AAR of SUBRON Mini-Campaign II
Silent War is a solitaire game covering the US Navy’s submarine force and its efforts to bring the Japanese empire to its knees during World War II. It includes counters for every US sub which took part, with counters for notable “super skippers” as well. The game comes with scenarios to cover some of the more notable patrols, but the system really makes its full impact in its campaign form, in which you control all of the subs and deploy them throughout the Pacific to (hopefully) best effect. Even the shortest campaigns, though, are intimidatingly large, so it’s a huge bonus that Compass Games now has two “mini” campaigns available for download (and linked from this site). The minis cover only a small geographic area over about a 6 month period and are thus much more manageable.
The game takes place in turns equivalent to about one week each (four turns to a month). On each turn, you repair subs in port, ready subs for going to sea, deploy those subs, and then patrol with the subs which began the turn at sea. For each sub on patrol, you check to see if it makes contact with a Japanese force, then determine the size of the convoy or Task Force and execute (usually) one or two rounds of combat. There’s an AAR of “Wahoo’s 4th Patrol” already on the site which will give you much greater detail in how combat is resolved. At the end of each sub’s turn, it has to pass an endurance check to stay at sea; otherwise it returns to base. In addition, “Ultra” areas are determined on each turn and represent areas which the codebreakers have determined will have higher than normal enemy activity. Also complicating things are occasional war events which may cause you to strip some of your subs from their assigned patrols for special missions as determined by your superiors.
Mini-campaign II covers the arrival of the fleet boats at Brisbane and their performance during the Guadalcanal campaign. The campaign starts at the beginning of August, 1942 and runs through the first week of February, 1943, 25 turns in total. Only the Solomons, Bismarck Sea and Coral Sea areas are in play. Victory conditions are based on tonnage sunk. 125,000 tons achieves a draw, matching the historical total. 140,000 tons represents a substantial victory and 155,000 tons a decisive victory. Less than 125,000 tons results in defeat, while less than 115,000 tons is considered failure. These victory conditions are then adjusted up or down a level depending on the number of capital ships sunk and the number of subs lost.
August begins with just two subs in action, the Sculpin and the Sturgeon. In week 2 Sculpin finds a convoy but is driven off by a Japanese patrol bomber before she can attack. Sturgeon attacks a 7 ship Task Force but misses and is damaged in return. She remains at sea and attacks another Task Force. This time she achieves a hit but it is a dud and this time she is sunk during the counterattack. The first month ends then with no ships sunk and one sub already lost.
September brings with it the Sailfish but I still will have only two subs with which to patrol. Sculpin’s bad luck continues as she attacks two convoys during the month but only succeeds in damaging a 5,000 ton merchant. Sailfish on her first patrol out of Brisbane manages to sink two merchants for a total of 3,000 tons. That 3,000 tons then represents the sum total of my accomplishments at the end of two months. Still a long way to go.
October brings new reinforcements as seven subs arrive at Brisbane, including my first Gato-class sub, Amberjack. Week 1 is spent deploying the new subs while Sailfish damages another merchant. In week 2, four different Japanese forces are attacked (two subs make no contact), but frustratingly most shots miss and the only hit is a dud. The dreaded Mark XIV torpedo is making its presence known. Sailfish is heavily damaged by ASW forces and as it turns out will not return to action during the campaign. In week 3, more missed shots and more duds plague the force but Grampus manages to sink a 2,000 ton merchant. Poor endurance rolls result in only four subs being on patrol in week 4, with only Gudgeon managing to damage another merchant, but no sinkings result. October ends with the grand cumulative total of 3 ships sunk for 5,000 tons. I’m now almost halfway through the campaign and have barely even been noticed by the Imperial Navy.
November brings more reinforcements with 8 more subs arriving at Brisbane. Results improve in the first week, as Swordfish damages a 5,000 ton Maru, followed by Amberjack sinking a 3,000 ton merchant and Trout sinking a 5,000 ton freighter. Unfortunately, Saury is sunk by escorts. That’s two subs lost; one more will shift the victory conditions to my disadvantage. For week 2, 10 subs are on patrol and ULTRA indicates heavy Japanese activity in the Solomons. Seadragon sinks a 1,000 ton Maru in the Bismarck Sea. Growler finds a large Task Force in the Solomons but has to settle for sinking a 2,000 ton Maru before escorts drive her off. Silversides damages another merchant and the remaining subs fail to make contact or are unsuccessful on the attack. The first two weeks of November bring my total to 16,000 tons, still a long way to go but at least making headway at last.
In week 3, Sargo, Flying Fish and Plunger combine to sink 3 ships for 8,000 tons, with Flying Fish damaging another merchant. However, the Mark XIV bites me again, this time with Amberjack being sunk by a circular run from her own torpedo. With 3 subs lost, my victory conditions just got tougher, with 140,000 tons now representing the draw level, and 155,000 tons representing a victory. With 10 turns remaining, I’m still only at 24,000 tons. Not looking good.
However, week 4 turns out to be the best yet, with Silversides, Flying Fish and previously unlucky Sculpin adding 3 more ships for 11,000 tons, with Spearfish damaging another. Fate is still being unkind, however, as this time Growler is lost to a transit event while deploying to the Solomons. At the end of November, my score stands at 13 ships sunk for 35,000 tons. With 9 turns left, I need to average almost 12,000 tons per week just to manage a draw.
