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Silent War: A Whole New Way of Playing It Wrong

posted Jul 28, 2012, 10:08 PM by Douglas Sun   [ updated Jul 28, 2012, 10:15 PM ]

Originally posted: February 1. 2011

I consider that I’ve been making decent progress in working my way through the Silent War grand campaign scenario. I finished off 1942 last night — not a bad rate of progress, considering that I’ve been devoting a fair amount of time to helping Bushi-go build the website for Agiliste, and also to re-organizing the worldly goods cluttering up my house (both of them, alas, more important tasks by any objective standard).

However, I threw myself into a bit of a panic at the beginning of January 1943, during the Submarine Reinforcement Phase. At that point, six New S2 Class boats are supposed to be withdrawn. Of those, the Saury and Sturgeon had already been sunk, alas. I located the Sculpin, Seadragon and Sealion without much trouble and placed them on the Turn Track for May 1943, when they were scheduled to return. However, I could not for the life of me find the Sargo, I looked at every submarine counter on the board... then again, including the sunk stack... then a third time, also including the scuttled stack... then yet a fourth time, just in case I missed anything. I checked the record of this game that I’m keeping — Sargo had sunk one ship, in the Banda Sea back in May 1942 and had not been heard from since. This seemed a little unusual, since most every surviving S2 Class boat had sunk more than one measly ship by this point. And yet both my records and the evidence on the board established that it had not been sunk or scuttled.

Slippery little thing.
How could this be? The Bermuda Triangle, after all, is almost on the other side of the world from the Pacific Theater. I’ve lost counters before, but usually when they’re set aside, out of sight and out of mind. And I’m not in the habit of losing thick, heavy, double-sized counters like the subs in Silent War. Yet the Sargo counter was not to be seen. It was not on the floor at my feet, nor had it fallen into gap between sofa cushions. 
Slippery little thing.

Finally, the only remaining possible answer came to me (apart from the

explanation that it had just disappeared, like socks in the dryer). I looked at the sub counters stacked in the Broom Boxes and realized that I had placed the right edge of the map sheet almost flush with the edge of the coffee table. I stood up and leaned over... and there was a submarine counter, face-down, but most assuredly the missing Sargo. No doubt, I had brushed it off the edge at some point after it returned from patrol.

The name of this blog, of course, is a sardonic reference to my long history as a gamer — particularly as a wargamer, since historical wargame rules are notoriously elaborate. But for me, this represents a whole new category of playing it wrong. In all probability, I deprived myself of one of my more capable submarines for a good six months of game time, from its return from the patrol on which it sank its first ship to the time when it was supposed to be temporarily withdrawn from service anyway.

Oh well. At least — or so I like to think — the partial absence of one sub has not materially affected the course of the game. As of this writing, Week 3 of January 1943 has just ended, and Week 4 will mark the transition to War Phase 3. I have sunk 247 ships worth 1,060,000 tons, so there is really no point in worrying about the tonnage milestones anymore. Fourteen subs have been sunk and three scuttled. So the war goes well, even without six months of service from the Sargo.

BTW: I don’t know if anyone else has the same reaction, but whenever I see a list of US Navy submarines from World War II, I always find myself curious because it includes so many species of aquatic life that I never knew existed. What is a sargo anyway? Turns out it’s a type of fish native to the waters off of Baja California. It’s not that big (1-2’ long), and although it seems to be a game fish, it’s not considered all that tasty. And it had a WWII-era submarine named after it, which I lost for a while, but which has now rejoined my game of Silent War.