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The Hunters: German U-Boats at War, 1939-43» Forums » Variants

Subject: Realistic Career Length - optional rule rss

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Ian Cooper
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REALISTIC CAREER LENGTH OPTION

It is very difficult to survive a full career as a U-boat commander in "The Hunters", but this is not very realistic: while only 25% of U-boat crews survived the war, 75% of commanders survived. This is because, unlike U-boat crew members, who stayed in front line service for the duration of the war, U-boat commanders who survived a few patrols (usually somewhere between 3 and 16 patrols) were retired to training units or took a staff position in BdU.

In order to simulate a realistic front line career length for a U-boat commander, players who want their U-boat commanders to have a better chance of survival may want to use the following method:

On completing the 5th patrol and on completion of every patrol thereafter, roll a die. If the result is a 1, the commander retires from front line duty.

Victory conditions for any commander who completes a career with less than 10 patrols are as follows:

DEFEAT: Average of 0-4,999 tons sunk per patrol.

DRAW: Average of 5,000-9,999 tons sunk per patrol.

MARGINAL VICTORY: Average of 10,000-14,999 tons sunk per patrol.

SUBSTANTIAL VICTORY: Average of 15,000-19,999 tons sunk per patrol.

DECISIVE VICTORY: Average of 20,000+ tons sunk per patrol.

-------------------------

After the commander's front line career is completed, roll 1d6+1d6 to determine promotion:

1-1: Promoted to command of 1st U-boat flotilla in Brest.
1-2: Promoted to command of 2nd U-boat flotilla in Lorient.
1-3: Promoted to command of 3rd U-boat flotilla in La Rochelle.
1-4: Promoted to command of 4th U-boat (training) Flotilla in Stettin.
1-5: Promoted to command of 5th U-boat (training) flotilla in Kiel.
1-6: Promoted to command of 6th U-boat flotilla in St. Nazaire.
2-1: Promoted to command of 7th U-boat flotilla in St. Nazaire.
2-2: Promoted to command of 8th U-boat (training) flotilla in Danzig.
2-3: Promoted to command of 9th U-boat flotilla in Brest.
2-4: Promoted to command of 10th U-boat flotilla in Lorient.
2-5: Promoted to command of 11th U-boat flotilla in Bergen.
2-6: Promoted to command of 12th U-boat flotilla in Bordeaux.
3-1: Promoted to command of 13th U-boat flotilla in Trondheim.
3-2: Promoted to command of 19th U-boat (training) flotilla in Pillau.
3-3: Promoted to command of 20th U-boat (training) flotilla in Pillau.
3-4: Promoted to command of 21st U-boat (training) flotilla in Pillau.
3-5: Promoted to command of 22nd U-boat (training) flotilla in Gotenhafen.
3-6: Promoted to command of 23rd U-boat (training) flotilla in Danzig.
4-1: Promoted to command of 24th U-boat (training) flotilla in Memel.
4-2: Promoted to command of 25th U-boat (training) flotilla in Libau.
4-3: Promoted to command of 26th U-boat (training) flotilla in Pillau.
4-4: Promoted to command of 27th U-boat (training) flotilla in Gotenhafen.
4-5: Promoted to command of 29th U-boat flotilla in La Spezia.
4-6: Promoted to command of 30th U-boat Flotilla in Constanza.
5-1: Promoted to command of 31st U-boat (training) flotilla in Hamburg.
5-2: Promoted to command of 1st U-boat Training Division in Pillau.
5-3: Promoted to command of 2nd U-boat Training Division in Gotenhafen.
5-4: Promoted to command of 3rd U-boat Training Division in Neustadt.
5-5: Promoted to command of 1st U-boat Training Unit in Plön.
5-6: Promoted to command of 2nd U-boat Training Unit in Neustadt.
6-1: Promoted to command of 3rd U-boat Training Unit in Pillau.
6-2: Promoted to FdU Ausbildungsflottillen (Commander U-boat Training Flotillas).
6-3: Promoted to 1st "Asto" (Admiral staff officer) in BdU (U-boat Command HQ).
6-4: Promoted to "Geleitzugs-Asto" (convoy ops staff officer) in BdU (U-boat Command HQ).
6-5: Promoted to 2nd "Asto" (Admiral staff officer) in BdU (U-boat Command HQ).
6-6: Promoted to 3rd "Asto" (Admiral staff officer) in BdU (U-boat Command HQ).


