Over the past few years, I have successfully introduced my boys to the board game hobby, including wargaming. Their favorites are Memoir ’44 and World War I Wings of Glory. Little I has been bothering me to find a naval combat game. This past weekend, I pulled out Battleship Captain (Minden Games, 2007). They love it!
Part of the reason I selected Battleship Captain is an emphasis on playability over strict realism. Personally, I prefer the Admiralty Trilogy System, but I just know that this would be too complex for Little I to start off with. The other reason is that Battleship Captain comes with over 1,000 ships!
The 1,000 ships come on 24 mid-weight cardstock sheets. They really need to be mounted (looking into that now) but are very easy to photocopy. Regardless of how you use the counters, the important part is the the RMN Boys will have MANY ships at their disposal. If there is one thing I have learned from their experiences with Memory ’44 and Wings of Glory it is that we NEVER have enough equipment!
The other advantage Battleship Captain offers is a very simple game engine and easy-to-use game charts. The Sequence of Play is very straight-forward. Each turn:
- Both players secretly plot speed.
- First Movement – Ships move half their speed with the slowest ships moving first.
- First Fire Combat – Players secretly decide to fire this phase or not. Ships can only fire in one of the two Fire Combat Phases each turn.
- Second Movement – Ships move the remaining half of their movement.
- Second Fire Combat – Ships can fire in this phase if they didn’t fire in the First Fire Combat Phase.
Resolving fire combat is also very easy and almost all rolls are 1d6:
- Determine range; this gives a gunfire factor (derived from printed factors on the ship counter)
- Determine target armor; convert to odds
- Roll on Table A FIRE COMBAT TABLE (very few modifiers)
- If HIT roll on Table B HIT TABLE (again, very few modifiers)
- Occasionally one moves to Table C PLUNGING FIRE TABLE (again, few modifiers)
- Occasionally one uses Table D INTERNAL DAMAGE TABLE (few modifiers)
- For particularly devastating hits, players move from Table B to Table E SPECIAL DAMAGE TABLE (few modifiers)
Hits are noted using tokens on the table. There are rules for torpedoes, and other optional rules for added realism, but at its heart Battleship Captain is a very simple procedural game. All the information you really need to play is either on the ship counter or the Reference Card. The game doesn’t have submarines or aircraft which helps it stay simple.
For our game night, we decided to play the Battle of the Denmark Strait. Little I studied this battle after I got him an Airfix set of plastic models.
To assist in learning the game the first time I was the Referee. Little I took the Germans (Bismarck and Prinz Eugen) and T took the British (Prince of Wales and Hood).
The battle started out well, with both sides starting a slow circle to keep broadsides bearing but the ranges (beyond 16,000 yards) led to few hits. As both sides gradually felt their way to as little as 12,000 yards there were still only a few hits. Little I attributed this to poor die rolls (at one point he rolled three “1”s in a row) and switched out dice several times during the game. T had just as poor luck.
Getting frustrated, Little I decided he wanted to explore the Torpedo Combat rules, but to do so meant having to get within 9,000 yards of the British battle line. So Prinz Eugen broke from Bismarck and began an epic charge into the British squadron. Again, the British were plagued by bad luck (poor die rolls) and Prinz Eugen made it to within 2,000 yards before launching a salvo of torpedoes – and missed.
Not to be deterred, Prinz Eugen gamely hung in the fight at close range; so close we had to look at the Ramming rules. Prinz Eugen and Prince of Wales scrapped sides, and the luckless Prince of Wales got the worst of it. Prinz Eugen loosened its second (and last) torpedo salvo and hit Prince of Wales, though not in a devastating manner. At the same time, Hood and Bismarck were exchanging salvos with Hood having a slight advantage in hits.
At this point, we had been playing for 2 1/2 hours and it was getting late so we decided to end the game. We reviewed the damage to the ships:
- Bismarck had light Flotation Damage and some Turret Damage for slightly reduced speed and firepower
- Prinz Eugen had significant Flotation and Turret (firepower) damage
- Prince of Wales had moderate Flotation damage and was severely slowed
- Hood had light Flotation damage but what she had was slowing her more than Bismarck.
We mutually agreed that Bismarck escaped to back to port (she was headed that direction) and that Prinz Eugen was sunk. Hood and Price of Wales also returned to port. Little I understood this meant that Bismarck did not break out into the Atlantic shipping lanes (its historical mission) but he said it was more important that it not be sunk!
So our first play of Battleship Captain was a success. The RMN Boys have already grabbed my Ziplock Edition of Graf Spee (an earlier, slightly simpler version of Battleship Captain) and are playing it as I write this report. I can hear their good nature laughter and I am getting constant updates from Little I as the battle progresses. For our family, Battleship Captain is a win!