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Thunderbolt Apache Leader» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Short review rss

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Jason R
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Culpeper
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Let's start out by saying I love the leader series. I own TAL, HL, and U-Boat leader. It has been a while since I held my breath waiting for a game to come. After a couple of plays here are my thoughts on the game.

Components

The components are standard DVG fair. Great quality. At first I was concerned about the chits. They seem to have been made differently from other DVG games. The cross section just looks odd to me. But that is nit picking because after a couple of plays they look like they will hold up for a long time.

The tactical board is awesome. It is mounted and is laid out to be very functional and interesting to look at.

In this game you not only choose your aircraft but you need to choose your pilots. All represented by cards. The cards are good quality but the art leaves something to be desired. The pilots look to be a little overweight for pilots.

Overall the components are beautiful and sturdy. What else do you expect from DVG games?

Gameplay

The game play for TAL is similar but different from HL to which I will make a lot of comparisons. Players start by choosing a mission and situation card. These cards tell you which terrain to use, how many points of battalions to draw, and starting special operations points. Those that have played past leader games know that SO points are worth more than gold in these games. You use those SO points to "purchase" aircraft. You have less of a selection of aircraft than you had in HL. Maybe a few more of each aircraft would have been good.

After selecting aircraft you get to select your aircraft you select pilots. This is an interesting change from HL where your pilots are selected as part of the aircraft. I like this idea. It gives more of a human aspect to the game. When you loose a pilot you feel it a little bit more.

What comes next is the meet and potatoes of the game. Mission selection, pilot assignment, arming your aircraft, and flying missions.
Most of this is comparable to HL. There are a lot less choices when arming your units though.

Flying missions is probably where the game differs from HL the most. The tactical board is great. You lay ten tiles down to represent the terrain that you will be flying over or through. Pilots at High altitude simply fly around over the terrain while pilots at low altitude gain stress as they avoid mountains along with enemies.

Combat is simple and a source of frustration for me. First, the enemy will most likely get first crack at you. Just like HL Fast pilots are hard to come by. Second, as long as an enemy is in range and has line of sight it will hit you. It just might not be effective.

Hits are automatic. You draw from a cup and either look at the red side or yellow depending on the enemy and apply effects. Combat effects range from stress to temporary restrictions on that pilots skills to permanent damage to the aircraft itself. For me the fact that a tank or infantry can hit an A10 at high altitude just seems kind of unrealistic. I think there needs to be some adjustment for altitude. Also with this combat system the enemy is way more accurate than you are. I don't know what the distribution of damage chits is but it seems that it is way too easy to take permanent damage that you will need to repair with SO points.

Overall

Even with the frustrations that I have with the game I still think it is a great game. I like that damage can be done to pilots and aircraft separately. I like that the tactical display is a little more of a simulation and not just an abstract box where you make one bombing run and that is it. Here you get more of a feel of flying the planes and helicopters around the battle field. I also like that the campaign map is not static. The battalions are moving toward your airbase so you really get a sense of defending an area.

While I do have some frustrations with the system I don't feel that the game is broken in any way. It is a difficult game to do well at. But that is the fun for me. I enjoy these games and I will continue to play the leader series whenever I can.


Edit: I've been screwing up arming planes so I took that misinformation out.
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Chris Severs
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Weopons do cost SO points but not how u seem to be playing. Each SO point gives you TEN ordinance points
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Jason R
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Foolish_Dog wrote:
Weopons do cost SO points but not how u seem to be playing. Each SO point gives you TEN ordinance points


Crap! I see that now. That changes everything. Thanks for pointing that out.
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Dave Medeiros
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As Chris said already, note that 1 SO point gets 10 points of special weapons. This is a huge change from HL: CAO, and makes it so you can equip special weapons regularly (I find I rarely use the 0 point weapons; the specials are cheap and too good to leave home). Indeed, the daily allowance of more SOs keeps you from being tempted to spend those points on planes or initial options... just, good game design, I think.
Two more points: want to be Fast? Spend the points for a Predator, they make all your pilots count as Fast (and are linked, so your shooters can stay low, hidden behind ridges using the high altitude predator's LOS). Cannons aren't good? Try the A-10C; with the +1 attack, your cannon only misses on a 1-2 out of 10. That's a whole lot better than the standard cannons (hit on 10) from HL. Especially if you got extra rounds over target from a scout, or take a fuel tank, you can loiter and just destroy stuff with your gun, very effective rather than the last-ditch, I've-run-out-of-good-weapons option it seems to be in HL:CAO. And then, the Mk 20s: attack everything in the hex? Yes, please (why not drop 2 to be sure)?
Fewer options arming your aircraft, sure. But there are some choices to be made, that will significantly affect your tactics. Going to risk pop-ups by flying high, so you can scatter your GBUs around more effectively? Take stand-off missiles to hit ground targets, or rely on pounding them up close? And while the number of attacks your aircraft takes seems over the top at first, once you see what happens you realize you can take a lot of fire. A LOT. Titanium bathtub... the A-10 in particular can get shot up badly and still be very, very effective.
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Scott Key
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If it makes you feel any better I did the exact same thing with SOPs/ ordnance points in my first 3 missions. It's a little baggage from Hornet Leader. I like it a lot better now that I can haul around a bunch of Hellfires.
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Dan Verssen
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Glendora
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Yeah, getting 10 ordnance per SO is a huge difference than just 1.

The 0 cost weapons are supposed to be filler weapons and desperation weapons. Relying on them to do serious damage will get your planes shot-up.
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Yoki Erdtman
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The game sounds awesome, but I want to know if it is indeed compatible with Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations and can be played together cooperatively?
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Yoki Erdtman
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Rockhopper01 wrote:
Not yet, but I believe Dan has posted elsewhere that it's in the works. Definitely not needed as far as I am concerned, both games are plenty busy enough for me by themselves.

Sure, but I would love to play it as a 2-player coop, with one player being in charge of the Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations, and the other Thunderbolt Apache Leader. It sounds like it would be wicked good fun!
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