Saturday, November 25, 2017

Planning for DANG 2017

With November almost over, I’m finally getting around to preparing for my yearly naval game: DANG (Dave's Annual Naval Game). We had our DANG voting earlier this year and for this year's game the voters selected Seastrike!
The box cover of the last version of Seastrike
Normally the games up for vote are historical real or what-if actions. But over the past couple of years I’ve added in a couple imagi-nations type games, where the idea was to pick a historical era, let each side build a navy (within some guidelines), and let them fight it out. This year, I was persuaded to put the old Airel game Seastrike on the list for voting and, much to my surprise, it came out on top.

For those of you that don’t know much about the Seastrike, it small-scale modern naval warfare game that claims to provide a simplified but realistic simulation of the planning and tactics of modern naval combat today. It includes rules missile boats, corvettes, frigates, destroyers, submarines, helicopters, and multi-role aircraft and land-based sites. There are rules for ships up to cruiser size, but no aircraft carriers. Ship and aircraft movement is pretty simple and combat is resolved using special cards, included in the game, that are drawn to check for fire control lock-on and show the damage caused to ships by the major weapons groups. Overall, the rules should be easy for players to pick up.
A sample of the Seastrike combat cards
The next problem was coming up with miniatures and a campaign scenario. Because all the ships were going to be on the smaller side, I decided to check around for some larger ships. During my search, I came across the Amateur Wargames Figures store on Shapeways, which makes a bunch of different modern ships in 1/1800 scale. With the ships somewhat sorted out, it was on to figure out the campaign scenario.

Based on the rules, I wanted to set the game in the 1980s/90s and, rather than it being a superpower proxy war, I decided it would be a short war between two long-time rivals that were supplied weapons by Western Powers (think Greece vs. Turkey or Chile vs. Argentina). The idea being that these two rivals sat on either side of a vital strait and the West has decided that weapons (in our case ships and planes) would be sold in basically equal batches. That way one side wouldn’t get the upper hand on the other and cause problems. But for this campaign, both side are ready to fight, even if it is with equal forces. The campaign will consist of three scenarios, with each side allocating ships to each scenario before it is fought. The side that wins two out of three battles will win the war. Although players must also ensure that they have a navy for the post-war bargaining. There will be some pre-game twists that allow players to purchase modifications for their ships, special armaments, or political/spy maneuvers.

I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out. I think it should be an interesting, quick, and fun game. I'll post updates on the ship and aircraft miniatures as I get them painted.

We've played a wide variety of games for DANG, so I don't really feel too bad about taking a detour away from a truly historical game this year. Here are links to recaps of DANG from before 2010, the 2010 Lepanto game, the 2011 American Civil War river game, the 2012 War of 1812 Lake Ontario game, the 2013 Operation Landcrab game, the 2014 Cogs of War game, 2015 The Shores of Tripoli game, and last year's The Big Stick game.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Some quick thoughts on ARA San Juan

As a former U.S. Navy submariner and general naval enthusiast, I try to keep up with naval events around the world, but I reserve a special place for submarines. This past week I’ve been following the news (and lack of news) on the Argentinean submarine San Juan.
ARA San Juan, a TR-1700 class submarine
For those you that haven’t been following the story, The Argentinean Navy lost contact with the submarine last week. Information about the sub’s last contact and other details have been trickling out all week. Reports of possible satellite contact, flares, life rafts, and underwater noises have raised hope that the crew was trying to contact rescuers. But it has been more than a week since there was confirmed contact and with reports coming out today about an explosion near the sub’s last know position, hope that the sub and crew are okay has diminished.

This latest incident, along with the news coming out of the U.S. Seventh Fleet this past year, is just another reminder of how dangerous being in the military and going to sea (and in particular going to sea in submarines) is, not that we really need that reminder.

I know that submariners are a particularly crafty and innovative bunch, so I still hold out hope that the crew of San Juan (including Argentina’s first woman submariner) will be found safe. But the realist in me knows that time for the search and rescue operation is running out and I expect that it will turn into a search and recovery operation soon.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Photos from the 2017 NHMGS Game Day

Sunday was the NHMGS game day at the Museum of Flight. We had seven games, spread over two game periods, with 30+ gamers.
A view of the gaming area under the Blackbird
Our information table packed with painted figures, rules, reference books, and old curmudgeons
The morning session games were:
Rorke’s Drift in 28mm. The terrain and figures were really great and it looked like a desperate situation all around. The Zulus had overrun the hospital by the time the session ended.

All Quiet on the Martian Front, with some interesting looking stuff. Especially the giant land battleship.

