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Subject: A view from an avid collectible hater. rss

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Brian Morris
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I hate collectible games. Be it Magic the Gathering, Heroclix or Axis & Allies Miniatures, I have tried them but in the end the collectible aspect of the game always turns me off. So imagine my shock and surprise when I found myself enjoying this latest in the Axis and Allies collectible franchise although not I expect as it was intended by it's creators.



The Basics: The basics of the game are very simple. In many ways it's beer and pretzels wargaming, which isn't a bad thing. The action itself takes place on a rather generic strategic war at sea map. The map uses squares for movement and random islands are usually placed on the map and used for victory points. Players secretly construct fleets of 100 points or more if players want to use the larger map scenario. Then players let lose and try to sink each other's fleets.



Game Mechanics: The movement mechanics for this game work but are a bit on the simple side. Truth be told they resemble more checkers than true naval combat. Players in general move ships on a square grid map with ships moving 1,2 or 3 spaces depending on their speed and you can have 2 ships per square. The problem is it just doesn't feel like naval fleet movement and it really has a detrimental effect on the feel of the game.

The combat system resolves around dice...and lots of them. How many dice is determined by your gun factor vs how far away your enemy is. For example, in the image above the USS Enterprise uses 5 dice at a range of either 0 or 1 (pretty wimpy but she is a carrier after all). She also has an anti-aircraft rating in 8 (be very afraid if you are an attacking aircraft). Also note on the card other things such as she can carry 3 aircraft, moves 2 spaces a turn and has a 4 armor, meaning if she takes 4 hits she takes a point of damage. Not a bad system really and the combat system is definitely the strength of this game's rules.

Now while many hard core wargames might scoff at this game's simple combat mechanics (and they are definitely far from being a historical simulation) they do work. They are as I said before intuitive and make for fast combat determination. I just wish the movement system resembled better historical fleet movement in some manner.

My main complaints in terms of the mechanics besides the movement are aircraft and torpedoes. Aircraft use a very similar system as ships. This is not bad but these aircraft are able to attack every turn. Not very realistic. I know it's beer and pretzels wargaming but that's still a bit much. Much more realistic would be having aircraft attacking every 3 turns and a bit more powerful in their attacks. More on some ideas for changing this later in this review.

Secondly ships in the game can fire torpedoes every turn. Problem is surface ships (with the exception of some Japanese ships) could not do this, especially in battle conditions. There definitely should be a 1 torpedo per battle rule for ships in this game.



Components: Here's one of the big draws for this game. The miniatures for this game are rather well done. So well done that you could use them for any number of naval miniature rules you want to use. American battleships are decorated in their WW II dazzle paint schemes. The Japanese carries have the same markings they did during the war. You can even see the national insignias on the wings of the aircraft. Over all a very nice set.

My only complaint in terms of components are the poor quality of the map and counter chits. I'm a wargamer and I'm use to paper maps from companies such as MMP and GMT. However the quality of the paper used in this game for it's maps are of a noticeably cheaper quality. The same can be said for the counters in the game. They are just about the thinnest counter chits I have ever seen for a game. It wouldn't have taken much to make the map and chits from better quality materials. As it is now they are likely made from the cheapest materials WOTC felt they could get away with. For the price they charge for starter boxes for this game, people deserve better than what they received in this department.



Collectible?: Here's the big drawback. The game is collectible. I'm going to surprise you here. The game works better because of it. Hear me out. How many Yamato's do you need in your collection to play? Just one or two really if you want to include her sister ship. How many destroyers will you need? Tons. Ship fleets historically had tons of destroyers. So would it make sense for there to be as many Yamato's in booster packs for this game as destroyers? Not really. So in a sense the collectible nature of the game and the rarity of ships like the Exeter, Enterprise and Hood helps players collect more balanced fleets.

There is a downside of course. In my first purchase of this game I got two Japanese carriers out of one starter and 3 booster packs. Problem is I only got 1 Japanese plane so the carriers were kind of useless until I got more Japanese aircraft. Now while in part this is the result of the collectible nature of the game, it is also the result of the game publisher's attempt to give players many different ships and planes to play with. In this first set you will find 64 different ships and planes. Everything from subs to auxiliary ships, planes and Battleships. There just are so many different units from different nations that it takes a bit more than just a handful of boosters to get a nice sized and flexible fleet. This is of course expensive but in the long run it also makes for a better game as you will have more and varied ships to choose from in making your fleets. This is also a must if you want to have enough ship variation to recreate historical scenarios. In the long run with the release of the second set later in 2007 players will be able to recreate historical scenarios with even more accuracy as they will have the actual ships from the battles.



