Sunday, 9 November 2014

Operation Cerberus - The Channel Dash 1942

Yesterday I set up and ran a mini campaign at the Devon Wargames Group monthly meeting covering the Channel Dash in 1942, using the ShipBase III computer rules to handle the combat action, and Cyberboard to run the map movement and admin.

If you would like to see how things went then follow the link to the club blog
Devon Wargames Operation Cerberus Channel Dash-1942

One thing that occurred to me after I had written the game report, was that we didn't get all the toys out in the game, no Swordfish planes on the table, no British ships other than MTB counters, and yet the result was pleasing from an historical sense and the game was interesting with some great moments of drama and tension as the occasional unexpected event occurred.

The combat with the MTB's was particularly interesting as the little ships ploughed on in the face of withering fire and losing half their number to get in range to launch their torpedoes. At extreme range with only eight fish in the water neither I or the German commander was expecting much. As we were playing through this little scenario I was reminded of the TBD squadron in the Midway movie having a similar experience with all of them ending up in the drink vainly hoping that one of the torpedoes would avenge their casualties.

There is a peculiar pleasure to be had from a game that gives a sense of the actual events in history, without necessarily having all the hardware on show.

Perhaps this is something that is lost when wargames businesses, in their drive to sell us more models, backed up by rule sets that encourage and often require players to have lots of kit on table that would have amazed veterans who took part in the actual events, pursue more game than simulation.

Don't get me wrong, if having lots of models on the table blazing away, floats your boat, then why not. I am a strong believer in the independence of the gamer to play what ever and in what manner of game he/she and the other players want to play. In addition I benefit from all these great models being produced to feed this market. I can remember the days of scratch building just about everything and I certainly wouldn't want those times to return soon.

My simple point is that when looked at from the game/simulation, fun/tiresome aspects, I can definitely recommend the simulation/fun combination every time.

As always thoughts on a postcard to JJ's Wargames..........


  1. Sharing your take on the business in general (and enthusiasm for naval miniature), I can also see the attraction - especially for household 28mm producers - in further exploring the possibilities in having a digital (Ipad or PC driven) gaming engine creating the overall narrative, offering historical information and imagery on a particular war or campaign, and thus using this engine to generate single playable scenarios that are also chained together in a grater story/campaign. In other words, I really like your suggested mix between the digital and the physical gaming table and all that might be gained in the process.

    Kind regards

    1. Hi Soren, thanks for your comment. Yes to date there seems to have been a disappointing lack of interesting wargame programs coming to market. C&G II, that I use for my Napoleonics, is testing a new campaign system which we are all awaiting with much anticipation, but not much in the naval arena which is an area that seems made for these kind of rule sets. Oh well back to my old DOS ShipBase until someone comes up with the next generation.

  2. I couldn't agree more. Although people should game the way they enjoy, for me there is nothing more pleasurable than to play out a well-researched historical scenario and then take a look at the outcome compared with the historical result. Without exception the game battle is always a lot tidier, but its surprising how the same problems emerge and how often the narrative parallels the original.

    1. Hi Bill, I thought we might be kindred spirits on this aspect of gaming. I love your WWII terrain and its attention to detail. There really is something satisfying in recreating those tactical challenges that the historical counterparts had to wrestle with. In the recent series of Oporto games I ran you could see both commanders deciding what they needed to do to get a better result than either Wellesley or Soult as well as trying to manage a battle. Great fun. I think the advent of card driven games has done much to address your point about the tidy battlefield. The chaos that can be generated really can seem to mimic that encountered in the real affair.

  3. Sorry, got so excited I joined your blog twice! I have found that given the same forces, positions and pressures it is surprising to note how limited commanders options become. It leads, in my experience, to pretty similar results to the historical. Perhaps it will come about that the one-size-fits-all off the shelf rules set will be challenged by e-rules. These would set/modify the exceptions and tweaks in said rules by scenario/campaign automatically. Would that I was computer literate enough.

    1. Hi SRD, I'll take your excitement as a mark of approval.

      Interesting point, perhaps more E Rules will lead to more generic sets like "Black Powder" with, as you say, add on theatre relevant modules. I guess when you look at Carnage & Glory the basic system applies throughout the time/theatre specific modules with the addition of pike and pole arm use for earlier periods and better musketry/artillery ranges for the later, together with different formations etc.

      I think the real game changer for E Rules will be more tablet friendly sets that allow the moderator to play rather than just moderate behind a laptop. I enjoy moderating, but I know more players would take up E rules if more App led rules together with cheaper tablets were available. If you add in the variables that card driven games offer, you would have a very interesting product.