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Atlantic Fleet - Heart of Oak

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A Royal Navy campaign in Killerfish's peerless WW2 naval wargame!

 

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In my first campaign mission report with Atlantic Fleet, I played for the German Kriegsmarine, and in the dynamic version of the AF campaign. This time, I'm playing for the other side, the Royal Navy (whose signature march is 'Heart of Oak', hence this mission report's title). And I'm playing the 'static' campaign. This is a fixed set of fifty missions, whose difficulty increases as you go, inasmuch as the opponents gradually become more numerous, more dangerous, or both. Knowledgeable enthusiast Ramjb has already released a long series of gameplay videos featuring this same campaign, but this report is the (illustrated) book of that movie, as it were; starts at the beginning; and is more in the nature of a taster, than a replay.

 

Of AF's two campaign types, the dynamic variant - dubbed appropriately 'Battle of the Atlantic' - is my favourite - for the German side. It is dynamic in several respects, starting with the objective. This is not to win battles as such, but to win a tonnage war, German subs and surface raiders against British convoys and warship patrols.

 

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Merchant shipping tonnage sent to the bottom, or getting through, is what counts towards victory, over an extended period. And that victory, if and when it comes, I find is immensely satisfying...and announced in style.

 

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Losses are also cumulative - lose a ship and it's gone, with replacements only available within the other, real-life members of the class, if any sister ships there were. And your choice of ships to send to sea as the war progresses is limited to those available when they actually entered service. Real-life events affect the battle, for example the conquests of Norway and France giving the Germans additional bases, at about the correct period of the war.

 

Damaged ships can be docked for repairs, but may be damaged again in bombing raids. The tonnage war is not entirely reliant on the player's efforts - in the background, the underlying wargame may generate battles and losses in which the player does not participate.

 

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However, playing from the Royal Navy side, I find that of the battles I DO see, far too high a proportion are U-Boat 'area ambushes' against groups of warships in open waters. Rare exceptions notwithstanding, the latter is simply not where submarines managed to attack warships outside of convoy escorts. With a maximum surface speed about the same as most warship's cruising speed, it's not surprising successful encounters were rare, for subs against warships. And when they did happen, generally did so in choke points, not the open sea encounters we see in AF. Maybe every third or fourth battle in AF's dynamic campaign for the RN, the warships I have painfully built up are ambushed by typically three subs, at least two in good firing positions and some inside 'guaranteed hit' range, firing before I can even move or shoot. Yes, depending on your chosen view options, you can often spot those torps that could be evaded and yes, a friendly destroyer - if not hit immediately - can often hit back by pulling off a party trick of its own, a torpedo salvo that is unrealistically effective.

 

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An upcoming patch might somewhat lessen this problem, by allowing a longer start range to be set. This should at least give the player a chance to react...as in, like Brave Sir Robin, bravely running away, my preferred tactic in such cases. But in its present form, I dislike these unrealistic ambushes so much I'm just not finding the RN dynamic campaign much fun. And 'fun' is what AF delivers everywhere else, by the big gun broadside, so for my RN campaign fix of said fun, I'm glad I can get this from the static campaign alternative. Here's how my latest try went!

 

...to be continued!

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The first missions

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The first couple of missions in the fifty-battle static campaign are basically target practice...which, having been offline for a week, I rather badly needed. For my RN campaign, here's where things kicked off - an encounter with a single enemy freighter, in the arctic seas north of Scandinavia. Not that AF does land, outside of the campaign maps, but weather, sea state and visibility do seem to reflect geography, as well as time of day if not also season. Merchantmen in AF are all unarmed, so this won't be too difficult, even for rusty ol' me. And though the enemy is displayed as having the initiative (= first move), it 'ain't gonna do him much good.

 

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The reason that there is no ship for my side visible on the LH side of the screen above is because I have not yet chosen one. Doing this is your first action. Not that you have much to choose from, to begin with. 'Renown' is what gives you ships in AF and at this stage, you have just your initial allowance - 6,000 points. The good news is that because the static campaign has no historical timeline, late war kit is available from the outset. The bad news is that 6,000 renown points doesn't buy you much of any sort of kit. To put this in context, if you fancy yourself at the helm of a 'Queen Elizabeth' Class battleship  - state-of-the-art at the Battle of Jutland, whose 100th anniversary is at time of writing nearly upon us, with rennovations to HMS Caroline nearly complete, but even modernised, not the toughest RN battleship available in AF - you are 56,000 points short, at this early stage.

 

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Well OK, at least there is no danger of exceeding my ten ship active fleet allowance, or even my three-ships-per-battle limit. So, if I have to sink enemies to earn renown and have to start with just 6,000 points, how about a cruiser, then? No dice. Even a lightly-armed 'Leander' Class is well out of reach. All that I can afford is destroyers, escorts and subs. Even a modern destroyer is going to be a stretch, at over 5,000 points for a 'Tribal' or the 'L' or 'M' Class seen below; the later but slightly less exotic 'wartime emergency' builds are not much cheaper:

 

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Looking around, I decide to go for an inter-war destroyer. Starting with the 'A' Class and running up to the 'I' Class over the 1920s and early 1930s, these differed in detail but looked and performed much the same. I picked HMS Echo, four 4.7'' guns in single mounts and two banks of four 21" torpedoes. It's also worth noting that in the static campaign, RN destroyers also get a forward-firing Hedgehog anti-submarine weapon from the get-go, as well as depth charges, the former not at the cost of a forward gun. Anyway, I reckoned that at 4,800 points, these neat little ships were better value than the later destroyers available. I'd start by building up a small flotilla of these early destroyers, then start saving for a cruiser. The sooner I could meet the escalating enemy forces with like for like or better, the happier I would be.

 

So I picked Echo and, Hobson's Choice, selected her for the fight. And there we were, seas light, visibility good, and this unarmed enemy ship about 18,000 yards off our starboard beam, on an opposite course. I went to full ahead and turned onto an intercepting course.

 

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My first rounds were soon on the way from the fowward guns, short at this extreme range but sending the enemy heeling into a turn to port.

 

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Despite the lack of a crosswind, it took rather a lot of rounds before I began to get hits.

 

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The merchantman completed her turn and then just ran for it. With my top speed of over thirty knots I was soon overhauling her, and after that it didn't last long.

 

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In this campaign mode, merchant and warship tonnage you sink earns your renown, on a points for tons basis. The extra 7,800 points from this easy prey would soon come in handy.

 

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I was still rather a long way short of a cruiser, but as planned, I added another pre-war destroyer to my budding flotilla; HMS Foresight, this time.

 

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She didn't have long to wait, for her first action. This was in the form of another enemy freighter, this time off Noway's North Sea coast. I committed her on her own - there is no possibility of an un-mentioned enemy ship appearing, but you can be hit unexpectedly by enemy aircraft. And I didn't want to risk both my warships, in an action that one would be able to handle.

 

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Which Foresight duly did. The enemy vessel was a rather more modern steamer this time. Seemed a shame to smash her up, but virtual war is virtual war.

 

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So far, so good. I didn't know it yet, but the next opponent was to mark the point from which things began to get dangerous. For me, there would be no more target practice.

 

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...to be continued!

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The enemy starts shooting back!

