Sunday, July 2, 2017

Enfilade 2017: Slugfest Off Samar After Action Review

(Image:  USS Johnston (DD-557) at the Battle of Samar, by artist Paul Wright)   
Well, I managed to play my first wargame this year at our Enfilade convention.

I was on duty for most of the Memorial Day Weekend, but managed to zip down to Olympia's Red Lion Inn on Saturday night to snap some photos for my 38th YouTube video.

Of course, on the Sunday morning of my initial wargame of 2017, I woke up with a splitting headache, thanks to a duty-related pinched nerve in my neck.

Normally, I would have opted to stay home.  However, since this was my chance to finally sit at a gaming table, it was:  Damn the headache and full speed ahead!

All heroic naval quotes aside, I wasn't planning on playing Ed Beauregard's Slugfest Off Samar.  But between my headache and the other games having a full roster, I found Slugfest suitable and enjoyable for the less-than-sociable condition I was in.

The set-up was an alternate-history version of the Battle off Samar, which was part of the larger Battle of Leyte Gulf.
(Image:  The Battle Off Samar)   
But unlike the usual complicated plans the Imperial Japanese Navy concocted, Ed's scenario simplified the Japanese strategy down to a massed charged against American naval forces supporting the liberation of the Philippines.

In another twist, American ships weren't the only ones involved in the action against the Japanese.  Due to some astute diplomacy, British and French vessels were on-hand.

(Image:  Slugfest set-up)
Ed used the rules Supremacy at Sea developed by the University of British Columbia Sunday Night Crew.

In his scenario, most of the cruisers and destroyers were engaged with their counterparts "off screen."  This allowed for a basic battlewagon brawl.

The Japanese surface action task force consisted of the following:

Battleships--the Yamato and her sister ship, the Musashi; along with the Nagato, Fuso, and Yamashiro.
Battlecruisers--Kongo and Haruna.
Heavy cruisers--Ashigara and Nachi.

(Image:  The Japanese surface action task force)
The Allies were organized as follows:

East Division--

HMS Howe (BB), HMS Renown (BC), along with the French ships Richelieu (BB) and Dunkerque (BC).
(Image:  Ships of the Allied East Division)
The West Division consisted of the American battleships California, Tennessee, Mississippi and Pennsylvania.

(Image:  Ships of the Allied West Division)

I was given a mixed command of battleships consisting of the USS West Virginia (BB-48), USS Maryland (BB-46), and HMS Resolution.

(Image:  My Central Division zig-zagging into battle)
(Image:  My division coming under fire)

The American ships were hamstrung with a limited supply of armor piercing ammunition (AP)... 

(Image:  The Yamato and a Kongo-class battleship)

...because they were originally tasked with shore bombardment.  So we used high explosive (HE) rounds for our initial ranging shots.

(Image:  The Yamato and her consort under fire)

The Japanese outfoxed the Allies right away, by sending the bulk of their forces east to concentrate on the Allied East Division.

Whereas the bulk of our forces swerved west, leaving us the Japanese East Division, consisting of the Yamato and her escorting battleship, as the only viable targets.

(Image:  Three Japanese battleships of their Central Division steaming west)
(The Japanese Central Division under fire from the allied guns)

Supremacy at Sea requires players to write orders for their ships, so movement is conducted simultaneously.
(Image:  The Allied Central Division facing off against the Japanese East Division)
However, in the heat of battle, it's easy for fleet commanders to "transmit the wrong signals."

Things went from bad to worse for the Allies, when two British ships in the East Division collided.

(Image:  HMS Howe rams HMS Renown)
Most of the action involved blasting each other with the ships' guns.  But the Japanese cruisers made two torpedo runs against the allied ships.

(Image:  As Allied and Japanese battleships exchange salvos, a Japanese cruiser launches torpedoes)
Nearly every ship suffered some degree of damage.  Only the USS Pennsylvania and the USS Maryland remained unscathed throughout the battle.

The Allies got the worst of the pounding match, starting with the USS West Virginia under my command.

(Image:  The USS West Virginia capsizes)
(Image:  The USS West Virginia slips beneath the waves)
In addition to the West Virginia, the following allied ships were sunk--
--HMS Howe
--HMS Renown
--USS Tennessee

Several ships were severely damaged.
The Mississippi was crippled, chugging along at 10 knots, but still capable of firing all her guns.
The Richelieu was a floating wreck.  Her decks were awash and her main guns silenced.
The Dunkerque wasn't much better.  Although two center turrets were knocked out, she could still make an impressive 21 knots.

Along with the havoc wrought by Japanese shells and torpedoes, the surviving American ships were 1 to 2 turns away from exhausting their AP ammo.  With that, the allies conceded the game.

We all concluded that Yamato would have been sunk the following turn, while another Japanese battleship would continue to limp northward, hoping to avoid American dive bombers.

However, the really bad news was, the remaining Japanese ships would have fallen upon the invasion's support ships--a major setback for the liberation of the Philippines.

(Image:  Slugfest Off Samar's endgame--a Japanese victory)

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