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Posted on Nov 8, 2018 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

Unleash Your Inner Black Sheep!  DVG’s “Corsair Leader” Game Review

Unleash Your Inner Black Sheep!  DVG’s “Corsair Leader” Game Review

By Rick Martin

Corsair Leader  Board Game Review.  Publisher: DVG   Game Designer: Dan Verssen   Price  $99.99  Aces Expansion Deck $24.99


Passed Inspection:   top quality components, tons of replay value, highly immersive solo or cooperative experience, box stuffed with tons of campaigns and other materials, beautiful artwork, errata and fast support/Q and A on Facebook


Failed Basic:    some typos, damaging enemy planes would be a nice option instead of just shooting them down, needs and index and an in depth example of how to maneuver in dogfights


In the interest of full disclosure, Richard Martin has designed three games for DVG – Tiger Leader, The Tiger Leader Upgrade Kit and Sherman Leader.



As a kid growing up in the mid to late 1970s, Pappy Boyington was everywhere.  The TV series “Ba Ba Black Sheep” was running on TV and the star of the show, Robert Conrad, and Pappy Boyington, himself, were appearing at the Dayton International Air Show in what I believe was late July of 1977.  I remember asking Boyington if the TV show was “how it actually happened” and I remember Boyington saying “…just like it was kid, just like it.”  Then he asked my mom for the $25 for his book and autograph.


In actuality, the show had little in common with the real war that Boyington and his boys fought.  In an interview with Soldier of Fortune, Boyington later referred to the series as “… inaccuracies, hogwash, and Hollywood hokum,”  as cited at


But, hey, that was Pappy, right?


In the 1990s, I was thrilled to close the circle and meet Mike (Masajiro) Kawato, the pilot who claimed to have shot Pappy down.  Mike was speaking at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.


Now Dan Verssen Games gives you the opportunity to release your own Black Sheep and play in the cockpit of the famous Corsair fighter as you battle the famed Japanese Zero with their newest release in the Air Leader game series – Corsair Leader!


Corsair Leader follows in the footsteps of the other Air Leader Games which include Phantom Leader, Hornet Leader, Thunderbolt/Apache Leader, Flying Fortress Leader and Israeli Air Force Leader.  If you are at all familiar with any of these other games, you’ll have no trouble jumping right in.  Corsair Leader adds in rules for dog fighting maneuvers as well as more complete rules for adding skills and a special ability called “Gung Ho” to your pilots.  In addition, the enemy pilots now have skill levels so watch out for those ‘ace’ Japanese pilots because they will shoot you down in no time. But more on the additions to the game later – let’s look at what’s in the box.



The box is hefty and so packed full of goodness that you could drop it on a bunker to take it out!


The game includes:


a 39 page rule book

over 400 full color cards (pilot/aircraft cards, event cards, target cards)

9 full color double sided counters

a 20” x 15” mounted display board

15 campaigns

an aircraft carrier operation sheet

an airfield operations sheet

a Black Sheep Squadron sheet

4 player’s aid sheets

2 ten sided dice

1 master player’s log sheet

1 Black Sheep Squadron Patch


2 books are included – a target details log and a squadron log for “Bomber Fighting Squadron 10” which fought in the Pacific




In addition, a deck of Ace cards can be purchased which adds 55 real Navy and Marine aces such as Pappy Boyington to your squadrons.



The first thing you’ll want to do is photocopy the master player’s log so that you can write on the log to keep track of your pilots, aircrafts and mission successes and/or failures.



The rules are succinct and written in the programmed “learn as you go” style which will be familiar to players of other DVG games.  Unfortunately, as in past DVG rule books, there is still no index so expect lots of page flipping if you don’t already know the Leader game system.  There are plenty of examples except in one key area – the new dog fighting rules have minimum examples and really needed a more complete example taking the player from start to finish in a dog fight.



Setting up the game is pretty fast which allows you to jump right in to the action.



First you pick a Campaign to play. Corsair Leader has 15 different Campaigns which take you from defending Pearl Harbor to the end of the war.  Each Campaign is presented by its own campaign card stock sheet.  Each Campaign presents a map which shows the overall strategic situation and the location of possible targets, the years of the Campaign so you know what aircrafts you and the enemy has access to, the available US and Japanese aircrafts, whether the campaign involves US or Japanese aircraft carriers, the statistics for short, medium or long Campaigns, the Recon and Intel levels for the Campaign (these are influenced by how good or how bad you do on missions – do well and you get more information on possible targets and may have influenced the strategic situation which allows for fewer Japanese fighters and anti-aircraft ground units – do poorly and you have a problem on your hands), as well as notes on the historical campaign and over all Campaign special rules including stress and special events.  In addition, each Campaign is listed for its difficulty.  If you are new to the game system, you should probably start with Easy Campaigns.