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In the next mission, I found employment for both of my destroyers. The battle was in the same general area, off the western coast of Norway, but this time, the enemy was the disguised merchant raider HK (Hilfskreuzer, Auxiliary Cruiser) Pinguin. The real Pinguin had a very successful career but was blown up in a duel with HMS Cornwall, with heavy loss of life, including many merchant seamen prisoners. Now, it would be up to Foresght and Echo to end the virtual Pinguin's depredations.

 

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Realistically but scarily, Pinguin had suceeded in getting quite close by the start of the engagement. The most famous example of a Germain raider maintaining her disguise until she was close enough to hit an enemy warship hard is of course Kormoran, which managed thus to sink HMAS Sydney. Now, here was Pinguin close abeam of Echo, too close for comfort.

 

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Perhaps indicating that we had seen Pinguin unmask her guns and torpedo tubes in good enough time (you can perhaps see the dropped screens in her sides, fore and aft), we had the first move. With this, I needed to blow Pinguin out of the water, before she torpedoed us or hit us hard with her 5.9" guns. I should probably have kept my nerve and launched torpedoes. But because AF won't let you do that and fire guns in the same turn, I was wary of being shot in return, while my tin fish were in the water. So, out of funk, I began a defensive turn to bring Echo's stern towards Pinguin, and from that position, let fly with 'X' and 'Y' 4.7" mounts. And missed. Even at close range, with just the initial 'firing solution' estimate available, your first salvo in AF is always likely to be a bit hit or miss...more than a bit miss, in this case. Both rounds went over.

 

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Now, it was down to Foresight. She was astern of Echo, with Pinguin on her starboard bow, and for no particular reason except my poor show with Echo, I decided that she should do something different.

 

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What that 'something different' turned out to be was a sharp turn to starboard, by which, as intended, I managed to open my 'A' arcs so as to give the enemy the benefit of a full broadside.

 

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This worked tolerably well and we soon had Pinguin burning. She got off two inaccurate rounds from her forward 5.9 inchers but took further hits from both destroyers. Pinguin then began making smoke and turned away. I swung Echo back onto a parallel course and thus set up a torpedo attack. In AF, I have quite often seen an enemy who is making smoke switch back to shooting, which can be a tad disconcerting and is always a risk. This time, I took that risk.

 

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It paid off. Pinguin didn't seem to take any evasive action and the four torpedoes I launched were more than enough to finish the fight, in dramatic style reminiscent of the real raider's end, when a four-gun salvo from Cornwall set off her mine store. AF's super sounds and visuals did the scene full justice. I love the look and sound of this great game!

 

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Despite a shakey start, we had turned up trumps and I had earned enough renown to buy another destroyer, the aptly-named HMS Encounter. I was quite glad to have all three ships in my next battle.

 

...to be continued!

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Due to the format of the game, submarines are unrealistically powerful. Using three submarines, normally at least two will have good positions to intercept and kill the targets as they drive by. If not, just disengage and try again. It is fairly easy to win the static campaigns with only submarines. But, for me, the fun is trying to duke it out with battleships. So, unless there are enemy aircraft carriers or enemy subs, I like to use all surface ships to have more fun. 

Edited by streakeagle

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I don't play many games these days.  Don't have much time in the evenings.  But this game is a keeper.  For entertainment, I set up Rodney or Nelson against Bismarck, Tirpitz, Scharnhorst,  etc, and just pound it out.  Sure, Rodney and Nelson are a lot slower, but once those 16" guns find the target, it's goodbye Reichsmarine.

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My sentiments exactly, guys!

 

Playing the German static campaign, I quickly added a Type XXI U-boat to my mini-fleet, then a couple more. With its high submerged speed, it is a great force leveller against the heaviest of enemy units. In the later battles, where the RN typically deploys a surface force you just can't match, I shamelessly countered the Nelsons and USN North Carolinas with a trio of Type XXIs. They were definitely campaign-winners.

 

However, as long as I dared, I used the Bismarck and Scharnhorst class, unless totally outmatched, because while the simplified subs enjoy the unrealistic deployment advantage and are highly effective, slugging it out with those big battlewagons is just so satisfying a challenge...

 

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I enjoy my tanksims and a range of combat flightsims so while I have grown up knowing my 'County' Class from my Southamptons and Leanders and am not impressed by arcade 'warship shooters', I'm by no means a total freak for WW2 naval warfare games. But now that I've been playing Atlantic Fleet solidly over several weeks, having quickly got used to the turn-based gameplay, I think I can now confidently state that I have never, ever got more fun from any PC game or sim I have played since I started (with European Air War, about 16 years ago), For all the simplification (eg representation of aircraft), limitations (eg inability to use main and secondary batteries concurrently) and weaknesses (eg sub ambushes of warships, and dangerous starting placement of carriers and their lack of a CAP) in the present release, this is still an amazingly immersive and more than adequately convincing simulation of WW2 naval warfare with great gameplay, sounds and visuals and a fantastic breadth and depth of content at a knock-down price. I just cannot recommend Atlantic Fleet too highly. I freely confess, I'm hooked and loving it.

 

Gotta go...have another appointment to keep with the Kriegsmarine, specifically a prowling torpedo boat that needs some taming...

 

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The key is that it is not a true simulation, it looks and feels like a simulation, but its primary purpose is to be a fun game. I don't like it when a random bomber or sub comes and destroys one of my favorite ships with almost nothing I can do about it, but those are just about the only problems I can't work around. Carriers are oddly implemented... they are easily taken out since they start within gun range, but if you know how to use torpedo and dive bombers correctly, they are even more powerful than submarines with their lethal and and long ranged attacks. My favorite is a straight BB vs BB fight... or other well balanced matchups such as DD vs DD or CA vs CA.

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Torpedo boats...and torpedo boat destroyers

 

Before describing the next missions in my Royal Navy static campaign, I should say that this is my second play-through, and that I have the impression that while the enemy generally starts out as helpless merchant shipping, there is some replay variability, as missions progress. You can certainly get some variety by acquiring different ships as you earn the necessary renown. Or by deploying different ships for each battle (the maximum is three, out of the ten you can have in your mini-fleet, though the enemy may have slightly more). Suffice to say that my second time around is proving just as much fun as the first. It helps that you have the sense of being in an arms race, needing to acquire enough or better warships at least to keep abreast of the stepping up of the opposition, in each successive battle. Lose ships or otherwise fall behind, and you might find yourself in a downward spiral. It's useful that you can replay any given fight, before moving on to the next one.

 

My next battle brought me up against a sleek German torpedo boat, T-22. The Kriegsmarine was one of the navies which persisted in building these vessels, essentially small destroyers with a light gun armament, but a heavy torpedo battery.

 

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The Kriegsmarine's torpedo boats saw much service and had their successes, but were not as versatile or powerful as the destroyers (originally developed and known as torpedo boat destroyers) favoured by the USN and RN, or as effective as escorts as more specialised craft (Atlantic Fleet is essentially open water warfare so there are no motor torpedo boats or other coastal warfare craft).

 

With enemy air power unlikely to intervene - the location was mid-Atlantic - I had no qualms about deploying all three destroyers for this fight. You get no choice of placement in AF, and in most cases the battle starts with both parties inside gun range...which is fine in most cases, except that – especially relevant, if you’re playing any sort of German surface raider - a longer start range option (which is ‘in the works’, apparently) would give you the chance of running when you met a more powerful opponent. Not a problem in this case!

 

I was awarded first move and one ship at a time, I went to full speed and turned to approach the enemy at an angle. One advantage of my early destroyers in this sort of battle is that their rear guns have a wide arc of fire forward, more than most warships.

