Monday, August 28, 2006

Silent War - July 1942 Report

Silent War, a great solitaire PTO sub operations game, finally came out with Cyberboard and Vassal engines so that you can play on the computer rather than having a game set up for months. While the Cyberboard version is nice and all, it's the ability to easily manipulate the draw cups in Vassal that make it truly playable and fun. If only the ports were on a separate window so you could move subs easily between Freemantle and the map, it would be just about perfect. Especially nice is how fast you can reseed the various ship cups - by hand it takes about 15 minutes, with Vassal it takes about 3. Even replacing ships and TDC markers after a patrol is very fast, only requiring a single button press. A very nice module, and highly recommended (although you will need the combat, torpedo improvement, and War Status tables to play - they are not represented in the game). Kudos to Compass Games for getting this out promptly, hopefully it will improve their sales rather than hurt them - don't steal games, kids!

I'm playing the 7th campaign game, which starts just after the transition to WP2 (right after the Battle of Midway), and runs until you manage to transition to WP3, which can take from six to twelve months. War Period status changes as a result of tonnage sunk in conjunction with number of ships sunk, so just going after the big ones isn't really enough. You begin with 70 some ships sunk and need to get around 200 more down as quickly as possible. A big factor is how lucky you get with improving torpedoes - do it early, and you've got a good shot. If it takes a couple of months, it could be a very long game.

I'll be posting reports as I finish each month's patrols, or four weeks (game turns). Each week tells a slightly different story, which is really the whole point of the game. Adding tension is the need to make certain tonnage goals every few months, although just doing that is not enough to even "win" the game (which in this case turns on how fast you can get to WP3). You can improve your level of victory by not losing subs (which can happen simply by moving from one area to another, running into more ASW than you can handle, or just really bad luck) or by sinking over a million tons by game end.

Here is the report for July, 1942, which went pretty darn well - I had my torpedoes improve fairly early, and am well on my way to making my late-August numbers. So you know, "maru" is Japanese for a merchant ship, and I use it even though some of the freighters are IJN flagged ships such as troop transports or oilers. I call out IJN combat vessels as I sink them (or they sink me!)

Week 1

No war event, Ultra in S Philippine Sea, Java Sea.

Ready/Repair goes well in Brisbane, but many subs, including Gatos, don’t make their sea rolls. Only nine subs will leave port this turn.

Trigger does well in her first attack (indeed, first of the game), sinking two marus for 4k tons and stays on station in the Aleutians. Finback repeats the performance.

Dolphin sinks a 1k ton maru in Empire, chooses not to attack again (only subs with tac values of 4 or more will make second attacks for now).

Flying Fish damages a maru in East China Sea, but high ASW activity forces the skipper to choose the better part of valor and RTB.

Aside from a 5k ton maru damaged in the Carolines (skipper unable to finish it off due to increased destroyer presence on re-attack), no other successes. Only two subs damaged, however, and one of those was an S1 boat.

Week 2

Navy wants a sub blockade of Truk, so all available subs have to move to Truk. Worse, no torp improvements despite five ships sunk last turn, improving the odds by 10%. Ultra in Aleutians and Bonins.

Sub crews make up for last weeks’ miserable performance, readying 75% of the subs in broom boxes and successful repairs on all but one sub (in Dutch Harbor). There will be a lot of subs on station next week, making up for the blockade this turn. As many boats deployed from Pearl alone as from all bases last turn! This does create some congestion, but not enough to create problems.

Pickerel diverts to Truk, sinks a 1k ton maru. Otherwise, Truk is a waste of effort.

Snapper, damaged last turn, returns to Freemantle and discovers extensive damage.

In the Aleutians, Finback bounces a torp off of the hull of a 15k ton maru on a re-attack. All three Gato-class subs stay on station for the second straight turn, although with no successes.

Swordfish, transiting into the Philippine Sea, manages to be spotted, damaged, and turned back. In the South China Sea, Gar runs into mechanical difficulties, enough to cause damage, and turns back to Freemantle as well.

In all, only one 1k ton ship sunk the entire week, but with so many boats out the hunting should be much better next week. However, to avoid being sacked the fleet will need to average 13k tons per week between now and the end of August! A daunting task, especially if more war events occur.

Week 3

Excellent news! No war events, and new torps have been installed on all boats (even those at sea!) Ultra gets wind of activity in the Carolines and the North Philippine Sea, which sadly have no patrolling ships, although several are close enough to move in and take advantage of the improvements in torpedoes. With a little luck, the chances of meeting the August goals have improved dramatically.

While the dockside efforts go well in Alaska and Australia, they don’t go so well in Pearl, and only about 40% of repairs are successful, although Dutch Harbor makes progress on all boats in drydock. Twelve boats will be heading out this turn, nine from Australia alone.

To start the week off with a bang, Greenling sinks a 5k ton maru in Empire Pacific with minimal interference from ASW. Tellingly, the torp that sinks the maru would have only damaged her had there been no improvements!

In the Aleutians, things go less well. The trio of Gato subs manage to hit targets repeatedly, but the torps are still mostly bad (obviously left over from the previous batch), and Trigger is damaged. Finback does sink a 3k tonner, and all three stay on station for a fourth week!

Of the four S1 boats in the Kuriles, all come home with damage, either from ASW activity or from the frigid temperatures. However, one 5k tonner was sunk, a fantastic accomplishment for an S1, even with less than awful torpedoes. The two boats out of Dutch Harbor sail to the Kuriles to replace them, as the Gatos are doing such a great job close in to base, although they are sure to head for warmer climes when their supplies finally run out.

