Friday, December 29, 2017

DANG 2017 - Seastrike!

This year’s DANG (Dave's Annual Naval Game) was Seastrike. The game covered a hypothetical war in the 1980s between two countries armed with weapons from the Western Powers. The opposing navies are basically a mirror image, with each having the same class of ships, except for their missile boats. Each side also had a squadron of attack aircraft and multi-role aircraft. The tactical game would use the Seastrike advanced rules, with some modifications for ranges and the addition of a CIWS weapon, which is carried on a couple of the ships in the game.
A nice photo of a Harpoon missile launch to get everyone in the missile mood
The campaign consisted of three scenario areas where the battles would be fought and a reserve area where ships could wait to be called as reinforcements for a battle. Each side had a “home” scenario area with a land-based command center, while the third scenario area was an international strait that separated the two countries. In honor to the old Avalon Hill generic wargames (and because I didn’t want to take the time to write up full histories for each side), I named the two sides Big Blue and Great Red, and the third scenario area was dubbed Avalon Strait. The basic victory conditions for the mini-campaign were to win two out of three battles. Although I set up a points system so that players needed to ensure that they still had a decent size navy after the battles for the post-battle positioning.

Everyone began arriving at my place around 9:00 AM and we spent the next hour catching up on things, talking about the projects we are all working on and planning, and munching on some breakfast snacks.

After a short review of all the rules (probably too short), the teams moved to their own areas to talk over how they would allocate their discretionary spending money to upgrade their fleets. The upgrades list included modifications for their ships, special armaments, and even spying on the enemy. Both sides picked some obvious upgrades, such as buying some air-launched surface to surface missiles for their strike planes, to some less obvious ones like improving the silencing on some submarines to make them harder to detect.

With the pre-game spending done, each side created task groups with ships and assigned them to the scenario and reserve areas. This is where the players did something that I didn’t really expect. During the setup, they asked if they needed to allocate a task group to each scenario area, I said no (I should have said yes). So, instead of planning to fight three battles, each side allocated a token force to their home scenario area and piled all their other ships into Avalon Strait. This meant that the Battle of Avalon Strait would decide the whole campaign. For the Battle of Avalon Strait, Big Blue brought their cruiser and all their frigates to the battle, splitting the ships into two task groups. Great Red brought their modern frigates and missile boats, split into two task groups, and their two extra quiet submarines. Both sides also put up four planes on Combat Air Patrol (CAP) over the strait. The surface task groups started on the edges of the strait, while the submarines set up in the middle of the board.
Blue frigate task group
Blue cruiser task group
One of the Red mixed frigate-missile boat groups
After moving and launching some helicopters on turn 1, both sides called for airstrikes.
Red players moving their ships
Blue groups done moving
Great Red couldn’t get any planes off the ground and even had some crash (a problem that would plague the Red air force all day). Big Blue’s airstrike made it into the area and Red’s CAP intercepted and shot down a couple planes. The other planes moved to fire missiles and drop bombs. There was some minor damage from one of the missiles, but all the bombs missed their targets (which would become an issue for both sides).
Blue airstrikes not hitting much
The ships continued to move closer. The Blue cruiser group closed in on the reported position of the submarines and sent out a few helicopters to search area. But the extra quieting on the subs helped keep them undetected.
Red helicopters lead the formation
Blue helicopters start their sub hunt
On the next turn, one of the Red submarines had closed into torpedo range and started firing. The sub was only able to get fire control solutions on a couple smaller ships, sinking one and damaging the other.
Torpedoes loose!
On the next turn, the surface force from both sides continued to close. Meanwhile, the Red subs continued their attack on the Blue cruiser group, sinking the cruiser (the group’s flagship) and one other ship. At the end of the turn, the cruiser group failed a morale check and was ordered to exit the area.
Opposing forces continue to close (sorry for the fuzzy photo)
Blue's cruiser sinking after torpedo hits
The other Red sub sinks a frigate
During the withdrawal, a Red sub got in one last shot, sinking another Blue ship. The group started out with seven ships, but only three were able to withdraw and one of those was damaged.
One more Blue frigate takes torpedo hits (with the failed morale die in the background)
Knowing that winning this sector would decide the war, the remaining Blue task group continued its charge toward the enemy. Their attacks sank a Red missile boat and frigate, but return fire sank two Blue ships.
The Commander of the Blue frigate group orders "All ahead, flank speed."
A Red missile boat goes down (the first ship loss for Red)
A Red frigate take missile hits
Return fire sinks two Blue frigates
Over the next couple of turns the Blue and Red forces started to intermingle, making it hard to pick out the different sides. Meanwhile, the second Red task group began getting into missile range of the remaining Blue ships.
Both sides move into pistol range
A couple more Blue ships were sunk, which pretty much sealed the fate of the Blue group and it failed its morale check. They had beat up the Red group they were facing, which also failed its morale check, but the remaining Red group had not taken any hits and controlled Avalon Strait.
More Red ships close for attack
More Blue ships take hits, while more Red missile boats move in from the right
With the battle, and war, over, we talked over what had happened. The Red subs proved to be decisive to the game, sinking four ships, damaging another, and forcing the Blue cruiser group to withdraw for no losses. None of the players expected the subs to be that effective. On the other hand, the airstrikes turned out to be a bust, which really surprised everyone. Both sides expected air power to play a major role in the game. While helicopters turned out to be useful for anti-surface work, they didn’t make up for the ineffectiveness of the airstrikes. A lot of that was the luck of the card draw, but we also had to remember that in the 1980s bomb attacks on ships were still not that effective.

Both sides agreed that there were things they would have done differently if they had known more about how the game would play out, so maybe there will be some interest in using the Seastrike system again for a rematch. The system is pretty easy to understand and provides clear results.
The 2017 DANG crew
It seemed like everyone enjoyed themselves and lots of food and drink was consumed. I was hoping for a couple smaller battles instead of one large one, but the large battle was fun too. With DANG XVI in the books, it’s time to start looking at some other projects and (maybe) think about a Seastrike rematch. On a side note, I did back the Kickstarter for the Naval Battle in Archipelago game, which is the spiritual successor to Seastrike, so that might get some time on the table too.


  1. Looks like a fun game as always at DANG :) This has me thinking I should dig out my old copy!

    1. It was fun, but the players once again thwarted my attempts to get in multiple scenarios. It is an interesting set of rules. The card draws of the game do seem to make for quicker play than die rolling, but that might only be my perception of how things went.

  2. Congrats on another successful game day - nice to see familiar faces too!

    1. It was a good time. Maybe I'll see you at Drumbeat 2018.