 

My shooting was terrible. There are generally four reasons this happens. First, while relishing gunnery in AF, I secretly long for the option to role-play the skipper and just order targets that are then engaged by an AI gunnery officer, as per Fighting Steel; I think this subliminally affects my shooting accuracy! Second, if you have the relevant option selected, getting the correct ‘aim off’ for a crosswind can be tricky, something the enemy doesn’t have to worry about, even if like me you don’t enable ‘elite enemy gunnery’. Third, if I have multiple ships against a weaker enemy, I tend to take less care, thinking, ‘Well, with sufficient volume of fire, one of us will get him before long’. Finally, and related to that, I’m impatient. If in a dangerous position, I will take my time and use mainly the map-based shot history (the best but slowest option, and the only one if the target is obscured by smoke). But if not in a tight corner, I will rush things, probably just using the splash history, which enables me to stay in the 3d world (there is no ‘mini-map') where things look better. Including the impressive if dissapointing spectacle of your shell splashes falling repeatedly off target. Just as I was now seeing. Close, often, but although in AF near misses can realistically cause damage, not close enough.

 

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Three destroyers of torpedo boats against one of their classic quarry should have been over pretty quickly. But a combination of poor shooting by me and evasive action by the enemy, meant that I seemed to be in as much danger as my opponent. He turned around and while broadside on, let us have a full salvo. Fortunately, his shooting was no better than ours.

 

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Soon he was making a run for it with Echo, Foresight and Encounter snapping at his heels. This reduced his weight of fire to the aft-mounted guns. I kept my 'A' arcs open from two of my ships to give him full broadsides, while the other headed straight for him.

 

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Finally I got some hits, starting a fire. He began making smoke, forcing me to rely on the map-based shot history to adjust my fire, but also forcing him to stop shooting. This seemed like more than a fair exchange.

 

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By now, we were hitting him fairly regularly and he began to lose way. I sensed victory, but was still wary of a late fight-back. We kept on pounding, as the range wound down.

 

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Finally we drew level. Still, there was no return fire, and the action ended up more like an execution by firing squad.

 

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So perished T-22, flying her colours to the last.

 

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Greater numbers and weight of fire had made up for lack-lustre shooting on my part. Would I be so lucky, in the next action?

 

...to be continued!

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Destroyer versus destroyer!

 

Mission # 5 saw me inteccepting two German destroyers, Leberecht Maas and Georg Thiele, who were escorting a large freighter, off the north-eastern coast of Brazil. This definitely called for the deployment of all three destroyers of my own. I had the initiative and used this to turn two destoyers to starboard, the other to port, and started shooting at once. The enemy were steaming straight towards us and there was a moderate crosswind. I decided ,for as long as I dared, to concentrate all my fire on the leading enemy warship, hoping thus to gain a decisive advantage early on. I didn't need to sink him; just damage him enough to cause him to disengage, before the fire of his more distant comrade posed a serious threat. This is fairly classic 'divide and conquer' stuff, owing something, I think to 'Lanchester's Law', whereby I would try to divide the battle into two fights of 3 -vs- 1, not one fight of 3 -vs- 2. Somewhat as Nelson did at Trafalgar; not that I'm comparig my grasp of naval tactics with such a Grand Master's! My first salvoes were well over, falling harmlessly into the sea between the two oncoming enemy destroyers.

 

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The enemy frighter unwisely held his course, standing on towards us. The enemy warships sensibly turned left and right and Thiele, the nearest one, started shooting back. Mass would not be long, in doing likewise, I knew.

 

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At this point, we began landing hits on Thiele, with results that were spectacular, but by no means immediately fatal.

 

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Another salvo had the desired effect. Thiele turned away and started making smoke. He was out of the fight, for the time being at least, and was sunk soon afterward. I immediately turned my attention to the hitherto-unengaged Maas, about the time he passed behind the enemy frieghter, moving left to right across our arcs of fire. I allowed this to distract me, to the extent my nearest destroyer cracked off a broadside at the merchantman.

 

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Things now took a decided turn for the worse. Before I could do Maas any damage, she landed a devastating broadside on Foresight. Up to then, I had got away lightly, but my second 3 -vs- 1 battle had started rather badly. Foresight was still in the fight but badly damaged.

 

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To make matters worse, the fiercely-battling Maas, though soon herself hit again, also launched a fan of torpedoes. This forced me to take violent evasive action. It was fortunate indeed that Foresight, though burning, was still answering the helm. By this time, the German frieghter captain had woken up and was turning hard to get away.

 

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At this point, Foresight's luck ran out, all at once and emphatically. There was a violent explosion, presumably a propellant fire reaching a magazine, and down she went.

 

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By now, Maas was also burning, and the tin fish were her last hostile act. She too sank, soon after this picture was taken.

 

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All that remained now was to run down the fleeing freighter. This presented no particular problem, for my two surviving destroyers.

 

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Losing Foresight was a sad blow, but over 13,000 renown points from the battle was some compensation. Which came in handy, for my next battle was to be a very different kettle of fish.

 

...to be continued!

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Destroyer disaster, submarine success...

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My next mission was one of those I like least - surface ships on my side, pitted against submarines. The only good thing about these missions is that - less realistically than in Atlantic Fleet's surface actions - the 'briefing' map, as seen above, tells you what you're up against, and you have a chance to pick your forces accordingly, beforehand. In this case, I had earned enough renown points to buy more than the two destroyers I had left from last time. But I decided I wasn't going to risk losing ships on this one, so just committed one destroyer, Echo, whose game plan would be simple - vacate the premises, so to speak.

 

The problem is that in AF, subs - whose suurfaced maximum speed is generally about the same as a warships cruising speed  - nevertheless and much too often start a battle in good firing positions - frequently, within the 'magic range' when a torpedo will travel far enough to hit you in one turn. If the subs have the initiative (=first move), this means they will put a tin fish into your ship before you can so much as move, let alone shoot back.

 

And so it came to pass. The U-boats had the first turn! U-25 was almost directly astern of Echo and let fly with a fan of torpedoes from her four bow tubes.

 

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As it happened, U-25 was fractionally outside the 'magic range' - about 2,500 yards - and I would have a chance to evade...a slim chance, by the look of it...

 

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But that wasn't all. The second sub, U-28, was off Echo's starboard bow and she, too, let loose upon the hapless destroyer. Fortunately, U-28 was also just outside guaranteed hit range.

 

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Now, at last, it was my turn. I went to full speed and put on twenty degrees of so of port rudder, to turn parallel to the torpedo tracks coming in from my starboard quarter. This did the trick...

 

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...but it took me directly into the path of one of the incoming tin fish from the second U-Boat. This hit Echo just abaft the second funnel.

 

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Realistically enough, torpedo strikes in AF seem to do varying degrees of damage. One will often sink a destroyer...but not always. On this occasion, Echo shook off the strike and stayed afloat. Now, I had a fighting chance!

 

As AF often gives subs an unrealistic initial advantage, I will not refrain in using the even less realistic counter-move AF gives destroyers, as if in return. This is that a sub at periscope depth is something of a sitting target for a fan of torpedoes from a surface ship. Once or twice I have seen them dive away, but usually, the sub is an easy target.

