Playing in the Big League – or not – Little Navies in Game of the Week 7th Fleet (Victory Games, 1987)

My Game of the Week theme is South China Sea. Having looked at Battle Stations (Simulations Canada, 1984) and now 7th Fleet (Victory Games, 1987) I wanted to play out a South China Sea scenario. Looking for a bit of historical inspiration, I studied the Johnson Reef Skirmish (14 March 1988) which is right in the time period represented in 7th Fleet. I postulated the skirmish continues and grows into a bigger confrontation. I could take advantage of the PLAN counters in the game.

The PLAN in 7th Fleet

This battle could play out on a small corner of the south map. This would save space and allow me to explore interaction of Air, Surface, and Submarine units in a low density environment.

But then I looked at the countermix, especially Vietnam. In 7th Fleet, Vietnam simply has no fleet! The Vietnamese People’s Air Force makes an appearance using older MiG-21 fighters. But the small Vietnamese fleet is nowhere to be found! This is because at the time the VPN had only lightly armed transports –  negligible forces by the standard of 7th Fleet. Indeed, the “smallest” unit in 7th Fleet appears to be flotilla of several small ships (like older destroyers or corvettes) or a patrol squadron of patrol ships/combatants. Lightly armed transports? Forget about it!

So I am back to the (scenario) drawing board and thinking about another scenario. Now I know I have to “up the scale.” Given that the PRC was getting friendlier with the US during this period, maybe try PLAN versus Soviet Union? At the time, the Udaloy and Sovremennyy-class destroyers were just entering the Soviet fleet. Let’s see…a Soviet Task Group (Udaloy, Sovremennyy, Dubna replenishment ship) enroute to a friendship port call in Vietnam gets sideways with the PLAN…including a newer Han-class SSN? Could the Soviets also have a submarine (Foxtrot or Tango?) shadowing them to help “delouse” from those pesky American submarines?


#Wargame AAR – Panzer Grenadier Vol 1 Scenario 1: Bogdanovo (Jan 8, 1942)

Soviet Infantry (

From the scenario setup:

ARMY GROUP CENTER, 8 January 1942: After the failure of the Führer Escort Battalion to take the village of Bogdanovo, the 6th Panzer Division took over the task.

This is a single-board scenario with a relatively low counter density. Pretty good for learning (or relearning) the Panzer Grenadier (PG) system. The scenario portrays 4 hours (16 turns) starting at the 0800 Day turn.

The Germans start on the east edge. The approach to the town of Bogdanovo is dominated by a hill about a third of the way to the town edge. The Germans decided to send the majority of their force north of the small hill with only a small force swinging around the south. The mortars set up on the hill, and a truck-mounted reaction force waited – out of sight – behind the hills ready to race and exploit any successful entry not the town.

The Soviets dug entrenchments both north and south of the town and placed their 45mm Anti-tank (AT) guns roughly evenly across the front. The mortars deployed just behind the city and the full-strength infantry strung out between the guns with reduced units deeper in the town ready to move as reinforcements.

The German north advance was led by the Panzers with infantry close behind. Right away, the tanks were engaged by the AT guns but with little effect. The tanks spent the first hour cautiously approaching the town and trying to blast out the defenders at the town edge. The defenders, taking advantage of entrenchments, digging in, and the defensive bonus of being in the town, proved stubborn and unmoving.

To the south, the small German infantry force pushed ahead the best they could, but an into a crossfire between entrenched Soviet units and others dug in at the town edge. This small force, led by a fairly competent Lieutenant, proved fragile with several units being disrupted, demoralized, and even fleeing. The Lieutenant himself failed a morale check and was not able to rally his troops in a timely manner.

As the second hour of the attack began (Turn 5), and with the southern advance bogging down, the northern group changed tactics. The Panzers fearlessly charged into the city without infantry support, getting into pitched assault battles with dug-in and entrenched infantry. Fortunately for the tankers, the infantry was able to quickly join the fight and the Soviets were pushed back into the town.

The later morning proved to be a real slog, with lots of close-quarters combat within the town. The Soviets fought stubbornly, but the Germans kept pushing them back.