Using miniatures with other rule sets: Keep in mind that you are not tied to using these miniatures with just the rules that come with the box. There are many other fine rule sets out there that you can use these miniatures with. Also the rules included in the game can be adapted to a more classic miniatures game by simply converting the ship movement and gunnery range to inches.

Summing up: In the end I think this game is worth the investment for someone who really enjoys WW II naval wargaming and wants to use the ships with some other rules set such as War at Sea or General Quarters 3. While it's expensive to get into in the long run the player will have a nice collection of WW II naval miniatures he can use for a variety of naval miniature rule sets or the original beer and pretzels version. The miniatures are well made and durable and should withstand plenty of gaming sessions.

I give this game a 5.

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Todd Warnken
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Good review. I've played three games so far and have had a great deal of fun. I echo your complaint on aircraft. Since they are common it would have been nice if they gave you three fighters with each carrier. When I completed my set by buying singles on line I picked up plenty of planes. I now have four of each common plane so I can field a sizable air attack.
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Lee Talbert
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Where did you find the single ships?
 
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Barry Kendall
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Two good online sources have been miniaturemarket and gamerocket. As of the end of this past week they were sold out of most of the WaS line, but I expect they'll restock.

Between two starters, two cases and a couple of orders to these folks I've got good balanced fleets for everybody and took the opportunity to "class out" on Tones and Myokos, add a second Enterprise and Tennessee, fill out the air groups, etc.

Ready and hoping for Set II, but ominously, it hasn't been mentioned on the A&A schedule of releases for the balance of '07--and they have announced an A&A Minis "Desert War" set to be released on 7 December, so I doubt that date will be used for WaS Set II. Dang.
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Todd Warnken
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inttruder wrote:
Where did you find the single ships?


I got most of them at Minature Market which has the best prices and a few at Toad and Troll.
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Read the rulebook, plan for all contingencies, and…read the rulebook again.
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I've played the game several times as well. And while I agree with the overall assessment that the game is (a lot of) fun, I personally don't have any complaint with the air combat/anti-aircraft system.

The game is played on what amounts to a hex-grid with the following "stacking" limits: 1 sub, 2 ships, and 4 aircraft per side. Aircraft are placed on the board after ships move in an I-go-you-go fashion. This allows each side a chance to compose an attack or defense over ships any way they wish.

An Allied player could wind up stacking four dive-bombers over a Japanese carrier, for example. A heavy, brutal attack. But the Japanese player would, if he's smart, already have a ship with a high AA value stacked with the carrier after movement, and then answer with as many fighters as possible over the carrier during the aircraft placement step.

All anti-aircraft combat takes place first, so the defending (2) ships and (4) aircraft groups have a chance to drive off the attacking bombers before they get a chance to attack the prize ship of the stack. Since an attacking bomber doesn't have to be destroyed to force it to abort its run, it's not unusual for a carrier with a high AA-value escort and 2 or 3 defending fighter groups to blunt or turn away a strong aerial attack. If anything gets through that, then the defending ship can expect to take some damage, no doubt, but it's not a guaranteed thing, either.

Also, for aircraft to attack every turn, they need a carrier to operate from. Otherwise, they must use a base on land and must spend a turn re-arming before flying out to attack again. The result is that probably half of a player's available air won't attack every turn but every other turn. Also, as I understand (I don't own the game so I can't reference the rules), you play four turns of daylight followed by four turns of night. And air operations can't take place at night. Most bombers are prey to a good fighter, too.

Are aircraft too deadly after all this? In my experience, if both sides are playing with balanced fleets of, say, 300 points to a side, air will dominate the early/daylight turns of a game, but a careful player with that many points and available aircraft and carriers will be able to plan for that. So, no, I personally don't think the air rules are in need of fixing. If one modifies the game to the point of abandoning the movement grid and turning A&A:WaS into a classic ruler-movement miniatures game, then YMMV.

If anything about the game needs re-examining, according to the grognards I know, it's the ability of torpedo-armed surface ships to fire their torpedos every turn. They insist that a ship could effectively load and fire a spread of torpedoes once per day. Ships in a battle would have to withdraw and reload their torpedoes in a sheltered/safe location at night to perform the tricky task of reloading a torpedo—a task that wouldn't be done on a ship that is under direct or immenent attack while the battle lasted.

