AAR: 400 pos. Convoy mission


Hi all,

Local Nemesis here. Evilsam and I just played a mission featuring submersibles and we had some thoughts on the game.

I was playing the Royal Navy and had one J– class Destroyer, three Tribal– class Destroyers, and four civilian Troop Transports.

Evilsam was running the Kriegsmarine with eight Type– IX U– boats.

It was a 400 point Convoy mission. There was no coast, the weather was fine and clear, and it was day.

The Kriegsmarine easily carried the day. The Royal Navy lost two Destroyers and one Troop Transport with a third Destroyer crippled before it became pretty obvious that the battle was going to go to the Germans. No submarines were lost.

As we played, it became clear to me that the best defense was using smoke. This seemed somewhat... off. The Destroyers started deploying large strips of smoke to screen the Troop Transports and prevent torpedo attacks against them, but it didn't feel right. The Germans were forced to attack the Destroyers, who could not protect themselves with smoke, so the tactic will not win you the battle if you think you will just lay feet's worth of smoke down the length of the table.

Royal Navy Assets
There are no Royal Navy aircraft with the ASW trait. Is that correct?

The Short Sunderland is listed in the front of the force list with its points, but it does not have a stat block. This appears to be an oversight.

The River– class Frigate does not appear to be part of the naval list. Considering how many were built and how useful they are, I feel they should be added.

From the Submersibles chapter, Movement Phase section:

Submersibles that have not had a model placed on the table may not move from their Sector. However, their player may choose to voluntarily place them anywhere in the Sector at the end of the Movement Phase. They will be Running Deep.

When a player voluntarily places their subs on the table, is that per sub's Movement Phase or just once at the end of the entire Movement Phase? In other words, after a player has activated a Submersible do they decide whether to voluntarily reveal it then, or do they wait until all vessels have been moved?

If a Submarine becomes crippled and is forced to the surface, is that an immediate effect next turn? In other words, if the sub is Running Deep and is crippled, does it rise to Submerged the next turn and then Surfaced the following turn, or does it immediately go from Running Deep to Surfaced?

If a Submarine such as the German Type– VII U– Boat becomes crippled and loses its Agile trait, can it turn? It would normally have a surface speed of 3", but being crippled drops that to 1.5". Agile would allow the ship to turn after only 1" of movement, but if the ship loses that trait (and would therefore need to move at least 2" before a turn) can it still turn? How far does it have to move in order to turn? This situation could also come up with non– Submersible surface ships that are rather slow, too.

Detecting Submersibles
Can a sub be detected through a line of smoke? It is clear that attacks cannot be made through smoke, but what about attempts to detect a sub? What about Long– Ranged Detection?

Does each ship or aircraft that wishes to attack a Submersible have to detect that target? Or, is it enough for just one ship to have detected a target, which would then allow for any ship or aircraft to attack it?

Measuring Point
It would be better if there were some standardized point to use for ship distance measurements, turning, weapon arc definition, and so on. Right now, it seems that ships turn around their center point, but distances are measured from the conning tower/bridge. A standard point that all game effects are measured from would be welcome.

Torpedo Range Attack
What is the point of having an extreme range torpedo attack? It is impossible to make such a shot. With a base 4+ to hit, modified by +2 for being a torpedo attack, with a further +2 at extreme range giving a total of 8+, even with a Large Silhouette bonus of 1 it is impossible to hit a 7+. For many subs, that means you have to get within 7.5" to even have an outside chance of maybe hitting a target.

Depth Charge issues
We found these rules to be the most in need of great refinement. As they stand, in my opinion, Submersible missions are nigh– unplayable. Why?

Depth charge range is 1". In order to get within 1" of another sub (or really, any ship for that matter) the attacker has to pull up parallel to the sub. If the Destroyer and Sub are in a "T" shape, it is very possible that the physical distance from the Destroyer's bridge to the Submersible's conning tower is greater than 1" — this is especially likely when players have their ships mounted on bases. While we house– ruled that a Destroyed could physically be on top of the Submersible model when those subs were underwater, the rules do not allow for this. So, in order to make a Depth Charge attack, my Destroyers had to literally pull up alongside the target Submersible. This can be very challenging to do when you are not Agile and can only turn every 2". Many Destroyers models may have half an inch or more of vessel between their bridge and blue water when ranging off the bow, and that will very negatively impact trying to get close to a target sub.