-------------------------

Players wishing to continue after a commander retires may do so very simply, by keeping the same crew (including all crew promotions) and having a new commander join the crew. the old commander's tonnage, promotions and awards go with the old commander. In this way, new careers can branch off older careers, giving players even more options for bonding with their crews and commanders.

Players may determine their personal victory levels by a commander's tonnage, by commander survival, by their U-boat's tonnage or by their U-boat crew's survival, or by a combination of all these methods. It really depends on what is most important to the player.
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Ian Cooper
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U-boat Career
Those who choose to follow a U-boat rather than its commander may choose to use the following alternate victory conditions, which are based on the historical tonnage amounts per U-boat:

DEFEAT: 0-74,999 tons sunk or the U-Boat is captured due to an unsuccessful scuttle attempt.
This U-boat and its crew are a disgrace to the Kriegsmarine. If the crew survives, they should consider a career after the war on land. If the U-Boat was captured, a working Enigma code machine and other secrets has been delivered into Allied hands, possibly sabotaging the entire U-Boat campaign.

DRAW: 75,000-149,999 tons sunk
This U-boat's crewmen have fulfilled their obligations to the nation. Book and movie offers after the war are probably not in the cards, however.

MARGINAL VICTORY: 150,000-224,999 tons sunk
This U-boat has enjoyed a modicum of success. If the U-boat and crew has survived, their new task after 1943 will be training new U-boat crews.

SUBSTANTIAL VICTORY: 225,000-299,999 tons sunk
This U-boat is one of the Kriegsmarine’s top scorers. The boat, its commander and crew are often mentioned in the nation’s papers. In 1943, the commander is offered command of a flotilla and the boat and its crew are sent on a propaganda tour, including a spell of R&R.

DECISIVE VICTORY: 300,000+ tons sunk
Your boat is the scourge of the seas and the pride of the entire Kriegsmarine. The boat's exploits are legendary, and it and its crew are mentioned prominently in propaganda efforts. If the boat survives the war, it will take pride of place in an internationally renowned museum, while the crew, the most famous of the "Gray Wolves", enjoy national renown after the war.
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Mike Barksdale
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Say I roll to have the commander taken out of the rotation--do I HAVE TO follow it or can the kommandant in effect, "volunteer" to stay on? If you decide to try and press on for the Ritterkruez or something, can you elect to try it?

Also, another question I have is, does having of the Knight's Cross' affect how your die rolls go?
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Ian Cooper
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The beauty and the advantage of boardgames vs. computer games is that, unlike computer games where most rules are hard-coded into the system, in boardgames no rule is binding. So in the end it's up to you - your game, so you get to decide how you play. So if your commander's neck is itching, you go for that Knight's Cross.

But if you decide to follow this rule as it was intended, it should be binding for every commander - if BdU ordered a commander to give up front line patrols, I doubt any of them could disobey. I guess you could roll for an attempt to persuade - say roll a 5 or 6 for success.

Good question on the Knight's Cross issue. Haven't really considered it. My gut says that if it did make any difference, chances are it made a promotion away from the front more likely, as there were plenty of Knight's Cross wearers who were sent from the front after only a few patrols - Karl Friedrich Merten for example, was ordered to take command of the 26th U-boat Flotilla after only 5 patrols. Korvettenkapitän Günther Hessler (Admiral Dönitz's son-in-law) got his Knight's Cross after his second patrol, then did one more patrol before being transferred to the BdU op staff as first naval staff officer. Korvettenkapitän Hans Witt had pretty much the same experience, so it also happened to people who hadn't married into Dönitz's family. Remember, in many cases, being removed from front line service involved a big promotion, so apart from the survival instinct, there's ambition to consider. If a commander turned down a promotion, BdU might not offer another one.
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Ian Cooper
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For those following the thread and who are interested in increasing the game's roleplaying elements, I've added a post-career promotion dice roll to the OP.
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Frank
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I'm surprised that in your variant the current rank of the commander doesn't influence the chance to be retired from active patrol duty.
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Ian Cooper
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FrUnit7 wrote:
I'm surprised that in your variant the current rank of the commander doesn't influence the chance to be retired from active patrol duty.


