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06.04.2017

DESIGNER DIARY Vol. 2

The Captain slowly put away his binoculars with a sinister grin. After a week of stalking the target, he now knew that the time to strike was at hand. The convoy was approaching the Atlantic Gap and the nearby wolves had already picked up the scent of the prey. Captain Schilke was the first one to locate the enemy, and he immediately sent a message to the HQ so that a wolfpack could assemble. Once it heeded the call and assumed positions, all there was left to do was to ensnare the unsuspecting victim. Schilke was already feeling the thrill of excitement: nightfall was fast approaching, and the hunt was afoot...

Meanwhile, miles away, lieutenant Michaels caught a vague echo on the radar screen. At first he thought it could be just some debris floating on the surface, or perhaps a whale (so tiny it was, that the radar could barely pick up the echo). Yet, as the object kept reappearing with increasing clarity, Michaels also noticed that it was following the convoy, just on the edge of its visible range... Having realized that, he decided to wake up the old man after all. For it was no whale, and he was certain of it.

One of the goals of UBOOT: The Board Game is to faithfully represent the fascinating arms race that took place during the Battle of the Atlantic. Beginning with detection, through code-breaking, and finishing with hunter-killer tactics, the Allies posed an ever-increasing threat to the U-boat force under the command of Admiral Dönitz. Aircraft effective range was increasing, sonar and radar technologies were being constantly improved, and the escorts were fitted with more and more cutting-edge anti-submarine armament.

The U-boats, on the other hand, received new torpedo types, more anti-air firepower, and innovative stealth capabilities throughout the course of the battle. With the introduction of maneuvering torpedoes, quadruple Flak guns, and the Schnorkel (which allowed diesel engines to run and vent fumes even from under the surface), both their defensive, as well as offensive means were being strengthened, refined and perfected. In order to depict this technological evolution, UBOOT: TBG will feature three distinct WW2 periods: early, mid, and late-war, allowing the players to outfit their submarine with various weapons and equipment combinations in accordance with their timeframe of choice (or achieved campaign progress). However, regardless of whether they choose themselves, or allow the game to propose a default equipment set for each mission – there is no doubt there will be surprises in store for both sides of the equation.

Schilke once again looked through the binoculars. The target vessels were creeping against the dark backdrop of the night sky, slowly making their way towards the Western Approaches. 'Prepare tubes 1 through 3 for launch!', he commanded. Yet, as he was uttering these words, he was abruptly awoken from his reverie by the sound of a large caliber round whizzing past his head, along with a sudden splash of water onto his face. Startled, he wanted to wipe it off, but it was disconcertingly warm... And only then did it strike him, that it was no water. Everything ground to a halt, like in a twisted daydream. The observer that he spoke to just a second ago was now a bloody mess of viscera and bone fragments, torn apart by the cannon round, barely resembling a human being. Schilke stared at him, dumbstruck for a split second, but before he knew it, he was going down the hatch shouting: 'Crash dive! All hands man your battle stations!'. The inside of the U-boat suddenly sprang to life like a stirred hornet's nest.

At the same time, lt. Michaels was cursing the gunners' aim. 'So much for the element of surprise', he thought, as the U-boat quickly submerged, vanishing from the surface without a trace. 'The first shot looked promising, almost as if it grazed the conning tower' – he thought to himself. 'Too bad that the second one missed them altogether. That was some fast diving!'. 'Never mind lads', he said to his fellow crewmen. 'Watch the ASDIC* and don't let them get away - we'll hunt those bastards down before they know it'. To his dismay, seconds later a huge explosion shook everybody on the deck and Michaels saw one of the convoy's vessels light up like a Christmas tree. The battle was just beginning with more hunters on the prowl than he had initially accounted for. It seemed like he had to rethink his strategy...

* Active sonar.

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