Carrier Battle: Philippine Sea is a fantastic solitaire wargame that offers a challenging and immersive gameplay experience. Designed by Jon Southard, this game is a sequel to the venerable & popular Carrier from Victory Games which was released back in 1990, but with a focus on the historic battle of the Philippine Sea. One of the strengths of the game is how it breaks down its mechanics into manageable pieces through programmed learning, making it accessible for players to learn and master.

The game’s scenario booklet provides a tutorial-style approach, with the first five scenarios serving as tutorials that introduce players to different aspects of the game mechanics. For example, in scenario one, players learn the rules of air-to-air combat through an interception of incoming Japanese planes by US fighter planes. This approach of breaking down the core mechanics into separate scenarios makes it easier to understand and learn the game as a whole.

One of the core mechanics of the game is carrier flight deck operations, which is covered in scenario three. Managing the carriers correctly, including ensuring the right aircraft are on deck and ready for launch, becomes crucial for success in the game. Players need to carefully plan and execute their carrier operations, as the enemy attacks in waves and can cause damage or loss to the carriers if not managed effectively. This adds depth and strategy to the gameplay, making it engaging and challenging.

Search and location of enemy task forces are also important aspects of the game, as covered in scenario four. The game provides different levels of intelligence on enemy forces, and players need to carefully plan their search and detection strategies to locate and engage the enemy effectively. This adds a layer of realism and decision-making to the gameplay, keeping players engaged and strategizing throughout the game.

The rule book of the game may be lengthy, but the game’s mechanics are reasonably straightforward and easy to understand. The programmed learning approach used in the tutorial scenarios helps players grasp the different aspects of the game gradually, making it accessible to both experienced wargamers and newcomers to the genre.

The post-tutorial scenarios offered in the game include individual scenarios for both days of the battles, a full-on two-day scenario and an alternate history offering called the “Great Battle of the Pacific” that includes ships that had been sunk in earlier fighting and also boosts the performance of the Japanese aircrew, which had by this time been severely diminished in skill due to pilot losses. The game also features a detailed and immersive setup of enemy forces, Butai displays, and management of Japanese carriers, adding depth and complexity to the gameplay.

The game also includes US submarines, which played a vital role in the battle as well as rules for surface battles – part of the American Task Force 58 included Task Group 58.7 which was the battle line group and featured iconic ships such as the USS Iowa, while the Japanese forces included the Yamato, the largest battleship in the world.

In summary, Carrier Battle: Philippine Sea is a well-designed solitaire wargame that offers a challenging and immersive experience. The programmed learning approach, manageable pieces of mechanics, and strategic depth make it enjoyable to play and learn. Whether you are a seasoned wargamer or new to the genre, this game is a must-try for any fan of tabletop wargames.

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