GeekGold Bonus for All Supporters at year's end: 1000!
7,944 Supporters
$15 min for supporter badge & GeekGold bonus
21 Days Left

Support:

Recommend
40 
 Thumb up
 Hide
12 Posts

Silent War» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Silent War - Review rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Alexander Cwienk
South Korea
Seoul
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
SILENT WAR – REVIEW

1. Overview
As most people will already know, Silent War is a solitaire game/wargame/consim about the US/Allied submarine campaign against Japanese shipping during the Second World War. Specifically speaking, the game (i.e. the base game, not the patrol scenarios) puts the player in the position of the Commander Submarines, U.S. Pacific Fleet (ComSubPac) whose goal it was to sink as much Japanese shipping tonnage as possible.
In practice, this means that the player has control over each and every submarine ComSubPac ever had at his disposal over the course of the war (yes, this means that towards the end of the war, the player has virtually hundreds of subs to control), and it is his job to allocate all of them individually to the various operational areas into which the Pacific Ocean has been divided. These operational areas are different from one another in basically only one thing: The density of shipping. In other words, there are only quantitative differences (i.e. number of ships); there are barely any qualitative differences (i.e. kinds of ships).
The density of shipping determines two things: Richness as a hunting ground and, by the same token, dangerousness for subs that operate there. The richer the operational areas are, the likelier it is to find something, and to find something big. The more dangerous they are, they higher the risk for the sub to be spotted, damaged, or sunk.
As the war progresses (there are four war periods), the density of shipping declines in all operational areas (to different degrees, though), while a simultaneous increase in Japanese general ASW capability means that the dangerousness of the operational areas will change less until late in the game when the Japanese general ASW capability starts to decline as well.
I have already said that the player has to allocate all of the subs that he controls (and that are not stuck in port for refit or repair) to the various operational areas in an individual fashion. While doing so, he has to roll the die for each and every sub to determine if and what kind of transit event (being spotted, damaged, sunk, having to return to base) happen to them.
After having thus allocated his subs, the player checks one by one if and what convoy or task force contacts the submarines make. If contact is made, and the kind of contact determined, the player sets up the convoy/task force with counters representing individual Japanese ships on a kind of tactical display. This way, the convoy’s composition and structure is built up in a concrete, physical fashion (which, however, does not make as much sense as it should, as I will argue later).
All convoys and task forces are made up of two to four columns, and the likelihood of encountering the various kinds of ships (i.e. merchant ships vs. warships, small merchant ships vs. large merchant ships, destroyers with ASW value vs. big warships with no ASW value) is different for every column (the leftmost column has the highest probability for featuring small merchant vessels, while the rightmost column has the highest probability for featuring big warships, etc.).
Apart from these general column characteristics, the player will be given more concrete hints about what to he has to deal with in the columns of a given convoy/task force by the back of the counters in them. This is because when the convoys or task forces are laid out in front of the player, the counters are laid down upside down, and their back will only show (sometimes incorrectly to simulate mistakes in judgment from the distance) whether the ship is a merchant ship or a warship.
Being equipped with the knowledge about the general nature of the different columns, and being given more or less reliable hints about the nature of the actual ships right in front of him, the player has to decide which column his sub will attack. Depending on the agility of the sub at hand, a specific number of ships in the chosen and/or neighboring column(s) have to be revealed and can be targeted. The sub can make up to two or three attack runs, and change its attack column somewhat between those attack runs, if the player wishes to do so, but he will suffer Japanese counterattacks every time.
After all attacks and counterattacks have been made, the player determines via a die roll whether the sub can remain on patrol in its operational area or whether it will have to return to base to replenish its stocks of food, fuel and ammunition. The player then moves on to the next sub and repeats the process. In other words, these searches, contacts, and attacks, like the allocation of the subs to the various sea areas before, are conducted one by one (later in the game, “wolfpacks” are introduced, but the vast majority of subs will still operate alone). It goes without saying that sub transits back to base, and any repairs and efforts to make the subs ready for operations again are also all conducted on a one-by-one basis. After the player has done everything he can or wants to do with every sub, the turn ends and a new turn will begin.

