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Hornet Leader II» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Hornet Leader II - Why do I keep playing it . . . rss

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Shaun Austin
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I have been playing this nearly every day for the last few weeks (In fact ever since I first purchased it). The fact it is a solo game and I don’t need an opponent makes it very easy to pick up and play at any time.

Components
This is a Print & Play game so the game is provided as pdfs. Component quality will depend on your construction methods and material used. I should say that the artwork is not great. It is very functional but is lacking in various areas.
The Play mats are a light blue with very basic artwork and ordinary looking text.

The Counters are single colour backgrounds with line art graphics. Most images are just black silhouettes but the data is clear.

The Cards use photos for most of their images however the graphics is simple boxes in various shades of blue. All the information is displayed clearly without confusion.

The Campaign maps are adequate, but could also do with some improvement. The maps look real but a bit more thought could go into the target designation. The charts and tracks are unprofessional with formatting issues although functional.

For a PnP produced nearly five years ago the graphics are good but not up to the standards of today - especially one that is for purchase.

Rules
The rules are laid out in a procedural format but I would suggest reading through them entirely before starting a game.

First you must choose 12 Pilots of varying ability. They all fly F/A-18 Hornets but do have the option to increase in skill and gain promotion, so you should note their abilities carefully. XP determines how soon they may be promoted. Cool is how well they handle stress. Speed determines what phase they activate and they also have air to air and air to ground modifiers. Balancing all these attributes is an interesting task and part of the fun. Don’t be afraid to experiment with combinations that perhaps don’t seem as good. You may be surprised!

Next you must select a campaign. There are three included and they offer a range of experiences that are very different. Decisions here are how long you want to play (Length of Campaign) and what weapons you want available for the Hornets. Take note of any special rules that may adjust these values (Libya plays 2 missions a day initially.)
If time is a factor, note that it takes about 10 minutes to set up the campaign and somewhere between 20 and 40 minutes for each mission, depending on aircraft involved etc.
I should point out that with the Campaign log it is very easy to break a game up into smaller sessions.

You then determine your target and set up its land defences. Assign Pilots to the mission and arm their Hornets using this information. This is where you need to plan for various contingencies. You then check to see if there is an event on the way to the target and place your Hornets in the tactical display. Check to see if there are any changes to the target or its defences and then place the Enemy aircraft (Bandits)

You then do four rounds of Over Target Resolution to destroy the target and its defences. I won’t go into the combat details here but it is basically rolling a D10 and comparing it against modified values on the counters. It is not only possible to have Hornets destroyed but sometimes quite likely. You have to enter approach areas to reach the target although it is possible to hit the target from afar if you have the right weaponry.

Finally you determine any homebound events and perform Search and Rescue missions for any destroyed Hornets.

The Debriefing records the Mission outcome, Points and Campaign adjustments (Destroying targets will reduce enemy resources and effect future missions positively). Pilots receive experience and stress which may affect their performance or even cause them to become unfit for duty.

I find that choosing the Pilots and arming the Hornets are the most crucial and fun aspects of the game. The Over target resolution is to show you how wise your choices were and most decision making should be fairly minor unless an event has changed the situation drastically.

Game play
This is where the game shines. You never feel like you are forced into a corner. All decisions are important and most are not exclusively right! Whether it is choosing pilots, munitions or targets, there is no specific right answer. You will find yourself sitting and studying the board trying to work out the best way to use the items at your disposal to combat the target you have received.
All the data you require for your decisions is available to you. It is only the details which can get hazy but even those have to fit within certain limits you are given knowledge about.
Your choices will determine how much you will be affected by luck.

Summary
What I like?
Great game play
Small easy to setup package
Able to be split into smaller game sessions to reduce game time
Strategic decision process that can reduce the effects of Luck

What I dislike?
Dated Artwork and Graphics

The other thing I really didn’t like was a reference to the AIM-54 Phoenix missile in the rulebook. This weapon is not available for the base game nor is it included on the counter sheet. There was no reason to include it that I could see.


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THE MAVERICK
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Shaun, The AIM-54 pops up in one of the expansions and was included in the base rules to maintain continuity of the rules I believe. Also, I think this title is getting re-worked and possibly released as a boxed printed game from DVG. The Phantom Leader game (which I have yet to purchase :-( ) was just released.
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Shaun Austin
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Craig, you are right that it pops up in the Carrier Air expansion. I just don't see the need to include it in the main rule book. The expansion has a better detailed entry in its book which is sufficient in this case. The AIM-54 has more than enough rule tweaks to make it memorable. Adding it to the main rules seems to diminish them as a stand alone game.
You feel there is something missing when in fact the game is great without it.

The boxed game should be great, with updated artwork and reworked rules. I am still waiting for my Paypal account to fill, so I can put in a pre-order.
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George Leach
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This sounds really interesting I'm not normally in this sort of area of gaming, is this game part of a series with many expansions and variants?
What genre would this be described as?
Should I wait for a boxed version? Can it be played multiplayer?
 
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Shaun Austin
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This one has three expansions - Hornet Leader II: Carrier Air Group, Hornet Leader II: Cold War, Hornet Leader II: Marine Air but if you intend to get all of them I would probably suggest purchasing the boxed set rather than the Print and Play versions. The boxed set has updated artwork with all the expansions and the rules are smoother. There are also some extra bits taken from Phantom leader that add to the choices when playing the game.
Pre-order will get you the boxed game cheaper than all the PnP versions combined.

It is hard to categorize this game as it involves resource management as well as combat. I tend to think of it as a wargame but it is more than that.

Like any solo game you could split tasks between players to allow multiple people to play but to be honest it really shines as a solo game.

I now own the first two expansions and can see months of replayability with those alone.
 
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The boxed set has yet to be published yet. It is in the hopper I belive though. I think DVG was waiting to see how well Phantom Leader was recieved.
 
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Shaun Austin
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I just purchased the pre-order of the published version Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations, so I probably won't get around to purchasing the final Print & Play expansion.
 
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