Posted by: gschloesser | July 14, 2011

Atlantic Storm — The Bad

Design by:  Don Greenwood & Ben Knight
Published by:  Avalon Hill
2 – 6 Players, 1 hour
Review by:  Jay Ouzts 

The Bad.  

Review # 2, this one by Jay Ouzts, offers a different … and very negative … view on the game.  Read at your own risk!

Those of you who read Greg Schloesser’s report of the Westbank Gamers group’s April 15th session will notice that I gave a very poor (2, on a scale of 1-10) rating to Avalon Hill’s Atlantic Storm game.  It is very unusual for me to rate a game that low.  For those of you who played Atlantic Storm and liked it (and for those of you contemplating buying it) I felt compelled to explain my feelings of the game.

First, a summary of the game.  It is a card game, with the cards representing ships and airplanes of the Allied and German Atlantic naval forces in world war two.  Players take turns as the ‘dealer’.  The dealer selects two Convoy cards, which represent a Supply Convoy bound for either the USSR or Great Britain.  A Convoy has two characteristics which determine which cards may be played in the upcoming trick:  the ocean in which it is travelling (Atlantic or Arctic) and the years in which it traveled (ranging from one to four years from 1940-44).  The dealer picks which Convoy is in play.  Then the dealer picks a “suit”, either Submarines/Anti-Subs, Air, Naval, or Combined Operations (which allows play of any card).  Ostensibly, the dealer will choose a convoy and suit that best fits his hand.

Each player has in his hand various Allied or Axis Planes, Ships, and Subs/ASW of various strengths.  Beginning with the dealer, each players plays a card of an appropriate suit.  If the card is Allied, then the card’s strength points contribute toward getting the convoy to its destinatation.  If the card is German, the card’s strength points contribute toward sinking the ship.  After all player’s have played a card (they may chose to simply discard if they are so inclined), the Allied and Axis points are compared, with the highest total winning. The player on the winning side who played the highest card gets to divvy up victory points among that side’s winners.

To understand my review of the game, you have to understand my gaming background.  Long before I played my first wargame (Diplomacy, 1981) my parents and grandparents taught me traditional card games such as Rook, Spades and Hearts.  During my 2 1/2 years living in Cleveland, Mississippi (where there are NO gamers except those playing Magic: The Gathering) I became an avid bridge player.

Thus, Atlantic Storm attempts to combine elements of traditional card games like bridge (i.e., the selection of a suit and the requirement of following suit.) with a war game.  Unfortunately, the elements just don’t mesh well.

Here are the problems with the game as I see them

PACE OF THE GAME:  While the components are very attractive, they do not facilitate playability very well.  A player has to look at three things before he determines whether to play a card.  1)  The suit; 2) The year his card may be played and 3) The ocean in which his card may be played.  Then the player has to consider the relative strength of the cards in his hand with those already played as well as the number of victory points at stake.  Multiply this times six to eight (the number of cards in a player’s hand), and it takes the average player a long time to make up his mind as to which card to play.

It took us about two hours to finish our game.  My old Bridge buddies and I could have played two rubbers in that time.

SUIT SELECTION:  In a card game like bridge, the person who wins a trick gets to select the suit of the next card to lead.  One of the strategies, therefore, is to set yourself up so that you can run a particular suit and take several tricks.

In Atlantic Storm, you only get to pick the suit if you are the ‘dealer’.  Dealer status passes from player to player each round.  Thus, there is absolutely no point in planning how you are going to play your hand because even if you are fortunate enough to take a trick, it is not going to enable you to set up a run.

VOIDS:  In bridge, if someone leads a suit in which you are void (ie you have no cards of that suit) you can play a trump card, which could allow you to take the trick any way.

In Atlantic Storm, if the dealer picks a suit in which you are void, you are screwed.  You have no option to trump in.  Several times in our game somebody picked a suit in which I was void (or had no play because of the year or ocean in effect).

LEADING:  In Atlantic Storm, players take turns leading.   In contrast, in other card games knowing when to lead and when to get out of the lead one of the most important skills. For example, in Bridge, once you have pulled trumps, you may want to get out of the lead by leading a low club card.  This allows others to play their high club cards, thus making some of your middle club cards (i.e., the Jack of Clubs) good.

The element of leading/giving up the lead which makes games like bridge so fascinating is completely absent in Atlantic Storm, in which everyone takes turn leading.

DEALER PLAYS FIRST:  In Atlantic Storm, the only time you actually have control over your own destiny is when you are the dealer and can pick the convoy that best suits your hand.  That advantage is totally evaporated by the disadvantage of having to play first.  Once you play your card, all the other players have the opportunity to evaluate it and beat it.   Perhaps the game would be improved if the dealer had the option of playing first or last.

Some would say that it is unfair to compare Atlantic Storm to a game like bridge.  I disagree.  Atlantic Storm is a card game, and I think it is perfectly acceptable to compare it to other card games.   In my opinion is that if you want to play a card game, play Bridge or Spades – avoid Atlantic Storm.

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Responses

  1. This is not Bridge though if traditional trick taking games is what you are looking for I understand the complaint. I like that the dealer passes each round and that you can’t set up a run of cards. Also, you can play cards for either side or with any players. That is what makes it great to me. Playable for 2 to 5. Very nice system. Obviously. Jay and I have different opinions of this game so I guess you will just have to play it and find out for yourself. (7/10)


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