Social #wargame in Iron Bottom Sound II (Moments in History, 1998) – dedicated to @RBMStudio1 ?

The next game in my 2019 Wargame Challenge – The CSR is Ironbottom Sound (Quarterdeck Games, 1981). Unfortunately, I do not have a Quarterdeck Games first edition but instead I possess Iron Bottom Sound II published by Moments in History in 1998. In 1.0 INTRODUCTION, designer Jack Greene tells us about the new version:

Many of you played and enjoyed the original Ironbottom Sound. Now comes Iron Bottom Sound II (the now accepted spelling). It includes new scenarios, simplified rules of play, and ease of play concepts for some of us graying game players. Now that does not mean that IBS II is AARP approved, but who knows what the future will hold. Most of the scenarios are ideally designed for multi-play use. Usually about four to six ships per player works best.

In fact, this game is really supposed to be a social event. This game should be played as a multi-player game. Gather round the table, split up the commands, and break out the beer…

It has been a long time since I played IBS II and I had totally forgotten (missed?) the designer’s cry for social wargaming. What else did I forget?

Richard Berg

There is a note in the introduction that reads:

Note: Richard Berg is not allowed to play or review this game. If any game player sees Richard with this game, he is authorized by the designer to seize the game, and send it back to the designer. Considering that it is a naval game with Beth Queman graphics, it is best for Richard Berg’s heart condition to have nothing to do with IBS II. We are not responsible for any ill effects he may suffer if he gets a copy of this.

What’s the backstory here? Is this friendly banter or was there an issue between these two gentlemen?

2.43 Ship Types

I totally had forgotten that the size of the counter tells you the ship type. Battleships, cruisers, and merchants are 7/8th of an inch long; all others are “6/8ths of an inch long.” Uh…did somebody forget their math?

4.0 THE GAME TURN – 4.2 Expanded Sequence of Play – E. Gunnery Execution Phase

“Night gunfire is not simultaneous.” This sentence stopped me cold. What about daylight firing? Then I realized that right there, at the bottom of the page, it reads, “IRON BOTTOM SOUND II – Naval Night Surface Actions.” Looking back in the rules, the first sentence of the introduction states, “Iron Bottom Sound II captures the flavor of the bloody night naval surface battles fought off Guadalcanal….”

It never clicked on me before that IBS II actually models a very narrow portion of naval combat – night surface actions – and night surface actions only. By focusing almost exclusively on Guadalcanal, the aperture of the game narrows even more. This narrow focus doesn’t make it a bad game, I’d just forgotten the limited scope of the action.

The rule goes on to state:

The side with initiative will fire one ship first, this will be followed by the other side firing one ship etc. This will be repeated until all ships have fired. Damage is recorded immediately on the ship’s log, so ships that have not yet fired may be damaged before they had an opportunity to fire.

Whoa, this is totally NOT how I remember the game! This goes against almost EVERY wargame rules set out there! But…it’s intriguing and seems appropriate to the warfare being modeled….

6.0 COMBAT / 6.1 Gunnery Combat / 8.1 Radar

  • “All combat is at night so ranges are short and visibility, i.e., the ability to see your enemy, is limited.”
  • “All guns may fire to any range.”

Looking at the scenarios, the Visibility ranges from at best 19 hexes (Scenarios 4 & 5 for the Japanese) to as little as 3 hexes (!!) for Scenario 8 – Channel Action – November 28, 1940. Radar, defined in optional rule 8.1, can see the entire map unless an island lies between the firing and target ships or the target ship is within four hexes of an island and lying between the land and the radar-equipped ship.

Gunfire ranges are really not unlimited as the exception to this rule points out. The smallest guns (all 3″ and 4″ guns) are limited to 20 hexes range. Even so, that still outranges the maximum Visibility in any of the scenarios.

6.4 Torpedo Combat

Torpedo combat uses the concept of “mega-hexes.” I like this solution to the age-old problem of depicting a torpedo run on a hex map.


The optional rules start on page 13. Looking back, once you get through all the front matter the actual “how to play” rules start on page six. This means the core rules literally are just a hair over six double-column pages in length. That’s a really compact set of rules!


There are ten scenarios in IBS II; eight are actions around Guadalcanal while the other two take place in the English Channel or the Mediterranean.

Design Notes

The Design Notes gives a history of the fall of Quarterdeck Games (if you Yen to read it) but also give players of IBS II insight into some of the design decisions behind the various factors or rules in the game. At the end, Mr. Greene doubles-down on his call for social gaming:

I chose the emphasis on multi-player action because I think a big game lends itself to more of a social interactive game. I play almost exclusively IBS II and World In Flames for, in part, this reason. A beer and some chips with the “guys” beats watching For a Few Dollars More for the 8th time.

