The Strange Attraction of Sub Scenarios

Why do I like sub scenarios? I’m not very good with subs in Command, so playing with anything less than an advanced sub compared to its target isn’t the most fun. ASW (Anti Submarine Warfare) – mockingly but accurately referred to as “Awfully Slow Warfare” – also holds generally as much appeal to me as the nickname would imply. (Although there are moments of undeniable satisfaction when you finally get and blast an enemy sub to ruin). Yet I’ve made a lot of submarine scenarios, and dream of making even more.

What is the attraction to submarine scenarios that grips me? The most obvious is simple-they’re very easy to make. Making the attacker’s assets is as easy as plopping down a single sub, and for a defender, all you need at best is a few ASW missions.

Of course, not all is smooth underwater sailing. Although my impression of sub scenarios is that they’re very easy to make, they’re very difficult to do well. The first issue is one of balance. While this may be just my own lack of skill using subs, I find that experimental scenarios are often either too easy for the sub or too easy for the defender. If the sub has plenty of missiles, and the defending fleet’s defenses are too weak, then the attacker barely has to fire torpedoes.

In the impromptu “goofing around in the editor” scenarios, this sort of thing isn’t the biggest problem-after all, most of the fun is seeing what happens, and “balance” isn’t an issue any more than it is in turkey-shoots where you see how long it takes a Sverdlov cruiser to sink an LCS.

But in competitive scenarios, it is. In many cases, as long as sinking the ship/sub isn’t totally impossible, the scenario is release-worthy. But in many others, it isn’t. One of my endeavours, The Okhotsk Bastion, is an ambitious but inherently flawed scenario-since watching subs and escorts alike bumble around with poor 1961-vintage sonars isn’t the most fun, I had to add a small aerial component just for the sake of fun.

So with sub scenarios still holding an appeal to me, have I learned my lesson? Yes. Probably the best thing to add is surveillance assets to the submarine side. Satellites are the best form of these, but MPAs and surface ships like AGI trawlers can also be used. (Trawlers get a boost from Lua, which makes it easier to have the opponent change posture and attack them at certain intervals). For early subs with sonars that seem about as effective as pressing one’s ear against the side, they’re a practical necessity. Even for more advanced vessels, they can make it considerably less frustrating without being a total gimme that starting them next to the enemy is.

Command is very good at modelling submarines, and that in and of itself may be a reason why I keep coming back to undersea warfare.