Tuesday, November 29, 2011

IHW: Pigboats Research: Submarine Novels!

I've been researching for IHW: Pigboats, my WWII submarine RPG. One of the things I am doing is re-reading old WWII Submarine novels, and seeking out and buying more to read. I want to get the atmosphere right! WWII submarine novels? Don't laugh! It used to be a fairly popular sub-genre. The first one was Run Silent, Run Deep by Edward Beach, which was a huge commercial and critical success back in the fifties.

Beach was the Marryat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marryat) of the genre. Like Marryat, Beach was the thing he wrote about. He was a submarine officer throughout the war, ending up in command of the Piper, which reached the Sea of Japan just as the war ended. RS,RD is excellent - great characters, and wonderful action. I first read it in the early sixties, along with the two sequels, Dust on the Sea and Cold is the Sea, neither of which were as good as the original, though they were good.

Harry Homewood wrote three WWII submarine novels in the 80s - Final Harbor, Silent Sea, and O God of Battles. I have read the first two, and they are excellent. Silent Sea is a sort of side sequel to final harbor, as the protagonist is a fairly important character in the previous book. Real seeming characters, awesome action, and complex, yet organic, plots. They are highly recommended! Homewood was a WWII submariner himself, though not an officer. Post-war, he ended up as a newsman- bureau chief for Newsweek, Editorial writer for the Chicago sun times, etc. These books were very popular when they were written, but are pretty much unknown nowadays - unjustly, in my opinion.

J. T. McDaniel is a modern writer of the genre, and Bacalao is a great book. It is apparently his first novel, though he has been published as a submarine fact writer. The book has a charming flow to it, and lots of technical detail. Again, wonderful characters that work together marvelously. this is really typical of WWII submarine novels - they are very much character driven.

Another currently active writer is R. Cameron Cooke, who was, like Beach, a submarine officer who retired and began writing. His two WWII books are both very very good - Rise to Victory, and the sequel, Sink the Shigure. I think his plots and his characters are not up to the previous writers I mentioned above, but maybe a notch below them. Still very well written.

Some other books I am exploring but have yet to read are Halsey Clark's 5 book "Sweeping Saga" the Periscope series, Claude Pearson's Gunfish, and Charles Rush's Battle Downunder.


Monday, November 28, 2011

IHW: Pigboats - Playtest Session 7

When we last played, the Coelocanth was just north of Sofu Gan - AKA Lot's Wife, a pinnacle island in the Nanpo Shoto used to calibrate radar by both sides. The Coelocanth has a full load of torpedoes, Mark 14cs in the bow, Mark 10s in the stern. She had just gotten a RADAR reading from extreme range to the north and west, Japan.

Inexplicably, the Skipper decided to dive. Standard protocol now - early 1944 - was daylight submerged attacks, and night surface attacks. This was night, yet he decided to close a very long distance underwater, under slow battery power. He ordered a course change to the west, under the assumption that the convoy would be heading roughly south towards Saipan and the Marianas, as an intercept. Underwater, of course, he couldn't use the RADAR, and the convoy was well out of hydrophone range. He proceeded at 2 knots for a couple of hours, then asked the Exec, Mr. Bullock, for a hydrophone check.

Mr. Bullock returned three successes on this check, and with great surprise, he announced that the convoy was still at very far range for Hydrophones, and that they were just a bit north of west. The convoy was moving far faster than the Skipper had anticipated - normally a convoy moves between 8-10 knots, and this one was moving at maybe 16 knots, depending on the zigzag. Still, it would be easy to surface and run ahead, but the skipper refused, and doggedly kept under the surface, though he increased his speed to 5 knots, turning southwest to intercept.

As they closed to the contact, Mr. Bullock reported five sets of screws - two quadruple screws, one set of twin screws, and two single screws. This was no convoy! It was most likely a Japanese Naval task force, with two big ships - cruisers, battleships, or carriers - and support ships, with an escort. The Coelocanth swung into night periscope range just as the task force went by. There was an old four piper destroyer in the lead, a smaller, 5000 ton support ship following, then a cruiser, another ship part the cruiser, mostly masked by it, and a big cruiser sized ship in the rear. This ship had it's rear deck cut down flat, like a carrier.

