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The Hunters: German U-Boats at War 1939-1943

Hello friends,
today something totally different. A few years back I have bought a solitaire board game published by Consim Press The Hunters: German U-Boats at War 1939-1943. As the title suggests it's about U-boats. Long story short, you pick a U-boat type and conduct patrols during which you sink allied shipping, sometimes lay mines or drop off an Abwehr agent. You can get promoted, your crew may become better or you can even earn a newer type of U-boat. Of course, as the war progresses it's really hard to stay alive when detected by escort ships.

The box!
This time I am going to play the basic rules. Without the more historically accurate optional rules. 
So, let's get started. For the game I chose to begin with a Type VIIA U-Boat. Only 10 of these type were produced and 2 survived the war. The crew status is trained meaning no bonus or negative values apply with different rolls. My starting rank is Kapitänleutnant which allows me to choose a specific patrol assignment if I roll 1 while in port. The type VIIA can carry 11 torpedoes with a standard load out of 6 G7a Steam Torpedoes and 5 G7e Electric torpedoes but we can adjust the mix by 1 so at the beginning of the war I like to have more Steam ones because they are more reliable while checking if the hit was not a dud. So the U-29 is going to be commanded by Hans Yavasa.

Let the game begin


September 1939 
The ship slowly embarks towards the designated patrol area in the Atlantic. The transit is dull and we encounter no ships en route. When we reach the patrol area not many day pass when we spot a n escorted convoy of ships. Let's try to sneak as close as possible and conduct a night surface attack. Sadly, the escorts manage to find us! The boat has taken a severe beating and taken a lot of flooding during the attacks. We have managed to repair the damaged fuel tanks but our flak gun is out for the rest of the patrol. Now, we cannot let the pray escape. We have successfully managed to follow the convoy. Let's try the night surface attack once again! This time we have fooled the escorts. We fire all 4 forward torpedoes  and score 2 hits with one sadly being a dud. Again, the escorts are serious and lucky. When we finally manage to lose them we are left with one the the diesels inoperable = abort patrol and return to base. At least we have managed to sink the 7,500 Moh. Ali-Kebir. (The tonnage provided is rounded up in most cases for game purposes).

Image from Das Boot movie

December 1939 
After the refit we are being sent on a mining mission near the British Isles. Great, no torpedoes until we mine the coast... If we get lucky we can sink a lone ship with our deck gun. However, this does not occur since we do not encounter any shipping during our nevertheless successful patrol. 

February 1940 
Our Soviet allies are still fighting in Finland. The rumors are they are even starting to win. Nevertheless, we are en route again. It seems the weird war got onto us since the Befehlshaber der Unterseeboote wants us to mine the British Coast... again! Not that we would question our orders, but we are supposed to sink merchant shipping. Aren't we? However, this time we are lucky. After the mine laying operations we spot a small convoy. Too bad we have only 6 torpedoes left. We are eager to sink some ships so we do not wait for the night. At medium range 2 torpedoes go for the tanker and 2 for two other large freighters. 3 of our torpedoes hit sinking the British steam merchant Norfolk immediately. The tanker Victor Ross is still afloat but we have to deal with the escorts before cheering! They get onto us but after their three runs and sustaining some minor damage from the depth charges we manage to get away. The damaged ships were left under escort while the rest of the convoy moved on. We have to torpedoes left. One in the aft tube and one in the forward ones. Let's try to finish of the huge tanker and undermine the British war effort. We wait for the night to come and fire our last two electric torpedoes. Both hit! The tanker blows up taking the whole brave crew with it. We sail away undetected by the escort ships. 23,300 Tons of enemy merchant shipping sunk. A really good result for a mining patrol. 

Norfolk https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/ship/996.html

May 1940 
We have beaten the Allied forces in Norway! What is more the invasion of Belgium, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands commences as we set sail to hunt some shipping near the British coast. We have reached the patrol grid without any problems. Soon after the weather cleared we have spotted a freighter under escort. The night surface attack attempt was unsuccessful and what is more left the hull badly damaged, radio inoperable, deck gun inoperable, miraculously we have managed to seal the damaged fuel tanks, some crew members are lightly wounded.
Damage caused by the escort ship

My instinct tells me to follow the merchant ship and sink it. Torpedo hit!

Image result for torpedo hitting ship periscope
Try to ignore the fact it's WWI...
The outmaneuver the escort. However, the troop transport is still afloat. We need to put two more torpedoes before she goes down. 4 torpedoes - 1 dud. It took 3 hits to sink the Anselm.

Anselm https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/ship/1030.html
Our Luftwaffe friends inform us of a lone ship (Random event) near our vicinity. It's the S/M Neptunian we have encountered during our last patrol. This time the ship does not manage to get away and we sink it with our torpedoes. We continue the patrol to find and sink another unescorted ship Sheaf Mead. It's a pity the deck gun is inoperable and we need to torpedoes again. On our way back we got attacked by an enemy aircraft, some crew members got lightly wounded but we have managed to submerge after their first strafe. The patrol ended with three merchant ships sunk equaling 16,200 tons. Our U-boat was badly damaged thou and the refit had to take 3 months.

September 1940
The war has been going for a year now. Success after success for the Reich. The French are beaten, the Brits wounded but the Luftwaffe did not manage to break the RAF what is more Americans bolstered the Royal Navy with 50 destroyers. This is bad news for the future for us sailing to patrol the Atlantic. Caught unaware by an enemy aircraft, some crew got severely wounded and the deck gun is inoperable. Thankfully we have managed to repair the forward torpedo doors and the diesel. It's a bad start.

