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Subject: Fifth PBEM AAR: Northern Aggression rss

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Roger BW
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(Also at http://blog.firedrake.org/archive/2014/12/Fifth_Harpoon_PBEM... .)

Since some of the players had requested a game with submarines in it, I used this scenario out of the book. In 1997, three Russian surface ships violate Polish coastal waters in a show of force; a German Type 206 submarine tries to sink them. Total playing time was six days.

I made heavy use of Rick Rather's Automated Sonar spreadsheet. (Yeah, I'll write my own version eventually, but it's a good start, and it runs under LibreOffice.) Part of the problem is that there's obviously an O(N²) effect: although the sheet calculates detection ranges in both directions between a pair of ships, I need a separate copy of the sheet for each distinct pair, unless I'm going to be re-entering data all the time.

As usual, I translated the setup information from a plain unmarked table to an actual location, in this case the Gdańsk Bay in north-eastern Poland. This gave a sufficiently large area of intermediate-depth water to allow the submarine to move above and below the thermocline, while slightly constraining everyone's actions.



I also experimented with a new scenario briefing format based on the NATO standard for orders STANAG 2014, with the aim of increasing realism. I may not have been sufficiently good at this: the Germans were explicitly prohibited from attacking outside the Polish territorial claim (the green line on the map), but the blue player didn't have this clear at first. (I am told that writing clear orders is both an art and a very boring chore.)



The Russians had a Grisha, a Krivak, and a Neustrashimyy, and started by moving slowly out north of the contested zone, the Grisha pinging with its hull sonar. The German submarine picked this up straight away, and started to close in.

With some truly horrid detection rolls, Blue failed to spot the Krivak for quite a while.



He dropped below the layer and sprinted north, ahead of the Grisha. When he popped up, he finally saw the Krivak (and with an excellent classification roll immediately identified it).



Unfortunately the submarine was within active sonar range from the Grisha, and Red soon pinned it down.



then lost contact as Blue saw their reaction and dived below the layer. Red launched the ready helicopter from the Neustrashimyy



and it flew over the last location, dropping passive sonobuoys and then pinging with active sonar. (And the sub managed to miss this, with some more bad die rolling.)



The Russians followed up with torpedoes: two SET-65s from the Krivak, one fast and one slow, and an RPK-2 Viyuga torpedo-carrying rocket from the Neustrashimyy, set to splash down on the far side of the sub. The UMGT-1ME torpedo payload found the sub, tracked in, and hit. Strategic victory to Red.

Thanks to Craig (Blue) and Todd (Red) for playing. The moment-by-moment maps as shown to each player are available here. Things I've learned from running this game:

This was a very different game from the surface actions I've been running so far, basically blind man's buff. (And the sonar rules are very different from the radar ones, and rather more complex.) Actually plotting contacts didn't happen until quite late.

This did mean that Red had very little to do apart from setting up patrol patterns, until he actually heard something.

I will almost certainly work up my own sonar calculator, using the depth and range data available from the data files I'm already keeping. It ought to be possible to get it to spit out "ship A, target B, sonar C, detection chance 25%". My only hesitation is an æsthetic one: I still want to play "Harpoon by email", not "Harpoon moderated by a computer".

This sort of low-speed manoeuvre isn't easy to show on the charts I have available, and I really need to work on producing a zoomed-in version (scaling up the underlying chart, then drawing the same things on top of it).

Another game will start in the new year.
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jay white
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Love these session reports! Good to hear you will continue.
 
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Tomasz Niedzinski
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coffee demon wrote:
Love these session reports! Good to hear you will continue.


Maybe you want to join us? We lack players right now
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Roger BW
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Yeah, more players are always welcome.
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jay white
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I'm familiar with the Fear God Dread Naught rules, and co-reffed a massive double-blind event using that system, but I'd be afraid that it would take a lot of time to get up to speed on the Harpoon rules and tactics. I own Harpoon, but never played it...
 
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Roger BW
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It's not as bad as it looks.

Seriously. It's got a reputation as a monstrously complex game, but it's basically trying to be realistic - which means, yes, there's complexity, but if you know a bit about real-world tactics and act accordingly you won't go too far wrong.

I've not played FG&DN but I suspect that there's a lot in common (order plotting, etc.) - just add (more) radars, sonar (only in one of the five games I've run so far) and missiles.
 
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Ryan Powers
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Firedrake wrote:
Yeah, more players are always welcome.


Color me intrigued. I've got a copy of the Harpoon 4 rules around here somewhere. How much proficiency do I need to not drag things down?

Way back in the mists of time I shot some missiles at some boats to see how things worked. That's about as far as I got. Not afraid of the complexity, just didn't want to play solo and there was nobody local interested.
 
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Roger BW
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Drop me a PM with your email address, and I'll do another intro game alongside the next "big" one if enough players are interested.
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jay white
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I'm not afraid of complexity either. Just a little worried about time commitment, since I'm already learning the La Bataille rules and about to become a stay-at-home dad with some major projects still on the go..

Regardless, I'll PM you and see what happens. :)
 
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Tomasz Niedzinski
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You actually don't need to know any rules. You just need a grasp of how things work in real life and referee is doing rules part for you.
You can even play without grasp of things. The only thing that will happen then is that you end up sunk and confused.
 
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Roger BW
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While I make no claim to be a professional wargamer, I try to aim things in that direction: if a player wants to do something completely un-covered by the rules, I'll try to adjudicate it in a fair manner, rather than saying "rules don't cater for that so you can't do it".
 
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jay white
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niedziak wrote:
You actually don't need to know any rules. You just need a grasp of how things work in real life and referee is doing rules part for you.
You can even play without grasp of things. The only thing that will happen then is that you end up sunk and confused.


I'm hoping the rules give a sense of what happens in real life? Because I know very little about contemporary naval weaponry and tactics.
 
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Roger BW
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Chatting with the ref is also allowed.
 
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Tomasz Niedzinski
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coffee demon wrote:
niedziak wrote:
You actually don't need to know any rules. You just need a grasp of how things work in real life and referee is doing rules part for you.
You can even play without grasp of things. The only thing that will happen then is that you end up sunk and confused.


I'm hoping the rules give a sense of what happens in real life? Because I know very little about contemporary naval weaponry and tactics.


All units are real life units - distance is measured in nautical miles or yards, speeds are in knots and turns are using 3 minutes of real time (mostly, there are 3 types of turns), so you can easily convert things from real life into game. The only abstract thing are damage points for ships, but there are rules for designing ships and converting this values from displacement. In various publications there are also equations and analysis of designing things like damage made by weapons (which they still refine and the thing is like never ending project in pursuit of highest realism possible).
 
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