 

With two U-Boats hunting me, I could not afford to make many mistakes. To be certain of a kill, I usually attack a sub with a fan of at least six torpedoes. As warships can't reload torpedoes during a battle and my 'E' Class ship only had two banks of four, this meant I'd have only one good shot at my tormentors. While the enemy torpedo hit would undoubtedly slow me down, I might still be able to out-run the submerged sub astern. So I set up my torpedo attack on the beggar to starboard...

 

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...who, as the asdic operator had reported, was obligingly still stooging about at periscope depth...

 

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That did the trick. Down went U-28! But U-25 was still in the fight, as another torpedo track not too far to starboard now reminded me. Sub reload time is quite short in AF, though they seem to manage only one tube reloaded, per turn. So I was still in grave danger.

 

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I did the only thing I could, which was to blaze away at his periscope with my after 4.7 inch mountings. Fortunately, this was one of those occasions when my shooting was not too bad.

 

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Again, that did the trick. The U-boat dived away, lighty damaged, and disengaged! I had been lucky. If even one of the subs had been within the 'magic range', I would probably have caught a couple of tin fish, which would certainly have been fatal. As it was, I had been lucky that the one I didn't avoid hadn't sunk me and that my counterattack had been so effective.

 

The icing on the cake was that as damage is cumulative in AF's dynamic ('Battle of the Atlantic') campaign but not in this static one, I knew that good old Echo would be fully operational for the next mission.

 

So, where was the 'destroyer disaster' of the title? Well, not too far away, is the answer to that!

 

...to be continued!

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The 'destroyer disaster', when it came, was as sudden as it was unexplained. I kicked off the next mission...and found that my two destroyers were no longer listed! I have a vague recollection of selecting both ships but clicking the button to remove them, instead of the one to add another ship, which I wanted to buy with my renown points. AF warns you that you're doing this but, doubtless distracted by some real world events, I evidently clicked the wrong option and accepted their deletion. At least, that's the only thing I can think of. The net result was that when the distraction went away and I tried to resume where I had left off, Echo and Encounter had gone. I went back a few missions, which AF will let you do, but as I discovered, you re-start with what you have now, not what you had then. Doh!

 

All was not lost! It was now time to spend the renown points I had been building up. I found that could afford an 8-inch cruiser so I went for one of these  - the 'County' Class HMS Berwick. I knew that I was at the stage in the campaign that I could expect to be facing more than a destroyer or two, by way of surface opposition, so a heavy cruiser was, I felt, the best choice open to me. I used much of what little I had left to buy a submarine, as these can be great force equalisers if you find that you are really badly overmatched on the surface.

 

The enemy must have been thinking along similar lines, for my opposition on the next outing was a U-boat and a cruiser. Fortunately, the cruiser was only an auxiliary one - a gun-armed merchantman, in this case a disguised surface raider. In fact, she was no less than Kormoran, famous for surprising and then sinking the light cruiser HMAS Sydney in the Pacific, in late 1941.

 

KormoranvsSydney.jpg

 

Forewarned by the 'briefing map' what I was up against, this was not an outcome that especially worried me, even if - as was not the case this time - the Germans had the initiative/first move. However, I was was still facing something of a dilemma. My heavy cruiser was a good choice for making short work of Kormoran in a surface action. But I would be at grave risk of losing her, to the accompanying U-37.

 

I did not ponder for long. This, I decided, would be a solo mission for Triton, my 'T' Class submarine.

 

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My opening position was off Kormoran's starboard bow. She was still at or just outside extreme range, where the slightest turn or zig-zag would be enough to evade my torpedoes, if launched now. As she was heading my way, I could, however, bide my time.

 

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For now, that left the U-boat. My 'sonar' - for a sub, this should really be 'hydrophones', although perhaps is just that in the static campaign, late-war kit like sonar in allied subs is available from the start - had picked her up to starboard, not too far off. I turned into her and let fly at once with a full savlo of torpedoes - the 'T' Class has no less than eight forward tubes, plus two external (the latter effectively non reloadable). Viewed from behind and below my boat, the visual effect was quite impressive, as the fish veered right and headed off towards their quarry.

 

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This was my first demonstration that fans of torpedoes from a submerged submarine can be just as effective as those from a surface ship, against a sub at periscope depth. U-37 took no eavsive action that I noticed, and paid a fatal price for her own hydrophone operator's lack of vigilance.

 

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While I don't think a surface ship ever succeeded in torpedoing a submerged submarine, a British submarine, HMS Venturer, managed to sink the submerged U-864 in early 1945 in such a fashion, in a remarkable (and for WW2 possibly unique) underwater battle.

 

So far, so good. Now, it was Kormoran's turn. The hapless U-37 hadn't even faded from my hydrophones by the time I had swung my periscope onto my new target.

 

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...to be continued!

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The chase is on!

 

By this time, Kormoran had turned off her closing course and was evidently intent on getting well clear of this dangerous vicinity. She was still at rather long range. And from here on, it would only get longer. As soon as my first torpedo tube was reloaded, I let fly with it, having turned towards her, then another. These missed, having only the effect of inducing Kormoran to make smoke.

 

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This action deprived me of my firing solutions, so that any further shots would have to be fired blind. Which I started doing as my torpedo tubes were reloaded, with Kormoran turning away across my bows. A further fan of two or three tin fish followed as the enemy raider settled onto her new course. But the range was extending rapidly and she managed to outrun them. My top speed submerged was only a fraction of what the enemy could make.

 

A brief hesitation, then I surfaced to engage with the deck gun, where I’d be able to keep up with Kormoran using my diesels. I knew that if the raider decided to fight rather than run – or even if she stopped making smoke, and fought while she ran – I would be taking a big risk, with only the much smaller target size of my sub in my favour. To heck with it! If things got too hairy, I could always dive again. I would gamble against Kormoran landing a lucky hit before I could get below.

 

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Triton found the range fairly quickly, but because of the strong crosswind, the correct line was harder to obtain. My first rounds fell well to starboard of their target. But they gradually crept closer onto line. I was slowly closing all the while, compelling me to drop the range at intervals.

 

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But eventually, I started landing hits every so often, though without visible effect at first. Kormoran stopped making smoke for a time, and my heart was in my mouth as I waited for her first shells to splash nearby. But for some reason, none came. I decided to ride my luck a bit harder and stayed on the surface, firing as I came.

 

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I suspected few of Kormoran's guns could bear dead astern – most were on the broadside, I knew that much – so perhaps I had knocked out her stern gun, or damaged it, or was just out of her arcs of fire. Emboldened, I kept on after her. After a little while and several more hits, I began to see that the range had started to fall off more noticeably. Evidently, the damage was beginning to tell.

 

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Kormoran could have turned at bay to fight, and with her much heavier broadside – not to mention torpedo tubes – she would have been more than a match for Triton. But she was evidently persuaded to run, and then keep on running, by the threat of our own tin fish. And in escaping these, her tactics had been successful. Turning to fight, forcing me to dive then running away again would likely just have postponed the inevitable.

 

Another round smacked into Kormoran and this time the results were more satisfactory. A large secondary explosion smashed her superstructure and sent an orange fireball rolling skyward.

 

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Finally, perhaps because, in creeping out from under the lee of her stern, I had come into a new arc of fire, Kormoran started shooting. Just when I thought it was all over, as a certain football commentator at a certain World Cup final famously put it. My gunnery now needed the shooting skills of Geoff Hurst to settle this particular England -vs- Germany fixture!

 

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I could - and doubtless should- have dived and used torpedoes. But I sensed - or gambled! - that Kormoran was in her death throes. So I stayed on the surface, but turned hard a-starboard to come in directly behind her, once more. Kormoran got off one more round, just as she was wracked by another internal explosion.