Close Action Napoleonic Age of Sail game with some very nice, fully rigged 1/700 miniatures. This game also ran in the afternoon game period.

In the afternoon there was a Star Wars Armada game with lots of players. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Sven Lugar ran an old-fashioned Fletcher Pratt naval game, but I did not get any photos of that, because I was helping to run a game on the air attacks at San Carlos in Falklands.

Before the bombing runs started, each side had to make decisions about forces and deployments. The Argentinians selected two flights of Armada Skyhawks and a flight of Daggers for the attack and planned their approach. The British posted four Sea Harriers over the landing zone, with two more patrolling the expected approach paths and two more on ready reserve at the carriers. We resolved the off-board issues and the Argentinians rolled very badly. They had one plane abort and three others shot down before they event got on the map (maybe my off-board activities are a little too harsh).
Target for Today
The remaining planes choose to attack HMS Fearless, the amphibious assault ship, and bypass the much closer and easier target of HMS Antelope, an Amazon class frigate. The Sea Harriers swept in and knocked down three more attackers. One A-4 and one Dagger were able to get close to Fearless. The Dagger dropped its bombs and got a hit on the large ship, but the bomb turned out to be a dud. The A-4 was lined up for its attack, but before it could release its bombs, gunfire from a Sea Harrier knocked out its bomb system. It was not a good day for the Argentinians.
Daggers bypassing the frigate
Target in sight!
Closing in for the attack
Bombs away! One hit, but its a dud!
Overall, our gamer turnout was good, but I think the sunny weather (after a week of mostly rain) and being Sunday with a Seahawks football game limited museum attendance. We did get a chance to talk with several people about our hobby and even the ones that didn’t stop to talk seemed to take a peek at all the painted figures. The game day is always a good opportunity to show off the hobby to the general public and the museum is a really great forum for it.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

2017 NHMGS Game Day

If you are in the Seattle area on October 22, you might want to stop by the Museum of Flight for the NHMGS Game Day.

NHMGS has been running a game day at the Museum of Flight in Seattle for over fifteen years. It is always a good time and we are expecting around 30+ NHMGS members and guests to be there to show the flag, play some games, and look at some planes.

You can find out more about the event and getting to the museum on the museum's website.

Here is a list of games :
Morning Session (10:00-1:00) 
  • All Quiet on the Martian Front 
  • Star Wars Armada 
  • 1/700 Napoleonic Age of Sail 
  • Rorke’s Drift 

Afternoon Session (1:30-4:30) 
  • Galactic Knights or Gangs of New York (game presenters choice)
  • Air Attack on the Falklands
  • Fletcher Pratt Naval Rules 
  • 1/700 Napoleonic Age of Sail 
I'll post some photos after the event. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

My Current Project

With fall here, I'm finding more time to get back to painting and my other miniatures projects. We are also getting closer to the annual NHMGS Game Day at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. The game day is set for October 22 and this year my friend Kevin has talked me into helping out with an air game from the Falkland War, since this is the 35th anniversary of the war. It wasn't that hard to convince me to jump into this project, since I already had a couple ships from a previous Falklands project. Kevin has been working on some planes for the game (you can see photos of some of his work on his blog) and for my part - I cleaned up my Royal Navy ships, painted up four Sea Harriers, and I'm coming up with the scenario. Because this game is meant to be quick and easy, we are going to use the AirWar C21 rules (I only wish the Falklands supplement was available for them).

The ships are old Airfix 1/600 scale models and include HMS Fearless and a Type 21 class frigate that I numbered up a HMS Antelope. I built these kits a long time ago, but they seem to have handled their 'mothball' period pretty well.
HMS Fearless, all dusted off
HMS Antelope
The Sea Harriers are Raiden 1/285 scale from I-94 Enterprises. The planes are really nice and did not need much work to get them ready for painting. I armed each plane with a pair of Sidewinder missiles and painted them up in Dark Sea Grey. I think they turned out pretty well.
My four Raiden Sea Harriers
The scenario will feature the Sea Harriers defending the British landings at San Carlos. The Argentinians will be attacking with the usual Skyhawks (Air Force and Navy versions) and Daggers, but we are also going to allow them throw some Canberras and even Pucaras into the mix (if they want). Hopefully it will be interesting for the museum crowd.
Harriers defending the fleet
I'll post more information about the game schedule for the game day when I get them.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Summer Solo Campaign Wrap-Up

With summer drawing to a close, I finally finished up my Summer Solo Tokyo Express campaign. Just to recap, I used the Tokyo Express campaign from The General Vol 28, No 5 as the basis for my games. So far, I’ve fought two battles (one in August and one in October), which were both American victories.

