The conversation, the planning, and the excitement of success makes “1942 U.S.S. Yorktown” a joy and a thrill to play.
Jeremiah & Kara Clark
Publisher: Looping Games
Designer: Esteban Fernández
Artist: Pedro Soto
Game Type: Cooperative Real-Time
Game Type: Dice Resolution
Initial Year of Release: 2019
Age Range: 12+
Expected Playtime: 30-45 minutes
Number of Players: 1-4
Theme and What is it?
It’s May 1942 and you are the pilot of a United States Douglas SBD Bomber plane. You’re flying above the Pacific Ocean, scouring the water below for any sign of the Japanese aircraft carrier, IJN Shōhō. You know it’s there, somewhere…
Suddenly, a Japanese Fighter plane bursts through the clouds, guns blazing. Adrenaline surges through your veins and your hands spring into action, deftly maneuvering your plane out of harm’s way and returning fire.
Your counter-attack is successful. The Japanese plane disappears in a cloud of black smoke. As the plane’s remains crash toward the sea, you realize that the attack used more fuel than you had anticipated. You’ll have to return to your own aircraft carrier to refuel. With an exasperated groan, you turn your Bomber around and fly toward the USS Yorktown.
1942 U.S.S. Yorktown (which I will mostly refer to as: 1942), is a cooperative game based on the Coral Sea Battle of May 1942 between the United States and Japan. Players will send their planes across the Pacific, searching for the Shōhō and fighting Japanese fighter pilots along the way.
But flying and fighting cost fuel, so you’ll have to be careful with your supply or you’ll crash at sea. Fly, fight, destroy the Shōhō. Oh, and you only have 30 minutes.
In 1942 players race against the clock, taking actions and rolling dice as they try to locate and destroy the Japanese aircraft carrier IJN Shōhō. Each round begins with the deployment of a Japanese plane which may attack the U.S.S. Yorktown.
Then players plan which action they’re going to take for that round. Are you going to fly further out to sea and try to blitz attack some enemy planes on the way? Are you going to scour the seas for the Shōhō? Maybe you’re running low on fuel, so you’re going to speed back to the U.S.S. Yorktown and hopefully make a safe landing.
After players have chosen their actions they resolve them in any order, rolling dice and hoping for the best. If the Shōhō hasn’t been destroyed within 30 minutes, the game is lost.
The reason this category is marked low is that the rules are really fiddly. In our first game, we probably spent a total of 6 or 7 minutes rechecking rules.
One of the biggest issues is that there is so much dice-counting. Each player starts with a base of 3 dice to roll for their actions. If they’re attacking or searching they have to spend a fuel which grants them 1 extra die. Then they count up any bonus dice they might get from other planes in their area, and subtract any dice they may lose for various penalties.
It’s a lot of back-and-forth addition and subtraction, and it eats up a lot of time. Still, it gets easier to do the more familiar you become with the rules.
I had never heard of 1942, but I was interested because of the real-time aspect and the unique theme. We first played it as a two player game, and it was fun, but a little fiddly and quite difficult.
We spent a lot of time referring to the rulebook. But even though we lost miserably we had enough fun that we wanted to play again. So we got a four player game going, and it was so much fun!
Part of that was because we were more familiar with the rules, but most of it was because of the dynamic of the four player game. Everyone was planning their actions, debating about which would be best, cheering when someone landed a hit and groaning when they missed. The game came down to the last 30 seconds, and a final successful hit to the Shōhō sent it sinking into the depths of the Pacific Ocean.
Game Build Quality
The components in this game are not great. The board is very thin; the box is thin, and there’s no insert to help keep everything in place.
The biggest detriment is that the planes each player is to control is made of 3 cards set side by side. There are tracks running around the edges of the first and third cards, which are used to track fuel and skill points. The chits that are used to track fuel and skill are a little too large for their corresponding tracks, and if the cards get bumped the chits shift and you have to wrack your brain trying to remember exactly which number your fuel/skill was at.
It’s not all bad though – the game did come with some components I really appreciate. Each player has a little wooden plane they get to move around the board, and a matching wooden token to track their action with.
The cards are nicely illustrated on the front and back, and they shuffle really well. 1942 U.S.S. Yorktown also comes with 3 included mini-expansions, which help add replayability and variety.
I really like the art in 1942: The Japanese plane deck has an awesome picture of the Japanese flag at sunset on the back. The fronts of the cards show the different types of planes in action. The islands on the main board look great, and the player planes are nicely illustrated. The colors used in the game are bright, vibrant, and contrast beautifully with the blue ocean of the main board.
Even though the artwork used in 1942 is really nice, the symbology is hard to follow. There are symbolic player helps for all the different dice-rolling actions scattered across the game components. If you want to know how many dice to roll for an attack, for example, you have to first check your skill track which is on your own plane. Then you have to check the action card to see if you get any area bonuses. Then you have to check the area your plane is in. Then you check the search track on the left side of the board to see if you get a bonus from that, and then you check the Shōhō area to see if there are any CAP planes present which will penalize you. Finally, you math everything together and get your final dice count. It’s a lot of checking. It’s all over the board, and it takes a lot of time.
The game plays from 1-4 players, and the amount of fun is drastically different at each player count. In a solo game for instance, there is one player managing all four planes: four fuel tracks, four skill tracks, four actions. This slows down the game considerably because there is so much to keep track of.The game becomes very fiddly with the constant adjustment of fuel and skill points, adding, moving, and removing planes.
As a solo game, 1942 feels less like a game and more like juggling math. At four players though, 1942 U.S.S. Yorktown is a really fun, race-the-clock dice-rolling challenge. Everyone pilots their own plane, everyone is fighting enemy planes and searching for the Japanese Shōhō. The conversation, the planning, and the excitement of success makes this game a joy and a thrill to play.
Age Range & Weight
The manufacturer recommended age for 1942 U.S.S. Yorktown is 12+, but there are so many rules to keep track of, I don’t think a 12-year-old would enjoy playing this game at all, unless they were playing with an adult who was already familiar with the rules.
We’re avid gamers in our mid-twenties ands we could barely keep on top of all the rules. I think this game would be more suitable to people 16+.
1942 is not very heavy. Suspenseful, yes, but not heavy. There are only four actions to choose from each round, and the one you should choose is usually pretty obvious. Is there a plane nearby for you to fight? Fight it. Are you able to search for the Shōhō? Find it! Are you almost out of fuel, and in danger of crashing into the sea where you’ll be drowned? Better land and refuel. Ultimately the decisions are pretty straightforward, which is perfect for a real-time game.
1942 U.S.S. Yorktown has flaws. The components are lackluster; the rules are fiddly, and there is too much book-keeping for a real-time game. But I really enjoyed playing this game (multi-player).
I think 1942 U.S.S. Yorktown would be especially enjoyable for war and history buffs, since it’s based on a historical battle. This game is all about strategizing with your teammates, helping each other out, taking risks and hoping for the best as you try to beat the clock – it all comes together for an exciting time and a fun experience.
Despite its shortcomings, this one has earned a place in our collection.
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