Monday, May 30, 2016

Enfilade 2016 Recap Part 2 - My Games

We ran two game for Enfilade 2016, both based on the Channel Dash (AKA Operation Cerberus) where the German battleships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen sailed from Brest to German ports through the English Channel in February 1942. The first game covered the air attack by British aircraft and the second covered the Royal Navy’s daylight MTB/MGB attack.

Note, you can see more pictures from the other events at this blog post.

Channel Dash - Air Attack 
Our first game was run on Saturday morning. The game was full, but we added a couple other players to help with all the British planes.
Initial set up for the German capital ships with the aircraft and escorts standing by
Both sides had some minor choices for the game (Germans had to pick their escort ships and set Flak orders, while the British had to try to coordinate their aircraft entry). The British had Swordfish torpedo planes, Beaufort bombers (two armed with torpedoes), some Whirlwinds armed with light bombs, and some Spitfire Vs as escort. The Germans had a mix of Me-109s and FW-190s. Things started out a little slowly as everyone picked up the rules and tried to get moving.
British planes approaching with the Germans intercepting and flak starting to appear
Due to navigation issues, the British force ended up split into 3 different groups. The northern group had a pair of Swordfish and the Whirlwinds.The center group had two Swordfish, four Beauforts, and six Spitfires (although all the planes did not enter at the same time). The southern group had a pair of Swordfish and a pair of Beauforts. The Germans initially concentrated on the northern two groups (the ones closest to the battleships). But German reinforcements were able to join the battle after the start and go after the southern group.

German fighters and flak took their toll, while the Whirlwinds tried to use their light bombs to suppressed the Flak. Two Swordfish and a Beaufort were able to get into position to launch the torpedoes and a couple other Beauforts were able to drop their bombs.
Swordfish making their way through the flak (these planes ended having to jettison their torpedoes before getting into position to attack)
Beauforts making their way through the flak
A Swordfish launches a torpedo at Scharnhorst
German fighters trying to catch the southern attack group
Beauforts dropping their bombs
Torpedoes launched and a hit on Prinz Eugen
As the battle ended, we added up the hits to the German capital ships. Gneisenau was hit by heavy bombs from the Beaufort bombers, which would keep her in the yards for a few months but didn't slow her down. The torpedo launched at Scharnhorst missed, but the battleship took some minor damage from light bombs from the Whirlwinds. However, the trailing Prinz Eugen was hit by a torpedo from a Swordfish. It was not enough damage to sink the cruiser, but it would keep her out of action for a long time.

Overall I was pretty happy with how this game turned out.Things did start a little slow, but they picked up and I think just about everyone had a good time with the game. It looked pretty nice with all the planes and ships on the board.

Channel Dash - Surface Attack
Next up was the daylight attack by the British MTBs and MGBs. In this game both sides had several options for their forces. The Germans could select their escorts (with the option of taking some fighter) and the British had choices about which ships to take, with the option of getting an old destroyer. This was going to be a tough game for the British and I tried to impress on them that it would be an uphill battle for them, however I didn't expect it to be quite as bad as it turned out to be.

Both sides took a couple fighters for air cover. The Germans took a destroyer, torpedo boat, and pair of S-boats. The British took five MTBs as their main force. The German battleships were planned to enter the board after a few turns, so the German players (who had to set up first) formed a line all along the board to try to cover all the British approaches. The British decided to enter as close to the entry point for the battleships as possible (after the game I realized I should have emphasized that the battleships moved faster than most of the MTBs).
British MTBs moving toward the battleship entry point
The entry point selected by the British put them into contact with the German S-boats, while the destroyer and torpedo boat turned back to help support from a distance.
S-boats (right) turn to bring their guns to bear while the German destroyer takes long-range shots
Without any MTB guns that could reach the German S-boats, the British sent their fighters to strafe the Germans. But the Germans countered with their own fighters.
One Spitfire dives in on the S-boats while the other tries to keep the German fighters away
As soon as the shooting started, I knew things were not going to turn out well for the British. The German destroyer got multiple hits with its 5 inch guns, easily sinking one MTB. The S-boats used their 20mm and 40mm guns to cause heavy damage to two more. The British Spitfires couldn't get any hits, while the Me-109s damaged both Spitfires and forced one to abort.

