Saturday, May 18, 2013

7th Fleet: Soviet Bastion - Turn 4

Turn 4 begins and the clock is ticking down on the American submarines in their attempt to break through to the Soviet bastion north of Hokkaido.  The scenario is over at the end of this turn and the US  has incurred serious losses.  So far, the Americans have one submarine lost (Bremerton) and two damaged (Silversides and Guardfish) so the heavy work is left to the two remaining fully operational US subs (the Dace and the Springfield).

As day 2 of the battle dawns, both sides put their air units to work. The Americans place all of their P3 Orions on tactical coordination missions while the Soviets do the same.

Both sides have already detected the nearby enemy submarines.  The USSR starts off the turn with no less than 4 submarines sitting adjacent to the American subs.  The Dace and the Springfield are stacked together in the Soviet close defense hex, desperately fighting a close range battle on all sides. The Guardfish, meanwhile, is damaged but not completely out of the fight.

Action in the southern area near the tip of Hokkaido.

The US commander desperately needs to get his submarines into the Soviet bastion area, which is 4 hexes away.  This means that only the Dace and the Springfield will be able to make it there at full speed.  The damaged American submarines will have to fend for themselves, hopefully surviving the scenario and thereby preventing the Soviets from accumulating any more victory points.

The Soviets have two main priorities at this late stage.  They need to prevent the American subs from getting through to the bastion area and sink American submarines.  The plan is to use the four submarines down south to damage the Dace and Springfield, thereby preventing them from getting through, followed up by sinking the wounded Guardfish.

Further to the north, the Soviets are planning to chase down and sink the USS Silversides, which had been damaged heavily in yesterday's underwater battle.  Three Soviet subs sit nearby, ready to pursue the Silversides.  Unfortunately, in the local detection phase, the lucky American sub remains undetected while it licks its wounds and plans for a withdrawal from the area.  The Silversides survived 14 patrols during WWII and the skipper is determined not to lose it now!

Action up north.  Soviet subs plan to find and destroy USS Silversides.

Roll for initiative:  0  (NATO goes first).

US Turn:  The Silversides slips away two hexes from the nearby Soviet submarines.  Still undetected, it looks like she will indeed survive this battle.

Further south and deep below the dark and cold waters of the northern Pacific, the Dace and the Springfield make their final gambles.  Both submarines attempt ASW attacks on the Shtorm, but even with tactical coordination from the P-3 Orions, their efforts go unrewarded (both subs roll a 0 for the ASW attack).  Deciding to call it a day, they run at full speed into the Soviet bastion zone.  Unless they are sunk by the Soviets this turn, this entry into the zone is worth 12 points for the US player by game's end.

The USS Guardfish slips away from the massive Soviet submarine presence and move two hexes to the southwest.  It is detected.

Soviet Submarine Action Segment

The Soviet commander is not happy that the American submarines seem to be slipping through their fingers.  Despite a tight net around the US subs, they seem to be slipping away.  With the escape of the  Silversides undetected, the only alternative is to send a token force to finish off the Guardfish as it runs southeast for Japan and focus the rest of the force on the Americans in the bastion zone.  Surely, with the help of some luck and judicious use of the I38 recon aircraft for tac coordination, the Soviets will manage to hurt the Americans.

Soviet subs swarm the Guardfish (southeast) and the Dace and Springfield (northwest)
The Soviets rush subs to the north, making 4 attacks on the Dace and Springfield, scoring no hits.  In the southeast, two Soviet submarines attack the Guardfish, using all the available help from two I38s and one T-95G recon aircraft.  Unfortunately, the rolling is very poor and the Russians are left with little to celebrate as the game comes to a rapid end on turn 4.

Conclusion:  Final victory points are 6x2 for the US subs in the Soviet bastion zone and -3 points for the loss of the Bremerton early on in the game for a total of 9 points.  Consulting the VP chart, it seems the result is a Substantive Soviet Victory.  This loss for the Americans might have been alleviated by concentrating more firepower at the Soviet subs.  I think I may have focused so much on just moving the American subs and protecting them from the Russians that I forgot to really attack.  Assigning at more planes to tactical coordination instead of recon on the first day may have helped too.

