Well after a week's delay we went to sea and fought it out over the convoy last night. Forces on table at the start were as follows.
Admiral Scheer and Lutzow - CAs with 6*11" guns 26kts speed)
Admiral Hipper - CAs with 8*8" guns 32kts
Royal Navy (Curt)
Cairo and Carlisle - Anti-Aircraft CLs with 8*4" guns, 28kts speed
Manxman - Abdiel class minelayer - 6*4" guns, 36 kts, acting as fast transport.
Hasty, Hero and Hotspur - H class DDs with 4*4.7" guns, 4 torpedo tubes, 35kts
Dulverton, Beaufort and Krakowiak (Polish) - Hunt class DEs with 6*4" guns, 28kts
Convoy of 8 merchantmen 10 kts speed
I was non-player Gm and handled the Ship forms, damage rolls, random acts of fate etc.
The initial set up was as follows. Visibility was 20,00yds, or 1m at 1cm=200yds. The escorts were arranged around the convoy to provide cover for air or U-boat attacks, and the convoy was steaming south at 10kts. I gave Sylvain the option to split his force into two groups with the first group at limit of visibility at A and the second at B. I figured that he would split his force and move them as indicated by the dotted lines. The RN had reinforcements that would arrive at some time and I as GM would place them at X on arrival.
To me splitting the force would force the escorts to split up and give twice as many opportunities for a break through. Moving south and then east would head off the convoy, allow the Germans to use their entire broadsides, and clear the smoke more favourably given the wind was blowing to the northwest.
Lesson 1 - Never Assume That Your Players Will Do What You Expect Them To.
Maybe it's a Quebecois vs rest of Canada thing, but anyway Sylvain had other ideas. He kept his ships in a single group and moved them due east. To be fair he didn't know where the reinforcements were to arrive, nor did he know exactly where his second group would appear. And he figured that he could take on one half the escort group while the others worked their way round the convoy. To my mind he made his own task more difficult, but his call.
This also made my life more difficult as I had to figure out how to juggle the reinforcements given the unexpected tack taken. I had a variable arrival time for a squadron of 4 British light cruisers (D12 < game turn number) with the arrival point at X. There was the possibility of heavier units and an air strike for the British, and a possible air strike for the Germans. However, the timing and appearance of anything beyond the cruisers was to be a judgement call based on how the balance was running.
Since Curt didn't know what his reinforcements were, or where or when they would arrive I just made a quick change and when the cruisers appeared the arrival point had shifter south to Y 26,000 yds from the Hipper - outside visual range and show a "blip" on the Dete screen as shown below.
Curt's escort group was essentially running on charm and good looks - he didn't have a gun that could hurt the Germans outside of point blank range and only 4 of his ships had torpedoes. However, a second player on the RN side would have helped a lot and he had a lot to juggle.
Sylvain asked on turn 1 what the standard escort tactic was, and Curt showed him a masterful display. Place yourself between the enemy and your charges, occupy space, make your self a tough target to hit, use a lot of smoke and try for a torpedo attack. I have to give Curt a lot of credit for enjoying a game that set him up basically as a sitting target with little chance to fight back. But he did seem to take to the challenge.
Lesson Three - As Curt Says GQ Gives Not Just a Game But a Good Simulation
Here's short summary of events. We played 9 turns in the evening (about 3 hours of play and an hour of game time).
- The raiders had a hard time hitting the escorts, but when they hit them they hit them hard.
- Regardless, battered destroyers can take a lot of kicking and none of the escorts sank. Curt had some really good damage control work and Sylvain's gunners kept hitting the same damaged weapon systems.
- Curt managed beautiful torpedo plots, getting 6 possible chances of hits out of 4 spreads of fish. However, his dice sucked and all of them missed! The tail chase tactics of the raiders helped Curt here - with the Germans on a collision course with the fish.
- HMS Manxman shifted into turbo mode and sprinted off at 36kts once she was out of sight from the raiders.
- The Hipper did get clear of the smoke to eventually fire at the convoy. Another lucky damage control roll saved an engineering hit that would have left one merchant DIW and DOA.
- The smoke screens intended to cover the convoy also nicely covered the RNs cruisers and Sylvain couldn't identify the blip until they were very close.
In the end we called it a night, but not the end of the game. We marked the ship positions on Curt's sea mat with tape and we're planning to finish it up next week. The reinforcements cruisers are as follows
HMS Gloucester CA armour, 12*6"
HMS Ajax CL 8*6"
HMS Arethusa CL 6*6"
HMS Euryalus CL 10*5.25"
All good for 32kts. They have the speed to keep up with the raiders, and add much needed fire power. However, River Plate showed that the raiders still have the gunnery edge and the RN needs to keep a mind of the convoy missions. We'll see how it plays out.