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We featured SCOPE Stalingrad (Draco Ideas) two years ago on Board's Eye View. It's a bluff and deduction game that we described as a cross between Battleships and Stratego. With SCOPE U-Boot, Juan A Nachter has adapted his design to create a tense filler-length hidden movement game set in the North Atlantic in the Second World War: so more Battleships and less Stratego. There are obvious similarities with SCOPE Stalingrad, especially in its use of 2 x 2 quadrants of cards within a grid (5 x 5, 5 x 6 or 5 x 7, depending on your choice of 'scenario' and game length) but SCOPE U-Boot isn't a mere reskin of the SCOPE Stalingrad game.

SCOPE U-Boot is an asymmetric contest between an Allied player, commanding a convoy of cargo and escort ships, and a German player commanding 1-3 submarines (again, depending on scenario/game length). A grid of at least 5 x 5 sea cards is laid out and the Allied player places out their ships on top of cards in the first two rows. The German player picks up from the grid the sea cards cards in the last row (ie: opposite side of the grid) and replaces them having secreted his face-down submarine(s) , so the Allied player doesn't know the position of a submarine.

On the German player's turn, they can either 'move' submarines or launch a torpedo. To move, they pick up any 2 x 2 quadrant of sea cards, reorder and replace it. The Allied player will try to deduce the position of a submarine but the German player won't necessarily have moved their U-boot and, in subsequent terms, the German player could be sowing confusion by shuffling a 2 x 2 quadrant that's all merely sea cards. Alternatively, however, the German player can on their turn reveal the position of a U-boot and launch a torpedo (place out a torpedo faced in any one of the eight adjacent card directions.

The Allied player can move their escort ships to any orthogonally or diagonally adjacent sea card and can look at the card. If it contains an enemy submarine, that U-boot is destroyed. Cargo ships move more slowly than their escorts. To move, the Allied player places a direction token indicating the space they want to move to but they don't actually move there until their next turn.

Players score the value of enemy ships sunk but the Allied player also scores double the points value of any cargo ship that gets to safety (ie: moves off the German's side of the grid).

Shown and described here are just the core rules of the basic game but Draco Ideas have incorporated advanced rules that add to the complexity of submarine movement and detection, including surface combat. The advanced rules also introduce the option of using several different class of ship.

Whereas SCOPE Stalingrad was a cat & mouse game between snipers and their targets, SCOPE U-Boot replicates a similar stealth tussle at sea. We enjoyed the previous game, but the cat & mouse mechanics and stealth movement seem even more appropriate to the North Atlantic setting. The German player will be initially relying on bluff to conceal their position but they'll have to reveal their position in order to fire a torpedo...

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