HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDPakistani Mirage over the Karohakam Mountains, 1971
At 1740 hours on 3 December, 1971, months of violent political turmoil in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) boiled over into open warfare between Pakistan and India. On the evening of December 3rd, approximately fifty Pakistani aircraft launched a preemptive raid against eleven different Indian airfields that lay within close proximity to the Indo-Pakistani border. Although the air attack achieved some surprise, its effectiveness was minimal; in fact, while it resulted in a few cratered landing strips, it managed to inflict no significant damage to India’s air forces or bases. Not surprisingly, following the Pakistani air raid, the armies and air forces of the two belligerents crashed into each other almost immediately. Conventional ground fighting quickly erupted on the frontiers of East and West Pakistan. However, in addition to ground operations, Indian military planners also prepared a very different surprise raid of their own. The Indian Navy, it was decided, would launch a major attack against Pakistan’s main port and naval base at Karachi, in West Pakistan. This secret naval operation was slated to begin almost immediately, and was given the codename: Operation Trident.
Indian K83 Vidyut class missle boat launching a missle.
On 4 December, 1971, the ‘Trident’ naval task group — composed of three Vidyut class missile boats (the INS Nipat, INS Nirghat, and INS Veer), two Petya class corvettes (the INS Tir and INS Kiltan), and two anti-submarine patrol vessels — sailed undetected to within 250 nautical miles (just out of Pakistani air range) of Karachi and then halted, waiting for darkness. As soon as night fell, the task group resumed its advance and at 2150 hours encountered a patrolling Pakistani naval force about 70 nautical miles south of Karachi. The engagement that ensued was both furious and one-sided. In short order, the Pakistani minesweeper PNS Muhafiz and an accompanying destroyer, the PNS Khaibar, were both sunk by surface-to-surface missiles. In addition, a third Pakistani destroyer, the PNS Shahjahan, was also severely damaged in the action and forced to withdraw. With the ‘Trident’ group’s way now clear, the Indian missile boats continued north to attack the Pakistani fleet’s fuel depot at Karachi harbor, lighting up the night sky with explosions and fires from the naval storage facility’s burning fuel tanks.
Indian Petya II class corvette.
The surface action on 4-5 December was India’s greatest modern naval victory and, to this day, December 4th is commemorated in India as ‘Navy Day’. The Pakistani ground forces fared little better in the war than their naval forces. East Pakistan was quickly overrun by Indian army units and some 90,000 military and paramilitary Pakistanis were taken prisoner by the occupying Indian army. Although fighting on the western frontier produced, for the most part, a bloody military stalemate, Pakistan’s defeat was sealed by the collapse of its forces in the east.
Pakistan surrender signing in Dhaka, December, 1971.
The end of the war came surprisingly quickly. On 16 December, 1971, Pakistani military representatives signed the instrument of surrender at Rama Race Course in Dhaka, East Pakistan, effectively bringing hostilities to a close. Pakistan’s military losses as a direct result of the two-week conflict were staggering: one half of Pakistan’s navy, one quarter of its air force, and a third of its army had been eliminated or destroyed. And even more demoralizing for the Pakistani populace and their leaders in West Pakistan, one-half of their country had, in the space of a few short days, been irretrievably lost. It was a national humiliation that neither the Pakistani people nor their military could bring themselves to accept. Thus, the repercussions from Pakistan’s crushing defeat in the 1971 war at the hands of its arch-rival, India, were far-reaching and, to a large degree, unfortunate.
Indian air force attack, 1971.
East Pakistan did, of course, gain its independence as the newly-established nation of Bangladesh, but few other benefits, humanitarian or political, emerged from the war. Hatred and mistrust of India spurred government leaders in Islamabad to redouble their efforts to gain nuclear weapons; in addition, as a covert means of attacking both India and its then ally, the Soviet Union, clandestine support for the fanatical Islamists in Kashmir and Afghanistan was substantially increased. None of the outcomes from these various Pakistani efforts to avenge its 1971 defeat at the hands of India has, in the end, proven to be particularly beneficial to Islamabad’s long-term geo-political interests. Nonetheless, the forces unleashed by Pakistan’s understandable, but destabilizing, desire for retribution against India continue to be active; and for this reason, the world, to this day, still lives with the aftermath of the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War.
Egyptian Kohmar missle attack craft, Arab Israeli Six Day War, 1967.
