Monday, July 15, 2013

War At Sea Battle of the Big Guns 1941

I have not played War at Sea in a few months, so tonight my youngest son agreed to take me on.  I had already selected an American and German fleet to test out for an upcoming event.

We rolled the die to decide who would play what and my son ended up with the USN and I took on the role of Kriegsmarine.

USN Fleet 3 BBs with Air support

KM with Subs and Land Based Air

The first turn was spent moving for position.  The USN was unlucky with their speed rolls so they only Advanced 1 sector.  The Germans started with only the Gniesenau and Admiral Scheer deployed as the Bismark and Lutzow took advantage of secret breakout.

Air ended up being pointless to start the game as both fleets were constructed with air defense in mind so the fighters stayed home waiting for an opportunity to strike.

Deployment and opening moves

The USN quickly recovered making the speed rolls and soon were threatening the objectives.  USS Texas with USS Lexington and Houston were poised to move on the right side objective and USS Arizona and Nevada the center objective.
USN closes in to jump on the first objectives.

The KM had a trick up their sleeve though.  Just as the USN thought there was no surface gunnery Gneisenau fired a opening salvo with her guns at range six scoring a blow on USS Nevada.

Gneisenau fires the opening shots

Before the start of turn three Bismark and Lutzow break out of a fog bank and suddenly appear on the flank.

Bismark appears using secret breakout

The USN is undaunted though and USS Texas with the DD escort moves to the right objective while USS Nevada advances on the center.  USS Arizona does not have the speed to join Nevada and remains in support while USS Lexington along with the flagship USS Houston find cover behind a nearby island group.

Instead of advancing head on to directly challenge the objectives the Germans make a calculated move keeping range as their ally with Gniesenau and Admiral Scheer while Bismark and Lutzow seize the far left objective. The KM hope is to blow the the Americans off one of the two objectives they occupy with long range gunnery and wolf pack torpedoes.

Battle for the objectives commences

The plan was solid , but the execution was poor.  Despite the early gunnery successes the Germans are unable to score the hits they need.  USS Nevada drew blood on Bismark, but is able to lay smoke with her escort before the Germans can reply.   Despite being fired on by the big guns of four capital ships USS Nevada avoids the death blow and remains barely afloat as she and her escort are both crippled.

USS Texas was not so lucky though.  Torpedo protection was not enough to save her from two salvos from a pair U-66 subs with wolf pack that scored  3 separate hits.  She rolled concealment once, but did not make concealment or torpedo protection from the second sub lurking just below the surface.
U Boat fires a salvo at USS Texas
USS Texas slips below the waves
The USS Edsall remains untouched to secure the objective and the USN goes up 200 to 100 in points by securing two objectives.

The stage is now set for an epic duel as the USN only had to score another 100 pts for victory and the Germans were forced to claim at least 100 pts in ships and eliminate the entire USN surface fleet to get the required 300 points for victory.  A stand off gunnery duel was no longer an option.  The contest soon devolved into a slug fest of the giants for the next two turns.

USS Nevada despite being crippled scored a hit on Bismark again.  Had she not been crippled she would have sent Bismark to her grave as it was it only on 5s ad 6s counted and she scored 1 pt of damage.

Nevada comes through with a hit on Bismark

Air soon became a factor as the German fighters went after lone USN DDs and the Americans sought to damage the pocket Battleships.  While the Germans were successful inflicting damage, the USN claimed the real prize sinking the crippled Lutzow.
Lutzow succumbs to strafing attacks

The next turn the German heavies were able to consolidate for an all out assault on the remaining USN BBs as the Bismark and undamaged Gneisenau moved together and Admiral Scheer came up to support.

It would not be a good day for Admiral Scheer though as the now unchallenged American fighters swarmed to strafe her as they had done to her sister Lutzow.  Unfortunately for the KM they were just as successful as two fighters scored hits leaving Admiral Scheer crippled.
USN fighter strafe and crippled Admiral Scheer

It was now a duel of the BBs and this time German fire power would prove more than crippled USS Nevada damage control parties could keep up with.  One USS Nevada sailor was heard to exclaim, : you need buckets to catch all the lead!"  Finally USS Nevada succumbed to the German fire and slipped beneath the waves leaving the undamaged USS Arizona and USS Houston to deal with the pride of the German fleet.