...Anyway, A&A:WaS IS fun out of the box and I'd rather play it than Victory at Sea—as those rules stand right now.

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Steve Herron
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One thing I didn't like was the black outline of the sea areas on the map, it makes it hard to read. They should have made the outline white or used a lighter blue. The objective markers didn't seem to make sense to me. Any thoughts? However I agree it is a fun game and I going to get my own set now that I got to play it a second time.
I had a question on vital armour. Would one count main and secondary fire together from the same ship (the hits)into the total hit points in determining if the vital armour number has been reached?
As always Mr.Bean did a good job, he is one person I have learned to respect.
 
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Brian Morris
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BradyLS wrote:

If anything about the game needs re-examining, according to the grognards I know, it's the ability of torpedo-armed surface ships to fire their torpedos every turn. They insist that a ship could effectively load and fire a spread of torpedoes once per day. Ships in a battle would have to withdraw and reload their torpedoes in a sheltered/safe location at night to perform the tricky task of reloading a torpedo—a task that wouldn't be done on a ship that is under direct or immenent attack while the battle lasted.


Indeed the gognards you know are correct. In fact only a few Japanese ships had the actual ability to reload their torpedoes in a short amount of time and even then they would not dare do so in an area that was anything close to enemy activity.
 
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Barry Kendall
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I'm one of the "torpedo rule complainers." The best solution is simply to permit one salvo per game per ship with the exception of Yukikaze, Tone and Myoko, which get two (I don't believe Jintsu carried reloads).

Most of the Japanese destroyer and CA classes carried one round of reloads. They did practice reloading as part of their battle drill. The CA torpedo crews in the newer cruiser classes had some cover for their reloading, but the DD crews had to carry out transfer from the on-deck storage compartments to the tubes while exposed.

There are several instances in the Guadalcanal fighting where Japanese DDs pulled out of the close fighting to reload tubes then re-enter the fighting. Even without maneuvering away from enemy fire, the reloading drill took a minimum of ten-twelve minutes up to twenty, so two turns in-between firing the first torpedo salvo and the second would be about par.

I find that playing with torpedoes according to their historical limitations makes surface actions more interesting. It's now necessary to consider when best to release those precious torpedoes rather than launching them willy-nilly (or, to borrow one of my favorite lines from a movie--having nothing to do with naval warfare--spoken by Sean Connery in the role of The Raisouli in "The Wind and the Lion"--"fire many times promiscuously").

Knowing that most enemy torpedo combatants can only fire once also has a bearing (no pun intended) on which hostile vessels to target at different points in a fight. Also, if you have two DDs per space, it can be a good ploy to launch torpedoes from only one, preserving a threat--and confusing enemy gunnery (we play that it's not necessary to reveal which DD launched when two are together, unless they launch in the same space as the enemy).

The "magazine-fed torpedo" firing capability is a flaw in the rules, probably deliberate in order to enhance the "action," but for those who so desire it's easily altered. The game is, indeed, A Very Simple Naval Warfare Game, but it's still fun and, I'm happy to say, it looks to be attracting quite a few non-naval gamers to "come over to the wet side."
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Steve Herron
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Another topic I believe needs adjusted is the motor/pt boats. After reading and playing Great War at Sea rules, the MB/PT boats should have some kind of stealth/surprise capability untill thet get up and close with the big boys. As it stands now they are about useless in the game, unless you are playing with Destroyers and like ships. The one in three chance of a shot missed on them (just by ships, air they are sitting ducks)isn't that great.
 
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I don't have much issue with the air rules. In our games so far most of the attacks are aborted or destroyed, only a handful get through. If anything, the successful attacks could be a little more deadly, especially against bigger ships as they would be easier to hit. Perhaps +2 dice against battleships and +1 die against cruisers/carriers and -1 die against destroyers/PT boats.

I'm looking forward to more scenarios that will put the focus on different ship types. Right now, anytime a battleship is on the board, the game focus invariably revolves around it. Pity the destroyer that comes within range.

Perhaps a scenario where only cruisers, destroyers, land-based air and subs are allowed?

Or how about a destroyer convoy having to weave it's way through a PT-infested archipelago?

Perhaps I should just start tinkering and playtesting myself...

Clark
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Greg Ernest
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BradyLS wrote:
... (I don't own the game so I can't reference the rules), ...