November Battle
The action roll for November turned up one battle for the month and using the End Run scenario from the game. This put my starting forces on the northern side of Savo Island while the hidden Japanese forces set up to the northeast and southwest of my position. My forces for the game were two heavy cruisers, 3 light cruisers (including one Atlanta class, which is really just a big destroyer) and five destroyers. As with my previous game, I decided to split my forces (well, it worked last time) with the heavy cruisers and three destroyers heading southwest, while the light cruisers and remaining destroyers moving to engage the hidden forces to the northeast.

The heavy cruiser force shifted course to the south to intercept the hidden forces and got lucky with a long-range detection, picking out one Japanese heavy cruiser, one light cruiser, and two destroyers. When the combat chit was draw, I was in a good position for a combined gun and torpedo attack. Because they Japanese hadn’t spotted me, my attacks were resolved before any return fire. I was able to cripple the heavy cruiser, damage the light cruiser and one destroyer. Then the Japanese returned fire and their torpedoes finally worked as advertised. I lost one cruiser, while the other took heavy damage, leaving only my destroyers in good fighting shape.
Cruisers vs. Cruisers
On the other side of Savo Island, the light cruiser force chased down the hidden force markers and one of them turned out to be three enemy destroyers. My cruisers and destroyers ended up sinking all three destroyers, while taking moderate damage to one light cruiser and light damage on a destroyer. I split off the damaged ships from the group and turned the group southwest to go help the remains of the heavy cruiser group.

Back at the battle between heavy cruiser groups, I was able to sink the Japanese heavy cruiser and one destroyer. The Japanese sank one of my destroyers, but then they failed their withdrawal roll and the remaining light cruiser and destroyer turned for home.

It was a costly battle for me, but an American victory since the Japanese didn’t complete their bombardment mission.

December Battle
December turned out to only have one battle too (in the campaign, November and December have the highest chances for multiple battles). The random scenario roll was for the Battle of Cape Esperance scenario. I had originally played this scenario to familiarize myself with the rules, so I felt pretty good about playing it again.

This time I kept my force all together as I hunted the Japanese. Once again, having the surprise on the Japanese helped me out and I found them in two groups, one with a light cruiser and five destroyers and the other with two destroyers. Once the battle started, I split off my trailing destroyers to go after the two enemy destroyers, while the rest of the force focused on the larger group of enemy ships.

In the swirling melee I sank three Japanese destroyers and damaged three others. But, once again, the Japanese torpedoes proved their value as I lost one heavy cruiser and had the remaining 3 cruisers all damaged.

The scenario ended in a draw. I was starting to see my cruiser force being whittled down and there were still possible battles in January, February, and March.

January Battle 
I rolled up one battle for January and the scenario was the First Battle of Guadalcanal. Historically in this battle the Japanese sent two battleships to bombard the Marine positions on Guadalcanal and the way the scenario is set up there is a high probability of encountering at least one battleship. The game gives you the option of trading cruisers for battleships, but I decided to use the historical American forces since that would give me more ships against the large number of Japanese. So, I was running two heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, and eight destroyers. The scenario setup puts you in contact quickly and the scenario turned out to be pretty short.
Ships positions with the gunfire started, which is fairly close to the historical battle
The Japanese came with one battleship, one light cruiser, and nine destroyers. Combat came quickly and torpedoes gunfire were all over the place. When the smoke cleared from the first combat, I had lost both my heavy cruisers to torpedoes. The heavy cruisers were able to do light damage to the battleship, but things didn’t look good at this point. I stuck it out a couple more turns, but luck was not with me during this battle. I lost a light cruiser and three destroyers, while one other light cruiser and three destroyers were damaged. The Japanese lost two destroyers and had 3 more damaged. Needless to say, this scenario ended as a substantial Japanese victory.

I was pretty much out of cruisers at this point, but, luckily for me, I did not roll for any more battles in the campaign. Tallying up the campaign totals, I came up with a minor US victory (winning three scenarios, one draw, and one loss). Overall, it was pretty much a historical result.

Tokyo Express is an interesting game with a lot of variability. It is pretty easy to predict the approach paths and movement for the Japanese, but the detection and combat chits make the whole game really variable. This would definitely turn off some players, but after reading Neptune’s Inferno, it does give some idea of what it would have been like on the ships patrolling the waters off Guadalcanal in late 1942. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

My (belated) 2017 International Naval Wargaming Day post

Last Sunday was the first International Naval Wargaming Day. Unfortunately, I wasn't really able to organize a game with others to commemorate the day, so my part was limited to a solo-game in my on-going Tokyo Express campaign. Here is my belated game report.

