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Silent War: How I Kicked History's Ass

posted Aug 4, 2012, 9:08 PM by Douglas Sun

Probably the most salient piece of business that I left unfinished when I stopped blogging last year was the outcome of the Silent War campaign game that I began shortly before Christmas 2010 and wrote about periodically over the next few months, here, here and here

I had played the entire-war campaign before and blogged my observations about doing so. But I decided to have another go at it after getting my copy of the IJN expansion because I was curious to see how the new rules and new Japanese ship counters affected the game. In short, my experience suggests that both make the entire-war campaign easier to win — much easier, in fact. But more about that later.

First, this is how things ended up: I reached the end-point of the scenario — 5.5 million tons of Japanese ships sunk — in Week 3, June 1944. You read that right: Week 3, June 1944. When the submarine service has sunk that much Japanese shipping, it is assumed that Japan's ability to import resources and carry on military activity outside of the Home Islands is crippled, and the war ends. So in this replay of history, the Pacific War ended 1 year and 6 weeks early. Imperial Japan threw in the towel while the Allies were still fighting their way through Normandy. Since your level of victory is judged against historical performance (ahead or behind schedule), that was more than enough for a Total Victory.

After that, you adjust the level of victory according to how many subs you lost, also moving up or down by comparison against the historical record. There again, I exceeded expectation, losing only 48 subs to the 63 that the USN lost historically.

Any way you look at it, I kicked history's ass.

I sank 1093 ships. No battleships, but 36 destroyers, 22 light cruisers, 9 heavy cruisers and 6 fleet carriers, including Hiryu, Zuikaku, and Kaga. Granted that Kaga was available as a target in 1943 only because the Battle of Midway random event never came up, but even so this strikes me as a very impressive haul in warships for the submarine service. Looking at the list of carriers that I sunk, it kind of makes me wonder what the USN's own carrier aviators were doing all that time, that so many CVs were still available for the submarines.

The most prolific single sub, both in terms of ships and tonnage sunk, was Whale (a Gato-class boat, not surprisingly). It bagged 21 ships worth 138kt, including the AV Kamoi and the CL Isuzu. Spearfish, among the submarines that started the war in service, did the older boats proud, surviving all the way to the end and accounting for 20 ships worth 82kt, including the CL Yashojima. Sargo, my prodigal sub, also survived the war, but sank only 6 ships totaling 34kt.

I make absolutely no claim to brilliance, nor do I think that my luck was particularly good. Instead, I point to two innovations in IJN that tipped the game in my favor. One is the new crash dive rule, which basically gives you a 10% chance of saving a submarine that would otherwise count against you as a casualty at the end of the game. On average, that by itself should improve your final result by 1 level of victory. Perhaps even more, when you consider that every sub that gets a new lease on life can go on to sink more tonnage and help you reach the magic 5.5 million-ton mark sooner.

The other factor is the named ship counters that were IJN's main feature. It may seem at first glance that they add little more than flavor to the game, but a close look at the mix reveals that most of the named ships weigh more than their unnamed counterparts in the original Silent War mix. Basically, when you sink a named ship from the IJN set, you're padding the credit that would have gotten for the kill if hadn't mixed them in — perhaps as much as doubling the tonnage sunk. This effect by itself may not gain you an extra level of victory, but remember that racking up tonnage sunk in Silent War is rather like accumulating experience points in a roleplaying game: It allows you to power up in the form of getting better torpedoes, which in turn enables to sink even more ships as the game progresses. And the virtuous cycle compounds itself until you run out of named ships.

At some point — probably not this year, though — I would like to give this another try and compare results. I find it rather hard to believe that Brien Miller intended that IJN should make Silent War this much easier to win. So, time permitting, it would be worth another iteration just to see how it goes. 

BTW, if you're interested in a more detailed look at my game, I am attaching a Word file with the notes that I kept as it went along. It's not a blow-by-blow account, but it does summarize which sub sunk what, where and when, as well who got sunk/scuttled and the how, where and when.

Douglas Sun,
Aug 4, 2012, 9:08 PM