Mr. Montgomery, at the scope, called the skipper, who was acting as Assistant Approach Officer, saying "God, Captain! You gotta see this! I've never seen anything like it!" The skipper took the scope and immediately recognized it, having seen it two years ago south of Davao - the destroyer and cruisers who had tricked him and almost caught the Thresher with torpedoes! "Open the forward torpedo outer doors! I'm going to put all six into that bastard!"

The Coelocanth shuddered as 6 mark 14cs - 18 thousand pounds of torpedos, shot into the murky night. The skipper called for the Coelocanth to make a sharp turn to starboard to bring the stern tubes to bear on the leading cruiser. Fish seven, eight, nine, and ten shot out.

Wham! Wham! Wham! Wham! Four fish hit the cut down cruiser and exploded! The four great screws still churning, it plowed itself under in minutes. "Surface the ship!" cried the skipper - again totally against standard practice! Once you were underwater, you didn't surface to face gunfire! As the Coelocanth burst through the waves, water cascading over her decks, both the cruiser and destroyer turned to attack - a mistake for the cruiser! Three torpedoes hit in succession, drastically slowing her down and making her sink deep in the water.

Mr. Montgomery dashed to the forward torpedo room to supervise the emergency loading of the forward tubes. Normally, it takes about five minutes per torpedo to load the tubes, but Montgomery got three fish in the tubes in a fast combat load. The Coelocanth continued its curve to the right on the surface, with six and five inch rounds splashing in on either side, and as the last fish was loaded, the skipper fired them off. Two streaked into the wallowing cruiser, and one into the destroyer. Only one of the two in the cruiser went off, but it was enough! The big ship sank by the head, the stern pointing up in the air as she slipped below.

The destroyer tried to avoid its fate, but the torpedo slammed in amidships, slowing the destroyer to a crawl. The Coelocanth swung away, out into the night and completing her reloading, before coming in from the side, putting two more torpedoes into the struggling destroyer, finishing him off with a blast. One unconscious prisoner was taken from the water, and the skipper, coaxing in fluent Japanese, persuaded two more to surrender. Several that were approached chose to swallow seawater and drown themselves instead. The skipper ordered them shot.

The two auxiliaries had booked it away, fleeing as the warships turned in to attack. After the prisoners were taken, the skipper ordered a pursuit, heading west and south. Before dawn the cargo ship was found and two torpedoes were on their way. When they hit, there was a spectacular explosion. The ship was carrying munitions. The skipper, when he recovered, used the frequency he had used two years ago, and announced that he was done, and was letting the last ship free to carry word of his vengeance.

The next night, after a long, stealthy approach, the Coelocanth launched the last two fish in the forward tubes into the remaining ship of the task force, a seaplane tender. Just before the torpedoes hit, the skipper announced over the same frequency in flawless Japanese "I lied."

Now the weird things. The skipper decided to make the entire approach underwater. I don't know why! He did not surface until both cruisers were sinking. Now most Japanese destroyers didn't carry RADAR - particularly old four pipers. Cruisers, on the other hand, did. If the Coelocanth has pursued their quarry in the standard RADAR guided night attack, which was the skipper's favorite mode of attack, the cruisers would have been prepared - you can see the interference from other RADAR on the screen - and a trap may have been possible. Yet that is not why he dived, and then stayed underwater at night. He could have had no idea there were large warships in the group until at least the XO discovered they were far ahead of where they would be expected to be if they were merchant ships, and that was only confirmed when the propeller noises were heard.

By making what was a strange choice and almost missing the attack because of it, he managed to preserve surprise and destroy the whole unit. That was just bizarre! I will never understand it.


