How To Have A Long And Lethal Career In ACES OF THE DEEP
TAKEN SCENARIO BY SCENARIO, ACES OF THE DEEP IS A GREAT U-BOAT SIMULATION.
BUT WHEN YOU STRING the U-boat scenarios into an entire career, then you
truly get to experience what separates ACES OF THE DEEP from its
contemporaries. An ACES career accurately depicts the rise and fall of the
U-boatwaffen in WWII with an attention to historical detail that borders on
the obsessive. Once you've started in the U-boat heyday, stealing candy
from the naive Allied navy, and then felt the heavy hand of Allied anti-
submarine tactics slowly press upon you, you cannot help but walk away
with a better understanding of the war as fought on and under the Atlantic.
The career, once begun, will start the player in a small, Type IID U-boat
based in Bremen in 1939. This is the first of the eight time periods
depicted. As you move through these time periods, you'll see the development
of the convoy system, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) tactics, and the
effects of the U.S. entry into the war. It is important to monitor time
periods, as it will enable you to understand what is going on in the war
and, more importantly, what to expect at sea.
Once the decision to start a patrol is made, the coordinates for the patrol
area are given. But before leaving that screen, it is critically important
to take the time to select the level of realism. The level of realism is
basically a level of difficulty selection. If I could only impart one
piece of advice, it would be to start easy. Careers are very long, and
there is ample time to make the game more and more realistic. The first
patrols should be considered a shakedown cruise. Learn the interface and
the capabilities of the U-boat without the added pressure of high levels of
difficulty and the game will be much more enjoyable. Besides, the next
career can be played from start to finish at the highest level of realism,
which is as close to actually being there as possible without a commission
in the Kriegsmarine.
The realism options affect difficulty in two ways: making the enemy more
capable and making the U-boat less automated. I would suggest that you
increase the two proportionally. Having the enemy at expert level, but the
boat at the absolute lowest level of realism, or vice-versa, will yield a
skewed game. A balanced approach is the most effective way of enhancing
the learning process and getting on the right side of the learning curve.
Spend the first patrol learning how to dive the boat and operate the
interface. As confidence builds, put more and more of the realism options
into play. I'd recommended limited fuel, battery, and torpedoes as the
first options you explore, as it's important to learn how to ration these
assets early in the career. Dud torpedoes add a level of realistic
frustration, as a perfect attack can be thwarted by a weapon that will
not perform as advertised.
As the boat leaves the slip, it's time to start thinking about the Big
Picture. The Big Picture is a term I use to describe the mental framework
you must be in to succeed as a U-boat skipper. The Big Picture encompasses
knowledge of the platform, the enemy, and strategy. Knowledge of the
platform includes knowing the max speed, battery and fuel performance,
crash dive lag time, and other characteristics of the boat. Knowledge of
the enemy would include its ASW advancements and capabilities, and as much
about their attack methods as possible. Strategic knowledge would include
knowing the basic tenets of submarine warfare, like the tactics of convoy
attacks, how to set up and use the stern tubes, and surviving a depth
But more important to the Big Picture is knowing what is going on all the
time. There is nothing more frustrating than setting up a great second
attack on a large convoy, only to discover that the torpedoes from deck
storage were never loaded. There is nothing more dangerous than ignoring
the damage control reports during a sustained depth charge attack.
Ignoring radio reports of convoy movements from other U-boats creates
missed opportunities. The Big Picture means acting like, and thinking like,
a U-boat captain.
A good example of the importance of the Big Picture is knowledge of the
depth under keel--the distance from the U-boat's keel to the mud on the
bottom of the ocean. There are times when the depth of seawater is less
than 150 meters, which means that any crash dive will land the U-boat on
the bottom of the sea, stuck in the mud. (There are times when sitting on
the bottom of the sea is a good idea, but while diving to do so, make sure
that the U-boat has no forward motion).
LAST ONE TO SPOT THE ENEMY DIES
As the boat exits the harbor, it is time to plot a course to a patrol area.
Plotting a course is done by setting up waypoints. Early in the career,
all the patrol areas will be centered around England. Simply plot the
easiest, fastest way to the patrol area. The trick to transiting is not in
plotting the course; the trick is simply to keep a close watch as the
transit is taking place.
Keeping a close watch while transiting is the key to finding easy, unescorted
targets, as well as the key to seeing aircraft and escorts first. In the
submarine service, the saying is, "He who is found first, dies first.
