Surface Action Opening Salvo, Part 3
Welcome back! Our Opening Salvo previews for Surface Action, the sixth set for the Axis & Allies Naval Miniatures game, continue this week with a look at two light cruisers: HMS Sheffield and Giovanni Delle Banda Nere. Surface Action releases on 25 October 2011.
A member of the famous Southampton (or “Town&rdquo class of light cruisers, HMS Sheffield was a well-armed, well-protected warship with good speed and excellent endurance. She and her sisters represented an important change in British cruiser design, moving away from the undergunned Leander and Arethusa class designs toward a heavier, more capable ship equivalent to the latest American and Japanese cruisers. With twelve 6-inch guns and a 4.5” armor belt, the Town class ships were more than a match for any light cruisers in the Kriegsmarine or Regia Marina at the outbreak of the war—and some of their heavy cruisers as well.
HMS Sheffield had an active and successful war. She participated in the hunt for the Bismarck in May of 1941, during which she was attacked by Ark Royal’s Swordfish. Fortunately, she dodged all 11 torpedoes dropped against her. In December of 1942, HMS Sheffield fought in the Battle of the Barents Sea, dueling the German heavy cruiser Hipper and sinking the destroyer Eckholdt. A year later, she participated in the Battle of the North Cape, pursuing the battlecruiser Scharnhorst in the opening stages of the engagement and trading salvoes with her. The Sheffield’s last action of the war was Operation Tungsten in April of 1944. She escorted a powerful group of carriers as they launched an airstrike against the battleship Tirpitz in her lair among the fjords of northern Norway. HMS Sheffield remained in service in the postwar period until she was decommissioned in 1964.
Game Play: Few fleets are designed around your choice of light cruiser, but Sheffield possesses a great deal of overall utility and would look good in almost any Allied fleet. She can easily fulfill the light cruiser’s primary jobs of killing destroyers and providing antiaircraft protection for more important units, and her Evade Torpedoes ability (courtesy of Ark Royal’s Swordfish) gives Sheffield an important defense against the dreaded banes of light cruisers—submarines and Long Lance-armed destroyers. The decision on when to use Evade Torpedoes really depends on your opponent’s fleet; obviously you want to entice your opponent to waste as many torpedoes as possible on Sheffield when you use the ability, but if you wait until you see an attack worth evading, you might not ever make use of the special ability. Try to save it for a torpedo attack of 3 dice or more; at that point you’re approaching a 50% chance of taking a torpedo hit that will cripple or kill the ship.
Giovanni Delle Banda Nere
Laid down in 1928, Banda Nere belonged to the di Giussano-class of light cruisers. This was the first group of the Condottiere-class cruisers, which eventually numbered twelve ships in five distinct groups. Italy’s naval architects at the time were obsessed with maximizing the speed of their cruiser designs in order to match (or beat) similar designs under construction in France, Italy’s principal naval rival. Banda Nere and her sisters were indeed very fast, approaching 37 knots, but they sacrificed sturdiness and all but the most minimal armor protection for their excellent turn of speed.
Banda Nere was involved in the Mediterranean war from its very beginning, participating in the convoy action that led to the Battle of Calabria (9 July 1940). Ten days later, her light armor very nearly proved her undoing at the Battle of Cape Spada (19 July 1940), where she barely escaped HMAS Sydney and five British destroyers. In March 1942, Banda Nere fought in the Second Battle of Sirte, where she landed a serious blow on the new British cruiser HMS Cleopatra, knocking out her radar and after turrets. However, on the day following the battle, heavy seas damaged the Banda Nere. She was sent to La Spezia for repairs on 1 April 1942, but a few miles off the volcanic island of Stromboli Banda Nere was torpedoed and sunk by the submarine HMS Urge.
Game Play: Banda Nere is an inexpensive light cruiser that can certainly handle enemy destroyers, but the most interesting elements of her design are the two new special abilities she brings to the table. The Fast ability gives you a chance to run down (or run away from) virtually any other ship in the game. Unlike many other movement-increasing specials, Fast does not have any limitations about claiming objectives… because it’s unreliable enough that you just can’t count on getting that third sector of movement exactly when you want it. The Straddle ability provides Banda Nere with a consolation prize for missing on your opening salvo. You’ll never work up to punching holes in Iowa with Straddle, but it does provide a handy bonus for dueling other medium-armored ships. Try using Straddle with a long-range opening shot just to establish the pattern, then close in on the following turn and add the bonus die to a close-range attack against the target you’re engaging.