2. “Silent War” judged as a game
So what you are basically doing in this game, over and over and over again, is to send subs out, check for transit events, check for contacts and their nature and size, randomly determine the actual ships that constitute those contacts, make one or more attack runs against them, suffer counterattacks, and sooner or later return the sub to base (checking for transit events again) for refit and/or repairs. The player will do this, and pretty much only this, every single turn of the game, for every single sub currently under his control. It basically never changes. And there is nothing the player can do about this lack of change. It is not in his power to make any sort of strategic, operational, or tactical decision that would change the nature and/or flow of the game in any significant manner. He can only make micromanagement choices like “Which sub do I send to which operational area?”, and “Should I let this damaged sub return or should I keep it out at sea as long as I can?”. In other words, I have to say that more than anything else, the player’s job is to push counters around in more or less identical ways, and to roll the die many, many times.
To be fair, there is a time and a place in which the player has to make decisions that do make some difference: During combat, players pick the columns they will attack, and they decide to call off or continue the attacks. However, these decisions are rather the decisions of the sub skippers rather than those of ComSubPac, whose role the player is supposed to have assumed.
To be fair again, there are also two kinds of special events that change the normal flow of the game. One kind are “war events”, and the other are “combat events”. War events are macro-events that relate to the entirety of the war against Japan, e.g. the “Fall of the Philippines” or the “Battle of Midway”. If such war events happen, it usually means that the player has to send a number of submarines to operational areas to which he would normally not send them. “Combat events” are micro-events and relate to a single sub’s engagement with a convoy or task force. Such events include lucky shots or circular running torpedoes or premature detection by the Japanese, etc.
However, even though these events do provide some change from the usual flow, they are very ephemeral: “War Events” only last one turn, and “Combat Events” only last one engagement. Thus, normal play is restored very quickly.

Considering all of this, you could say that this is a boring game. You would definitely have to say that it is an unchanging and repetitive game. Plus, it increasingly turns into a fiddly game when you start to control an increasingly large number of subs, and super skipper markers also start to enter the game. Finally, it is a very, very long game if you play the campaign. Hence, if I had to evaluate this consim as a game, I would certainly have to put it somewhere in the “2” or ”3” range.
But it would not be fair to view and rate “Silent War” as a game. There are two reasons for this: First, it is a “consim”, and “consim” stands for “conflict SIMULATION”. Thus, first and foremost, it has to be a SIMULATION. If this wasn’t so, then this genre would be called “congam”. Of course, it is not disallowed to be a fun and exciting game at the same time. And if it so happens, then so much for the better. But being a fun game is only a bonus, and not a requirement, and thus should not play a big role is assessing this conSIM. Second, the designer himself makes it very clear in his designer’s notes that he wanted to create a “serious study” that is “not for the faint of heart”. Furthermore, he stresses that the submarine war was a war of numbers and attrition in which exciting moments of heroism did occur from time to time, but were neither the rule nor the decisive factor. More than anything else, thus, ComSubPac’s job was that of an administrator and a bookkeeper. And this is exactly the role into which the player is cast. So in terms of the (repetitive) general game flow, the design of “Silent War” is right on the money, if it wants to be a good simulation. But being repetitive alone is not sufficient in order to be that good simulation, as I will show below.

