Okay, finally got together eight relative strangers to play this. It was satisfying the first time but then frustrating the second time, but that wasn't the game's fault.
People zoned out during the explanation of the first game when it wasn't about their roles, so some people were a little confused when they were handed the engineering sheet and told to draw a line around a section of the boat. I almost wish I started off with turn-by-turn, but I really wanted the real-time experience.
I captained my boat, and the other captain was someone who read the rules. Everyone else never read the rules, so we explained things to them. As I said, some short attention spans caused some confusion later on. As it turned out, I had an excellent radio operator and engineer. The engineer listened to my requests, and she worked hard to keep my preferred systems up. The radio operator was able to pinpoint the enemy sub's location fairly easily (this was alpha map, so this is not surprising). I was able to finish off the enemy sub with two direct hits.
The second game was less satisfying. We tried to change up roles, but my first mate was confused by everything else, so he remained the first mate (and he was really bad about marking off systems used, so even that role was a bit too overwhelming for him). I remained captain since nobody else wanted it, and the enemy captain was the previous enemy first mate. We swapped in two new players who were interested in the game. I figured that the radio operator would be the best positions for them because that role requires the least knowledge of the rules (yet is the most important role).
Well, the second game is where I regretted not going turn-based. The newbie captain was overwhelmed. For one, he kept spouting off directions without preceding them with "Head," so it was more difficult for my radio operator to know what they were doing. We had to pause the game to explain why that was important. At one point, he got caught up in the moment and shouted directions in rapid-fire succession without waiting for acknowledgement from his crew. We had to pause again to remind him why he has to wait. Basically, he tried to also be engineer when he figured out the circuits in the engineering section and knew that he could fix things by going N, N, N, E as well as S, S, S, E. Of course, that assumes the engineer is following along and that island locations won't hamper that (also, you can't go W, W, W, E, so that plan runs out pretty quickly).
But what brought the game to a screeching halt was when the enemy captain realized a huge mistake he was making. My radio operator was having a hell of a time trying to pintpoint their sub. They would surface in a way different sector than my radio operator thought. I figured that new guy or not, he was just not able to plot a good course. I also figured that the early problems were tied to the enemy captain not following protocol in giving orders. Well, the enemy captain realized later on that he would sometimes confuse east with west. He would call out that they were heading east but draw that he was heading west. This explains why my radio operator had no earthly idea where they were. At that point, we just aborted the game. On a bright note, I captained correctly because I asked the enemy radio operator where he thought I was, and he got it exactly right (my fault for not using silence more often).
I'm really glad that our first was a rousing success because I can see the second game as turning some people off. I'll just have to gauge the capabilities of the players and decide if I should start off with turn-based vs. real-time. I hate to start off with turn-based since it makes for a longer game, but it can also take longer when you pause during real-time to retouch on some rules.