Thursday, 20 October 2011

Somewhere in the Black Sea, October 1915....

Imperatritsa Mariya in the Black Sea

Pamiat Merkuria awaiting her appointment with destiny

I have just come hot from my den after having completed the first play test of my latest attempt at writing a set of naval war game rules. Actually I am finishing this write up in the morning as it has taken longer to do than the action I have just fought - which is quite usual for these things in my experience! The test was a huge amount of fun and worked out pretty well although there are a couple of minor tweaks needed. I had a couple of changes of heart during the course of the day and so reverted to the original plan of using the Black Sea as a testing ground rather than the more usual Aegean. This was primarily because I wanted to get the dreadnoughts out rather than the usual collection of scrap metal the Turks use!

So without further ado....

The play test I set up pitted the newly commissioned Russian dreadnought Impertritsa Mariya escorted by the Bogatyr class protected cruiser Pamiat Merkuria against the Moltke class battle cruiser Goeben and the Magdeburg class cruiser Breslau, or to use their Turkish names: Yavuz Sultan Selim and Midilli respectively. The scenario has the Russian ships providing distant cover for a shore bombardment squadron of pre dreadnoughts attacking the Turkish coastal colliery industry. The two Turkish ships have sortied in order to intercept the bombardment squadron but had not reckoned on the intervention of the brand new Russian dreadnought.

The Russian ships looked something like this:

The Russian squadron with the cruiser in the van.

Imperatritsa Mariya - 21 kts (1/5), 24,000 tons, 10" belt and 3" deck armour, 12 x 12" (A6), 20 x 5.1" (C) and 4 torpedo tubes. In game terms she has 18 hits points.

Pamiat Merkuria  - 23 kts (2), 6,600 tons, 2" deck armour, 12 x 6" (C) and 2 torpedo tubes. In game terms she has 6 hit points.

The Turkish opposition looked something like this:

The Turkish squadron, again with the cruiser in the van

Yavuz Sultan Selim - 25 kts (2), 25,000 tons, 10" belt and 3" deck armour, 10 x 11" (A5), 12 x 5.9" (B), 12 x 3.4" (D) and 4 torpedo tubes. In game terms she has 16 hit points.

Midilli - 28 kts (2/2), 5,000 tons, 2" belt and 1" deck armour, 12 x 4.1" (B) and 2 torpedo tubes. In game terms she has 7 hit points.

The game uses a scale of 1" being 4,000 yards so a hex is 4,000 yards across the flats. This is handy because it is close enough to two knots (a knot being 2,025 yards) to make speeds and ranges relatively easy to calculate. The numbers after the speed refer to the number of hexes a turn a ship can move. The number after the slash is the number of turns during a game hour that the ship can use an extra hex. A game move is 10 minutes so a ship rated at 1/5 can move at a speed of 2 for 5 turns out of six. The mysterious code after the gun calibre refers of course to the rating system used by F.T. Jane so it can be seen that the Russian 12" out ranges the German 11" and everything else is pretty even (Bs and Cs) excepting the 3.4" guns on the Yavuz at a D rating.

Firing is very simple and is based on 1d6 per two barrels shooting. This is turn reduces as the range increases and the chance of hitting is reduced. The last hex of a gun's range requires a 6 to hit; the first requires a 4, 5 or 6 and the interim a 5 or 6. In certain cases the roll of a 6 will have the possibility of a special or critical hit. Normally a hit from a 4 or a 5 will inflict 1 damage point whilst a 6 will inflict 2.

The two forces were 9 hexes apart at the start of turn 1 - 36,000 yards.

Turn 1 - The Russians threw a 3 for initiative whilst the Turks replied with a 9. The Russians moved first and moved first with both ships maintaining station and at a speed of 2 (meaning the Russian dreadnought used 1 of its 5 turn bonus moves). the Turks followed suit but had no such problems as both vessels were faster.

Turn 1 after the first move with the Russians on the right (rather unusually....)

