We have talked lots of games from Gregory M. Smith over the past year or so. He has been really busy and has designed recent games like Nightfighter Ace: Air Defense Over Germany, 1943-44 from Compass Games, the upcoming Interceptor Ace: Daylight Air Defense Over Germany, 1943-44 from Compass Games, Zeppelin Raider: Imperial German Naval Airships from Compass Games, the upcoming Amerika Bomber: Evil Queen of the Skies – Strategic Bombing of America, 1947-48 from Compass Games and finally Beneath the Med: Italian Submarines at War, 1940-43 from GMT Games. So with so many new and shiny games coming up it was easy for me to overlook one that had made the cut on the P500 preorder system and didn’t seem to be a “new” game. I am referring to The Hunted: Twilight of the U-Boats, 1943-1945 from Consim Press and GMT Games. Greg reached out to me (which is really nice and pretty rare for designers to contact us!) and asked if we wanted to feature this one with one of our designer interviews. Of course we said yes and here is the scoop on the design.
Grant: Was it always in the plan to design a follow up to The Hunters? Why did you feel it was important to cover the twilight of the vaunted U-Boats?
Greg: It was NEVER in the plan to do a follow up, to be honest. When I made The Hunters it seemed to me at the time that players would not be interested in, basically, getting slaughtered by the overwhelming Allied ASW efforts from 1943-45. But I kept getting requests from players who wanted to “go the distance” for the whole war. As I researched it, I realized that there was an interesting game to be had, and even chances to survive (mostly in the Indian Ocean.)
Grant: What challenges confronted the U-Boat commanders from 1943-1945? What did you want to make sure was included in the design to capture those difficulties?
Greg: The technical advances in ASW that the Allies made in the second half of the war were daunting, to say the least. The main challenge was truly survival. To achieve that the player is going to have to have a survival mindset when conducting his attacks. Acceptable risk in 1941 is probably sure death in 1944. So I wanted to be sure the new Allied “toys” were all correctly modeled – Hedgehog, Squid, the Mark 24 “Fido” homing torpedo, rocket and cannon equipped aircraft, the works.
Grant: What resources did you consult to get the history of the game as accurate as possible?
Greg: There’s a pretty extensive bibliography in the rules. Basically, it was the same sources I used for The Hunters with some additions. Of great help were the lunatics (err, “valued customers” I meant to say, of course) on BGG who came up with a lot of great information during the development of the game.
Grant: What is the one book you’d recommend for someone to read on the subject?
Greg: Without question, Hitler’s U-Boat War: The Hunted 1942-1945 by Clay Blair, which is the second volume of his set on U-Boats. Gee, where DID I get inspired for the name of the game? 😊
Grant: I know that the game has been done for years now. What’s the story about why it has remained unpublished? Who did you upset?
Greg: It was more of a series of unfortunate AND fortunate events. Consim Press sort of went into a hiatus due to John Kranz’s move to Compass Games. I got more or less dragged along (quite willingly, really) but it delayed the whole procedure until we finally agreed on publishing it via license with GMT Games. So it’s not so much anybody’s fault per se, it just happens in this business that delays are bound to occur.
Grant: The Hunted is a standalone game, but fans of The Hunters will enjoy having the capability to easily combine both games to span all of WWII and experience the career of a U-Boat commander from 1939 until 1945. Why did you want this to be an option? Was there anything you had to insert into the design to allow this as an option?
Greg: Well, I felt it absolutely HAD to be an option – too many people wanted to continue careers to the end of the war. Fortunately, the “melding” of the two games is reasonably seamless. There were a few rules that were needed to cover this, but nothing major.
Grant: The goal of each commandant is to destroy allied shipping but this is very tough and they will find it hard to survive very long. Why is this the case? Is this the hardest to survive solo game you’ve designed?
Greg: I think without question it will be the hardest game I’ve done to survive…certainly in a Type VII in the Atlantic. I’d call that boat the “hard mode” for this game. It’s a bit easier to survive in a Type IX hunting in the Indian Ocean, but still no cakewalk. The increased detection probabilities combined with new, lethal ASW devices (Hedgehog, Squid, FIDO) make it so.
Grant: What U-Boat models are accounted for in the design? Did you add in any fantastical models not based in reality?
Greg: Well, I certainly didn’t add the “Seawolf” from the TV series 😊 But there are 14 different U-boat types, and all are -based in reality, although one is what I call a “hypothetical,” the Type XII. The Type XII was designed but never built, efforts being placed in the more advanced Type IXs instead. I just thought it would be nice to include the Type XII as a “what-if” as it sports six forward tubes.
Grant: How did you account for allied advances in anti-submarine warfare in the design? How did you deal with these elements in the design?
Greg: I certainly didn’t sugar coat things, but it was interesting to find out the new weapons were not quite as lethal as you’d think. I did an analysis of attacks using Hedgehog, for example, and modeled the sunk/damaged results based on the probabilities I found. I did the same with the FIDO homing torpedo, which, while certainly a killer, was not anywhere near a sure kill. I just wanted to have the correct probabilities for the new weapons so the player would face the same odds as the Germans did. One thing to remember is that all these new weapons were in their infancy, and didn’t always work to perfection.
Grant: What patrol zones are included in the game? How do these zones change throughout the game?
Greg: Patrol zones include the normal zones from The Hunters such as the Atlantic and the Med, but include new areas such as the Brazilian Coast, the Indian Ocean, even Australia. The zones change over time based on the tides of war. For example, France ceases to be a base in August 1944 (due to D-Day and the fall of France.) But I made the probabilities of the patrols match where the German High Command was sending boats at the time.
Grant: Can we see a picture of the map? Who was the artist?
