As I continue to explore the many features of Cold Waters, the 2017 submarine simulation developed by the Australian game developer Killerfish Games, I have finally gone beyond Training and moved on to Single Mission combat mode. After three days of trying out most of the tutorial missions in the game – which its designers tout as “the spiritual successor” to MicroProse Software’s Red Storm Rising – I decided to test my mettle as a submariner and fought several Quick Mission engagements.
Quick Missions are, quite simply, short battles that players can create by choosing the eponymous option whilst in the Single Mission window in Cold Waters. Here, you can create your own battles in different eras – 1968, 1984, and 2000 – and scenarios – NATO vs. Soviets in the North Atlantic or Red China/Russia vs. the U.S. in the Western Pacific. You can even play as either side if you want.
Because I’m still new at the game, I chose to create scenarios that posed some real danger but were not so difficult that I’d lose my boat within the first five minutes of the engagement.
For my first Quick Mission, I chose to pit a Los Angeles-class (SSN-688) fast attack sub against a small Soviet amphibious group composed of the following:
- A Sverdlov-class light cruiser
- A Kiev-class aircraft carrier
- Two Krivak I-class escorts
- One Ropucha-class landing ship, tank (LST)
- One Alligator-class landing ship, tank (LST)
- Two Andizhan transport ships
- Two Partizan-class cargo ships
- One Grisha III frigate
- One Boris Chilikin-class oiler
I then chose a section of the Baltic Sea near the northern coast of Poland, a late-evening starting time on March 5, 1984, with overcast skies and rough seas to make the game less easy to win. (The rougher the weather, the harder It is for a sub’s sonar to pick up surface targets easily due to the sea state.)
Like in Cold Waters’ spiritual ancestor, Red Storm Rising, the game gives you a chance to check on the status of your boat before you go into battle, so I checked my weapons loadout and made sure my four tubes were loaded like so:
- Mk. 48 torpedo
- Mk. 48 torpedo
- UGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile (ASM)
- Mk. 48 torpedo
Now, I’m not going to write a long dissertation with a blow-by-blow description of the Battle of the Baltic. Suffice it to say, however, that I applied the lessons that I learned during the Training Scenarios – including how to do a proper target motion analysis (TMA) during the pre-attack approach on a Soviet amphibious group, how to use my sensors properly, how to maneuver my boat whilst avoiding Soviet torpedoes, and how to prioritize damage control parties in the middle of a battle.
My plan was to destroy the invasion task group’s escorts first, then pick off the amphibious landing ships and support vessels at my leisure. This might seem like the common-sense thing to do, because once you eliminate the heavily-armed and aggressive warships you don’t have to worry about having to worry about being detected and destroyed before you even scratch the paint on a Ropucha or Alligator LST.
So, yeah…first I made a stealthy approach to the enemy task force. At a distance of 15,000 yards, I took my boat to periscope depth, raised my ESM and radar masts briefly to get a look at the Soviet convoy, then lowered the masts (they get damaged if you don’t) and dove back to 150 feet. I then fired torpedoes at the most dangerous escorts – the Kiev and the frigates (they’re armed with anti-submarine warfare stuff) – and saved the Sverdlov for “dessert” with the Harpoon missile. (the 14 Sverdlov-class – or Project 68bis, as they were known in the Red Navy – were built as the last all-gun cruisers of the Soviet fleet and thus aren’t too dangerous to attack subs, unlike the Kirov-class battle cruisers, which have deadly ASW missiles).
My plan worked; I sank all of the escorts, but not before the Kiev and a Krivak managed to damage my boat with two torpedo hits that damaged one torpedo tube and forced me to focus on damage control for a while. That didn’t do the Soviet invasion force much good, though. I finished off the warships with torpedoes, then used my Harpoons to annihilate the convoy before it could reach its destination somewhere on the northern coast of West Germany.
I used to employ the same tactics when I played Red Storm Rising, which had graphics that looked pokey in comparison to Cold Waters’ but had many of the same basic tactical concepts, and many of the warships simulated in the 1988 game appear here as well, although they are depicted more realistically in Cold Waters.
Obviously, Cold Waters’ user interface is radically different from Red Storm Rising’s, and the enemy AI is far more cunning and deadlier than in the older game. So even though I did well in my first Quick Mission, I do not think I’m quite ready for the Killerfish Games-scripted battles just yet.
 In United States naval parlance, submarines are never referred to as “ships.” The proper term is “boats.”