Fleet Commander Nimitz09 Mar 2015 0
Every game company usually has a niche in which they define themselves and are in tern defined by the market at large. Dan Verssen Games has made their niche in the industry by providing high quality solitaire games to the war gaming public. While not all of their games are solitaire, their most recent release Fleet Commander Nimitz is the newest title in their solitaire “Commander” series which includes Field Commander Rommel, Field Commander Napoleon and Field Commander Alexander. Like the other games in the series, Fleet Commander Nimitz offers nearly the perfect mix of strategy and tactics.
Fleet Commander Nimitz covers the Allied operations in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945. The game can be played as one huge campaign or as individual campaigns covering the years of the gamer’s choice. For this review, I started with the 1942 campaign and, using the linked campaign rules, played 1943 with the forces which survived 1942.
Fleet Commander Nimitz comes in a very large and handsomely illustrated box which contains 1 full color mounted map board, a full color rule book, 8 full color double sided counter sheets totaling approximately 800 counters, 1 full color tactical map, 1 master player log sheet and a ten sided die.
The game is both strategic and grand tactical in scale with each campaign turn representing 2 months while each turn on the tactical map can represent several hours or days depending on the units involved. Each counter represents 1 or more ships or submarines, the air plane counters represent from one or more squadrons to a fighter or bomber group or a flight of observation aircrafts and infantry represents the either battalions or armies.
To set up the game, the player picks a campaign year card to start and then sets up the units on the strategic map as indicated by the campaign card. The player also sets up the number of reinforcement units, reinforcement points and supply points for that particular campaign year. The strategic campaign map shows the entire Pacific region from the West Coast of the United States to Australia in the South and the China/Japan region. The major islands such as Hawaii, Wake, the Marshalls, etc. are also shown on the map and all the land masses are connected by movement lines. When anything moves on the strategic map, it follows the movement lines. Infantry is carried on transport ships while in the ocean areas and debarks on the beaches shown on the tactical map when attempting to invade an island. Each land mass is rated for the size of the airfields which becomes critically important as the campaign progresses. In 1944 and 1945, the Allies can begin a strategic air campaign against Japan and must have possession of the critical air fields that are within striking distance of Japan.
Each sea unit is rated for its attack factor (broken down in to anti-aircraft, surface and depth charge or torpedo factors) as well as its cost in supply points. Each land unit is rated in cost and attack factor while each air unit is rated for its cost in supply points plus its attack factor broken in to air to air attack, air to ground attack and air to ship attack. Additionally each unit is given a description and the year of availability.
The structure of a game turn is simple but with lots going on. For each 2 month strategic turn, the player performs the following steps:
- Check Resupply and repair of Allied forces
- Optional US scouting using sea planes or high altitude recon planes (this is optional but forces the Japanese forces being scouted to take their moves first thereby allowing the Allied player to move his forces in reaction to what the Japanese have done)
- US and Allied forces move
- Japanese forces which did not move during the scouting phase now move
- Battles occur
- Japan receives reinforcements and repair
- US ships must set a course back to port to rearm and fuel
- US checks their supply lines and reduces any units which are out of supply
- Defeat check to see if the Allies have lost
The Japanese forces move based upon die rolls on the “Japanese Orders” table. These orders can result in many interesting gaming situations from some forces holding to resupply, some forces moving closer to Hawaii or Australia, some forces reinforcing Japanese held islands or engaging in battle with Allied land, sea and air units.
During battle, the player transfers units to the tactical map based upon specific instructions, rolls to see how long the battle lasts and then picks special counters for the Japanese called “Battle Plans”. If you’ve played other Field Commander games, it works the same way. Each “Battle Plan” helps augment the Japanese forces. The US player then picks a specific number of Allied “Battle Plans” which can help the player or hinder the Japanese forces involved in the battle.
All air, sea and ground forces use the same type of die roll based upon the enemy being attacked and the unit doing the attacking. Submarines use torpedoes to attack ships, destroyers use depth charges to attack subs, fighter planes use their air to air rating to shoot down bombers, bombers use either their ground attack or sea attack rating depending on whether they are attacking ships or ground targets, etc. The goal is to roll under the skill rating of the unit to succeed. If a unit is hit once, it is damaged and if it is hit twice, it is destroyed.
When all of one sides’ forces are driven off of an island or destroyed on the island, the other side takes control of the island.
That is it in a nutshell. Very simple and straight forward but with many strategic and tactical options. A campaign can be finished in two to four hours – enough for an afternoon’s gaming.
When playing the grand campaign, the player records the units destroyed and objectives taken and then starts the next campaign year using that data. So, for example, if the Enterprise or the Yamato was sunk in 1943, they would not be available in 1944. Each campaign rates the player in objectives held. If the player loses the campaign, Japan wins the war. As the years progress, new and better technology is available, for example, in 1942, the US has P39s, P40s and Wildcat fighters for air combat but in 1943, the US gains Hellcats which are more capable of defeating the Japanese Zeros in air to air combat. In 1944, the US gains B29 bombers and can embark on the bombing of strategic targets on the Japanese home islands.
The solitaire engine is very competent and provides for a fun game. In my run through, I had taken New Guinea in 1942. At the start of 1943, the Japanese mounted an aggressive campaign to retake New Guinea and advance on Australia – even committing the super battleship Yamato to a massive fleet action to counter my fleet of destroyers, cruisers and one air craft carrier. I thought I was going to lose that one but the ground forces managed to repel the Japanese landing while one of my submarines managed to damage the Yamato with a well placed torpedo strike forcing the Japanese to recall the battle fleet back to Japan for resupply and repairs and, therefore, saving New Guinea and Australia.
The game is very fluid and fun and the options available raise is slightly above the beer and pretzels games. The value is high for the money and the components are first rate.
If Fleet Commander Nimitz has flaws, they are few and far between. The counters are too loosely die cut and come off in the box in droves after only minor handling. When my copy arrived, there were several dozen counters which had worked their way free and were scattered all over the inside of the box. Some of the counters are not grouped per campaign year and have to be hunted down to set up a campaign – for example, Japan’s Destroyer Group 7 was not with other 1942 counters and it took me forever to find it with counters from 1944/45. The game rules are well laid out for play but need an index.
Also, while rules are provided for a 1945 invasion of the Japanese home islands, what happened to the option of ending the war with an atomic bomb? The transfer of resources to the bomb’s development or the option of not developing the bomb and going for a massive invasion would have added so much to the overall strategic feel of the game and would have provided players with an interesting moral choice.
None the less, Fleet Commander Nimitz is a great game for solitaire gamers interested in World War II strategic action and is well worth the price.
[In the interest of full disclosure, reviewer Rick Martin is the co-developer of the game Tiger Leader which is scheduled to be released by DVG in March of 2015.]
Publisher: DVG Games Designer: Dan Verssen Price $99.00
ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Richard Martin has written film and game reviews for over 20 years and has been playing war games and role playing games since the days of Ogre and Basic Dungeons and Dragons. Additionally, he writes screenplays, games and works in the legal profession. His is the co-developer of the forthcoming DVG game Tiger Leader. (Don’t tell anyone but Richard prefers writing games and movies to law work any day.)