Submarine: tactical level submarine warfare: 1939-45 Submarine - some corrections / Bob Aldridge "Submarine", by Battleline, presents the naval wargamer with something of a problem. On the one hand it successfully recreates the atmosphere of WWII submarine warfare. It's game mechanics, although fairly simple, provide a nice balance between playability and realism. On the other hand, a fair number of the submarines used in the game have characteristics that vary a great deal from their historical originals. Although there are one or two surface ships with the odd thing wrong with them this article is confined to submarines as being the major source of historical error in the game. There are four different nationalities involved, Japanese, American, British and German. Within the confines of the game system all the Japanese submarines appear to be historically accurate with respect to gun armament, number and position of torpedo tubes and number of torpedoes available for use. The American submarines fare almost as well, except for the "Thresher" which is wrongly stated to be of the "Gato" class instead of "T" class. The gun deck on this boat should be aft of the conning tower instead of forward. An insignificant fault, unless you are being chased by an enemy destroyer and one that is easily put right by altering the bow/broadside/aft gunnery factors from 1-1-0 to 0-1-1. The total number of torpedoes available, as shown in the Ship Specification Chart, is incorrect. Of the British submarines, the two "S" class are correct, but both the "T" class are completely wrong for torpedo tubes, being quoted as having six bow and four stern tubes, which is nonsense. The German U-boats are dreadful. There are supposedly three classes represented, Types Vllc, IXc and XXi. Not one of the individually numbered boats is of the correct class, two have the same number and one of them was actually cancelled before it was built. Furthermore, the position and number of the torpedo tubes is wrong in most cases. It is not a difficult job to alter the counters and Ship Specification Chart to correct these errors and end up with a game that is not only enjoyable to play but historically accurate as well. To assist others to do the same, I have drawn up a table of amended submarine characteristics for those boats in error. A word of warning, though, on the torpedo reload situation. In the later stages of the war it was not unknown for German and American sub captains to sneak a couple of extra shots aboard. Also, there was a tendency for the Germans to omit the external reloads after 1943 so you can see that the figures are not to be regarded as infallible but they are near enough.
We now come to the torpedos themselves, the reason for the submarines' existence. It is perhaps easy to criticise but not so easy to offer constructive comments. Accurate information is hard to come by, perhaps the most easily available source is from "The Devil's Device" by Edwyn Grey. It looks as though the game designer did not have access to this book when he compiled the Torpedo Characteristics Chart, as can be seen from the name given to the sole British type shown, "Whitney Mk.VI". One assumes that he meant "Whitehead" and even then it ought to be Mark VIII, which was the standard British torpedo of the war. Disregarding this, the performance details seem to be all right. The American types are all correct, as far as can be ascertained. In my "house rules" I have excluded the Mk.X from the restrictions placed on US torpedoes prior to 1943 which ought really to apply to the Mk XIV only. I have not been able to find out anything about the Japanese torpedoes but since all their submarine information was in good order I must assume that the torpedoes are as well. I don't like the look of the German ones. None of the information in my possession refers to Mark Nos. All WWII U-boats used 21" tubes, which excludes the Mk.l and Mk.lX which are shown as 18" and 19" respectively. If we assume that the Mk.XVI is intended to be the standard German weapon, the G7e, we ought not to be too far wrong. The T-5 appears to be perfectly alright. The T5 Mod. likewise seems to be all right but there seem to be no rules covering its use, it looks as though we have to make our own. Maximum safe depths are quoted for the submarines which differ from official figures. In practice I have found that in an average game a depth of perhaps 200' is rarely exceeded. If you go too deep it takes too long to get back up again so for game purposes the figures are quite acceptable. They are not badly out, anyway. I would dispute the ability to launch torpedoes at depths of up to 100'. Granted that in the closing stages of the war the German Type XXI could do so but I am sure that it was not common practice. In case this article has given the impression that 'Submarine' is not a good game I must repeat what I stated earlier. It is a good game as it stands but suitably corrected it is an accurate game as well and can be enjoyed the more on that account. Bibliography The Ships & Aircraft of the US Fleet, 1945 Edn - James C. Fahey. Submarine - Commander Edward L.Beach, USN US Warships of WW2 - Paul H.Silverstone. Japanese Warships of WW2 - A.J.Watts. The U-Boat Hunters - A.J.Watts British Submarines - H.T.Lenton. German Submarines - H.T.Lenton The Devil's Device - Edwyn Grey War Fish - George Grider