Bismarck (board game)

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Bismarck is a 1962 (revised 1978) game from Avalon Hill centered on the hunt for the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen in mid-1941. The game has some similarities to the game Battleship, with both players having a hidden map-board and calling out coordinates to locate their opponent. The game was designed by Thomas Shaw, Charles S. Roberts, Mick Uhl, and Jack Greene.


There are two players, German and British. The British player has the arduous task of placing the large number of Royal Navy vessels and search aircraft on his map-board before game play begins. Each map-board is on a grid, with letters on one axis, and numbers on the other. Each Royal Navy unit has a historically accurate starting point. The German setup takes but a moment, since the Germans have only a few bomber units and the task force with Bismarck and Prinz Eugen to place on their map.

Each turn, the players move their respective units (cardboard counters), searching for enemy units, and possibly engaging in combat. In the vast spaces of the Norwegian Sea and North Atlantic, the search phase becomes vital. Each player calls out grid coordinates containing a ship or aircraft, and the opponent indicates whether a ship is located there, and if so what type. A player may choose not to search with a particular unit, thus keeping its location secret (common tactic for German player, obviously). Since the Bismarck is the only enemy battleship on the map, British discovery of her is key to victory. As the British are unlikely to have a force sufficient to sink the Bismarck when they initially find her, they will need to "shadow" the mighty vessel. A fast unit, such as the heavy cruiser HMS Suffolk, is able to keep up with Bismarck and follow her on radar without engaging in combat.

Eventually, British heavy units, such as the battlecruiser HMS Hood may be vectored into the same square as the German Task Force. At this point combat ensues. The British also have air units on the aircraft carriers HMS Victorious and HMS Ark Royal which can both search for the Germans and attack with torpedoes from a distance. The game has combat damage sheets with squares representing areas of each warship that can be damaged in combat. As combat is resolved, squares are checked off.

The Germans win by avoiding contact with the British, successfully "breaking out" into the Atlantic and ravaging merchant shipping there. They can also achieve victory by destroying any opposition they encounter and making their way to a friendly port in occupied France. Historically, either scenario would have grave consequences for the Battle of the Atlantic. The British have a tougher task, needing to intercept and destroy the Germans. Since most British vessels are no match for Bismarck, it is necessary to vector several vessels currently on convoy escort duties in the area to form a powerful task force. Poor planning by the British or clever moves by the Germans allow Bismarck to slip through.

The Intermediate Rules provide a set of modular additions, such as a more sophisticated weather system, submarines and destroyers, fighter aircraft, alternate "what if" scenarios (such as the German aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin, breakout with the Tirpitz, French and U.S. forces, etc.), and more. The Advanced Rules implement ship-to-ship combat using a miniatures-type system, with ship counters laid out on the floor, realistic damage to ships, etc.