For players who are unfamiliar with naval games, the movement rules for MISSILE BOAT, although reasonable, will take a little getting used to. First, of course, all ships in the game have a bow (front) and a stern (rear). This ‘hull facing’ is critically important for both combat (which will be discussed later) and for movement. Ships in MISSILE BOAT may only move forward (the direction that the bow is facing); they may not back up. Second, in the real world, ships cannot start or stop “on a dime.” Thus, vessels that begin their movement segment from a ‘dead-stop’ are not permitted to use all of their movement allowance during a player turn in which they resume movement; nor may vessels that have moved more than two hexes during the preceding movement segment come to a complete stop in one turn. Ships may ‘turn’ as they move from hex to hex; however, each vessel’s ability to turn is dependent on its ‘hull value’. In game terms, this means that ships with lower ‘hull values’ (smaller vessels) are more nimble and can turn more easily than those with higher values (bigger ships). Movement allowances (MAs) vary widely depending on unit type: thus, different ships may be permitted to move as little as one or as many as six hexes per movement segment; the MA of submarines typically ranges from one to three hexes, and this movement allowance also varies depending on whether submarines are running on the surface or are submerged; the MA of all aircraft is unlimited. Also, a cautionary note: as players become more accustomed to the MISSILE BOAT game system, they will quickly discover a problem with the standard game turn sequence: it gives the Second Commander a slight edge in maneuver and combat over the FC. To compensate for this imbalance, the designer has included a set of optional rules for simultaneous movement; and, in my opinion, players should adopt these alternative rules as soon as they have become comfortable with the game’s mechanics of play.
INS Eliat, Arab Israeli Six Day War, 1967.
Once new players master the basics of maneuvering their ships across the game map, other aspects of the MISSILE BOAT game system will probably be a lot more familiar to land-based players than the game’s movement rules. The Concentration (stacking) rules, for example, are quite simple: only one friendly ship or one friendly and one enemy ship may occupy a sea hex at the end of a movement segment. Aircraft and submarine counters, as might be expected, are completely exempt from this rule and never count against stacking. Moreover, the supply rules, such as they are, are also very straight forward and a bit less complicated than those found in most simulations of ground warfare. In actuality, because of the time scale of the various naval actions represented in the game, there are really no conventional supply rules in MISSILE BOAT. However, each ship’s starting inventory of missiles and/or torpedoes is recorded on the CIC, and these inventories are reduced as these weapons are expended. The same requirement, by the way, also applies to any aircraft that appear in the game. As attack aircraft expend bombs, missiles, or torpedoes in combat, their inventory of these weapons is depleted. Thus, it is essential that players keep a short written log for each of their air units. Fighter aircraft, because they cannot attack ships, are a special case: after fulfilling one of several possible fighter counter-air missions, they are automatically returned to base and removed from further play due to ammunition depletion.
COMBAT SYSTEMPhalanx missle system mounted on a ship's fantail.
Combat between opposing units in MISSILE BOAT is voluntary and — as might be expected, given the different types of weapons systems available to modern naval forces during the period depicted — relatively complicated. Not surprisingly, the various forms of armament present in the game (guns, missiles, torpedoes, mines, and bombs) call for the use of a variety of different tables to determine both the outcomes of specific types of attacks, and to determine the level of damage that results from those attacks. For this reason, the detailed, multi-case rules governing the major categories of naval combat represented in the game are quite dense and very richly-textured. Distilled down to the basics, however, there are five distinct forms of combat in MISSILE BOAT; each with its own subroutine. Moreover, each type of combat is assumed to occur simultaneously, and all five types follow a rigid sequence (as outlined previously) within the structure of the overall game turn. These five types of combat — listed in the order that they are most likely to occur during play — are, as follows: Gunnery Combat (ship-to-ship combat using the “A” and/or “B” batteries); Missile Combat (combat between non-adjacent ships using anti-ship missiles); Anti-Submarine (ASW) and Torpedo Combat (either one or the other or both ‘ASW’ and ‘Torpedo’ attacks may be conducted during this segment); Anti-Aircraft Combat (ships use gunnery or surface-to-air missiles against enemy aircraft); and Aircraft Combat (aircraft that survive defensive anti-aircraft fire attack enemy ships or aircraft during this segment).
The procedures for the different types of combat in MISSILE BOAT represent the real core of the game system; moreover, these different combat segments tend to vary greatly, one from another. And for this reason, the steps required by the combat subroutines for gunnery, ASW and torpedo, missile, and air attacks range from being relatively simple, to being quite detailed and complex.
Osa class missle boat.
