This game. Oh, this game!
I really didn’t expect it to be as nail-bitingly fun as it turned out to be. I certainly didn’t expect it to take over the weekly game night. But it did. Because this solitaire game really does get ten times as fun when you play it in two-player mode. It doesn’t make sense, but it’s true!
We each captained Gato class boats out of Freemantle, Australia on April, 1942. And I tell you, the American subs play totally different than the German ones. The torpedoes are way more likely to be dud so you practically can’t hit anything early on in the war. It matters, too, because pulling three unsuccessful patrols in a row will cause the brass to give you the boot. Meanwhile… the Japanese freighters are both smaller and less numerous. Their escorts’ depth charges are messed up and are far less effective. And there aren’t nearly as many aircraft harassing you as you come out of port compared to what tends to happen over at the Bay of Biscay.
I know it’s practically the same game and all, but after playing way too many games of The Hunters, this just feels weird.
We’d agreed to just do two patrols and see who could sink the most tonnage at the end. We threw in a rule of our own, though: if you die when and the other Captain survives… then you LOSE. My opponent was assigned to the China Sea and managed to come across a 2500 ton freighter that didn’t have an escort. He sunk it easily and then failed to come across anything else.
Me? I got assigned to the “Empire”. I very nearly had to abort when a Japanese plane scored a lucky hit on my fuel tanks. The first target I came across was came in at a mere 500 tons. Doh! Disgusted, I followed it until nightfall and then unloaded on the escort instead. (That was a more respectable 1200 tons.) I was still behind in the counts until I sank a 2800 ton freighter just before returning to port.
How to decide who had to go first for the second round…? That was easy. My opponent only needed one month of refit time. I needed three! With him out to sea first, he had to resolve his patrol first. He got a mission to drop a passenger off in the Philippines. He pulled it off easily… and then completely failed to take out a 4400 ton freighter he’d stumbled across. (The duds…! They’re terrible!) From there on, he just couldn’t find anything!
I was ahead at this point, but didn’t think it sporting to engage in any poltroonery. I took out another escort and damaged an 1100 ton freighter in the Solomons. I followed it and finished it off with a nighttime surface attack, but the replacement escort managed to knock out my periscope in the process. I had ten torpedoes left, just enough for one last nighttime surface attack. That’s when I sighted the CVE Chūyō.
Suddenly the game got really, really intense.
This thing was big. 20,000 tons. I didn’t think I could kill it with just six torpedoes even though there were fewer duds on average for this particular month. I attempted to get to close range… but then the escort managed to spot me before I could fire. I dived, but my ship took a beating. If the Japanese depth charges had been functioning the way they were supposed to, I would never have made it out of there, but they just could not score the kind of solid hits they needed.
I don’t know what it is, but I was standing up for that last encounter. Every die roll was insanely interesting. Every nuance of the outcome was compelling. Again, this is a solitaire game. But it feels different when somebody else is rolling the for the detection rolls and the depth charges.
I never saw this coming, but this game really has taken over game night…!