The players have posted detailed AARs so I will just concentrate on my objectives as the referee and SimPlot creator.
The objective of this game was to test SimPlot's ability to track and display units on a map, and over a larger area than had been previously attempted. The background map was the entire Persian Gulf, and we used maybe a quarter of that area for the battle.
Several cities and bases were placed on the map for reference. The Soviet convoy started near Bahrain and the Iranian task force started near Bushehr. This placed them very far apart, and that meant a protracted search phase. Well, not for the Iranians, as you will see later.
This scenario was a modified version of the Divide and Conquer scenario from SITREP #48. The original Iranian forces were very poor, IMHO. Also, I wanted a little more excitement for the Soviets, so I allowed both sides a choice of forces (with some restrictions). I was hoping to create a more balanced scenario, but things didn't work as planned.
Blue team decided on a strategy of running for the west side of the Gulf, as far away from Iran as they could get. I was pleased to see the game map was in fact useful in their decision making. I think that meant a more realistic H4 experience since geography affects so many real world naval decisions.
I thought their reaction to Iranian threats was very good, although the position of the Krivak could have presented a weapon danger space problem. By positioning between the Sov and merchants, along the same axis as the threat, I think the distance between these elements was too close to allow missile fire at sea-skimming "leakers." I would have liked to see more distance between the Sov and the Krivak, but time was running out and they did the best they could with the time they did have.
I gave Red team better search assets to help compensate for the strength of the Soviet formation. This worked well, as it gave Red team more time to set up a detailed plan of attack. If the teams had started just outside detection range (as most H4 scenarios do), then the creation of a good battle plan would have been very difficult. I enjoyed the search phase, partly because it tested one of my objectives, but also this is not something normally seen during a PBEM game (unless it lasts for a really long time).
Although Red team orders changed many times during the pre-battle phase, I think that proves SimPlot was instrumental in facilitating a realistic decision making process by accurately presenting sensor information. Unfortunately for Red team, it was the referee (me) that was the weak link in their battle plan. During the tactical discussions on both sides, I began to have trouble distinguishing the intentions of the players from orders I could actually execute in SimPlot. This caused me to miss critical changes that cost Red side a potential chance at victory. Instead of a combined Harpoon and F-4 attack, the attacks took place just far enough apart in time that the Sov could easily deal with them.
I think SimPlot and SimPlot Viewer worked very well for this scenario. There were a few bugs I discovered along the way, but a new version of both programs will be released soon to address the issues.
Some players had expressed a "disconnect" in the presentation of the turns. It is understandable, since a miniatures game does not appear to have the same problem. During the development of SimPlot, I had a hard time with the difference between the turn time and the location time. For example, at the 0900 tactical turn plotting phase the units are in the 0900 location. At the conclusion of the 0900 movement phase, the units are repositioned to reflect 3 minutes of movement. That would actually put them at the 0903 "location time." It is still the 0900 turn, but to invoke engagement turns means starting the next one at 0903.0 because movement for the current turn had already taken place. For now, there is no nice way to make that work better. I do have some thoughts about that, but I need to talk to Larry Bond some more before I can work on it.
Overall this was a very enjoyable game. I am glad the players had a good time, too. I hope all will consider playing again in the near future with myself or someone else as referee. If others are interested in refereeing a game, I would be more than happy to act as a tech support guy for the ref.
Some lessons learned:
- Specifically state which rules or adaptations are in use. For example, some players thought the optional weapon director arc limits were in force, but that was not so. Because of this, the Sov became more powerful than it might be in real life. This no doubt affected player decisions.
- Provide ship data for all the players. Larry Bond has given permission to disseminate data annex info for player use since he doesn't expect players to have all the supplements. An exception has to be made if force composition is not known to all players at the start.
- Sometimes I was a little too excited to get to the next turn such that I occasionally missed changes in detections. I caught myself and reissued a new turn file before anyone noticed, but this is still a lesson for me.
This game, and the others before it, will be used in an article Larry Bond asked me to write for the upcoming SITREP #52. This is a followup to the original SimPlot article that appeared in SITREP #50. The subject is lessons learned using SimiPlot for PBEM H4 games. I am planning to give thanks all the players from my PBEM games, so if you would like your real name to be used drop me a PM. Otherwise, just the HarpGamer username will be used.