From Warlord Games, Victory at Sea: Battle for the Pacific is the starter set for their new WWII naval wargame. Having recently received it as a birthday present, I thought it would make a good unboxing post, for reasons we shall see.
Let’s start at the beginning, and the box itself.
I was expecting something a bit bigger. It’s actually quite a small box (approx. 32x23x5.5cm), and with the game retailing at £50.00 and containing miniatures, I guess I had an image of something a little larger in my head.
The artwork is dramatic – an American convoy being attacked by Japanese planes – and really sets the scene. On the reverse is a picture of the game, all set up, pictures of the different ships, all nicely painted, and a contents list.
Taking the lid off, the first thing I noticed was the nicely protected miniatures, which I’ll save till last to talk about.
Rummaging around inside we have a bag of dice and it’s good to see that they’re standard d10 and d6’s. It frustrates me when a game uses custom dice, because you can guarantee they never include enough of them in the box. At least here I can add my own if needed.
Next up we have the ship cards and damage sliders. The cards are approx. 14x10cm and contain all the relevant information for a specific class of ship rather than for an individually named ship.
I suppose it makes sense for printing purposes, but if you have more than one ship of that class, you’ll have to identify which card represents which ship. In terms of refits, which are listed on the rear of the card, you’ll also have to go through and pick out the ones that are relevant for that particular ship and the period you’re playing in.
Overall, though, the cards are well laid out and game information can be taken in at a glance, such as flank speed and weapon arcs. I also like the fact that they are not gloss finished, which for me means no glare from my down-lighters.
The current hull points for each ship is recorded by using a slider, which slips over the edge of the card. The sliders are quite thin card and I found that some of them weren’t quite cut through properly, tearing slightly when I pushed the centre through – not a big deal but worth a mention.
They do the job, though, and my only concern is just how long will they last, as they’re quite loose fitting and a little flimsy. I’ve also noticed that there aren’t enough sliders to go round. If you play a game with all the included ships, you’ll need 21 sliders (some ship classes require 2) and there are only 16 included.
The tokens look good, press out without a problem, and most double up by having a different use on the opposite side. The smoke looks great and these get placed behind a ship ‘making smoke’.
There are two movement tools included to allow for the different size ships. Movement is taken from the ships bridge (more on that later) and a maximum 45°-degree turn can be made after every 2″ of forward movement – these templates help to measure that maximum turn.
I’m not sure, but at the end of the movement tools it seems to indicate that the width at this point is 1″ (presumably to be used as a speedy method for measuring the minimum compulsory move), but if that’s so, then why are they both different sizes? One is 1 1/32″ and the other is 31/32″. So, what’s 1/16″ between friends? Well, nothing unless you’re playing competitively, but the point is, if they are supposed to be an inch, and it appears that way to me, then that’s what they need to be.
Moving on to the rules. I have read through the rules, but there’s no substitute for actually using them in anger, so I can only give my initial thoughts. The book is nicely laid out and the mechanics of the game are mostly easy to grasp. There is little in the way of examples and I think some things could have benefitted from them, such as Critical Hits and using Dual Purpose weapons. Things may become more obvious when playing the game, but I couldn’t visualise exactly how things were meant to work in my head.
I was bit disappointed by the objectives/scenario set up, where each player rolls on a table to determine their objective for the game: one may get something like Sweep & Clear or Destroy, whilst the other could have Last Stand or Ultimate Enemy – there are 9 different objectives. I’m sure it works and leads to entertaining and competitive games, but personally I would have preferred to see some historical scenarios, or at least some with a bit more imagination and creativeness to them (like the solo scenarios – more on that shortly).
Overall, though, after reading the rules through I’m excited to get playing. I think there will be plenty of scope for tactical play and that’s what I’m looking for in this game. I like the Orders that can be given and the Traits that reflect the nuances of the ships/weapons/aircraft, which should give them a different feel from one another.
There are two, double sided, size A0 sea mats included. These are thick, glossy paper, and It’s nice that they’re included as they’ll enhance the table presence of the game, but only if those fold creases come out easy enough, if not then they’ll look a mess and prove a pain to play on.
Finally, the miniatures. These came in three protective bubble wrap bags.
The miniatures are 1/1800th scale and are representative on the game board, otherwise you’d need a pretty large area to cope with this scale. Therefore all movement and such like are taken from the bridge, as this is used as a representative of its actual position on the map.
