Tuesday, December 29, 2009

DANG: The Truth

DANG, or Dave's Annual Naval Game is officially enshrined on my annual gaming dance card, together with the Museum of Flight day and Enfilade. Everything else is gravy, but these are must-do's. I've written about DANG before, Dave Schueler's shindig at his home in West Seattle. This year we played Action Stations, featuring miniatures from Dave's collection and my own.

DANG has three important characteristics. The first, and maybe the most important, is a social aspect. We get to hang out at Dave's house for most of a day, share news and swap lies. This year was no different. We had some DANG veterans-Dave Creager, David Sullivan, Arthur Brooking, and myself-but we also had a pair of DANG noobs; Dale Mickel and Scott Murphy. This year I was teamed with David and Arthur, and being the vets we were, we took nothing terribly seriously, which, under the circumstances was a good idea. We were the Axis side, tasked with running supplies to the trapped German and Italian forces in Tunisia in 1943. Not a pleasant task considering the quality of some of our vessels.

Another important DANG characteristic is the planning phase. Dave gives us our mission(s) and we allot our resources to complete our various tasks. Sometimes the mission planning can be quite complex, and beyond my limited administrative abilities. This time the DANG missions were easy to plot out. Five days with three action periods per day, units required to rest after completion of a mission. I nodded my head, David Sullivan did all the work. This is also the phase of the game in which we conduct psychological warfare against our opponents. We listen in on their noisy conversations (though most of the intelligence we gather in this way is wrong!!) We loudly proclaim our propaganda, make improbable threats and generally make fools of ourselves. Most importantly its a time in which we can snack on all of the tasty treats Dave and Lynn have set up for the participants.

It's difficult being the Axis player when the world begins to go to shit. Hah-Sixth Army is trapped in Stalingrad-no biggie. I can go you one better, the Afrika Korps is surrounded in Tunisia. Our job was to save 'em with a couple of obsolete S-Boats and a slow, underarmed minesweeper with a green crew. The third phase of the game is to actually complete the missions. Some resulted in on-the-table battles, some didn't. In virtually all the battles, the gods of serendipity were on the side of the Axis.

In our first action, night of day one (all the battles were night battles,) our two R boats (minesweepers) were minding their own business sweeping mines off Port Endopincochle or something equally unpronounceable, when two big shadows showed up in the distance. Why is it that when big shadows show up in the distance we just can't seem to leave well enough alone? For whatever reason, Arthur and David decided to go check out the big shadows and discovered they were British destroyers. Destroyers don't sound like a big deal if you're used to playing 1/1200 or 1/2400 fleet actions, but in Action Stations, destroyers may as well be the Yamato. R-boats, on the the other hand, are like rafts made of Popsicle sticks mounting a slingshot and a broom and dustpan. Once the destoyers were spotted, David and Arthur did the only smart thing-they ran. Unfortunately David's boat was not quite faster than a couple of 4-inch shells, which quickly morphed him into splinters. Arthur's boat, however, drew one of the tin cans a little too close to the shore batteries, which succeeded in damaging the vessel and thoughtfully lighting him afire for the amusement of the other destroyer, which cleverly stayed out of range.

After a desultory Day 2 of searching and missing the limping the destroyer from the air, our little flotilla based in Tunis headed off for Bizerte just in time to meet up with some friends-two Fairmile D gunboats and 2 Fairmile D torpedo boats, each bristling with small boat nastiness. Our flotilla consisted of two old S-Boats recently released from training command. We paid careful attention to the one 20mm gun thoughtfully mounted facing to the rear of our boats. This time it Arthur and I each in command of an S-Boat, surrounded by barking bad guys. Somehow I managed to get my boat turned around and dodged the rain of shells of all calibers pointed in my direction. However, Arthur's tactic of having his steering damaged and destroying his enemy, and himself, by ramming, seemed to be the most effective tactic of the day. I escaped with the loss only of my radio. Whew.

The final action occurred the next night when the five S-Boat flotilla out of Port Imbecile decided to exact revenge on the game master for constantly being out-classed, out-gunned, everything but out-lucked. We decided to make those nasty Brits pay. Someplace in the Straits of Sicily, we once again encountered the Big Shadows. To our way of thinking this had to be easier than the previous nights. We'd already shot up one destroyer, how many more could they have? The answer was easy-two. Even though we were five heavily armed, torpedo lugging fools, two destroyers are a lot of destroyers. Coming on pre-plotted courses at maximum speed, the DD's were on us like stink on poop. David had two boats and I had one. We were quickly observed and taken under fire. One of David's boats was able to snap off a pair of torpedoes, wide from the mark. I could never really get a shot. Arthur's two boats were unseen, launched torpedoes and wisely retreated, but David and I were left with two destroyers on our hands. I tried to maneuver close enough to get inside his guns, and avoided much damage. On the other hand, I peppered his bridge with 40mm and 20mm rounds causing a fire, knocking out some unprotected weapons and making Dale wish his mama was nearby. David was desperately trying to avoid a rerun of the first night's entertainment, and his wish was granted when Scott's retreating DD tripped over the mis-aimed torpedoes, did a spectacular pirouette and disappeared beneath the Med. Gack!

While all this fun stuff was going on, we Axis players were able to do the routine things as well. Our silly airforce was able to keep the Allied silly airforce from bombing us into oblivion. We completed an important intelligence related mission involving, cloak and dagger, a U-Boat and the Ark of the Covenant. We also managed to sneak a convoy into Tunis without loss and resupplied the entire Italian army with condoms. Not quite sure of the effect of this on the campaign but Dave declared the Axis the winners. So, I was on the winning side for the first time in four years.

At top we have a picture of an S-Boat-a much better armed S-Boat than most of my commands. Below that is a Fairmile D class Motor Gunboat. It's a great picture, starting with the bow shot of a nasty 2 pdr autocannon, and getting worse as it works its way astern. The last shot is actual footage of Scott Murphy's destroyer as it does the torpedo dance. It was a very brief video.

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