Monday, November 21, 2011

IHW: Pigboats playtest 6

We continued on from the last game for the first half of the night. The Skipper recieved orders to head for the harbor at Manado, on the tip of the scorpion tail of Celebes, to reconnoiter the situation there. Cruising on the surface one night, the ship was attacked by two big patrol planes - Emily flying boats - while the Weapons Officer was Officer of the Deck. He elected to try to shoot down the lumbering planes rather than dive, but failed. The Thresher was rocked with repeated bomb explosions, throwing the startled skipper out of his bunk.

He ran to the Conning tower and ordered the OOD to take the sub down IMMEDIATELY and to never, ever, try this trick again! The men piled town the hatch, and again, as on the first day, the hatch jammed as they dove. The OOD pointed out, rightly, that one of the Thresher's Traits was "Slow-diver", so he was able to get it opened and reshut before too much water poured in. On the other hand, one of the last brace of bombs from the Emilies really hit hard, as teh slow diving boat was nto far underwater. The Captain elected to lose the brand new dual Light AA gun mounted on the cigarette deck rather than take that many dings, and took what I offered.

The harbor at Manado is open to the west, but that had a big submarine net stretched accross it. To the north are two steep islands with deep passages between, being covered by a corvette. The skipper timed the passage and slipped submerged by the corvette and into the big harbor. Inside was a huge convoy - fifteen ships and five more escorts - with the merchantmen at anchor. They looked like they might be fitting out for an expedition.

The skipper did a panorama of photos through the scope, but set up on several merchantmen while he had the chance - two torpedoes for a mammoth troop ship of almost 20,000 tons, and one fish each at four others. He also prepped the aft torpedo room for a couple of salvos as well, and warned the crew to be prepared to surface!

As the last section of harbor was being shot - with the big number one scope - SONAR reported five sets of fast screws speeding up. It was obvious they had been sighted. The skipper ordered the boat to surface, and the six bow torpedoes fired at the preset targets. When the torps were all away, he ordered a hard left to swing back to the north, and the bow tubes reloaded. This took a short while - and a successful Operation check by the Weapons officer. One torpedo hit the huge troopship and exploded, one hit a big cargo ship, and one hit a tanker. Two more hit their targets but were duds, and the rest carromed off in random directions across the harbor.

Heading north, he had the stern towards the harbor, and ordered all four stern tubes fired - two at the troopship, and two at the cargo ship already hit. By this time the escorts were firing at the Thresher, with shot spouts leaping up all around the boat. There were an armed yacht and a frigate in the lead - being much faster - and two corvettes and an armed trawler behind. The captain had planned it this way, knowing the Thresher could outrun the corvettes and the trawler. He called down to the forward torpedo room. There were three fish loaded, with one more left. About then the troopship and the cargo ship were again hit, this time both sank.

The skipper turned right and sent the three forward fish off at 90 degree deflection shots, two at the frigate and one at the yacht. Meanwhile, the Signals Officer ran out with a crew to man the rear 3 inch deck gun. Once the fish were away, the skipper swung back north, heading for the rightmost of the two channels, between the innermost island and the shore. One fish hit each of the lead escorts, sinking both. The 3 inch gun hammered away at the pursuit, scoring two hits.

The last fish was loaded, and it was a neck and neck race for the channel with the corvette they had eluded to get into the harbor. Again they were bracketed by shell spouts, with one shell actually hitting the Thresher, but one of the guys used a LUCK point to make it fail. The last torpedo ran hot straight and normal, and the corvette blew up, the Thresher flashing by and into the open ocean. They were out of torpedoes, and headed for home. For this daring attack, the skipper got the Navy Cross, and lesser decorations were awarded the other officers.

The second half of the session was involved in setting up for our next session, but it went so fast we actually got a bit of play in afterward. The gang elected to play a couple sessions later in the war, with the new radar and better torpedoes, before going on to test Wolf Pack play. They created a new sub, a Balao class boat called the Coelocanth. and drew the Nanpo Shoto - the chain of islands (including Iwo Jima) stretching up from the Marianas to Japan - as their patrol area. The Skipper was advanced to Commander, the Lieutenants were bumped to Lt. Commander, and the jgs to full Lieutenant. The Exec decided his character had taken over the Thresher, and would be back for the Wolfpack game. The rest stayed with the boat, which was totally unreal, but in the interests of saving time it was fine. This is a playtest, after all!

