Sunday, January 05, 2020

Atlantic Fleet

Over the summer I've been back playing Atlantic Fleet on iOS, a turn-based single player Battle of the Atlantic game. I've also tried it on Steam, but I've found the mobile format to be just as good while being a lot more convenient.

The game runs from the start of the war through until the invasion of France. You have a strategic map covering the theatre, split into 44 zones. Each turn lasts half a week, with ships able to move one zone per turn. If Allied and Axis ships occupy the same zone there's a chance of making contact, and you will play out the resulting engagement at a tactical level. Any Axis ships in zones not occupied by Allied warships have a chance of intercepting an unescorted convoy, which results in automatic merchantman losses. You can purchase new warships using a currency called "Renown", which you earn by sinking enemy warships, with a large number of ships to choose from.
In the tactical map, you have a turn-based game where you move and shoot each of your ships, before the AI plays the other side. The graphics are pretty good, with the 3D panning and nicely detailed ship models.
As the British, you need to keep merchant shipping losses to below 300,000 tons per month until Pearl Harbour, and 700,000 per month after that. The timing of the invasion depends on shipping losses: on my first play though it occurred in mid 1945.

I am now on my second play-through of the Royal Navy campaign. I did try playing the Kriegsmarine side, but the very first convoy I intercepted was escorted by HMS Echo, my grandfather's destroyer. This struck too close to home, and I immediately switched back to the Royal Navy game.

There are a few issues I have with the game:
  • Torpedoes are too accurate, making them the best anti-submarine weapon on the game. This is a combination of the targeting mechanism (either off the 2D map showing the location of the sonar echo, or using the ability to view from the perspective of the enemy ship in the 3D world), and how true they run.
  • The turn order goes Allied ships move and fire, Axis torpedoes run, Axis ships move and fire, Allied torpedoes run. Combined with the predictability of torpedo paths (running about 2000 yards per turn), this creates some opportunities to dodge torpedoes that wouldn't be possible in an RTS or with simultaneous turns.
  • Airpower is very powerful, with very little chance to defend against it. There are no land-based interceptors, making the UK home waters a very dangerous place for the Royal Navy. Even if you have a carrier in the encounter, you don't get any kind of early warning, the fighters start on the deck and it takes a couple of turns to get them airborne. The AI always uses any aircraft it has available as soon as possible, so you get bombed before you have the chance to get any fighters airborne.
  • The game gets repetitive towards the end. Early on, you run into a variety of German surface raiders, with the biggest challenges being Bismark and Tirpitz. Once they've been sunk, it becomes a game of destroyers and corvettes vs U-Boats.
Despite these, it's a game I've enjoyed picking up and playing again over the summer. It is an interesting subject, has nice mechanics, and beautiful graphics.

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