Gunnery attacks, as might be expected, are the simplest to execute and typically require only that the attacking player be within range of his target, that his vessel’s ‘electronic warfare’ (EW) rating be sufficient for the attack, and that the field of fire for his battery or batteries be clear (ships, needless to say, cannot fire through their own superstructures); thus, the forward “A” battery could fire directly ahead, for example, but the aft “B” battery would be blocked and unable to fire. Gunnery attacks occurring in the same hex or within one-third of maximum range or less (rounded down) are doubled. Also, an attacking ship with a low (1 or 0) EW rating is significantly penalized during night actions.
Soviet missle cruiser.
Torpedo and ASW attacks, like gunnery combat, are also comparatively straight forward in MISSILE BOAT. Ships may only engage enemy vessels with torpedoes that are within range and are either to the port or starboard of the attacking vessel. On the other hand, submarines — because of the limitations imposed by their bow and stern torpedo tubes — can only fire at targets to their front or rear. ASW combat may be conducted against submarines once they have been detected; and although the ASW weapons systems represented in the game vary widely, the actual procedures for resolving attacks and assessing damage are virtually identical to those used to resolve missile attacks and, for this reason, readers are referred to the detailed discussion on combat procedures in the section on missile combat.
Wessex HU5 hovers above two Harrier GR3s on the MMS Hermes during the Falklands War.
Aircraft, depending on their type, may attack ships, submarines, or — in the case of fighters and fighter bombers — other aircraft. Anti-aircraft combat — which relies primarily on gunnery and surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) — although somewhat detailed, is nonetheless familiar enough in its player operations that it need not be discussed at length. Fighters are an exception, however, because they serve a unique, if somewhat abstracted, role in the game: their mission is to protect friendly surface vessels by shooting down or driving off enemy aircraft (planes or helicopters), or by forcing enemy aircraft to jettison their bomb loads. And bombs — both the smart and dumb variety — represent the primary difference between the weapons systems available to aircraft and those of the other combat assets in the game. Aircraft that attack ships using bombs, unlike those armed with short or long range missiles, must do so from the same hex (dumb bombs) or from an adjacent hex (smart bombs); this means, in short, that bombers cannot ‘standoff’ and attack their targets from a distance.
HMS Antrim, 1970, damaged during the Falklands War.
Not surprisingly, given that the title of this game is MISSILE BOAT, missile combat is, in some ways, both the most interesting and the most tedious of the game’s several combat subroutines. It and ASW combat are also the most time-consuming. For starters, the missile combat segment involves a total of seventeen different player operations. Moreover, unlike most of the game’s other combat segments (except for ASW combat), once weapons have been assigned to specific targets and the ‘Missile Combat Ratio’ — a complex compilation based on missile type, target speed, and both the attacker’s and defender’s EW ratings — have been determined, the two players, in their dual (and simultaneous) roles as both attacker and defender, secretly select — using the game’s two sets of six ‘TAC’ cards — their offensive and defensive tactics from the menu of options listed on the ‘Missile Combat Analysis Chart’ (MCAC) for each and every one of the segment’s missile attacks. This means, for example, that the firing player would choose one ‘TAC’ card for each of his missile targets (however many missiles were being launched against that target) from among the following six offensive options: ‘TAC’ Card #1 — Individual Shots; #2 — Salvo; #3 — Pattern Right; #4 — Pattern Astern; #5 — Sequence; and #6 — Pattern Left. At the same time, the opposing player (in his role as the defender) would secretly choose a specific defensive countermeasure for each of his targeted ships from the following alternatives: #1 — Turn Right; #2 — Rely on Countermeasures; #3 — Turn 180 degrees; #4 — Turn Left; #5 — Zig-Zag; and #6 — Full Speed Ahead. Once ‘firing’ and ‘target’ tactics have been selected for a specific missile firing, both players then reveal their ‘TAC’ cards and cross-index their tactical choices on the MCAC matrix to determine if the missile attack resulted in a ‘potential’ hit. This preliminary outcome, however, does not guarantee that the missile attack is successful. Instead, if a ‘potential’ hit is scored, the players next refer to the ‘Anti-Missile Table’ (AMT) and a die is rolled to determine if, based on the target ship’s total Gunnery Strength (GS), the missile actually scores a hit, or not. If the target ship is hit and has a high enough ‘hull value’ to not be destroyed outright, then the attacker — depending on the type of missile (or missiles) fired — rolls on either the ‘Gunnery Damage Analysis Table’ (GDAT) or the ‘Torpedo Damage Table’ (TDT) to determine the actual damage to the target. This process is repeated for each missile attack until the final outcomes of all of both players’ attacks have been resolved.
MISCELLANEOUS ODDS & ENDSUSS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) DD-748 destroyer, shown operating in the Gulf of Tonkin, November 2,1964.
