Thursday 21 May 2009

"Some Damned Affair in the Balkans....."

Last night I played a game of DBSA (non -gridded) at a friends abode as he was keen to try out the rules away from the usual cut and thrust of a club night. This I was happy to do as a more efficient playtest usually results as the distraction of other games in progress, somebodys newest acquisition or, in the case of my club (SEEMS - South East Essex Military Society), the bar and any televised Football matches!

The game was loosely based on the Battle of Lemnos in 1913 between the Turks and the Greeks and I will try to describe how the action developed and touch upon any points it raised. Sadly I did not think to take any photos so a degree of imagination will be required by the reader. The game served as a very useful testing ground for some ideas I have been messing around with; more of which later.

The Battle of Mythos, January 26th 1913

Somewhere in the Aegean..................

Greece - Georgios Averoff (1st class cruiser), Hydra, Psara and Spetsai (Battleships - obsolete), 3 x bases of TBD each of two models - Aetos + Ierax, Panther + Leon, Keravnos + Nea Genea)

These were deployed in three columns comprising the Averoff and the three battleships (in the order listed above) as the centre column heading south east with the Aetos and Panther (I will list multiple bases by the lead ship name only) on the Averoff's starboard side and the Keravnos on the port. The Averoff was designated the flagship under the command of the redoubtable rear Admiral Kountouriotis (aka Chris Hardman).

Turkey - Messudiye (Battleship - obsolete), Hayreddin Barbarossa and Torgud Reis (Battleships), Assar-i Tewfik (Battleship - obsolete) comprised the centre column in the order listed and heading north west. The Hayreddin Barbarossa was the flagship and deployed on her port beam were two bases of TBs (obsolete TBDS) of the Akhisar class and a base of the Samsun class TBDs. These were called as follows: Akhisar + Alpagot, Antalya + Urfa - Akhisar class and Samsun + Yarhisar of the Samsun class. The squadron was under the command of Cpt. Ramiz Bey (your humble scribe).

The first couple of moves saw the opposing battlelines heading hellf or leather towards each other at pretty much best speed. The sole exception to ths was the Averoff who maintained the speed of the rest of the squadron. Those French built old battleships were hard pressed to make 15 knots so the Averoff was fairly champing at the bit to get at the Turks. Both sides TBDs and TBs easily outdistanced their ponderous battlelines and the Greek ships swung due South to head off the enemy whilst their Turkish opposite numbers heading due North. In both cases the battlelines lumbered ponderously onwards after their faster companions. The biggest difference in the two manouvers was that the two starboard column Greek TBDs (Aetos and Panther) swung across the rear of their battleline to link up with the other TBD base (Keravnos). this had the effect of leaving them deployed as a screen on the port side of the battle squadron towards the rear of the column. The Turks meanwhile had a similar plan in mind and so the TBs (Akhisar and Antalya) swung across the front of the lead Turkish battleship (no doubt to much fist shaking and remonstrances at this reckless manouver) to link up with the Samsun to the starboard of the battleline.

Whilst the TBDs were thus engaged the Greek battleline turned due south whilst the Turks, in some apparent confusion turned first to the North and then swung back to the north west and then to the west. The sea room needed for this hesitation and indecision (rumours that Cpt.Ramiz Bey was compiling the opening chapter of his memoirs were later proven to be unfounded....) on the Turkish part enabled the Greeks to move in good order into a position whereby they could inflict considerable damage on the enemy.

As the two fleets closed to gun range the situation was that the Turkish battleline was heading due west whilst the Greeks were heading south. the Greeks had all their TBDs lined up facing in the same direction with the lead ship parallel with the third ship in the line, the Psara. By commencing the turn much sooner than the Turks the Greek admiral was in the enviable position to be able to imminently cross the enemy 'T'. The situation began to look bleak for the Sublime Porte.

The Greeks opened fire first with the three battleships engaging the Turkish TBs. After a lively exchange the TBs were both left damaged and crippled and only by dint of a last gasp effort did the Akhisar manage to torpedo one of the Greek escorting TBDs (Kervanos) and immediately send her to the bottom. Battered and smoking heavily, the two bases limped from the action heading north. The Samsun had also suffered some minor damage as the sea boiled under the rain of shells from the three elderly battleships. The Averoff then commenced firing on the lead Turkish Battleship, the Messudiye, and almost immediately scored a damaging hit.

