Monday, October 11, 2010

Franco-Italian showdown using Victory at Sea rules

Another recent session at Arkham Asylum involved a hypothetical battle fleet clash using the Victory at Sea naval rules (and Axis & Allies War at Sea miniatures).

This scenario assumed that the outbreak of World War II was delayed a bit but that France and Italy did fight a naval war around 1941. The opposing battle fleets were comprised of roughly equal forces. For the French the battleship Richelieu, battle cruisers Strasbourg and Dunquerque, the old battleship Provence, the heavy cruiser Suffren, light cruiser Gloire and two Le Fantasque fast destroyers. The Italin fleet had the new battleships Littorio and Vittorio Veneto, the old (but extensively rebuilt) battleships Gulio Cesare and Comte di Cavour, the heavy cruisers Trento and Bolzano and one Navigatori-class destroyer. The two forces were exactly the same in War at Sea points, which I used a s quick and dirty balancing mechanic.

The scenario assumed an encounter just before dark to encourage aggressive play and yet end the battle within the time available. The only experienced player was myself, so I took the lesser half of the Italian fleet. The Italian CinC was a veteran wargamer, albeit new to Victory at Sea while the French fleet was controlled by a game store vet (in other words, a Magic; The Gathering player) who had played Victory at Sea once before. Game Store Tony provided tactical advice as "chief of staff."

The French fleet was basically in a line abreast (searching?) formation while the Italian fleet was in a "mob." The French commander took advantage of the peculiar French capital ship layout (all main guns in front) to close aggressively at high speed in what was essentially a cavalry charge. I formed my three-ship division into a line ahead while the rest of the Italian fleet milled around. The poor Navigatori class destroyer attracted a deluge of battleship fire and was overkilled. This aided the Italians, however, as it gave them first blood in the battleship duels.

As dusk fell the Littorio exploded with a magazine explosion, but it was, in truth, about to sink anyway, but the rest of the Italian fleet was (except for the destroyer, of course) either unscathed or very lightly damaged. Meanwhile both French battle cruisers were sunk and both destroyers crippled, while the Provence was 25% damaged. The Richelieu had a few scratches and the two cruisers were unhit, but overall it was clear that the Italians had a big edge with three fresh battleships against one.

The Victory at Sea system, while not the last word in simulations, certainly provides and entertaining and fast-playing way to play decent-sized naval battles. The whole battle took less than three hours to play.

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