Updated: Sep 28, 2019
The Battle for the Sicilian Narrows
This is an excerpt from the ETO Rules (always in development and occasionally updated here). It is illustrated with playtest graphics from Volume II: The Middle Sea.
At the start of the Axis turn, the weather in South Europe is Mud (and so has no effect on Naval Engagements). The Sicilian Narrows Sea Zone is Axis controlled at the Patrols level and a UK Submarine unit prowls these waters trying to invoke a fight. Why? Because UK ships from Gibraltar are also at sea in the Western Med appraising the situation to see if an intercept opportunity might develop.
For the Axis, the situation in Libya has taken a bad turn; the Allies have chased them away from the Egyptian frontier to a line west of Tobruk (which has fallen to the Allies). Not a satisfactory state of affairs! Therefore, the Axis player scrounges up more stuff to send to Africa. Unfortunately for them, there is also a large British naval force in the Eastern Med that is looking to leap upon any Axis naval endeavors in the Central Med. The Mediterranean is fraught with danger from the Allies in both directions this turn!
Daunted, the Axis navy sails from a few different Anchorages and, putting all their eggs in one basket (at the risk of becoming a large, easy-to-find interception target), attempt to make the Sicilian Narrows strong enough to withstand the Allies’ pressure and get their Transports through to Tripoli. The Axis brings to bear in that Sea Zone:
1 x Italian MS carrying nothing; its survival will allow the Axis to increase their level of control to Interdicted (444.0).
1 x Italian MS carrying 1/2 FP and 1/2 EP; after unloading, this cargo will either purchase 1 OP or replace the just-eliminated Small Italian Armored Cavalry unit; the Axis player will figure that out next turn!
1 x Italian PL carrying a reduced strength Italian Infantry Corps, which was the best they could scrounge up on short notice.
2 x Italian 3V Fast BBs costing them 1/2 FP from their precious Fuel Point stockpile in Europe just to put to sea.
1 x Italian CL.
That, and the Axis have an impressive array of Air units available in South Europe to respond to any forthcoming Allied Reactions. Because the Sicilian Narrows is a Narrow Sea Zone, this means that Short Range Air units (like Stukas) can operate over it!
The Axis player keeps the Central Med clear of ships so that their Task Force in the Sicilian Narrows can easily Retire through it (442.1) back to Taranto in the aftermath of a Naval Engagement.
How Naval Combat Works
The chart which follows explains the four-step Naval Combat Procedure. First Hits are generated, then allocated, then possibly negated (by Damage Control), and finally Confirmed Hits are applied. You will see this in action throughout this article:
The Allies try intercepting with their group in the Western Med with a Naval Search Value (NSV) of 5 (6 for the total of enemy Naval units in that Sea Zone + 1 for having Naval Air Support in the Sicilian Narrows from Malta; the total is 7, but a roll of 6 always fails so they will succeed on a roll of 1 through 5; per 421.3.3). Rolling a 4, they successfully intercept and join the UK Sub unit in the Sicilian Narrows with the following forces on patrol in the Western Med:
1 x UK 3T slow BB
1 x UK CV
1 x UK CVL
1 x UK CL
And with that success, the Allies also toss in their Air units in South Europe (flying from Malta):
Group A: 1 x Gladiator Fighter + 1 x Beau C Naval Fighter-Bomber (Anti-Ship Strike + Escort)
Malta’s Club Run Naval Base Reaction marker, which is in play, sails in support from Malta even though it also needs to stay in that port to protect it from a distracting Axis Bombing Mission of that Naval Base. It’s nail-biting time in Valletta.
The Axis has the last word with their reaction. They have no additional Naval units to available to intercept into the Sicilian Narrows, but the following Available Axis Air units in South Europe which can fly to the Sicilian Narrows are committed:
Group A: 1 x German Bf-109F Fighter (Intercept)
Group B: 1 x Italian SM.79 Bomber (Anti-Ship Strike, unescorted)
Group C: 1 x Italian Z.506 Naval Bomber (Anti-Ship Strike, unescorted)
Group D: 1 x German Ju-88T Naval Bomber (Anti-Ship Strike, unescorted)
The gloves are off and the Naval Engagement is about to begin. Let’s rumble!
1. Advantage Segment
Since both sides have Naval Air Support (the Allies from their adjacent Naval Base at Malta along with the attending CV, the Axis from their three Naval Air units present, neither side gains the Advantage from exclusive Naval Air Support. Counting propellers next, the Italians have 6 (2 each from their three Naval units and none from their Patrols Control of that Sea Zone) and the Allies also have 6 (2 each from the CV and CL, and 1 each from the Slow BB and Submarine).
