A couple of weeks ago I ordered a copy of Beneath the Med, a solo World War II submarine game. This is way out of my wheelhouse but it looked interesting and since face to face gaming opportunities are a bit less common than usual, I figured it would get some attention. The last time I played a game like this was in the mid 1980's when I was in middle school - B-17 Queen of the Skies by Avalon Hill.
Being utterly unfamiliar with the Italian submarine program during the second world war, this game would prove to be rather educational as well. You start by selecting or randomly determining what class of ship you're assigned to and you assume to role of the captain. The game begins in June 1940 and you are assigned missions until you are sunk or until you survive until August of 1943.
For my first go at the game, I selected a Brin-class submarine, based on alphabetical order. She was christened the Boyardi.There are twelve different submarine classes represented in BtM.
For my June 1940 mission, I was assigned a minelaying mission in the Central Med. Wonderful! As it turns out, these subs carried the mines in their torpedo tubes so I'd be essentially unarmed until after I dropped off the mines. No sooner had I left port than an Allied aircraft buzzed me. I dove out of view and carried on to my target, the cruise was uneventful and the mines were laid. Torpedoes were then loaded and I was on the prowl for my first target on the way back to port. We located a tanker which had an escort with it. My salvo was way off target and the escort located my ship quickly. One of the Boyardi's engines was fouled up, necessitating an immediate return to port. Of course a British plane took the opportunity to strafe us on the way home. We made it in safely and ultimately our first mission was a success!
Repairs took some time and the Boyardi was not ready to sail again until October. Our second sortie was to the Eastern Med on a pure hunting excursion. It wasn't long before we stumbled upon a British submarine, the HMS Triad! Fortune was with us and we were able to catch it with a torpedo before they had time to react. Those sailors terrible fate could have easily be our own. The Boyardi slinked off, the crew in a mood equal parts elated and stunned. The following morning we caught a massive silhouette in the periscope. We carefully closed with it and it was quickly apparent this was a battleship! They must've been responding to the Triad's emergency call. Although escorts were present (they always are with capital ships), this was too much of an opportunity to pass up. Four torpedoes were loosed at close range. Moments later a trio of explosions. The crew cheered as the Boyardi dove. The cheering was short-lived as altogether different explosions began. The depth charges took their toll early and often as multiple systems began taking damage. The Boyardi was crippled but did escape as the escort turned back towards the old dreadnought, the HMS Valiant, to rescue sailors. It was a slow voyage back to Trieste but uneventful. A hero's welcome awaited the crew of Boyardi. She would take four months to repair and refit.
My third voyage was to the Western Mediterranean. Not long after arriving on station, a British cruiser, the Sheffield, was discovered heading out to the Atlantic. Without an escort, it was an easy target. This cruise was shaping up nicely. A week later we were blessed by Neptune, the carrier HMS Eagle was located at night. What unbelievable luck! All four torpedoes connected, though one failed to explode. Nonetheless, the mighty ship was done for, just as a squall started up, helping mask our escape. Absolute textbook, in and out. Returning to base after another incredibly successful mission, we encountered another cruiser, also without an escort! The last of the Boyardi's torpedoes were launched at the unfortunate vessel which sank rapidly, even though only a single torpedo had struck her.
She sailed back into port at the end of February and another celebration followed. In its short career, the Boyardi had become legendary.
More next time.
By the way, I'm very happy with the purchase and the game offers a wonderful, easy-to-manage gaming experience. I like the campaign aspect and the career tracker. I'd recommend the game to anyone looking for a nice distraction while social distancing.