It's because I don't see any clear pattern in the historical records. Junior officers seem to have been promoted out of the front line and to flotilla command or staff positions just as readily as more senior officers. For example, Kptlt. Heinz Buchholz (a junior officer) commanded 1st U-boat Flotilla; 3 of 5 commanders of 3rd Flotilla were Kapitänleutnants and 23rd and 30th Flotillas were commanded solely by Kapitänleutnants.

Also, because I'm lazy, I'm kinda leery about complicating the process. Since it's not totally clear whether rank had much effect, a simple 1xD6 solution works okay. If it was more complex, I'd have to figure out some kind of 2xD6 solution, which would take some time for not much added benefit.

And from a playability standpoint, players might be conflicted about getting a super-high tonnage score if there was an added possibility of being retired. Best to keep it simple for those who want to use the variant.

And in the end, all it is is a way of preserving our commanders' lives, because I like to see those I've taken into harm's way survive into a happy retirement. I didn't intend it to be anything more than that.
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Frank
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Ok, and ObtLt zS, could they be retired to staff duty?
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Ian Cooper
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FrUnit7 wrote:
Ok, and ObtLt zS, could they be retired to staff duty?


They could definitely be assigned to staff duty (heck, they probably need office boys, LOL), but probably not to a flotilla command. Then again, it's very unlikely that a commander would still be an Oberleutnant zur See when rolling to check for retirement. The chances of starting a career at such a low rank are less than 50% for Type VII commanders, zero for everyone else. Then the chances of remaining at that low rank for more than a year are low, unless his tonnage totals are really poor. And then it would be quite unlikely to roll a 1 for retirement as early as the 5th patrol, but even then, the die roll will probably take place after a year (because of damage and refit), and the kid likely would have been promoted. But I guess it's still possible for an Oberleutnant zur See on a Type VII boat to run through a set of uneventful patrols with no damage (thus not increasing the refit time), then roll a 1 for retirement a mere 10-11 months into his career.

So to dot every I and cross every T, I'd suggest a simple solution: a staff assignment at such a low rank for such a low-scoring commander would come with an automatic promotion to Kapitänleutnant, because BdU wants to get him to a desk job where he can't stall the war effort any longer. Presumably the kid has friends in high places.
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Scott Kullberg
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Beery wrote:

So to dot every I and cross every T, I'd suggest a simple solution: a staff assignment at such a low rank for such a low-scoring commander would come with an automatic promotion to Kapitänleutnant, because BdU wants to get him to a desk job where he can't stall the war effort any longer. Presumably the kid has friends in high places.


There's probably some German jawbreaker of a word for "kicked upstairs". Blair lists more than a few commanders sent to "other duties" in these situations.

If you wanted to resolve the problem of the commander's opinion about retirement, just allow the player to take a +/- 1 DRM at will on the retirement roll. That way you're guaranteed 10 patrols if you really want them, or you can even increase your chance of retirement if you want to be done with the sea. There's still a chance that BdU is going to send you to sell war bonds once you've gotten 10 patrols, but that's not unreasonably random in a game where your KMDT can break his neck before spotting a single ship.
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Ian Cooper
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Interestingly, U-boats also had a short service life - from what I can gather from Uboat.net none of the most successful U-boats did more than 15 patrols (fewer than some commanders).
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Rick McKown
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One of the advantages to "playing the boat" vice "playing the Captain" is that the game can go on even if the Captain is KIA--1WO can take over and hopefully bring her home; next patrol the boat gets a new Skipper and away we go. Only exceptions would be the Type II and Type VIIA, which were all retired to training service in the Fall of 1940
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Ian Cooper
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I did a statistical analysis based on the after action reports at http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/167130/the-hunters-german-... and found the following:

Standard unmodified "The Hunters" generates a commander survival rate of around 28%.