Since that is also tied, both sides “dice off” to see who is the Advantaged Player and the Italians win; however, before you could say, "Giuseppe Garibaldi," the Allies unleash their Admiral Cunningham card to put an end to this matter and simply seize the Advantage for themselves.
2. Air Combat Segment
The Air Groups are up first and there is one Intercept Mission which the Axis assigns to the lone Allied Anti-Ship Strike Mission. The attacking Bf-109E has 3 strength versus 3 for the defenders (2 for the Tough Gladiator + 1 for the Beau C) and the Axis player rolls on the 0 column of the Dogfight Table; a roll of 6 yields a Damaged and Attacker Can Press results.
Well, the Mission Aircraft must receive the Damaged result, and so the Beau C is flipped.
The Axis player considers, “Hmm… what to do with the Attacker Can Press result?”
Knowing that the next loss will affect the UK Gladiator Fighter (330.4.1), the Axis player chooses an Exhaust result; the Gladiator will be Destroyed after returning fire; this also Aborts the German Bf-109F, removing it from the Dogfight before the Gladiator can return fire, and so the German Fighter limps back to the Air Display mat Damaged + Suppressed. With no targets remaining to return fire against, the Gladiator then moves to the Destroyed box on the Allied Faction mat.
With the aerial combat concluded and both players chagrined at the result, lots of Anti-Ship Strikes occur “simultaneously” (that is, players roll them sequentially but apply Hits after all their rolling). The Allies go first and roll out the following:
2 x Red Torpedoes (from the Malta Naval Base Reaction marker and from the CVL unit); die rolls are 1 and 5 for 1 Hit.
2 x Blue Torpedoes (from the CV unit and Damaged Beau C Air unit); die rolls of 2 and 6, respectively, yield only 2 Hits. Thus the Allies will apply a total of 3 Hits to the Axis. Since Anti-Ship Missions are Hazardous, the 6 from the Beau C also destroys it (per the Two Strikes rule, 330.4.4) and so it joins the Gladiator Fighter in the Allies’ Destroyed box!
The Axis fire back with:
1 x While Bolt (from the Italian SM.79 Bomber); die roll is 6 for 0 Hits and as Anti-Ship Missions (and flying in Mud weather) are Hazardous, this Italian unit becomes Damaged!
1 x Red Torpedo (from the Italian Z.506 Naval Bomber); die roll is 2 for 2 Hits
1 x Blue Bolt (from the German Ju-88T Naval Bomber); die roll of 1 for 1 Hit. Thus the Axis would apply a total of 3 Hits to the Allies, but the UK CV’s intrinsic “Fighters” negates one of them and so only 2 Hits are applied.
Since everything is “simultaneous,” the Axis applies their Damage to the Allied ships first, placing one each on the UK CV and CVL (avoiding the enemy Battleship with its high Damage Control Value of 4). Both carriers have a Damage Control Value (DCV) of 2 (1 for their notional strength per 430.5.3, + 1 for being Tough). The CV rolls a 3 and flips to show its Damaged side, and the CVL rolls a 1 and “shakes off” that Hit (i.e., it has no effect).
The Allied player cannot wait to apply their 3 Hits but face a hard choice: whether to paste one each on the Axis Transports or to put the hurt on the Italian BBs before they get their turn to do damage. Deciding they can deal with whatever might make it to Africa, the two Italian 3V BBs receive 1 and 2 Hits, respectively. Because their Damage Control Value (DCV) is a measly 2 (3 -1 for being Vulnerable – “Who approved these ships’ design?”) Allied hopes are high. As the Axis players rolls one die to save the first Battleship and two for the second, the results are 1, 2, and 4: the first Italian BB succeeds in evading Damage while the other suffers one Confirmed Hit, causing it to flip over to its Damaged (2V) side.
3. Submarine Combat Segment
Since the Axis have no Submarines at this Engagement, but the Allies do, the Axis go first and count their ASW icons which total 3 (1 each for the two Italian MS units and one Italian CL units), of which they can only use 1 because there is only 1 Allied sub to hunt from the Italian Surface Ships’ ASW (433.1). Because the Axis shares Naval Air Support (NAS), the lone ASW icon firing scores Hits on 1s, 2s, and 3s.
The result is a 2, which means 2 Hits on the UK Submarine unit. It, too, has a DCV of 2 and rolls 5 and 5 in response, thus suffering 2 Confirmed Hits!
