30 January 2012

Turn 7: Thresher vs. Japan

22—31 January 1942

The week got off to a good start, at least, with the repair crews at Pearl and Fremantle both doing excellent work. Six boats were under repair at the end of last week. All except one (the woebegone USS Cachalot (SS-170)) has been returned to active service. Maybe that horrible “damage bug” we had during the early weeks of the war is under control now. Knock on wood.

Not to belabor the negative, but Cachalot’s situation probably warrants some mention. She began the war laid up in Pearl Harbor, finishing an overhaul. Unlike her real-life counterpart—who got underway on her first patrol in the middle of January—my Cachalot has languished in port for the entire war to date. Not only has she failed to return to the fleet, she has failed to so much as make any perceptible progress toward that goal. {In game terms:  she began the war in Pearl’s “R3” box, i.e., the most seriously damaged classification. She has failed every single repair roll so far. That’s seven straight failures, each one of which had a 50% chance of success.}

Making a strong bid to become the blog’s new cover girl...
Repair successes notwithstanding, not many boats were on station to patrol this week—but two who were scored successes. On 24 January, the somewhat (it must be said) inauspiciously named USS Plunger (SS-179) executed a textbook-perfect approach and attack on a 3,000 ton maru. {She rolled a perfect 0-9 for To Hit/Damage; awesome, but I wish I could have saved that roll for a cruiser or something.} The next day, USS Thresher—yes, Thresher—scored her third kill, which also happened to be a 3,000 ton merchant. No one else has a second yet. Causing trouble has evolved for her from being a habit (as I described it earlier) to being a lifestyle. Surprisingly, though, she’s still just in second place on the tonnage list (which further illustrates what a big deal Gudgeon’s success was at the beginning of the month).

Those two kills brought our overall score up to 12 ships sunk for 57,000 tons. That, of course, leaves me needing to bring in another 33,000 to pass the first career milestone at the end of February. What follows is way more analysis than you are likely to want to read about my chances for successfully doing so.

21 January 2012

Turn 6: Back on track?

15—21 January 1942

The dust has more or less settled from the Manila evacuation. All the boats that scrambled out of port made it to Fremantle or Surabaya without significant incident. Additionally, the three boats tasked with evacuating the gold reserves made it safely in as well. (There will not be a little extra in your pay checks this month, though, fellas. Go Navy!) So, in the end, the Fall of Luzon event didn’t really cost us anything other than (precious, precious) time. Going forward, it will be back to business as usual in WestPac—but without the Sword of Damocles hanging over our main base.

Argonaut—a smart ship. Note the guns.
Elsewhere, the fleet got back on track a bit after an extremely disappointing performance last week.  Notably, a pair of old timers got onto the scoreboard (albeit, by taking down very small prey).  First, USS Dolphin (SS-169) brought down a 2,000 ton maru. She held the mantle of “oldest boat to score a kill” for less than 24 hours, as the next night, USS Argonaut (SS-166)—commissioned in the Roaring 20’s — brought down a 1,000 ton target.

Argonaut was an interesting and unique ship. She was designed and built to be a minelayer, with extensive and complicated minelaying gear in place of aft torpedo tubes. {This is definitely reflected in game, as her Attack Value is only 3, as compared to the rating of 6 enjoyed by the state-of-the-art boats at the beginning of the war. It is a minor miracle when a boat with an AV of 3 sinks a target while the Torpedo Value is still −2.} She was also a big girl, the largest U.S. sub built before the advent of the nukes. Finally, if she found herself in a position to use her guns, it wasn’t exactly going to be a slap fight:  she sported two 6-inch/53 cal deck guns. To put that in some context, Thresher (who used her gun to such great effect two weeks ago) and her more modern sisters in the Tambor-class only mounted a single 3-inch/50 cal gun. {This too is reflected in game. If Argonaut lucks into a Surface Gunnery Combat Event, she gets to roll on a much more favorable line on the damage table—great attention to detail, Brien!} I’m not going to say much about her real-world career, right now at least, because I am profoundly superstitious about discussing certain things about real boats while “my” version is still fighting. Astute readers may draw from that conclusions as they may. There were many, many brave men in that war.

14 January 2012

Turn 5: Luzon falls; chaos in WestPac

8 — 14 January 1942

As I observed earlier, the fall of our base in Manila was inevitable—and this week the inevitable happened. The first War Event of the game threw the entire western Pacific into chaos. All boats in port had to evacuate, including the two which had been undergoing minor repairs, and conduct base-to-base movement to our new base in Fremantle or to the newly deployed tender in Surabaya. That’s nine boats doing absolutely nothing useful for the next few weeks, as they transit and refit. At least none of the boats in Manila were so damaged as to require scuttling.

The “Golden Patrol”
Additionally, three boats had to be pulled off station to evacuate the gold reserves of the Philippines. The boats assigned to this special mission were older, so our combat strength wasn’t impacted as much as it could have been. (Not that it ended up mattering much, as discussed below.) In real life, USS Trout famously participated in the gold transfer—she’s pictured to the right with the results of her haul on deck.

Elsewhere, thirteen boats were able to conduct patrols. Not a single one was able to score a kill—so the week amounted to a painful shutout.  Especially frustrating was the fact that two subs damaged their targets, but were unable to finish them off with re-attacks.

The only real silver lining was that, for literally the first time, no boats were damaged this turn—finally, some “Spotted” results started showing up on counterattacks instead. Moreover, the two previously damaged boats that made it in to Pearl this week were quickly repaired and will not be out of action for a significant period.  {I.e., they rolled “Superficial” on the Damage Table.}

I’m starting to feel really nervous about that milestone check coming up at the end of next month. I need to get 53,000 tons in the next six turns. I really need to see some big numbers and soon. A dozen boats are on station to patrol next week. I certainly can’t take another week like this one.

08 January 2012

Turn 4: The torpedoes are now trying to kill us directly

1—7 January 1942

On the night of 5 January, USS Gudgeon (SS-211), underway on her second war patrol, found herself in the vicinity of the Marshall Islands stalking a particularly juicy target:  the ancient (and huge) repair ship Asahi. No escorts were immediately apparent, allowing the skipper to methodically set up a favorable approach. The boat fired a full spread at the lumbering AR, doing everything possible to maximize her chance for success. But something went obviously wrong almost immediately. Instead of “hot, straight, and normal,” one of the fish had other ideas. Rather than streaking out toward the target, its course curved lazily to port—the start of a circular path that put the firing ship itself in danger.

The skipper ordered an emergency dive, hoping to avoid the errant weapon. Seconds crawled by as the unwitting target, the terrified submarine, and the implacable torpedoes traced their paths through the dark waters of the Pacific.