Surface Action Opening Salvo, Part 2
Welcome back! This week we’ll continue our Opening Salvo previews for Surface Action, the sixth set for the Axis & Allies Naval Miniatures game. Surface Action releases on 25 October 2011, and consists of 40 models. Last week we took a look at the carriers HMS Eagle and Taiho; this time around, we’ll debut two unit types never before seen in War at Sea, a minesweeper and a landing ship tank (or LST).
The LST, or Landing Ship Tank, is one representative of a class of amphibious assault ships deployed in great numbers by the United States and Britain during the war. Based on a shallow-water tanker originally designed for service in Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela, the LST was designed to beach itself and discharge its cargo of heavy vehicles such as tanks and trucks directly onto the beach. Unlike other craft designed to land material at the water’s edge, the LST was an oceangoing ship with enough range to cross thousands of miles of open water in order to bring its cargo to the battle. It revolutionized amphibious warfare.
LSTs made their combat debut in the Solomons campaign in the summer of 1943. From that point forward, they played a major role in virtually every amphibious operation that followed, in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters: Sicily, Italy, Normandy, the Marianas, the Phillipines, Iwo Jima, Okinawa. Over a thousand LSTs were built during World War II.
Game Play: Back in the day, sailors grimly joked that LST stood for Large Slow Target, and that’s unfortunately true. The LST isn’t going to help you defeat an enemy fleet; its only contribution is its Landing ability, and even then it requires unusual patience to score those VPs because the LST is ridiculously slow. The real reason the LST is in the set is to provide War at Sea players who like to create their own scenarios with an interesting (and historically important) tool in their toolboxes.
By the 1930s, the World War I-vintage minesweepers of Germany’s Kriegsmarine were old and worn out. Accordingly, a new class of large, fast, versatile modern minesweepers was ordered in the years just before the war. Completed in 1938, M1 was lead ship of her class. Well-armed with a pair of 105mm guns and a suite of lighter AA guns, M1 was very active during the invasion of Norway (April 1940) and the campaign that followed; her commander, Hans Bartels, won a Knight’s Cross for her actions. M1 was finally sunk by a British bomber raid in the harbor of Bergen, Norway on 12 January 1945.
While you might think a minesweeper is good only for mine warfare operations, both Axis and Allied fleets found countless uses for these capable little ships. They made for excellent small escorts, and the M1 class in particular was well regarded for its versatility—in fact, the Soviets described M1 and her sisters as small escort destroyers, not minesweepers.
Game Play: Minesweeping was dangerous duty, and you’ll note that the M1 has no special ability to safely enter minefields—she has to take her chances just like any other ship. However, once there, she can quickly clear a safe path for other ships to follow. (Real minesweeping took hours or days, of course, but it’s a game, after all.) Anyway, while the M1’s primary mission may be minesweeping, she also provides Germany with a cheap, capable escort. A modest ASW value won’t kill many submarines but can certainly contribute to ASW harassment, and Guard the Convoy lets M1 “take the bullet” for a higher-value transport or landing ship if necessary.
So what happens if two M1’s in the same sector Guard each other? We’ll address that in the set 6 FAQ, but here is the upshot: Just as a unit can’t benefit twice from a special ability of the same name, it shouldn’t be penalized twice by a special ability of the same name. Both M1’s can’t affect the same enemy unit at the same time with Guard the Convoy; you have to pick one to guard the other.
Check back next week when we take a look at a couple of Set 6 cruisers: HMS Sheffield and Giovanni Delle Banda Nere. Oh, and one more thing: Obviously the photos I placed in my gallery to support this blog series have all become public knowledge, which sort of renders the previews a little moot. My bad; next time I’ll remember to keep the later-preview photos out of my gallery until I want them to be seen. The last time I prepared Opening Salvos I don’t remember this being a problem, but I don’t recall if I posted them one week at a time, or if people simply didn’t notice them beforehand. I’m going to leave the images in my gallery for now; the pictures have all been seen, so there’s no point in trying to remove them.