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Subject: High seas Operation Catapult rss

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Seth Owen
United States
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While it's too involved a rules system to easily use with the Game Store Crowd, the Admiralty Trilogy's Atlantic Navies provides good scenario fodder for simpler games such as Victory at Sea.

On July 6, 1940 the British attacked and devastated the French fleet in harbor at Oran, but it didn't have to be that way. The French had time to sortie.

This scenario assumes the French capital ships went to sea and were intercepted by the British Force H. For scenario purposes it's assumed the respective light forces cancelled each other out and we just looked at the opposing battle lines. The French order of sail was Dunquerque, Strasbourg, Bretagene and Provence. Force H was Hood, Resolution and Valiant. The British also had three flights of Swordfish torpedo planes from the Ark Royal.

The victory conditions were straightforward. Historically one French BC escaped, so if the French did better than that, they would win. If no French capital ships escaped the British would win.

Game Store Tony took the French and followed a policy of concentrating all fire on one ship at a time, starting with the Hood. The British tried to spread the damage, hoping to slow down enough ships to keep the French from scooting away. While some damaging hits were landed that slowed the French temporarily, good French damage control prevented those hits from changing the result Good shooting by the French buried the Hood in a deluge of shells and it was the first to go down, followed by the Valiant. Meanwhile the Swordfish attack was completely ineffective, despite the anemic French AA fire.

Both the Strasbourg and Dunquerque eventually escaped. Dunquerque had 50% damage, but the Strasbourg was unscathed, having never been shot at. The two old French battleships were not as fortunate and both eventually succumbed to British fire. The surviving British battleship, Resolution, was also heavily damaged by the end, taking 60% damage, leaving it nearly crippled.

All-in-all it was a clear French victory and suggests the French lost an opportunity historically. The two French battlecruisers were speedy enough that the British Force H was ill-prepared to deal with them. Only the Hood could keep up, but it didn't have enough of an edge in combat power to defeat them.

The game was played using
Axis & Allies Naval Miniatures: War at Sea,
Victory at Sea rules with Victory at Sea: Order of Battle supplement, on a Hotz mat and scenario information from Atlantic Navies: Command at Sea Volume VII. It took about an hour and a half to play.
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