The next move saw the disjointed Turkish line trying to regain some composure after its series of snake-like turns trying to get on the inside of the Greeks. At this point the Turks had the Messudiye facing south, the Hayreddin Barbarossa and Torgud Reis south west and the Assar-i Tewfik facing west. The sole remaining Turkish TBD was lurking off the rear of the Spetsai whilst maintaining a respectful distance (plus the fact it was facing in the opposite direction).

The two Greek TBD bases then charged at full speed across the head of the Turkish battleline to deliver a point blank torpedo attack. The tactical position was absolutely ideal and things looked bleak indeed for the Turks but the attack, when it came, was woefully ineffective with not a single hit being scored. The TBDs however, would pay for their temerity and were subjected to a withering fire from every gun that could bear from the Turkish battleships. Both bases were heavily damaged (crippled in fact) and could only limp away slowly from the scene of their magnificent, but futile gesture.

With the smaller ships effectively hors de combat the stage was now cleared for a clash of the battlelines. The two forces were converging on a line similar to a letter V tilted to the right so that the lefthand line was vertical. The shooting was fierce and in the confusion of the action it was difficult to report on a blow by blow basis. Suffice it to say, after Dame Fortune had proven once again to be a fickle mistress, the Averoff and one of the Greek battleships had been crippled (mention must be made of the superb shooting of the gallant Messudiye - despite the attentions of her much more modern and efficient opponent was more than able to hold her own) whilst the other two had varying degrees of damage. For the Turks the Messudiye was heavily damaged whilst the Assar-i Tewfik at the rear of the line was one hit away from sinking - such was the rough handling she received from not one but two of the Greek battleships. During this pounding the Turkish TBD had tried to alleviate her distress by launching a torpedo attack against the Spetsai but sadly to no avail. The Hayreddin Barbarossa was damaged but her sister ship the Torgud Reis had nary a scratch.

At this point both forces decided that discretion was the better part of valour and both disengaged their battered forces to return to their respective home ports; each doubtless claiming a dramatic victory.

Tactically the Greek commander admitted afterwards (doubtless at the court of enquiry after the true facts of the action became known) that he should have concentrated his efforts on the weaker Turkish ships rather than spreading the fire along the Turkish line. Obsolete battleships will always struggle against more modern versions and had the two Turkish ships -Messudiye and Assar-i Tewfik been overwhelmed early on then the remaining two Turkish ships would have been engaged by three battleships and the Averoff. The TBDs could also have been used more effectively (this applied to both sides) as charging in against undamaged opposition is tempting fate - especially when it is across the front on an entire line of battleships.

At this point the Turkish commander refrained from commenting as his handling of the fleet was hardly inspiring. The two best Turkish ships saw little of the action until late on and he also allowed his screening TBDs to go off on a potentially suicidal charge against the Greek battleline thereby exposing his own battleline to an unopposed similar attack. The subsequent sinking of a destroyer would have been deemed a poor return in exchange for a battleship or even two.

The action was enormous fun and served to confirm that from my own perspective that a gridded version of the rules for 1/3000th models would be preferable. As the models are so small (even allowing for the bases I use) measuring ranges and distances and turn angles is fiddly so a grid it will be. We also felt that some morale or training rules need to be introduced as towards the end of the game it felt very much like a pair of punch drunk fighters trading ineffective blows seeing who would collapse first. Much to ponder methinks, but that will be for another day.

Mythos by the way, is a very nice Greek Lager.........;-)


Robert (Bob) Cordery said...

What a great battle report! I could see the action in my mind's eye as I read what you had written.

I agree about the use of a grid making measurement much easier - well I would, wouldn't I! - and hope to give your gridded version of DBSA a try-out sometime soon (work and other influences permitting).

Keep up the good work,


David Crook said...

Many thanks Bob. I must confess that I was roundly cursing the fact that I had not taken my camera but I shall ensure that does not happen again! It was fun but a grid will resolve many issues!