RockyMountainNavy, 19 January 2023 ~ #UnboxingDay
Task Force: Carrier Battles in the Pacific is the most recent wargame to publish from VUCA Simulations in Germany. This edition of Task Force is the latest version of a game designed by Ginichiro Suzuki (1934-2021) and first released into the Japanese market by Epoch Games in 1982. It was re-released in 1996 and 2009 in Japan (and 2014 in the PRC) and now VUCA Sims has produced an English version. I
have always had a soft-spot in my Grognard heart for World War II carrier wargames, almost certainly because one of my earliest wargames was the first edition of Flat Top: A Game of Carrier Battles in the South Pacific During 1942 from Battleline published in 1977. This new carrier battles wargame from VUCA Sims shows how incredibly far the tabletop hex & counter wargaming hobby has come, if in nothing else then production quality!
You need to be careful when Task Force first hits your gaming table. That’s because this is a HEFTY box! My shipping label declared it as 8 pounds—you don’t want to drop this one on your foot!
click images to enlarge
Task Force is a very “International” wargame with a Japanese designer and published by VUCA Simulations in Germany—a self-declared specialist in “Conflict Simulation Engineering”—and now available in the United States and elsewhere. One other “first impression” of they game is the box is not a glossy finish but a subtly textured linen finish. I know it make no real difference but it does feel a bit more luxurious.
Opening up Task Force reveals the box is full to the brim. That partially explains the heft…
Task Force ships with a rulebook (19 pages) and a scenario book (29 pages). Both are glossy paper with stapled binding. The artwork looks to me to be reminiscent of World War II U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence or U.S. Army Air Corps recognition manuals.
The rulebook for Task Force is colorfully illustrated and laid out in a fairly easy to read two-column fashion. It uses “SPI-case” rules numbering but, alas, does NOT have an index.
A very nice graphical touch in the rulebook for Task Force is the crossed out RESTRICTED classification markings on the pages. Absolutely not necessary for play, but it does help the player immerse themselves in the game as the rules seem more a part of the history than just a component of a game.
The scenario book for Task Force is printed on that same glossy paper. There are ten scenarios; the first three are actually solitaire and designed to help you learn the game system. The first one starts, just like the war did, at Pearl Harbor.
The scenarios in Task Force progress from tutorials up to intermediate and advanced scenarios, and culminate in a kind of “mini-campaign.”
If you make it through all the scenarios of Task Force you can even make your own to keep playing.
Pulling out all the remaining content from the box of Task Force shows again why this game is hefty. Most of the items are thick boards, not stiff cardstock. We’re just going to work our way down through this stack of content.
As you will soon see, the mapboards for Task Force do not include various tracks or the like. Instead you get pieces like this Turn Tracker. Personally I like this table layout option as I sometimes play on smaller tabletops and the ability to move certain tracks around for better layout or access is helpful.
Task Force comes with six thick countersheets. Box back says there are 180 long counters and 408 square counters.
As one might expect from a European publisher, the counters in Task Force are already “Euro-style” with rounded edges. Don’t let my counter clipper vendor see this!
The first scenario in Task Force has its own small paper map of Pearl Harbor. Actually, this is not regular paper but “plasticized.” The artwork is very evocative of the era and the fact the text captions include Japanese once again helps players immerse themselves in the wargame.
There are four mapboards in Task Force with the first mounted one being ~11″x17″. These boards are double-sided and usually tied to a specific scenario.
Speaking of scenarios, Task Force players will find scenario set-up cards for each of the ten scenarios on five double-sided boards.
When talking about “boards” in Task Force I really do mean boards. While the scenario setup cards could easily have been printed on heavier cardstock, VUCA Sims actually makes them on boards. In fact, everything is a board in Task Force except for the books and Pearl Harbor map.
Of course, Task Force was first designed in the 1980’s so you MUST have charts. Here they come on two player aid boards.
Like almost every naval carrier game, there are off-map boards for handling aircraft and Task Force is no different. Again, the fact these boards are not directly on the map means the game plays in a more flexible manner, not only in the use of components but in my flexibility as to where I place them on my gaming table.
As you hopefully can already tell, Task Force hits on many subtle design factors that really make the game more enjoyable. Double-sided boards are common, but when the second side is not used it still looks great!
Each side in Task Force gets their own Task Force board.
The final two mapboards in Task Force are the largest, both coming in at ~17″x22″. Both are double-sided and their orientation changes based on the needs of the scenario. Here too is your “generic” battleboard for your Custom and Design-it-Yourself scenarios. (Yes, the dice shown below are included too.) Once again, the graphic design is top-notch; am I playing on a game board or a rendering of an actual map with hexes simply overlaid?
As I was putting all the content of Task Force back into the box, I became a bit worried. Will there actually be enough space for punched counters to sit in this box? I fretted a bit; plastic baggies might work but they are very likely to cause box top bulging. I wondered if my first go-to counter storage option (from Dollar Tree) would work. So I did a quick fit test.
After leaving the counter boxes inside the Task Force box and then putting the paper books on top , I closed the lid to see how “uplifting” an experience I was going to get. Surprisingly, there was little.
I started out this Unboxing Day entry by hinting at a comparison of Task Force with Flat Top. The truth is there is no real comparison…at least in terms of physical components. The artwork in Task Force is head and shoulders above Flat Top from the printed books to Euro-style counters to boards to even a smaller physical area needed. As for how it plays…well, that ship is yet to sail but I will keep you up-do-date once it does!
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