Thursday, December 30, 2010

Closest convoy yet! A War at Sea session

I threw together a pickup game of War at Sea at the local game shop. We were a little short of time due to too much jibber jabber with Game Store Tony.

We decided to do a convoy scenario. The basic notion was that an International Flotilla escorts a munitions convoy to Finland during the Winter War.

I think the convoy scenario, as written, is very difficult for the convoy payer to win. Even with a 20-point bonus (100 scenario points to just 80 for the intercepting player) there are just too many threats to counter and the intercepting player only need to get lucky three times. If three convoy ships get sunk then the attacker wins.

I took the convoy, although not expecting too much. As it turned out the convoy nearly made it.

Besides the five merchant ships the convoy escort included the following:

Vainamoinen - coast defense ship
2 x B-239 Buffalo - fighter

HMS Gustav V - coast defense battleship
HMS Gotland - scout cruiser
2 x HMS Goteborg - destroyer

ORP Blyskawica - destroyer
ORP Orzel - submarine

2 x S-Boat - torpedo boat section

The intercepting fleet was all Soviet
Kirov - heavy cruiser
2 x Krasni Krim - light cruiser
4 x Gromkiy - destroyer
S-13 - submarine
2 x Il-2M Sturmovik - attack plane (yes, I know the plane date is 1943. I overlooked it.)

We used the standard map set up listed in the rulebook for the convoy scenario. The notable feature of that map is that it includes two islands on the Soviet side of the map.

The Soviet destroyers quickly moved off to each flank and laid mines between the islands and the map edge, which induced the convoy to take a central route.

First blood went to the Convoy side, which sank a destroyer with a torpedo attack from the S-boats. Some long-range fire from the coast defense ships, spotted by the Gotland's seaplane crippled the Kirov. Unfortunately a Sturmovik got through the air defenses and took out a freighter. I figured the two Russian bombers were the main threat. There was virtually no chance I could shoot them down so the best I could hope for was to keep aborting them. Their bomb attack was powerful enough that an attacked freighter was nearly doomed.

The Soviets were annoyed by the spotter plane "buzzing around" and two turns later when the bombers returned they took out the Gotland. Meanwhile the Kirov and S-13 were sunk and the surviving Soviet ships pulled back. The S-boats hid in an island zone. As the convoy slowly advanced, long-range fire from the coast defense ships banged up the Soviet surface flotilla severely while the Buffalos and air defense fire from the escorts aborted the Il-2s. So far, so good. The S-Boats made a death run at one of the light cruisers that came to naught, but it was becoming clear that the Soviet fleet was destined for destruction under the big guns of the convoy escort, so they made a mad dash at the enemy. All were promptly sunk, but in the melee the Sturmoviks sunk one more freighter and a shot from a light cruiser damaged another one. The Finnish coast defense ship was also crippled by a torpedo hit.

The next few turns went at a rapid clip as all the Soviets had left were the two airplanes, which could only fly every other turn. The Buffalos and escorts did their best, but eventually the Sturmoviks got a shot. A very fortunate die roll only added one more damage point to the freighter. It was crippled, but still there. Finally the freighters reached the board edge and the Sturmoviks had one more try. One was aborted but the second one plastered the crippled freighter and sent it down.

It was the closest I've seen the convoy come to making it, but it still fell short.

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