2nd Fleet

Chris Jones has sent a few words on 2nd Fleet, more of an eulogy than a review. I confess to owning this game but not playing it. The USSR unsportingly collapsed soon after I bought a copy.

Second Fleet. At first most players would be put of by the 64 page rulebook but only 18 of those apply to the basic game. The rest are advanced/optional rules and scenarios (10) together with (now rather dated) situational analysis and naval details. The scenarios build up gradually introducing new ideas and units.

Lets start with scenario 1: Standing Naval force Atlantic (STANAVLORANT). Two Soviet ships patrolling the Norwegian Sea are ready to pounce on the US amphibious assault ships exercising in Northern Norwegian waters. STANAVLORANT has to protect these ships and prevent the Soviet ships from returning to base. Nine ships in total, no subs and no tactical aircraft, 6 game turns and very tight victory conditions. Both sides do get aircraft but only for recon purposes. One of the annoying factors in these games is that units cannot be attacked unless detected and detection can either be strategic (aircraft) or local (being close to enemy units). Locally detected ships can run away into the blue water and are undetected at the end of the game turn but strategic detection lasts for 3 turns.

Next the action phase. Each side takes it in turn to activate either his surface units, subs or aircraft. Luck plays a big part in this as a die roll decides who chooses first. If you win the die roll it can be a big dilemma as to what to do. Such reliance upon randomness can be irritating but it's the only way to avoid simultaneous movement and the writing down of orders which would destroy the spontaneity of the game.

As there are only surface ships in this scenario there is only one action phaese. Ships can either move and attack or attack and then move. No broadsides in the game, ships hurt each other using surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs). Ships grouped together in a task force add their SSM values and fire at detected units within range. They defend using their air defence value, targets are either undamaged, damaged or sunk.

Bad points about the Fleet series are the lack of relevance. The world has changed a lot since 2nd Fleet's introduction so its lost a lot of its immediacy. Still an oldie and a goldie and well worth buying second hand.