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Steel Wolves: The German Submarine Campaign Against Allied Shipping – Vol 1» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Sorry I can't recommend it... rss

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Unfortunately, I do not recommend Steel Wolves as a campaign game to recreate the U-boat War in the Atlantic.
Let me begin by saying that I absolutely love the U-boat War as a historical topic whether movies, books, games or travel interest. As a wargame player for over 35 years, who loves the Battle of the Atlantic, I greatly anticipated Steel Wolves as a chance to play a solitaire wargame on the topic that could hold my interest more than the unrealistic Wolfpack by SPI, and covered full campaign strategy unlike Submarine by Avalon Hill. I got on the waiting list and received my game during Christmas season of 2010. Within a week I was playing the full campaign. I played steady for about two weeks. One week was vacation and I was playing many hours a day. I played as far as July 1940 before I quit the game. Now that you know my background, and I’ve taken some time to digest my game experience, I felt I’d share my feelings about the game because so few reviews exist. Ratings used throughout:

(+) Positive (0)Intermediate (-) Negative

1) Components
Box (+) It is pretty and if you are one to buy a game based on a box, I suppose this would sell the game. Personally, I don’t ultimately care about that because I care about the game which I hope to be enjoyable. The box is big enough to hold everything broken down into baggies. This is important because there is a lot of sorting to do. (-) When I was pulling out counters I wondered why the ones needed to play the early years (& campaign) couldn’t have been printed together on two or three sheets, but I suppose with all the possible scenarios that could be played, this might muddle other players up. Still, the counters do seem a bit disorganized as laid out, for example, a vital prestige marker is completely missing.

Map (+) The map is very pleasing but looked complex when first examined. I had difficulty keeping the map flat initially. It was thin and if you’re not careful could easily be damaged. I’d recommend some Lexan type cover to prevent these problems (Frankly, at over $100 I guess I expected a mounted board).
(-) Once playing, I found the need to be careful where I placed things (rulebook, charts, tables, scenario book, etc.) because counter tracks ring the board and counters can easily be misplaced. I especially found the track to move submarines through repair and refit in Germany to be a bit cramped. Large stacks of refitting submarines, some with elite commander counters, can easily tip over. I did not play far enough to see if the tracks for facilities in France would get cramped but I have no doubt they would as more and more returning subs would head there.
In general, once the key for the map and the mechanics of the game are understood, the map was very functional. For the period I played, the sea areas were adequate, but I wonder if in the later war whether they might be a tad small. I did like the design choice for placement, naming and use of the sea areas for movement.

Counters (+) These are nice. I like the choice the designers made to keep them in their elongated form (ala Silent War by Compass and Submarine from Avalon Hill-but side silhouette). I do wish they were a bit thicker but I understand the cost could be very high and there might be more map space issues with even thicker stacks. They are readable. I like the large clear numbering and use of the actual ship silhouettes. They are functional. I like that they have the information necessary in a clear and understandable form. They are numerous. Every submarine through 1943?! I know it sounds impressive, but there is no way they will all get used unless you play the entire campaign through 1943. I doubt many will do so. To save some money and space I think there could have been generic counters made. Most players would find it more than adequate. I do realize that it is nice to actually play with the really historic numbers (U-47, U-99, U-123), but who remembers U-217? Could the historic counters have been included along with generics?
(-) On the topic of generics, why couldn’t the large allied capital ships have all had separate named counters? They don’t, and a case could be made that the difference between capital ships of the same class was greater than the difference between the two-hundredth and two-hundred-and-first u-boats off the line. Anyway, as a Doenitz wanna-be, it is satisfying to look at huge stacks of potential reinforcements; so on that score I’m torn.
There are a lot of allied ships (aircraft carriers, battleships, cruisers, passenger liners, escorts, and merchant ships), of more nationalities (British, Greek, Russian, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Panamanian, Polish, French, U.S., Belgian, etc.), than you really want to try to keep track of. The problem with the nationalities (at least for merchant ships) is that there is virtually no game difference between them, and the set-up and sorting of counters is complicated by these nationalities. I found that only a short way into the game I didn’t care whether it was a Belgian or a British tanker I had sunk.
(0) As far as sorting the counters goes, every game month you’ll want to remix the randomizer cups (I believe there are 11 of them) and to do so it is necessary to use a chart (thankfully a clear and understandable one) and redraw most of these allied ship cups. One needs to be organized to redraw these counters. I recommend small sandwich size baggies which separate each merchant/tanker nationality into small size (5000 tons and below) and large size (above 5000 tons) ships. Also, each nationality with capital ships should have its own baggie. The liners should be in their own baggie. The allied submarines should be in their own baggie. The classes of airplanes should each be in their own baggies. The escorts of each nationality should be in their own baggie. I even kept the diligent escorts of each nationality in their own baggie. Anyway, it’s a lot of baggies, and a lot of work. This redrawing could be a very big nightmare if you do not keep the ships separate and organized.

