Inspired by having a root through the Third Fleet box, I decided to have another game of the Second Fleet introductory scenario Standing Naval Force Atlantic which pitches the aforementioned multi-national force (known as STANAVFORLANT) and a US amphibious task group based around the USS Iwo Jima against a small but powerful Soviet force consisting of the Cruiser Frunze and the destroyer Ottuk.
The game begins with the Soviets off Jan Mayen island and planning on heading back to base but sinking a few NATO ships on the way. STANAVFORLANT started off near Bodo whilst the Iwo jima group was off northern Norway.
The game is fairly simple and just comes down to how much do you want to risk your ships to try and get the big enemy assets; Frunze for NATO and Iwo Jima for the Soviets.
Game turn 1 is a bit of a non-event in this scenario. Strategic air activity comes first and the Soviets chose to use their Kilpyavr-based Tu-16 recce aircraft to detect NATO Task Group 2 whilst the Norwegian Air Force Orions at Andoya were used to detect the Frunze group (there being no other targets). Frunze and Ottuk then headed for the North Cape which also happened to take them towards the inviting targets of the Iwo Jima group. STANAVFORLANT sped after the Soviets on a converging course whilst Iwo Jima’s Task Group 2 moved south to concentrate with the other NATO force.
Game turn 2 saw the exchange of totally ineffective, long-range missile attacks by both sides. First the Soviet ships tried to attack USS Hawes and Iwo Jima and then the two NATO groups missed very badly (rolling 1 and zero in attack against defence rolls of 9 and 8 respectively).
One game turn 3 (the night turn but it makes little difference this far north in the summer) the Soviets got the initiative for the third time and concentrated their missile attack on HMS Active on AA picket duty at the edge of the STANVFORLANT Task Force (the element at the bottom of a Second Fleet stack has to rely on its own close AA protection and the area AA of other elements in the stack). Hit several times, Active was soon a burning wreck. The Soviet force then ran to the north pursued by STANAVFORLANT who managed to damage the Ottuk with missile fire. The hunted then turned hunter as Task Group 2 closed in and USS Hawes finished off Ottuk with more missiles. This left Frunze alone and more vulnerable to missile fire than when she had Ottuk to share the defensive duties.
On game turn 4 the NATO side at last got the initiative and launched an ineffective missile attack on Frunze before moving to position itself across the Soviet vessel’s likely route to Murmansk. Task Group 2 also moved into a position off Pechenga. Frunze tried a long-range missile attack to no effect and then moved past the NATO line.
On game turn 5 Frunze’s captain obviously had a change of heart. He doubled back and took up a position in a fjord hex near Pechenga. From here he could engage the NATO forces whilst the radar clutter from the fjord walls would interfere with in in-coming missile attacks. Frunze’s attack damaged the Piet Hein (now on radar picket duty after the loss of Active). STANAVFORLANT replied ineffectively before withdrawing from the fight and heading north. Task Group 2 was undetected by the Soviets and decided to lay low rather than risk an unlucky missile sneaking through.
The Soviets went first on the last turn and had no option but to move Frunze into Pechenga thus ending the game.
The Soviets scored one VP for sinking active and seven for getting Frunze into port. Eight VP meant a marginal NATO victory.
It’s nearly two years since I last played one of the Fleet Games but it all came back to me pretty easily and I managed to get through the game (solo) in about an hour. I really must get round to organising a proper game using one of the larger scenarios.