Planes vs. Subs


  • '10

    I read the rules for Spring 1942 and was suprised to learn that planes cannot attack sub.  I find it a bit unrealistic because planes were used to hunt down subs.  The US Navy used modified B-24 and deployed jeep carriers with the specific role to hunt subs.

    I’m going to implament a house rule that when a sub attacks, it may be attacked and sunk by aircraft on a role of “1-2” until the sub submerges.  Which at that time, it is safe from air attacks.  Also, when defending, attacking forces may attack a sub on the first round.  After that, a sub may submerge and escape further attack.

    My reason for this was that subs often traveled on the surface and most cases spent more time above water than under in order to improve travel time and fuel consomption.  This made them very vulnerable to suprised air attacks.  Most subs sunk by aircraft were lost in this manner.  Even when attacking, a sub silhoutte could often be seen from the air depending on water conditions, because they usually had to accend within 40 feet of the surface to use their periscopes.

    Thanks



  • You are right that planes were a major threat to subs on WW2 but on this case it has to do more with game balance and playability. I’ve played plenty of games with the Revised edition, where you could hit subs with planes and that gave planes a huge advantage, favoring both Japan and the UK against any US and Germany subs. Subs simply had no way to survive against a large airforce, even though they could submerge after the first round of combat.

    The way it is set right now it really allows for Germany and the Allied subs on the Pacific to make more of a difference.


  • Official Answers

    Planes were very effective sub killers in reality.  However, reality suffers a bit when translated into an abstract board game.  Sometimes the designers have to “fudge” one aspect of a reality-based game in order to deal with the limitations of another aspect of it.  Hopefully, in the end, the two balance each other out to create a whole that abstractly mirrors reality even though the individual parts may not.  The interaction between subs, destroyers and planes is a perfect example of this.

    The range of air units and the size of the oceans in the game make it very easy for air units to find and eliminate subs, if air units are capable of hitting them on their own.  This gives subs no place to hide and makes them “sitting ducks” for air attacks, as was demonstrated in the Revised edition.  This simply doesn’t reflect the realities of anti-submarine warfare as it occured in World War II, at least until long-range aircraft were developed later in the war.  Until that time, subs were very safe in the middle areas of the oceans, as planes didn’t have the range to hunt them effectively there.  Most were sunk only when they were caught in the act of raiding shipping.

    Adding the rule that destroyers are required as “spotters” for air attacks against subs represents the concerted effort needed to hunt and attack subs hiding out between raids.  This gives subs more longevity and makes them more the fearsome foes that they actually were in the early to middle days of the war.

    It also promotes the purchase and maintenance of more well-rounded fleets, as destroyers are necessary to guard against the threat of subs.  This reflects the reality that subs were a constant threat to military shipping as well, and that no convoy would travel without destroyer escorts because of that threat.  At the same time, it keeps them from being used as cheap “cannon fodder” in naval battles, as they were most often not used extensively in fleet operations, but rather as harrassing hunters where their unique properties were best utilized.

    From an economic standpoint, the necessity of buying destroyers for protection against subs also reflects the economic losses sustained by raids against merchant shipping by submarines.

    All of these points, taken together, allow the game to abstractly represent the economic and military threat posed by submarines in World War II.  This makes subs a useful and strategic purchase in the game.  I hope this sufficiently answers your concerns.



  • I always wondered what the reasoning was for this rule. I like realism, but it sounds like this rule actually makes the game more realistic. Never thought of it like that before. Thanks


  • '10

    Krieghund

    Thanks for the lengthly explanation.

    The range of air units and the size of the oceans in the game make it very easy for air units to find and eliminate subs, if air units are capable of hitting them on their own.

    Yes, I always felt there was an imbalance here.  However,  I feel a better solution would have been to increase sea zones, especially in the Atlantic.  This would create a space out of range for aircraft and also force transports to be vulnerable for one turn while transporting cargo across the Atlantic.

    It also promotes the purchase and maintenance of more well-rounded fleets, as destroyers are necessary to guard against the threat of subs.  This reflects the reality that subs were a constant threat to military shipping as well, and that no convoy would travel without destroyer escorts because of that threat.  At the same time, it keeps them from being used as cheap “cannon fodder” in naval battles, as they were most often not used extensively in fleet operations, but rather as harrassing hunters where their unique properties were best utilized.

    From an economic standpoint, the necessity of buying destroyers for protection against subs also reflects the economic losses sustained by raids against merchant shipping by submarines.

    Even if you allow aircraft to attack subs, I don’t think it would change what you said above.  Destroyers are still going to be the most economical way of dealing with subs.

    Anyway, if you were to allow aircraft to attack subs.  How would you do it?  I think by allowing aircraft to have an attack value of 1 or 2 would reflect the difficulty of finding and attacking one.