Rule Book I never played Silent War so this was a fairly steep learning curve. My personal background with gaming and my knowledge of the subject helped a great deal in understanding the game. (+) The rules were well laid out. I appreciated the stepwise fashion in which they are set up. You could literally play as you read if you wanted to. While other games have claimed you could do this, I’ve never found a difficult one (until now) that I’d say you actually could (didn’t Napoleonic Wars claim you could do this?!). Stephen C. Jackson, and Brien J. Miller of Steel Wolves could teach some other designers something about how to write an orderly rule book.
(+) The rules were very thorough. Everything necessary to play is there (with some minor exceptions in these areas: combat events, war events, political influence-these are enumerated and documented on the boardgamegeek website so I won’t mention them here), but finding each nuance was sometimes a struggle. Fortunately, as I looked up a rule, the numerous rules section references the publishers placed throughout, eventually got me where I needed to be, and I found most of what I was looking for. The rest I could make logical conclusions about.
(-) One major thing missing was a comprehensive list of modifiers for various search/movement and attack situations (there are about a thirty modifiers for these, spread over several pages within the rules text). Something I’m glad that I did early on was to make a clear and comprehensive list for search and attack modifiers for each step of the game. I think this should have been included by Compass. Why didn’t Compass place this next to the search and attack charts? Why not their own colored table instead of a repeated picture? Some time ago a boardgamegeek patron created just such a list and posted it on the site. It is helpful and recommended to prevent continual paging through the rule book.
(-) Also in this book are designer notes and war events tables. The event tables were lacking because of the repeated events, some of which end up contradicting each-other, or make little sense, or add little realism/value to the game. It almost feels like they were added as an afterthought without full explanations in how to accomplish or accommodate their use. For example, how much game time does a player have to accomplish an event? If only this turn, why penalize a player for unforeseen circumstances when with foreknowledge they could have the resources available? Do all these events (war needs) really materialize and vanish in so short of a time?
No full blown example of play is available but I didn’t really feel like I needed one. The first several turns were slow, and I made a few mistakes, but in general, it was very understandable without a full blown example.
Because of the short examples of play and the linear fashion of explanation, the rules run longer than they would if those things weren’t there. (+) My point is that the rules look more intimidating than the mechanics really end up being. At its heart, I did not find it to be an overly complex game. Once I understood the basic mechanics, I’d say it was fairly easy, actually.

Scenario Book This is the second book that comes with the game. It has special rules (for specific occurrences), all the scenarios (several full campaign versions, short campaigns, numerous flotilla/area campaigns and individual u-boat patrols, etc.) with reinforcement lists, the optional political rules and tables, combat event tables, and more designer notes.
(-) The political rules, which are a more advanced method for dealing with politics and submarine technical development, are at the back of this book. I played these and am sorry that I did. See my comments under political system below for more about that.
(-) The combat event tables seem extraordinarily short. They almost seem like an afterthought as well. If war events spanning 5 war periods (that’s 50 events) can be created, then why not more than ten combat events? As I played, I ended up rolling on this table more than the war events simply due to the shear chances of doing so based upon all the combat die rolling and chit picking. Well, how about some different events? How many times does a target have to "lumber in the way"? And then, when it does, I shouldn’t have to work so hard to figure out what it means. When it lumbers, is that an additional possible hit and my original target still gets hit because I’m supposed to continue with the round in the normal way? What if it’s a diligent escort? Is it still lumbering? At what point does the anti-sub factor from this new target come into play, etc. etc.? Give me more variables and explain clearly in the chart what I need to do with each. Why do I have to search elsewhere for the execution? Simply put, there needs to be more clearly explained combat events, heck, I even got tired of the hugely advantageous "perfect setup" event because I wanted more.