DVG promises that a Flying Tigers expansion is coming so you can put those P40s to even better use!



The Pearl Harbor Campaign initially has you flying the two P40s which managed to take off and damage the incoming Japanese bomber forces.  Hypothetical Pearl Harbor missions including the two carriers returning and hunting down the Japanese strike fleet and, one of my favorites, replaying the 1980 movie “The Final Countdown” in which a modern US aircraft carrier gets caught in a time warp and ends up trying to defend Pearl Harbor using F14s against Japanese Zeros!  To play this “Time Travel” Campaign you must have the DVG game Hornet Leader.  Try it – it’s a hoot!



The Ba Ba Black Sheep Campaign puts you in control of Marine Attack Squadron 214 (VMA214).  Yes – you become Pappy Boyington and, by hook or by crook, form your men in to a fighting squadron and take on the Japanese.  The Campaign has its own unique challenges and includes rules for Pappy’s “excesses” including bar room brawls, flying unauthorized missions, water buffalo races, stealing supplies, getting totally smashed at wild parties, etc.



After you pick the Campaign, you have a number of Special Option Points to spend in order to purchase your aircrafts and pilots.  Pilots have different skill levels ranging from Newbie to Veteran.  The higher the skill level of the pilot, the more he costs.  Each pilot has a name and an aircraft type he is trained on.  In addition each pilot is rated for his skill in air-to-air combat, ground combat, how “Cool” he is (that is to say, if he responds to stress better than other people), his Situational Awareness, his Gung Ho rating (how bold he is which can influence negative situations), whether he reacts slow or fast based upon his overall stress levels, how many Stress Points until he becomes “Shaken”  and ratings for his aircraft including what type of extra ordinance (such as bombs, rockets, torpedoes, drop tanks, etc.) it may carry and how much of the extra ordinance his plane can carry.



Once you have your squadron populated with pilots and planes, you then start flying missions.  Missions can be played in as little as 30 minutes.



The Turn Sequence is as follows:


1) Draw Target cards

2) Select Target

3) Determine and Place Sites

4) Assign Pilots

5) Prepare for Mission

Target-Bound Flight

6) Draw Target-Bound Event card

7) Place Aircraft and Choose Altitude

8) Determine and Place Bandits

9) Intel Air Defense Adjustment

10) Draw Over-Target Event card

11) Place Turn counter in “1” Box

Over-Target Resolution (5 Times)

12) Dive Bombers Dive to Low

13) Fast Pilots Attack

14) Sites and Bandits Attack

One Pilot may Suppress enemy ground units keeping them from attacking this turn

Pilot under Attack may use Evasion

15) Slow Pilots Attack

16) Aircraft Move

17) Bandits Move

18) Advance Turn counter

Home-Bound Flight

19) Draw Home-Bound Event card

20) Roll to see if any shot down US pilots can be rescued


21) Record Mission Outcome, Victory Points, Adjust Recon,

and Intel Counters, and Special Option Points

22) Add Target card Stress to Pilots

23) Pilot Stress Recovery (All Pilots)

24) Record Pilot Experience and Stress


The Tactical Display is where you fly your missions.  Event Cards and Target Cards are sorted by the Campaign Requirements and dealt in their places on the Tactical Display.  Cards are drawn for possible targets and the number can be modified by the current Recon rating.  If a Target Card includes the word “Scramble” it means that your airfield is being raided and you must take off and destroy that Target.  This happened to me on the very first Event Draw for my Guadalcanal Campaign – six Betty Bombers attacked our airfield.  Luckily, they were unescorted by fighters so we made quick work of them.


Once you pick a Target to attack, things get pretty crazy pretty fast.