 

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The round missed and I kept on turning, to get back astern of her. I needn't have worried. Kormoran lost the remaining way she had left on her and began to settle by the stern.

 

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Having got outside torpedo range, Kormoran had banked on also getting outside effective deck gun range before hits slowed her down. We had both gambled; Kormoran had lost.

 

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Thus was ‘destroyer disaster’ followed by ‘submarine success’, with my single ‘T’ Class boat having sunk a fellow sub and a disguised surface raider. All in a good day’s work for the Silent Service! I now had sufficient spare renown points to add a destroyer to join Triton and the heavy cruiser Berwick. Despite previous losses to whatever cause, I felt I now had a fighting chance of meeting on at least even terms whatever the Kriegsmarine might throw at us next. And I had certainly seen again for myself how useful submarines can be in Atlantic Fleet. Splice the mainbrace!

 

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...to be continued!

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Heavy Metal versus Death from Above

 

By the time I had got to Mission 11 (out of 50), I had a heavy cruiser, Berwick, a destroyer, Hardy and my trusty submarine, Triton. I deployed all three for the battle, which pitted us against the light cruiser Leipzig and the destroyer Deither von Roeder. I wasn't expecting too much trouble, but I had recokned without the participation of the Luftwaffe! Before deciding which ships to commit to any battle, it is always a good idea in AF to check if the scene of the action is likely to be within range of enemy land-based aircraft. This battle was to be fought in the North Sea near Norway and AF seems to treat as in German hands from the satrt all the ports in the lands occupied in 1940...including the Norweigan ones.

 

Thus it was that - the Germans having the initiative/first move - the fight begam with Berwick attacked by a torpedo bomber, a Dornier 217 coming in from off the starboard bow. The AA let fly at him - this is AI-controlled - but on he came, finally releasing his torpedo from a range that I knew was going to be too close to dodge, in such a big warship.

 

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As if that wasn't bad enough, the Hun wasn't alone. A second Dornier came in from port, and once again the AA boys failed to knock him down. I knew that unless I was very unlucky, the damage to my heavy cruiser from a single torpedo hit was unlikely to be fatal. But now, I was faced with the probability of two such strikes.

 

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I judged that I would be certainly struck somewhere between midships and bow on either side and decided that it was pointless, and possibly more risky, to turn into either torpedo track. Instead, I decided to do two novel things. Firstly, I ordered full astern, to reduce the possibility of a hit near the boilers or in the forward magazines. Secondly, I decided to try to cut the damage I was going to take in the bows by half. I trained my eight 8" guns to starboard, any purely by gueswork, depressed them to point at the sea just ahead of the torpedo track coming in from that side. Then I let fly, and crossed my fingers for luck.

 

My luck was out. Both torpedoes hit in the bows, more or less directly opposite one another. If I had turned as well as putting my engines astern, I might just have avoided both, for they hit well forward, as you can see.

 

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Worse still, the next turn saw yet another Dornier making a torpedo attack. This time, though, the AA gunners earned their keep.

 

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Maybe my luck hadn't deserted me after all, because a quick check for damage showed that all was in order. We weren't even listing or noticeably down by the bows.

 

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Fortunately, that was the last of those pesky Dorniers...or so it seemed. Now, it was going to be a straightforward gunnery duel, with weight of broadside in my favour and a friendly submarine available to snap up any targets of opportunity. Time for some payback!

 

...to be continued!

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Heavy Metal versus...not-so-Heavy Metal...

 

The enemy light cruiser, Leipizig, started to turn away as Berwick took her under fire. My sub, Triton, was too far off to do much initially but I steered her on a course calculated to cut across Liipzig's mean track. Deither von Roeder was coming at us while my oew destroyer, Hardy, moved to cut her off. Before too long, I had got the range and was beginning to find the correct degree of aim-off for the crosswind.

 

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However, before I could do Leipzig serious harm, she landed a devastating broadside on poor Hardy.

 

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Edit - that pic, now that I look again it, is of von Roeder catching a packet, not Hardy!

 

By this time, von Roeder had started hitting Berwick and before she could get into torpedo range, my heavy cruiser switched fire to the big German destroyer. Soon, von Roeder was burning and making smoke as she tried to get away.

 

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It makes sense to switch targets once an enemy is disengaging behnd a smoke screen, as they are no longer the most immediate threat. But they often resume firing at some point, so it also makes sense to let them have a last salvo while you still have the range. Which I did in this case, and that settled von Roeder's hash.

 

So our attention could now be turned to the withdrawing Leipzig. Below the surface, Triton was closing in, although she had to dodge around von Roeder as she sank ahead of her.

 

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At this point, from no-where that I could see, another Dornier appeared, not wave-hopping this time, but at meduim altitude. Horrified, I watched as she bunted over in to a dive-bombing attack...on Triton! The stick of bombs straddled the sub and even at periscope depth, the effect was deadly. I had lost my trusty Triton!

 

Happily, that was definitely the last of the Dorniers. Also happily, Hardy's damage from the 6" hit or hits from Leipzig hadn't affected her fighting abilities. Hardy to port and Berwick to starboard, we ran down Leipzig and showered her with shellfire.

 

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No pictures survive of Leipzig's final moments, so this one, taken of the two-funnelled but similar half-sister Konigsberg in similar dire straits, will have to serve...

 

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So we'd won the battle, but I was upset to lose my submarine, even though I already earned more than enough renown points to replace her. In fact, I had earned enough to acquire my first battleship, which was soon to see action. But another lesson had been re-learned. Though much simplified in method of deployment and attack, the aircraft in Atlantic Fleet are a force to be reckoned with. As well as good to look at. I am well pleased that Killerfish took the trouble to add them to this gem of a naval wargame.

 

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...to be continued

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Enter the Very Heavy Metal...

 

One of the engaging features of the Atlantic Fleet 50-mission campaign is that you are quite conscious that you're in an arms race of a sort. The opposition you face gradually increases. If you don't earn enough renown (one point per enemy warship ton sunk) to keep up with this escalation, you can fall behind and end up in a sort of death spiral, from which it can be hard to recover. Tactics to avoid this include deploying subs rather than surface ships if you cannot readily overmatch the enemy, or if you are operating inside enemy air cover. And not committing heavy units you can ill afford to replace, if faced by enemy subs. In this play-through, I was having no such worries. In fact, I was winning the arms race comfortably, to the extent I was able to afford a battleship, at a point in the game where the enemy was just starting to deploy cruisers.

 

Admittedly, the battleship I could afford was a Royal Sovereign/Revenge Class. These were built in World War 1 as a sort of slower, poor man's version of the Queen Elizabeth Class, super dreadnoughts which were superb combinations of armour, speed and firepower in their day. By WW2, the QEs had just about managed to stay competitive, helped by inter-war rebuilds, but the 'R' Class were showing their age. Nevertheless, their 15-inch guns and decent armour make them useful enough in Atlantic Fleet, even if a maximum 20-degree elevation limits the range of their main batteries.

 

The next mission pitted us against two German light cruisers, at a point where I had one heavy cruiser (Berwick), a destroyer (Hardy) and my first batleship, HMS Revenge.  We were not inside the range of enemy land-based aircraft and there were no U-boats about. So I had little hestiation in committing all three ships.

