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Tabletop Game / Harpoon

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A Cold War and present day naval miniatures game created by Bond. Larry Bond, American author. Published by Clash Of Arms.

Basically, Bond found that the naval training aids he was working with as an ROTC officer were inadequate. Using unclassified data, he created a new game system.

The system's key features are:

  • An emphasis on realism over balance.
  • All players make their moves simultaneously and resolve detections. You generally need an umpire for this game.
  • A limited ground warfare system.
  • An air combat system that is fairly simple, but good enough.
  • Three different turn types- Intermediate (30 mins), Tactical (3 mins) and Engagement (30 seconds). The game can be moved between them as the situation dictates.
  • The annexes. Platform listings with a history, lots of good detail and well-researched.
  • No hex system.

The game can be done with miniatures or graph paper.

The first edition came out in 1981, with two more following in 1984 and 1987. Number four came out in 1996, with 4.1 (a major rules update) hitting in 2001.

A fuller history can be found here.

As well as the basic rule set, a number of scenario books are available.

Several computer adaptations have followed.

The game is best known for its use by Tom Clancy, working with Bond, in gaming out scenarios for the The Hunt for Red October and Red Storm Rising. There are several scenarios based on those novels out there.

An easily adjustable system. Mr. Bond doesn't object to people fiddling about with it- in fact he'd probably be interested in the results. There is also some nice humor in the rulebooks (the "phaser rule" for example — Bond and his partners in crime are very much members of the original Star Trek generation).

This game contains examples of:

  • Loads and Loads of Rules: It's a ruleset meant to try and simulate late 20th-century naval engagements with as much accuracy and realism as possible. Needless to say, it has a boatload of rules.
  • Radio Silence: There's a rule that means a search radar will be detected by anyone in range, giving them bearing and type of the radar instantly, narrowing down your location and ship type quite well.
  • Reporting Names: Included with all the Russian and Chinese platforms etc., although the real names are mainly used. Bond states that you might as well refer to something by its real name when sinking it.
  • Weapon Running Time: Missiles and torpedoes move set distances during engagement turns and may take over 10 minutes to reach a target.