BLUF: This is the 6th supplement released for the Command At Sea gaming system. Here we have a relatively unknown battle field the Baltic. Where we had major fleet units of both the Soviets and Germans dueling during the early part of the war and then the rest of the war was very bloody and very vicious out the sea. Mine warfare, small boat missions, air raids, submarine attacks, etc.
This was released about two years after Mighy Midgets . It is the 6th major expansion for Command at Sea and the last before version 4 revision to the rules came along. Here we talk about the war in the Baltic. War in the Baltic? What do you ever mean? Well considering that the war at sea is a way to influence the war ashore, here we have a few scenarios that show how the war out to sea played out in trying to influence that war ashore as the Germans and Soviets fought for control of Europe during WW2.
So what do we get here?
Well to we open up with a short one page history of the Baltic engagements and then present a map of the major area that this supplement covers. After that we are 13 scenarios from the start of the war to the last major lost. Each scenario covers a major engagement type from small boats vs small boats to submarines or mine warfare operations. So there is enough variety to wet your flavor. After the scenarios we progress to the annexes and finally close out booklet with revisions to versions 3 CaS rules with how mines and mine warfare is supposed to work.
What scenarios do we get?
Encounter in the Irben Strait
Germans need to resupply their forces in Riga. However, due to issues with the land route they decided to send a convoy of ships to provide this resupply. The only issue is that the Gulf of Riga has been heavily mined. Is is up to the German mine sweeper squadron to clear the mines so the convoy can get through. Soviet Naval Aviation and a pair of Soviet Destroyers are attempting to turn back the Germans.
Reval (Tallin) Convoys
As Germans swept east they were capturing Soviet Naval Bases left and right. The only problem is that the Soviet Navy was being very, very successful in removing trapped Soviet Infantry units from these bases. The Germans have had enough of this and dedicate both Finnish Aviation units and a number of S-boats to prevent a series of convoys from getting away from Tallin.
The German High Command decideds to have a heavy German surface force built around the Tirpitz and Admiral Scheer operate as a blockading force outside Lennigrad. Thier mission is two fold, destroy the Soviet Navy in the Baltic and to provide fire support for the troops on the ground once the Soviet Navy is destroyed. The Soviets decided to use thier few submarines and a few torpedo boats to attack this blockading force.
Though the Germans held the mainland the Soviets still held some of the islands off the coast of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. The Germans decided to try and eliminate these thorns in their sides. The Soviets have a pair of submarines and a coastal gun battery outside one of these islands trying to prevent a landing.
Break the Seeigle Barrier - First round
This is a three part scenario set. This portion represents the attempts by the Soviet submarine force to break out from thier base in Kronstadt and get in postions to try and attack the convoys leaving Helsinki with iron ore coming from the Scandinavian countries.
Break the Seeigle Barrier - Second round
Here we have a repeat of the first round except here is a different set of submarines leaving a little later in the day. While at the same time the Finns are helping by laying new mine barriers around the Soviet Naval Bases and around the Gulf of Finland.
Break the Seeigle Barrier - Third round
Once more the Soviets try to break out of the blockade and hurl massive amounts of PT boats and aircraft at the Germans and Finn Naval forces in the region while at the same time even more submarines try to get underway to arrive in thier patrol zones.
Ambush as Aaland
The Soviet submarines that were able to breakout of the blockade around Lennigrad and a few other Soviet Baltic Naval Bases were able to effectively tie up German Surface forces in attempts to hunt them down. Here we have a role reversal for most of us. Here we have German Destroyers hunting down a Soviet submarine near an important harbor on the Finnish coast.
In 1944 while the Soviet Army was pushing out of heartland, they attempted to recapture the Baltics and punish the Finns for thier support of the Germans. The Russians plann to capture a number of small islands along the Finnish Coast. The Germans and Finns know this, the Soviets know there are German and Finnish Naval units in the region that will endanger the operation. Both sides try to ambush each other to gain the upper hand.
In an attempt to turn the tide after the Drosselfang fiasco, the Germans supply the heavy AA gun battery Niobe (which use to be the Royal Neatherlands cruiser Gelderland)as support to the Finns in an attempt to prevent the Soviet landings. The Soviet Naval Aviation units in the region decided to help turn the tide while providing assistance to the Soviet convoy of troops in the region as well.
The Bombardment of Sworbe
By 1944 the Germans were on full retreat on the land. Most of the Baltic Islands in the region were overrun by Soviet Army units. The Germans decided to rescue thier forces from some of these island rather then fight to the last man. The German Navy is asked to provide Naval Gunfire support to retreating German army forces as they retreat to an evacuation beach.
Duel Below the Waves
Here we have a German U-boat stumble upon a Soviet submarine in the Gulf of Riga. It is a duel beneath the waves as each side try to find and get a torpedo shot off.
More then 4000 killed- The loss of the Wilhelm Gustloff
This is one of the most under reported stories and massacres to German civilians near the end of the war. As East Prussia was about to fall to the Soviets a number of civilian refugees and elements of the German Navy board a rag tag bunch of ships including the former cruise ship Wilhelm Gustloff and the Admiral Hipper (who was heavily damaged from the Barents Sea engagement and still not combat capable) tried to escape. They stumbled upon a Soviet submarine on a cold January night.
With that we end the scenarios and then go into two pages talking about the Soviet Navy in WW2 and specifically Soviet Naval Tactics during the war. Finally we have a chronolgy of Soviet Naval Operations in the Baltic from 1941 to 1942.
We then dedicate a new chapter of rules on how mine warfare will work. For those of you who have the 4th Edition rules this chapter is already included. However, this section goes into pretty good detail and can be useful for a general reference page when compared to the new rule book.
Finally we close out the booklet with new annexes information for the forces covered in this book.
PROS: A very good general reference book for those in the West about an relatively unknown combat arena during WW2. A number of real good scenarios that cover the gambit from small tactics and small ships up to large convoy operations that have all facets of modern naval combat involved.
CONS: The history of the region and battlefield is cut short to only a few pages which seems a little lacking compared to a few other supplements that had come out a little earlier and even the later ones. Also it would have been nice to have a generic scenario generator included where one could have had small unit engagements between each side in the Baltic. Even more interesting would have been to seen a few scenarios that covered the Finnish-Soviet War of 1939 as well.
Overall: What is really nice that excluding a couple of scenarios most of these are pretty balance with neither side having any "super" units as one of my friends put it from playing scenarios in the other supplements or core games. It actually seems as if through some good tactics and thinking in most of these scenarios either side could win. Not having to depend on the luck of the dice. This is a good supplement for CaS gaming and like a couple of other books it provides a good reference book as well it at least to show how the Soviet Navy was involved in WW2 and how the German Surface fleet conducted the war after the "Phony War" portion ended in 1941.