Run Silent, Run Deep! 11 Reasons to be Excited about the U-Boot Kickstarter!
In January, Phalanx Games launched what is already set to be one of the year’s big successes in Kickstarter this year, with U-Boot.
This companion app-driven real-time co-operative board game places 1-4 players inside a type VIIC U-Boat, where they assume the roles of Captain, First Officer, Navigator and Chief Engineer, against a challenging enemy A.I. With a number of crewmen allocated to each player and with limited action points to spend, teamwork, crew management and strategy is essential for survival. Whether torpedoes are slicing through the waves towards the target, or if depth charges are falling towards the boat, the tension is always high.
- The Contents – The first thing that stands out is that submarine! It’s 90cm long (foldable) and looks incredible. There is a map of the waters around the UK and a cardboard plotting and attack dial. Nobody will drown in a sea (sorry!) of counters, minis and cards.
- The App – Love them or hate them, apps are here to stay. From the run through video of UBoot, it’s clear the app is essential as it takes away a lot of ‘admin’ and controls the enemy ships in real time. The stretch goals where graphics are updated to include weather and night effects have already been achieved.
- Atmosphere – From the app, orders are given in German, men shout and run to their stations, alarms sound and, of course, there is the dreaded sound of sonar pings as the destroyers hunt the boat down. The tension is palpable and quick thinking can lead to mistakes and orders countermanded, while above the depth charges close in. Few games out there can offer this level of experience.
- The Artwork – The box, the just look at it! If anything throws waves (again, sorry!) of theme at you and invites you to immerse yourself in what’s inside, I can think of few better examples. The player boards look great and the layout is uncluttered.
- No Dice – Some like dice and the luck element, others don’t. In Uboot there is only what the app throws at you and how it resolves combat. Other events, like outbreaks of fighting or disease, are offered up by cards drawn. You make your own luck!
- Food! – A crew has to eat, otherwise that morale counter keeps clicking. The navigator is also in charge of provisions, using counters denoting meat, fish, bread, fruit, etc, and a list of tasty meals for the cook to make. It’s a great touch. Wurst with bread, ham omelette or potato pancakes, anyone?
- Morale – This is key to the game, as when morale gets low bad things happen, and if not managed events become crises. Need to crash dive when the only crewman available at the helm just broke his arm? Those destroyers are closing in… What do you do?
- Torpedo away! – Plot your position and approach right, avoid those escorts and the crew finds itself ready to attack the fat, slow merchant ships. The higher the tonnage, the higher the score. Use the app’s Torpedo Data Computer, launch your fish and dive. Waiting for the explosions is as tense as avoiding the circling destroyers. Did we hit? Will we escape? Who’s up for a potato pancake?
- Rulebook – This has just been released to Kickstarter backers and it is very well put together. Of course, there is a technical aspect to learn, but the rulebook is clearly and beautifully illustrated enough to provide enough simplicity. A Haynes Manual guide to U-Boats this is not!
- Teamwork – The crew rises together and falls (or sinks!) together. This is a true co-operative game, where everyone matters. Nobody will be twiddling their thumbs, in fact, everyone is working at the same time. When the boat is damaged, all scramble to plug a leak, fix structural damage and put out a fire. There’s nothing wurst than a fire in the galley!
- Stretch goals – As well as the app upgrades, there is a host of other improvements and additions available. Everything is well researched and oozes theme like a cracked diesel tank (probably a bad analogy here!). I’m already thinking what might be available in any potential expansions. Give us battleships, wolf packs and raiding missions!
UBoot strikes me as much a co-op survival game as one where players work to achieve an objective.
As an experience, UBoot looks set to offer something very special and unique, compared to many games out there. Having seen the das Boot series as a point of comparison, this game looks set to succeed in emulating the tension and fear associated with life in a wartime submarine.
Phalanx has been careful not to place references and political illustrations that could offend, and it anything but glorifies war.
Yeah, I backed it on day one. No game has inspired me to act so quickly, not even Gloomhaven. It’s set to surface (last one!) in December 2018. Have a good look at the videos and the KS campaign and make up your own mind. Good hunting!