The rules are a free download at the bottom of the following page.

http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=ah/aam/waratsea
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Brian Morris
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Clark H. wrote:
I don't have much issue with the air rules. In our games so far most of the attacks are aborted or destroyed, only a handful get through. If anything, the successful attacks could be a little more deadly, especially against bigger ships as they would be easier to hit. Perhaps +2 dice against battleships and +1 die against cruisers/carriers and -1 die against destroyers/PT boats.


Nothing wrong with house rules. Feel free to experiment.

Quote:

I'm looking forward to more scenarios that will put the focus on different ship types. Right now, anytime a battleship is on the board, the game focus invariably revolves around it. Pity the destroyer that comes within range.


This is actually realistic. In WW II Destroyers were used in fleets mostly to protect the capitol ships from submarine attacks and help with air defense. They might try and dart in for a torpedo attack but at their own peril.

I like your thinking. Most people in playing this game are going to think to much of Battleships and carriers when you can have great battles with these smaller ships.

Quote:

Perhaps a scenario where only cruisers, destroyers, land-based air and subs are allowed?


Sounds like Guadalcanal.

Quote:

Or how about a destroyer convoy having to weave it's way through a PT-infested archipelago?


Now I am going to have to try that one!

 
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Aaron Gelb
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so this game is a whole lot better than Axis and Allies Miniatures?
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Kenneth Bailey
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asgelb wrote:
so this game is a whole lot better than Axis and Allies Miniatures?

Yes. It's the game that Starship Battles should have been.
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Russell Ginns
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How does this game compare to Man O' War?
 
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I haven't tried this yet, but a friend has invested, and I imagine I will wind up trying it.

I also detest collectable games, and while I certainly understand the advantage of having only one or 2 Yammato's in your collection, I'm not sure making the game collectable is the way to answer this.

I'd much rather buy the models I want, and simply be limited to the number of each type of ship I may field.

With that in mind, I'm almost afraid I'll enjoy the game.

Collectable == devil
 
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Andrew - you can absolutely get into this game the way you want - by purchasing exactly the models you want. There are numerous eBay stores and other on-line miniature dealers who have bought cases and are marketing individual models. I actually did both approaches - I first bought 2 starters and 10 boosters, and then, to round out my fleets, I went to five different on-line minis dealers and purchased 19 individual ships (primarily stocking up on destroyers and cruisers) that I picked out. You could simply buy a starter set (in order to get the rules, dice, counters, and maps), and then skip boosters altogether and go straight to buying select models. This game is really only as collectible as you want it to be - with all of the dealers out there, you could consider this game more expandable than collectible.
 
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russellg wrote:
How does this game compare to Man O' War?


I don't know Man O' War, but if it is similar to Games Workshop's other fleet-game, Battle Fleet Gothic (BFG), then I could compare them a bit.

We played BFG the week before our first game of A&A:WaS. The night we played BFG, we had fun, but we only had time for one game. Fleet construction is slow, counters litter the board, and facing issues are often unsatisfying. BFG has a great system for issuing order, and the game is fun, but much of the added detail becomes re-obscured by the luck of the roll.

The level of detail with damage control is "neat", but slows down the game. BFG looks beautiful though, partially due to my custom terrain (planets, gas clouds, etc).



The later week, we played A&A:WaS twice, and enjoyed both games. My A&A:WaS fleets for each nation are individually larger than each BFG race's fleet.

A huge BFG fleet has fewer options than a like-priced A&A:WaS collection. A single BFG crusier costs $7.50 to $15. A booster of 5 random ships will cost you $10-15. Fighters and bombers are better handled in A&A:WaS. Submarines are sadly missing from BFG.

All in all, I like both games, but A&A:WaS is going to reach the table more often. A&A:WaS retains much of the fleet-fighting-fun, but reduces much of the complexity, and is much more acessible.

-Greg
 
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The collectable aspect still kills this game too. For one it's not a fabulous system to begin with. For wargames it's pretty simple which limits how much strategy and tactics you can really use in your game. It's still more luck than strategy which is a big negative for any war game.

But three of us pooled some money together to give it a try ($120) and we were still couldn't even get a full compliment of set 1!

Take the top 50 games on BGG, you can buy nearly all of those for less than $50 and play forever. But the average collectable game requires $50 just to get into the game and hundreds a year to stay in it.

Why would I spend $400 on one game when I could get 8 games that are probably better anyway!?!?


