Monday, November 14, 2011

IHW: Pigboats Playtest Session 5

The game did not go well. El was sick, and she had to leave before it got going well. Klax was late, as he had a meeting with his game development group. Then we discovered a problem with the rules, which was great for me, but not so much fun to play through.

We started off with a chance meeting between the XO and the Admiral. Since the XO had been beaten within an inch of serious injury a couple days before, the Admiral almost didn't recognize him. The Admiral was very angry, and told Lt. Jerkin that such brawling was conduct unbecoming an officer, and that next time, if he just had to fight, he should at least win. Then we skipped forward to the Christmas party, which was fun enough - three different people spiked the punch, and it all degenerated from there. Meanwhile, in Pearl, Thresher's cigarette deck was cut down, the plating replaced by stanchions and ropes. The plating over the periscope shears was also removed, altogether cutting down her silhouette considerably.

The Thresher left port on December 27, under orders to go to Surabaya in the Dutch East Indies and work out of there until otherwise notified. The boat was given a full load of the brand new Mark 14 torpedoes before leaving - a special honor, as they were still scarce - and the transit was uneventful. The Admiral at Surabaya had felt his commanders were too timid, and given the superb results the Thresher had shown on her first patrol, was specifically sent out to "Show what an agressive attitude can do to the enemy".

Given the area between Mindanao, Borneo, Celebes, and Halmahera for patrol, the Thresher cruised back and forth fruitlessly for several days. Then one night they got a big reading on the SD RADAR - which was usually used as an aircraft warning radar because it didn't give a bearing. Knowing the contact was no airplane, because it didn't get stronger, the Thresher's lookouts strained their eyes all about, and finally saw a darker smudge against the horizon. The Signals Officer reported that there was RADAR interference, so whatever it was, it was carrying RADAR. Hydrophones detected multiple sets of fast screws nearby. The Thresher drove toward the contact.

At two miles out, they could see pagoda masts - a battleship, and a wierd cruiser that looked like it's rear end had been planed off. There were destroyers as well. The Skipper decided to use subterfuge, and hailed them over the voice channels they had heard used by the convoy they attacked last patrol. Speaking fluent Japanese, the skipper told them he was the Japanese submarine I-121, and had an emergency. The replay came quickly, a friendly sounding Japanese voice asking specifics on how they could help.

It was a ruse to keep the Thresher occupied. One of the destroyers had immediately launched torpedoes due to the lack of authentication - no code words, no proper signals. The OOD, the XO, spotted the torpedoes and swung the Thresher parallel , and they shot by on either side. The Skipper ordered a crash dive as the destroyers leapt into action and the sea around them exploded with 8 and 14 inch shots.

The two destroyers got a SONAR lock on the Thresher, and maintained it even though the Skipper found a thermoclyne. They took a careful and methodical approach, dropping just a couple depth charges on a run, while the second circled the area to maintain the lock. The skipper ordered them below the sub's test depth, and still the hammering continued.

At this point, the skipper ordered a sonar shot at the circling tin can - A spread of six Mark 14 torpedoes from the bow tubes. Every one ran erratically - two circling around, but LUCKily, they were climbing up to the surface in a helix, and missed over the sub. More depth charges. Another spread of 4 from the stern tubes. One ran erratically, one exploded prematurely, one hit the destroyer and was a dud, and the fourth ran hot straight and normal, and exploded, wounding the destroyer. The Thresher escaped before they could be locked again.

After sending off a radio report to Surabaya, they got a nasty reply from the Admiral - they had fired the torpedoes from far too deep, and it was no wonder there were abnormalities.

The problem we encountered was the Gunner, who had nothing to do during this whole episode. Did subs ever use their guns? Yes, but only on small craft and wounded transports, or while bombarding a shore installation. How often did those things happen? Well, early in the war, not frequently, but as the Japanese merchant marine was hammered by the subs, later on it became very important. So, through the first couple years of the war, the Gunenr did nothing? Ummm - yeah... pretty much.

We talked it over and deciced to merge the Gunner and Torpedo Officer into one Combat station - Weapons Officer. I also folded Gunnery School and Torpedo School together into Weapons School. Since the Torpedo officer would be shooting the torpedoes, this would involve him from the start.

I love finding problems before my games get to market - especially if they can be easily solved! I sent the new and improved version immediately to the Beta Testers.


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