3. “Silent War” judged as a simulation
It is now time to take a closer look at how the specific tasks, possibilities, limitations and problems of the two sides (the US Pacific submarine force and its Japanese adversary) are portrayed. Generally, if you want to portray those things, you have to pay attention to two aspects: One is the military hardware (weapons, equipment, numbers, etc.), the other is how this hardware was and/or could have realistically been utilized, i.e. the “software” of command and control. Good simulations have to simulate both aspects well.
In the case of “Silent War”, the military hardware is represented most excellently, but alas, the command and control procedures have been simplified too much, and I am not talking about the inherent weaknesses of (solitaire) board games, i.e. the lack of “fog of war” and the lack of the individual unit commanders’ own decisions.
Let me get more specific. The material side of the portrayal is excellent because the fleets of both sides are presented in very great detail. On the American side, for instance, every single sub that served during the war is represented by an individual counter and is given its own individual ratings. Assuming that ComSubPac controlled his subs on an individual basis, “Silent War”’s approach to simulate his job is perfect in this respect. Furthermore, this enables the player to re-feel the relief and joy ComSubPac must have felt when those new Gato-class subs slowly but surely started to become available in greater numbers. In addition to that, all the bases and tenders (sub re-supply ships) are also given their individual ratings, and there are fine development stages for torpedo quality. Given that torpedoes are a sub’s main weapon, such a detailed portrayal of torpedo development is in order, and the fact that it has been incorporated so is a commendable design decision. On the Japanese side, the ship (and plane!) counters provided are more generic, but the amount and variety of ships is still very impressive and probably sufficient for all simulation purposes.
But as I have already mentioned before, the command and control part of the equation is executed not quite as excellently. But before listing the various problems, I want to laud the fact that the turns represent weeks, which is indeed an operational, and thus becoming, time frame. It allows the player to relive in a quite non-abstracted and lively fashion the conduct of operations, i.e. the subs’ transit to their operational areas, their patrol there, and their eventual transit back to base. It also allows the player to re-fight those convoy battles and re-experience the frustration with the malfunctioning early torpedoes and the joy of seeing them gradually improving after a long period of time.
However, IMHO, many aspects of how these operations are conducted lack important details. The possibly biggest problem is the total absence of any weather effects. Clearly put, the weather (or at least its game-relevant effects) is always exactly the same in absolutely all areas of the whole Pacific during every single turn of the entire game. In all honesty, I don’t know exactly how much of a concern weather was for the conduct of the submarine campaign in the Pacific, but I do know that it played a huge role in the German campaign in the North Atlantic. Thus, even if the weather in the Pacific was less of a factor than in the North Atlantic, I am quite certain that it still must have possessed a greater significance the nil, and that a total lack of any sort of weather effect in a game that uses an operational weekly turn time frame takes away quite a bit of realism.
As far as the American side is concerned, another point that causes a lack of realism is the fact that only the class of a given sub, but not the hitherto length of its patrol in an operational area influence the likelihood of the sub’s having to return to base when rolling for the “endurance check”. In other words, if you roll well enough, a tiny sub could stay on patrol literally forever, and if you roll badly enough (both cases are not that unlikely at all), even the best of subs will have to return after only a single week’s patrol. I, for one, once had a small crap sub that managed to stay at sea for 6 weeks (when the torpedo modifier was still -2!). Not only is this unrealistic in itself, but it also makes it harder to develop a turnover system of subs moving to, operating in, and moving back from operational areas. I know that the Germans had such a turnover system in order to always have a more or less similar number of subs patrolling at any given time. Furthermore, since I believe that more than anything else, THIS, i.e. developing such a turnover system, i.e. actually managing and orchestrating all those individual subs as part of a bigger fleet system, must have been at the core of ComSubPac’s job, the game does not simulate his job very well. What the player – who is supposed to be ComSubPac – does instead, is to just send out all submarines to somewhere the moment they become available, without any system or prior (operational) planning. This might very well be the reason for my aforementioned observation that more than anything else, it is the player’s job to just push counters around in inconsequential ways, i.e. in ways that are basically not different from all the other possible ways. To be sure, in terms of tactical decisions, i.e. when engaging actual convoys, players need to think more, but those decisions 1) are made vis-à-vis convoys whose structure is not particularly realistic in the first place, as I will argue below, and 2) are not really ComSubPac’s decisions anyway, but those of the individual subs’ skippers.
And lastly (for the American side), the fact that all battle damage is considered equivalent (all damage markers are exactly the same) and is not further specified until the damaged sub returns to base, where the determination of the actual damage can range from superficial to heavy, also seems a little odd and unrealistic.

