Michael Eckenfels, 21 January 2021
Devil Boats is a game that got on my radar via a Compass Games post on Facebook some time ago…I want to say it was last year. I was tempted to pre-order it, but didn’t pull the trigger. So when this arrived on my doorstep, I was more than a little surprised. I did not order it nor did I ask Compass for a copy of it, but I am not about to look a gift wargame in the mouth (ewww). I would much rather give this some coverage and do a review eventually.
click images to enlarge
It’s a nice surprise, don’t get me wrong. I did say I was interested in this…a lot, actually…but you gotta draw the line somewhere when it comes to game acquisitions. Stop laughing, those of you that know me.
Devil Boats is, as the name says, is a solitaire game where you are in command of a squadron of four PT boats during World War II in the Pacific. Specifically, in the summer of 1943, when fighting over the Solomon Islands was reaching its zenith and the Japanese were not quite ready yet to pull out and give it up. The area was highly contested for months, and the PT boat made quite an impact there by interdicting Japanese supply barges and rescuing down Allied air crews.
When you open the box, there’s a lot of space. Compass doesn’t really mess around with inserts, which some find a complete waste of space, especially when it’s nigh impossible to repack a game after play with one being present.
There’s dice, lots of baggies (I do like these smaller ones rather than having to use plastic snack or sandwich bags), and a dry erase marker. That means there’s obviously some dry erase material here somewhere…
But first, the rulebook. It’s a hefty bugger, coming in at 51 pages. Not all of it is rules, but it’s going to be a commitment to get through it.
There are some color examples within, but…
…there’s a lot of text as well. But a quick examination of these first few pages shows the author included a rather detailed example of play. This is an interesting approach; it’s not new of course (GMT does this in separate play books, as do some other publishers), but putting this at the start of a rule book makes me hopeful it will be easier to absorb the rules, if I immediately have an idea of how it plays right out of the box, so to speak.
While you control four PT boats, it also mentions each has 12 crew, and each crew can be affected by a myriad of maladies, including dissing Terry. Er, I mean, dysentery. It’s interesting to me as it looks like there’s a bit of crew management in here too, like with a lot of Compass solo titles. I’m wanting to dive in more deeply now to learn how this all works.
There’s another dry erase marker in the box. Nice that they included two of them.
Even more interesting is that they include two full pads for record-keeping; one is a Campaign Log and the other looks like a crew status sheet.
Ah, here we go – a dry erase sheet for those dry erase markers. I haven’t had a game that utilizes this kind of thing for a while. I guess I worry more than anything that the dry erase markers won’t last long, but that’s a pretty cheap replacement.
Here’s a second one to be used with dry erase markers.
A Battle Board, sporting Imperial Navy destroyers, aircraft, and barges. So, you’ll get to tussle with a lot of different enemies.
Even more interesting, this Special Missions Board looks like you can engage land targets, too.
Here’s a card for a PT boat. I like the detail that went into this; you can see stations, rooms, and other interesting details.
Another record sheet that’s dry erase capable, to record damage to your PT boats. Very interesting that Compass chose this dry erase route.
Here’s the Campaign Map, which clarifies things more for me. Looks like this is north of the Solomons, which makes sense considering the timeframe. I know the Marines landed on Guadalcanal in August 1942, so summer 1943 seemed a bit late to be playing around that island. I don’t know much about this late stage of the campaign, so this will be a learning experience, too.
Two countersheets round out the content. Interesting to note that one, as you can see, has a lot of blanks.
My curiosity is piqued by this title and I’ll definitely be giving it a spin soon.
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