" Remember that stealth has always been the submarine's primary advantage.
Once that advantage is given away, the tables will completely turn.
The best vantage point from which to oversee a transit is not from the bridge,
as some rookies assume, but the "geo plot." The geo plot is my name for the
overhead screen with the red ring that denotes visibility range. Aircraft and
ships will appear on the geo plot long before they are sighted by the
Transiting is usually done in high time compression (unless you've got a
lot of time to kill), and I advise that when transiting the following rules
be followed. First and foremost, never leave the geo plot while in high time
compression. Instead, go to 1X time compression and do what needs to be done,
then return to the geo plot and crank up the compression again. Throughout
the patrol, radio reports of convoy sightings will be coming in. I recommend
that the patrol area and the surrounding areas be memorized or written down.
That way, there is no need to come out of the geo plot to find out if the
reported convoy is in range. Another method is to use the fine chart that
is supplied with the game. Simply spread the chart out, put a dime where
the patrol area is, and look to see if the spotted convoy is within reach.
Meanwhile, always listen to the radio reports. Whenever I am transiting, I
keep an eye on the geo plot, with my finger on the key. Hitting
the key takes the boat immediately to 1X time compression.
Whenever a plane or a ship is spotted on the geo plot, simply hit
and buy some time to think.
Once the patrol area is reached, there is no need to advise headquarters.
Simply patrol in a pattern of your choosing within the patrol area. Should
boredom set in, new orders can be requested, but are not necessary. At any
time, at the captain's discretion, the patrol area can be left. Early in the
war, I thoroughly recommend that the fledgling submariner take to the west
coast of England, particularly the area from the southwest corner of England to
the end of the channel between England and Ireland to the north. Convoys galore
arrive and depart from this area, making for a bountiful tonnage harvest. After
1941, avoid this area like the plague, as the depth is confining and the ASW
assets are plentiful and deadly.
FORGET CHIVALRY, THIS IS WAR!
With any luck, the patrol area will yield some unescorted merchants, and
hopefully a convoy will wander through. The patrol areas are assigned based on
actual shipping lanes, and I recommend that patrol areas not be abandoned
prematurely. This is especially true later in the career, when mid-Atlantic
patrol areas are not uncommon.
There is one common mistake that is made when a convoy is encountered and
attacked. Having spoken to a number of new ACES players, I have found that they
all want to sink the escorts. Nein! Ze denial of shipping to ze enemy is der
primary mission! Nothing else should be considered. Keep chivalry in the closet
with your other outmoded ideas and feel no shame in sinking unarmed merchants.
Besides, the game awards no tonnage or extra credit for sinking escorts, and
tonnage is the key to a successful career.
Should you decide to attack a convoy, and the escorts have closed and forced
your U-boat into submerged evasion, there are some key things to remember.
First of all, watch the geo plot. At the easy levels of realism, the escorts
will be visible, as will their sonar pulses. Watch the red lines that spread
out like wheel spokes; these denote bearing to a pinging escort. At high levels
of realism, the red lines are all that appear. Now watch how the escorts attack.
Having located the U-boat with active sonar, the escort will close on the
target. As the escort closes, but before the depth charges are dropped, the
pinging of the radar will suddenly stop. At this time, turn 90 degrees off the
base course in either direction. The deeper you are, the more time the depth
charges will require before going off, and the more time to clear the area.
While playing at high levels of realism, wait until the red spokes suddenly
seem to change direction 180 degrees. This means a direct pass over the sub.
The end of the pinging, along with the change of direction of the red spokes
signifies the time to make a fast move. An increase of speed can be used to get
clear, but remember to limit the time of the burst.
Whenever possible, maintain heading pointing directly at, or away from, an
escort (red spokes). Should one escort be moving more than others, it is
closest to your boat. Pointing the boat at the escort limits the available
cross section that the sonar ping has to return on. Should more than one escort
be close aboard, simply keep moving, changing direction and depth. When enemy
sonar is no longer getting a return, get away from the area. The speed
available will seem dead slow, but silence is golden and stealth is the only
defense. Getting brave and coming to periscope depth to fight back will result
in the untimely demise of the U-boat, especially in high realism. Don't get in
the habit at low realism.