At the end of the 16 turns, the Soviets were greatly reduced but there was still a lone unit in Bogdanovo. This lone reduced sub-mashing gun platoon was enough to give the Soviets victory. But even if the SMG platoon had been eliminated, the blood 6th Panzer had paid was enough to cost them the victory (losing more than 7 steps of units).


Leaders: The Germans needed all six of their leaders to keep the advance going. The Soviets were a bit luckier; being on the defensive and being pushed back into a collapsing pocket actually simplified their command and control issues. In the past, I had often looked at the PG command rules as needless chrome, but these days I have a much greater appreciation – and respect – for what they try to simulate. What I had forgotten was the great impact of morale in PG. Units die, but units are disrupted or demoralized a whole lot more.

Anti-Tank: It is very hard for units without AT guns to have any effect on armor. In PG, armor units are immune to Direct Fire. Indeed, armor can only be attacked by a unit with an Anti-Tank Fire value of when in Assault combat [i.e. close assault – same hex]. In this scenario, the only Soviets units with an Anti-Tank Fire value were three 45mm AT guns.

Markers: I like that markers are used as an easy way to denote unit status, but as the battle starts going the stacks can get very high with units individually tracking their morale status as well as Moved/Fired.

Self Criticism: By the time the German reinforcements came up, precious time had been lost. If the force had been committed to the north they could of assisted in forcing the entry to the town. Doing so may have destroyed Soviet units before they could retreat into the city and avoided the slow grind of close assaults. Committing them early to the southern assault may have allowed a second entry on this town edge. Doing so may have forced the Soviets to defend two axis of advance, with doubtful success in doing so.

RPG Thursday – Mason Combatants

High Guard Stats for Battle of Mason. Derived from Traveller’s Aide #7 – Fighting Ships (QLI-RPGRealms, 2003) and Traveller’s Aide #9 – Fighting Ships of the Solomani (QLI-RPGRealms, 2009).

Solomani Rim War, Mason/Diaspora, 86-990.

Imperial Combatants

Effendi CH R 1 4 5 H 3 0 9 6 6 0 8 9 0 S 0 9
TL14 Bats Bear 11 11 11 28
Agl=5 Bats 15 15 16 40
Seydlitz Mo E 3 0 5 G 2 2 0 2 2 0 0 3 0 0 E 0
TL13 Bats Bear 5
Agl=5 Bats 5

Solomani Combatants (Note – The Midway SCF carries 1500 fighters; Texas has 10 fighters)

Zeus SBC S 1 3 5 G 4 2 7 3 3 0 7 9 5 8 P 8
TL13 Bats Bear 26 13 16 16 33 14
Agl=5 Bats 40 20 25 25 50 22
Yamamato SCS P 1 3 5 G 3 3 9 3 3 0 0 9 0 R 0 8
TL13 Bats Bear 8 8 16
Agl=5 Bats 10 10 20
Texas SCL H 1 3 4 4 3 5 4 0 0 0 0 3 0 8 0 2
TL12 Bats Bear 3 3 2 5
Agl=1 Bats 3 3 2 5
Striker SDD 3 2 3 5 6 1 2 4 0 0 0 0 9 0 8 0 5
TL12 Bats Bear 5 1 1 1
Agl=3 Bats 5 1 1 1
Midway SCF S 7 3 2 G 4 0 9 3 3 0 7 9 8 8 0
TL13 Bats Bear 16 33 33 16 33
Agl=2 Bats 25 50 50 25 50
Minsk SCH Q 1 3 5 G 3 3 7 3 3 0 8 9 0 8 F 0
TL13 Bats Bear 15 6 15 15
Agl=5 Bats 20 8 20 20
Madrid SCL K 1 4 4 H 1 4 9 4 6 0 0 7 0 0 5 9
TL14 Bats Bear 3 6 2 2
Agl=4 Bats 3 6 2 2
Tau Ceti SDD C 1 4 4 G 1 3 7 0 0 0 0 6 0 8 0 0
TL13 Bats Bear 3 3
Agl=4 Bats 3 3

Wargame Wednesday – Power Projection: Fleet Scenario – Opening the Jar at Mason

Solomani Flag (Andrew Boulton traveller3d)

