Well, I finally beat one of Cold Waters’ tougher battles, an almost-straight-out-of-a-Tom Clancy-novel engagement titled Beating the Odds, which pits a Sturgeon-class nuclear-powered fast attack boat against a Soviet surface action group supported by Soviet Naval Aviation patrol planes and – sometimes – submarines.
In the month-and-a-half that I’ve been playing what Killerfish Games calls the spiritual descendant of MicroProse Software’s 1988 game Red Storm Rising (which incidentally was straight out of a Tom Clancy novel!) I’ve tried this particular Single Battle twice. I didn’t fare well at all the first time I attempted Beating the Odds; as was the case with Junks on Parade, I used the wrong tactics and the wrong weapons – and lost my boat fast.
However, after several weeks’ worth of playing Cold Waters and creating scenarios where the surface group’s flagship – the battlecruiser Kirov – is present, I managed to destroy a three-ship task force, evade an Il-38 May anti-submarine warfare (ASW) patrol plane, and complete the mission victorious and undamaged.
The date: 19 March 1984
The time: 1100 Hours Lima
The place: Just off Norway’s North Cape
According to the NATO vs. Soviet Union (1984) Campaign notes, it is the last year of Ronald Reagan’s first Administration. Tensions between the USSR and the West are at an all-time high, and the Cold War suddenly turns hot.
Although Beating the Odds is not part of the Campaign (indeed, it’s set nine months before the game’s version of World War III starts), the assumption is that as a result of various real-life Cold War incidents and disputes (including Reagan’s 1980 election, his “Evil Empire” description of the Soviet Union, the Korean Air Lines Flight 007 shootdown by Russian fighters, Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative proposal, and U.S. deployment of Pershing II intermediate range ballistic missiles to West Germany), the Kremlin invades West Germany and declares war on NATO.
Beating the Odds’ scenario is starkly simple. A Soviet surface group led by the nuclear-powered battle cruiser Kirov is heading out to the North Atlantic from its home port of Murmansk. You are a U.S. Navy lieutenant commander in charge of a Sturgeon-class sub. Your mission is twofold:
First, you must get past the Soviet escorts – preferably by eliminating them in a surprise attack – and sink the Kirov.
Second, you must survive. This means avoiding detection by the surface group’s supporting Il-38 May ASW patrol plane, evading whatever counterattack the destroyers (there were two in this battle, a Kashin and a Kanin) and Kirov throw at you, and get away from the battle area if you sink all the warships and avoid being seen or heard by that orbiting May, which drops sonobuoys and is armed with ASW torpedoes and depth bombs.
Now, I was either skillful or lucky, because in less than 20 minutes I sank the escorts and the Kirov using Mk. 48 torpedoes only. (As you can see from the screenshot above, I loaded a UGM-84 Harpoon in Tube 4 in case I needed to finish off Kirov from a standoff distance. As it turned out though, I didn’t need to. Two torpedoes were enough to sink the mighty battlecruiser, so the missile was not used.)
I have, of course, sunk Kirov before, but in those instances I have created “sandbox” games in which I choose the class of boat I want to command. I usually pick the best – the Flight I Los Angeles-class fast attack sub, or 688-class SSN. In engagements created by Killerfish Games, I don’t get to choose my boat. It is chosen for me, and in Beating the Odds the sub I am assigned to as captain is from the class that directly precedes the Los Angeles – the Sturgeon.
I fully expected to have a harder time than I did with this battle. I thought that the Kirov would have a larger escort, for one thing. The Soviets only had two Kirov-class battlecruisers in 1984: the Kirov and the Frunze, and they were the only ships in the “battlecruiser” category in the world. The U.S. Navy was so alarmed by their existence that the retired battleships of the Iowa class were taken out of mothballs, modernized, and recalled to active service as a counterweight to the Kirovs.
But other than having to pay attention to the Il-38 May (a plane that superficially resembles the U.S. P-3C Orion and has a nearly-identical ASW role), all I had to do was dispatch the escorts – first the Kashin, then the Kanin – and then sink the Kirov. Sonar did detect a fourth contact, but it turned out to be a “biological” – a blue whale.
The battle developed so quickly, in fact, that I didn’t take any screenshots of the battle with the destroyers. Only after Kirov had been hit by the first torpedo did I relax enough to take a series of screen captures to record my victory.
All in all, it was a good gaming session, considering that (a) I didn’t sleep last night and (b) I fully expected to lose.