The Sultan discussed the situation with his naval advisors and so it was decided, under extreme secrecy (and also very reluctantly), to recall from the Eastern Middle Sea the two armoured cruisers Abdul Hamid and Abdul Mejid; together with the two protected cruisers, Assar-i-Shevket and Nijim-i-Shevket in order to cover the coastal area previously assigned to the Abdul Aziz.
This was a bold stroke, especially as the Epirian raiders had yet to be apprehended, but the Sultan was counting on the element of surprise. Rusland would not be expecting to encounter these ships and whilst the Abdul Hamid and Mejid were not as powerful as the Abdul Aziz they were still far better than any of the cruisers that the enemy possessed.
The four ships of the Fezian squadron entered the area of the Zonguldak Bight during the hours of darkness so as to be on station when the Rusland cruisers arrived. The plan was a simple one. The two protected cruisers were to be the bait and as the Rusland ships moved in to tackle their hapless opponents the Abdul Hamid and Abdul Mejid would appear from their stern. It was a gamble and although the Sultan's naval advisors were not entirely convinced it was a good idea, bowed to the inevitable pressure from above (the Sultan could be very persuasive when he had to be - especially when supported by the Teutonian naval attache whose opinion he valued highly) and so the orders were given.
Meanwhile, Admiral Saltykov aboard his flagship, the Admiral Kornilov, was completely unaware of this latest Fezian development. The three ships under his command (the turrets on the fourth ship of the squadron, the Muravev Amurski, were still giving trouble and so she remained in port - much to the barely concealed annoyance of her captain) had been at sea for three days this time out and thus far had not encountered so much as a fishing boat. He had decided that he would push on for one more day and would then head for home. This would be as far as he dare go as this would take him a lot closer to the main Fezian submarine base at Bartin.
The two small Fezian cruisers, Assar-i-Shevket and Nijim-i-Shevket spent an uneasy night preparing for the day ahead. Their role as bait was not an enviable one and none of the officers or men were under any illusions about their fate should the two supporting armoured cruisers fail to make their rendezvous. Their ships were both lightly armed and armoured and they could match the Rusland cruisers in but one respect - their speed was the same. Their combined total of twenty 4.1" guns would be of little use against the armoured Rusland cruisers and so any thoughts of a holding firefight would be doomed to failure. The only hope they had for delaying the inevitable was to attempt to disperse the Rusland formation, causing them to split their fire between the two targets. Trading broadsides would not be an option and so both captains resolved to manouvere aggressively and try and buy time for the heavy support to arrive.
On a day of gambles this would be the biggest gamble of all.
The only change to the rules from the previous action is that I have reverted to Bob Cordery's original Portable Naval Wargame system whereby turning a hexside costs a movement point. The arrival of the two Fezian armoured cuisers was determined by a dice roll. Starting on game turn 2 the Fezian commander needed to roll under the number of the current turn in order for the two ships to appear so that on turn 2 a 1 was needed, turn 3 a 1 or 2 etc.
Abdul Hamid and Abdul Mejid - Armoued cruiser, Medium Armour, Speed 3, Flotation Points 13 (Critical 4), 4 x Medium Gun Dice (3 on a Broadside), 3 x Light Gun Dice (2 on a Broadside), 9 x Light-1 Gun Dice (5 on a Broadside).
Assar-i-Shevket and Nijim-i-Shevket - Protected cruiser, Light Armour, Speed 3, Flotation Points 6 (Critical 2), 5 x Light-1 Gun Dice (3 on a Broadside).
Admiral Kornilov, Admiral Nevelskoi and Admiral Butakov - Armoured cruiser, Medium Armour, Speed 3, Flotation Points 10 (Critical 3), 2 x Medium Gun Dice, 7 x Light Gun Dice (4 on a Broadside), 5 x Light-1 Gun Dice (3 on a Broadside).
Somewhere in the Fezian Sea, off the coast nearing Bartin....