Dunkirk Impressions: New World of Warships Scenario

By James Cobb 20 Jul 2017 0

Like all war movie fans, I’m excited about the upcoming movie Dunkirk (releasing this week). Wargaming.net has hopped on the bandwagon with a public beta testing of the World of Warships’ scenario “Operation Dynamo”, the evacuation of Dunkirk. I was fortunate enough to be allowed to participate in the test and want to share my experience of three days of harrowing play.

A New Paradigm

World of Warships play usually has teams of players blasting another team on hypothetical maps with victory decided by points for capturing and holding bases or sinking the other guys. “Operation Dynamo”, along with their new weekly operations, breaks with this style by placing players in a historical or at least real world, setting. The focus is on completing the primary missions and as many of the secondary missions as possible. The enemy were AI.  Of course, players get the usual points for doing well but accomplishing the mission is the main goal.

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HMS Anthony when she’s at home.

In the public beta test, run-of-the-mill players like me got the destroyer HMS Anthony and the French destroyer Cyclone along with a bump in rank (I’m now at level 15 out of 19 levels) and a bunch of new signals and camouflages. “Super testers” also got the HMS Gallant. Only the rank bump transfers from the test server to the player’s regular server. Oh well, anything for the hobby.

Both destroyers have the usual HE, AP and torpedoes along with the damage control ability. The Anthony also comes with an anti-aircraft (AA) and engine boost while the Cyclone has a smoke generator as well as the engine boost. Both captains start with a whopping fifteen skill points to distribute so, with well selected signals and camouflage, these vessels are in top shape.

The ships also have a new port screen, a dry-dock allowing a complete view of the vessel without clicking other buttons. This change is indicative of increasing graphics on shore installations and non-combatant ships. If they have time, players can view the wreckage-strewn beach up close or take a virtual tour of the city of Dunkirk itself. Viewing the civilian ships of the evacuation convoy is fascinating. However, the Germans have not yet brought their tour guide detachment up yet so time is at a premium. Anyway, those francs no longer buy much.

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A cross-channel excursion boat on an unusual trip

Nobody Gets Home Unscathed

Being in command of Anthony, my first impulse was like any destroyer skipper’s impulse: “All Engines Full Ahead” to the beach to pull off soaked Tummies and then speed home. Then I remembered my primary mission was to protect the convoy so I went to three-quarters speed and edged starboard to link up with the “little ships”. Even then, I outpaced many of them and slowed to half speed. The danger of this move became evident when German fighter aircraft spotted for heavy shore batteries. Large shell splashes hit near me but destroyers are hard to hit; a few slow craft weren’t so lucky. My boost can only be used two times and fighters weren’t that dangerous to me so I used Crtl-left click to give my gunners direction and knocked a Jerry down.

I saw a green circle marking the evacuation area and headed there. Once inside, I was ordered to stop to pick up troops. Stop in an area silhouetted by flames and covered by shore batteries? Sure and why not open sea cocks while we’re at it. We pulled five hundred soldiers on deck anyway. Again, my first reaction was to hightail it to Dover but, again, that move was bad for three reasons. First of all, the north west was covered by a huge minefield with a smaller separate one to the east, leaving a small conduit as the quickest way home. At high speed, I might lose control and blunder into a mine, instant death for a destroyer. Secondly, the other six destroyers could help in fighting off attacks if I stayed close. Thirdly, the convoy needed me.

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Convoys provide some cover but attract Germans.

The safest way out of the area appeared to be hugging the coast but that turned out to be a mistake as I got hung up on a wreck. Reversing, I made course for the convoy but twenty soldiers went overboard because of my erratic navigation. I stayed with the convoy, weaving in and out while changing speed from half to three-quarters and back. The convoy’s green stream on the mini-map showed me a safe way through the minefields.

“Safe” is a relative term. Barely out of the evacuation area, the convoy was attacked by dive bombers and torpedo planes. Now was the time to use the brief AA boost along with battery direction. I made no hits but the planes may have been driven off. They still drew blood, sinking a merchantman. Stopping in the white circle around the wreck allowed me replace the soldiers I lost earlier but stopping became doubly dangerous when German destroyers appeared on the horizon. Destroyers, small and fast, are hard to hit but I got lucky and put one down. One of his buddies also got lucky and set Anthony on fire. My damage control party put the fire out but not before the ship took fifty percent damage. Another gift from the Luftwaffe came in but this time the RAF intervened although I became suspicious when the flight commander identified himself as a colonel, a rank not existing in the RAF.

We cleared the minefields and saw the White Cliffs in the distance when the enemy hit us with a “hammer and anvil” attack. The now common mix of warplanes came from the west and four E-boats, AKA S-booten, raced in from the east. E-boats are almost baby destroyers with in-hull torpedo tubes and small cannon. Since I had to weave and change speed to protect my crippled craft from the planes, hitting the E-boats was almost impossible for me. However, I could still help those other destroyers that closed on the fast horrors. I fired a wide spread of torpedoes ahead of them to make them turn into their pursuers. The enemy craft were quickly sunk.

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With torpedo wakes in the water, the convoy escort fills the sky with AA tracers.

This last attack was beaten off and our convoy limped into Dover. Our reward was four stars indicating that we had accomplished our primary mission and all five secondary missions such as destroying most of the enemy. Yes, we won this miracle but wars are not won by evacuations. Many more operations lay ahead.

World of Warships is available to play for free via Wargaming.net. You can read our review (sort of) here

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