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Surcouf Revisited
By William Sariego
May 2014

Long ago I submitted a historical piece on the unique French submarine Surcouf for Daily Content. Primarily an overview of this remarkable boat, the article also contained rules allowing Surcouf to be used in Second World Wat ar Sea: Bismarck. I was quite honored when the president of Avalanche Press called it one the best Daily Content articles for some time. Considering the level of Dr. Bennighof’s scholarship, that was high praise indeed. Like so many other things in my life, however, I promptly forgot about it and moved to other projects, assuming Surcouf was now a ‘closed’ book.

Then a pal of mine told me someone on the internet had wondered about using the Surcouf in U.S. Navy Plan Gold. My first reaction was dismissive, as Surcouf did not become operational until well beyond the framework of that otherwise fine game. The more I thought about it the less skeptical I became. After all, since U.S. Navy Plan Gold is basically a alternate-reality wargame, why not postulate Surcouf being commissioned earlier, possibly due to concerns raised by the British X-1 design? This would also permit me to toss in two optional rules that I left out of my original article because I did not want to get too complicated over one counter, however interesting it might be!

Reality can only be bent so far, however, even in a fantasy wargame. The French economy was devastated by the Great War. It would stretch credulity too far to imagine her in any other than the 1925 and 1926 scenarios.

Using Surcouf in U.S. Navy Plan Gold

Add Surcouf to the following operational scenarios:

Le Crise Orange: Deploy Surcouf as part of the main French fleet on the eastern board edge.

Counter Attack: Deploy Surcouf as part of the fleet at either Port-au-Prince or Santo Domingo.

Zenker’s Cruiser Killer: Start Surcouf at Colon.

Bywater’s Fantasy: Begin with Surcouf at Port-Louis. She uses the French Raider special rule in the same manner as the Indomptable.

Bywater, Part Deux: Deploy Surcouf at Fort-de-France, Port-au-Prince, or Bluefields, with leader Girard. Surcouf must start separately from the battle-cruisers and must operate independently for the scenario. She uses the French Raider special rule, like the two surface ships.

Optional Rules

Small Target: Even a large submarine like Surcouf presents a small and maneuverable target on the surface. When you factor in her design strategy to alternately dive and surface to fire her guns and deck mounted torpedoes, Surcouf gets a “saving throw” against gunnery hits from surface ships and bomb attacks from aircraft. No “save” is possible against torpedoes. Disregard a Primary hit on a roll of 4-6, a Secondary hit on a 5-6. Against rapid-firing Tertiary guns and bombs from the air, the “save” chance is only 6.

Torpedo Reloads: Surcouf has reloads for her torpedo tubes. This forces players to indicate which weapon system is firing. She carries two reloads of 21.7” and one reload of 15.7” torpedoes. The bow 21.7” can be reloaded automatically and fired in the next Torpedo Combat impulse. The deck mounts cannot be reloaded until after the Tactical Phase is concluded. She can also, of course, reload per rule 12.7. The bow torpedo does not suffer a penalty to hit like other "hull"-mounted torpedos.

Note that the original Surcouf piece was designed with The Second World War at Sea series rules. Follow The Great War at Sea series rules here. Thus, the 21.7” fish have a range of one hex, and the 15.7” only in the same hex. A Torpedo Mount hit destroys both deck mounted weapons (this clarification applies to Bismarck as well).

Increase the Victory Point value of Surcouf by one point for each optional rule chosen. The French player must inform his opponent before the game if either are being used. In playing Bismarck, due to the sub’s age, you can only use the Small Target optional rule in Scenario Four, where the skill of her Third Republic crew could still get the most out of her capabilities.

Click here to download Surcouf for Plan Gold.

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