In addition to the basic rules that underpin the MISSILE BOAT game platform, the designer has included a number of specialized and optional rules which add significantly both to the ‘nautical warfare’ feel of the game, and also to the variability of play. These rules include: Unalerted Ships (ships that are restricted in movement, and in offensive and defensive combat until converted by an enemy attack or a random die-roll to ‘alerted’ status); Mines (and mine-clearing); Hidden Movement (for submerged submarines); the Variable Forces Option (opposing players secretly spend a predetermined number of points — based on the values listed on the ‘Ship Types and Capabilities Chart’ — to purchase their respective starting forces and weapons for a pre-selected scenario); and the Ship Construction Option (players freely design the various capabilities of their own ships prior to the selection of a scenario). To reproduce the ‘fog of war’, the designer also suggests that players insert a screen (the large Rand game cupboard works nicely) between the two sets of CICs, so that neither commander can see the types or capabilities of any of the enemy’s vessels until such time as they come within twenty hexes of a friendly ship.
The winner in MISSILE BOAT is usually determined by destroying or inflicting damage on enemy vessels. In certain cases, victory may also be dependent on a player’s ability to protect or to damage an enemy convoy, or to penetrate an enemy sea zone. Thus, given the variety of different types of naval engagements represented in the game, it should probably be noted that actual victory conditions will depend on the type of action being simulated and are listed with the instructions for the individual scenarios. Moreover, a particular action need not end in a victory for either side; for this reason, in MISSILE BOAT, it is completely possible, although somewhat unlikely, for an individual game to end in a draw.
USS Harry E. Hubbard DD-748 destroyer operating in the Gulf of Tonkin, 1966.
MISSILE BOAT offers nine two-player Historical Scenarios, five two-player Future Scenarios, a Future War Solitaire Scenario, and a virtually unlimited number of Design Your Own Scenarios for players to try. The various historical scenarios cover a broad spectrum of different types of medium and small ship actions; these include: Scenario 1 — Incident in the Gulf of Tonkin (8/2/64); Scenario 2 — Quemoy-Matsu (8/9/65); Scenario 3 — The Sinking of the ‘Eliat’ (10/23/67); Scenario 4 — Attack Off Karachi (12/4-5/71); Scenario 5 — Action in the Arabian Sea (12/5/71); Scenario 6 — The Sinking of the ‘Khukri’ (12/7/71); Scenario 7 — Israeli Attack off Latakia (10/6/73); Scenario 8 — Action of Port Said (10/10/73); and Scenario 9 — Action in the Red Sea (10/11/73). The five future (World War III) scenarios include: Future Scenario 1 — Sea Control; Future Scenario 2 — Convoy Defense; Future Scenario 3 — ASW Warfare; Future Scenario 4 — Island Defense; and Future Scenario 5 — Attack on Anti-Mine Forces. The single ‘Future War’ solitaire scenario pits the commander of a British County-Class missile and helicopter cruiser, the H.M.S. Norfolk, against a group of four Russian Nanuchka missile boats that are attempting to break out of the Skagerrak in order to raid NATO sea lanes. Finally, the selection by the players of any of the many possible Design Your Own Scenarios can be made using the Variable Historical Option (VHO) or the Ship Construction Option (SCO). These options are particularly interesting if the starting forces are selected in advance, and then one of the five Future (World War III) Scenarios is chosen at random.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATIONThe motor torpedo boat, Phaethon, comes under Turkish air attack during the Battle of Tilliria, Cyprus Turkish War, 1964.
MISSILE BOAT, although somewhat unorthodox in its design, is still, along with CAMBRAI, 1917 and SARATOGA: 1777, one of my favorite picks of the nine games published by Rand Game Associates as part of the ‘Command Series, Volume I’ collection of titles. Moreover, according to its surprisingly good ‘Geek’ rating of 6.55/10 over at http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/13800/cambrai-1917-the-first-blitzkrieg, it would appear that at least a few other players agree with me. Granted, the graphics for MISSILE BOAT are painfully drab and even a little ‘hokey’ by today’s standards, and the rules could probably be a bit clearer and better organized; nonetheless, the mix of interesting ideas and the game’s virtually unlimited capacity to produce fresh combat situations makes this obscure little game — in my opinion, at least — a real ‘undiscovered gem’ among modern naval warfare simulations. Despite this well-deserved praise, however, MISSILE BOAT is not without its blemishes.
Cyprus navy's Arion patrol boat of R151 Group received Turkish F100 fighter jet strafing during the Battle of Tilliria, but escaped to Paphos, 1964.