–Based on “Decisive Battles – Disaster at Mason” in Travellers Aide #9: Fighting Ships of the Solomani (QLI-RPGRealms, 2009)–

Situation: During the Solomani Rim War, a Solomani Task Force under Commodore Tiajama opens Rear Admiral Wolfe’s famous Diaspora Sector offensive with a strike at Mason. Task Force Tiajama, comprised of a CarrierRon (7thThe Hokkaido Samurai), a FleetRon (21stThe Aoster Grenadier Guards) and a PatRon (2x SolSec picket ships) will approach Mason from rimward. The attack is an operational diversion designed to draw Imperial Navy elements rimward and away from Wolfe’s main axis of attack.

Location: Mason (Diaspora 2226), date 86-990

Solomani Operational Situation: Two picket ships enter the system first, followed by the 21st FleetRon and 30 minutes later the CarrierRon. Upon arrival, Commodore Tiajama receives frantic communications from the Recon Frigates warning of heavy enemy activity in the outer system. Communications with the frigates is lost after reports they are under attack by fighters. System scans reveal an Imperial CruRon is nearby.

Solomani Tactical Situation: The Imperial CruRon is closing fast with lead elements just 5 light-seconds away (20 MU). Due to the short time since arrival in system, no fighters have been launched. Commodore Tiajama has a Fleet Tactics Skill of 2, making the maximumTask Force Size=4. Commodore Tiajama can arrange his ships as he sees fit. Lead elements of the Task Force start 20 MU from the lead elements of the Imperial Player. Each Task Force must have at least one ship within 10 MU of a ship of another Task Force.

Solomani Forces:

21st FleetRon “The Aoster Grenadier Guards”

  • 2x Zeus-class Battlecruisers, 1x Yamamoto-class Strike Cruiser (Fleet Flag), 1x Texas-class Light Cruiser, 5x Striker-class Destroyers.

7th CarrierRon “The Hokkado Samuari”

  • 1x Midway-class Fighter Carrier (“Hokkaido”), 1x Minsk-class Heavy Cruiser, 1x Madrid-class Light Cruiser, 4x Tau Ceti-class Destroyers

Solomani Victory Conditions: Destroy more points of enemy shipping than you lose and disengage successfully.

Imperial Operational Situation: War is coming. Your CruRon has finished refueling at Mason and was proceeding out-system to jump to next destination.  A light monitor stationed in the system is accompanying you for fleet maneuver familiarization training. System scans detected two SolSec recon frigates jumping into the system. Immediately, fighters from a nearby base were dispatched. A short time later, scans revealed jump arrival signatures of at least a dozen ships with more escorts.  It doesn’t take a jump scientist to figure out the Solomani’s have attacked.

Imperial Tactical Situation: The lead elements of the Solomani strike fleet are 5 light-seconds away (20 MU). The CruRon commander has a Fleet Tactics Skill of 1 making the Task Force size limit 3. Lead elements of the Task Force start 20 MU from the lead elements of the Solomani Player. Each Task Force must have at least one ship within 10 MU of a ship of another Task Force.

Imperial Forces:

Unnamed CruRon

  • 8x Effendi-class Heavy Cruisers, 1x Seydlitz-class Light Monitor

Imperial Victory Conditions: Destroy more enemy points in combat that you lose before withdrawing from combat.