Each Target includes information on how difficult it is to destroy and how many “Sites and Bandits” protect it.  Sites can include everything from infantry with long arms to anti-aircraft guns.  Bandits are the aircrafts assigned to protect it.  Each enemy aircraft is rated based upon the time period you are playing.  Zeros and Ki43s from 1941 are very different from late war aircrafts in terms of armor, maneuverability and weapons.  Make sure you pick from the appropriate counters for the year of the Campaign.  Sites and Bandits are placed in a cup or other container to draw from.  In addition there are counters that say “No Site” or “No Bandit”.  That’s how I got lucky with the Betty Bombers – every escort I drew from said “No Bandit”.  Well, it sucked to be those bomber crews on that day!  Also, and this is new for Corsair Leader, each Bandit is rated for pilot quality – some are Green, some Normal and some are deadly Aces!


You assign the pilots and aircrafts you want to use to attack the Target based upon the mission requirements for example, if you attacking a ship, you’ll probably want torpedo bombers and dive bombers and you’ll then want to assign escorts for each bomber.  If you are attacking an industrial center, you may want to make sure that you have some medium bombers such as B25s in your squadron as well as long range escorts such as P38s.  Always remember that the available aircrafts are listed on the Campaign Sheets.

American Aircraft types include: F4U Corsairs, F4F Wildcats, F6F Hellcats, F2A Buffalos, SB2U Vindicators, SB2C Helldivers, TBD Devastators, TBF Avengers, and SBD Dauntlesses. You also get to pilot USAAF: P-38 Lightnings, P-40 Warhawks, and B-25 Mitchells


A complete list of ordinances is available and each bomb or rocket is listed by type, weight, accuracy, lethality to soft and hard targets, etc.


You put your assigned aircrafts on the board in the approaches and set the counter side to either flying high or flying low.  The altitude is important for dogfights, bombing accuracy and the affects of anti-aircraft fire.  Air planes can change altitude during the mission.


On the way to the target you draw an Event Card.  This may be something that helps you or it could hurt you.  You also draw an “over target” Event Card and one after turn 5 as you head home.


You have five turns to knock out the target or achieve your mission objective if it isn’t a ground, air or sea attack.


Each turn the enemy attempts to shoot down your planes while you try and defeat them.  A new rule modifies the aircraft positioning rules for aircraft maneuvering from DVG’s own “Down in Flames:Locked On” but applies these rules to World War II dogfights.  Each turn that the fighters engage each other, a special table allows you to pick the position you want to try and maneuver to in order to shoot down the enemy plane.  The enemy plane reacts through its own set of maneuvering and the final position is where you are when you shoot.  Of course, it’s always nice to shoot at an enemy from the 6 O’clock position but that’s what the enemy is trying to do too.  These rules work great and really give the player the feel of dogfight combat.


The game’s artificial intelligence is really very good.  It feels like you are flying against human opponents.


As you fight, your pilots take Stress which can affect their performance and your planes get damaged.  Too much damage and you’d better hit your chute and pray.  If you hit the enemy one time, they go down.  I really wish there was an advanced rule to allow enemy planes to become damaged as opposed to just blowing them up – maybe for the Flying Tigers expansion?


After the mission, you roll to see if any of your shot down pilots are recovered.  You apply stress, see if your pilots gain enough experience to increase in skill, assign shaken pilots to R&R, etc.  Then you start the whole process again.  Remember, unless you have to, don’t push your men past their shaken state or they become “unfit” and can’t fly again.   Men and materials management is just as important in this game as is the combat mission.  A nice addition to this game is having pilots gain special skills which can either benefit them directly or their wingmen.  These special skills are represented by chits which are placed directly on the pilot/aircraft cards.


That’s the real beauty of Corsair Leader – you have full immersion in to this game world!  You feel the stress as much as your pilots do.  The sheer amount of great content in the box allows for almost infinite replay value.  I know that I’ll be playing this game for years to come.  And don’t make the mistake of thinking this game is solo only, you can get your friends together and each one can fly one or two planes against the Japanese.


While there are a few typos in the game (one biggie is the set up of 1941 Zeros for Pearl Harbor – no 1941 Zero counters are included so use 1942 Zeros instead), DVG has released an on-line errata that fixes these and, if you encounter a problem, contact them over their website or through Facebook and someone will get back to you in no time.


For those interested in Pacific Campaign air combat during World War II, fly out to your nearest game store and grab Corsair Leader!  Set up the game, put in a DVD of Ba Ba Black Sheep and start flying!   This is one of my favorite games of 2018!



Armchair General Rating: 98 %


Solitaire Rating: 5 (1 to 5 with 1 being Poor and 5 being Perfect for Solo)


About the Author

A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!  Richard also is the author of three published board games – Tiger Leader, The Tiger Leader Upgrade Kit and Sherman Leader.