This is a very short and tense scenario and it is a great way to introduce the player to the concept of full speed submarine movement effects and the use of close defense hexes.  It also covers a compelling topic, the so-called Soviet bastion zones, which was hotly discussed in the western press during the 1980s.

For more information about the Soviet bastion approach, check out here and here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

7th Fleet: Soviet Bastion - Turn 3

In the first two turns of this scenario, the US submarines began their approach towards the Kurile Islands in hopes of breaking through the Soviet submarine defense perimeter.  The Americans are trying desperately to get submarines into the Soviet bastion zone in the Sea of Okhtosk.  In turn 2, the Soviets successfully sunk one of the US submarines (the Bremerton) as it made a mad dash for the Kuriles.

Start of turn 3

Things heat up considerably in turn 3.

The Americans win initiative again this turn and decide to send their three southernmost submarines at full speed towards the Soviet perimeter in hopes of getting through unscathed.

The USS Guardfish moves northwest at full speed and is immediately detected by the Soviets.  As it enters the Soviet close defense hex near the tip of Hokkaido, it comes under attack and is damaged.

The Springfield and Dace also hurl themselves at full speed and are instantly detected.  They make it to the Soviet close defense hex to the north of Shikotan island and are attacked.  Luckily, however, they are undamaged.

Up north the USS Silversides makes a dash to the west and is detected.

Soviet action segment:

The Soviet submarines attack with a fury during this turn.  With the help of Soviet reconaissance aircraft, they manage to damage the USS Silversides.  The Guardfish, Dace, and Springfield are untouched, however, as the Soviets conduct a high-speed tempo dance of ASW around them.

end of turn 3

The Dace and the Springfield are the only two American submarines that could reach the Bastion area by the end of the next turn (which is the end of the scenario).  Can they hold out?

End of Turn 3

Monday, May 13, 2013

7th Fleet: Soviet Bastion - Turn 2

At the end of the previous turn, the American submarines were moving towards the Soviet Bastion near the Kurile Islands north of Japan.  One group of 3 US subs (Springfield, Dace, and Guardfish) inched towards the southern Kuriles while 2 other US subs (Bremerton and Silversides) had moved further north.

Turn 2 begins.

Initiative is rolled and the US player goes first.  The Guardfish, Springfield, and Dace move slowly up towards the Soviet submarines to the south, hoping to speed through the well-defended zone in subsequent turns.  As of now, none of the US subs has been detected.

Up to the north, the Bremerton makes a run to the west-  straight for the Kuriles.  Since the Bremerton is running at full speed and it's within 5 hexes of enemy units and/or a close defense hex, it is automatically detected.  The Silversides moves slowly up towards the north, hoping that the Soviet subs will ignore it long enough to make a run for the Kurile entrance next turn.

Three American subs approach the tip of Hokkaido while one US sub up north dashes towards the Kuriles.
Soviet action segment

The Soviets decide to hang on down south and wait for the 3 American subs to come to them.  Staying put and using the advantage of the nearby close defense hex should be a very effective way to keep the US submarines out.

Up north, the Mikhalovskiy moves adjacent to the Bremerton and damages it (with a beautiful roll of 9).    The Admiral Sidorov, a Mike-class, follows up the attack on the Bremerton and sinks it (another 9 is rolled).  This is a very good start for the Russians.

The sinking of the Bremerton.
Turn 2 ends.

End of Turn 2.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

7th Fleet: Soviet Bastion - Turn 1

Victory Games followed up 6th Fleet, their successful opening to the Fleet series, with 2nd Fleet in 1986.  Featuring war in the North Atlantic between NATO and the Soviets, the game is still seen as a classic among modern naval wargamers.  But the best was yet to come.  In 1987, the third installment, 7th Fleet, series was released.