 

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This time, I had the initiative/first move and I wasn't too long in finding the range, partly thanks to light winds (the windvane arrow, top left in the screenshot below, is a darker blue, the stronger the wind).

 

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I turned Revenge hard to port, and my other two ships hard to starboard, to open their 'A'arcs as soon as possible and confront the enemy with fire coming from different directions. The German cruisers were soon returning fire...

 

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...and their shooting was not too bad, either, although their 5.9 inch shells were not a major worry, even for an old battleship...

 

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Soon, Berwick was making to cross their 'T' and had also started shooting...

 

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Caught in a crossfire, the German cruisers started to turn away, but it was too late...

 

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I think it was Berwick who sank Konigsberg. Before the former could train her guns onto sister ship Karlsruhe, massive shell spashes and a fireball marked the spot where 15-inch salvoes from Revenge had already finished the fight.

 

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So far, soo good. Provided the next few missions didn't throw up encounters with subs or aircraft, I now had the nucleus of a force strong enough to smash in similar fashion the likely opposition. And I was acquiring renown points at a sufficient rate to keep ahead in the arms race. What would the next encounter bring? Whatever that was to be, I was now feeling increasingly confident.

 

...to be continued!

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Yet more heavy metal...

 

My next encounter also pitted us against an inferior force, but with one of the two enemy cruisers now a heavy Hipper Class unit. Again, I deployed battleship Revenge, County Class cruiser Berwick and 'H' Class destroyer Hardy.

 

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The winds were light and this doubtless helped me find the range. The enemy AI seems untroubled by the effect of wind on sheel trajectories but I still like to play with this enabled. There is an 'elite' enemy gunnery option but I find their shooting is good enough without this! Below, 8" rounds from Berwick fall close abeam of Leipzig or Nurnberg. Atlantic Fleet uses the same fine 3-d model to represent these very similar ships, distinguishable from the earlyer pre-war German light criusers by having their two funnels trunked into a broad single one, but sharing the same unusual main gun layout, with two out of three triple turrets astern. I have often seen near misses like these cause damage in Atlantic Fleet battles, which is entirely realistic from either splinters or 'diving' shells hitting below the waterline.

 

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In this mission, I had a couple of Sunderland flying boats on call and duly called these in. I've got a little rusty judging the right aiming point and while one of my runs produced only more near misses, another was more successful. The best tactic is set up the attack direction so that it goes diagonally across the target, so that one bomb in a stick is likely to get a hit; attacks along the line of the target seem harder to get lined up right.

 

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While Revenge turned away to fire longer-range broadsides, Berwick turned the other way in a race to cross the enemy's 'T'. You can see top centre in the pic below that one of the German cruisers, almost certainly Hipper, is taking hits from Revenge and is making smoke in an effort to escape.

 

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At this point, Revenge shifted fire to the enemy destroyer, which was in danger of getting into torpedo range. I got lucky and obtained an early hit, which was enough to wreck Z-31.

 

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Both enemy cruisers soon followed her to the bottom.

 

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A night action followed, but with no more powerful opposition, and no aircraft or U-boats to level the playing field, the result was never really in doubt.

 

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Next time out, the Kriegsmarine had a 'pocket battleship', but though she landed some 11-inch hits on Revenge, she was soon rolling over and going down, soon to be followed by an escorting destroyer.

 

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The net result of all of this was that I earned enough renown points to obtain a second battleship, this time a more modern or powerful one. I chose the name ship of the King George the Fifth class, generally known as 'K G fives'. With a modern armour scheme, a decent dual purpose secondary armament, a respectable top speed and ten 14-inch guns, she would be a useful complement to Revenge and should keep me ahead in the Atlantic Fleet arms race, which was showing signs of heating up.

 

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...to be continued!

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Ill met by starshell!

 

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My first chance to slug it out with my two battleships came in the form of a night action against two light cruisers, Konigsberg & Karlsruhe, and one heavy cruiser, Hipper. Individual enemy ships lost in one battle may re-appear the next in the static campaign, otherwise many would end before 50 missions, since the real Kriegsmarine had a rather limited supply of surface vessels!

 

The enemy had the initiative/first move this time so I had to put up with watching as they cut loose, without the ability to do anything about it. Hipper opened festivities with a full broadside directed, as usual, at the nearest dangerous target, King George V. Happily, this went over.

 

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Then it was the turn of her lighter consorts. One of them opted to illuminate us with starshell. I tend to use these rarely, becasue unless visibility is exceptionally poor, they help only the default firing solution, and I normally revert to the more accurate shot or spalsh history tools to correct my fire, after the first salvo.

 

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For the AI enemy, though, illumination, I believe, improves their shooting. So for them, it's very worthwhile, not just eye candy. Knowing that certainly helps concentrate the mind, when you've been illuminated.

 

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You don't have any control over ship placement at the start of a battle. And opposing sides nearly are always within gun range from the outset. My very first move was for KGV to turn to starboard and let fly with a broadside of her own.

 

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There was a significant crosswind and while this was all right for range (I usually find that about half a degree less than the recommended elevation is better for the first salvo), my rounds landed just astern of Hipper. Not a bad start, by my standards!

 

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Revenge was next. I turned her less to port than KGV, and did not increase the revs, intending that she should open up a bit of distance from my leading battleship. Never mind the risk of collision, there's no point in presenting the enemy with a dense target zone, where shells directed at one ship might actually hit another. Revenge's first salvo was from 'A' and 'B' turrets only, since 'X' and 'Y' were not yet able to bear on her target. This was one of the light cruisers, my superiority in firepower rendering it un-necessary for me to concentrate on one or maybe two targets at a time.

 

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Berwick turned the other way, to set up my usual naval pincers movement. Soon, everybody was banging away at everyone else, in a classic surface engagement of the sort that Atlantic Fleet does so well.

 

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The difference, of course, was that I was banging away with mainly 14-inch and 15-inch guns, against enemies with just 6- and 8-inch weapons (although AF does 'weight' these broadsides, to allow for the lighter weapons' higher rates of fire).

 

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Konigsberg was the first ship to suffer serious damage, probably hit by Revenge. If so, the cruiser was lucky to stay afloat long enough to make smoke and turn away, after suffering a secondary explosion

 

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By this time, Hipper had been hit hard enough to persuade her, too, to try to disengage under cover of a smokescreen. King George V gave her no respite.

 

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The fight was not entirely one-sided, however, with Hipper for a time coming out from her smokescreen to land an 8-inch hit or two on KG V. Meanwhile, Berwick was hammering away at Karlsruhe, but with no observable success. Gamely, the light cruiser zig-zagged towards us, firing as she came, and gradually closing the range.

 

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Karlsruhe's luck was bound to run out sooner to later. Which it duly did, in firey style.

 

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She didn't go down, but meanwhile, Hipper went under instead, hit by more 14-inch rounds from King George V.

 

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The damaged Karlsruhe was now facing impossible odds, but on she came. Perhaps her steering had jammed; this is not uncommon in Atlantic Fleet and can take a variable amount of time to be repaired. She was, by this time, abeam of Berwick.

 

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Next move, all three of my warships were able to engage Karlsruhe .A first salvo is always something of a ranging effort but with Berwick hammering away and the two battleships joining in, it wasn't long before the plucky cruiser met her inevitable end.

 

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That's as far as my current Royal Navy static campaign has got, so far. I have found it most thoroughly enjoyable, more so than the dynamic equivalent for the RN, which suffers from too-frequent U-Boat 'area ambushes' of surface ships, as well as alert convoy escorts being significantly too vulnerable to the same foe.

