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Subject: Intermediate Carrier Warfare rss

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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Guadalcanal is an operational wargame covering the naval battles for control of Guadalcanal, with an emphasis on carrier action. It was part of an introductory wargame line from Avalon Hill, that was endorsed by the Smithsonian Institute. Most of the games are updates of Avalon Hill classics like Midway and The Battle of the Bulge. Guadalcanal didn't really fit into this remake category.

Gameplay (24 out of 28): Guadalcanal is a double blind game in which the Americans and Japanese search for enemy fleets and launch air strikes, or on occasion fight surface battles. Both sides set up their fleets on two maps that show the same area but that the opponent cannot see. They search for each other, using special search aircraft. Once sighted an airstrike can be organized, but in the meantime a fleet could have moved since last being spotted, so airstriking in the game isn't simply a matter of finding a fleet and attacking. Another strategy seems to be launching the airstrike with the search aircraft, in the hopes of finding the enemy and pouncing right away, but risking that you'll find nothing and thus waste your planes in a futile effort.

American Search Board:


There are many kinds of aircraft, each with inherent advantages and disadvantages (level bombers have a long rang but suck aganist warships), while some have variable unit quality. The same goes for the warships, which include just about everything from battleships to troop transports. A lot of the game is aircraft management, knowing where to search, how much to attack with and what aircraft to keep in reserve. A nice optional rule is a free re-roll that one side can use to change the whims of fate, but of course they must take the second roll. Also once you reroll you give the ability to the enemy, who when they reroll must give the option back you and so the cycle goes. This rule helps in terms of adding a fate aspect that, given the capricious nature of World War II carrier battles, seems appropriate.

There are basic and advanced rules to the game giving the player a variable amount of reality. The game plays fast and furious with the basic rules. The advanced rules are a step up, but shouldn't worry the experienced wargamer.

Japanese Air Operations Card:


Operational/Tactical (4 out of 5): Guadalcanal is not hyper-accurate nor does it require the same commitment as Flat Top. What you get is a game playable in an evening, but which still features distinct aircraft and ships, as well as the need to manage your fleet and air resources. The double-blind mechanic amps up the tension. On the tactical side the surface battles and air attacks are basic, and emphasize good formations for attack and defense. The many hexes allow for some advanced maneuvers, unlike the venerable Second World War at Sea: SOPAC which unfortunately has a tactical map with large hexes.

Accessibility (2 out of 5): For an experienced wargamer this isn't a big deal here, but considering it was intended as introductory, I found the rules to be turgid and uncompromising. This is not a good game to start on, which sort of defeats the purpose of this series, unless I read something wrong about what Avalon Hill intended.

Components (5 out of 5): The components look good, but for a wargamer used to paper maps, the card mounted maps are a real plus.

The Units:


Originality (1 out of 2): Essentially this is a game born of two fathers: Midway and Flat Top. It is the intermediate carrier warfare game in terms of chrome and difficulty. To my knowledge before the Smithsonian editions all carrier games were either very simple or very complex.

Historical Quality (4 out of 5): Guadalcanal doesn't step on many historical toes. Some of the air rules I can see encouraging gamey tactics, but Guadalcanal's biggest problem is the hexes on the search map. They are big, so finding the enemy isn't as nerve racking an experience as it is in other game on the same topic. All in all there is a good deal of detail here. The rules come with lots of historical commentary, including translations of the names of Japanese ships.

Overall (40 out of 50): Guadalcanal is a solid carrier wargame, that lacks a bit of panache and generally fails as an introductory wargame. In fact the game is almost too dry, because while not exactingly detailed it also isn't as fast as a simpler carrier wargame. Nonetheless, it is worth a purchase if the topic interests you or a friend has the game handy.
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Leo Zappa
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Sean,

Good review - you and I will have to play this one sometime. I agree completely regarding the supposed "introductory" nature of this game as well as its sister game, the revamped Smithsonian edition of "Midway". The rules, at least in their presentation if not their substance, are not at all "noob-friendly", and certainly seem at first glance to be a significant step up in complexity from the original 1964 AH "Midway", which was one of the games I cut my teeth on as a novice wargamer back in the 70's. It's almost as though AH could not bring themselves to actually making a game as straightforward as their original "Classics".

Once you get past the rules presentation, I do think there is a fairly easy yet fun game here, and as an experienced wargamer, I would like to play this one more, but I think this game, along with the revised "Midway", was definitely a failure from the standpoint of its intended purpose of bringing new wargamers into the fold. Looking back, the only real success from the entire Smithsonian line appears to the 125th Anniversary edition of Gettysburg, a game that is both truly introductory and still fun for the veteran wargamer.
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Andrew Swan
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gittes wrote:
isn't as fast as a simpler carrier wargame.
Could you suggest some games in this category please?
 
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Quote:
Could you suggest some games in this category please?

Midway and from what I've read Victory at Midway
 
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Paul Amala
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game_boy wrote:
Could you suggest some games in this category please?

At the cost of possible stones being thrown in my direction for wargaming heresy: I rather like "Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal". It is fast playing and pretty easy to learn. And still I think it encompasses the broad strategic goals that both players must consider in order to win. (The dice rolling box is a bit funky though....)

Afterthought: Both of the Smithsonian edition games "Midway" and "Guadalcanal" are good games, and better remakes of the originals (ok - technically "Guadalcanal - Smithsonian" and the original AH "Guadalcanal" are two very different games). But from a cost/benefit point of view, the original version of AH "Midway" is a perfectly good double blind WWII aircraft carrier wargame. And XTR produced a big improvement on this at the cost of a bit more complexity called "Victory at Midway".
 
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Quote:
At the cost of possible stones being thrown in my direction for wargaming heresy: I rather like "Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal". It is fast playing and pretty easy to learn. And still I think it encompasses the broad strategic goals that both players must consider in order to win. (The dice rolling box is a bit funky though....)

I want to try that game out.
 
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Andrew Swan
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gittes wrote:
Quote:
At the cost of possible stones being thrown in my direction for wargaming heresy: I rather like "Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal". It is fast playing and pretty easy to learn. And still I think it encompasses the broad strategic goals that both players must consider in order to win. (The dice rolling box is a bit funky though....)

I want to try that game out.
My local on-line shop has it for A$30; maybe you can get it similarly cheaply in the States.
 
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gittes wrote:
Quote:
Could you suggest some games in this category please?

Midway and from what I've read Victory at Midway

Is not the AH Midway Basic Game (or Basic Game + Fighter & Surface Combat Rules) essentially the same as the 1964 version?
 
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