22 March 2012

Turn 14: Skipjack, again

17—23 March 1942

One of the interesting (occasionally maddening/occasionally thrilling) facets of this game is how wildly variable the weekly results can be. Relatively small swings in “luck” can result in major swings in weekly scores—one roll of a 3 when what you needed was a 2 might cost you half your week’s haul (with the converse being obviously true as well).

Glamour shot!
The variability stems mainly from two facts.  First, you make a large number of low (or very low) odds attacks. You might well take 20 shots, say, but you’re only going to have a reasonable expectation of about three of them resulting in kills. But let’s say you get a little unluckier than you expect, and sink only two targets. That’s only changing one result out of 20 tries—hardly a big deal when you look at it that way—but it’s crushing your yield by 33%!

Second, the tonnage of the individual targets you’re shooting at is itself highly variable. One shot might be at a tiny 1,000 ton freighter, the next at a 10,000 ton oiler, and the next at a 20,000 ton behemoth. If you get your great rolls on the first of those three rather than the third—well, you will be cursing your dice’s lousy sense of the moment and looking at a very different score than what you might very easily have gotten.

To be sure, one expects these things to tend to even themselves out over long periods of time. On average, you’re going to be about average. Over the course of specific turns, though—well, meet my two pals “Feast” and “Famine.” Or maybe I should say meet “Famine,” because “Feast” doesn’t hang around here all that often.

With the foregoing in mind, let us consider this past week.

16 March 2012

Turn 13: Triskaidekaphobia

9—16 March 1942

[For Turn 13, I’d intended to run several boats through their patrols on the auspicious date of 13 March. In the event, I was monumentally sick that day, and couldn’t really sit upright for most of it. How’s that for good luck?]

Since things have been going reasonably well lately, I’m entirely content to stick with my tried and true strategies (or maybe “habits” would be a better word). That is to say: priority one is always to have four top-of-the-line boats patrolling the Marshall Islands every week, with the Aleutians being the first “overflow” destination for boats patrolling out of Pearl Harbor. In the west, the Coral Sea and the southern South China Sea are the main hunting grounds. Older (less capable) boats tend to be sent to the Solomons and the Gilberts, where I willingly trade a higher chance for “no contact” search results for weaker counterattacks.

Sculpin, heading toward the Bay Bridge
Sticking with that general plan paid off with another pretty good week. Twenty boats were on patrol (quite a high number), and they collectively managed to sink five targets. That’s an excellent total—the second highest of the war—but they were, unfortunately, almost all small fry. The lot of them accounted for 19,000 tons. Now, I am not for one second complaining about a 19k turn at this point in the war. On the other hand, there was a lot of oh, what might have been going on this week—ineffective hits and very near misses on juicy targets; that kind of thing. In short, this was a good week that always felt like it was trying to be spectacular—but just couldn’t pull it off.

The star of the week, undoubtedly, was USS Sculpin (SS-191).

06 March 2012

Turn 12: Vignettes from a war

1 — 8 March 1942

No real overarching theme or narrative for this week. Instead, here are glimpses of some of the stories that have unfolded over the first three months of the war.

~ ~ ~

USS Trout (SS-202)

Remember Trout? She kicked off the war for the Silent Service on 7 December by turning up a Diligent Escort as the very first target revealed in the game. She was damaged in the encounter, but escaped with her life—barely. She remained on station near Midway for another week (per orders) but returned to Pearl on Christmas Eve.

She remained there, under repair, through January, and put to sea for the Marshall Islands on her second war patrol on 8 February. That patrol was brief and fruitless; she encountered no enemy shipping and returned to port just ten days later.

She commenced her third war patrol on 26 February, again bound for the Marshalls. Just this week, she was finally able to fire her first torpedoes of the war—and she made them count. In her first encounter with the enemy since being damaged in the opening hours of hostilities, she hit (but failed to damage) one small freighter and then sank a second. It was only a 3,000 ton score, but given Trout’s difficult war career to date, it was a meaningful contribution.