A minor but recurrent criticism of the game comes from the fact that, despite the designer’s inclusion of the multiple CIC displays (useful as they are), players are, even when not using the Simultaneous Movement rules, often required to maintain and update written records as the game progresses. This is particularly true for those scenarios that include submarines or aircraft, or both. This problem is further exacerbated by the faint, almost indistinguishable difference in colors between the ship counters of the two opposing sides, and the uniform color scheme used for all of the aircraft and submarine pieces. Players really do have to maintain careful written records just to keep track of which of the non-ship counters belong to which player.
The various multi-step combat subroutines, upon which the MISSILE BOAT game system depends, not surprisingly, are another major source of frustration for some gamers. This is certainly a fair criticism: the various player operations required by ASW and missile combat, in particular, can be both confusing and time-consuming to plow through, turn after turn. And these procedures are not made any easier by the fact that the characteristics of different ASW and missile weapons systems vary widely and so, must all be meticulously recorded and updated as these weapons are expended in combat. Thus, under most circumstances, I would probably find myself firmly on the side of the critics. However, in the case of MISSILE BOAT, I am inclined to give the game a pass. First, because the additional procedural steps required by the various types of combat actually contribute something tangible to both the historical content and the modern naval ‘feel’ of the game. Moreover, I also personally find it reassuring that the designer took the time to incorporate the varying performance characteristics of ten different types of surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs), nine different types of SAMs, and six different types of ASW systems into the fabric of a game with only seventy-two counters and a 17” x 24” map sheet. Second, unlike a more conventional simulation such as WOODEN SHIPS & IRON MEN (1975) in which a player might have to record and execute the moves of literally dozens of different vessels (think the Battle of the Nile or Trafalgar), in MISSILE BOAT, neither of the opposing players is ever required to direct and record the moves of more than four ships and, in some scenarios, a few additional aircraft or submarine counters. Moreover, none of the vessels in the game is equipped with an unlimited number of missiles or ASW weapons so these combat segments, time-consuming as there are, do not occur all that frequently.
MISSILE BOAT is a promising, innovative game that, for whatever reason, just never really caught on with a lot of gamers, including many of my friends. Still, it is interesting to ponder what this title’s fate might have been had it had a bigger map, additional and more colorful counters, and a few more game charts and tracks when it first came out in 1974. Alas, it had none of those things, so we will never know. In any case, while I personally like MISSILE BOAT a lot, I would hesitate to recommend the game to anyone who does not have an interest either in tactical-level games dealing with contemporary conflicts or in modern small-scale naval actions. The scenarios that deal mainly with naval gunnery duels are exciting and usually relatively fast-moving; the scenarios that incorporate the more sophisticated types of weapons systems, on the other hand, are a bit more cumbersome and considerably more challenging to play. In short, this is really not a simple game. Despite its size, the game’s designer, David Isby, managed to pack a surprising amount of simulation density and operational detail into a relatively small package. For this reason, MISSILE BOAT is probably a poor choice for either novices or inexperienced gamers. That being said, I still recommend it highly both to collectors with a penchant for unorthodox, but innovative game systems, and to those experienced players with an interest in simulations of modern-era naval warfare. And finally, for those eccentric players (like myself) who enjoy late Twentieth-Century games, but who also like to experiment and to design their own scenarios, this game is probably a MUST OWN.
- Time Scale: 6 minutes per game turn
- Map Scale: 1 nautical mile per hex
- Unit Size: individual surface or aircraft
- Unit Types: various surface ships, submarines, helicopters, airplanes, and information counters
- Number of Players: two
- Complexity: average
- Solitaire Suitability: average
- Average Playing Time: 2-3 + hours (depending on whether optional rules are in use)
- One 17’’ x 24” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with multiple — four per player — ‘Combat Information Center’ Tracks incorporated)
- 72 ⅝” cardboard Counters
- One 8” x 8” MISSILE BOAT Rules Booklet (with Scenario Instructions incorporated)
- One 16½” x 12” back-printed MISSILE BOAT Ship Type and Capabilities Chart (with Gunnery Results Table, Gunnery Damage Analysis table, GS Hit Allocation Table, Missile Combat Analysis Chart, Missile Characteristic Table, Anti-Missile Table, Torpedo Combat Table, and Torpedo Damage Table incorporated)
- One 8½” x 11” Rand Games four page combined ‘Future Titles’ Survey Letter and Special ‘Gamut of Games’ Discount Offer
Universal ‘Command Series’ Components Required:
- Universal Turn Recorder
- ‘TAC’ Cards
- One six-sided Die