Sixth Fleet: A Short Review

Sixth Fleet by Victory Games

Sixth Fleet is a modern naval wargame published by Victory Games way back in 1985.  As a simulation, I’m not sure of it’s accuracy although a good deal of research and thought seem to have been put into it.  Much of the rulebook contains descriptions of each unit and class of ships along with some theories about how all of this military hardware might work together (or against each other) in a modern conflict. Back in ’85, the Cold War was still raging so there’s a lot of speculation about capabilities and characteristics of Warsaw Pact ships.  Overall, however, the designers seemed to take an honest shot at hypothesizing about them.

As a game, Sixth Fleet is simply incredible in so many ways.  First, the components are excellent. The map is large and colorful and provides key reference tables and charts along the side so as to reduce the burden of looking up rules in the book all the time. The counters are quite standard for 1980s wargames, providing a small silhouette of the unit along with lots of clearly visible information.  They aren’t exactly glamorous when compared to counters today, but they are functional and hey, we could all stand to use our imaginations a little more, anyways.

The mechanics are fairly fluid and they make sense.  Usually, one side will activate a certain unit type (submarines, for instance) and conduct their movements and attacks with those units and then the other player will do the same.  All combat is handled using a six-sided die and then consulting a combat results table.  Having never really played a game using a CRT, I found constantly looking at the numbers and comparing results to be a distraction at first, but I’m slowly getting used to it as I play more often.

The game offers about a dozen scenarios focused on various potential conflicts that could arise in the Mediterranean, usually centered around the Soviet and American forces.  One thing that I really appreciated as a newcomer to the series was the gradually increasing complexity of the scenarios with optional rules that could be used or not used, depending on the whims of the players.  The first few intro scenarios probably take less than an hour to complete but by the intermediate scenarios, a single game could take many hours to complete.

Overall, I really became absorbed with different aspects of modern naval warfare and learned quite a lot from this game.  I did get the sense of being a commander of a large group of units and found myself relishing the sheer destructive power unleashed by sending out an entire carrier air wing on a Soviet surface group and the sickening stomach pit that sticks with you after unleashing a tactical nuclear weapon, knowing that you’ve killed the enemy but also crossed a big line with unpredictable consequences.

Sixth Fleet still holds up today as a great game.  It may be too complex for non-wargamers but anyone who loves the idea of big modern ships should enjoy it.  The game is crying out for an update with revamped counters, a smaller map, and a revision (or perhaps elimination) of a CRT but as for now, it still stands as a great example of ambitious game design from a bygone era.


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