We gamers need to band together and just say NO to Collectable games it's the only way to stop this travesty of gaming. A&A mini's could be a good game but never as a collectable.
 
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OK, to put it in perspective - A&A:WAS is more appropriately compared to miniatures games, not boardgames in terms of cost to participate, despite it being a hybrid of both in terms of gameplay. Look, the primary attraction to A&A:WAS is the very good, pre-painted miniatures. It's not really relevant to compare the cost of an adequate set of A&A:WAS miniatures to the equivalent number of boardgames one could buy with the same money - it is much more relevant to compare A&A:WAS costs to the costs to buy into another miniatures system (whether "collectible" or not), be it another WW2 naval system, or one of the many other "standard" (i.e. not collectible) miniatures systems in the market today (e.g. any of the Games Workshop systems, or those from Mongoose, et al...).

A fair comparison is predicated on the premise that the prospective buyer has decided they want to invest in a miniatures gaming system.

When you do this, you will find that A&A:WAS is a great value for money, as these pre-painted minis cost the same or less than their unpainted competitors, while maintaining a high standard of quality (Hasbro must have gone to school on their earlier Star Wars Starship miniatures release, because there's little in the way of warping in this models, and there's only one model out of 64 that didn't turn out so well IMO - the IJN Tone - the others are pretty much dead on!) Yes, compared to buying boardgames, a satisfactory investment in A&A:WAS can be expensive (I've just completed my desired collection after spending $350 - I'm done until Wave 2!), but the real comparison is what would $350 have bought me in any other miniatures system, collectible or not, versus what I have in A&A:WAS for that amount? I am quite certain I got the best value for my money. Plus, I get to skip the whole assembly and painting hassle, which while enjoyable for some, is nothing but a headache for me - I want to play the game, not build models!

As for the "collectible" bugaboo, I can say that this initially worried me as well until I realized how easy it is to consider this game expandable rather than collectible. I've said it before and I'll say it again, there are numerous outlets on the web for dealers who sell single units at very fair prices which allows the players to buy exactly what ships and planes they want. This game is only collectible if you decide to approach it that way. You could quite easily simply buy one starter set (in order to get the maps, rules, dice, and markers) and then completely skip the booster scene and go straight to buying only the units you want. I highly recommend these guys:
http://www.miniaturemarket.com/war_at_sea
... but there many others as well. Don't get hung up on the collectible angle - it's a non-issue!
Now, go find $300 and buy the damn game already!
 
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Marc Thompson
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Gamedeity wrote:

Why would I spend $400 on one game when I could get 8 games that are probably better anyway!?!?


I'm guessing you don't play miniature games at ALL then. $400 bucks isn't that big of a big deal for a mini game, collectable or not. (I mean, it'll get you a nice big fat army, the rule book, and maybe paint)

But war at sea costs nowhere near that.. my friend can field 150 points worth of Germans. He bought 4 boosters, no starter. That's pretty far away from $400, which would give you a ridiculously huge collection of ships to play with.









 
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Gamedeity wrote:
The collectable aspect still kills this game too. For one it's not a fabulous system to begin with. For wargames it's pretty simple which limits how much strategy and tactics you can really use in your game. It's still more luck than strategy which is a big negative for any war game.

But three of us pooled some money together to give it a try ($120) and we were still couldn't even get a full compliment of set 1!

Take the top 50 games on BGG, you can buy nearly all of those for less than $50 and play forever. But the average collectable game requires $50 just to get into the game and hundreds a year to stay in it.

Why would I spend $400 on one game when I could get 8 games that are probably better anyway!?!?


We gamers need to band together and just say NO to Collectable games it's the only way to stop this travesty of gaming. A&A mini's could be a good game but never as a collectable.


Some people ENJOY Collectable game. Who are you to judge those people? I enjoy some collectable games just as much as my Roborally and Railroad Tycoon. No one is holding a gun to your head, forcing you to buy into this "travesty" in gaming, so don't. Just ignore it, play your own games, and let people who enjoy playing collectable games enjoy them.
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I've played this games since it's release, and have yet to grow tired of it. There are several optional rules from the creator posted on the official forums that add complexity to the core rules, and I've put together hex maps for ship facings. For large maps, to balance the strike-power of air craft, I've incorporated mission ranges. There is a lot that can be tweaked in this game without ruining it's core mechanics.
 
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Could you post the link please?
 
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