Reference Cards (+) There are many of these for convoy set-up, cup set-up, game play (map and piece legend), contact tables, foreign bases, victory points table, sequence of play (including one for Silent War), engagement and contact tables, and master reinforcement table. In general they are well designed and pretty. (-) However, I don’t understand why they are organized as they are. For example, what’s the value of the charts showing me the actual sizes of the submarines, or for example, the reason for one chart having only a photo from the box cover, because these have nothing to do with game play? I would prefer those to be put on the Compass web-site and give me a comprehensive list of modifiers for various game situations, or make the engagement and contact tables larger or on two separate sheets, or put the event tables on a card. That two sided card got used the most and was the most densely organized. Why? Make the really important one larger. And why were the two tables that are used together for search and combat placed on opposite sides of this chart?

2) System
Strategic System (+) I would have to say that, in general, the strategic system worked fairly well. In the end, the numbers that occurred in recreating WWII in the Atlantic seemed to work. I base this upon the numbers of U-boats I could get to sea, the time it took to ready them, the numbers of ships sunk, the numbers that were damaged, the numbers of elite captains created, and with few exceptions the mix of ships I ran into while patrolling. For those unfamiliar with this game, every move of the submarines, whether strategic or tactical, required a die roll: Preparing them for sea is based upon a submarine readiness factor given to each class of U-boat and the ability of the facility to repair damage. Movement to sea is based upon the method of movement (patrol or transiting), the distance the player desires to travel and the danger of the sea areas traveled through. Search and contact is based upon numerous modifiers (intelligence level, weather, density of patrolling), and the quality of the U-boat (experience, spotted, etc.). Attack is based upon the attack value of the submarine, the defense value of the target and several other modifiers (torpedo quality, ASW value, targeting, skipper experience, straggle, weather, etc.). Returning to base is based upon the distance to be traversed and the state of the submarine. All of those decisions required a successful die roll to accomplish.

Combat System (-) In my opinion, the combat system is broken and it ruins the strategic game. For those unfamiliar with this game, every attack and counterattack, and re-attack and re-counterattack, requires several die rolls for each such instance. Initially I thought I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way, but this is a lot of rolling! Imagine only ten submarines patrolling. If each attacks on a given turn, they each roll for contact, then where they can be positioned in a convoy, then whether they hit (possibly several different targets), then the damage for each hit, then the possible counterattack, then damage on the sub for counter-attack, then possibly all of that again if the u-boat re-attacks, then the possibility to stay patrolling or transit home, where you still have to repair it using die rolls. You are quite possibly looking at well over 100 rolls for ten U-boats that meet convoys (it could be even more rolls if they each met four "loners") for one week of game time. Now imagine all the rolls for repairing and going to sea and the potential for many more U-boats at sea when the Kriegsmarine gets rolling. It was tiring and seemed endless. The part of the game I most wanted to enjoy became drudgery from so many mindless rolls. I did not feel in control of the battles because no significant tactical decisions were made without a die roll. (+) The best part turned out to be trying to repair and prepare the ships for sea because there was one roll per submarine per refit step: Pass - Fail. Easy and effective.
(-) Another problem (besides all the rolling) that I had with the combat system was setting up all the convoys. I ended up dreading the contact with a large convoy. It should not be this way. The problem was that there were so many ships from several cups that had to be pulled every time. Resetting this was monotonous, not just because it had to be done so much, but also because you have to be careful doing it to make sure you don’t reveal the "ship" side of the counter. Give me contact with four "loners" any day. If there could be found a way to keep the convoy in contact across the game board, the system they have could work. Why can’t I "contact" another U-boat or wolfpack ahead of the passage route of the convoy and make contact with the same (unscattered) convoy a week later? This is not possible in this game even though an inferior product from years ago (Wolfpack by SPI) allowed such a system.
(-) So how does the combat system ruin the strategic game? In the end, I didn’t want to go through the hassle of all the rolls where I felt like I had no real tactical control (no real decisions had to be made because the options were too few and too obvious; typically suicide vs. salvation), and the combat events got repetitive (see above), and the set-up was tedious (not another large convoy!), and the vulnerable convoys just sailed over the horizon without my being able to do anything more about them anyway... With all of that, I knew that the weekly results could have been achieved each game week with one die roll to tell me how many ships were sunk for a given number of U-boats on patrol in a given sea area. So why play out all those weeks with thousands and thousands of die rolls?

