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Silent Victory: U.S. Submarines in the Pacific, 1941-45 is a solitaire game designed by Gregory M. Smith and published by Consim Press. I picked the game up in late April after much deliberation. Buying a game that was strictly solitaire seemed almost counter intuitive to me because my regular gaming group meets often and we hash out a lot of games over a weekly period. When would I find time to play solitaire, was I wasting my money that could be used on other games?  These and other questions plagued me. However browsing the GMT website I was impressed by the comments about the game, but the thing that swung my decision was the sheer volume of copies that had been ordered,  ~1700. With that many orders it can’t be a bad game? Much to my relief it isn’t a bad game, in fact it’s an excellent game, and I have a new love affair with solitaire war gaming. So let’s take a look at some of the things that make this game great:

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First patrol of the USS Jack Knife. Coming up with the name was the longest part of the game!

Component Quality:

This was my first Consim Press game, but as it was distributed by GMT I didn’t have any concerns about component quality. This game lives up to expectations, with thick card stock player aids, which are the bulk of the game, and standard tokens [nearly 300] as well as really nice submarine and combat boards. The 28 page rule book is well laid out and you can pretty much just read through it and play along the first time because it’s written in chronological order as a patrol, and refit go. The game comes with a pad of 20 career charts and permission to photocopy as many more as you want, as well as 3 six sided dice, 2 ten sided dice and a twenty sided dice for rolling on the capital ship table.

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The choices of vessels allow for significant replayability

The choices of vessels available in the game are numerous, each with a full colour board that covers the various crew, systems, torpedo load outs, and patrol routes, as well as other misc spaces for commendations and other events. The game contains two full colour maps that can optionally be used to over lay the patrol routes part of the player board [pictured at the top of the post]. These maps are purely aesthetic, but are a nice addition to the game. All in all, great components that all fit inside the standard 2 inch deep box.

Setup/Play time:

The game setup is minimal.  I keep all of the most common tokens in one section of the tray, and setup takes about three minutes. After having learned the game a single patrol can be as quick as 15-20 minutes, but can sometimes go longer if you have many encounters and things don’t go your way. I find myself averaging about 30 minutes per patrol, with five to ten minutes of refitting. This is something that clinched this game as a winner for me because I don’t have three hours to sit down and play through heavier solo games on my own. Being able to crack the game out and go for it and then have it cleared up all in a jiffy makes the game practical to play on a regular basis. Along with that the ‘footprint’ of the game is small enough that it can be as small as three letter sized pieces of paper, perfect for an office lunch, or somewhere on the go.

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Early part of my career record. Full colour maps for tracking patrol location. After 2 hours of depth charging the USS Jack Knife was in poor shape and limped back in to port for refit and re-crew.

Role-Playing Elements:

The game, for me at least, hinges on your capacity to get into the role of captain and bring the game to life in your mind’s eye. The more you can suspend your disbelief and make the dice rolls for more than just numerical charts the greater your experience will be. Role playing takes this game from a dice mashing exercise to a deep story telling device chocked full of tension, agonizing decision making and sublime victory! I have a background in D&D and other pen and paper RPG’s so this aspect of the game came naturally, and when I found myself on the brink of losing my crew and vessel to the dark depths in the China Sea, I felt genuinely sad that my career would come to a watery end. Silent Victory is very much a game of ‘the more you put in the more you get out’. Something that enamoured me to the game was the fact that I could play for twenty minutes and I felt I had played a great game, but that this single session had also contributed to a greater whole; the career of the captain, brings the story of the patrol into a greater context within the war. This was very satisfying.

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The largest ship I sank during the war, Kamakura Maru, weighing in at 17,500 tonnes, this patrol also netted me the Navy Cross because we sank 7 ships.

Fun:

The best part of this game, is that it’s fun. Unadulterated fun! Sinking ships feels great, and getting away with it unscathed feels even better. But when those escorts find you and the depth charges start to fall those damage rolls and incoming hits feel lethal and that you truly are on the brink of disaster. The historical feel to the game is something that I can’t get enough of, and I found myself watching the clock until my kids’ bedtime so that I could play again.

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Historical vessel commanders you can play as to try and recreate careers, or do better than they did, each with special rules and abilities, further increasing replayability

At this point I’m hooked and have looked into other solitaire games with a similar play time, because playing a short session and it contributing to an over arching career is something that is both convenient but also very rewarding.

Thanks for reading and feel free to leave any comments or experiences you’ve had with the game below.