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Posted on Jul 8, 2007 in Boardgames

War at Sea: Air Power

By Paul Glasser

In War at Sea, air power is manifested in the form of fighters, dive-bombers, patrol bombers and air craft carriers, which allow a player to strike at an enemy anywhere on the map.

Deploying fighters and bombers will add four additional phases to each round of combat. In the Air Mission phase, aircraft are placed on the map, and they can attack other planes during the Air Defense phase. Then, during the Air Attack phase, fighters and bombers can make gun, bomb or torpedo attacks against ships and submarines. During the final phase, aircraft are removed from the map. Planes can only attack targets in the same sector.

Some planes, like the Stuka or the FW 200 Kondor, can only be deployed from land-based airfields. While carrier-based units can attack every turn, the Stuka must spend an additional turn refueling and re-arming before it can attack again.


The Japanese A6M2 Zero and the American F4F Wildcat are the basic fighters in the first edition of War at Sea, and both perform very similar duties.

But, they each have special abilities that set them apart. The Zero has slightly weaker attack power and slightly lower armor than the heavily armed and well-protected F4F Wildcat. However, it’s slightly cheaper and can roll one extra attack die when firing in the first round of combat. It is a deadly foe for unprotected patrol bombers or dive bombers.

The Wildcat is ideally suited for protecting friendly carriers from enemy dive-bombers or torpedo planes because it rolls one extra dice when defending the flattop. When combined with another special ability, like expert dogfighter, the Wildcat stands a good chance of intercepting and destroying a Val dive-bomber, even if it’s protected by a Zero fighter.

Both units have the Escort ability, which is used to defend friendly bombers, making them more difficult to abort or destroy them during attack missions. Fighters attacking bombers with an escort only score hits on a dice roll of 5 or 6, instead of the normal 4+.

The Zero and Wildcat are both able to participate in Combat Air Patrol missions if a friendly carrier is nearby. The fighters can redeploy at the end of the Air Mission phase and seek out other targets if they are initially in the same sector as a friendly carrier.

Unfortunately, aircraft only have one hull point, so they can be destroyed with a single successful attack. Airplanes can also be forced to abort their attack missions if they encounter heavy anti-aircraft fire.

Other types of planes include land-based patrol bombers, which can make torpedo, bomb or anti-submarine attacks. These units have low armor values and without an escort they will be quickly destroyed by enemy fighters.

Dive bombers and torpedo bombers are best deployed-en masse against a single target. Even if AA guns on the ship and enemy fighters force one or two squadrons to abort their attacks, at least some of the planes will get through.

Finally, aircraft carriers like the USS Enterprise will provide any armada with a shield of experienced fighters and bombers with which to engage the enemy. Using the special ability Expert Dogfighter and Expert Bomber 2, planes based on the Enterprise can become a potent threat. Interceptors based on the Enterprise will roll one extra die when attacking other planes, and dive bombers will roll two extra dice when attacking other ships. The Enterprise has medium armor and a good number of hit points, but it should not be left undefended, because an enemy cruiser or swarm of dive-bombers could quickly cripple it. At only 25 points, this carrier will be a standard part of any Allied task force.

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