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Choking Halifax 1986

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Choking Halifax 1986 - 1/3/2020 9:09:16 PM   


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In this scenario, you have command of a Soviet Kilo-class sub on a special operation on the eve of WW3. You are charged with landing a Spetsnaz team near Halifax, Nova Scotia. This will then move inland and sabotage a logistics hangar at Shearwater Airport. The submarine then has a second mission to lay mines in the harbour approach channel at Halifax, after which it must make its escape.

This was my first game of CMO (as opposed to CMANO) and I was favourably impressed with the improved graphics and user interface. It was especially useful to be able to alter speed and depth without going to a separate window.

The scenario went less well. I went to periscope depth at the start to have a look around and detected a Canadian helicopter-carrying destroyer (the St Laurent) worryingly close. There was a minesweeper with no ASW capability in the harbour channel and some merchant shipping on the way out. A 'submarine' contact predictably proved to be biologic.

Altered course away from the St Laurent and approached the Spetsnaz insertion point indirectly. This worked and the commandos duly 'teleported' ashore.

I wasn't sure how much it mattered, but took advantage of the new detailed ground terrain definition to plot a course through woods and away from built-up areas. The Spetsnaz reached the airport and carried-out their mission as ordered, attacking manually with demolition charges. On the way out, they nearly bumped into an 'unknown ground unit', but I spotted it in time, altered course away from it and got clear as it moved to investigate what had happened at the airport.

The Spetsnaz continued to supply useful information about the locations of Canadian ships, helping the Kilo to proceed just beneath the layer at cruise speed (not realistic, as they'd have had no comms link to the submerged sub in reality).

Forewarned, the Kilo steered a course to avoid the St Laurent and manoeuvred around the minesweeper to reach the minelaying zone, being careful to stay well clear of a Canadian defensive minefield to the E side of the channel.

It was then that things started to go wrong. It is necessary to assign the sub to a minelaying mission, which I did. The exact parameters of this are best known to the AI, but out of my control, the Kilo began meandering about, taking an eternity to lay its 24 mines (which was as much fun as watching paint dry). Meanwhile, the minesweeper sailed around and through the newly-laid field, apparently immune but unable to clear the mines, either.

With six mines left to deposit, I was suddenly informed that the sub had been destroyed - I can only assume by one of its own mines!! As it was moving according to the AI's mission parameters well away from the enemy minefield and had previously seemed in no danger from its payload, I'm not at all sure what I could have done about this. A pity, as the scenario had been quite absorbing up to that point, but a really unsatisfactory conclusion.
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RE: Choking Halifax 1986 - 1/4/2020 8:30:04 AM   

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The mine activation time is only 2 hours from memory. So the mines are probably going live before the sub finishes laying all of them.
I normally give them a 3-4 hour delay to ensure I have enough time to lay them all and get out of the field before they go active.



(in reply to fitzpatv)
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RE: Choking Halifax 1986 - 1/4/2020 5:32:18 PM   

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This scenario features other means of destruction for your boat that would provide no warning:

- Acoustic torpedo from your baffles;

- A helo-dropped Mk-11 depth charge; and

- A Mk-10 Limbo mortar salvo from an undetected St. Laurent.

So you may not actually been killed by one of your own mines.


(in reply to michaelm75au)
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RE: Choking Halifax 1986 - 1/14/2020 9:56:54 AM   


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Pretty sure it was the mines. Didn't know there was an activation time setting and following the advice above would probably have prevented the issue.

I knew where the St Laurent was and was well out of its detection range (those Spetsnaz on shore are really, if unrealistically useful). Conceivably I got spotted by its helicopter, but it was operating out to sea, covering the convoy's route with sonobuoys and dropped none near me. Supposedly, there's another Canadian ASW vessel out there somewhere, but neither the Kilo nor the Spetsnaz spotted it. The minesweeper's sonar is of the point-blank range variety and it never came close enough to see me.

