Tuesday 24 November 2020

Madasahatta: The Naval Dimension

A superb set of rules with a neat campaign system for refighting the naval battles on Lake Tanganyika during WW1.

The first supplement extends the coverage into Europe

 Before the next instalment of the adventures and misadventures of the island of Madasahatta I thought it would be a good idea to outline my thinking in respect of the naval dimension. When the campaign itself was fought, way back in the late 1970’s, the models were 1:1200th and the rules of choice were Fletcher Pratt. The number of models used was small although representative of everything from dreadnought battleships down. Using the models on a tabletop worked well as the number of models in use was very small. In many ways it worked rather too well which led us into the following South East Asia naval campaign which, although enormous fun to fight, really stretched the rules beyond that which was practical as they did not handle fleet level actions particularly well - typically there were too many models in too small an area.

Some of the naval actions are recounted in Bob Cordery’s Madasahatta book and suffice it to say that although they were enormous fun they were all low level affairs with few models in evidence.

So what of Madasahatta before the events of the famous 1914 campaign?

To me this falls squarely into the realm of Colonial cruisers, gunboats and the odd old ironclad or obsolete battleship. Small, purpose built patrol vessels or extemporised warships from whatever was to hand would be the order of the day, perhaps with the occasional flag showing visit from a modern warship. This is pretty much how I am going to play this. Needless to say the ‘real world’ naval situation can be replicated in a small way so the British would be the dominant force although from a quality perspective perhaps not quite premier league status. They would have the numbers and the prestige. Old and second class cruisers, gunboats and the odd old battleship as the flag would be about right.

The Germans would have a very modern and efficient but small force. Anything large that would impress the locals, regardless of any tactical value, would be used to fly the flag - typically an old cruiser or similar. With Teutonic thoroughness they would also have earmarked vessels for conversion into armed merchant cruisers should the need arise. They also possess a number of torpedo boats.

The French are limited in what assets they can deploy mainly as they do not have an official treaty in place allowing them to bring in warships. Having said that, they have a number of small craft for patrol and escort duties and a couple of purpose built but old gunboats. 

The Arab concession maintains a small navy but this is chronically underfunded, undermanned and, if the Germans had their way, under their control. It is made up of a mixture of vessels including two ironclads currently rusting away at Port Maleesh and a number of smaller craft. As a force it is of negligible fighting value although the Germans have offered to take it in hand to bring it up to date - something the British naval attaché has taken a dim view of.

Gaming Implications

This will not be a campaign of great squadrons of dreadnoughts fighting it out. It will be low level stuff with the odd cruiser fight in extremis - remember that technically there is not a war on as such. All sides are not above using small craft to patrol and police their interests and the incidence of ‘mistaken identities’ to justify opening fire is quite high. As long as no one side gains the upper hand then the status quo is maintained and such ‘incidents’ are politely dismissed. All are aware of the dangers of escalation though so keeping a lid on things works to the advantage of everyone for the time being.

David Manley’s collection for Lake Tanganyika - this lot could readily be transported to the River Ogopogo on Madasahatta!

Given the scale of actions I envisage fighting and the type of craft typically being used my first thoughts went to David Manley’s excellent set of rules: Steamer Wars and the River Wars supplement. These are designed for low level fights in rivers and lakes and by extension I reckon that inshore would work just as well. When the bigger stuff comes out then I would look to use another set - probably something from the Gridded Naval Wargame although I will think about that as and when it happens.

In the meantime though, I have the last of the current batch of ACW ships to finish building and then it will be on to Madasahatta for some shipbuilding.


Maudlin Jack Tar said...

Are David Manley's rules still available for purchase? His ships certainly look like the right stuff for a colonial campaign!

David Crook said...

Hello there Maudlin Jack Tar,

His rules certainly are available - check out the Wargames Vault where you can find these and all his other naval rules. His models for the Lake Tanganyika expedition are really nice and you can get some of them from Tumbling Dice in 1:600th. The models you see though mostly came from New Zealand I believe.

All the best,


Steve J. said...

These rules sound interesting and will be keen to see how they play out. My tentative forays into naval gaming will fall into lake and river actions for my Imagi-Nations games, so these might be just the ticket.

David Crook said...

Hello there Steve J,

Both these sets are ideal for those sort of actions and as far as models go there is a pretty good selection of stuff available and for the most part scratch building is easy. I plan on c opulent of dozen models for Madasahatta - once again ‘based upon’ rather than historically accurate.

The campaign system in Steamer Wars is especially helpful.

All the best,