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Posted on Apr 3, 2007 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

Leyte Gulf: Second World War at Sea

By Chris A. Cornaghie

After all possible contacts are resolved, subs may attempt to contact any Task Force which passed within two zones of the sub flotilla’s location. Subs are placed in flotilla’s of 1-6 subs and flots must be at least 5 zones apart, but a sub flot location is kept secret, being recorded on the player Task force sheet. Subs are plotted to move on odd turns and move on even turns. 

Surface combat takes place next;  both players deploy forces on a hex grid, depending on the direction of approach when contact is made and taking into account sighting distance at night or bad weather. Up to 12 ships can be in a hex and ships have a generic silhouette on the back depending on size, so a certain amount of fog of war results initially at set-up.   Each ship is rated for primary, secondary, and tertiary guns by number of die to be rolled (ex. a Japanese cruiser may roll 7 die for secondary guns and 1 die for tertiary guns). A hit is generally scored for each 6 rolled, which is then rolled on the damage table, assuming the gun could penetrate the armor struck. Torpedoes are also rated for each ship, again range can be as far as 4 hexes for Japanese ships or 2 for Allied.  Movement is by phase, and a ship will move and fire several times in each battle turn, no more than 4 turns in any combat. The surface combat system also takes into account surprise, radar, and formations. While simple, it fairly depicts surface combat and choices a commander must make, including use of fuel, ammunition, and initiative. While certainly not the most detailed WWII surface combat system, within the context of an operational game, this system works extremely well.

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At the conclusion of all surface combat, air strikes are resolved, remember these were assigned in the earlier air mission phase; before ships moved, sub attack, and surface combat. Players alternate moving and completing missions of individual mission groups; so strikes from different locations will arrive separately; also each naval or land strike must roll to actually find the target, with increasing difficulty depending on distance and weather. Aircraft which find the target must engage CAP, if intercepted, and then AA fire. A defending task force is deployed on the battle map and attacking aircraft counters are simply placed on the ships attacked. The air/naval system is much like surface combat, each ship has an AA factor, which is the number of die thrown, a 6 is a hit, the first hit on an air counter drives off one step, the second hit shoots a unit down.  Surviving aircraft are rated for bomb or torpedo attack, again by number of die thrown; each 6 is a hit, but can be modified by a number of factors; in some situations a 4-6 can be a hit. Each hit is rolled for damage on the bomb or torpedo tables; same ones are used for surface combat. Each ship can suffer damage to hull, guns, torpedoes, AA or if carriers; flight deck. 

The air readiness phase allows players to move aircraft from the hangar to the ready box, in effect preparing aircraft for the next turn. The special operations phase follows for surface bombardment of ground targets, loading and unloading of transports, refueling of ships at sea or in port, and rearming ships in port. Also reinforcements or replacements are entered; destroyed aircraft can be scrapped and partially returned to operations.

The last phase is the air return phase, aircraft which flew this turn and whose endurance require landing or which completed a mission return to base. Note that they return to the hangar, so most aircraft cannot fly two turns in a row.

One of the best features of each game in the series is all the what-if ships and planes included as well as having all the historical units to create any scenario or campaign. In Leyte Gulf the extra counters include the Shinano as both battleship and carrier, Japanese jet aircraft, US Montana class, Japanese and US battlecruisers, the British Pacific fleet and many, many aircraft and ships of all types.

Reviewer’s Comment

I began my war game career with U-Boat in 1960, and since have played hundreds of naval games; strategic, operational and tactical. The SWWAS series combines all aspects of naval warfare and the factors which faced commanders better than any other operational naval game; and it does so in a simple yet effective and realistic manner. No other game has made reasonable provision for factors which weighed on a commander’s mind, such as subs, fuel, ammunition, MTBs, or weather. Whether Leyte Gulf, the largest of the series, or SOPAC, Bomb Alley or Bismarck, it is an enjoyable voyage for the naval war gamer.

Leyte Gulf by Avalanche Games

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