Using the Realistic Career Length variant, the survival rate increases to 48% based on the odds. I did a test and rolled for each commander and got a survival rate of 60% (must have been rolling low numbers). Either way, it's a definite improvement.

I also tested using just a 1 as the retirement die roll, even after 10 patrols (it used to be a 1 or a 2 would retire the commander after 10 or more patrols), and I got a 54% survival rate. Again, that's a bit higher than the odds would suggest. Since it tends to increase the number of patrols and doesn't seem to impact the survival rate all that much (or at least the odds would suggest it shouldn't), I'm going to adopt this change in the variant.

I'd like to see the numbers get up around the 75% level, and maybe my Escort/Air Attack Chart and Aircraft Encounter Chart modifiers will accomplish that, but I need to do more playtesting to make sure. One thing I'm a bit wary of is that there seems to be some confusion about air attack DRMs - some players may be making air attacks too deadly through misreading the rules.

Once I'm happy with the playtesting, I'll upload a "Historical Tour of Duty" variant, with tweaks to the game that make it a lot more historically accurate in terms of survival.
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Frank
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Ian, most of the AAR come from tonnage tournaments in which you don't really want that your kommandant "retire" just to survive the war. You also tend to take more risks in these games than in RL.

I'm pretty sure that a "survive til '43" tournament would show a completely different survival rate.
 
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Ian Cooper
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FrUnit7 wrote:
Ian, most of the AAR come from tonnage tournaments in which you don't really want that your kommandant "retire" just to survive the war. You also tend to take more risks in these games than in RL.


25 out of 51 come from individual (non-tournament) campaigns. Seven of the tournaments aren't listed as tonnage tournaments. So if anything, it's a good cross section of gaming types.

[edit] I just did an analysis of just the 25 "individual" (non-tournament) campaigns. The result is almost exactly the same as the tournament: 28% survival rate with the standard game, and with odds showing 48% to 52% with the variant. With the variant, the individual games show only a tiny (4%) increase in survival over the survival rate of the tournament campaigns.

Quote:
I'm pretty sure that a "survive til '43" tournament would show a completely different survival rate.


I doubt it. I just can't see it making a 25% difference. But if you can show that the players of these campaigns gave little thought to survival, and if you can show that survival tournaments give a very different casualty rate than the figures I've used, I'd love to see the evidence. But I can't change what I've found without facts and figures.

Also, the VPs reward tonnage, not survival, so your point is kinda moot. Besides, I don't see how a player could rack up big tonnage numbers without surviving a long time, so survival plays a role - perhaps a crucial role. In the real world, the commanders were going for tonnage too, and those who lasted longest tended to be the ones who got the most tonnage.

As it stands, I'm happy using these numbers because even if what you say is true, we are nowhere near historical survival rates even using the Realistic Career Length variant. Since we're looking at a 50% survival rate with the variant, when the real world survival rate was 75%, we're just not even close to a point at which we can seriously suggest that we're over-modeling survival.

And in the final analysis, it comes down to this: "My variant, my rules", so I'm going to make it suit what I think is correct. People who don't think it's realistic don't have to use it.

Glad to hear the criticism, but it ain't much good without proof.
 
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Ian, I didn't criticize your variant rule, I just added some facts about the numbers you got for your statistical analysis from all AAR.

You seem to clearly well know your subject and your variant may be welcomed for those who want careers closer to historical ones.

If I reformulate what I said:

1) Nobody will ever use your variant in a tonnage tournament game (except if house rule for that tournament of course) as it is a 3rd way to stop your career and just surviving won't give you more tonnage.

