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Posted on Jul 8, 2007 in Boardgames

War at Sea: Destroyers

By Paul Glasser

Although battleships like the Yamato may be the most formidable units in Axis and Allies: War at Sea, no task force is complete without including destroyers like the Italian Luca Tarigo or the USS Fletcher. Like most destroyers, they sport thin armor and include weak guns, so they are best suited to protecting bigger ships from submarines and engaging other destroyers.

The Luca Tarigo has weaker armor, lower AA defense, lower anti-submarine values, and weaker torpedo attack power than its American counter part. However, it costs 1 extra point, offers better main gun attacks, and can use two powerful special abilities. With sub-hunter the Luca Tarigo is able to pursue enemy submarines as they try and escape. It can also lay smoke to protect friendly ships from enemy fire.


The Fletcher costs only 7 points, and overall has better stats than the Luca Tarigo. However, it only has one special ability; chase the salvos, which gives it a 1/3 chance to ignore damage from an attack by enemy battleships by rolling 5+. It would probably be rare for a battleship to concentrate its overwhelming firepower on a destroyer, unless there are no other targets.

Destroyer escorts are also an important element to any fleet. Units like the USS Samuel B. Roberts and the Japanese Type 4 sub-chaser have very thin armor and very little firepower. However, they are cheap and offer the best chance to sink a submarine. Escorts also have the negative ability slow and won’t be much help if the main fleet steams off and leaves them behind!

Both destroyers and destroyer escorts will need to fight alongside other ships, because they are vulnerable to air attack. They are also outgunned by cruisers and are unlikely to survive alone for very long.

Destroyers and destroyer escorts are best used to engage other picket ships. After they have eliminated the enemy destroyer flotilla, your own submarines and destroyers can move in to make torpedo attacks.

Motor torpedo boats, on paper, are the weakest units in the game, but, they make up for it by launching powerful, close-range torpedo attacks. Fast and maneuverable, torpedo boats should use terrain to their advantage as much as possible. Torpedo boats move at speed 3 and can close with their targets quickly. Shallow draft allows them to enter island sectors and seek cover in lagoons. Although fragile, torpedo boats have a 1/3 chance to negate damage from any attack by using high speed evasion and rolling a 5+.

Lightly armed, torpedo boats won’t offer a serious threat to larger ships, submarines or airplanes. But, if they can find the opportune moment to attack, an accurate torpedo attack could change the course of battle.

However, neither torpedo boats nor auxiliary ships can contest objectives. Auxiliary ships like the SS Jeremiah O’Brien, Kinai Maru or the German commerce raider Nordmark are poorly defended and have minimal armor. However, they offer important abilities like Vital Cargo or Repair. Vital cargo allows the player to score extra victory points and repair ships can remove damage counters from friendly ships. But, without significant support from the air and sea, auxiliary ships will make easy targets for the enemy.