Vivere Pericolosamente

David Thompson, of Pavlov's House and Castle Itter fame, has a light solitaire wargame out, ready for playtesting (it is going to take part in the 2019 BGG Wargame Design Contest).


The game is called By Stealth and Sea: The Italian Human Torpedo Attacks on Gibraltar, and refers to an Italian unit of frogmen who rode torpedoes against British Navy vessels during WWII.


I was totally ignorant of the existence of manned torpedoes (you may want to read the Wikipedia article), and found the theme odd and fascinating. So I made the most rudimentary copy of the game via my crappy printer, and got down to see if my Italian riders would manage to bomb any ships. The rules are easy to understand, so no complaints there.


You begin with three torpedoes set in the left hand corner of the map. You can only do two actions per turn (these may be limited to one, or even none), and there is a specific number of rounds in which you have to make sure you hit your targets. The British are not idling away, eating seafood in Gibraltar: rather, they send out patrols and use searchlights to detect unwanted visitors. Your goal as team of frogmen is to hit a ships worth of at least 6 victory points. You lose, if you score 0, or if all three torpedoes are taken out by patrols.


So far so good. Then I began to play, and things didn't roll as expected. Actually, rolling dice is all you do. Roll for skill checks, roll for detection, roll for patrol movement, roll for hits. That is not an issue per se, many wargames operate on this system. The problem was that the game did not offer the excitement I was hoping for. I chose if I would stay submerged or not, tried to approach the ships, then stumbled upon the patrols. And the waters got murky. Patrols can be a real nuisance, and you may get easily stuck on the same hex for several rounds.


Each torpedo can only hit one ship, so you have to choose which target you want to aim for. Somehow the game got tedious quickly. There is nothing to remind you that the torpedoes are human, and the graphic design is too stark. Devoid of any visual interest, the board is like a topographic map. So you are only left with the mechanisms. Sure, there are decisions to be made. But the patrols mostly felt like a bunch of annoying flies that one has to shoo away. I did get the basic score in the end, but I don't know if I want to play again, it lacks a certain gusto. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with it, the game isn't broken. But it felt like a Hermann Luttmann light wargame without the fun.


But I am too harsh, maybe. The game is still a work in progress, you may print out the files and give it a try.


PS. Many thanks to Arvid (http://www.oneplayertwocats.com/) for bringing the game to my attention.