This game ambitiously took on the subject of naval warfare in the Far East.  A massive 3 map effort, the game covers a huge swath of territory that runs along the Pacific coastline from the northern Soviet Kamchatka peninsula all the way down to northern Vietnam.  Like the previous installments, the game slowly builds up the player towards mastery of the rules system through carefully planned scenarios from minor skirmishes all the way to World War III.  The result is somewhere near a masterpiece full of tense battles between Cold War navies, including Japan, Vietnam, North and South Korea, China, and, of course - the United States and the Soviets.

In the game's 4th scenario, "Soviet Bastion", Gorbachev has been deposed by Soviet hawks and the Soviet military efforts in Afghanistan approach the level of atrocities.  NATO leaders condemn the actions and tension builds in Europe and the Far East.  The Soviets carry out a massive military buildup and it looks like the world is headed for a confrontation, the likes of which have not been seen in more than four decades.

In the Far East, the Soviets have put into effect their "bastion theory" into practice, turning the waters from the Kurile Islands to Kamchatka into their own exclusive territory for naval operations .  Soviet submarines have been stationed around the Kurile Islands serving as pickets and ordered to prevent any breach of the area by hostile forces.  The US CINC 7th Fleet has responded by sending 5 American submarines into the bastion area in an effort to report on movement of Soviet convoys.

The Soviets have air support in the form of recon planes stationed in Alexandrovsk while the Americans have P-3 Orion aircraft stationed in Misawa, Japan.


The Soviets set up their submarines around the close defense hexes along the Kurile Island chain.  They are working in pairs or small groups with one submarine responsible for attempting to detect the US subs as they approach the area and the second sub boxing in the Americans in the close defense hexes and sinking them.

Soviet submarine setup, with bastion area to the northwest.

The Soviet commander is determined to keep the US out and has decided that a primarily defensive posture around the Kuriles should keep them out.  The Americans must setup quite far to the southeast of the bastion, which presents some special problems for them.

The American subs set up to the east of northern Japan.

The Strategic Air Phase begins and the Soviets are confident that the US submarines will be detected by either Soviet submarines or the close defense area near the Kuriles.  As a result, most of the Soviet air assets are put into tactical coordination to help with attacks on the American SNs.

The US puts all three squadrons of P-3 Orions into reconnaissance efforts near the tip of Hokkaido.  The P-3s do an excellent job of pinpointing the location of 3 Soviet submarines.

Soviet subs detected by P-3 Orions.

A newer Kilo class diesel sub, Shtorm is detected, along with a fearsome Sierra I class, the Admiral Khovrin and a Victor III, the Admiral Mikhaylovskiy.

Turn 1 Action Phase:

NATO rolls initiative and the American subs are presented with an immediate problem.  They need to make it into the bastion area by tomorrow afternoon and the only way to close the distance effectively is to run at full speed.  This means the American subs will be detected more easily as they reach the Kurile Island chain.

Deciding to press ahead, the American subs split into two groups.  It would be suicide for all of them to attempt a passage through the same area so the commander is hoping to split up the Russian pickets a bit and create enough room to push through the close defense hexes (denoted by a flag on the map).

US subs split into two groups, run at full speed for the Kuriles.

Two Permit-class subs, the Guardfish and the Dace, along with a deadly Los Angeles-class submarine, the Springfield head towards the gap between Hokkaido and the southern Kuriles.

Meanwhile, the Bremerton (Los Angeles class) and Silversides (Sturgeon class) head north, hoping to draw off some of the Soviet submarine fleet.

Soviet action segment

Soviet subs in the south stay put while those in the north rush to meet the Americans.

The Soviet commander decides to move an extra submarine, the Admiral Kapitanents (Victor III class) down south to reinforce the southern approaches to the Kuriles.

The three northern Soviet subs head south to greet the Silversides and Bremerton, hoping to detect, engage, and delay them.

Turn 1 Ends.