(in reply to Randomizer)
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RE: Choking Halifax 1986 - 4/2/2020 1:04:59 PM   


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Gave this scenario another go today. Having dropped-off the Spetsnaz and attacked the base, I steered to the minelaying area and, this time, found the box on the Mission screen that allows you to set the activation times for the mines (really helps when you're looking for it)!. Set it to ten hours and started sowing, dodging the annoying minesweeper as needed.

While I was focused on this, the Spetsnaz took it on themselves to return to the airbase and attack it again with small arms, drawing the patrol back on their tail. Doctrine was set to Weapons Tight and couldn't be overridden to Weapons Hold. Managed to escape after the Spetsnaz had exhausted their ammo and came back under control, but the flow of intel to the sub was hindered in the process.

In the end, I laid 22 of 24 mines. By now, it was getting tight if I was going to reach the Safe Zone before the scenario ended. You essentially have no control over the minelaying, which proceeds according to parameters known only to the AI. Suspect it has to do with proximity to other mines already laid. After a while, it becomes very hard to find any legitimate locations for your remaining mines. The sub moves at random and quickly countermands any instructions you give it. Eventually, I ran out of patience and tried to reach the Safe Zone with two eggs unlaid.

Despite a couple of sonobuoys out to sea, I encountered no opposition. However, it was soon obvious that I wasn't going to get there on battery power and would have to go to periscope depth to recharge at the halfway mark. Accepted this and continued. Unfortunately, playing at Turbo speed to offset the boredom, I was tripped-up by the AI repeatedly re-setting my speed to creep or even full stop. As a result, I ended the scenario just outside the Safe Zone.

So, I successfully landed the Spetsnaz, who carried-out their attack, laid 22 of 24 mines in the harbour approaches and got away without losses. Nevertheless, in game terms, it was still a Minor Defeat with a score of 250.

It's an unusual scenario and a bit of an experiment, but it really doesn't work for me. The minelaying is slow, tedious and heavily dependent on random factors. Improved player control is needed (a 'Lay Mine' command, perhaps) and the scenario briefing should highlight the Mine Activation box on the Mission screen. With this improvement, there would be a chance of making it to the Safe Zone in time. Not sure what caused the auto-correction of my speeds on the way out, but it might have had to do with reverting to a default of 'creep' at the end of each movement stage (if you try to steer straight for the Safe Zone, you are given a dangerous course near the sonobuoys, so you have to do it manually in stages). In any event, I found the scenario more annoying than entertaining and can't recommend playing it as matters stand.

(in reply to fitzpatv)
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RE: Choking Halifax 1986 - 4/2/2020 6:40:40 PM   


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As you've found, AI minelaying is not very efficient. Instead of proceeding in a straight line, the AI picks a random point anywhere within the minelaying region, heads towards it, and only drops a mine when it is not near other mines. Then it picks a new random point, turns and heads towards it, and repeats the process. As a result, it wastes a lot of time crossing and re-crossing mines which were already laid, which is particularly problematic in a slow-moving submarine.

You can sort of work around this by making a long and very narrow minelaying area, which ends immediately behind the sub. The RPs at the far end are immobile, but the ones behind the sub are relative (fixed) to the sub, so they follow it. When the AI picks a destination point it will (99.999% of the time) be somewhere towards the farther end of the area, and the sub will move towards the destination end in a gentle zigzag, giving what is essentially a linear minefield. The sub effectively "rolls up" the area behind it, so it can't waste time turning around.

(in reply to fitzpatv)
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RE: Choking Halifax 1986 - 4/2/2020 7:11:27 PM   


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Thanks very much for that - very informative. I'll certainly bear that method in mind on relevant occasions in the future. Problem with Choking Halifax is that the minelaying area is pre-set....

(in reply to AndrewJ)
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RE: Choking Halifax 1986 - 4/25/2020 11:57:30 AM   


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Amazing! Very informative post. Keep up the good work! :)


(in reply to fitzpatv)
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