December is the most frustrating month yet. The month begins with six more subs arriving while three are withdrawn for overhaul. Four subs are on patrol the first week, but three fail to find a contact. Flying Fish saves things for the squadron by sinking a 15,000 ton Maru, the only contact attacked during the turn. Thanks to the new arrivals, week 2 will see 10 subs on patrol. Unfortunately, the powers that be choose this time to meddle, as all 10 subs are diverted to patrol around Guadalcanal due to naval action in the area. Only Task Force contacts can be attacked and the net result is that only one sub makes contact with the enemy. Swordfish at least manages to sink a 2,000 ton Maru, but worst of all, all 10 subs have to return to base at the end of the turn.
Week 3 is a little better as 5 Japanese formations are attacked and Spearfish gets a 5,000 ton Maru and Albacore as 2,000 ton merchant. In week 4, eight subs are on patrol and the first seven can manage only to damage two ships. Three other hits prove to be duds. Spearfish saves the day by sending a 10,000 ton oiler to the bottom, bringing my cumulative total at the end of 1942 to 18 ships for 69,000 tons. Only five turns left and I’m only halfway to my goal of 140,000 tons just to achieve a draw. I need to average more than 14,000 tons/turn, a total I’ve only achieved once so far.
January brings mixed blessings as four subs withdrawn are counterbalanced by four new arrivals, two of which though are the ancient Nautilus and Argonaut. However, the exciting new development is that the US subs can use radar for the first time. This permits a sub to “unflip” any one Japanese ship revealed during the attack, which allows avoidance of some undesired escorts. This turns out to markedly improve the American situation. In week 1, Swordfish sinks a large 10,000 ton Maru, with Greenling accounting for another 1,000 ton ship. Spearfish gets a hit on a 15,000 ton oiler, but is disappointed by a dud torpedo. Week 2 provides multiple contacts for the 10 subs on patrol, but poor shooting results in Gudgeon and Tuna each sending 5,000 ton ships to the bottom. With three weeks left, I’m up to 90,000 tons, still 50,000 away from my goal.
Week 3 brings many opportunities and my subs respond with Albacore getting two ships for 6,000 tons, while Gudgeon, Triton and Greenling add another 3 ships for 11,000 tons. The disappointing sub is Guardfish who gets good shots against a 15,000 ton carrier and a 10,000 ton merchant but misses both. In week 4, Triton adds two more ships for 8,000 tons and Snapper and Grayback each get one for another 4,000 tons total. January ends with the force tallying 13 ships for 50,000 tons, by far the best month in the campaign. My total now is 31 ships for 119,000 tons. As the final turn begins, I need 21,000 tons to achieve a draw, 36,000 tons for a victory, or two capital ships which would lower the victory level back to 140,000. For this final week I’ll have 10 ships on patrol, with four subs in the Bismarck Sea, three in the Solomons and three more in the Coral Sea.
ULTRA provides info that the Coral Sea will be hot this week. However, given the lower rate of activity there, even with the ULTRA result, I choose not to shift any of my subs to the region. The Bismarck Sea is checked first. Tuna is damaged during her first attack against a convoy and forced to withdraw. Gudgeon finds a Task Force but can manage only a couple of shots against a 9,000 ton cruiser, both of which miss. Greenling now grabs the spotlight, finding a 9 ship convoy. On her first attack, she targets a 15,000 ton maru unmolested by escorts and sinks her. On reattack, she finds a good solution against a 9,000 ton freighter and is successful once again! Suddenly, with one attack, I’m up to 143,000 tons, assured of no worse than a draw and victory (155,000 tons) is even within reach with seven subs still to go!
Up next is Grayback, who fails to find a contact in the Bismarck Sea. Now we move on to the Solomons. Gato finds a nice convoy and sinks a 5,000 ton freighter. Guardfish fails on her attack and Albacore finds a small Task Force and gets a 3,000 ton Maru. This brings the total to 151,000 tons with the ULTRA-intensified Coral Sea left to go. Grampus is there but the other two subs are the rickety old Nautilus and Argonaut. Grampus goes first, finding a huge (19 ship) Task Force. A combat event appears which will double the tonnage of the largest ship sunk! Now she only has to sink a 2,000 ton ship or larger. On her first attack, she succeeds in hitting a 3,000 ton Maru. With a 60% chance of sinking the ship and winning the game, the Mark XIV shows its true colors once again as a dud results. On reattack, Grampus can manage only a shot at a 1,000 ton ship which misses. Nautilus goes next and to add insult to injury is sunk by a patrol bomber before even getting a shot off. Argonaut finds a few fat targets but the veteran sub can’t get a successful attack, ending the game.
So the final result is 35 ships for 151,000 tons, which with 5 subs lost results in a “draw.” Down to the wire and missing victory by a slim margin.
This was a lot of fun and took about 2 weeks to play out, playing an hour or so most days. It has that “I can get in a quick patrol before I leave” quality, and models well the triumphs and frustrations the men of the submarine force must have felt. I plan to take on the full campaign next. Excellent job by Brien Miller, Stephen Jackson and the people at Compass Games.
Thanks for the excellent AAR! I enjoyed it very much and more importantly I am happy you think so highly of the game.
Compass Games, LLC
Wow, that was a fantastic report. The tension and frustration were palpable. I've been considering buying this game, reading all the reviews I can find, and reading your AAR finally pushed me over the edge. Thanks for taking the effort to document your experience.