Saturday, July 8, 2023

Bulldogs Away Playtest

I had a moment to playtest the most recent version of David Manley's Bulldogs Away. I had played a few solo games years ago but that was the first edition and I had long forgotten whatever I had initially learned. For the playtest, I'd fight a small action loosely based off an event that likely happened in August of 2008 during the Russian invasion of Georgia. In that action, a Georgian vessel was struck by a missile fired from a Russian Nanuchka-class corvette (Mirazh). At that time the Georgians had a Type-148 Tiger class fast attack craft donated by the Greek Navy (Dioskuria) and a Matka-class missile boat donated from the Ukrainians (Tbilisi).

I don't own any Matka-class models but I do have some Nanuchkas, Type-148/La Combattante models and also Osa-class missile boats. For this scenario, a single Russian Nanuchka will face off against a Georgian Type-148 and a Georgian Osa-2. In reality, the Georgians didn't have any Osas nor did they have any missiles on the Dioskuria or the Tbilisi (yikes!). Additionally, I gave the Nanuchka the export version armament of SS-N-2D Styx missiles instead of the more modern SS-N-9 Sirens that Russian versions were equipped with. 

Here we are in the Black Sea (which looks rather blue) off the coast of Abkhazia. The pre-game setup involves determining how many "radar blips" you have. You can have more blips than ships which can cause uncertainty for the enemy as to where your actual ships are. The Russians and Georgians rolled poorly. The Russians (not visible yet) only received one blip while the Georgians only rolled for a single blip which means the Type-148 was going to be visible.

And here is the Russian Nanuchka disguised as a blip.

The Georgian Type-148 cruising the waters off the coast. The Georgians won initiative and, after a round of movement (all ships going speed-3), the Type-148 attempted to identify the Russian blip without success.

During the Russian turn, the Nanuchka revealed itself as it attempted to detect the Georgian blip which it successfully did. No ships were within range for visual identification.

The mysterious blip now becomes a Georgian "contact".

And here is a picture of the situation after the movement and detection/identification phases. The Nanuchka (lower right) has a Type-148 approaching from the top-center of the picture and a Georgian contact in upper right hand corner. 

During the missile launch phase, first the Georgian Type-148 fired off a salvo of four Exocets (white caps) at the Nanuchka. Next the Russian Nanuchka launched two SS-N-2D Styx missiles back at the Type-148. Then the Osa-2 revealed itself (not shown) and sent two SS-N-2B Styx missiles (red caps) to join the Exocets already screaming towards the Nanuchka.

The Type-148 with the two yellow caps representing the SS-N-2D Styx launched from the Nanuchka. In the future, I will make some laminated card counters to represent the missile launches.

After launch phase was completed and all missiles fired being placed on targets, it was time for the combat phase. This is where the Russians losing initiative bit them in the backside, and I will explain why: In the combat phase, the winner of the initiative gets to pick which ship they'd activate first, during the combat phase in Bulldogs Away, the active ship shoots guns at targets, fires off SAMs against incoming missiles, deploys countermeasures and fires off CIWS but then must resolve missile attacks against it. 

The Georgians had the initiative and activated the Osa-2, which didn't have any missiles launched against it. The Osa was too far out to fire off its guns but at least it didn't have to fend off any incoming salvos.

The Russians were next and they needed to activate their lone ship. The Nanuchka was facing an onslaught of four Exocets and two Styx but at least it had SAMs and countermeasures like chaff and flares to give it some defense. Unfortunately they didn't do so well. While resolving the four Exocets,  the SAMs and countermeasures failed to intercept any of the incoming. Two of the four Exocets found their mark.

Here is a picture of the ship templates after resolution of the first Exocet hit which only caused some very light damage. The SAM system was KO'd but everything else was still operational. The good luck didn't last long as the second Exocet slammed into the Nanuchka causing critical damage. A roll of the different systems and weapons revealed that pretty much every system was destroyed: the fire control, elctronic countermeasures, elecro-optical equipment, electronic support measures, guns, missiles, etc.  

Here is the end result. At this point, I decided to end the test game as the Russian vessel wasn't going to be doing any fighting back. Perhaps I should have resolved the Styx launches as well but I wanted to post this report first. 

After I took the snap of the Nanuchka burning, it reminded me of this image of a burning Libyan Nanuchka which was knocked out in the Gulf of Sidra in March, 1986. 

Anyway, I digress...I enjoyed the play-test. I will go back and re-read through the rules to see what I got wrong and what I got right. Each turn has a lot of phases, the combat is very violent and the ships can't take much damage (realistic). I'm hoping to paint up enough ships and get proficient enough with the rules to get in a game with my good friends Rob and Bill at the upcoming Historicon convention.

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