The Hunt for Red October

TSR. $20.00/£14.95.

Yes folks, it's that old sequence again; Book, computer game, film (in the making) and now the boardgame. The game comes in a large flat box which contains some very nicely made components. There is a large, high quality, mounted board, coloured stand-up counters a la Platoon, numerous charts and a well illustrated rulebook. The purchase routine on this one was straightforward. I like naval games, I like modern naval games, I liked the book and it was cheap. At the time I thought I had a scoop and carted it back to England only to find the same game on the shelf in Virgin. Oh well. The game looked simplistic in the Platoon vein and I wondered at the time if something as complex as modern naval warfare could be reduced to this level. Anyway, I had to try it and this review should show that my initial doubt was sadly correct.

The game, despite the name, covers all aspects of naval warfare and not just the ASW emphasis of the book. Counters are provided for ships, subs and planes for the Soviets, U.S. and some token NATO forces. Each counter is rated for detection and attack, some counters having special abilities such as helicopters, ASW capacity etc. The counters are placed on the map facing away from your opponent, who can see the type, until detected. The map is composed of irregular areas and covers the entire North Atlantic area from North Norway to Cuba. The scenarios, of which there are eight, go from introductory sub hunt to the full works, using all the counters.

Fine so far. It still looks good and the area movement system seems to work even with large numbers of pieces as there is a facility to combine into taskforces with correct additional defence benefits and ASW/AA screens. The problem? The game system. It is so simple, it might as well be Admirals, if anyone knows what I mean. Basically, you are allocated a number of detection markers. Either during alternate movement or after completion, these are placed in any area where there is both a friendly and enemy piece or pieces. One marker can be placed per friendly piece and this allows searches to take place. Yes, you guessed it. With few complications, the search procedure is to roll under the detection rating of the searching counter. Once detected, the opponent can be attacked and shock, horror, you do that by rolling under the attack number. Subs can be attacked by ASW counters even if undetected which seems odd. Larger battles between taskforces have more steps but in the end the resolution is the same. I suppose the theory is that given enough ships, the overall effect is reasonable but it means a lot of die rolling and little or no excitement. Terrific stuff TSR, it must have taken at least five minutes to work that game system through.

If I am ripping this system apart because I have missed a rule, many apologies. A re-review will be done if that the case, and it feels like it, but I have read the booklet twice in an effort to find where I am going wrong and there is nothing there. The rules are not crystal clear, but the booklet is slim and the basic rules cover only nine pages plus one more of optionals. It is a strange combination - very pretty components, plenty of potential and scope but married to a minimal game system that does no justice to the subject matter. I have not even bothered to comment on the logic of the search system as the game isn't worth the effort - the flaw being of course that your opponent knows where and what you are and can search aggressively for what he wants, not what he can find by normal search procedures. Weird.

The rulebook carries the threat of a Red Storn Rising game for 1989. I am puzzled as to just what the game will cover, Ellis suggested something along the lines of the old SPI WWIII game. Mmmm. If it is anything like the Hunt game then I will pass on it and save my money. OK, perhaps I expected too much of an introductory game but over the last few years I have come to expect a higher general standard of games, especially given the success of Onslaught and Platoon. Neither did I expect a detailed simulation, I would have settled for a smooth, quick, fun game. Hunt just fails to cut it at all, either as a game or simulation and I think its only role would be as an introductory tool for a complete novice who had recently moved up from Risk and Admirals. Bah, humbug!

Mike Siggins. 18/6/88.

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