Turn 2 - The Russians rolled a 2 for initiative whilst the Turks could only manage a 3 but it was enough to ensure that the Russians had to move first. Again using 1 of the 5 move bonus points both ships moved forward a hex and then swung to port, moving a further hex on their new heading. the Turks however split their force with the Yavuz maintaining her course and speed (straight ahead at 2 hexes) whilst the Midilli went a hex forward, turned two hex sides to port and then moved forward another two hexes - using 1 of her 2 bonus moves. Her blood was up and the prospect of a seemingly easy kill in the shape of an old protected cruiser was a temptation that proved impossible to resist.

Turn 2 with the Russian stoically sticking to their task as the Turks attempt the naval equivalent of the Pasa Doble....

Turn 3 - The Russians rolled a mighty 11 whilst the Turks could only manage an 8; so for the first time the Turks had to move first. The Yavuz moved ahead one hex and then turned to port and moved a further hex in order to ensure her gunnery arcs were fully open. Meanwhile the Midilli eased off the throttle slightly and moved straight ahead two hexes - confident that her move had caught her opponent at a disadvantage. Both of the Russian ships, seemingly unimpressed with all this maneuvering elected to maintain both course and speed - meaning that the battleship had used a further 1 of her 5 bonus moves. Both sides had cleared for action and were waiting for the order to open fire. It would not be long in coming....

At a range of 3 hexes (12,000 yards) the two capital ships opened fire. the Russians were entitled to 4d6 and the Turks 3 with both sides needing 5s or 6s to hit. Great gouts of smoke issued alongside the strident crack and rolling boom as some 22 heavy guns opened opened, followed by 16 secondary weapons. Not a single hit was scored by the main batteries and the only damage inflicted was by the barrage of 5.1" shells that peppered the Yavuz at maximum range. Of the 3 dice rolled the Russian scored 2 glorious 6s which wreaked havoc on the unfortunate Turk. It was only two points of damage but it sent a notice of intent in no uncertain terms to the Turkish Captain.

Meanwhile, the two cruisers had closed to point blank range (1 hex or 4,000 yards) and the Turk was to pay dearly for underestimating her older opponent. the Russian cruiser swung her 8 x 6" at her younger adversary and let fly. Needing 4s, 5s or 6s with 4 d6 she rolled a 2, a 5 and 2 6s. The resulting special damage rolls for the two 6s came to nothing but with 5 damage points scored from a possible 7 the Midilli was in very serious trouble. Her reply was to roll a 6 and a pair of 1s so the Russian cruiser sustained a pair of damage points - small beer (or vodka) compared to what she had dished out!

Turn 3 with the cruisers slugging it out whilst the Russian dreadnought hovers menacingly in the background. Note the Mastermind pegs used as shell splashes.

Turn 4 - The Russian maintained the initiative rolling a 9 to the Turkish 7. The Turks were in serious trouble. the Yavuz was in good shape but the Midilli had been reduced to blazing wreck and it was only through blind luck that she had not been damaged in her vital engine room, or indeed her guns. As it was though she had to beat a hasty retreat as her damage total was below her critical number of 3 hit point remaining. The Yavuv thundered ahead and swung to port at the end of her move whilst the Midilli went forward a hex, put the helm hard over and turned two points to port and then, using the last of her bonus moves (remember she had 2 for the game hour of 6 turns) roared forward a further two hexes in an attempt to escape from her tormentor.

The Russian cruiser maintained her position off the rear port quarter of the blazing Turkish cruiser whilst the dreadnought circled the Yavuz and maintained her position.

The firing was largely ineffective with the Yavuz sustaining a further 2 hits and the Midilli a single point of damage. Neither Turkish ship was able to score a hit due to some truly abysmal dice rolls - no doubt due to the shattering morale effect of the Russian shooting.

Turn 4 seen from the Turkish side - the cruiser fight can be seen in the distance.

Turn 5 - The Turks won the initiative  11 to 9 although it hardly mattered. The Midilli bravely attempted to escape but was too close to her assailant to get very far and the two capital ships, as if by mutual consent, made no attempt to close the range or to impede each other's exit from the field of battle. The Russian cruiser opened fire on the gallant Midilli at point blank range and whilst only needing a single hit to sink made certain by scoring 4 - just to be on the safe side. Shot through with 6" shell hits the Turkish cruiser slipped beneath the waves having barely scratched her older but game opponent.

