Corsair Leader first impressions

Corsair LeaderI really didn’t intend to buy Corsair Leader. While the genre is interesting and I am a fan of their solitaire games, it just wasn’t anything that I had been looking for. I blame the neoprene mat. That and the AARs and videos that people have been posting. It just looked like a lot of fun. So while I was out at my FLGS I noticed that it had arrived and I decided to snap it up. I took some time this afternoon to open it up and organize all of the components and get ready for my first campaign.

The box is damned heavy. It is probably the heaviest DVG game I own. Not quite the same as Fleet Commander: Nimitz but you feel it when you pick it up. I am not sure how they have handled their previous Kickstarter campaigns but in this instance there appears to be only one item that wasn’t included in the retail copy of the game. KS backers got a free neoprene mat and a small book with a history of the VBF-10 Corsair squadron but that is it for exclusives. And since you can buy the mat on its own the retail purchaser isn’t missing out on any game components. Its a refreshing change from some companies that make you think that you are missing out on half of the game if you don’t back it on Kickstarter.

Components

Cards

As you would expect there are a lot of cards in the game. Each pilot comes with three double-sided cards to represent them from Newbie to Legendary status. There are also cards for the mission Targets and an event deck. The cards have a semi-gloss coating and are about the same weight as the cards in Tiger/Sherman Leader.

Pilot cards

DVG is using the same pseudo-skeuomorphic design style that they have for most of their games but the type seems better than in previous games. The Pilot stats are also easier to read than in games like Hornet Leader.

Counters

There are a lot of counters in the game. The game includes pilots, ordinance, naval and ground sites, Japanese aircraft and some game status tokens. Happily you really only need to put about a third of them in counter trays. All of the enemy sites and aircraft are coded by year and you draw them from a bag or cup so they can happily live in a ziplock.

All of the counters are cut with rounded corners and with minimal attachment to the sheet and so they pop out with almost no effort and there is not a hint of a spurs that need to be trimmed. The type on the counters is very readable and even when there is a lot of data on them (the naval sites especially) they are still easy to read. There is certainly room for them to perhaps improve the design but they are better looking than the counters in Tiger Leader even having more data on them.

Part of the Kickstarter stretch goals were cards and counters for a campaign based on the movie The Final Countdown. The mini-expansion is included in the game for free and comes with twelve cards, a campaign sheet and a full sheet of counters. The handful of modern jets in this expansion has, it seems, more ordinance than the rest of the game. Its not a “what if” that I am really interested in so I am ambivalent towards its inclusion in the game. What I do question though is dedicating a full counter sheet to a small non-historical campaign that not everyone would play. This is even more puzzling when you consider that there is only one counter for each Pilot skill even though you can buy multiple copies of each skill.

The one clear error is that there is reference to a Damage counter in the rules, even a picture of them, but they are missing from the counter sheets. There is another counter you can use but it is strange that it was missed when they proofed the counter sheets.

Rules

If you have seen any other DVG rulebook then you know what to expect here. It won’t win any design awards but it is easy to read. It lacks an index but I don’t know that it is big enough to require one. One glaring omission is that there isn’t an example of play. Even Nimitz had one in it so its rather confusing that there isn’t one in this rulebook.

What there are is a sizeable number of errors. I don’t know if there wasn’t enough time allocated to proofing the rules or if they had to send it to the printers before they were done but it isn’t difficult to find problems in the rules. The writing itself could have done with another editing pass as well, especially on the campaign cards, but if you are familiar with DVG games then this rulebook has the same issues that you are already familiar with.

It stands out a bit more than in the case of a game like Warfighter because there isn’t a game example to walk you through the rules and the other components have seen a bump in quality that makes the issues in the rulebook seem a bit more egregious than normal. I don’t think that there are any issues that will hinder you when playing the game. One or two of the campaigns have some entries that will require an FAQ or Errata at some point (as will the rulebook) but you can still enjoy the game. It is a shame though that the rulebook is dragging down a very high quality game.

Others

There is a mounted game board that you can use but I really wouldn’t play a DVG game of this type without the neoprene mat. For all I know my game board has a picture of the 1972 Oakland A’s on it. I suspect that it will never be opened unless I feel the urge to play two campaigns at the same time. There are about 12 different campaigns in the game as well as rules for linking campaigns and running campaigns from airfields or carriers. As well there are several play aids and a mounted Dog Fight rules table. I am not sure why that was mounted but I suspect that some people will find that a positive. The campaign and rule sheets are mounted on heavy cardstock with a semi-gloss coat on the printed side. All of them are single-sided. They seem quite sturdy and given that they won’t get regular handling during a game it seems as if they will last a long time.

Overall

DVG is an interesting company. They make really fun games but it seems as if the team they have is just a bit too small to keep up the production rate they maintain. There seems to be just one final editing and proofing stage that they can’t quite make the time to do before they need to go to press. Its interesting to compare them to a company such as GMT. GMT makes games with really top-notch components and rulebooks. Fields of Fire, for instance, is well designed and has great looking cards, counters and rules. Update: obviously I am referring to the 2nd edition. Have I played Fields of Fire yet? Sadly no. I have played a lot of Warfighter though and I suspect that I will get Corsair Leader on the table tomorrow. Now Fields of Fire is closer to a simulation than a game like Warfighter but as I get on in years I think I will take accessible over well-designed.

There are some clear issues with the rules and I suspect that there are some campaigns that won’t be able to be played without an errata. There are also some reports of problems with a few of the pilot cards. None of these are going to stop you from playing the game though and I suspect that when you do you will still have a lot of fun. I wish that the rulebook was a bit better written and had a better proofing process but nothing in it is insurmountable just slightly annoying. There is a forum thread on BGG that has a list of errata items on it but it is the usual BGG thread and has its fair share of ‘end of the world’ type of comments in it. Despite the issues I am happy with the purchase.

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