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Subject: once I figured out how to play, I realized I did not want to play anymore rss

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Kenneth Lury
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I wanted this game and I got it in almost new condition. Here is my brief review and comparison to other solo games I have.

The components: The map is o.k, but the hexes are too small for the multiple counters. Each Japanese "force" can have up to 6 counters (force counter, "located" counter,force chit,2nd wave chit,targeted chit,damage marker). This is messy enough, but, if there is more than one force in a hex, it is a real cluster.

The chits,counters,markers are o.k. Other than the hexes being too small, the map is o.k. Lots of charts and rules briefs printed on the map which is a great feature.

Charts are fine.

Rules: well done. The programmed learning technique is very good and there is a good index.

Game Play: kind of rote, kind of boring and kind of fruitless. Multiple repetitive steps each turn both for the U.S. and the Japanese. The decisions for the allies seem very limited and the IJN appears to have a huge advantage, although this might be because I am a newcomer. There is very little latitude in the players actions and once an enemy carrier launches a strike, there is nothing to be done but sit back and await the carnage.

And, once the carnage starts, it goes from bad to worse as a damaged carrier is severely hampered in its ability to defend and attack.
Seems like an exercise in futility. Each of the three missions I have attempted played out almost exactly the same, despite the "random" generation of Japanese forces. Did not seem to matter.

Comparison with other solo games:

Very similar to the original RAF. It also has garnered great praise from its devotees similar to RAF. I guess when these games came out they were pretty revolutionary, but now, not so much. Neither Carrier nor RAF will get much play. Too bad, as I bought them through BGG based on the great enthusiasm of other players. Well, that's what makes horse races.

Hornet Leader II is a much simpler game, but lots more fun. Lots more decisions and at least you have a chance to alter the outcome of battle once it starts.

B-29 is a different animal completely, but although there are no decisions to be made, at least it generates an interesting narrative.

Silent War is similar in that it is repetitive (for a much longer time if you play the entire campaign). However, I did feel like I was accomplishing something in S.W. as I watched my sunk tonnage creep up and I had the opportunity for better torpedoes. Also felt like I was doing more each turn and the different subs have different "personalities".

Fields of Fire is fairly new and certainly the newer the game, the more opportunity for the designer to build on previous ideas. FOF is filled with action, filled with difficult decisions that actually affect outcome and has a great A.I. that feels as if you are really playing against a very ornery opponent.

Summary: I don't regret getting Carrier as it was an interesting challenge to learn and covers a very interesting and important part of history. However, once I figured out how to play, I realized I did not want to play anymore.
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Ziegreich
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I could've just thumbed this but want to express my almost unlimited admiration for the thread title.
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James Fung
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What you say about Carrier is true: once you get past the game mechanics, the game boils down to a few key decisions during that critical period when opposing carriers first come into contact: planning your search (which is why I was hesitant to spell out my search plan in another thread) and organizing those first 2-3 strike waves while fearing getting planes caught on deck. After carriers start trading blows, it's pretty obvious what you must do to stay alive. Btw, this is typical of carrier battle accounts I've read.

However, I'll have to disagree with your implication that Carrier lacks narrative (B-29: "at least it generates an interesting narrative."). I offer my session report as a counterexample. For me, the game is filled with tension: every activation that might be an enemy carrier, air strike generation from known carriers, every strike contact and air strike roll, most search rolls, damage control when you need to repair an inoperable flight deck, etc.

Based on your assessment of other solitaire games, it appears a large part of your favor for a game is based on how much you feel your decisions are making a difference, and in that respect, Carrier is not the ideal game for you. Some days, the Japanese hit you before you even know they're there. Some days, your air strikes fail to contact or hit the carriers you went through so much trouble to locate. But that it lacks narrative? Perhaps "narrative" is in the eye of the beholder.