Now, let’s turn to how well the Japanese are represented “command and control”-wise. As I see it, there are three levels of representation: The strategic level, the operational level, and the tactical level. Let’s start with the strategic level. The strategic level is simulated actually quite well. The various operational areas of the Pacific have a quite detailed listing of the density of Japanese shipping activity for the various war periods, representing where and to what extent the Japanese were likely to have their navy and their merchant navy operate in the given war periods. Since it can be assumed that the development of the war in the Pacific (Japan’s attack directions and its road to eventual defeat) was indeed more or less predetermined, such scripting of the development of shipping density is justified. Also, the success (or failure) of the player’s submarines influences the likelihood of when the war periods will progress. Since losses in warships and general shipping tonnage (or lack thereof) indeed influenced the ability of the Japanese to conduct operations, this intertwining of the general flow of the war progress and the success rate of the player’s subs is a nicely done design feat and right on the money. In short, the player gets a detailed and realistic impression of the flow of the war, the development of Japanese shipping density, and his influence on all of that. On the strategic level, the Japanese are thus represented quite felicitous.
On the operational level, however, things look different. There are two problems. The first one is the fact that getting the bare shipping density right is not sufficient to create realism. It is also important to get the kind of ships/convoys/task forces right. Sadly, “Silent War” does not get them right. Specifically speaking, once contact is established, the chances that these contacts are convoys or task forces are exactly the same in all operational areas. There is no discrimination made depending on where in the Pacific these ship formations have been found. Let me give you an example: The shipping density in the Yellow Sea is high, because it is Japan’s backyard sea area, and all the supply ships that supplied Japan’s continental army with munitions etc. and Japan with oil etc. went through there. However, Japanese shipping density in the Coral Sea (South Pacific) in the beginning of the war is also high, because the Japanese were expanding there militarily. So far, so good, you might think. The problem is this: By the simple virtue of having similar shipping densities in both areas, it is just as likely to find a carrier task force in the Yellow Sea as it is in the Coral Sea, and it is just as likely to find an unprotected oil convoy in the Coral Sea as it is in the Yellow Sea. Obviously, this does not make any sense. I do know that the Japanese convoy protection system was exceptionally bad, but I guess they did know as much as where to send their warships to and where to sent their merchantmen to. In other words, the player is not facing an authentic and realistic representation of a shipping traffic system that serves a comprehensible and meaningful purpose. Instead, the Japanese shipping “system” – as it is represented here – is nothing less than totally haphazard and pell-mell chaos. In short: It is not realistic at all.
The second problem with the operational level representation of the Japanese is the fact that every given convoy or task force can be found exactly once. This is because convoys and task forces are composed the moment a submarine spots them, and they are dissolved for good once this one engagement is over. I understand that it would require a lot of bookkeeping and probably provide the player with an unduly knowledge of where Japanese convoys are and where they are going, but the current solution of having phantom convoys that kind of forever disappear into the Twilight Zone once found further reinforces the fact that the player is not facing an authentic and realistic representation of a shipping system that serves a purpose.
In short, what the player gets to see of the imagined shipping traffic that is assumed to take place invisibly in a background layer of the simulation is that it is totally crazy and unpredictable. Consequently, it is not a good simulation of the Japanese shipping traffic that took place during the war.
Let’s conclude with a look at the tactical level representation of the Japanese. As mentioned above, the Japanese ship formations are set up in two to four columns, depending on the nature and size of the formations. At first, I thought that this represents the physical structure of the convoys and task forces, but then I realized that this assumption collides with the fact that an attacking submarine can attack all columns with the same ease. Consequently, this ship ordering cannot represent something like an “important vessels at the core, and covering or more expendable vessels at the periphery”-convoy structure. Furthermore, the Japanese failed historically to create meaningfully structured convoys. So what could these columns and the physical convoy/task force structures they seemingly represent mean? The answer that I came up with is fairly simple: It is basically only a bookkeeping measure. The reason for my assumption is this: Every column is associated with a particular mix of Japanese ship counters, called “War Mixes A-D”. Every “War Mix” contains a certain number of ships of a certain kind, e.g. “War Mix A” contains so many light merchantmen and destroyers, while “War Mix D” contains so many large merchantmen and heavy warships, etc. Now, every convoy and task force consists of a certain number of ships from every “War Mix”. But how do you keep track of what ship counter came from what “War Mix”, and how do you make sure you return them all to their correct “War Mix” once the engagement is over? The answer is that you give every “War Mix” its own special column to put its ships into. In other words, the columns are just a means to help you keep track of from where the ships come and to where they will eventually go again, i.e. they are only a bookkeeping means, i.e. they actually do not represent the physical structure of the actual convoy.
However, the strange thing, then, is that these bookkeeping columns are nevertheless (ab)used to represent precisely this, i.e. the physical structure of the actual convoys. This is because the subs can only attack and be attacked from the columns they choose to attack and its directly neighboring columns. All the other columns are considered to be too far away to be attacked or to counterattack, i.e. there are spatial distances that exist between the columns, i.e. the columns are physical entities in the simulated reality. This system, however, is bound to produce odd results on many occasions. Let me give you one example: If the player draws a battleship from “War Mix D” into column D, but no destroyers from “War Mixes C” or “D” into columns C or D, then the battleship does not have any destroyer escort whatsoever, even if the player did draw destroyers for that task force into columns A or B. As a matter of fact, as an inevitable function of that system, the big battleships and carriers in column D always have a lower chance of being protected than e.g. the cruisers in column C, because column D is the rightmost column, i.e. there is no chance for protecting destroyers from the right, which would be column E (which does not exist). So the cruisers in column C can be covered by destroyers in three columns (B, C, and D), while the battleships and carriers can only be covered by destroyers in two columns (C and D). This state of affairs is not ok. The Japanese may have woefully blundered in organizing and protecting their convoys, but as far as I know, they did take care of their big ships in task forces.
So the bottom line is that the tactical representation of the Japanese convoys and task forces gives them a kind of a physical structure and a “convoy feel” – which is indeed at least something – but this representation of tactical structure does not hold well when scrutinized for realism because it is actually only the abusing of a bookkeeping measure. It is a pseudo-structure. I can see why the designer decided to go ahead like this. It is a quick and handy way of imposing a structure on Japanese ship formations. It kills two birds with one stone. It helps you to find and to return ship counters, and it makes it unnecessary to include another set of fiddly rules for how to set up convoys and task forces. But on the other hand, easy solutions are also often faulty solutions. And this is the case here.