As the boat was calibrating radar on Lot's Wife - a spire of rock of known position and height that everyone used for this purpose - we had a fun encouter with two flyboy characters from their old pilot game mistaking us for a Jap sub - they really, REALLY wanted to sink the Coelocanth! - but since the PCs were in control, there was no real danger of that. Oddly enough, the Skipper is the older brother of one of their squadron - not one of the two that found the Coelocanth. As the planes flew away to the south, the SJ radar picked up a blob to the north, coming from Japan. End session!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

IHW: Pigboats - Wolfpacks

One thing I am thinking about was raised by Klaxon in the game Saturday Night. This is a different form of play for later in the war - wolfpacks. What I am thinking is a natural evolution - each PC would be a Commanding Officer or an Executive Officer. The CO and XO would split the Approach and Assistant Approach Officer duties between them, with everything else run as defaults - a standard +3 skill level.

The US didn't use wolfpacks until late in the war - 1944 and 1945, but that is time for quite a few patrols. They were generally made up of usually 3-4 subs - though there was at least one 6 sub wolf pack I know about. This would nicely cover a standard PC party, with NPCs to fill in the cracks if needed. In effect, the subs could be operated like fighters, cooperating on hunting down convoys and Japanese naval task forces.

What do you guys think?

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.


Friday, November 11, 2011

IHW: Pigboats - Angle On the Bow

I released IHW: Pigboats to beta testers this week. If you are interested in playtesting the game, let me know. It's not finished, but it's fully playable.

I'm slowly working on how best to incorporate AOB - or Angle On the Bow - into the game. AOB is the angle of the target's motion in relation to the direction of the sub's motion. So, if the sub is heading due north and the target is heading southeast, the AOB is Starboard 45. Most of the time, you - as the Approach Officer on the sub - want an AOB of 90 either way. However, the game abstracts that out, and you don't actually need to know the AOB out of character to shoot. Bill Downs, a gamer over on the RPGSite, gave me directions on how to make a neat AOB solver, and damn, I want to use it!

So anyway, the torpedoes can be set to run at different angles once they leave the tubes, using a gyro mechanism. Usually, you'd try to hit the target at 90 degrees. This allows the best chance for a torpedo to hit and destroy the target, as they are coming in straight onto the broadest profile, with no deflection.

However, the Mark 14 torpedoes had some awful quirks - it was a horrible mess, with four major design flaws. One of them was that the contact exploder - there was also a magnetic exploder - was prone to jamming when it hit, producing duds. However, the sharper the angle of incidence when the torpedo hit, the more likely it was that the torpedo would go off properly, as the contact firing pin was less likely to jam.

So, what I'm working with now is bonuses and penalties to the chance that the torpedo would hit - and that it would explode if it hit - depending on the AOB in relation to the TORPEDO, the Angle of Incidence. So you can solve the AOI for the torpedo, and get bonuses and/or penalties to the shot.

This would be an OPTIONAL RULE! You don't need to use it at all, but if you do, there is a reason to play with the AOB solver. :D


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A short note!

BTW, the Haiku Pineapple Company, their athletic field taken over for internees, the prisoners at the Lahaina police station - all were actually there in the real world. The actual prisoners, of course, were not real - though one of them was indeed a Shinto priest. The Coconut Grove was actually located in Boston, and was destroyed in a huge, deadly fire, but the name fit, so I put it in Honolulu. :D


Sunday, November 6, 2011

IHW: Pigboats Playtest - Session Four

Ran a playtest session of IHW: Pigboats last night. We started off with the party split. The XO, Lt. Jerkin, stayed in Pearl along with Lt. Montgomery, while the skipper, Lt, Commander Mardukas, went to Maui along with Lt. Bullock and Lt. jg Tambeaux.