Political System (-) The political system is intended to mimic the resources put toward the U-boat arm based upon the success they have, the war period it is, and the influence spent to achieve technological and operational objectives. I decided that I wanted the full game effect so I started this my first time playing. After playing for several game months I realized that had I not played with this system I’d have been way ahead of where I was if I hadn’t used it. I then noticed that there was no chance to achieve any of the things I wanted to achieve in developing technology and guiding the U-boat arm in anywhere close to a timeframe that felt like I was accomplishing anything. Without uncanny luck I would be very surprised if anyone could. Despite sinking CV’s (which provide bonuses) and being slightly ahead of the historical tonnage sunk, I had very little in development. This situation was not about to improve as cuts were on their way (intelligence levels and prestige losses were about to begin eating away at any potential gains). It is set up to be VERY difficult to influence any political group and achieve even simple requests. I know it was a real challenge for Doenitz, but this system makes all but impossible. An additional problem is that gaining prestige points is slow and therefore rolling for influence can occur rather infrequently (maybe once every two months?). As an example, to improve torpedoes which were notoriously faulty early in the war, the best chance you can get is 30% per month. If you spend precious prestige points you can increase the chance by an additional 30% (but there is no way to do that two months in a row because prestige accrues slowly). If you use that 60% chance and fail, not only must you wait a month, and then your chance will be far less because you have no prestige left, but you also must rebuild your influence with the Kriegsmarine because you just failed an attempt. That takes time, and meanwhile other aspects of the war are deteriorating. All of that, and you might actually be ahead of the historical tonnage sunk. A player could go many many many months with very poor torpedoes. As an additional note, torpedo improvement is only considered a mid-level difficulty. There are far more difficult things to achieve. The political tables and rules look impressive but I believe them to be very punitive. It is even possible using these political rules that a player could put maximum effort into a single improvement and never achieve it in the entire war. This should not be the case.

3) Conclusion
Summary (-) I know this is a "simulation" but if I can’t make tactical decisions that can significantly change the outcome of battles and I have no hope of effective change through the political arena, then all I’m left with in this "game" is sending as many u-boats to the most vulnerable enemy locations I can find and this is ultimately determined by how lucky I am at rolling dice. In my opinion, that’s not much of a strategic "game" and I really wanted to like it.

Positives
Aesthetics
Components (Box, Map, Tables, Counters)
Rule Book (Organization)

Negatives
Events (War, Combat)
Combat System (Rolling, Set-up, Tactical Control)
Political System
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Mike Windsor
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A well considered review. I appreciate the time that went into it.
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Terry Simo
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You bring up some very valid negative points. I'm hoping the vassal module will help streamline a few of these for actual play!

T-Mo
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Jon Kolman
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This is a hell of a review which brings up some very valid (and interesting) points!

Have some GG.
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Russ Massey
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I tend to agree with most of the points made - I too am getting 'large convoy fatigue' at the February 1941 mark.

I have the impression that Vassal will take care of most of the things that irk me a little about the manual resolution of the system, and I wonder if most of the testing was done electronically rather than manually.Certainly I would have expected the poor ergonomics of the layout of the reference sheets to have been noted by anyone playtesting more than a few months.

Despite all the niggles I have to say that I am still enthralled by the gfame myself, but it's certainly not for everyone.
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Shawn Woods
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At about $100, I too cannot put money on a wargame with an unmounted map. I won't invest in something that expensive without lasting potential.
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Christopher Schall
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VASSAL helps quite a bit in many ways. It certainly does with the convoys. I generally, prefer a paper to a mounted map. I've been using plexiglass to cover this paper one but now have switched over to VASSAL so it does not matter.
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Paul Amala
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Wow - what a review. Good job.

I always assumed from the get go that I would be playing this on with the VASSAL module. But I still haven't been able to find it at the Compass Games or VASSAL web sites yet....
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Bartow Riggs
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baconcow wrote:
At about $100, I too cannot put money on a wargame with an unmounted map. I won't invest in something that expensive without lasting potential.


Understandable. Just to digress from the topic a bit....

I differ. What I did over 10 years ago ($40) is buy a sheet of glass 36" x 36" x 1/4" that I use for home. It was a one time purchase and is still going strong. I went for 1/4" because I didn't buy tempered glass. The advantage of glass is that it doesn't scratch like lexan or plexiglas. It is also heavy so it flatttens any map, mounted or not.