4. Conclusion
So what is my final verdict on “Silent War” as a simulation? It is this: The designer (and the developer) have put a very, very great deal of research, playtesting and rule developing into this game. This is clearly shown in the excellence of the quantitative, hardware aspects of this consim (the complete and detailed American sub fleet, the Japanese shipping densities in all the various operational areas of the Pacific, etc.).
Considering that such a great deal of effort and passion has been put into this consim, I really do not enjoy having to say that as far as the qualitative, software, “command and control” aspects of this consim are concerned (procedures and considerations of commanding the sub fleet, the “system” of Japanese shipping traffic, etc.), they have overdone rule smoothing and simplifying. Consequently, “Silent War” is simply not very realistic. People who claim that it is, are probably overwhelmed by the meticulous representation of numbers and military hardware, and the large scale of the game, but they overlook that this is only half of what constitutes a really good consim. After all, if one doesn’t count the cover and the table of contents, “Silent War” has only 15 pages of rules. How can a campaign as vast, as long, and as complex as the Allied submarine campaign against Japan during WWII be realistically captured on an operational level with only 15 pages of rules?
In short, I believe that as a simulation, “Silent War” is either average or slightly above average. It is definitively far away from any “Hall of Fame”. I, for one, give it a 5.5 (6 for the American side, 5 for the Japanese side).

I understand that an inclusion of more complexity would have
● added considerably to bookkeeping
● slowed down the game
● increased playing time
● made “Silent War” fiddlier
● lessened its fun as a game
but including all essential aspects of realism is what I expect of a good consim (which, after all, stands for “conflict SIMULATION”, and not “conflict game”), and “Silent War” is already pretty bad as a game as it is. In other words, if more complexity had been included, “Silent War” would have become a slightly worse game, but a much better simulation (which is what counts).
In more personal words: If I had the choice of investing 200 hours into an average simulation, or 400 hours into an excellent one, I would rather go with the excellent simulation. This is the same principle as in spending $5 on something you do not need vs. spending $10 on something you do need. Which is the smarter thing to do?
43 
 Thumb up
0.50
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kenneth Lury
United States
Blowing rock
NC
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Superb thoughtful and analytical review.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Lucius Cornelius
United States
HONOLULU
Hawaii
flag msg tools
badge
Lord Protector of Nothing in Particular
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for the excellent review! thumbsup
I wish you could do all the reviews of the games I am considering! meeple
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Sosa
United States
Newark
Delaware
flag msg tools
badge
I will break him.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Now I do wonder whether you have come up with solutions to the simulation problems, perhaps things that may be incorporated into the next game in the series, Wolfpack?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Darrell Hanning
United States
Jacksonville
Florida
flag msg tools
badge
We will meet at the Hour of Scampering.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Alexander, I agree with a lot of the points you make. In fact, I think you hit the nail on the head, when you say, "It is not in his (the player's) power to make any sort of strategic, operational, or tactical decision that would change the nature and/or flow of the game in any significant manner." That, for me, nicely sums up the time-investment-versus-entertainment ratio to a tee.

