Review – “That Scorpion in the Sea” Malta Besieged: 1940-42 from Victory Point Games

Posted: June 15, 2012 in game review

Review – Malta Besieged: 1940-42 from Victory Point Games

Designer – Steve Carey

Art – Tim Allen

Victory Point Games provided a copy of this game for review

The latest in the States of Siege Series of games brings Steve Carey’s design skills to an interesting aspect of the 2nd World War in the Mediterranean. Having set such a high standard with We Must Tell The Emperor, my expectations were high for Malta Beseiged: 1940-1942.

In this solitaire game, you are in charge of the Commonwealth forces and are tasked with maintaining the beleaguered island of Malta while supporting Allied efforts to interdict the Axis war efforts in the Med which will have an impact upon the war in North Africa.The games system plays the Axis forces against you.

Unpackaging

Another typical Victory Points release with their standard production. Within their parameters, they surely make the most of space and resources. You do get a lot in a small package. The map is on cardstock, and shows the operational area for the game. There is a lot there but it makes good use of the space and it is relatively easy to negotiate. And it looks very good.

The counters and markers are die-cut cardboard and look really good and thematic.

The cards, which are the heart of the game system, are small but give you the information you need in a nicely laid out format which is easy to follow.

The rules are 8 pages, which is really something special considering the depth of the game content.

Gameplay

A card driven game, Malta Beseiged: 1940-1942, as other games in the series,  relies on the Event cards to drive the game. These cards are divided by color into 3 different Epochs or stages of the conflict, each of which provides an increasingly difficult set of circumstances to deal with. The cards, which are nicely laid out, provide the following information -

The Headline – which is the main event for the turn

Advancing Unit – Which Axis forces are advancing and thereby creating a greater threat

Resource gains and losses

Die roll modifiers

Actions – these are the number of actions available to you to take

Historical flavor text

The sequence of play is as follows:

Headline phase – pull the next current event card

Military phase – Move Axis armies, and naval and Air units

- ULTRA Escort attempt – the Allied ULTRA intelligence can really be helpful

- Battle Stations – Flip Active Axis Fronts

- Conduct each battle

Resources phase – Adjust resource markers, and add new fortifications to the Holding Box

Orders phase – You may attempt to expend the ULTRA marker to gain intelligence, then perform the allowed number of Attack,  Support, Fortify, Resource, Raid, and/or ULTRA Actions. You can also expend Supply points for extra Actions. You will certainly need to do this.

Housekeeping phase -

A – Check for Convoy arrival

B – Determine if the game is over

C – Refresh map

D – Turn Ends

As with other games in this series, its a case of following the steps and although it sounds like a lot to do, after the first couple of turns it all moves pretty smoothly and quickly. The Axis AI which is revealed with each new card puts you under considerable pressure and puts you in a situation of having to choose, sometimes between the lesser of too evils, hoping for the best.

The information you need is ready to hand and very accessible, and the feel of the game is Operational with an interesting mix of land, sea and air threats and the ever present Rommel moving across North Africa.

Did it work for me?

Boy this is a tough game to win but its terrific. Steve Carey’s previous effort, We Must Tell The Emperor remains a Victory Point Games best seller and Malta Beseiged: 1940-1942 is at the same standard of tension, playability, frustration (this is a good thing…) and clever design. Some nice wrinkles such as the ULTRA intelligence and the convoys mark this game as a unique theater of warfare. The history revealed through the flavor text is interesting and the feel of impending doom is never very far away. But you always feel that you just might crack it and when you get beat up, you just want to have another go.

I do marvel at VPG‘s ability to squeeze so much into a small package. The map is very busy, and may look overwhelming but it works well. The counter artwork is excellent. Yes, the scope is quite as grand as the War in the Pacific but this game really brings out the challenges and importance of the War in the Med and the desperate scrape the Allies found themselves in. It clearly illustrates the problem that Malta created for the Axis and why the Allies needed to hang onto it to disrupt their operations. There are very few games covering this theater of operations and particularly covering the varied operational issues and Malta Beseiged: 1940-1942 brings it all to life in a playable way. Fans of the States of Siege system will not be disappointed and if you haven’t tried out any of these games, this is an excellent entry point.

Another absolute winner for Victory Point Games!

Boardgames in Blighty rating – 9 out of 10

Family friendly? No, its a war game and solitaire

For more information – www.victorypointgames.com

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