  • reality is shot to hell once you even START to make this a board game, because it is definitely not realistic for each power to know the exact makeup and location of the other powers’ fleets!  even though planes attacked subs in WWII, they didn’t already happen to know the location of every enemy sub beforehand.  therefore allowing air strikes on subs would result in a completely UNREALISTIC dominance of aircraft over submarines to the extent that the subs would rarely ever be built in the game.


  • '10

    @ragnarok628:

    reality is shot to hell once you even START to make this a board game, because it is definitely not realistic for each power to know the exact makeup and location of the other powers’ fleets!

    Yes,true to an extent.

    even though planes attacked subs in WWII, they didn’t already happen to know the location of every enemy sub beforehand.

    In the case of the Allies, they didn’t know the location of every sub, just most of them.  Thanks to our guys cracking the Japanese code and the British for capturing the German Enigma decoder but I’m not focusing on this fact.

    therefore allowing air strikes on subs would result in a completely UNREALISTIC dominance of aircraft over submarines to the extent that the subs would rarely ever be built in the game.

    It’s not an unrealistic one, just an unfair one if aircraft are allowed to attack subs with their full attack value and I realize that.

    However, I’m no longer interested in replies to my original post.  I was satisfied with the replies by Krieghund & Hobbes.

    What I’m interested at this point is what rules and restrictions would you implement to allow aircraft to attack subs but in a way would not create a significant imbalance in game play?  If anyone else has an idea, I’d like to know.



  • well if we wanted to get tricky, we could always add an asymmetric information element.  let’s say subs are invisible except to destroyers or units being attacked by the sub.  call it a constant submerged state.  the position could be tracked by pen and paper in case of a dispute.  if a destroyer enters a sz occupied by an enemy sub, the owner of the sub must say so.  then simply allow planes to attack ‘unsubmerged’ subs at full attack value.

    not TOO incredibly complicated, although it is probably inconvenient to use pen and paper in such a way.  sub buys are still announced, etc. etc.

    also it feels wrong to have a ‘fog of war’ for subs exclusively.


  • '10

    @ragnarok628:

    well if we wanted to get tricky, we could always add an asymmetric information element.  let’s say subs are invisible except to destroyers or units being attacked by the sub.  call it a constant submerged state.  the position could be tracked by pen and paper in case of a dispute.  if a destroyer enters a sz occupied by an enemy sub, the owner of the sub must say so.  then simply allow planes to attack ‘unsubmerged’ subs at full attack value.

    not TOO incredibly complicated, although it is probably inconvenient to use pen and paper in such a way.  sub buys are still announced, etc. etc.

    also it feels wrong to have a ‘fog of war’ for subs exclusively.

    Thanks for the suggestions.  It’s a creative solution and could work but I’m  looking for a more simplified solution.

    The easiest one I can think of at this point it to allow aircraft to sink a sub on a role of 1 instead of 3.  The lower role would signify the difficulty of spotting and sinking the sub beforeit submerged.



  • @Black:

    The easiest one I can think of at this point it to allow aircraft to sink a sub on a role of 1 instead of 3.  The lower role would signify the difficulty of spotting and sinking the sub beforeit submerged.

    Sub rules are good the way they are. Planes are the best weapon for sea battles already. Further strengthening them would not only reduce the effectiveness of subs, but of destroyers as well. Therefore it might be necessary to adjust IPC prices. Which in turn would change the balance again. etc.

    Realism is not the aim of a game. Fun is. Exaggerated realism usually leads to 128-pages long rulebooks and games that take 2 hours to put up and 25 hours to play.

    The older I get the less I like complicated board games. Simple rules, fast games, big depth ist what usually brings the most fun. Reading rulebooks, rulesmongering, irritation about rules and forgetting the important tiny details usually doesn’t.

    A&A 1942 is already at the edge (for my personal taste, which of course isn’t valid for everyone), but strikes a nice balance between total abstraction (as in Risk or Diplomacy) and playability (opposed to hardcore games like Advanced Third Reich). If you want to go more hardcore, you could try the Spring1940 versions together and play the worldmap. Or take a look at the Hearts of Iron III computer game.



  • Because subs could choose to submerge at anytime of the combact, so when under aircraft attack without the presence of an enemy destroyer, our subs could just choose to submerge and avoid the attack.



  • If you want to be realistic, then US subs should only attack at 1.  Our torpedoes blew (as in sucked, because over half didn’t detonate or track, yet we (we as I’m a submariner) still own half the tonnage in the war.  Add to the fact that several of our own subs were killed by themselves, the US should have to roll another die to see if it killed itself if it didn’t hit the target.  Lesson learned here?  Don’t ask for realism because realism is quite scary!



  • Realism to a point….It would be tough if every power had different values for their units.



  • If you want realism, man up and join the military  8-)


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