There's one thing that submariners are especially good at, and that separates
them from other sailors: their damage control ability. When a submariner is
awarded his dolphins, this signifies a comprehensive knowledge of the whole
boat and the systems that comprise the boat. A machinist mate is going to know
the Trim and Drain system as intimately as his own genitalia, but a sonarman
with dolphins will, in addition to his own special knowledge, be able to draw
the Trim and Drain system from memory, and show which valves are where. Why
this level of "cross training"? A submarine is a very small place, and flooding
can happen in a real hurry, sending you to a watery grave even faster. Should
the sonarman discover flooding, there isn't enough time to run and find a
machinist mate or look up the system in a book. The sonarman must isolate the
flooding and do whatever is necessary to keep himself and his companions from
To the detriment of many ACES careers, damage control is the most neglected and
misunderstood portion of the game. Should damage occur on the boat, it is
critical that you immediately evaluate the damage and react accordingly. There
is no damage greater, or of more concern, than water in the "people tank." Any
water that is not where it is supposed to be should be of more concern than any
other casualty. The second most significant casualty is chlorine gas, which is
caused by the seawater getting in the battery well and mixing with the
lead-acid cells, but this is ultimately because water is in the people tank.
Download Screenshot (22.9 KB
JPEG) SHE CAN'T TAKE ANY MORE! After tangling with several escorts, this boat
is in rough shape. Only the most skilled and lucky captain could nurse her back
to port. (22.9 KB JPEG)
Should damage occur during a depth charge attack, the watch officer will inform
you. The damage control screen will show where the damage has occurred and help
you evaluate its severity. Should the damage occur to one of the non-essential
systems such as the radio, count yourself lucky. Should the damage occur to the
torpedo launching equipment, the patrol will be shortened, but not your career.
Should the damage occur to one of the systems that keeps water out of the
people tank, find out if the damage is minor, moderate, or critical, and the
time needed for repairs.
The speed at which water leaks into the boat is directly proportional to the
boat's depth. Whenever water is leaking, stay out of the red zone of the depth
gauge. At that great of depth the bilge pumps will not work against the water
pressure, and some leakage in a U-boat is inevitable. Once in the yellow range,
keep a close eye on the depth. If the depth starts to decrease due to no action
on your part, immediately move up to the green range. These actions will slow
the leaking of water and buy some much-needed time.
The speed of the boat is another important factor in an emergency. The planes,
which help maintain control, are more effective the faster the boat is
traveling. Should the boat be traveling at 2 knots, the planes are going to
have a minimal effect. Should that speed be increased to 7 knots, the planes
will have much more effect. But the problems that result from increased speed
should render acceleration a last resort to stay alive. As speed is increased,
your sonar effectiveness goes out the window, leaving the boat relatively deaf.
An increase in speed also means an increase in noise, and submarine rule number
two clearly states that "Noise is bad!"
Should the damage be controlled and you survive the depth charge attack, wait
until all systems are back on line before attacking the convoy again. Should
the planes or the torpedo launching equipment (tube doors and torpedo tubes) be
damaged, I advise heading for port and calling in a patrol. As much as I hate
returning to port with unexpended ordnance, I hate losing a U-boat more.
As the career progresses, awards and promotions will be offered. The awards and
promotions are based on four criteria: tonnage, tonnage, tonnage and realism.
The more tonnage sunk and the higher the realism, the faster the promotions and
awards will arrive. You will also gain the ability to skipper newer classes of
boats. These new boats will have inexperienced crews, but they will be more
capable. One big advantage in accepting a new command is the opportunity to
have a home port in France, which means that transiting the English Channel can
be avoided. These French ports also make transiting to any patrol area in the
Atlantic (and eventually the Caribbean) much easier, and less time- and
At some point in the career, a staff job will be offered. This means that your
career has ended, and it will be placed in the record books as it stands. There
is no penalty for turning down a new boat or a staff job, although I recommend
that any new class boat be accepted.
The career emulation in ACES OF THE DEEP is fascinating, addicting, and
educational. You'll find yourself jumping when an escort makes sonar contact,
and cursing the Allies for putting dings in your boat. You'll find yourself
elated as a convoy is successfully penetrated, and relieved that a patrol has
come to an end. As your abilities increase and you take on higher levels of
realism, you'll feel a profound sense of accomplishment--not because of your
hand-eye dexterity, or because the secrets of the game have been found, but
because now you possess the Big Picture.