Lt. Jerkin went looking for a fight with the bastard that bombed the Thresher as she came into Pearl. All he knew was that he was an Army Air Corps zoomie named Joe. He figured the guy was flying from either Hickham Field or Wheeler Field, so he went first to Hickham, then to Wheeler. Each time he was refused entrance without valid orders or an appointment, due to the heightened security since the raid. He then placed a call to his buddy Frankie, an Army captain at Wheeler. Frank agreed to meet with him for a few drinks at the Coconut Grove, a nightclub in Honolulu. He spent the day at the private section of Waikiki behind the Royal Hawaiian reserved for submariners.

Lt. Montgomery met up with his girlfriend Amanda, whom he was currently sharing with an Air Corps flyboy named Bo. This was Montgomery's day with Amanda, so he took her out to lunch, then some surfing lessons from Amanda at Waikiki, then dinner and off to the Coconut Grove. They shared a cab with the XO to the nightclub, and Montgomery dreaded the trouble he knew was coming - he was very well aware the XO was spoiling for a fight.

The skipper and the others landed in Lahaina, Maui from the daily ferry, and found their way to the police station, where five Japanese detainees were being held. The skipper showed the cops his orders detailing him to interrogate the detainees - he is fluent in Japanese - and they gave him a room to do the questioning in.

The first detainee was a Shinto priest who had lived a long time in Hawaii, and who spoke some English with a terrible accent. He had been on a walking tour of the island when the raid on Pearl happened, which the police were a bit suspicious of, so they kept him separate from most of the detainees, who had been sent off to a camp. He explained that he went on a walking tour to visit and sacrifice to the kami of the islands every year, and that they stayed up in the mountains the whole time, to be with nature. The second two were his companions, who seemed quite honest.

The fourth one was a Harvard grad, who had made a fortune selling wholesale groceries throughout the islands. He had been on his yacht, and had, in fact, reported an encounter with what he claimed was a submarine on the sixth of December. The last one was a young engineer, fresh from Japan, who had a flawless American accent. He had been flying about the island on a water-hunting expedition for the Haiku Pineapple Company - looking for aquifers that could be tapped for irrigating the dry side of the island. His pilot, he said, could vouch for him.

Lt. Bullock was getting very bored with the jibber-jabber. He was expecting the skipper to rescue his Jap girlfriend, not talk to a bunch of obviously innocent Japs. He did a lot of yawning and eye-rolling. At the end of the questioning, the skipper requisitioned a car from the police to visit the camp. Lt. Tambeaux drove them, looking wistfully at the beaches along the road with Lt. Bullock. The camp was on an athletic field at the Haiku Pineapple Company canning plant along the north coast of Maui.

There he met with the Professor and his daughter - mostly talking about the people he had questioned earlier in the day. The Skipper was bothered by accents - the atrocious accent of the priest, and the impeccable accent of the engineer. The professor - of Philology - agreed. The priest had been there far too long to have such a terrible accent, unless he had been totally isolated from haole culture. As for the engineer, he could have learned English very well in Japan, but what was taught would have been British English, not American. The skipper told the professor he was totally convinced of their innocense and would work to have them released. After the professor left, his daughter thanked the Skipper, and kissed him before running from the room. The rest of the detainees there were very low risk, and a short interview with each was enough to convice the Skipper that the Police had segregated the most suspicious ones very well. They stayed overnight at the camp, and left in the morning.

Meanwhile, back at the Coconut Grove, the XO met with his buddy Fred, and Lt. Montgomery danced with Amanda to some excellent live swing. he tried ranking on Bo, but Amanda wouldn't hear of it. "He never said anything bad about you, Will!" that shut him up. Lt. Jerkin asked Fred about any zoomies who might have claimed sinking a Jap sub the day before - then explained that the scumbag had almost sunk the Thresher. Fred said he knew who it was, and not to pursue it any further, He was just a kid who was scared and excited, and that they had received no notification from the Navy that the Thresher was due in. Fred explained what it was like during the attack, how frustrated the guys were with all their planes being destroyed on the field, where they had been parked wingtip to wingtip to protect them from Japanese saboteurs.