After the successful August battle (described near the end of this post), I conducted a Battle Check for September, no battles, and then October. I ended up with one battle in October and this was my International Naval Wargaming Day game.

I rolled up the scenario and the forces for the game. The scenario set up said that a Japanese convoy was on its way down "The Slot" (AKA New Georgia Sound) with a moderately-sized escort. I had a force of four destroyers and five cruisers (four heavies and one light) to meet the enemy, so I felt like I had a good chance of out-gunning the Japanese. Knowing that there was a chance the convoy could move into the area east or west of Savo Island, I decided to split my force (Note: historically this probably would have been a bad idea, but knowing the way the game system works, and the fact that I'm not really putting my life on the line, give me an advantage over my historical counterparts). I decided to take two destroyers and four heavy cruisers around the east side of Savo Island, while the other two destroyers and the light cruiser went around the south and west sides of the island.
My general movement plans, but I was pretty sure it would change once the Japanese showed up
The game started out well, with all but one of the Japanese forces having their entry delayed. The one Japanese force on the map was headed straight toward my heavy cruisers and I felt pretty good about being in front of it. For those of you not familiar with the Tokyo Express game system, there are random chit draws during the turn to see when each side has the chance to detect the other side and for combat. This really randomizes what happens during the turn and you can end up with a wide variance of actions during the turn. For the most part during this game, the random draws fell in my favor. In this case the Japanese detection chit was drawn early, when we were still out of detection range, while the U.S. detection and Combat chits were drawn late in the turn.When the U.S. detection chit was drawn, I also had a lucky roll that allowed me to detect and fire at the newly found Japanese force. Drawing for the composition of the enemy force, I was happy to see that it was only a light cruiser and three destroyers (yes, they could still do a lot of damage, but I was glad it wasn't anything larger).
My detection of the Japanese advanced force
The attack that followed up the detection sank one destroyer, did medium damage to the light cruiser and another destroyer, and light damage to the third destroyer. Movement continued until Combat chit showed up, when the Japanese got a chance to fire back. But since they were already damaged, almost all their fire was ineffective. The lightly-damaged destroyer got off a torpedo salvo that damaged the heavy cruiser Chicago. My return fire was as effective as the first round, with my attacks sinking the cruiser and one destroyer, while leaving the last destroyer with heavy damage.
Combat damage at the end of the turn
The heavily damaged destroyer started to withdraw from the battle, while my heavy cruisers continued up the east side of Savo Island. After this initial combat, I kept to my movement plan, but I was starting to wonder if I should have my light cruiser force turn and join the heavies on the east side of Savo Island. At this point there was the convoy and ten unknown Japanese forces on the map, but I also knew that only one of the ten was going to be real (knowing the Japanese force levels and how they work is one of the advantages the U.S. player has in the game that the historical commanders did not have).

As the heavy cruisers moved up the east side of the island, they came into contact with the convoy and the final Japanese force, which turned out to be two more destroyers. Luckily for me, the way the heavy cruiser approached the Japanese destroyers made it hard for them to launch an effective torpedo attack. During the combat turn, Japanese attacks sank one of my destroyers, but missed all their other attacks. I concentrated my gunfire on the convoy, since sinking the convoy was my main mission, and let the destroyers fire at the Japanese destroyers. Because of the gunnery angles blocking fire from some of my cruisers, I also took some pot-shots at the heavily damaged destroyer. I did some heavy damage to the convoy and sank the heavily damaged destroyer. 
Convoy in sight!
At this point I was worried the convoy was going to slip by me, so I ordered the heavy cruisers to start turning back to the south and ordered the light cruiser group to turn around to come up the east side of Savo Island. What I didn't know was that the Japanese had issued orders to withdraw from the area. This caused a little bit of strange (and seemly confused) movement for the Japanese that put their destroyers in a really bad position to attack my force or protect the convoy. During combat I continued to pound away on the convoy and took a few shots at the destroyers, doing damage to both. The Japanese destroyers fired on my destroyer, but missed.
The convoy trying to disengage to the northeast, while the escorting destroyer move to the northwest
The Japanese withdrawal order also put me in a bad position to try to catch the convoy, but I was able to sink it just before it had a chance to exit the area.

Tallying up the damage, I sank the Japanese convoy, one light cruiser, three destroyers and did moderate damage to another destroyer. On my side, I lost one destroyer and had light damage to a heavy cruiser (it will be out of action for one month while it repairs the battle damage). Overall this turned out to be a substantial victory for the U.S. and puts me on a good road for an overall campaign victory.

Next year International Naval Wargaming Day will be on a Monday, which will make it hard to have a game on that day. But, hopefully, I will be able to arrange something for the weekend before.