Warfare in the Atlantic. (evaluation) Brian J. Murphy.
A desperate chase to find and destroy a deadly Nazi pocket battleship that is preying on Britain's South Atlantic shipping lifeline is the subject of a new Strategic Simulations wargame. Pursuit of the Graf Spee is a direct descendant of, and improvement on, SSI's original and classic wargame, Computer Bismarck.
This new game, created by Joel Billings who assisted in the creation of Computer Bismarck), is substantially better than the earlier wargame, offering more excitement, more action and greater play-ability.
The situation at the beginning of the game is as follows: It is December 1939, and the German pocket battleship Graf Spee and her auxialiary supply ship, Altmark, are in the South Atlantic, poised to strike at Allied merchant shipping off the coasts of West Africa and South America. The mission of the German player is simply to keep Graf Spee afloat, sinking British shipping and avoiding a fleet of Allied cruisers which are scouring the seas in search of her.
For the British player the situation is more difficult. The task is to locate and destroy the Graf Spee. Simple enough, but it could be hiding in any one of 232 sea squares on one hi-res color mapboard. On the first move each player knows the locations of the other's ships, but the Graf Spee will only be found again if a British ship winds up in the same square, or if it is sighted by a merchantman.
the British player has twelve ships with which to search, but their capabilities are limited. Primarily the problem is fuel. The ships use up to one fuel point for a day move and three for a night move. If you send your ships after Graf Spee in a hurry, it will cost a lot of fuel. Once you have expended your fuel points, your ship is restricted to daytime movement only.
In the meantime the German player, though in the dark about the exact locations of the Allied ships, has a much freer hand. When he runs low on oil, he can simply rendezvous with the Altmark and fill right up again. The British ships must head for one of five friendly ports to refuel, and only one of those ports is on the South American side of the map.
In short, the German player has a big advantage which greatly enhances his mobility, speed and ability to dodge searchers. It is the same advantage that the real-life commander of the Graf Spee, captain Hans Langdorf, enjoyed.
While the British player sends his ships to and fro searching, the German sends Graf Spee into the shipping lanes--marked on the hi-res screen by white dots--where he will encounter Allied merchant ships if he hovers around in the patrol mode. When Graf Spee finds a merchant ship to sink, the computer automatically scores it as destroyed and awards victory points to the German player. A British merchantman can be worth up to 15 victory points. A German merchant ship--and there are a few on the board--is automatically sunk once sighted and 10 points are awarded to the British. At the end of the game the points are counted to determine the winner.
When opposing units find each other, the game goes into the tactical mode. The hi-res color map disappears, and you see a black screen. Letter codes for the ships are all that is diplayed, with a G for Graf Spee always in the center. As you move the ships, the letters for the British ships will move, indicating their positions relative to Graf Spee. Below is a text window where information on range and course for the various ships is displayed and commands are entered.
In the tactical mode, players may manuever ships, aim fore and aft turrets independently and fire torpedoes. The results of firing are displayed after both sides have entered their moves. If the ships wander out of range of each other (this is determined by visibility factors) then the ships are declared disengaged by the computer and the search resumes on the hires map. If the ships inflict damage on each other but do not sink prior to disengagement, then victory points are awarded for the damage.
Some care has been taken to make this game realistic, although some of the detail which made Computer Bismarck so realistic has apparently been sacrificed to make room on the disk for a tactical combat phase.
In taking hits, the Graf Spee has the advantage. At long range, when the computer Graf Spee is pounding the British effectively, shells hitting her tend to explode harmlessly on the deck plate or on the armor belt girdling the hull. Still, a lucky hit could disable one of Graf Spee's turrets or her rudder, but the British player risks losing a cruiser and from 40 to 100 victory points.
It is not easy, but the British player can win by accurately guessing the next German move and sending strong forces, especially Cumberland and Renown, after the Graf Spee. Once they find her, the best chance of winning in combat is to, again, try to anticipate Graf Spee's maneuvers and to attack her from two or more sides, if you have enough ships.
The game is heavily weighted in favor of the German player; almost any strategy will work for him. Good ideas are to keep Altmark handy and hidden. Refuel from her, but not in a neutral port. That automatically tips off the British, and you risk the possibility of the computer deciding, during your first visit, to scuttle your ship. Avoid points where the British are likely to wait for you. Hit the shipping lanes and run for it.
Options for play offered in Pursuit of the Graf Spee include scenarios beginning on December 1, 1939 and on December 13, the day a squadron of British cruisers found the Graf Spee off Montevideo harbor. The second scenario picks up the game in the tactical mode, with the Graf Spee squaring off for combat with Exeter, Ajax, and Achilles. If you prefer, you can resolve combat off-line, using naval miniatures, then input the results into the computer. You can play Graf Spee with another wargamer or against the computer.
In summary, Pursuit of the Graf Spee is a realistic simulation of a World War II naval campaign. It offers plenty of options to allow you to tailor the game to your own taste. It is not a game for someone who has never played a warfare simulation before, but for those who have had even minimal experience and who like a challenge, Pursuit of the Graf Spee is a good bet.
Products: Strategic Simulations Pursuit of the Graf Spee (computer program)