Jerkin finally accepted this, but a drunk young army officer insulted him in passing. Chris insulted him back, calling him a filthy name. The officer punched the XO, and got a bottle upside the head in return. The officer screamed and leapt on Chris, getting him around the throat and crashing him back through the table, smashing his head into the floor. Will excused himself from Amanda, having been waiting for this, grabbed two beer bottles, and swung them from both sides into the drunk officer's head from behind. The XO stabbed the man with the broken bottle, almost killing him. At this point the Shore Patrol's whistles sounded, and panic ensued. Jerkin got everyone out by hiding in the fridge until the SP passed, the out through the loading dock.

Back on Maui, Mr. Tambeaux was driving the group back to lahaina, when he was startled to see a naked girl on the beach. Lamarr poked fun at him, inferring he'd never seen a naked woman before. The rest of the trip went without incident. When they got to the police station, the pilot was there. After some questioning. he admitted he was not always with the engineer, and that he would often wait with the plane while the engineer went off alone to do his exploration. One time he came back with a scroll with Japanese characters on it. He described the scroll. At this, lamarr thought the skipper may actually be onto something, He began getting interested.

The engineer was called back in. He had answers for everything. He had written the scroll. It was love poetry for a married woman he was seeing. She had it, and he would not give up her name. he had learned English in Kyushu from New York Jesuits - his family was Christian, like many in Kyushu. The skipper hmmmed. Lamarr walked about the room nervously. The skipper called in the field laborer who had been with the priest. Yes, the priest would often go away alone to pray. Yes, one time he went into a village to get some food when they ran out. Yes, he had a scroll like that for a while. He was thanked and sent back.

The skipper called the priest in. Yes, he had a scroll like that. No, he lost it when he stumbled crossing a stream. The skipper templed his hands in front of his face. "Let me paint a picture in words, about a priest who is passing information gathered on his walk to an engineer from Japan, who transmitted that information with a radio disguised as a sample case to a submarine offshore. this priest is being left to hang by the spy-engineer, who could care less what happened to the priest, this priest with a wife and children who would suffer greatly for what he had done." The priest broke down and confessed.

Lt. Bullock chortled as the engineer was brought in. The skipper told him what had been discovered. The engineer smiled. He was not afraid to die. He was happy to die for his Emperor. Lamarr clapped him on his shoulder, saying "You're done for, good buddy!" as the skipper explained that he would not die, that he would rot in a prison cell instead for the rest of his life. The engineer grinned and insisted he would indeed die. They heard a crack from the engineer's head, and the skipper reached across the desk to yank open the man's mouth, just as Lt. Bullock punched the engineer in the solar plexus. He breathed cyanide into the Skipper's face, but the skipper held his breath. The spy was dead, and wouldn't be talking any more.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

IHW: Pigboats - Third Playtest Session

We ran the third of our playtest sessions Saturday, in spite of Mother Nature. Klaxon telecommutes for the sessions from Orlando via Skype on my iPad, which normally works out very well, but the nor'easter knocked out the internet connection halfway into the game. Luckily, one of the players had a phone with free nights and weekends, so we propped it up in the center of the table, and Klax was with us audio only the rest of the night.

We started out where we had ended last session, with the sobering news of Pearl Harbor, and the notice that we were to exercise unrestricted warfare on Japan. The Skipper decided to try and trace the convoy that had left the night before, and the officers threw in their guesses as to the destination. It could have been to the west to the Dutch East Indies, south to Australia, or north east to the Philippines. The gang decided that the Philippines was the most likely, as the convoy left the encircling reef of Palau through the northern exit. The Thresher went in pursuit.

Not yet having surface search (SJ) RADAR, the Thresher depended on visual and auditory clues, and the lookouts finally sighted smoke in the late afternoon. Catching up with the convoy as night was falling, the Skipper decided to go in on the surface at night. There were six marus in the convoy, three each in two columns, along with six escorts of various types. They were running a simple zig pattern. The skipper ordered the Thresher up the port side of the convoy until it got ahead of the flanking escorts.