Historical Outcome: SolSec spies were unable to relay the presence of the Imperial CruRon to Solmani commanders in time. Faced with no chance to break off or jump, Tiajama quickly formed up his two squadrons. As the battle was joined, the Imperial cruisers concentrated their fire on Tiajama’s two Zeus-class Battlecruisers. A direct hit from a spinal mount vaporized one Zeus, while the other Zeus was pounded severely. With fuel tanks shattered, jump drive destroyed, dampers and meson screen disabled, spinal mount destroyed and heavy bay damage the Battlecruiser fell out of the battle line, trailing debris. Both Solomani Battlecruisers returned fire at the same time, both hitting with their heavy meson spinal mounts. One Effendi was hit amidships, shattering its fuel tanks, disabling its jump and maneuver drives and wiping out its computers. The other Zeus delivered a devastating strike on another Effendi, destroying its bridge and computer system, with explosions raging through the ship until it too fell out of the battle line. Tiajama’s flagship scored a spinal mount hit on another Effendi, disabling its jump drive and destroying its fuel tanks and maneuver drive. But another Effendi scored a direct spinal mount hit on Tiajama’s flagship which disabled the spinal mount. Multiple hits from the Effendi’s particle accelerator bays raked the Yamamoto’s surface, wiping out many bay weapons, rupturing its fuel tanks and disabling its maneuver drive. The flagship was a sitting duck. Tiajama’s Minsk-class Heavy Cruiser was hit by an Effendi, holing its fuel tanks and hitting its spinal mount, making it combat ineffective. The Madrid-class Light Cruiser was attacked by another Effendi, destroying its maneuver drives, its fuel tanks and much of its weaponry. A lowly Texas-class Light Cruiser managed to make 13 hits on another Imperial cruiser, slowing it but not stopping the slaughter. Within 50 minutes Tiajama retreated into deep space. Three Imperial cruisers out of 8 had been destroyed or abandoned due to massive damage, but the Solomani lost both Battlecruisers, Tiajama’s flagship, a Heavy Cruiser, a Light Cruiser and several destroyers. The Fighter Carrier had barely deployed its fighters when the order was given to retreat. The Imperial CruRon declined to pursue and rescued survivors from their battered ships. By the time they regrouped to hunt down the rest of the intruding ships they had jumped out of system back into Solomani territory. Despite heavy losses, Tiajama’s feint succeeded by diverting a powerful unit from the real battles yet to come deep in Imperial rear areas.

Open Game License v 1.0 Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
System Reference Document, Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, based on original material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.
T20 – The Traveller’s Handbook Copyright 2002, QuikLink Interactive, Inc. Traveller is a trademark of Far Future Enterprises and is used under license
Traveller’s Aide #9 – Fighting Ships of the Solomani Confederation, Copyright ©2009 QuikLink Interactive, Inc.

Threat Tuesday – Confrontation at Sea

The official Chinese military website Jiefangjun Bao Online on 24 August published this picture of the Type 022 Houbei-class fast attack missile boat. The text that accompanies the picture – besides being written in poor English – does provide fodder for a wargame scenario.

“The confrontation drill organized by a guided-missile speedboat detachment of the PLA Navy under complicated electro-magnetic conditions was in full swing on August 22, 2011. Hardly did the mine-sweeping ships of the Red Side intrude into the mine matrix set up by the Blue Side when they suffered electronic disturbance caused by the latter. Then the four new-type guided-missile speedboats of the Red Side rapidly conducted electronic counter-attack by way of roundabout communication, camouflaged intelligence and radio deception which led to the failure of the Blue Side’s audio-visual equipment before launching fierce fire attack.”

Let’s break this down into some scenario-specific items:

  • “The confrontation drill organized by a guided-missile speedboat detachment of the PLA Navy….” – other photos show a large formation of at least 10 boats so a detachment of that size is reasonable
  • “Hardly did the mine-sweeping ships of the Red Side intrude into the mine matrix set up by the Blue Side when they suffered electronic disturbance caused by the latter.” – this is an anti-access scenario where the Blue Side is trying to sweep a minefield while the Red Side is trying disrupt that mission
  • “Then the four new-type guided-missile speedboats of the Red Side rapidly conducted electronic counter-attack by way of roundabout communication, camouflaged intelligence and radio deception” – so even though the larger group of 10 boats was shown they operate in smaller units of possibly four boats; the reference to “roundabout communications” may indicate a use of other targeting data (shore-based?) and the “camouflaged intelligence and radio deception” may reference an ECM/ECCM or EMCON environment
  • “[W]hich led to the failure of the Blue Side’s audio-visual equipment before launching fierce fire attack.” – the reference to AV equipment seemingly implies only a concern with the visual or near-visual (IR?) spectrum but the overall tone of the article definitely leaves one concerned about operations in a heavy ECM/ECCM environment.

So what we have is a scenario where the Blue Side is attempting to sweep a Red minefield which is being defended by 10 missile boats operating two to three smaller detachments supported by shore-based targeting in a heavy ECM/ECCM environment. Who will win? Sounds like a good Harpoon scenario in the making!