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Breaking the Chains: War in the South China Sea (compass is a board game depicting a near-future conflict. It emphasizes nautical combat with a smooth “strike” system that makes learning the rules easy and places the burden of defense on the opposing sides’ respective missile units. Each turn represents one day of fighting as combatants from up to 14 countries slug it out by moving game pieces that represent naval assets, aircraft and land units.

Breaking the Chains: War in the South China Sea is an excellent game. Two or more people can play at a time, but its unique roll-to-evade model also makes it very solitaire friendly. While good naval simulations are as rare as good acting in action movies, this one may well become the Russell Crowe of the genre.


Gunpoint (gun is not a typical strategy game, yet it offers plenty of opportunities for decision-making as gamers play the role of Richard Conway, an enterprising private detective with more than a few tricks up his sleeve.

As Conway works his way through a string of contracts in an attempt to find the person who killed his friend, the challenges he faces are not about outflanking the enemy or dropping him with a well-placed sniper round. Rather, they are about sneaking by guards and hacking into networks. Fortunately, Conway is quite adept at stealthily avoiding his opponents. While he has the option of gunplay, rarely is it a good choice. Firing a round triggers a timer, and when it reaches zero a sniper enters seeking to end Conway’s life.

Gunpoint is a fun and exciting game. It offers just the right mix of stealth, action and strategy.


Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol ( is an excellent turn-based game depicting World War I air combat. Perhaps one of the best iPad releases by a major publisher, it is colorful, engaging and simple to play, yet full of agonizing decisions.

After a short tutorial, players take control of a squadron of four pilots. Throughout the course of a four-year campaign featuring six missions per year, the pilots improve their skills and gain new ones. They also acquire new and improved equipment that can be enhanced with custom paint jobs. The artificial intelligence is very effective, thus players must be aware of their environment at all times – anti-aircraft positions can bring down planes, clouds can hide them, etc.

The game has two shortcomings. First, it lacks multiplayer, even though the home screen features a large multiplayer button. Yet this is acceptable since the single-player campaign is superb. The larger problem is that while the game is free to download and work through the first six missions of the British campaign, players must fork over money for just about everything else – to finish the campaign, to upgrade pilots, to reduce a hospital stay after being shot down, etc.

Ace Patrol is a great game. However, publisher 2K Games should ask for the real price up front so players know what to expect.


 Mark H. Walker is a retired U.S. Navy commander and veteran electronic entertainment/IT journalist who designed the critically acclaimed board games “Lock ’n Load” and “World at War.” He has authored or contributed to over 40 books, including his novel “Everyone Dies in the End.”

Originally published in the November 2013 issue of Armchair General.