Saturday, August 13, 2016

Silent Victory - Summer Solo Game

For my summer solo game for this year, I decided to try out the boardgame Silent Victory from Comsim Press. Silent Victory is a solitaire tactical level game placing you in command of an American submarine during World War II in the Pacific. The game system is based on The Hunters, where you command a German U-boat from 1940 - 43. To make set up and storage a little easier, I decided to use the VASSAL module for the game.

Silent Victory is played out in a series of patrols where you check for encounters, attack ships, and try to make it back to base. When you get back to base, you go through a refit where you can earn medals, along with getting upgrades for your sub and crew. Your job is to make it through World War II without getting sunk or relieved. The game has some role-playing aspects and does a good job of building a narrative of the action.

The game includes charts for the major classes of U.S. submarines used during WWII, except for the older S-class boats.For my game, I decided to start off in December 1941 in the Tambor class submarine USS Thresher (SS-200). I went with Thresher because she was one of the submarines that made it all the way through the war and I hoped that would help out my die rolling. Historically, Thresher went on 14 patrols, sank 17 ships totaling 66,172 tons. On 4 April 1945 she arrived in Pearl Harbor and become a training boat and was performing those duties when World War II ended.
USS Thresher in 1940 (from
For my first patrol, I was assigned to head to the Empire waters off the coast of Japan. I loaded up my boat and headed off. The possible patrol areas are different depending on if you are based in Pearl Harbor or Australia. All the patrol routes have two outbound transit encounter checks, five on patrol encounter checks (on of which is a double check), and two return transit encounter checks.
Pearl Harbor Patrol Areas
An example of narrative the game can build, on my first outbound transit check from Pearl Harbor I rolled an aircraft encounter. I could just imagine jumpy pilots attacking any submarine without checking to see if it was friend or foe. In this case I was able to dive away and avoid the plane. As the patrol continued, I encountered a several small convoys and was able to sink a small tanker and two other ships. It sounds like a pretty easy patrol, but the historical problems with American torpedoes are featured in the game and you have to check for duds on each hit. During the patrol I fired 16 torpedoes for 12 hits, but 9 of the hits were duds. A whopping 75% dud rate. I actually had some really lucky rolls for torpedo damage and able to sink each ship with only one torpedo. I did take some minor damage during the patrol, but also earned a Bronze Star medal.
Thresher ready to head out on patrol #2
Patrol #2 was to the China Sea. I added four more ships to my total, earning a Silver Star medal. The torpedo dud rate remained high (10 duds on 16 hits), but I was able to sink a couple ships with my 3 inch deck gun too. 
One of my night surface attacks against two escorted freighters
On Patrol #3 I was sent to the Marshall Islands and also got orders to transfer to Australia (this happened through a random event roll). I only got two ships on this patrol and took some heavy damage that kept me in refit for a couple extra months. I took advantage of the extra refit time to add the SJ surface search radar and upgrade my deck guns to a 5 inch gun and 20mm AA gun. Additionally, since I had three successful patrols, I rolled for crew improvements and the crew moved up to Veteran status.
Australia (Fremantle) patrol map
Patrol #4 was to Indochina waters, where I sank the heavy cruiser Maya and four other ships. The sinking of five ships earned me a Navy Cross and while in refit I got word I had been promoted to Commander.
Upgraded Thresher with my new Commander stripes
Patrol #5 was to the Java Sea. This patrol I was feeling pretty good about things and decided to be much more aggressive in my attacks. It paid off with the sinking of six ships, but it also resulted in heavy damage to my sub. It was the first time I had really taken a beating and was worried I was going to lose the boat. I ended up having to go into refit for four months and I received orders back to Pearl Harbor. The rules say if your sub goes into refit for five months you are transferred to another boat. I just missed out on this, but I was okay, because I wanted to try to ride out the war on the same boat.

Patrol #6 was my least productive patrol. I was sent to the Marshall Islands and assigned lifeguard duty to pick up any downed aviators from carrier raids in the area. I successfully completed the lifeguard duty, picking up five downed aviators, but ship traffic was pretty slim. I only saw (and sank) two ships on the patrol. During refit I did get a new expert XO.

Patrol #7 was back to the Marshall Islands with a recon mission. The recon went well and I was able to add three more ships to my tally. The recon mission earned me a Navy Commendation, but I was passed over for promotion.

Patrol #8 was to the Marianna Islands for more lifeguard duty. I picked up six aviators and went on to sink five more ships. But it was another patrol where heavy damage forced me into a four month refit.  The extra time in refit takes away from being able to get out on patrols, but it does eat up time so that the dud rate for the Mark 14 torpedoes goes down and new torpedoes (the electric Mark 18) are introduced.

Patrol #9 was to the China Sea with a minelaying mission. The mission reduced the number of torpedoes carried on the patrol, but the improved and new torpedoes proved their value. I had no dud torpedoes and ended up sinking six more ships. This earned a Navy Unit Commendation for the boat and my crew improved to Elite status.

Patrol #10 was back to Empire waters and I was assigned to a wolfpack. Being part of the wolfpack didn't help out much, as I only was able to sink three more ships. But by this time in the war there weren't a lot of ships left to go after. This turned out to be the last patrol of the war for Thresher as the war came to an end.
Thresher at the end of the war
Upon review, I had a very successful war-time career, sinking 39 ships for 170,500 tons. This beat all the historical American submarines and was a decisive victory for me. There were a number of times I thought I wasn't going to escape the escorts after a successful attack, but in the end I turned out to have some very good luck. During the game I fired 128 torpedoes, had 87 hits, 37 duds (a 43% dud rate) and took 18 "shots" with my deck gun.
My VASSAL Patrol Log
Thresher's crew with her battle flag (from
Overall it was a fun game. Each patrol took 10 - 30 minutes, depending on the number of encounters. Using VASSAL made it easy to put away and quickly pick up the game, along with providing some nice pictures for the blog. I will probably take another boat out for patrols before the end of summer and might even pull out The Hunters to get the German point of view.