It being peacetime when the sub left, the Thresher was loaded with ten old Mark 10 steam torpedoes, one in each of the six bow and four stern tubes, and eight practice fish, with dummy warheads weighted with water, four in each torpedo room. The skipper ordered three bow and two stern tubes loaded with dummy fish, all in the even tubes - that is tubes 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10.

The Thresher then turned into the convoy, firing tubes 2, 4, and 6 right across the bows of the leading port escort. Immediately, the skipper ordered a hard left, and the sub raced across the front of the convoy. The escorts, as planned, bit on the bait and sounded the alarm, and the marus immediately zigged to the right. Meanwhile the crew in the forward torpedo room were busy reloading tunes 2, 4, and 6 with live fish. The port column was led by a 4500 ton tanker, followed by a big, fast troopship of about 10,000 tons. The skipper fired tubes 1 and 3 at the tanker, then sent torpedo 5 into the troopship. All three torpedoes ran hot, straight, and normal, and exploded with a satisfying whump. The tanker burst into flame and began sinking immediately, but the troopship was just slowed by the hit.

Unbeknownst to the Thresher, there was an escort out front of the convoy, who saw the Thresher against the flames of the tanker. He immediately cut in and raced toward the sub. The Officer of the Deck saw the escort, and informed the captain, who ran straight away through a gap in the starboard column. As the escort turned in towards the sub, the skipper fired tubes 7 and 9 at the escort. Torpedo 7 hit his port bow and blew his front end off, his screws driving him into the waves within a minute. Thresher then dove.

With tubes 2, 4, 6, 7, and 9 loaded with live fish, the Thresher surfaced half an hour later, having evaded the remaining escorts, and began another end run to catch up with the convoy. They did not find it, but did find the slowed, wounded troopship, with two escorts. The Thresher made another surface run, this time from the Starboard side, and planted fish 2, 4, and 6 into his side. The troopship, her keel broken, folded up into a V shape, and began sinking.

The Japs had set a trap for Thresher, though. As the two escorts began rescue operations, a third, unseen escort suddenly roared in from the night. Watching the troopship sink, the bridge crew might have been caught with their pants down, but the Signals officer caught the fast screws coming in and alerted the skipper. Once again, he turned away and dove, lining up a shot down the throat of the new escort as he went. with a satisfying WHANG! torpedo 9 hit, and the escort just exploded. The Thresher swam away, surfaced, and headed for Pearl. A nervous AAC pilot bombed them as they were on their way in to port, but the bombs missed. The crew were very rattled by this, and by the devastation at Pearl, where rescue parties used cutting torches to try and find any last possible survivors on the wrecks in the harbor, or at least to locate the bodies.

Once back at Pearl, the Thresher was refitted while the men took liberty. the Skipper learned that his Japanese friends had been rounded up and relocated, forcibly, to a camp on Maui. Lt. Jerkin, the XO, got stinking drunk before he even got to his room. Lt. Montgomery goes to see his girlfriend, and finds she has been seeing another man, an Army Air Corps pilot. The Skipper and the Lieutenants run into her and her new boyfriend at a nightclub, and a general brawl almost erupted, but the Skipper takes charge and defuses it. Before that, though, Lt. Bullock found the pilot who had bombed them as they came in - "An' after we sank ten Jap ships an' four escorts, too!" - publicly shaming him.

Lt. Montgomery finds his girl had heard of a sub being blown up at Cavite in the Philippines, and assumed it was his boat, not being very bright. Then she met her new boyfriend, who helped her get over her despair. She tells Will that she will share time between the two of them, as she couldn't bear to see either of them hurt, and Will's turn will be tomorrow. The Skipper announces he is going over to Maui to see his friends, and Mr. Tambeaux and Mr. Bullock volunteer to accompany him. Will Montgomery and Mr. Jerkin will stay behind at Pearl, each for his own reasons.

Session ended!