The next few turns the British did a little better. They shot down one Me-109 and got closer to where the battleships would enter. But the hot German dice continued; three more MTBs were sunk and the remaining boat was damaged.
The S-boats run interference while the German fighters keep the Spitfire busy as the Scharnhorst passes by.
At this point I decided to give the British the optional destroyer that could have been selected at the start of the game (I probably should have allowed them to have it at the start of the game). The last MTB couldn't get into a good position to fire its torpedoes and ended up being sunk by combined fire from the S-boats and fighter.
The British MTB surrounded and in trouble
The British destroyer was able to damage the German destroyer and tried to get into position to fire torpedoes at the oncoming battleship. But a rudder special hit spoiled the torpedo run, forcing the British destroyer to take a desperation launch at the battleship.
British torpedoes moving toward the German ships
One torpedo spread caught the German destroyer (which was trying to run interference for the torpedoes) in the stern causing heavy damage. But the battleships were able to escape without any damage.

At this point we ended the game, but it didn't feel like the British players had much fun with it. I went with historic forces, but knowing how weak the British boats are, I probably should have beefed up the British forces by letting them keep their MGBs (instead of swapping them for the fighters) and giving them the destroyer from the start.

I think the air attack game turned out pretty close to as expected and the players had a good time. The MTB attack did not go very well and I will have to re-evaluate the forces if I pull it out again in the future.


  1. great games you ran. They looked great too.

  2. I was one of the MTB players. That was fun, but I want a rematch. :-)

    I was really happy to see 1/700 ship models put to good use. That was a great use of larger scale naval miniatures.

    I liked the scenario, but I think it needed a few changes to rebalance it:

    1) Your torpedo markers are too short - the vessels were moving 20-30 kn, the torpedoes only 18 kn. We've made this mistake ourselves in the past by doing the speed division wrong, but I notice AS v4 now uses 1 cm/kn and specifies a 40 kn torpedo template. Were you still using the v3 template?

    2) The 50% chance of RN MTB engine failure at high speed felt too severe. I suggest making it a lower chance (20%-30%/turn) and only result in engine fouling (e.g., a reduction of max speed) instead of failure. Tension should increase for both sides because nearly everyone will risk engine fouling to go faster, but one or more boats will almost certainly slow at critical moments during a 10-20 turn game.

    3) The Scharnhorst should start on the table. I was deliberately aiming my MTBs to intercept it, but Scharnhorst "passed" me because it suddenly appeared on the table edge unexpectedly. Not only is that difficult to rationalize in a daylight scenario, it reduced play balance and substituted blind guessing for the guile and cunning of the MTB players. It would be really easy to just start Scharnhorst at one end of the table and the RN MTBs at the other.

    I hope to see more Action Stations games like this. I like the game, and I enjoyed yours enough that now I'm thinking about starting my own Action Stations collection. Our local Action Stations guy doesn't run games nearly often enough. :-)

    1. Ix, thanks for playing in the game. Here are my responses to your comments.

      1) I used the shorter torpedo markers because the table space was too narrow to really show the distances involved with the attack and it would have been too easy to set up a torpedo attack on the battleships using the longer markers.

      2) The speed check was only done when you went at high speed. Failing it would only have limited you to 3/4 speed and it was repairable (note that you could have run around the board at 3/4 speed without any issues). Historically most of the boats involved had engine trouble because they weren't allowed to warm them up properly.

      3) The briefing said when Scharnhorst would enter (giving you the idea of where to set up the attack). The MTBs even drove off the end of the table (causing me to move all the ships) to get an early view of the battleship. I feel I gave sufficient information for the MTBs to determine a good route of attack, not to mention that there was another battleship coming behind Scharnhorst.

      Air) The air rules are pretty simple in Action Stations and there usually aren't too many planes on both sides. Additionally, taking planes was optional for both sides, but historically I should have only given them to the Germans.

      I like to run Action Stations games and often have at least one per year. But they are usually night battles.

  3. I also remember thinking the MTB game needed aircraft rules that were either more abstract or more sophisticated. It was clearly frustrating to the fighter players to suffer a free shot at the tail of at least one plane every single turn.

    I suppose if you're willing to run multiple games, you could just run the fighter fracas as a separate dogfight game, and let the surviving victorious planes come onto the MTB game table for strafing runs. If you want to do that next year, I'll offer to bring a CY6 game to play out the dogfight. :-)

    - Ix