 

As a dilletante wargamer of old well accustomed to alternate move gameplay, I have long ago become entirely comfortable with Atlantic Fleet's non-continuous gameplay. The many beautifully-rendered ships, and the visual and environmental effects, I find as much of a delight as I did when I first clapped eyes on them; likewise the sounds and music are a most effective accompaniment. Two campaign systems for each side, a custom battle generator and a pack of 50 historical battles provide exceptional scope for all this content. Great artwork and clean and effective interface design complete a PC package which entirely belies its mobile device ancestry. I would dearly love to see some measures to make subs slightly less deadly; and a few other realism improvements here and there, within reasonable limits, would be nice to have. But the simplified representation of the deployment and tactics of subs (and planes) is a small price to pay for their presence at all, and readily rationalised as a feature of many wargame rules.

 

In about sixteen years of playing PC combat sims and games ranging from European Air War to Operation Flashpoint, I have found many I enjoyed greatly, and of those, some which stand out above the others, in their ability to recreate and immerse me in the essence of the conflicts they bring alive so vividly on my PC screens. I have no hesitation in placing Atlantic Fleet right at the very top of the latter category. Nearly three months of playing little else has done nothing to diminish my enjoyment of the game and my respect for the team at Killerfish who have designed, developed and delivered such a magnificent package. Truly exceptional and rather brilliant! Love it!

 

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Random scenes and despatches from the middle campaign...

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I’m not sure why, but so far I’m doing rather better in this second Royal Navy static campaign, than I recall from my first pay-through. And both times, I’m finding it lacks the frustration of the RN dynamic campaign. The German version is excellent, but playing the British side, there's an excessive frequency of U-Boat ‘area ambushes’ of fast-moving warships in open ocean. Coupled with excessive torpedo accuracy, this is frustrating...though now that I think if it, I will turn on the 'dud torpedoes' option, to help simulate a greater probability of a miss than exists now.

Back to the static campaign, and this time, I got so far ahead in the ‘arms race’ that I had plenty of renown points in hand, even after buying several battleships. I had two or three of these by the time the Germans had started to appear with heavy cruisers or ‘pocket battleships’, and four or five by the time the Scharnhorst or Bismarck class began to appear. As well as Revenge and King George V, my battlefleet now features three 16-inch gun battlewagons - sister ships Nelson and Rodney, and the USN's North Carolina. So I’m having fun, smashing my through the opposition, and while it's an unequal fight, there is definitely a certain satisfaction to be gained in using the 'from firer, to-shell-in-flight, to-impact' camera option to get a good view of the effect of a well-aimed 15-inch salvo on some hapless destroyer...

 

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I'm also getting valuable gunnery practice in windy conditions..and occasionally getting a fright, when the Luftwaffe shows up without warning, as it its wont. Even then, a single bomb or torpedo hit is not enough to seriously hurt the three battleships I now generally bring to every fight - as seen below, where, guns trained out, Revenge leads Nelson, with 'KG Five' at the rear of the line, turning to port.

 

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Except when the enemy has U-boats. Even one U-Boat. As they had in one mission, against two heavy cruisers, Hipper and Blucher and a U-boat, U-37. Rather than risk surface vessels, I bought another two ‘T’ Class subs to join the one I had already acquired to replace the late lamented Triton - another Triton (seems you are not prevented in 're-ordering' a lost ship).  I pitched all three subs into the fight, three being the maximum from your total allowance of ten ships at any point. Better a partial victory, than run needless risks.

Unfortunately, the automated force deployment didn’t place any of my submerged subs in a good firing position on the cruisers, and the U-boat was no-where to be seen/detected. The good news was that I had a single airstrike available (you soon get used to the the fact that the wargame mechanics deploy these like an on-board weapon, launched at an enemy by the ship or sub which has the strike in hand). Less good was that this strike was a rocket-equipped Liberator. I have been attacked by these but never deployed one myself. A bunch of ballistic rockets may be fine against a surfaced U-boat or unarmoured surface ship, but against heavy cruisers, was not likely to achieve much. I sent in the B-24 against the cruiser nearest one of my subs, in the hope that she might take enough damage to slow her down, or might be persuaded to turn towards me.

Once you have selected your target ship and oriented the target marker to set up the attack direction, you click the ‘Launch’ button and in goes your plane, straight and level, a few seconds out from the target and already under AA fire. Your sole task is to his the spacebar to start the final attack, having judged the right position from the external viewpoint (no bombsights involved). For rockets, doing this causes the plane to begin a steep dive, hopefully towards your target. A second keystroke fires the rockets. Leave it too late, and your plane auto-aborts the attack! That’s assuming the defending AA doesn’t auto-abort your whole aircraft, first.

This time, lo and behold, I got it right and most of the Liberator’s rocket salvo smacked into my target cruiser, roughly amidships. I was so surprised i didn't take any screenshots! This didn’t seem to have any observable effect, but the chance long range salvo which followed from the nearest sub sent Hipper to the bottom, which I did manage to snap. The other cruiser escaped and the U-boat pottered about without coming into view let alone range. Happily, the single warship kill got me through to the next mission.

 

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I really like the damage modelling in Atlantic Fleet. On-board fires can often be put out by your invisible and entirely AI damage control parties, or lists halted. Conversely, fires or torpedo, gun and bomb hits can result in delayed internal explosions, evidenced below by the rising, dispersing fireball over Z-31 as she tries to escape under cover of smoke.

 

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I still get caught out, sometimes, by enemy airstrikes, but at this stage I'm relying mainly in the ability of my big battlewagons to shrug off most bomb hits...

 

 

...IF they land a hit, that is, which they don't always...

 

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...or don't get shot down in the attempt, which can certainly happen...

 

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Night actions can be fun, and though using radar estimates for ranging is possible, unless you fire starshells, the enemy, until close enough, can be invisible in the 3d world and just markers with no ID or course, on the map, which is a neat 'fog of war' feature. Below, North Carolina goes one way while Nelson and KG Five go the other, in a night fight in murky weather.

 

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By the time Bismarck showed up, I was well ready for her...

 

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...and she and her consorts soon succumbed to my usual battleship pincer movement...

 

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I have now got to Mission 30 out of 50, and an having a blast, in various senses of the word. I now have a top- (battleship-) heavy fleet, well able to take the worst the Kriegsmarine can thow at us, even when they come in the form of 'H-39' Class battleships with 16-inch guns of their own. These gave me some serious concern in my first RN static campaign, but with battlewagons a-plenty and renown points to spare, I am already looking forward to the extra rum ration that will doubtless be issued to celebrate my eventual victory...I hope..!

 

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    • By 33LIMA
      Another Atlantic Fleet battle in Arctic waters!
       
       
       
      I have always been something of a fan of the big German destroyers of World War 2, ever since assembling tiny 1/1200 plastic kits of some of them in the early 1960s. These were made by Eagle, part a themed series representing the ships involved in the First and Second Battles of Narvik in April and June 1940. Like this one, of a Leberecht Maas class...or is it Erich Giese?
       

       
      Maas wasn't actually at Narvik, having been sunk in a disatrous 'friendly fire' incident in the North Sea, bombed at night by an He111 of KG 26 which didn't know the navy had laid on a mine-laying operation in the same area. Another destroyer from the force, Max Schulze, was lost with all hands immediately afterwards, some say from another bomb, others by a mine in the same area.
       