Then the attack roll can be made. Starting with a base 4+, the roll is modified by 1 for attacking a sub. Since more than half range is a penalty of 1 and three– quarter's range is a penalty of 2, it is quite likely that your Destroyer is at least a half inch from the target and in my game with evilsam I was never closer than extreme range. That gives a target number of 7+ to hit, which is an impossible shot. If you are fortunate you are within the Large Silhouette of the Submersible and can try to hit on a 6+.

Most Royal Navy Destroyers have a Depth Charge AD of 1, so hitting on a 6+ is not likely. Since they are Slow– Loading as well, it is a painful thing to miss with because of the return fire.

Since every Submersible has a torpedo attack range of at least 4", a Destroyer that is within extreme Depth Charge range of a sub is itself by definition within point blank torpedo range. Therefore, the Submersible will have a 4+ penalized by 2 for a torpedo attack with a bonus of 1 for a point blank shot. Given the way Destroyers need to be positioned to attack a sub, they are showing the subs a Large Silhouette with gives them a 4+ to hit with their 4 or so AD.

Also, because Submersibles have a forward arc of 180 degrees and a rear arc of 180 degrees, a Destroyer attempting a Depth Charge attack is almost certainly in the Submersible's fore and aft torpedo arcs — the sub could make two attacks if it really needed to.

This 360 degree torpedo field of fire means it is impossible for a ship to maneuver around a sub. As long as the vessel is within 10" of the sub, they are in a torpedo arc. This has considerable ramifications — not the least of which being a sub never has to worry about aligning itself with respect to a target.

The previous edition of Victory At Sea treated Depth Charges more favorably. They had a 3" range and ignored all to hit modifiers. I think some serious thought needs to go into revising how Depth Charges are detailed in the current edition.

Convoy mission specifics
I feel the Convoy mission points distribution may be flawed. In our 400 mission I had 200 points of military defenders and 200 points of "worthless" civilian ships. I say "worthless" because these ships are incapable of defending themselves and they are slower than molasses flowing uphill in winter. The mission was played on a standard 4' x 6' table. Assuming you start your convoy ships as far forward as you can they will be 24" in along the long edge, with four more feet to go. Most of the civilian ships travel at the stately pace of 3" per turn, meaning the game must play for a minimum of 16 turns before the defending player even has a chance to win. That is a long game, and it assumes the convoy ships travel in a straight line down the table — something I think is unlikely.

The attacking player gets, basically, twice as many units as the defender. It is very difficult for the defender to fight two on one, especially when the only weapon they have has a range of 1".

I have a feeling using aircraft would change things quite a bit, but that would require getting a small carrier and outfitting it with aircraft. All those points add up, and they add up to a lot of enemy subs. What kind of convoy would be made up of an escort carrier and aircraft with no surface ships? The mission doesn't "feel" right to me.

The scenario says:
Aircraft: The defending player may start with one Observation aircraft in the air at the start of the battle.

What does this mean? Is the Observation aircraft free and a bonus unit for the convoy? Or, does it mean one of the Observation aircraft carried by a convoy escort is already in the air? If it is the latter, I feel that is particularly useless.

I could not find a single Destroyer that carries Observation aircraft. That means you need to bring at least a Cruiser to get that benefit, but I didn't see any Cruisers with Depth Charges or the Sub– Hunter trait. So basically, you need to spend double or more of the points of a Destroyer (that actually has anti– sub capabilities) on a Cruiser just so you can start with its Observation aircraft in the air. I don't think it's worth it.

The rules also mention:

Observation Aircraft
It should be noted that many of the observation aircraft carried by ships with the Aircraft trait may also have the ASW type, and may be used to hunt Submersibles. If this is the case, their ASW nature should be announced upon takeoff.

It does not appear that any aircraft have the ASW trait. So, what is the above to mean?

Well, again I've gone and written up quite a long message so let's end it here. Evilsam and I are eagerly awaiting the July rules packet!
Excellent report, just what we needed to see for subs - we'll be factoring all this into the next update.