Also, every few years (after it gets too scratched) I buy a 36" x 30" piece of plexiglas for portable use. The 30" fits perfectly on the typical folding tables used at conventions and game stores.

For me, mounted maps are not an issue at all. I _prefer_ unmounted maps now and use the glass/plexi even with mounted maps. In fact I would prefer the publishers put their efforts into better quality counters rather than maps.

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/399636/quality-counters-plea...
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Christopher Schall
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The VASSAL module isn't out yet, but should be soon. I've been playtesting beta versions.
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Michael McFall
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Quote:
Summary (-) I know this is a "simulation" but if I can’t make tactical decisions that can significantly change the outcome of battles and I have no hope of effective change through the political arena, then all I’m left with in this "game" is sending as many u-boats to the most vulnerable enemy locations I can find and this is ultimately determined by how lucky I am at rolling dice. In my opinion, that’s not much of a strategic "game" and I really wanted to like it.


I'm not trying to insult you by pointing this out so please don't be offended. I do not own this game but I have Silent War. I do know a thing or two about Battlefield Leadership as I am retired after 22 years of active duty service.

As I understand it, your role in the game is one of the Admiral sending out the U-Boats into battle. An Admiral has little or no influence on the tactical outcome of any naval battle except what he does during the planning process. An Admiral takes orders just like anyone else under him; so he has little to no influence on political events ESPECIALLY in Nazi Germany.

As a Strategic game, I believe it hits the role a lot better than most naval games. All the other games give the "Commander" far too much control over what is going on in the battle. That in itself is totally unrealistic.

In my current job, I help equip Armored Fighting Vehicles with eletronics equipment such as EPLRS and BLUEFOR Tracking devices. Even with equipment like this where Commanders can track the situation on the battlefield with amazing accuracy; Battlefield Commanders STILL play "catch-up" with what is going on in the fight. That's today, not World War 2.

Unfortunately, luck has a big factor on the battlefield. As an Officer, you must figure out the risks and try to minimise them. Once the Battle kicks off, your men under you are the ones that are going to win. Only your planning before the battle will help them unless you planned wrong.

If this game puts you into the role of a "Fleet Admiral" then you must remember what that role is. It sounds to me that this game does exactly that.
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Shawn Woods
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BartowWing wrote:
baconcow wrote:
At about $100, I too cannot put money on a wargame with an unmounted map. I won't invest in something that expensive without lasting potential.


Understandable. Just to digress from the topic a bit....

I differ. What I did over 10 years ago ($40) is buy a sheet of glass 36" x 36" x 1/4" that I use for home. It was a one time purchase and is still going strong. I went for 1/4" because I didn't buy tempered glass. The advantage of glass is that it doesn't scratch like lexan or plexiglas. It is also heavy so it flatttens any map, mounted or not.

Also, every few years (after it gets too scratched) I buy a 36" x 30" piece of plexiglas for portable use. The 30" fits perfectly on the typical folding tables used at conventions and game stores.

For me, mounted maps are not an issue at all. I _prefer_ unmounted maps now and use the glass/plexi even with mounted maps. In fact I would prefer the publishers put their efforts into better quality counters rather than maps.

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/399636/quality-counters-plea...



I have a giant piece of glass to protect unmounted maps (Wargaming Map Protection). But for a game with such time constraints (I am a student), I cannot leave it up for a long time. Other unmounted maps can be played within a shorter time period and are removed upon completion (Combat Commander). If the map was mounted, I could place it on any other table that isn't equipped with this glass, preferably one that doesn't need to be used frequently for other means. Besides that, I still believe a $100 game should come with a mounted map. If there were many campaign maps (ASL or CC:Pacific), I would understand.
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Mike Stack
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I own and have played Silent War both using the board setup and vassal. With both methods I also found the tedium of the combat system to eventually wear down my desire to complete a CG, which was the main reason I purchased the game.

I believe, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that when the given numeric values of the Subs, escorts, and current tech levels (torpedos, sonar, asdic) etc, are computed against the die roll percentages the results are meant to recreate the known historic outcomes.

So X subs of type X with X leadership, etc. vs X convoy ships with X escort in X conditions etc are all variables in the formula.

If the games are meant to simulate the decisions of the strategic submarine commands why not have the combat system be resolved using these formulas with die rolls on chart(s) and all the X factors at play in the current combat situation as modifiers?

I recall completeting numerous campaigns of B17 Queen of the Skies which uses this method and achieving historic results while enjoying the time spent doing so.