      Atlantic Fleet’s comprehensive set of historical battles doesn’t include the quite well-known actions at Narvik, the reason I believe being that the game’s 3D environments don’t include land – and these battles were fought in the confines of the fjords at Narvik. Which is quite something, especially considering that the second battle involved the Royal Navy hunting down and destroying the German shipping left from the first battle with nine destroyers and a battleship, no less. The photo below shows the battleship, HMS Warspite, in action during the battle, well into Ofotfjord.
       

       
      Big and powerful as they were, the German destroyers had rather less reliable machinery and being somewhat top-heavy, were less sea-worthy than their British counterparts, though all this seems to have gradually improved as the design was developed. At any rate, these are disadvantages which I don’t think affect them in Atlantic Fleet and having conquered Convoy PQ13 in my previous outing, I looked around for another historical battle featuring these ships. There are several more on offer and from these, I picked another Arctic encounter, one which came just over a month after the earlier battle. This was the German effort to sink HMS Edinburgh, in May 1942.

       
      The historical battle

      In late April 1942, Edinburgh left Murmansk as part of the force covering return Convoy QP11. The cruiser was carrying a substantial consignment of gold bullion, payment towards the war material then being convoyed to the Soviet Union.  Edinburgh was the sister-ship of the preserved HMS Belfast, a modified Town (or Southampton) Class cruiser, with twelve 6-inch guns. Belfast is seen below on the River Thames in London, before she was repainted in wartime camouflage.
       

       
      On this outing, Edinburgh was crippled by hits from two torpedoes fired by U-456, and forced to turn back to Murmansk, escorted by destroyers Foresight, Forester and some minelayers. One of the torpedoes had basically demolished Edinburgh's stern, as you can see from this contemporary photograph.
       

       
      Air attacks by torpedo bombers failed to sink Edinburgh. But on 2 May, she was found and attacked by three destroyers – Z 7 Herman Schoemann and the un-named Z 24 and Z 25, which had earlier sunk a merchantman in an inconclusive tussle with the convoy, before resuming their hunt for Edinburgh.

      In the action which followed, the crippled cruiser fought back and severely damaged Schoemann, which was abandoned and scuttled with 8 dead, the rest rescued by her consorts and a U-boat which arrived later. However, Edinburgh was torpedoed again by Z 24 or Z 25 and was abandoned and scuttled in turn, with 58 men lost in all.
       
      Edinburgh's gold bullion was recovered in the early 1980s in a salvage operation as dramatic as many a battle, but that's another story.
       
      How did I get on re-fighting the battle in Atlantic Fleet? It's time to find out!
       
      ...to be continued!
    • By 33LIMA
      Re-fighting the battle for Convoy PQ13 in Atlantic Fleet

       
      Of all the many dramatic photographs taken of the war at sea, some of the most haunting are of the last moments of what maybe minutes before was a fine warship in fighting trim. Pictures like this well-known shot of a Japanese escort sunk by skip-bombing. The crew cling to the capsizing vessel as what appears to be another bomb, dropped by the aircraft from which the photo was taken, splashes across the water towards the stricken ship like a stone skipped on a pond.
       

       
      Back in the 1990s I coveted but never obtained a rather expensive book from the alas long-departed Military Book Club, War at Sea 1939-45 by Kreigsmarine veteran Jurgen Rohwer. This was a large-format book with a short narrative account written around an excellent series of photographs, many of which I haven't seen before. When, just recently, I picked up this book second-hand, I was just as struck as I had been many years ago by its cover photo, one of a series a wrecked and apparently abandoned German destroyer.
       

       

       
      At the time I realised the pictures were indeed of a German destroyer, taken from an enemy ship. But what ship was she, what happened to her crew, and how did she come to be one of the very few ships photographed so very closely by those who had sunk her?
       
       
      The historical battle
       
      Long before I got the book, I had discovered that the sinking German destroyer was the Z 26, lost during a confused battle in Arctic waters on 29th March 1942. By that time, Royal Navy was running a series of convoys - the PQ series, later changed to JW - to help keep the Soviet Union in the battle against Nazi Germany. The most famous Arctic convoy action is PQ17, which scattered after inaccurate reports that it was about to be intercepted by a force including the battleship Tirpitz and was then devastated by air and U-Boat attack. Other famous Arctic convoy-related actions were the Battle of the Barents Sea in December 1942, where the failure of the German force to get to grips with the convoy had Hitler pushing for the scrapping of the surface fleet; and the Battle of the North Cape a year later, when Scharnhorst was lost in action during an abortive sortie against Convoy JW55B. Throughout, the merchant, naval and aircrews of all sides had to endure exposure to some of the worst weather in any theatre of war, with frequent heavy, freezing seas in which survival time was low indeed.
       

       
      By the time in early 1942 that Convoy PQ13 sailed for Murmansk, the Kriegsmarine was still in the middle of redeploying its remaining seaworthy heavy units to northern waters, primarily to interdict the Arctic convoys, in co-operation with U-boats and bombers. Just three destroyers participated in the attack on PQ13 - Z 24, Z 25 and Z 26. They were all from a class which had begun to be laid down before the battle by whose name the class was commonly known - Narvik. Not an auspicious name - as one author put it, " 'Lost at Narvik' was the epitath of the Leberecht Mass and Deither von Roeder classes", ten of the big destroyers having been smashed in two fights in Narvik Fjord with the Royal Navy during 1940, like Bernd von Arnim, below.
       

       
      The Narvik class were big and with 5.9 inch guns, very heavily armed for destroyers, though not all shipped the twin forward turret intended for the class - they all do, in Atlantic Fleet.
       
      PQ13's nineteen merchant ships - most of them US and British Merchant Navy vessels - had already suffered some losses from aircraft. And severe weather had dispersed the ships, two groups re-forming and the rest proceeding independently. At this point, the German destroyers arrived, and after sinking a merchantman, ran into the convoy's close escort, headed by the cruiser HMS Trinidad, supported by RN destroyers and later by one of the Soviet destroyers which had sortied to meet the convoy. Z 26 was hit hard, mainly byTrinidad;  Z 24 and Z 25 disengaged after rescuing around 90 of her crew, but about 240 never made it.
       
       
      The PQ13 action in Atlantic Fleet
       
      You don't need to use Atlantic Fleet's custom battle generator fo fight this one - it's included with the large set of historical battles that come with the game. Here's the intro screen. As usual, there's no 'fog of war' - less relevant anyway, in an historical mission - so you can see exactly who's on each side. You can choose to play for either navy - or to take the turns for both sides, by setting the 'Player 2' option to 'ON'.
       

       
      I have opted to play for the Kriegsmarine, and we have the initiative (= first turn). As well as the 6-inch gun Fiji (or Crown Colony) Class cruiser Trinidad, we are up against three Royal Navy destroyers - the inter-war types Eclipse and Fury, and the War Emergency Programme Oribi, the latter distinguisable by having just the one funnel, compared to two for the others. Six merchantmen are in the part of the convoy that we have come upon. The weather is poor, cloudy and with rain or snow.
       
      Here's the position at the moment the battle begins. Our three destrovers are, realistically, line abreast, in the sort of formation that would be used to sweep for the enemy. Trinidad herself is the only ship we have been able to identify visually at this stage; the others are just radar contacts.
       

       
      Clearly, it's time to get busy!
       

       
      ...to be continued!
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