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Posted on Mar 1, 2007 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

Bomb Alley – Boardgame Review

By Brandon Neff

The Air Search Phase resolves the previously assigned aircrafts’ attempts to spot enemy ships and submarines. A die is rolled to determine if enemy units are spotted. If a submarine flotilla is within range of the ASW search, the enemy must reveal the zone occupied by the submarine or one adjacent to it. The ASW player then rolls again and a roll of 6 destroys one submarine. If a Task Force is spotted, the enemy player rolls two dice and consults the Search Results Table to reveal information (some of which may be false) to the searching player regarding the make-up of the Task Force. If an enemy CAP is within range of the zone searched, the searching planes may be intercepted!

The Air Mission Assignment Phase involves plotting Air Strike missions for aircraft not involved in CAP or search. Unlike Task Force missions, the actual movement is not plotted, just the mission type (e.g. Sweep, Escort, Naval Strike, Land Strike, Transfer).


In the Naval Movement Phase, the Task Force counters are moved according to the pre-plotted missions in the Orders Phase. This movement occurs simultaneously for both sides and should two Task Forces cross paths, there is a chance that contact was made in which case a battle will likely ensue (see Surface Combat Phase).

Contact made by submarines is checked in the next phase and all submarine attacks are resolved in this phase. The submarine player rolls dice to determine if a firing solution was obtained and which ships, if present, may be fired upon.

In the Surface Combat Phase, action is moved to the Tactical Map. The individual ships are placed, in order determined by rolled initiative, on the tactical map based upon ship heading. The combat sequence consists of 22 impulses involving movement and certain ships followed by either gunnery or torpedo combat. At the end of the 22 impulses, either side is given the option to disengage or continue with another sequence of impulses. In the unlikely event that the battle lasts more than 88 impulses (4 combat turns), the battle is suspended and the remaining phases are played out before combat continues in the next game turn. Combat ends as soon as all ships of one side have exited the tactical map, disengaged or have been sunk.

As previously mentioned, combat consists of rolling dozens of dice, one for each gunnery or torpedo factor. Every die that rolls a 6 counts as a hit and each hit is then rolled on the appropriate damage chart to determine where the round hit and the extent of the damage. Ships are equipped with different armor values and only certain guns can penetrate heavier armor. The more hits a ship takes, the slower it can move until it is eventually dead in the water and cannot move or fire.

The Air Strike Phase is then played out as bombers attempt to damage ships and evade enemy CAP fighters. Aircraft cannot conduct strikes during night or on Task Forces that were not previously spotted in this or the previous turn.

In the Air Readiness Phase, aircraft are moved from hangars into the Ready box of the Airbase cards. Once there, they can be assigned to future patrols or strike missions.

The Special Operations Phase involves such things as coastal bombardment, emergency ship repairs, loading and unloading cargo, refueling, re-arming with bombardment ammunition and/or torpedoes and possible reinforcements. A ship that is sunk, moves or fires a gun except AA may not perform one of these special operations as plotted on the player log.

The final phase, the Air Return Phase, completes the turn as aircraft are returned to base or lost. After this phase, the next game turn begins with the Weather Phase.

Victory points are awarded for each ship or submarine sunk (the aforementioned HMS Hood is worth 74 VPs), cargo sunk, gunnery and hull damage to ships not sunk, aircraft destroyed, transport successfully unloaded and successful coastal bombardment. In most scenarios, the player with the most VPs wins.


For this review, I tackled two of the Battle Scenarios to get a feel for combat and one of the Operational Scenarios to try my luck at a historical event. The Battle Scenarios were quick, bloody, and a lot of fun. My first game took roughly 15 minutes and ended with the Italian side sinking to the bottom of the sea while the British ships limped away for repairs and rearming.

The Operational Scenario was a much more complex, rich experience. There was a great deal of record keeping and strategy. The Operational Scenario we played clocked in at 4 and half hours, including time spent referencing the rules. It was more enjoyable than the quick battles played previously and certainly had the historic feel that I enjoy in a good war game.

Overall Impression:

From the moment we opened the box, my opponent and I were especially impressed by the quality components, although we both felt the Tactical Map was rather ordinary. If we had a recommendation for the publisher, we would ask that the 22 impulses used during combat be printed on the tactical map. Instead, we had to leave the rulebook open at that particular page. The impulses aren’t difficult and are repetitive, but there are exceptions for movement.

After the gaming session, I conferred with my opponent and we both gave the game a higher than average rating and both looked forward to a rematch. In my estimation, this is what makes Bomb Alley (or any game) a success. Any game worth its salt must beg frequent play and Bomb Alley was no exception.


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