A pair of Gatos on patrol in the Solomons head to the Carolines to take advantage of the Ultra intercepts. Silversides doinks a torp off of the side of a 15k ton maru, but heavy response by ASW makes a second shot much more difficult, and the boat heads home to Brisbane. Haddock runs into a small convoy with a very ambitious destroyer captain, and breaks off the attack after a single attempt.

A trio of S3 boats in the Gilberts, Bismarck Sea, and Solomons don’t manage to get any hits, but they do both stay on station. Another S1 stays on in the Bismarck Sea. At least they aren’t running out of torps.

While most areas have been less than spectacular in terms of results, Salmon manages to sink two marus totaling 8k tons in the Banda Sea, getting away clean! Skipjack sinks a 3k tonner in the same area and stays on station. In all, a turn that starts and ends well, with 21k tons sunk this turn, well above the 13k ton per turn requirement if I’m to stay in charge of the sub fleet. Many boats stayed on station, which will minimize the cost in so few boats coming out to sea this turn (other than Freemantle). In all, 33 boats are at sea, next week should be a good one. With only 42k tons to sink in five weeks, the number per week has dropped to less than 9k tons per week. I am hopeful that I can hit my numbers in two weeks instead of five.

Week 4

No war event, Ultra in the Bonins and Aleutians, the latter with the three “old men” Gatos that have been patrolling there since the start of the month, although Trigger decides it’s best to head home for repairs at Pearl (fortunately, the damage turns out to be minimal). It’s unlikely there will be any more torp improvement rolls for a while, although I always look forward to radar showing up in ’43.

Another poor performance week at the docks, although to be fair many of the ships are at sea. Only ten ships will set sail this turn, none from Dutch Harbor. Only a couple of ships in drydock saw progress, even at the excellent facilities at Pearl. Good thing there are a lot of boats, 31, already at sea and ready to sink ships!

In the north, a damaged Trigger heads for home, while Finback, presented with a smorgasbord of targets, manages to be held down and forced to head for home. Grunion, the last of the three Gatos to start in that area, fails to hit anything, but does stay on patrol for another week. The two S1 boats in the Kuriles head for the Ultra’d Aleutians, but fail to make any successful attacks, although one does stay on station with Grunion. No boats sail from Dutch Harbor this turn, so the North will be quiet.

Nautilus, spotted in the Bonins, decides to move to the North Pacific where there is a much smaller chance of encountering ships, but also a much smaller chance of being sunk. She does find a patrol, but fails to sink anything, but stays on station. Gudgeon, in the Marianas, comes across a single maru with heavy escorts, and manages to barely escape with damage.

Haddock gets the first kill of the week in the Carolines, and it’s a biggie – a 9k ton cruiser, making quota for the entire month with one kill. Had the cruiser sunk in the initial attack, it would have been tempting to shoot for a Super Skipper, but that will almost certainly have to wait until the torps improve again, unlikely in the next year. Pompano sinks a 5k tonner in the same area, but hoping for an extra target she is spotted, damaged, and sent home. En route, she is engaged and damaged a second time, barely holding together as she heads for Pearl Harbor.

Flying Fish sinks a 3k tonner in the Philippine Sea, but when aiming for a 15k ton ship comes across a diligent escort and is forced back to base heavily damaged. Sargo sinks a 2k tonner in Banda Sea, but is damaged and sent to Freemantle. In the N Philippine Sea, Drum sinks two marus for a total of 4k tons.

All in all, a pretty good turn with 23k tons sunk, a new record for the week. However, several ships were damaged, reflecting the skippers’ willingness to take on second attacks with the improved torpedoes. Many ships are returning to port in the next week, but many more (including a handful of reinforcements) are setting sail as well. With any luck, we will meet our August goals by mid month.


MainiacJoe said...

Do your subs ever get sunk? That was the one thing that stuck out to me in your review: lots of subs getting damaged, but they all get away.

Dug said...

Oh, yes. They get sunk. Funny thing, I just commented on BGG about this game and the relative value of playing using VASSAL vs real world or Cyberboard. In a nutshell, you don't have to screw with the Konvoy Kups and the high risk of putting a counter back in the wrong place. Only way I'll play it, now.

It's been a while since I was actively playing (should start this up again now that I'm no longer based on a laptop and have decent screen size). However, from what I remember I was losing subs primarily from transit events rather than from attack runs. To lose a sub in an attack, pretty much *everything* has to go wrong - you get a hot ASW presence, events go against you, and finally you have to get a bad roll when figuring damage. With a transit event, you just need to roll two bad numbers in a row.

As of 3/Nov 1943, I had lost 33 subs. That's an average of two per month. Like with most solitaire games (Hornet Leader springs to mind), you have good months/missions, and bad months/missions. All it really takes is one bad month/mission to set you back quite a ways. That's particularly true in HL, where you are one heavy SAM site you didn't expect away from a Really Bad Day. The luck tends to average out in SW, at least if you are doing a serious number of turns/subs and the dice all average out. That was the design goal, IIRC.

I finally gave up on the running record I posted here, it was getting too hard to record activity when there were *so* many subs in play by late 1943. My understanding is that the late war consists mostly of your subs trying to *find* a target, much less sink one. Plus, hitting your numbers just isn't that hard once you have decent torps and boats.

I may start a campaign again with just the SW Pacific boats or perhaps just the early years when things are *so* tight for the US. I still think it's a very interesting game and gives some cool insights into a war that has gotten very little press (sinking Maru's just isn't sexy), but the full game gets very repetitive with very little tension.