You may or may not like Raid on St. Nazaire. It's another game where play is fairly straightforward, and mostly you just hope the dice don't kick you too hard. If you liked B-29, you may like Patton's Best: same idea of surviving the mission and the war, and combats are still repetitive, but you have more decisions.
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M St
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I'll go further than James, I think the review focuses too much on the low level mechanisms and not enough on the play of the battle. This is not a game on airstrike resolution, it's not even a game on running a carrier task force (even though you get to do it in more detail and therefore in more natural fashion than with any other boardgame). It's a game on fighting a whole battle from initial contacts to disengagement. Yes, the initial enemy strike may come out of the blue, but often it doesn't. I've played Carrier about 20 times and rarely did one battle resemble another (even drew track charts to see if the movement system would create any particularly noticeable regular and ahistorical patterns in Japanese movement - never saw any). And once the picture starts forming on the map, whatever you do, the ranges at which you move and launch, will affect things greatly. It's correct that a damaged carrier doesn't allow you to do much, but then that's only one carrier; once that has happened, you hope for quick repairs, that the other carriers can take up the slack (dealing with such problems is fighting half the battle), and if the situation is bad enough, try to escort it off. It is to the game's credit that, like historical, one damaged (or even sunk) carrier is not the end of the battle.

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The decisions for the allies seem very limited and the IJN appears to have a huge advantage, although this might be because I am a newcomer. There is very little latitude in the players actions and once an enemy carrier launches a strike, there is nothing to be done but sit back and await the carnage.


I quite disagree with this depiction of the game. "Once an enemy carrier has launched a strike there is nothing to be done"? That is one combat resolution step in the game. Of course there's not much you can do at that point, it's the same as if you send a Hornet against a MiG in Hornet Leader or roll for a torpedo attack in Silent War, but that's not the focus of the game. (Having played B-17 may actually be a disadvantage here because it will focus the player on the one asset one has - not the case in a carrier battle, even the loss of a Lexington can be overcome.) Many decisions you need to make have to be made before that, just like you can't change the odds in a normal land wargame after rolling the dice. Whether there is CAP (and with how much furel), whether there are planes on deck (and how many are conceivably caught belowdecks), how your AA fire is concentrated, all these are the key variables and they are subject to what you have done in the game. Second, once the strike is over there is even more to do, one picks oneself up as best one can and tries to pay it back. Yes, the key decision points are where to move your task forces, and when and where to launch planes, but the former is a constant stream of decisions anyway, and, frankly, that's what a carrier battle was like, and it is what creates the tension. Of course, if you expect instant gratification (my Hornet fires a missile, I blow up the target) you're not going to get that here. It's a different style of warfare.

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However, I did feel like I was accomplishing something in S.W. as I watched my sunk tonnage creep up and I had the opportunity for better torpedoes.


But the "opportunity for better torpedoes" is not something you do - you just get a modifier. That sounds mostly as if you don't feel you were accomplishing much since you were not doing well in playing your scenarios. Having an airstrike connect and (apparently) sink multiple enemy carriers, or forcing an enemy battleship TF to turn around, is a quite exhilarating experience.

You don't even mention which three battles you played. Were they different scenarios? If you started at the front, the Coral Sea scenario is actually by far the hardest to play (worse and fewer planes, worse searching, better opponents), and requires the most cautious approach. I suggest starting with a 1943 scenario and working one's way backwards. The admirals in those battles had no practical experience with real carrier battles but they had participated in fleet exercises 15 years into the past and had some idea what to expect. So there's no problem with starting with the easier tasks...

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Very similar to the original RAF.

Interesting, since I consider the two to be completely different beasts. Where Carrier stands in my view head and shoulders above RAF and most of the others you listed, is that not only does it give a narrative for your forces, it gives a narrative for the whole battle. It actually gives you an opposing side that moves, that has limited resources (a group of task forces) and makes moves based on what it has done earlier in the battle.
Even if the initial strike comes out of the blue, after that I know that their planes have to return and be serviced. I know there is something out there, and I know I can go after it, and that their ships will be in specific locations on the map to chase after.

All the other games you cite instead (except possibly Fields of Fire which I haven't played yet) are based on a potentially endless stream of randomly generated "targets" or "attackers" that you have to deal with. That's not what you get in Carrier. Carrier gives you a specific enemy with a face that you can defeat, but you have to identify the face first. The game sets up the initial challenge, and you have to meet it. The enemy can show itself in different fashion, the sudden airstrike out of the blue being the most unpleasant one, but not the only one. It's the best expression of the carrier warfare experience that I've found in a boardgame. Now, of course, that experience may not be for everyone. To each their own.