Turn 5 and the end of the Midilli - the black marker indicates a heavy hit (scored by a 6) and there are more markers than she actually suffered but sadly I have no 'ship sinking' models!

Conclusion - The rules appeared to work pretty well and I well satisfied at this early stage in their evolution. Movement, with the bonus move mechanic, flowed smoothly enough and with distances that felt about right for the playing area (13 x 8 and I need to enlarge this to the 13 x 9 so a larger table or a board will be needed in due course). Firing worked well although I need to revisit the heavy/special hit mechanic and also damage effects. I am thinking that hits from weapons 6" and smaller against capital ships should perhaps be less effective - seeing the Yavuz losing two hit boxes from 16 due fire from the Russian dreadnoughts secondary weapons was a bit of a shock! - this will need some further thought. Also, I need to think about the effects of damage as the Midilli went to her watery grave with her speed and armament intact which felt a little odd. Having taken 5 out of 7 points of damage from the Russian cruisers opening salvo I would have expected to have seen some detrimental effect to her capabilities after such a shattering experience. Again, I will need to give this some further consideration.

The use of the Mastermind white pegs as shell splashes for hit markers looks quite effective and serves as a nice visual reminder of the damage to be recorded - with the black version used for heavy hits.

For the battle itself little really can be added. The Yavuz would struggle to overcome the Imperatritsa Mariya in a straight fight all things being equal - especially if the Russian decided to engage at her at longer range as her artillery reached out to 5 hexes opposed to the Turk's 4. The speed advantage the Turk possessed was not really sufficient to make a major difference (it would certainly not be the case had the Turk caught the pre dreadnought bombardment squadron!) so the arrival of the Russian dreadnoughts in the Black Sea meant that the 'happy time' for the ex German ship was at an end.

The Midilli was perhaps a little unfortunate to have been caught so heavily in the first round of firing and at such short range by some truly staggering Russian shooting which ensured that there could only be one outcome. Her eagerness to engage the enemy was commendable but perhaps she could have been a little more circumspect in her approach.

In any event, questions need to be asked about the appalling quality of the Turkish shooting!

Great fun and more to follow.


Robert (Bob) Cordery said...


A very interesting (and lively) battle report. It sounds like the rules work quite well and are pretty well tied up.

I did not think that it was odd that the Turkish cruiser sank whilst still able to steam at full speed and without any loss of armament. It has happened in real life. A ship may be riddled with holes and sinking but still be able to shoot. Perhaps the speed should have been affected by the effect of water leaking into the hull, but it the only way to take this into account is to make the rules more complicated I would suggest leaving it out. Perhaps a simple way to do it would be that when the ship reaches a certain number of hits, it loses a certain percentage of its speed.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Bob,

It went very well and I think I am about as near to my ideal as I am ever likely to get!

I think the issue I had with the damage was more to do with the fact that something should have broken after the deluge of 6" shells had wreaked such carnage.

I have addressed this though as my next post points out and I think the solution is an acceptable compromise.

Bulgarians are up next so I expect you will be able to guess what is coming!

All the best and many thanks for the welcome comments,


El Grego said...

Nice table David - I should copy the idea except I would prefer more width.

David Crook said...

Hi EG,

Sadly that is as wide as my existing table permits but I am considering a slight upgrade so that I can get to 9 hexes wide. Funnily enough 13 x 9 is a good size for naval games using my system and all of my recent actions have been fought using that size without difficulty.

It is an encouraging start though!

All the best,


okm3rd said...

I respectfully point out that a nautical mile is 2025 yards. A knot is a unit of speed, not distance, and it is one nautical mile per hour.

David Crook said...

Hi Okm3rd,

I dropped the odd 25 yards for ease of calculation. A ship traveling at 24 knots an hour will cover 24 x 2,000 yards or 48,000 yards where 1,000 yards equal an inch. With a hex being 4" across or two nautical miles this means that 48,000 yards or 24 nautical miles can be represented by 12 hexes where a hex is 4,000 yards. In an hour then the ship would cover 12 hexes or, when split into 10 minute moves, 60 minutes divided by 10 equals 6 moves or 2 hexes a move.

Have I missed something? Please put me out of my misery if I have!

All the best,