Monday, January 30, 2012

Some Thoughts on War at Sea Special Abilities in the post-RB era

With the departure of lead designer Rich Baker from WOTC and the subsequent uncertainty about the future of War at Sea Axis & Allies Naval Miniatures, it's worth considering how fans of the game will cope with various issues related to the game.

One of those is what to do about the various ships that never appeared in the six sets that were published. While custom units have been a popular feature at Axis & Allies Fourmini all along, these were always 'unofficial' and subject to be superceded when the ship finally appeared in official form. The problem now is that there will be no 'official' versions of some ships, but it would be nice to have a consensus among the players on the accepted game stats for some of the ship's likely to appear, epecially given the Shapeways ability to make models compatible with WAS.

Generally the basic stats like speed, hull points and even firepower dice are not too controversial, but special abilities are another matter. They're improtant for giving the game it's flavor, but at the same time they can be highly subjective.

I think the current SA fall into three broad categories.

The first are the ones that are inherent abilities of a ship or weaposn system as will pretty much always appear when the ship's hardware warrants it. Some examples include the Long-Lance Torpedoes SA of most Japanese surface combatants, the Extended Range X SA of most battleships and the Submerged Shot SA for most submarines. These aren't so much "Special" abilities as they are standard abilities that just don't occur often enough to have a spot on every card. Most of these are pretty uncontroversial and if a ship has the hardware it gets the SA.

The second type of SA that is all-about giving a ship a unique flavore based on some unusual event in its history. Examples of this include the Fatal Flaw SA for HMS Hood, the Embark B-25 SA of the USS Hornet or the Inspiring Example SA of the USS Arizona and Giogios Averof. Often these SA aren't even much of an advantage and they are always highly subjective and often controversial. In my opinion these sorts of SA should probably be avoided in the future without RB's explicit endorsement. I think they'd likely be contentious when ap[lied, which defeats the purpose of having widely accepted semi-offfiical stats for new models.

The third type is, by far, the largest, and these are historically justified SA that are selectively applied to certain units -- generally for game balance and interest -- but are by no means exclusive to those units. A good example of this is the Lay Smoke Screen SA, which every destroyer is the game could legitimately have, but is limited to certain units. Other examples include Sub Hunter, Radar Fire Control and the various Expert plane SA that many aircraft carriers have. Most of the game's current SA fall into this group and it would be interesting to see where opinions fall on how often to include these for new models and if there are any criteria that should be applied.

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