I myself, when I was new to the game, tended to note that sometimes the dierolls "show through the narrative" (which is still harmless compared to all the other games where the dierolls are all the narrative). Things felt like that mostly because I had prior experience with Tokyo Express, Carrier's predecessor. In Tokyo Express, the Japanese formation display creates realistic moves to an uncanny degree. It is easily the most convincing opponent of any solitaire game I have seen, and in that respect is better than Carrier, although, to be fair, Carrier has the harder task as a simulation. So, based on the points that you note as positive in Fields of Fire, Tokyo Express may be more for you. However, if your concern is that "making a difference" means winning, be warned that winning in Tokyo Express is not all that much easier than in Carrier. You'll have many ships sent to the bottom before you get really good at it.
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Lawrence Hung
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I think the major difference that distinguishes a good solitaire game from the not-so-good one is the frequency that you feel you make something or something up for a challenge. In RAF, that frequency is perfect in that virtually you come across every challenge every turn and every time you flip over the cards. The scale of time slides according to the intensity of what happened and thus what you did.

In Silent War, that little submarine always perform a contact operation but very often nothing shows up after you roll up all the dices. Even if you have contacted something, you are limited by your own submarine size and have to choose your targets carefully. Sadly, if you have an early model, the best course of action is to evade from the contacts. That's where the bore comes in. cry

I sold my Patton's Best after several attempts to read the rules but never complete it successfully. I don't have the other solitaire games you mentioned above. However, my top wargame is a solitaire design by Mark Herman on The Peloponessian War. It says that solitaire wargame can be unique and be realistically interesting. I am still looking for the next holy grail of solitaire wargame. I have Decision Games' D-Day at Omaha Beach by John Butterfiled (the RAF designer) and look forward to have a different solitaire experience - land combats in regiments and battlions of the 92nd division, instead of individual flight, sub or carrier.laugh
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Antonio B-D
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I'll take it of your hands to complete my solitaire collection.

(BTW, try D-Day at Omaha, I am starting to think that I want to be buried with it!!)
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Magister Ludi
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Lawrence Hung wrote:
However, my top wargame is a solitaire design by Mark Herman on The Peloponessian War. It says that solitaire wargame can be unique and be realistically interesting.



Yep, a great game...you get to play both sides...now that makes it interesting.
 
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James Fung
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Aussie550 wrote:
Yep, a great game...you get to play both sides...now that makes it interesting.

I've done the same for the new RAF.
 
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Chris Milne
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I'm with James and Markus here. I won't pretend that Carrier is a solitaire game for everyone, but I find the criticisms in this review to be well wide of the mark. Markus has already made many of the points I thought of (and made them far better than I would have done), but I thought I'd comment on the comparison with other solitaire games that I've played.

Games like B-17, B-29 and Patton's Best try to generate a episodic storyline, in which you can sit back and watch the characters. B-17 (and, I suspect, B-29) contains virtually no decision making opportunities for the player that have any real consequence; Patton's Best generates quite a few more in the tactical environment. Your enemies in these games really don't have much in the way of a guiding intelligence and in general you have almost complete knowledge of the situation and can react accordingly.

Silent War is less clearly episodic, but again you're basically playing against a well-tuned statistical model that operates through copious charts and die rolls. Here, to me at least, that makes rather more sense, since you're guiding a strategic offensive where statistics rule. However, there are plenty of decisions to be taken, so the feeling of involvement may well be greater, although since few of these decisions have clearly recognisable immediate results, that is debatable.

Fields of Fire retains episodes in its game play, but grants you substantial decision making opportunities and, unlike the B-17 model, incorporates significant fog of war. However, that fog is limited in its opacity; as the player you can be certain of where units are when they fire at you, and what they are. But again, the AI is very limited, and the enemy tends to react as a group of individuals, rather than a cohesive force.

D-Day at Omaha Beach is similar to FoF in many ways, though it is not episodic. Units are positionally well defined (though here their strength and qualities remain hidden until you attack them), even to the extent that you know where reinforcements are likely to appear and can take your decisions accordingly. But your enemy is still one that acts as a group of individuals, though the way the game operates in some ways means that it can react to your strategy (e.g., some WN depth markers result in local reinforcement when that WN is eliminated, which can be interpreted as your enemy reacting to your localised success.)

