Monday, July 20, 2015

Swordfish at Taranto & Poor Bloody Infantry – Minden Games Part 1



Swordfish at Taranto & Poor Bloody Infantry – Minden Games Part 1

Originally this was going to be two different reviews but the similarities between these two “experience” games and the fact that Swordfish at Taranto is now listed as Out of Stock, led me to the decision to do one combined review.  

One thing I will mention now, is that I will not be going into a lot of detail about rules and tables used in the games.  Both of these games have a lot of tables and charts that are in use as you play.  Since some of the components such as the maps and counters are available online I don’t want to do a disservice to the publisher and put something out that would result in someone not needing to actually purchase the rules.  

Swordfish at Taranto
Williamson turned and nodded to his navigator as he began his dive toward the harbor.  Jinking to starboard and banking towards two large warships, he flew 30 feet above the surface, pressing the attack to close range.  They felt the sudden jerk upward as the torpedo dropped from the plane and the Swordfish began swinging hard to port and climbing to the safety of the black sky…

Swordfish at Taranto by Minden Games is a small, solitaire, zip-lock bag game available for about $9.95 in the US and Canada (http://minden_games.homestead.com/).  Though as of June 30, 2015 the game is listed as Out of Stock.  

The game was originally part of Panzer Digest #2 which was published in 2007.  It was then re-released as a zip game in 2012.  I picked it up last year from Minden Games but haven’t had a chance to play it, until now.  

I’m not really sure why I wanted to buy this game.  I really know nothing about the attack at Taranto but for some reason I was intrigued enough to purchase the game.   Part of it was that it was a solitaire game and part was that it was a different publisher and subject matter then I have played.

The actual attack took place on the night of November 11th and 12th, 1940.  The British launched Fairey Swordfish aircraft against the Italian ships.  While the Italians lost half their capital ships at once, I have also read that the actual impact on the naval war in the Mediterranean was negligible.  One major influence may have been the use of aircraft to attack a fleet in harbor.  It is felt that the success of this attack contributed to the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor.  

 I also like the idea of a small game that I can play to completion in a short amount of time.  I have been gaming for a lot of years now.  I went through a period where I wanted big, monster games.  I wanted something that would dominate the floor or table for days or weeks.  Now that I am married, work full-time, and have a cat that wants to play too, having something sitting around just isn’t practical.  

Since almost everyone in my area is more into Magic or Flames of War miniatures than standard wargames, I find myself playing a lot of solitaire titles.  I have always enjoyed games like B-17, Patton’s Best, and London’s Burning.  More recently I have acquired The Hunters and Picket Duty.  I figured that a small solitaire game would be a nice addition to the collection.  

First of all, this game really is small!  It comes in a zip lock bag that is approximately 10 inches by 6 inches.  The map is about this size also and the game only has 28 counters (though 3 are blank).  It is a great game to play in a small space.  It is basically a desktop published game.  The map is on light card and the counters should really be mounted on something.  If you don’t picking them up could be difficult, though not impossible.  



The first thing I did though, despite wanting something small, was to enlarge the board a bit.  I actually used the photo from Board Game Geek (from the Panzer Digest printing) and enlarged that.  I also scanned the counters and mounted them on wooden craft tiles from Michaels.  Any type of Scrabble type tile would work though.  I did this to have a little big larger playing area and to have something that I could easily move around as the game progressed and so that I would have a larger map without it becoming too large.  In the words of Goldilocks, “it would be just right”.

The game itself poses some interesting questions and provides the player with a different perspective from most wargames.  You are the planner or overall commander for the operation.  Your job is to use the rule guidelines to put together a plan of attack that will result in the successful conclusion to your operation.
 
You will need to decide how many planes are in each wave, what they are carrying (bombs, flares, or torpedoes), the attack approach, and the target.  Once all of that is done, the game actually starts.  The game itself is played out by working through the various stages of the attack and rolling on charts to determine the outcome of events.  

One question that I have seen previously about solitaire games is, “Do I get to make meaningful decisions during the game?”  While that statement is a bit ambiguous, I am guessing that they are asking if they have to do anything important during the game or are they just along for the ride.  I have often heard complaints about the old Avalon Hill game B-17 – Queen of the Skies.  The criticism is usually that the game just drives the player along and you really don’t have to do anything except roll dice.   I for one enjoy B-17 so maybe I am the target audience for a game like that.  



Swordfish at Taranto requires a lot of thought in the planning stages.  You need to figure out all of the various composition of your waves and the targets you will be going after, before things get rolling.  All of the pilots are individually named but that really plays no part in the game.  Some people may wish to do a “role playing” type situation though, where you select a pilot to represent you and if he survives the mission influences your chances to win or lose.  



This game reminds me a lot of B-17.  While you don’t have to worry about your crew and the positions of them in the aircraft you are using a lot of charts that drive the game. Do you have to make a lot of decisions during the game, no.  Most decision making will be made in the initial setup steps and that should be about it.  The game is about the experience of watching your plan succeed or fail.  



At the end of the day, I like this game. The components are nice for a DTP type game, the rules are very well thought out, and the game plays quickly.  I admit, a few more decisions during the game might be nice but I had fun getting to the end of the game.  To me that is what all of this is about, fun.  I don't need a game to be a long, drawn out experience that takes me weeks to play and hours to setup and break down.  I want something I enjoy.  

If you are looking for a lightweight, fun, solitaire game, and can find it, you may want to pickup Swordfish at Taranto by Minden Games.  

Next time - Poor Bloody Infantry.  A World War 1 experience game with some similarities to Swordfish at Taranto.