Monday, December 29, 2008

DANG 2008

I'm just back from my sojourn to Dave Schueler's house in West Seattle. Today was the date for the 2008 edition of Dave's Annual Naval Game, one of my most looked forward to gaming events of the year. I'm not quite sure what number or edition or version of DANG this year's hoo-hah was, but I think I'm a veteran of at least five DANGs.

Dave begins planning these affairs months in advance of the date, doing his best to be as inclusive as possible. They are almost always in the week between Christmas and New Years when most of us have some time off. After pinning down a date, Dave proposes several (usually six or seven) naval topics ranging from Lepanto, which always seems to make the list, to hypothetical contemporary scenarios. Likely attendees consider the possibilities, make their priorities down, narrowing down the list, before choosing between the two finalists.

This year the masses opted for a modern naval conflict between disputed oil-rich waters dividing Indonesia from Australia using the Harpoon rules. Six of us made the trip to Daveland-David Sullivan, George Kettler, Paul Hannah, Arthur Brooking, Dave Creager and myself. We are all DANG veterans, so we knew what to expect-an interesting scenario with some tricky wrinkles, good company and tasty eats.

David, Paul and Dave opted for the Australians. I was talking to Dave's wife Lynn while we were choosing up sides, so I became an Indonesian by default, but I got to play with George and Arthur, my comrades in last year's Arab-Israeli massacre.

The game was built around conflict over some oil rigs around some islets. Arthur's command started on the board first. My task force would not arrive until three hours later (in game time.) In modern naval warfare that is an eternity. Arthur saw a blip on his radarscope and observed the commonsense modern naval maxim of firing on first contact. Unfortunately his Harpoon missiles were intercepted. The Australian missiles were not, however, and soon his missile boat and amphib vessel were smoking oil slicks. George commanded a frigate in this group, and though he lasted a bit longer the HMAS Newcastle soon had his way with him too. A photo of HMAS Newcastle appears at the top of the page. Within an hour the Aussies were in complete control of the board.

Our picture on the right is of Arthur's ships being relegated to smoking ruin.

It was looking a lot like last year's game when we simply could not bridge the gap between our armament and our enemy's superior weapons. We deliberately held back our 0500 reinforcements, so that they could combine with those arriving an hour later. We attacked the Australians only to have our missions fail due to superior AA defenses and better fighter cover. What could we do.

When the 0600 hour arrived the Newcastle had fallen into our trap. In an effort to eliminate the Indonesian oil platforms, the greedy Aussies had shelled our island port, and begun wrecking the platforms themselves. Newcastle and a small patrol boat put themselves firmly in the path of our new naval forces.

Though we prepared to extract some quick revenge, and retire to Djakarta with a declaration of victory, our old friend lady luck was still kicking us when we were down. My salvo of eight Harpoon missiles, entering the target rich environment, missed the annoying (and dangerous) Newcastle. One missile struck my own oil platform, converting it to twisted wreckage sprouting from an inferno. Three struck the little patrol boat, which sank faster than a twenty-four pound cannon ball.

One of Newcastle's sister ships popped up on radar. While George and Arthur let loose a blizzard of missiles on our old tormentor, I popped off four missiles at our new enemy-who fired eight of his own. Newcastle took three hits-finally and thankfully rolling over and plunging to the bottom. Meanwhile the incoming missiles sank George's corvette and Arthur's frigate. I nearly had the last laugh when the new enemy frigate took two hits from Harpoons, badly damaging it and knocking out the ship's radar. A second attack should have finished him off, but despite the damage, its phalanx gun shot down the attacking missiles. Life is unfair.

With that, Indonesians turned tail and fled talking up their tremendous naval victory, and preparing their statement for the UN Security Council as well as the international press. No, I don't quite believe it myself, but that's certainly how I'd talk it up.

As with each DANG it was a tremendously fun game, and quite the annual event. My thanks to Dave and Lynn and to all of my DANG colleagues.

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