Second World War at Sea: Bomb Alley is a game that had interesting mechanics and even more interesting subject, but unfortunately fell into victim to unthinkably bad execution. Perhaps the odd square based map instead of hexes should have ring a warning bell in my head but it did not (regardless of what people say, there is no benefit in the chosen way map reference grid is made, it is just visually odd). Map art was dull, while counters were actually quite nice.
System relies on plotted secret movement, much like Flat Top, and include search, chase, and aviation. So the elements are there. Additionally rules were quite simple, and scenario book comprehensive.
Several attempts were made to play the game, and while most of them ended up in proper conclusion, there seemed to be more beef in the scenarios than in the game itself. Situations that scenarios represent were interesting, but somehow the execution of scenario did not meet the reality when pieces were put on table. We pondered for a moment that maybe we played something wrong, or we were just so inept on the secretly plotted movements, but that was not the case. The system is just broken – at least partially.
What we figured out was that the system is flawed by design and it tries to add complexity where there should be none. First is the whole circumstances. Mediterranean is filled with potential bases for aircraft and surface ships such as Battleships really did not contribute much besides of standing AA batteries in harbours. So, why is it that the game has incredibly record keeping heavy surface battle system that is neither realistic, not fast enough to have satisfactory results?
Then, there is the question of air operations – good, or borderline fantastic ideas there, but then the air operations are so inefficient that there are too many occasions (if your german air ops even get off the ground) that the whole air operation has no power to punch enemy even theoretically. So all the effort and time spent in plotting most undetectable course over the Mediterranean just turned into action of pointless futility because there were at the end no realistic ground of fear from the opposition.
Might have as well sailed through the ‘gauntlet’ with all lights lit in perfect daylight without any fear of harm coming to the ships.
Bomb Alley would need to figure out what it actually attempts to accomplish. Currently there are good and interesting mechanics that are bogged down by ill design choices that add nothing else but bookkeeping. Air strike management, limited fuel, day/night, pre-plotted movement, search, submarine, minefield and all those are very good things.
Surface battle is way too cumbersome and hard to manage and does not produce accurate nor realistic results and air strike procedure is so impotent that title does not live up to it’s name.