I have an idea for a fix...

How about an expansion pack of rules and charts for both games that does just this, allow a simpler combat resolution procedure with only minor modifications to overall strategic game play?

If this was available, now or in the future, I'd have gladly picked up this game when I saw it on the shelf at my FLGS a week or so ago.

Later, Mike S.


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Brian Workman
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I hear you. I'm in April of 1940, and got off to a bad start through not being able to maintain more than 4 or 5 boats at sea. You should be able to send about 60% of the pier side boats each month but I rolled far worse. This game is pretty unforgiving once you get behind. I've considered restarting but I think I'll grind it out.

Two things about your review: For big convoys, I got in the habit of rolling for position first, then only populating the columns I would actually interact with. It's still a lot of work, but is more manageable.

The political war is something of a disappointment. I understand they didn't want the politics to run away with the game but I think your points are right on. I've thought that if I started over I'd play a hybrid: use the political war except for torpedo improvement, and use the torpedo improvement table for that. I've got to believe that the Germans eventually would have figured out the torpedo problems with or without Doenitz's influence. You could then use the political game to explore possibilities while insuring that (what should be) the inevitable progress of torpedo improvement happens more or less on track historically. Otherwise you are right, you could spend half the war trying to improve torpedoes.
 
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Steve Herron
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Quote:
the unrealistic Wolfpack by SPI


Why do you think Wolfpack is unrealistic? I would find it hard to say any game designed by James Dunnigan was unrealistic.
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Gunther Schmidl
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MikeS8i2 wrote:
How about an expansion pack of rules and charts for both games that does just this, allow a simpler combat resolution procedure with only minor modifications to overall strategic game play?


Rule 27.0, Quick Resolution?

 
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Chip Saltsman

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I have to say that I am enjoying the game quite a bit. I find that you are faced with similar decisions to Doenitz (I am reading Clay Blair's excellent books on the U-Boat war, which give excellent color commentary, as I go along). The system generates such a wide range of outcomes, both good (my U-47 manages to consitently find and sink Loners) to bad (two Ace Skippers lost to transit events the same turn).

You are right that the convoy setup gets tedious. My solution is to set up a large convoy at the start of a turn, then redraw only the columns where I flipped over a ship. When I encounter smaller convoys, I ignore the center section and/or remove one of the rows at random (for columns with just 5 ships). I find that makes things much faster. Loners aren't a problem, and the Task Forces don't show up often enough to get tedious.

I also found it really helpful to make my own charts listing all the combat/transit/counterattack modifiers (which I posted on Board Game Geek). There are some excellent aids that other players have created and posted. I made a U-Boat roster in Excel, and use that to track ships/U-Boats sunk, and then update the chart on the map only at the end of the month.
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Mike Stack
United States
Orchard Park
New York
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Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.
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gschmidl wrote:

Rule 27.0, Quick Resolution?



[27.0] QUICK RESOLUTION
The quick resolution process is intended to resolve combats in an
expedited manner. Players should be fully familiar with the
normal combat process before using the quick resolution
process. This process is valid if used on occasion, however it is
not intended, nor recommended, for extensive use over a
campaign
as the results this table generates are approximate and
over the course of a war can vary greatly from the historical
results.

I was going to mention this but as written the designers don't consider a viable option. Has anyone used it over a CG and gotten anywhere near historic result?


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Tom Willcockson
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Woodstock
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I was very enthusiastic about getting Steel Wolves until I read Silent War - Review and decided that my limited game funds would be better spent elsewhere. My idea of an enjoyable game is not one where I have to do so much bean counting and repetitive dice rolls. I'm sure there are solitaire gamers out there who do enjoy this sort of thing and probably when I was younger I would have thought it was pretty cool myself although I'm sure I would have tired of it before very long. I certainly don't have the time or interest in doing that now and can think of a lot of other solitaire games or multiplayer games played solitaire that I would rather play instead. Still it is a very nice looking game and if you are into the U-boat campaign and like the bookkeeping aspects I'm sure it will scratch the itch. I would much rather play a solitaire U-boat game that is more limited in time and space like an updated version of the old Wolpack game.
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P G

Manitowoc
Wisconsin
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As you've requested Michael McFall(michaelwmcfall), I'm publishing my e-mail response to your question...