Then with a thunderous roar Bismark let loose with her 15" guns at point blank range on USS Arizona.  The tremendous balst was more than the old WWI bulwark could withstand and her back broke under the weight as the German shells came crashing in.   USS Edsall and USS Houston both took hits from secondary and tertiary guns
Bismark scores a vital on USS Arizona
The American BBs were not up to the task of answering this kind of firepower.  They scored a third hit on Bismark and sent the crippled Admiral Scheer to the bottom, but could not get the required vital hit on Bismark to put them over the 100pt mark to secure a victory.  The German wolf pack quickly swarmed in and finished off the damaged USS Houston with a torpedo salvo.

The USS Lexington now stood alone against the pride of the Third Reich.
USS Lexington now stands alone

Bismark and Gneisenau quickly closed the distance toward USS Lexington.  The USN realizes their chance for victory against the Germans has slipped beneath the waves with USS Arizona.  The Germans do not even make it interesting as the Bismark quickly provides the vital blow on the first salvo.
USS Lexington has not chance to survive the combined German firepower
Overall I initially thought these two fleets were somewhat evenly matched, but I definitely would give the advantage to the Germans.  Air was not really a factor as both fleets were built around surface firepower and air was there as a defensive measure.

While I like the idea of playing the old USN Battle Wagons I think the Kriegsmarine's speed and built in finesse with SAs like "Secret Breakout" and "Long Shot 6" are hard to overcome.  Having four ships with battleship dice at range four vs the USN having only two extended range four was a decisive edge as well.  

I thought the victory would have been more decisive, but I also think I made a error in judgement trying to stay at range four and not challenging 1 of the other two objectives.  Had the Germans taken two of the objectives this game would have ended a few turns earlier.

Neither fleet is tournament ready and I need to brush up on the rules so I do not make any silly mistakes when playing competitively.

It was a "Blast" though (pun intended) as we had not played in awhile.  

Hope you enjoyed....until next time.


  1. I have an interest in WW2 naval wargaming, although I have never heard of 'War at Sea'.

    I read your AAR with interest (it was nicely written), but how do you reconcile this with your stated interest in historical wargaming ?

    The scenario you played was not even a whiff, it was pure fantasy.

    This is a genuine query. I just don't get it.

    1. Hello,

      Thanks for you interest.

      You must first understand that War at Sea is on the light side of war gaming. In its tru form it is not really a war game at all, but just a fun "Beer and Pretzels" game with a historical theme.

      It was produced by a company called Wizards of the Coast (WotC) as a collectible Miniature game (CMG) where you buy boosters and get random pre-painted units to collect the entire set or a specific nation you like.

      The basic game of which this was an example is not a simulation. The units are historically based and that is where the history ends. Each unit is assigned a value. Before the game players agree to play a certain size game (100pt, 200pts etc.) and then build a fleet up to that point value without the other knowing what they will face. You can play historical scenarios, but there are better simulation style rules for that.

      I do use the War at sea Minis for all my WWII Naval gaming with other rules sets. This was just a fun tabletop game with a historical theme. If you want to learn more about War at Sea or other historical CMG games produced by the same company you can visit the foruMINI which is linked in my favorites.

      Hopefully that helps a bit.

  2. Fair enough. I understand the 'Beer & Pretzels' concept.

    Terms like 'collectible' and 'random units' may appeal to young people familiar with the GW hobby, but not to my generation (pre-GW).

    I'll stick with superdetailing GHQ ships thanks. Here' one made earlier :

  3. Never did GW...gave up miniature painting many years ago do to lack of time as we started a family. Discovering WaS has reintroduced me to gaming as the pre-paints did not require any investment in time before we could play. This was important as I my children were younger and hobby time a premium. Since then I have returned to modeling/painting which would not have happened if not for pre-painted games like WaS. I participated in a 10 player tournament last weekend and I think only 3 were under 40, so it appeals to young and old alike.

  4. afilter,
    love your blog! and thanks for the detailed AAR. Axis and Allies Naval is my first taste at naval miniatures gaming and it's definitely raised my interest, and that of my gaming group.

    i'm with you regarding the Axis and Allies minis. The less stuff I have to paint the better what with a job and a 13 month old running around the house! that being said, i'm looking at the shapeways site more and more. Cheers!