July 18, 2024

#UnboxingDay ~ The Hunt for Red October surfaces, from TSR

RockyMountainNavy, 16 September 2021 ~ #UnboxingDay

It was my great fortune to be sent a copy of The Hunt for Red October recently. This game by designer Douglas Niles was published by TSR, Inc. in 1988. I vaguely recall seeing this in the FLGS in my college town but I didn’t get it. I also very vaguely remember playing a game but I cannot recall exactly when or where (it might even have been an in-store demo). As a collector of naval wargaming rules, The Hunt for Red October was always a game I wanted but never possessed—until now.

The Hunt for Red October is physically a large game. The box is definitely not what wargames usually appear in, even taking into consideration older Avalon Hill games like Victory in the Pacific (Avalon Hill, 1977) or SPI game trays or even Yaquinto flat boxes or big box strategy games like the original Axis & Allies (Milton Bradley, 1981) or Supremacy: The Game of the Superpowers (Supremacy Games, 1984). Like the Soviet submarine depicted, The Hunt for Red October is easily the largest game box in terms of length and width in my collection.

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The Hunt for Red October – 21.5″ x 12″ of red menace

click images to enlarge

In many ways The Hunt for Red October comes across looking more like a family strategy boardgame than a wargame.

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The Hunt for Red October – box back


Even the contents of The Hunt for Red October don’t look wargame-y. From an area map (no hexes for you!) to standee counters this is not what a “traditional” wargame looks like. The mapboard is a mounted tri-fold and when laid out is 36″ x 22″. Add to that the Task Force boards and the Battle Board and one quickly discovers that to play you will need to get clearance from CINCFAM* to use the dining room table!

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The Hunt for Red October – components
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The Hunt for Red October – 1 of 3 counter sheets
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The Hunt for Red October – FOUND!


The rule book for The Hunt for Red October is nothing special. Written in a very conversational—or dare I say boardgame—style it uses red highlights as needed. Some of you might notice the condition of the rules…this copy is not mint but neither is it a “player’s copy.” Most importantly it is complete and very playable—after all, is that not the most important aspect of any game?


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Your SOP for The Hunt for Red October


The rule book for The Hunt for Red October includes examples of play and a two page “Steps Summary,” aka the “Sequence of Play” for gamers.


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The Hunt for Red October – example of play on right page
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The Hunt for Red October – Sequence of Play


Although The Hunt for Red October is a lite family wargame focusing on a Cold War Gone Hot, it does have a namesake scenario included (Scenario 2 on the right). Note also the neat call-out flavor text boxes. Interestingly, the call-out box on this page talks about the “Tu-26 Tupolev Backfire Bomber,” from an era before that aircraft was correctly identified as the Tu-22M Backfire.


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Hunting the Red October in scenario 2


Taken as a whole, The Hunt for Red October looks like what TSR, Inc. probably imagined a good “family” wargame to be. In many ways, The Hunt for Red October looks out-of-the-box like it was readied for the mass market, not the niche hobby wargamer.

  • CINCFAM – Commander in Chief, Family

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.
The regiment also occasionally musters on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and occasionally at a convention near you, once we’re allowed to hold them again.

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