"I’m not offended at all by your reply - if I can write it, I can take the heat for what I write.
Here is the thing; this game proposes to provide a strategic recreation of the war. That is how it is advertised. That is what I wanted. What I stated in my review is precisely the problem with this game trying to create a strategic feel. As I stated, [while I played out the tactical combat,]
Quote:
...I knew that the weekly results could have been achieved each game week with one die roll to tell me how many ships were sunk for a given number of U-boats on patrol in a given sea area. So why play out all those weeks with thousands and thousands of die rolls?
If I’m correct, and remember I only played it once, then the strategic numbers do work out for the game just as I stated,
Quote:
in general, the strategic system worked fairly well. In the end, the numbers that occurred in recreating WWII in the Atlantic seemed to work

In my opinion, I believe that the designers wanted a strategic game but probably realized that they had little game there (many gamers would probably not want to play a purely strategic game as they have it designed). The strategic decisions consist of what I stated, under "Strategic System": play is limited but seemingly fairly accurate.
As you correctly point out, a commander has little control on the battlefield once their forces are deployed. So, in this game, why do they have us make any tactical decisions? Did Doenitz radio his U-boat commanders whether they should crash dive? We both know the answer to that, but the designers of Steel Wolves have us Doenitz wanna-be’s make that decision - pending a die roll of course. They have therefore included a huge tactical emphasis.
Under "Combat System" I wrote,
Quote:
I did not feel in control of the battles because no significant tactical decisions were made without a die roll
Tactically it doesn’t work, and if it is a strategic game, why have the tactical combat at all? If they have it, it shouldn’t detract from the strategy of the game. In this case it was way too much emphasis on tactical layouts and rolling on the tactical level (convoy displays) for results that statistically could be achieved by one or two simple rolls. As you wrote,
Quote:
If this game puts you into the role of a "Fleet Admiral" then you must remember what that role is.
I believe the designers should have kept this in mind because where your statement misses the mark is that the game ends up putting us in both roles (Fleet Admiral and U-boat commander) and it does a bad job of both: Tactically it is tedious. Strategically it is shallow."
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Gunther Schmidl
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MikeS8i2 wrote:
I was going to mention this but as written the designers don't consider a viable option. Has anyone used it over a CG and gotten anywhere near historic result?


Well, yes, you can't really have both, right? Either you want a simulation, in which case you'll have to spend time to simulate; or you want an arcade game, in which case you can't expect historic results.
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John Mehrholz
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Springdale
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gschmidl wrote:
MikeS8i2 wrote:
I was going to mention this but as written the designers don't consider a viable option. Has anyone used it over a CG and gotten anywhere near historic result?


Well, yes, you can't really have both, right? Either you want a simulation, in which case you'll have to spend time to simulate; or you want an arcade game, in which case you can't expect historic results.


Of course you can have both, otherwise we'd need die rolls to simulate whether the oil level in piston #3 of engine #2 was adequate to avoid having an "arcade game". The designers of a simulation have to make a choice as to how deep to drill down into the details. Once that decision is made, the numbers can be assigned to reflect historical outcomes at that level of detail.

It's a fair criticism that the designers drilled too deeply given the time scale of the game and the sheer number of die rolls required to get anywhere.
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Gunther Schmidl
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Fulminata wrote:
Of course you can have both, otherwise we'd need die rolls to simulate whether the oil level in piston #3 of engine #2 was adequate to avoid having an "arcade game".


I see you've played B-17/B-29

Fulminata wrote:
It's a fair criticism that the designers drilled too deeply given the time scale of the game and the sheer number of die rolls required to get anywhere.


I've not played Steel Wolves, only Silent War. There are indeed a ton of rolls even in Silent War, so, sure, I can see Steel Wolves going too far.
 
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Michael McFall
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Manhattan
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Quote:
As you've requested Michael McFall(michaelwmcfall), I'm publishing my e-mail response to your question...


After reading your reponse to my comments, I have to say "you are right". I understand your critisism of the game better.

What I was thinking before that was you wanted tactical decisions in a strategic game. I now see that IS what you don't like in this game.

Excellent example is the "dive decision". Before that, I was thinking the tactics were geared more toward following doctrine and the Admirals intent. I see now it is an unhappy mix of tactical and strategic decisions.

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David Hughes
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Northbridge
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michaelwmcfall wrote:

After reading your reponse to my comments, I have to say "you are right".


I don't believe I have ever read this before, in any forum, on any topic.

Well done.

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