The Allied player immediately removes the Submarine unit from the map and rolls two more dice to determine how long that unit is out of play. Egad! Again the Allied player rolls 5 and 5 (what are the chances?) which does not send the Submarine to the Turn Track for their sum, 10 Months, of repair – no! Because the roll is “doubles,” it is Sunk instead (430.5.4), placed in the Allied Force Pool; the Allies reclaim its (shore-based) PP value of 1/2 UK PP (shown as a Convoy marker in the UK Home Territory box on the Strategic Transit mat in The Middle Sea).
4. Disengagement Segment
The Disadvantaged (Axis) player decides first whether to leave and break off the Naval Engagement prior to Surface Combat. Assessing the Italian’s 1 Damaged (2V) and 1 undamaged (3V) BBs, and 1 CL, the Regina Supremo advises Mussolini to try to disengage. Il Duce knows that even against the UK’s unremarkable lone (3T) BB and CL, things remain a chancy proposition if the fight continues; but the goddess Fortuna has been smiling on Italy’s die rolls so with considerable braggadocio he utters these famous words, “Evacuate? In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances.”
With the Axis declining to disengage, now the Allies consider that same option. Since the propeller count of the opposing Battle Lines will determine the victor and the Allies are currently behind 3 (1 for their Slow BB + 2 for their CL) to 5 (1 for the Damaged Italian BB + 2 for the unscathed BB + 2 for their CL), the chances of winning this Engagement do not look good. Admiral Cunningham regrets not assigning 1 Air Strike Hit to the Italian CL unit in hopes of shooing it (and its 2 propellers) away, but damns the odds and reaches for some dice in the Great Traditions of the Royal Navy. Sailors on both sides hit the decks running and exchange salvos…
5. Deployment Segment
The Axis deploy first, placing their three Warship units in their Battle Line and everything else in their Reserve. The Allies place their BB and CL in their Battle Line and everything left in their Reserve.
6. Surface Combat Segment
Axis Gunnery values are currently 3 (for the undamaged BB), 2 (for the Damaged BB) and 1 (for the CL) and their rolls are 1, 6, and 4, respectively, for an unimpressive single Hit. Returning fire, the Allies have a 3 (for their BB) and a 1 (for their CL) and the Royal Navy delivers with a 2 and a 3, respectively, which is good for 2 Hits.
All Hits generated by both sides are assigned by the Advantaged (Allied) player, so the Allies place the Hit they suffered on their 3T BB and place 1 Hit each on the Italian’s Damaged BB and their CL unit.
Rolling for Damage Control, the UK 3T BB has a DCV of 4 (3 +1 for Tough) and rolls a 3; Tis but a scratch! Both Italian units have DCVs of only 1 (as the Damaged 2V BB is quite vulnerable). Rolling a 2 and 3 sees neither ship dodging their bullets: the CL is flipped to its Damaged side and the BB rolls two dice (one for each Hit suffered, the first that flipped it to its Damaged side plus this newly added Confirmed Hit) to determine its fate and lands a 1 and 3; although their sum is 4, because they are Italian, one is added to each die rolled, and thus that Battleship unit will be on the Turn Track for, not four Months, but six (per “Italian Damage,” 430.5.4)!
7. Victor Determination Segment
Remaining on their respective Battle Lines, the propeller counts are 3 for the Allies and 3 for the Axis – a tie! Being the Advantaged player is the tie-breaker and so the Allies are the victor at this Battle of the Sicilian Narrows (thank you, Admiral Cunningham). The Italians lament that they lacked Interdiction control of the Sicilian Narrows with its additional propeller, but they receive none for a mere Patrols level of control and the Engagement is lost!
The Axis player, vanquished, Retires first into Task Forces thus:
Task Force Africa to Tripoli because the transports get through if you don’t harm them!
1 x Italian MS carrying 1/2 FP and 1/2 EP
1 x Italian PL carrying a reduced strength Italian Infantry Corps; unfortunately, when it unloads if will cost 1 FP from the local RP pool to “desertize” this Medium size Leg Ground unit for the Desert Theater (per 423.1.3).
Task Force Trieste to Taranto because that Naval Base can Repair the CL as well as Refit the surviving BB
1 x Italian 3V Fast BB
1 x Italian CL, Damaged
Task Force Medici to Naples because a Major Port is a great place to load cargo next turn
1 x Italian MS carrying nothing
The Allied player had no unfired units in their Reserve Group, so its ships Retire into Task Forces thus:
Task Force Loadstar to Gibraltar where the majority of the fleet currently resides along with the UK Atlantic Naval HQ marker in Shipyard Mode
1 x UK 3T slow BB
1 x UK CV, Damaged
Task Force Runner to Alexandria to keep some power and threat in the Eastern Med
1 x UK CVL
1 x UK CL
With no remaining victorious Naval units, the Allies do not exploit (437.4) and this Naval Engagement ends.