Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Collectible of the Week: Sub Search (Milton Bradley, 1973)

It bombed at the box office, so I suppose we won’t be watching next summer the inevitable sequel to Battleship (2012): Sub Search! 

That’s a shame, because as a kid I always felt that Sub Search was a far more interesting and strategic game than the popular Battleship.  It was just unlucky enough not to have a memorable catchphrase (“You sunk my battleship!”) associated with it.

Milton Bradley’s Sub Search (1973) is a “three level strategy game” intended for ages ten to adult.  The object of the game: “Both surface fleets search out and sink enemy subs.” 

But there are hazards for the surface ships to face too, including “mines and torpedoes from the subs…”

One reason I always loved Sub Search as a youngster was the intricate and ingenious three level playing board. Atop the board is the ocean surface, but beneath it are three layers (marked 100, 200, and 300) of ocean “depth” where submarines can cruise and hide.

Each player gets access to a full, three-dimensional ocean in which to hide his subs, but also three strategic “grids” for hunting enemy subs.  This part of the board is called the “Flagship Status Panel,” and it reminds players how to code their grids: "A miss = white pegs.  Near Miss: red peg.  Direct hit: flag."

I can’t accurately calculate how many hours I spent playing Sub Search as a kid, but suffice it to say I played the game a lot.  The game was a gateway for me (along the lines of Risk or Stratego) to more complex, adult strategy games.  And whenever my family went away on vacation, my Dad and I would always spend at least one afternoon playing strategy games together.  So Sub Search was one of the key experiences that got me into that gaming world.

My Father’s Day gift present this year from Joel and Kathryn was a complete Sub Search game they found on E-Bay.  I have already taught Joel how to play it (even though he’s only five…) and so far he loves it.  We’ve had a blast playing it together.  The only thing: the first three times we played, Joel skunked me fair and square each time.  The last time we played, he pinpointed all three of my submarine locations in less than a two-dozen moves.  

I better bring my best game on…

1 comment:

  1. OMG John, you're really hitting me with blasts from my board-game past today! I still have Sub Search sitting on top of my bookcase in my office! It's somewhat worn out though, not the nice one you got from your family. Joel's a lucky kid to get to play that.