The Hunt for Red October - North Atlantic Convoy

The third scenario from Hunt for Red October is pretty straightforward but I really like it. The NATO player is trying to get a merchant convoy from New York to Le Havre to help keep the supplies going to fend off a Soviet invasion of western Europe. The Soviets use their submarines to try and sink as many of the merchant ships as possible.

Alfa class submarine - a deadly ocean predator


The scenario lasts 5 turns.  Short and sweet!

The NATO convoy is protected by Task Force Bravo, which consists of':
  • 4 Perry class frigates
  • 4 Knox class frigates
  • 2 Spruance class destroyers
All of these ships have decent detection capabilities (rating of 4) and ASW helos to help take on subs. On top of this, NATO has 4 Los Angeles class submarines to help whittle down the Soviet submarine threat.

The Soviets get:
  • 4 Victor class submarines
  • 2 Alfa class submarines
  • 3 November class submarines
  • 1 Akula class submarine
NATO gets points for sinking Soviet subs while the Soviet player gets 2 points for sinking a NATO merchant ship (one of which can be sunk with only a single hit) and NATO warships (which will take 2 hits to sink).

This is a nicely-designed scenario. I played it several times and got different results with it - everything from a stalemate to a substantial victory for each side. Here's one of the plays that I documented.

Setup
The Soviet player sets up first, putting four subs in the deep waters just east of New York harbor where the NATO task force will be leaving. He then places two more lines of 3 submarines each to the east in the mid-Atlantic and closer to the coast of Spain.

NATO puts two Los Angeles class subs near the first line of Soviet subs closest to New York and another pair of subs in the mid-Atlantic. The idea is to use the LA class subs aggressively and sink as many Soviet subs as the task force moves towards Europe.

Turn 1

The Soviets roll 3 for initiative while NATO gets 1. NATO is given the first move and Task Force Bravo moves out of New York harbor. During the move phase, the Soviet subs rush into the TF space and get ready to attack. In the ensuing battle, a Knox class frigate is damaged and 2 merchant ships are sunk by Victor class submarines. NATO ASW efforts are great and the destroyers manage to sink a November. 

TF Bravo moves gingerly out of New York and into unfriendly seas during NATO move, turn 1


Turn 2

NATO rolls for initiative and gets a 3 while the Soviets get 4. NATO is again given the first move and Task Force Bravo nears the mid-Atlantic. 2 Victors and and Akula move into the task force hex. All the Soviet submarines get detected. The Akula damages another Knox frigate while one of the Victors get sunk.  The Soviet player decides to switch tactics and stop going for the escorts as this tactic is proving fruitless.

TF Bravo in the mid-Atlantic as Soviet and American subs nearby


Turn 3

The Soviet player once again wins initiative this turn and the NATO subs come into play finally. A pair of Los Angeles submarines move into the same space as a November and Alfa and easily sink both of them. However, the Soviets have moved their second line of submarines into attack position on the NATO convoy and score a hit on one of the merchant ships for 2 VPs. 



Turn 4

NATO finally gets its crap together and wins initiative with 7 Detection markers while the Soviets only gain 1. The Soviets move first and form a ring around Bravo with their submarines, trying to anticipate where it will go next. Bravo reaches the Spanish coast. The Los Angeles submarines go on the prowl and start picking off the Soviet subs. Two Victor class submarines are sunk but at the price of one Los Angeles class submarine. I doubt that is a fair exchange for the Americans.

Task Force Bravo nears the Spanish coastline
Turn 5

Final turn and the NATO convoy is reaching towards its objective. NATO wins initiative by rolling 6 while the Soviet player has a measly 1.  The Soviets are given first move and they park their November, Alfa, and Akula in Le Havre. This is shallow water so everyone gets detected. During the ensuing battle, the Akula and Alfa go down. The November survives the first round of combat and shoots at a merchant ship but misses. The NATO convoy has arrived more or less intact at Le Havre and troops and supplies are sent off to the front to try and halt the advance of the Warsaw Pact.

TF Bravo reaches Le Havre but has 3 Soviet subs trailing behind it.


Conclusion

Our final tally is Soviets 13 VP and NATO 25. This substantial victory for NATO is due mostly to poor Soviet tactics in the early turns. As the Soviet player, my idea was to take down a few escorts to make the job of going after the merchants easier in the end game. Unfortunately, there is just so much firepower in the NATO convoy that taking out one or two escorts is not really going to help here. The Soviets need to go for the throat early on and keep up the attacks in order to counter the damage they are definitely going to suffer at the hands of the enemy task force and submarine ASW. 


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