However, your repeated allusions to a "conflict simulation" not being a conflict "game" is not entirely congruent with the reality about wargames in general, or with the history of conflict simulations specifically.

While it is true that conflict simulations are at one end of the spectrum of wargaming, their simulation value is not an absolute, even when taken to the extreme. It is still a relative matter, in comparison to the simulation value of all other wargames.

And having played Silent War through the first 6 months of the war, and realizing that - on some metaphysical level - repeating that process for another 3 years of gametime (and who knows how many dozens of hours of real time) poses the question of, "Really, who the hell is playing whom, here?", I have to wonder about the value to be gained from adding additional layers of complexity, and lower levels of values (with which to potentially witness error cascade, up through the higher levels of results).

I think your suggestions in this vein have merit, but perhaps not with an entire, Pacific ocean full of sardine cans. Rather, if the scope of the game were reduced in quantity (to, say, a single sub or a "pack"), then the additional detail you would prefer would not become overwhelming to the average player. It would be a great pity should the game be played by even fewer players - for an even smaller portion of the campaign - simply because the designer chose to "backload" the system with even more goodies, when the summary of the game would largely remain the same - inadequate ability to imbue the playing of the game with any personal choice of strategy, and that choice having some measurable impact on the outcome.

Silent War already is a numbers game, and adding more numbers is not going to change that. As a numbers game - as it is, now - I find it enjoyable from the perspective of what I learn about the nature of the operations. If my monthly tonnage numbers don't exactly align with history, what of it? Iron maiden measures taken to try and reduce that deviation have just as much potential to exacerbate the problem, without a disproportionate amount of additional effort in development and playtesting.

Even the best conflict simulations have to intrigue the player - have to give them some sense of involvement, and permit some room for creativity in strategy, or they fail. As a once ardent fan of SPI games, I can attest to this.

Accuracy and realism is important, make no mistake. But it is still even more important that the player plays the game, and not the other way around.

Edited for typo.
11 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Alexander Cwienk
South Korea
Seoul
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
Belisarius88 wrote:
Now I do wonder whether you have come up with solutions to the simulation problems, perhaps things that may be incorporated into the next game in the series, Wolfpack?


No, I haven't come up with anything, and I didn't even try, because I don't know enough about the history of submarine warfare and convoy systems to come up with something that is sufficiently historically accurate.

Off the top of my head, I would think that

1. the determination of when subs have to return to base should be based much more on the amount of time they have spent at sea and the number of engagements they had. Simple bookkeeping should do the job, I guess.

2. bring in different probabilities for finding different kinds of ship formations (oil convoys, other convoys, task forces, etc.) in the different sea areas of the Pacific.

3. keeping track of spotted convoys and make it possible (even if difficult) to attack them more than just once.

4. creating a whole new set of rules for how to set up authentic and meaningful ship formations. In order to help return the ship counters to the correct war mixes later, they could be color-coded.

5. If it is not possible to create meaningful ship formations without giving the player too clear of an idea of what he is facing, the whole tactical level combat could be jettisoned, because on-site decision-making presumably wasn't ComSubPac's job anyway.

Cheers,

Alex
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Alexander Cwienk
South Korea
Seoul
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
Darrell,

thanks for your elaborate reply!

If I understand your post correctly, you are making two points:

1. In order to be good, even "conflict simulations" have to be (among other things like historical accurateness) entertaining. They are entertaining if they give the player a sense of involvement, freedom of meaningful choice, opportunity for strategic creativity, etc.

2. In order to make "Silent War" better, I have suggested to add more "numbers". However, since the weakness of this consim is not a lack of numbers, but a lack of entertainment value, adding more numbers is not going to remedy this consim's problems.