Greg: Ian Wedge was the artist, and I have to say, not only do I love his work, but he’s a joy to work with. He “gets it” and with a minimum of guidance, he exceeds expectations and in fact, improves on what you wanted. Great guy! There are actually 3 maps, here’s one of them.
Grant: How about the submarine mats?
Greg: There’s 14 mats, one for each class. Here’s an example.
Grant: What targets are available for the U-Boats? What targets are the most challenging?
Greg: It was a bit of work, but updated ALL the targets to include ships sunk from 1943 to 1945 (or were potential targets, in the case of some capital ships.) There are 340 unique, historical targets. Probably the most challenging are the larger capital ships. For example, the HMS Duke of York takes 6 hits to sink, AND it’s a “fast target” meaning it’s +1 to hit it. Good luck with him 😊
Grant: What Special Missions are available? How are players rewarded for success of these missions?
Greg: Believe it or not, the Germans were STILL trying to land these poor Abwehr guys on Long Island with their pockets stuffed full of counterfeit money, even as late as 1944. But yes, we still have Agent delivery missions, Wolfpack missions, and to a degree, I guess you could call the anti-Invasion mission a special mission. There’s no real reward for accomplishing them, other than it counts as a successful mission, but there ARE severe penalties for not attempting the anti-Invasion (D-Day) patrol.
Grant: What about Crew Advancement and Commander Promotion? What type of medals are available and can you show us some graphics of the different types?
Greg: Crew advancement and awards are similar to The Hunters in that they occur every 3 successful patrols. I have, however, included the “Narvik Shield” and the “Spanish Cross” awards, which will be of more interest to The Hunters players.
Grant: What Multi-player and Tournament Rule options are available?
Greg: Again, these are similar to The Hunters – tonnage tournaments and survival tournaments (high tonnage wins, but you have to stay alive… a bit trickier in this game.) Multi-player rules are pretty simplistic, as you and a friend both run U-Boats but roll for any escort or aircraft attacks.
Grant: How do Random Historical Events happen and what are some of the different types?
Greg: We actually have TWO Random Events charts in this game, the standard 2d6 and an expanded 3d6 optional chart. Random events happen when you roll a “12” for an encounter, once per patrol. Some of them are “Minefield,” “Bad Food,” and “Schnorchel Malfunction.” There are a few good ones, but most of them are unpleasant at best.
Grant: I know that German technological advances abounded in the second half of the war. What are the advances that you included in the design and how do they effect game play?
Greg: I have included pretty much every useful advance the Germans came up with, and they affect game play mainly by helping keep you alive 😊 There are schnorchels (aka, “snorkels”), Alberich (anti-sonar anechoic coating), Fa-330 Rotary Kites, homing torpedoes, pattern-search torpedoes, NAXOS radar detectors, improved hydrophones, and other things.
Grant: I also know there was U-Boat action in the Indian Ocean and into the Pacific. Did you include any of this as an option or special mission?
Greg: The Indian Ocean is probably the best thing going for the Germans in the game; the ASW effort is not quite as intense there. The Germans mounted several U-Boat offensives there, and this is modeled in the game, to include the base at Penang, from which a patrol even went to Australia!
Grant: How do the eight historic commanders work? What abilities do they have? Can you show us a few of the cards and tell us about these men?
Greg: The historical kommandant cards were included for players who might want to recreate a career of one of the “U-Boat Aces” from the second half of the war. For example, Henke was known for success against convoys, so his special ability is “Convoy Killer.” I found it interesting that most of the second half “Aces” did well because they went on Indian Ocean patrols.
Grant: I understand you wrote an article on this in S&T Magazine. What was that like? Where can one get a copy?
Greg: Well, Joe Miranda, an old friend, asked me to submit some stuff, so I was honored to submit an article for S&T. It’s not that long, and if you really want to read it, it’s in issue #305, JUL-AUG 2017. Joe has actually helped me improve as a designer (I feel, anyway) over the years, and it was the least I could do.
Grant: What are you most proud of with the design?
Greg: I’d have to say I’m proud of the research and also of the simple way it captures the grim reality of this part of the U-Boat war.
Grant: What was your greatest challenge to overcome in the series?
Greg: Probably I’d say the need to keep it playable. I mean, it’s U-Boats again, and the base system is the same, but there’s so many new changes/advancements that the second half of the war brings to the game, it was hard to keep it playable. At least, to what I’m comfortable with. But because the base system is simple and easy to learn, I think players will adapt.
Grant: What other games are you currently working on? I hear Japanese subs. What about those of the British?
Greg: I have Sensuikan which is Silent Victory in reverse. I’m working on Interceptor Ace and Western Front Ace, both sequels to Nightfighter Ace. I’ve got Amerika Bomber: Evil Queen of the Skies done and waiting for a slot on the production que. And a few other ideas just hatching. You asked 😊 I haven’t really thought about doing British subs, because a BGG fan did, in fact, make a user-created mod to The Hunters called “Upholder” if I recall. But I may go there someday.
Grant: When does The Hunted get printed and out to gamers?
Greg: The final rules editing is happening right now, all other components are done. So I’m hoping it will be off to the printers very soon, and after that, it’s up to GMT, but I’m guessing well before summer. Cross your fingers 😊
As always thanks for your time Greg and for all the fun games you make for the fans! Your solitaire system has been a revelation as it has opened many doors to us as players to learn more about history.
If you are interested in The Hunted: Twilight of the U-Boats, 1943-1945 you can still pre-order a copy from the GMT Games website for $38.00 at the following link: https://www.gmtgames.com/p-590-the-hunted-twilight-of-the-u-boats-1943-45.aspx