Thursday, April 25, 2024

Unboxing: War Plan Z: The Kriegsmarine Strikes (Decision Games - World at War #96)

I recently restarted my subscription to World at War Magazine, lured by the upcoming four issues that are part of the Campaigns in Europe series (meaning that in addition to receiving the four issues, and the four games, I get a combined, larger game!). I already have a glut of World War II games and was not desperate to add more to my backlog of unplayed games, but... that just seemed like a fun package. So, with that upcoming and starting in issue #97, I had plenty of time to start my subscription... until I noticed this issue was upcoming. This one was quite a bit different than the games I already owned, so I figured it was an ideal place to start.

It arrived last week, and surprisingly, the Post Office brought it to the door instead of shoving it in the mailbox. No bent magazine for this guy!

Magazine cover

Pretty compelling cover, showing recognition drawings from ONI's 1942 publication. These magazines always have quite a number of good history articles, as we can see from the Table of Contents:

Table of Contents

I have not read the issue yet, and I don't like going over the articles in these magazines too much, but I will talk about the cover article, War Plan Z, since it is relevant to the included game. It discusses the interwar history of the German Navy, plus the history of Plan Z, from its initial reasoning, its beginning in early 1939, to its cancellation in late 1939. The article continues by covering the German surface fleet's actions throughout World War II. The article also covers the plans for the different classes of ships the Germans were planning to build, and how far they got toward each goal.

The rules for the game are included in the magazine, attached with a bit of easily removed glue.

I will talk a little more about the game in a moment, but first, I would like to show the rest of the components. It comes with one countersheet.


One odd thing I notice is that the United States forces are a dark blue, as opposed to their typical green, reserved in this game for the lone Italian unit. There are a lot of ships, but fewer aircraft than I would expect in a naval game. That is because the carrier aircraft are incorporated into the carrier's combat factors. Since carriers can only attack units in the same area, that simplifies things. There are land units, which operate in all of the various mixed areas on the map. Each counter represents two aircraft carriers, two or three battleships, or a large number of smaller ships. It is a magazine game, so they don't exactly have the space to put in a counter for every capital ship, like many boxed games would.

We also have the map.

Game Map

The game is area control, with, as I briefly mentioned above, mixed areas including land, and plenty of sea zones to fight over. There are places to keep track of various game rules and tables. Seems like a pretty nice package!

This is a hypothetical game, with the assumption that Hitler had not canceled Plan Z, and instead built up the German navy to its pre-war goals. Because this takes time, the war would not have started until the mid-1940s, and at this point, France is still a major participant.

Victory is obtained by destruction of the opposing player's surface fleet or capture of various areas at game end.

The core game mechanic is action points, provided at the start of each turn, with players alternating their use to perform various operations, including attacks, scouting, and the acquisition of plan markers (usable later for some special effect). There are rules for US arrival into the war, which is sped along by various game states. There are supply convoys that move through the map whose arrival provides more action points for the players but make good targets for military actions.

This topic is certainly interesting- I don't think I have a single hypothetical World War II naval game. The components look nice, the game rules at first blush seem fine- I would love to get this on the table.

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