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The Harpoon series of video games is based on the miniatures rule sets created by Larry Bond, originally to train US Naval Reserve Cadets. The rule set was used in The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy and Bond was practically co-writer on Red Storm Rising.

The game is a simulation of aerial and naval warfare, seriously striving for realism. This is evidenced by the graphics. Not going for the flashy graphics of other RTS, it actually shows what you would see in the Combat Information Center of the warship (there are two modes you can choose and a variety of different settings for each view-screen, since you can have multiple in-game windows open). You can see photographs of many of the ships and look at their statistics (not unrealistic, most RL naval ships will have at least a copy of Jane's Fighting Ships on board). You can also conduct ground strikes via aircraft.

In fact, simulator would be the better word- it's been described as the best unclassified simulator out there and has been used by several RL navies for training.

Scenarios have randomness added to them. You can create your own scenarios and also make your own databases via a (free) request-able editor (the standard database and the in-game scenarios are all from c.1995). Of the user databases, DB2000 is particularly good, and covers the 1980-2015+ timeframe. There are databases for earlier time periods.

Features both single and multi-player modes, with "Dawn Patrol" being a popular scenario for that (a corvette v. missile boat battle).

The current versions are Harpoon: Commander's Edition and Harpoon 3: Advanced Naval Warfare, the former leaning for ease of use, the latter for accuracy. The latter was formerly buggy, but 3.9 has fixed a lot of the issues. The Harpoon miniatures rules are still available and now in their fourth edition.

This game series contains examples of:

  • Bombers on the Screen
  • Macross Missile Massacre - What happens when a large force of aircraft unload their missiles on a naval or ground target
  • Mook Chivalry - Sometimes you get lone AI aircraft having a go at your task force before being blown out of the sky. The "conga line of missiles", however, is a tad more threatening.
  • Mnogo Nukes
  • Superior Firepower
  • Hero Unit - Various Cool Ship units, such as Soviet "Kirov" BCGN or "Oscar" SSGN, US Iowa BB or various carriers.
  • Real Time Strategy - Whilst it can be considered to apply in this genre, as it is, at the core, a real time strategy game, it completely averts, subverts the usual RTS genre tropes such as:
    • Arbitrary Headcount Limit - Heavily averted. You want to recreate an assault by the combined North Korean, Chinese and East Asian Russian forces against Japan, South Korea and the US? Go for it. Although it's already been done. Expect to be playing for a long, long time, almost all of which will be spent in 1:1 (realtime) or 2:1 if your computer can't handle it.
    • Construct Additional Pylons - Each ship, each helo, each plane, each base is a unique and irreplaceable unit.
    • Crippling Overspecialization - Averted in the case of most ship units, as almost any ship will carry at least a naval artillery gun, and even the smallest gunboats can sink the largest ships if they get lucky with missiles. About the most you get into this, are subs with torpedoes only capable of hitting other subs.
    • Critical Existence Failure - Averted. Ships take realistic damage, lose sensors and weapons if hit where those sensors or weapons are located. They can catch fire or flood. If you hurt a CVN or airbase enough, it can balloon aircraft ready times to 2 or 3 times the usual time. Ships can sink due to fire or flood damage. Likewise, occasionally a ship that takes a pounding can come out with 97% damage, but otherwise unharmed.
    • Escort Mission - Can range from a 3 ship convoy hiking fuel from England to Norway, or a 40 ship assault flotilla being guarded by multiple CVN Groups.
    • Fog of War - If you don't have a sensor lighting it up, or someone listening on a sonar, or watching it with their eyeball or an ESM system, picking it up you have no idea what's there. You also have areas of vagueness with passively detected units. Unless you have a setting turned on, you cannot communicate with your own subs below periscope depth.
      • You also may not be able to fire at a unit if you don't have a radar from the specific ship locked on it.
    • Stop Poking Me
    • You Require More Vespene Gas - The only "resource" is your units, and their weapons. The only "renewable" resource are aerially delivered weapon (ie by planes that rearm).
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: Was around before the Soviet Union collapsed.
  • Video Game Caring Potential - Towards especially lucky or effective units.
  • Video Game Long Runners: Since 1989.
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