The Japanese bag contains the Furutaka, Kumano, and the Mogami. The US has the Northampton, Chicago, and the Indianapolis. The destroyer pack has 4 Fletcher-class (US) and 3 Fubuki-class destroyers. There are also a bits and pieces on sprues that need to be assembled to the minis, but it’s all straightforward.
Before I look at the minis there’s also a leaflet telling you about them…
I like this. Firstly, for those not in the know, it tells you what glue to use. A simple thing, but I know many people whose first encounter with resin ends in failure as they try to use plastic glue. Secondly, it gives a brief insight into the miniature production process, which is a fascinating thing, and it’s nice to know that they make their own.
And so, I was a little surprised to find that one of the miniatures appeared to be made of a different material to the rest. The majority of the minis were, to varying degrees, a brown/grey colour, whilst one was the light grey/blue colour I expected Resin to be.
I also had another issue. All the models bar the grey/blue one were bowed along the base, so they were more like a rocking horse than a ship. On closer inspection I also noticed that the detailing on the grey/blue one was crisper and slightly more defined than the others. I decided to contact Warlord Games to find out what was going on.
I’ve contacted Warlord before and have been impressed by their helpfulness, and this time was no different. “The darker resin is Warlord’s own… The plan was to make all the smaller ships in (Cruiser sized or smaller) in Warlord Resin and the bigger ships in traditional resin.”
However, due to the high demand for the Warlord had to jiggle things around to meet production numbers, hence the dissimilar materials.
So, there’s the answer to that one. They also stated that the bowing wasn’t normal and if I gave them a list of affected ships, they’d replace them. Before that, though, I tried the old ‘hot water’ treatment on them. I managed to straighten all but one ship to a standard I was happy with, the only exception was the Mogami, which wasn’t playing ball at all.
I let them know, including pictures, and they’ve sent me a replacement, which I’m expecting imminently.
So, back to the ships. The sculpts of them, irrespective of material, are detailed for the scale, and looking at pictures of them painted, they look very nice indeed. The way they’re perched on a sort of plinth makes them a look a little odd, though, when they’re painted and in play, but they would make a nice shelf display when not in use.
Not being a naval buff, I can’t comment on the accuracy of the sculpts compared to the real thing, but each ship is dated – Mogami 1939 – and having a quick look on the Web seems to indicate that they’ve done a good job here. Also, there are two Mogami-class Cruisers, the Mogami and Kumano, and both share the same basic structure but there are minor differences, so I guess they’ve done their homework. I’ll know more when I’ve painted them, as I intend to get the paint scheme right for the ship and the year it’s represented.
Size wise, we’re looking at around 13 to 14cm for the Heavy Cruisers and about 8cm for the destroyers (measurements include the base).
Unboxing Final Thoughts
The starter set isn’t perfect, there are a few little foibles and, as mentioned I had a couple of issues with mine. These were easily and quickly rectified by the helpful Warlord support team and so I’m happy and excited to get it to the table.
Like most wargames, Victory at Sea will be judged on its rules rather than its components, but I think it’s off to a good start with this set. Everything is there to get you going and as far as naval games go, I think 15 ships is more than enough to begin with.
Personally, I like the miniatures, though I know some aren’t keen on the way they’re based, but they’re nicely detailed and I believe they’ll look great once painted. The tokens are good quality, whether they’re functional or not will be discovered during play. I’m not a huge fan of the sea mats, but the game does use standard dice, yippee!
The retail price of £50.00 may appear a little steep, after all, the box isn’t exactly overflowing with contents. But consider it this way: if the amount of resin used in those ships was used to create 28mm human soldiers, then you’d probably be looking at around 40 odd figures – it doesn’t sound so bad now, especially when there are bargains to be had if you shop around.
Finally, what about playing solo? Well, I wanted this game to basically play against myself, especially running historical scenarios, so I was elated to see the Warlord team put together a solo variant. It’s a work in progress at the moment and can be downloaded HERE.
It’s called the Tokyo Express, the name given by the allies to the use of Japanese naval vessels to move personnel, supplies and equipment around New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. It contains 3 scenarios, which can be played singularly or as a mini-campaign and uses a simple AI system for the Japanese forces. It will be the first thing I play, so I’ll let you know what I think in a first thoughts post as and when.