Image result for aircraft attacking uboat
Yep, this is what happened...
Got better luck a few days later at the patrol grid. We spotted and sunk during a night surface attack the 7000 tons Empire Howard. Convoy sighted. We wait for the night and attack at close range fooling the escorts. All 4 forward tubes fired each torpedo going for a different target. 3 hits scored! Exceeding test deepth pays off we manage to remain undetected. The damage ships remain under escort. Another close range attempt attack is successful with all torpedoes hitting the targets and sinking Raphael Semmes and Sagona. We are detected however and take a lot of flooding from the depth charge attacks and some hull damage. Exceeding test depth again. The sounds of the pressure  on the hull are terrifying but we manage to lose the destroyers. When we reach periscope depth Ville d’Arlon is left alone so we finish it of with a torpedo.

Vill d'Arlon https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/ship/3515.html
Time to return to base. 28,000 tons sunk and a promotion to Korvettenkapitän.

December 1940 
The RAF still bombs German towns. Where is the Luftwaffe?
Anyway, we set sail for the Atlantic through the Bay of Biscay. The transit is peaceful and so most of the patrol due to severe weather conditions. After a long wait we spot a convoy and engage it during the night. We are undetected manage to sink a large freighter and damage a tanker. Luck is upon us as we still manage to avoid detection and finish the tanker. Two ships sunk 14,800 tons total. The crew gets the veteran status. (Allowing it to get a -1 for flak attack rolls against enemy aircraft) We end the year with 24 U-boats lost to the enemy.

Sinking Caroni River https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/ship/191.html

February 1941
Our Italian allied surrender south of Benghazi. 130,000 of them! We will probably have to help Mussolini win his war in northern Africa. We set to patrol the coast of the British Isles and only encounter one tanker, the Scottish Standard. We shell it with our deck gun. The rest of the patrol is calm. It seems the Brits keep their ships in ports! 7000 tons sunk.

April 1941
Rommel hits the Allied forces hard in North Africa. More on the boat is high as we set sail for the Atlantic to hunt some merchant shipping. A few days pass and we spot a large convoy steaming towards Britain. I order to engage at close range after waiting for the night to come. We are undetected and fire four torpedoes: 2 at a large freighter and 2 at a tanker. Both are hit but we fail to sink them! The escorts do not find us and after some time we attempt another attack at the crippled ships. I am overconfident to attack during daytime with steam torpedoes. All hit and finish off the enemy ships! What a great victory! The escorts are upon us. The boat shakes from the depth charges and the allied commander knows what he is doing. We are getting pounded! The fuel tank are hit, people get wounded and the hull is severely damaged. Exceeding test depth. Come on! Come on! They are on us again! More damage, the light goes off. People start to panic...
5 Incoming hits... the beginning of the end

It's getting harder to remain undetected...


U-29 along with it's commander Korvettenkapitän Hans Yavasa and the entire crew is lost. During the last patrol 20,300 tons of shipping had been sunk.
With total of 8 conducted patrols and 15 ships totaling 117 100 tons of enemy shipping sunk Korvettenkapitän Hans Yavasa got posthumously decorated the Knight's Cross.

Ixion, the last victim of U-29 https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/ship/908.html

Komentarze

  1. A great article, Piotr, and this sounds like a great game that effectively balances realism with playability. I especially like how survivability for Kriegsmarine U-boats becomes more and more or an issue as the war progresses, in light of the closing of the Mid Atlantic “Air Gap” and the advance of more effective Allied ASDIC (early sonar). Based on the writings of Herbert Werner (Iron Coffins), this definitely seems to reflect the German experience.

    I like in your article how your writing ties in with events of the larger world (Invasion of the West, the war in North Africa, etc), it helps provide context between the U-Boat War and World War II in general.

    I like how the game includes a career path, with promotions, U-boat upgrades, mission profiles you MIGHT be able to choose, and some limited “commander’s discretion” flexibility in weapons load out (torpedoes carried).

    I also like how your initial attacks seemed to find most success with night surface attacks. Given the speed of actual U-boats of the period, submerged attacks were actually the exception rather than the rule, despite what we see in the movies. I also find it neat how you were able to potentially sink lone ships with a deck gun.

    I also liked the end, you really got the desperation, terror, and helplessness of what the final moments of a U-Boat crew must have been like. No military force in history has sustained a higher overall fatality rate than the German U-Boat service, something like 80% killed from 1939-45.

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    1. Thanks Jim for the great and at the same time positive feedback on the so to speak "after action report". As mentioned in the beginning of the post I have played the so to speak vanilla version that omits factors like the experience of the convoy escorts crews and so on.
      The game has a lot of potential and not once my knuckles went white while making the detection roll. It's nicely portrayed in the rules. The further into the war the modifiers for the escort's detection roll are literally against you. You can risk to exceed test depth but it comes at a price of hull damage or even the destruction of the boat.
      I am glad you like the historical commentary. I think it ties the wider view of the war with what happens in the game. Some information almost surely not getting into the wider public in Germany at that time.
      I am waiting for GMT to release the Hunted for the second part of the war covering the downfall of the U-Boats 1943-1945. There is also a reprint of the Silent Victory coming which covers the Pacific Theater of Operations and you take control of an American sub.

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