Alright, Circus fans, this is going to be a good one, so strap on your seat belt and let me take you downtown where the hookers and cheap heroin is. You see, there are very few games that I think are a solid 10 rating based on factors such as production quality, value, and the most important aspect of any game, the level of fun it provides. Well, Mission Command: Sea isn't a perfect 10, but it's pretty damned close. The one thing that it lacks, the one thing holding it back from a destiny of greatness, is just a little more complexity. But aside from that, it's nearly the perfect game. It's fun, fast, brutal, has a body count, and the winner doesn't win by amassing the most ubiquitous "victory points", you win by fucking the other guy's shit up, hospital-hurt style.
As an added bonus, if you play break out this game at any game table in the world and get a dour look from someone, you have immediately identified one of the many FMCs of the board game hobby. What is an FMC, you ask? An FMC is the kind of person who could not identify fun with plaster tire tracks, foot prints, dog smelling prints, and twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one. The kind of person that others call "a wet blanket" or a "Debbie Downer", but here at the Circus, we call you a "Fun Murdering Cunt", or FMC for short. It's like a Geiger counter set for "dolt", in the same vein of BattleBall and Thunder Road. I'm sorry, but if you don't like bad ass little carriers, two full flights of F-14 Tomcats per side, little destroyers, plastic molded mountains, and a shitload of dice, you're probably among the ranks of the FMCs. I'm not saying you have to love the game like I do, but to not admire it is a pretty good indication of your place in the world. Maybe just a Recruit FMC rather than a Princes of Florence-playing full bird Cuntonel, if you catch my drift.
So anyhow, this game is not very complex, which is my only complaint in any way, shape or form. The object is to scramble fighters from the flight deck, loaded with Sidewinders or Harpoon missiles, and to put two hits on the enemy carrier. Defending each carrier are two destroyers bearing both close-in ABM weapons as well as surface to air missiles. It's not an incredibly difficult game to learn, and while luck certainly plays a role, this is first and foremost a naval strategy game. Placement and movement of fighters is critical, as is the weapons load-out that you choose for each plane, which is represented by a face-down token on a plane's base, so that your opponent doesn't know what kind of weapon it bears. Top that off with the fact that the quality of the plane's pilot is printed on the underside of the plane, and it is quite a lovely little naval combat simulation with all kinds of strategic subterfuge and tactical choices.
Above and beyond the fact that the game is simply the perfect Ameritrash filler game, that can be taught and played in about an hour, what cannot be overlooked is the quality of the pieces. Note that I didn't call them bits, because that would not give them the respect that they're due. People say, "they don't make them like they used to", and in this case, that's absolutely true. This game comes with a huge board, four little islands with which to hide your beautifully modeled and painted carriers behind, four lovely little destroyers, sixteen wonderful little F-14s in two colors, and last, but not least, perfectly crafted flight stands to hold the planes in the air. I simply cannot envision the components of a game being so wonderful for such a small price today. To me, it's sort of like when Space Hulk 3rd Edition was released, how we all marveled at the beautiful wee beasties and noble Space Marines. Obviously, they're not that good or detailed, but for a twenty dollar game, you cannot conceivably bitch about the contents today. This would be a fifty dollar game today, easily.
Back to my one complaint, which is more of a minor gripe than an actual bitch, the game is just a scrotal hair too light in complexity. I wish that the carrier could move, but once you place it at the beginning of the game, it's static; a sitting duck, as it were. But not only can't it move, it can't shoot, either, which it total bullshit. My bestie is a former carrier jockey whose sole job it was to launch planes off the deck of the Vinson, and he knows for damned sure that carriers are loaded with ABM and close-in defensive weapons. So, that part seems a little bit gamey to me, but considering that they had to draw a line somewhere to keep the game from dragging on too long, it makes sense why they did it that way. We always play the house rule that carriers get one shot per turn to take out incoming Harpoons on the "destroyer move or shoot" phase, and it does add some length to the game as well as putting a focus more on batting down enemy planes than going after the carrier.
It's worth mentioning that this is a remake of the classic Carrier Strike game, but I think that this game does some things better, especially considering it does away with the card combat dog-fighting. In that game, you drew some cards and essentially played 'War: The Card Game' for five rounds, counting victories, which always felt to me to be a bit overkill. It's been simplified now where you roll the number of dice shown on the plane's quality number, and keep the highest roll. This can be augmented by +1, or one die may be re-rolled, if the plane's carrying a Sidewinder, and in the case of a tie, both planes crash and burn. It's a cleaner system, with the only advantage going to Carrier Strike in that carriers can move.
Anyhow, every Ameritrash enthusiast should own this game, hands down, and I'll stake what little reputation I have on that statement. I love naval combat, so I am biased, but good God in heaven this game is one of the most enjoyable games I have ever played. This one is on the list of games I'll never sell, trade away, and if my house goes up in a blaze, it's one of the first games that will be replaced. Unless you're a FMC, you will like it. I never have trouble getting this game to the table, everyone I have played this with has rated it very highly, and the only guy who didn't like it is a verifiable card-carrying FMC. I don't play with him anymore because he's an FMC, so fuck him and his shitty opinions anyway.
Why I Want To Be Maverick When I Grow Up:
- The components are beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
- Gameplay is fast, furious, and total fun
- It's easy to teach, easy to learn, and doesn't require "a learning game"
- It's twenty dollars, even on Ebay, which is vastly under priced in my opinion
Why Milton Bradley Went Down With Its Ships:
- No carrier movement or defensive guns takes a bit of realism away
Why are you still reading this? Go get this game, unless you're a FMC, in which case, I'm sure that there's a couple of Renaissance-era merchants who would love to fondle your jimmies.
Read the rules here: http://www.hasbro.com/common/instruct/Mission_Command_Sea_Game.pdf