October 21, 2021

#UnboxingDay – Unboxing Zero Leader (& Expansions!) from DVG

Michael Eckenfels, 17 June 2021 ~ #UnboxingDay

Lucky for me, DVG sent me a copy of Zero Leader when I requested one for review. This game was just released and sent to backers and pre-order folks, so it was nice to get one so quickly. What was even nicer is, DVG sent me not just the base game but the expansions as well.


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click images to enlarge

The box game, which is pretty hefty in and of itself, is accompanied by a China expansion, a Trainees expansion, and an Aces expansion. I’m going to unbox each of these, so let’s start with the base game itself.

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I love the Leader series that DVG puts out, all of which are usually from the point of view of the West – the Western Allies in WWII, the United States, Israel, and a variety of other Western-aligned nations. DVG’s Tiger Leader somewhat bucked this trend by being a chance to command a German armored group during WWII, but it was but one example among many. When Zero Leader was announced by designer Chuck Seegert, I was hooked from the get-go. I’d have ordered it myself if that wouldn’t have gotten me into mountains of trouble at home!

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The color scheme of the box itself is impressive. Given that red is a ubiquitous color choice when it comes to representing the Japanese in World War II games, it seems to be a no-brainer here.

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The box is nice and thick, too, which is important as the box is filled to the brim with content. Finding room to store the expansions within will be something of a challenge.

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Upon opening the box, the rule book is the first thing we see.

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I do like the Miyamoto Musashi quote on the front of it.

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If you’re familiar with the Leader series, it’s organized much the same – and in full color.

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Examples throughout help illustrate the game’s pieces.

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The Aces Expansion, which we’ll take a look at later, is covered within these rules as well.

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Some of the Japanese fighters available in the game.

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Some of the multi-engine aircraft available, as well. Even an Ohka makes an appearance.

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A Dogfight sheet which seems to summarize detailed dogfighting rules.

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One thing highly impressive to me is the size of this Tactical Display board. Note the game boxes at top; there’s a LOT of room here, which is a very nice touch. Though it makes me wonder, how ‘target rich’ will these environments be, exactly?

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The base game comes with many playable Campaigns. Here, six of the Introductory-level Campaigns are shown – Wake Island, Philippines, Pearl Harbor, Battle of Santa Cruz, Midway, and Coral Sea. As ‘introductory’ games go, indicating a certain level of learning leniency, this would also be the ‘easy time’ the Japanese had in the early stages of the Pacific War.

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In addition, there are four Standard Campaigns – Guadalcanal, Port Moresby/Lae, New Georgia, and New Britain.

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There are two Skilled campaigns – Rabaul and Leyte Gulf.

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And finally, there are three Expert Campaigns – Home Island Defense, Okinawa, and Luzon.

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There’s also a Player Log so you can record your Pilots and their exploits throughout the chosen Campaign.

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A bevvy of Player Aid sheets is included. Note that there are also crossover rules that can be used with Corsair Leader, another DVG title.

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And the counter sheets…there’s 11 of them, each with 88 counters…we’re talking Fleet Commander Nimitz levels of content, here! Tons of possibilities, it seems.

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Here’s a close-up of the ordinance in the game. As with all Leader series games, these have a powder blue look to them, making them easy to identify at a glance.

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Another closeup with some particularly interesting counters.

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And now a close-up of some Bandits (enemy units) you’ll encounter. What I find interesting here is they’re in red, which you’d think would be Japanese counters, just given the nature of wargame designs. And truthfully, I was wondering if they were going to flip their color schemes in this case, but it looks like they kept this in line with the other Leader series games, where Bandit counters are in red.

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More close-ups. Sake is very important as it helps remove Stress from Pilots (Stress is something that builds up as they fly Missions and run into issues – eventually their performance will suffer and if it keeps building up, they’ll be unable to fly at a certain point.) Sake is a thematic choice, here.

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And here we have a close-up of friendly units, in blue – again, usually representing Western type forces, though I can easily see this as the sky-blue background of what they’re flying through.

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More close-ups! Some site counters (representing fixed anti-air defenses) as well as Skills that can be assigned to your Pilots.

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Two d10s are also included. I like the airplane icon that’s used in the ‘10’ place.

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And four packs of cards. I did not open these up to show them off as I figure that’ll happen in a review, and besides, we’ll be here all day with pictures in that case!

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Now, let’s check out the Zero Leader Trainees Expansion Pack.

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Looks like it adds more Pilots to the mix from the base game.

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Here’s the Pilot cards included in the game.

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And two of what looks like Event cards that are added as well.

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Next up is the Zero Leader Aces Expansion Pack.

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Yet more Pilots to add to the base game, but these look like real-world Japanese pilots that became famous aces in their time.

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Here are the 52 Pilot cards included in this expansion. Looks like real-world pilots, given the portrait additions. A very nice touch.

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Here are the Event cards – three of them. The box said four so I think I accidentally left one with the Pilot cards. Regardless, more action to include with the base game.

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And last but not least, the Zero Leader China Expansion.

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Included is the extra China campaign, which is labeled as an Introductory-level Campaign.

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Here are two of the other four extra Campaigns included – both Standard-level. They are Indian Ocean Raid and Burma.

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The last two Campaigns are Malaya and Singapore.

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And here’s an extra sheet of counters – another 88 of them, just in case you were wondering if there was a way to get more than 1,000 counters total to the table!

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Here’s a close-up of the enemy Bandits from this expansion – P40s, Hurricanes, and even I-16s. Wait, I-16s? Those are Soviet, I think. Interesting, because it looks like you’ll get to mix it up with them as well in this expansion.

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And here’s a close-up of some Pilot counters included in this expansion.

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And more Bandit counters – another eight total.

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And lastly, a pack of cards. Again, we will see more of these in the future…

That’s a lot of game packed into all that. Looking forward to giving this one a try!


Thanks for joining this month’s #UnboxingDay with the Armchair Dragoons and we hope you enjoyed our recon of our recent acquisitions.
You can always leave us your feedback in our #UnboxingDay thread, or in the comment area on this article, below.
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