Playing Uboot – a quick review

This follows on from the unboxing – Here

Uboot is a game of two well blended halves – a resource management game and a tactical battle game. It is also a co-operative game, where the players take the roles of senior officers and their men, with individual skills, in the boat. However, it differs in other co-operative games, where players tend to be equal, and the turn mechanism may allow one to make decisions each turn. In Uboot, one player is the Captain, and this person has to make decisions and issue orders. The game Tactical Support guide explicitly states that the player of the Captain role should be able to make decisions and give orders to the other players. Given that, it is largely co-operative, with all players supporting each other.
Roles and how many players
The game can be played solo to up to 4 players. Each players is either the Captain, the Chief Engineer, the Navigator or the First Officer. Each has a watch of 4 men on duty, changing every 4 hours. Each Officer has duties to perform as part of the process of maintaining a Uboot on mission and enabling it to carry out its attacks. For example, the Chief Engineer keeps the engines running, deals with breakdowns and maintenance work, and assists in task such a diving and surfacing and changing speed. He is pretty busy, and as his men get worn down and/or injured his ability to juggle his priorities can seriously start to effect the Uboot’s capability. In our games a well organised person is ideal for this role.
The Navigator has to actually plot a course on a real map, with courses, bearing and speed all registered. His team are responsible for the observers (the Uboot spends most of its time on the surface), and the helmsmen. Strangely he is also responsible for the crews meals, chosen from random ingredients (which go mouldy as the mission goes on). Meals are linked to morale and its always a good idea to have a meal ready to go. When contact is made the Navigator advises the Captain on not only the Uboot’s course but any enemy, including their bearings and distance. He is responsible for calculating the attack vector and getting the Uboot out of danger. In our games a player capable of accurate work under pressure would be ideal in this role!
The Captain runs the ship, decides course, depth, and mission. He will also decide the when and where. He is also responsible for the morale of the crew, this can be affected by many things (even a crap meal), but the Captain can take actions to improve or change it. In our games someone who is fairly strong willed is ideal!
The First Officer runs the App, and advises the Captain. He also runs the helm, and the torpedoes. A person cool and able to communicate quickly is required here!
The game is structured so that the Captain issues an order, for example, General Manoeuvre, with a view to diving, course change and depth change. The other players then activate their teams to ensure their men are in the right place to carry out this order, moving the figures around on the model Sub, and keeping the boat working. There is a limit to how many times you can activate a man, so managing between the men and the watches is vital. We found it very useful the Captain says what he intends to do in the future so we as the crew, could ensure we have people in the right place a few moves ahead. However, the App also provides a structure.
It is a live time App, which can be speeded up (or paused if required), which informs when a change of watch is required, when maintenance tasks are required (and manages them timewise), plus allows players to actually see (on your phone, laptop whatever, I had it channelled to my TV) what the observers are seeing, or the periscope, or even what the hydrophone is hearing (it is so great to rotate the hydrophone, hear a contact, plot it and organise an attack on it)
The app will even put the fear of god into you with the sound of asdic as an enemy destroyer comes for you. At this point you physically need to go into silent running, the app turns on its microphone and any noise will be picked up by the destroyers. At this point the Captain is issuing orders and it is a game of cat and mouse, quite exciting and very compelling. It’s at this point keeping the boat running and having to carry our evasive manoeuvres is at its most difficult, and the players really do need to work together to survive. Surviving, or even striking back is such a great feeling, so immersive is the game.
It’s a steep learning curve, and you really don’t know what you are doing first mission (you will be sunk).
However, after a few plays it gets better, the team work more efficiently, the boat is therefore more capable and thus success is more assured. It has definite playability. I would advise to learn both sides separately as much as you can, pare-down the resource management side and learn the App and movement, plotting side first. Then just sail the boat, get into the rhythm of where the men need to be, how to keep the faults and maintenance under control and let the Captain put the crew through its paces.
Ultimately it looks superb, the model sub, the figures and the cards and boards are all well-made and well printed. The App works well, and does what it needs to do – my favourite is trying to observe the enemy in a storm – it really gives you that feeling. Remember, it is not a video game.
It provides training missions, single missions and linked missions/campaigns with varying difficulty.

Well worth it, recommended if you have 4 budding submariners.

 

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