The new War at Sea Starter set arrived at local game shop Arkham Asylum today and a member of the store staff was kind enough to play a game with me.
Overall it's a good package. There are 8 miniatures included. representing the Allied powers are the Australian destroyer Nizam, the American light cruiser Montpelier, destroyer Taylor and TPF-1 Avenger. The Japanese side was represented by the cruiser Haguro, the destroyer Terutsuki, submarine I-25 and a "Betty" torpedo bomber. All the models are repaints of models that have appeared before, but they make for well-balanced opposing forces.
The box includes a couple of maps, as before, but no separate islands. Instead the maps have islands printed on them, evidently as a cost-saving measure. This reduces the possible map configurations, though, so instead of the 6 standard game maps in the first starter there are now just 4. I'll probably use the Gale Force 9 map all the time anyway, so this isn't a big problem. Similarly the box has some thin perforated markers for use in the game. These are similar in presentation to the original starter's markers but are not identical. Again, I'll probably use the Gale Force 9 markers for the most part.
The new rule book is much bigger than the original starter rule book and includes all the changes long incorporated into the online version of the rules, so I expect their use will now become universal.
It was a learning game for the store staff, so I won't go into the blow-by-blow but the Allied fleet prevailed this time, sinking the Haguro and Terutsuki and shooting down the Betty while losing both Allied destroyers. Both sides claimed one objective. All the ships and subs seem like credible combatants, as does the new, cheaper Avenger. The Betty still seems a bit fragile for drafting into competitive games.
Perhaps the biggest news is that the new starter includes checklists for all the expansions, including Condition Zebra. There's a lot of interesting stuff on the list, which I'll talk about later.