2) You don't risk your own life in a game and as so often take more risks for your character (that's the hero syndrom), and more in a tournament as you push your luck in hope of better result.
-
3) If you play a survival tournament, survival rate will very probably increase, though I never say it will close what your variant will produce.
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FrUnit7 wrote:
...You don't risk your own life in a game and as so often take more risks for your character (that's the hero syndrom)...


That is a very popular argument that pops up when tournament-focused players are discussing simulation aspects, but I just don't buy it - especially not for this game. The victory points reward players who play carefully - go in with no regard for your commander's survival and you will lose every time. While arcade games don't factor in that aspect, any simulation worth its salt accounts for that factor, otherwise it's a garbage simulation.

As for using my variant in a tonnage tournament, I don't advocate that anyone should, as it would add a huge random element. As I said in the first post, it's offered to simulation-focused players who want their U-boat commanders to have a better chance of survival.
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Frank
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Again you made me say what I didn't: taking more risks doesn't mean no regard for survival. It just mean choosing sometimes a +2 DRM, even +3 DRM for a big target. Easy to get tempted in a game with no real consequence, not for a real commander with 50 men and a boat under his command.

Personnally I played 16 careers and survived 6 times. My best tonnage result was with my bolder kommandant (attacking close range, surface attack in 42, etc.) and he survived. In the same 4-play tournament, I also played a very cautious kommandant, attacking only at long range (even in '39), he died in '43 from aircraft attack. Sheer luck/unluck!

In theses cases, I chose a role-play approach with determined profiles. I didn'tcare about simulation, I was playing for fun, just to see which one will do better and survive longer. The result was ... unexpected but the experience thrilling. That's exactly what I want from a game and what I like so much in this game.
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John Kranz
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Ian, thanks for providing a variant rule. When you have it all locked down, I'm happy to post a Word doc or PDF if you like that explains it fully. Just holler if you want to spin off a separate doc on this. Take care!
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Ron A
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Beery wrote:

Once I'm happy with the playtesting, I'll upload a "Historical Tour of Duty" variant, with tweaks to the game that make it a lot more historically accurate in terms of survival.


Your idea would DEFINITELY bring the sunk tonnages more in line with reality. Hunters commanders score far higher scores than the real U Boat aces did, at least in part because they get to do more patrols.

Another thing you might think about-- varying the start time of the career as well. Most everybody starts in Sept 39, but of course during WWII new commanders were starting all the time. My thought-- which has absolutely no historical basis whatsoever; roll a D20 and add that many months from Sept 39 and that becomes your captain's start date.
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Ian Cooper
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SBGrad wrote:
...Another thing you might think about-- varying the start time of the career as well. Most everybody starts in Sept 39, but of course during WWII new commanders were starting all the time...


Great point. I'll start working on that right away. Thanks!
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I can't check now but IIRC there's a pdf called "Uboat assignment and captain variant" available on CSP website.

It includes random: Start Date, U-Boat Type, Starting Rank (idem to rule 11.2.2) and Crew Quality.
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Ian Cooper
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FrUnit7 wrote:
I can't check now but IIRC there's a pdf called "Uboat assignment and captain variant" available on CSP website.

It includes random: Start Date, U-Boat Type, Starting Rank (idem to rule 11.2.2) and Crew Quality.


Interesting. I didn't notice that.

Anyway, I've used a slightly different method to generate start dates and U-boat types. Either one works. Strangely, although I used a different dice roll method than the one Matthew Hinkle uses in his variant, we both ended up with the final start month being August 1942.

I uploaded my variant to BGG earlier today. Hopefully it will be approved shortly.
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Beery wrote:
I uploaded my variant to BGG earlier today. Hopefully it will be approved shortly.

Waiting for it.

Matthew Hinkle should have uploaded his variant here too for better exposure.
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Gregory Smith
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Hey Ian,

FWIW, I liked your variant as originally posted. Neat stuff, well thought out. Adds more to the narrative. However I think it won't fit some players, who want to "push the envelope" as it were. But your variant displays some of the human factors and reality that doesn't get factored in a lot.

Greg
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