In the context of the above, Carrier might best be compared to a single mission in Fields of Fire. The enemy is out there, but you don't know where, and by the time you do, you may be in real trouble. You're taking decisions in a situation of which you are not fully aware. Here the system uses charts and die rolls to generate a genuine enemy AI, such that actions occur without you knowing very much about their source (unlike FoF, where you as the player can see enemy units even though your cardboard troops cannot), and are functioning according to a strategy. In my opinion, that's where this game shines and it's what occasionally draws me back to this game where many others of its vintage languish on the shelf (and I don't even find the topic all that intriguing).
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Kenneth Lury
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I am not giving up. After reading all of your comments, I will try again. Maybe I was so occupied keeping the rules straight that I could not sit back and enjoy the game.

The comments about D Day Omaha Beach are interesting. That game is on my wish list.
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Kenneth Lury
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I gave up, traded for DDay Omaha Beach
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Iain K
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I was happy to receive the game from Kenneth. I am finding truth in both his comments as well as those of James, Marcus and everyone else supporting the game.

I have played all the training scenarios and a couple standard scenarios.

I believe that once you get comfortable with the rules an excellent solitaire experience begins to shine through. But it is WWII Carrier warfare - and as such isn't for everyone. And the early war is the toughest for the USN.

As for narrative, I have to disagree. I have seen a standard scenario write an excellent story, but the saga doesn't revolve around a single attack. It's a tale of missed contacts and repelled attacks. Sinking 2 CVs but finding oneself facing another two. A tale that ends with one of my valiant warriors protecting the other as she limps away, her crew struggling to right her, she takes more damage, and more damage, and more - in all taking almost as much damage as her crew fought to save her as the Zekes had inflicted.

She sinks and with her go my chances for victory ... and the IJN gets a marginal win.

So I think the game works, as you note the rules are well done, and the design is an amazing achievement. I think the key is that like any game, if you're lucky, it hooks you, it pulls you in and you see the story behind all the die rolls.

Hope you're enjoying D-Day :-)
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Kenneth Lury
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Iain
Very happy you are enjoying Carrier. Glad it found a good home. I have not had much time to play DDay, but so far I like it a lot.
The same day I received DDOH, I received Whistling Death and LnL Band of Heroes. I am waiting to hit W.D. which I think I will like after reading the quick start rules. I have played a little BOH and so far I am not very excited.
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James Fung
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I wish you luck with Whistling Death. You seemed to absorb the complexity in Carrier fairly readily, so you probably shouldn't have too much trouble with WD rules; the combat level game is a combination 3-dimensional maneuvering and handling a spreadsheet. Furthermore, the Fighting Wings series is a lot like more chess than Carrier: I played one training game with the designer as moderator. One turn, a German pilot chasing one of my teammates had the misfortune to go before me. I dived and rolled and parked my P-47 right in his hex and let loose a tracking shot with all 8 0.50 caliber MGs. The designer said it was the highest firepower single attack he'd seen. I just wish the game didn't take 10 times real-time per aircraft.
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Lucius Cornelius
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I write up a kind of session report every time I play it. It makes an interesting narrative and helps me to keep track during play. And through it, I always discover it is my own decision that did me in when I lose. (Gaps in search, too close too soon, or wrong grouping of forces, Etc.) So the randomness is not to be blamed, I think. It only simulates reality as it was. It is rather amazing how unforgiving the game is; The Japanese seems to pounce on what I did wrong, not just randomly but uncannily exactly.
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Florent Leguern
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I think this review was interesting, and it's a pity so many people go straight on the reviewer to call his impressions "wrong". If that's what he felt when trying out the game, it stands on its own merit ; it might give a solid feedback that will warn potential players and warn them about what they might experience when trying the game for the first time. It will then be up to them to go further, depending on their own reaction.

As it is, it helped me shape my opinion on the game cool


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James Cox
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ZirkvandenBerg wrote:
I could've just thumbed this but want to express my almost unlimited admiration for the thread title.


X2
 
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