Provided I understood your post correctly, I would like to disagree as follows:

1. The attributes "entertaining" and "realistic" are separate and independent variables. This is an objective fact.
Which of those two variables is necessary in order to make a cosim "good", on the other hand, is a matter of subjective personal philosophy.
Hence, I wouldn't think that it is that clear that only entertaining consims can be good ones. In terms of the real, practical world out there, you may be right, because most people will share your view and buy and play only consims that they find entertaining, because to them, only those consims are "good" and worth their leisure time.
But on the other hand, even if it is the majority of people that holds a certain view, this doesn't render all other views wrong (except in the eyes of publishers, maybe, who want to sell their products). I myself don't mind entertaining games (not at all actually), but this is not what I am looking for in a consim. I regard being entertaining only as a bonus in a consim. I care much more about its being realistic.

In any case, the bottom line is that when I was saying that this game is repetitive and doesn't give the player any opportunity to come up with ideas and put them into action, I actually wasn't criticizing this consim. In fact, I was praising it for this because ComSubPac's job basically was in fact that of an administrator and bookkeeper, and bookkeeping is indeed repetitive, dull, and boring. This is why I said that this consim, by virtue of being confining and repetitive, is being "right on the money".

Hence, the issues that I have with this consim are not its problems with being insufficiently entertaining, but being insufficiently realistic.

2. In order to resolve the realism issues, I wasn't advocating the incorporation of new numbers, but new rules. While some of those rules may bring about the necessity for new numbers (e.g. introducing different probabilities for finding different kinds of ship formations in different sea areas), presumably most of them wouldn't (e.g. rules for setting up and following ship formations). As a matter of fact, some of those rules might actually eliminate a few numbers (e.g. the endurance check). I guess more than anything else, I was advocating the introduction of a lot of bookkeeping elements.

Cheers,

Alex
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
mike souber
United Kingdom
cobham
surrey
flag msg tools
Good review.
I also agree with that the game is not fun enough.
But I personally think it would have been better if it had abstracted combat more and speeded up the game. The player send out the subs based on intel and experience and the subs do their work.
There was an old sim can computer game where the player sent out the U-boats onto the map and text messages of events came back.

 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
ezzler wrote:

But I personally think it would have been better if it had abstracted combat more and speeded up the game.


For what it's worth, there is a mechanism at the end of the rules that does just this. If pulling from cups over and over and over gets to you, they do have an abstracted form of combat to speed things up.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Larz Welo
United States
Katy
Texas
flag msg tools
No more stones. No more spears. No more slings. No more swords. No more weapons! NO MORE SYSTEMS!
badge
You can fire your arrows from the Tower of Babel, but you can never strike God!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Alex,

Excellent review. It helped me to rerank this on my wishlist.

One suggestion: more white space. I felt like your text was difficult to read in very large blocks of text. A few more empty lines inserted into it would've been much easier on my eyes. Thanks
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Roman J
United Kingdom
Thurso
Caithness
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
O yes. I absolutly agree with you Alex
The game should be more realistic simulation. I like your point of view (all this bookkeeping will be nice), but the times are different. Creating more complicated, realistic (read boring for most people) game, means your sale drop to only small, big passionate group of people. That's why this is a compromise between easy to learn and play game, and consim.Is so rare to find game where you need to do notes on paper and use them later.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Abe Delnore
United States
Pittsburgh
PA
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for a great review. You hit a lot of the problems I had with the game. I enjoy it when it functions as a simulation but a few parts of it are obvious kludges, particularly the tactical display and combat resolution procedure. I really can't understand what is being represented here and what the player choice is supposed to represent. Frankly, I would rather just set doctrine (go for merchants/escorts/heavy warships) and get a result than have to pretend that USS Gato actually sees a Japanese carrier in one direction and troopship in the other and has to choose which to attack. I tell myself that this really represents patrolling patterns and choices about which target profiles to investigate, but it falls flat, because there are the stupid counters looking up at me insisting that I can torpedo the carrier or the troopship.

One thing Steel Wolves: The German Submarine Campaign Against Allied Shipping – Vol 1 promises to add is a more realistic combat resolution procedure, in which the targets on the tactical display actually make sense as a convoy or other group of vessels. So, despite my misgivings about Silent War, I will probably end up buying Steel Wolves.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.