"The Swift and Deadly, Imperial Japanese Navy Ship and Ground Unit Order of Battle for 8 December 1941"
Published by Star Games, Inc.
List Price: $20.00
"The Swift and Deadly" is an electronic database detailing all of the major combat units (i.e. torpedo boat and larger) active in the Japanese Navy at the outbreak of the war. Unlike a standard reference book, however, "The Swift and Deadly" also gives information on each ship's place in the Japanese order of battle (OB), including headquarters, command, and formation belonged to. The ship's commander is also listed. This is particularly useful information for wargamers looking to construct accurate scenarios.
The database also does a very nice job of laying out the various commands and fleets at the outbreak of the war. All of the various kantai, naval staff formations, naval districts, and initial naval task groupings for the initiaion of hostilities are clearly organized. This makes it easy to browse among the various initial operations and get a good idea of what was going on. Frankly, I haven't seen the Japanese order of battle this clearly or comprehensively laid out in any English-language text I've ever read. The OB alone is worth the price of admission.
The ship data is also presented very clearly. Every major piece of performance data on their warships is detailed. Furthermore, the database is configured such that the user can search for a given ship based on practically any criteria -- name, ship type, gun caliber, even number of propellor shafts if need be. So the database is a very useful reference tool. I found the browsing style through the database a little tricky at first, but the online help files helped explain the workings of the product quite nicely.
The interface is clean. However (and this is really picking nits, because I am a computer geek myself) I would have preferred the ship interface to be a little more compact. More usage could have been made of tab panels, instead of trying to put all the information on a single page, which then requires the user to scroll up and down in order to see all the information.
Another slightly annoying feature of the interface is that one can't readily correct mistakes in the midst of a query. For instance, if I decide to look for all the destroyers with 5" guns, but select the 5" gun in the 'secondary armament' category, rather than in the 'dual purpose gun' category, there is no way for me to de-select my mistake and get a valid query. I have to start over. That's vexing, but hardly a show-stopper.
The casual user may also perceive some drawbacks to the database as a whole. For one thing, you won't find the Yamato, Musashi, or some of the other well-known ships of the IJN in the database, for the simple reason that they either weren't built or weren't commissioned at the outbreak of the war. That's not a flaw in the product, but is simply the way the Japanese OB looked on December 8, 1941. In other words, this database needs to be thought of as a snapshot of the IJN at a moment in time, rather than as a comprehensive reference work. That's not a problem as long as people come into the product with the correct expectations. [Star Games does plan to release similar 'snaphots' of the IJN OB at later points in the war which would cover these famous vessels.]
All in all, "The Swift and Deadly" a very impressive effort. It contains the best Japanese OB I've seen in one place, as well as very good general reference data in a searchable database format. This product is well worth the $20.00, particularly for wargamers, and anyone else serious about the Pacific War.