Friday, December 29, 2017

D.A.N.G. XVI (Struck at Sea)

Dave Schuler hosted the 16th running of Dave's Annual Naval Game on Thursday. Most of the usual suspects showed up and we had nine players.

The game for D.A.N.G. XVI was Seastrike, a 70s era "ultra modern" naval warfare game. The mechanics are much, much simpler than a game like Harpoon and we had a fast and furious game.

We divided into sides: Big Red and Great Blue. Red was Arthur Brooking, Dale Mikel, Scott Murphy, and Mark Waddington. Blue was Kevin Smyth, David Demick, Charlie Berlemann, George Kettler, and me.

Our forces were equal. Dave painted two fleets using 1/1800 scale ships from Shapeways. We spend a bit of time right off sorting out our squadrons and determining our missions. There was a potential of playing three scenarios. However, we wound up with just one battle royale.

Each side wound up dicing randomly to (1) clear the enemy from the central sector and (2) protect our home base. We put all of our major surface units into two squadrons, with our submarines and missile boats guarding the home base. Red pretty much split their forces into two even groups of two surface squadrons and one squadron of two subs. One group was in each of their home base sector and one went into the central sector to sweep us out.

At first, it looked like they were outnumbered and outgunned. Charlie had a squadron built around our one cruiser, while our second squadron was frigates of varying size and armament. We kinda felt the way the Spanish Armada did that summer day in 1588 when they appeared off Plymouth. Our orders were aggressive: seek the enemy, engage him, destroy him—in theory, at least.

Having never played Seastrike before, I wasn't sure what to expect. Combat is driven by a card deck and things get bloody very quickly.

Instruments of misfortune

The cards determine whether weapons systems work (for example, if SSM missiles lock onto a target ship) and what damage is done. Each card is divided into four quadrants with a central circle. Each quadrant contains damage for a specific type of weapon: guns, SSM, torpedoes, and ASW.  It's a bit more deterministic than dice rolling and as the deck decreases, the odds of what will come up keep changing.

We both deployed 1 foot onto the table, which gave about 6 feet separating us. Ranges go up to 16" for SSMs, so we had a bit of sailing to do before contact, although there wasn't much maneuvering. Shooting SSMs at each other is a far cry from gun captains aiming shots over iron sights or directing salvoes from high atop fire control towers.

Charlie's squadron sailing to death or glory

Neither side had much luck with its airstrikes.  Red crashed or aborted all of their take-offs on turn 1. We got four in the air, but lost two to CAP (the ones with Exocets), had another shot down by PD, and the fourth got through the defenses only to miss with its bomb.

Red managed to get a couple in the air on a subsequent turn, but this time our CAP took them down.

The surprise killer weapon of the game was submarines. We left ours guarding home base, but Red took two (and two decoys) into the central sector with them. They were able to deploy these well ahead of their squadrons. They were opposite where Charlie's squadron was advancing. We put up ASW helos to detect them, but they took the "quiet sub" option for them, so we failed to know they were there until we saw fish in the water.

Normally, resolving torpedo fire in a naval game is a complex affair involving calculations that take into account the distance between ships, the sea conditions, angle of deflection, speed of the target and firing ships, aspect, depth of hull for the target, time of day, curvature of the earth, time elapsed since the last grog ration, etc.

Okay, the first torpedo in the spread has missed. Let's calculate for the second...

Not in Seastrike. Mark, commanding the subs, managed to get off four torpedoes with his first salvoes and sunk (i.e., blowed up) two of Charlie's ships. A salvo of four torps intended for the cruiser was momentarily delayed by drawing a system failure card. But only for a turn.

Next turn, the other sub fired its torpedoes along with the first sub getting off its delayed salvo. By the end of turn three, Charlie's squadron was a wreck of burning debris on the water.

The sorrow and the pity

This now left our righthand squadron. Not shirking from duty and unafraid to put our ships in danger, we went ahead full speed at Red's lefthand squadron. I think I figured that (a) we'd only lose by turning about and cutting our losses and (b) We had more and bigger ships in our righthand squadron that Red had in their left. So, obviously we forge ahead. Of course, Red still had their untouched righthand squadron, but we thought it would take a few turns for them to get into the action and by then we might have wiped out the other squadron.

That's what we thought.

We did put a lot of hurt on Red's lefthand squadron, but they gave back nearly as good as they took. That squadron failed morale and had to withdraw, but at the same time so did we. I rolled a "10", which I've always had a talent to do in games where "10" is a very bad thing.

Carnage on the high seas

So ended the game. Neither side had sent ship's to attack the other's home base, so there wasn't another scenario to play.

As in most D.A.N.G. games, both sides play the mini campaign to get all of their forces against all of the enemy's forces. It winds up often being a big battle. It would have been interesting to see what would happen if, as Dave mused afterwards, we'd have been required to put squadron's in all three sectors. We would have played out three smaller battles and learned from all the mistakes we made playing out the first.

And there were mistakes—mostly made by Blue. If we knew what super-killers subs were, we'd have brought a couple, too. I think our squadrons were too big. We put everything into two big buckets and the ships just got in each other's way. We were each given four squadron commanders with quality/morale ratings of 8, 7, 7, and 6. We could make generic squadrons which would be quality/morale 6, but we pretty much opted to benefit from the higher rated commanders. More squadrons would have been more flexible and also would have given each player more to do. With five people in Blue and four in Red, we had nine players and five squadrons in play.

Seastrike was fun to play and we'll definitely need to get a non-D.A.N.G. game in some time in the coming year. It's a vintage game that's very hard to find now and very expensive if you do. Boardgame Geek has an interesting nostalgic review of it from 2007.

Thanks agains to Dave and Lynn for hosting. D.A.N.G. is always one of the significant events of the Christmas season.


  1. That's a good write up and a great looking game! You have me hankering to play some modern naval, which is not something I had ever considered before.

  2. Great to see you all enjoying another successful game day. Love that image of the blackboard calculations too!