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Compass Games’ Silent War Revisited, Yet Again

posted Jul 27, 2012, 10:46 PM by Douglas Sun
Originally posted: January 14, 2011

One of the most significant developments to emerge from the wargaming corner of the industry during the holiday season  came when Compass Games finally shipped Steel Wolves, its long-awaited strategic-level solitaire U-boat game, and sequel to its landmark Pacific War predecessor, Silent War. Furthermore, Steel Wolves shipped in tandem with a surprise companion, an expansion pack/update kit for Silent War called IJN, the main purpose of which is to give Silent War fans a way of bringing the experience of the game into line with the inevitable rules changes that came with approaching the rules system anew and developing a new game with it.

Despite the frustrations that I expressed here, here and here (and also here), I count myself an admirer of Silent War. And since I also count myself a sucker, I took advantage of the pre-order discount to buy both Steel Wolves and IJN.

Of Steel Wolves, I have nothing to say just yet; I haven’t even broken the shrinkwrap on it. Mike Lam tells me that he has played some of the shorter scenarios, and he found them quite challenging. But frankly, I think I’m going to wait until someone comes out with a VASSAL module for Steel Wolves, knowing that my experience of Silent War became a lot less laborious (and hence, a lot more enjoyable) once I started using the VASSAL module as a play aid to reduce the sheer drudgery of chit pulling and re-randomization (I imagined that this is how Sisyphus would have felt if he had been condemned to draw raffle winners out of a barrel instead of pushing that rock uphill).

Instead, I celebrated the occasion by breaking open IJN and having yet another go at the Silent War big campaign, integrating the new rules and individual Japanese ship counters. As of this post, I am into August ’42, having sunk 118 ships worth 460,000 tons; I have lost 7 subs plus the Seal scuttled when Luzon fell. I have cleared all of the tonnage milestones so far with at least a couple of weeks to spare, in spite of some concerning runs of bad luck (in the 12/41-2/42 period, I had two weeks in which I sunk 0 ships).

So what does IJN add? Mostly flavor. The ‘Loner’ rules will give you a small number of additional opportunities to sink ships. The Crash Dive rules haven’t rescued any subs for me, and I would guess that even over the course of the long campaign their effect is marginal, since it’s mostly just a 1-in-10 chance that you can save a sub from its doom that way. The individual ship counters have little net practical effect, but they’re fun if you have a nerdy proclivity for keeping records of your game (and I do). So I have no regrets over laying out for IJN. It’s not essential to play Silent War with it, but I like it.

I will probably have more to say once I’m deeper into the campaign game — certainly, there will be more to say after I finish it. For now, I think I’ll spend the rest of the evening shooting off some more fish.