I have to agree; Mr. Greene gets it. Wargames are commonly seen as two-player affairs. There are several multi-player wargames out there but they often are seen as the exception, not the rule. In the RockyMountainNavy house, the RMN Boys and I actively seek out multi-player wargames because we need to play three-player or more. That said, I had never really considered IBS II as a potential game night title. That is, until now.

Thank you, Mr. Greene, for making me reconsider my position. Like you, I would rather actively play a wargame with my boys than passively watch another ho-hum TV series or movie.

Feature image BoardGameGeek. Note that the artist is the esteemed Rodger B. MacGowan (@RBMStudio1). Iron Bottom Sound II is dedicated to Rodger MacGowan in the credits.


My CSR #Wargame Challenge for 2019

This is the time of the year that many in the boardgame community start their “challenges” for the coming year. The classic is the 10 x 10 – pick 10 different games and play each ten times during the year. As a wargamer, I sort of like that thought but want something more applicable to my niche of the hobby.

The other night I was messing around with the Advanced Search function of BoardGameGeek and sorting my collection in different ways. For some reason I noticed certain games of mine are Charles S. Roberts Award winners. This drew my attention because wargamers know that Mr. Roberts is the father of modern wargaming:

Charles S. Roberts…invented the modern wargame industry virtually single-handedly. As a designer and original owner-operator of Avalon Hill, he was responsible for the creation of the first modern wargame, including many of the developments, such as the Combat Results Table (CRT), which were later to become commonplace. (

According to Wikipedia, the Charles S. Roberts Awards are:

The Charles S. Roberts Awards (or CSR Awards) was an annual award for excellence in the historical wargaming hobby. It was named in honor of Charles S. Roberts the “Father of Wargaming” who founded Avalon Hill. The award was informally called a “Charlie” and officially called a “Charles S. Roberts Award”….Created at the first Origins Game Convention in 1975….The last year the awards were given was 2012.

After sorting my game collection, I discovered I own 20 CSR Awards winners. The challenge I am giving myself is to play all 20 games at least once by the end of calendar year 2019.


My 2019 CSR Challenge games are:

  1. Squad Leader – 1977 Best Tactical Game
  2. Victory in the Pacific – 1977 Best Strategic Game
  3. Mayday – 1978 Best Science-Fiction Board Game
  4. The Ironclads – 1979 Best Initial Release Wargame
  5. Azhanti High Lightning – 1980 Best Science-Fiction Board Game
  6. Wings – 1981 Best Twentieth Century Game
  7. Car Wars – 1981 Best Science-Fiction Board Game
  8. Ironbottom Sound – 1981 Best Initial Release Wargame
  9. Illuminati – 1982 Best Science-Fiction Board Game*
  10. World in Flames – 1985 Best Twentieth Century Game
  11. 7th Fleet – 1987 Best Modern Era Boardgame
  12. Tokyo Express – 1988 Best World War II Boardgame
  13. Tac Air – 1988 Best Modern Era Boardgame
  14. Operation Shoestring: The Guadalcanal Campaign – 1990 Best World War II Board Game
  15. For the People – 1998 Best Pre-World War II Boardgame
  16. Silver Bayonet: The First Team in Vietnam, 1965 – 1990 Best Modern Era Boardgame
  17. Crisis: Korea 1995 – 1993 Best Modern Era Boardgame
  18. Paths of Glory – 1999 Best Pre-World War II Boardgame
  19. Downtown: The Air War Over Hanoi, 1965-1972 – 2004 Best Modern Era Boardgame
  20. Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear – 2008 Best World War II Boardgame

A nice perk of making my own challenge is that I get to make the rules. For instance, since I don’t always own the edition that won substituting a later edition or version that I own is acceptable. For instance, I own Silver Bayonet: The First Team in Vietnam, 1965 (25th Anniversary Edition) – that is a legal substitute.

I will keep this blog and a GeekList over on BoardGameGeek updated with my progress throughout the year.

So, what is your 2019 Wargame Challenge? 

*  Yes, I know Illuminati is NOT a wargame, but it is the only non-wargame CSR winner on my list. Besides, the RockyMountainNavy Boys may like it, so it stays!

Feature image courtesy BoardGameGeek. Afrika Korps was a 1964 design by Charles S. Roberts.