ship in range, you roll a D6 and get a hit on a 6 with each gun you fire.  There are some modifiers that can increase your chance to hit.  If you get a hit, roll 2D6 on the gunnery table and see what you hit.  You can eliminate enemy guns, or do hull damage, or slow them down (engine damage), or you can score a critical hit.  With a critical hit you usually do multiple boxes of damage, up to 6(!!) hull points in one shot, which is enough to sink many ships in the game.  You keep moving around the map and slugging at each other until one side is able to flee or is eliminated.  Then the survivors go back to the strategic map to continue the scenario.

I am conflicted about this game.  While the basic mechanics work fine, I have a hard time wrapping my head around the pre-plotting for many of the fleet orders, and the combat system can really bog down with the rolling of dozens of dice.  Still, not a bad game, and you get a feeling for the naval tactics at the time.  Since this is the only game on its subject that I own, it stays in the collection.

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