This is a long running and continuing journey around a collection of ideas, projects, games, models and a variety of wargaming related themes from my own imagination and from others. As I have been described as having the attention span of a forgetful goldfish you can rest assured the resulting subject matter will be diverse and (usually) entertaining! "He lived in a frenzy of enthusiasm — but nothing
lasted for long with him".
Tuesday, 30 May 2023
Beneath the Claws of the Eagle….Game Number 75, Part 3
Slowly H.M.S. Superb approaches the entrance to the harbour of Navarone. A picture of nautical innocence but for how long?
The view from the Turkish Fortress.
As H.M.S Superb entered the harbour mouth, Captain Hornblower was already thinking about how he would be able to get his ship away after his audacious attack. His approach would be straightforward but engaging the furthest Turkish ship may be problematic as he would already be needing to make his turn to exit the narrow confines of the harbour by then. He would defer that decision until the last possible moment. Everything was ready - it would take time and infinite precision but, he felt sure his plan could work.
Turn 1. No firing and no need to roll for initiative as the Turks are unable to react until after H.M.S. Superb has opened fire. She makes her best speed - much to the surprise of the commander of the Turkish fortress - Mustafa Popoathim - although he reasoned that given the size of the ship she would need the widest possible amount of ‘sea room’ to enter the harbour. Little did he know….
End of Turn 1. H.M.S. Superb turns in the mouth of the harbour in readiness for her attack run. Still the Turks have little idea as to what is about to befall them….
Turn 2. No firing and the initiative is still very much with the Royal Navy. Captain Hornblower immediately ordered a reduction in speed - all perfectly natural when entering a harbour - and by virtue of some adroit manoeuvring had positioned the ship off the stern of not one but two Turkish ironclads. Inwardly he cursed at the speed he had entered the harbour - a knot or two slower would have given him more lead time to engage the enemy but, with the fortress now ranged across his stern speed was now essential.
End of Turn 2. A sight that would gladden the eye of any Captain during the age of sail - targets anchored and with their sterns ripe for the raking! The Turkish flag aboard H.M.S. Superb continued to flutter gallantly in the early morning breeze….
Captain Hornblower, his eyes never leaving the tempting stern of the first Turkish ironclad, waited until the last possible moment until, with a mental swallow he gave the order. “Raise our flag Mr Shrub and open fire as your guns bear!” No sooner had he uttered the words than the first shots crashed out from the great bulk of the English warship….
Mustafa Popathim stared aghast at this incredible turn of events. At once he gave riders to the garrison to make ready to engage this English interloper.
Turn 3. H.M.S.Superb opened fire with a full broadside into the stern of the leading Turkish ironclad - in this case the Avnillah. Her gunnery is 4/4 meaning that she rolls 4D6 each with a penetration factor of plus 4. The armour of the Turkish ship is rated as 6 - she is a modern ironclad - but as the fire is coming in her stern this is reduced by 2 meaning 4 overall. Due to the range the guns of H.M.S. Superb add plus 1 to hit. The rolls are a 6, a 5, a 3 and a 1. The 1 is discarded as an automatic miss (the rule of 1 and 6) and the 6 generates a further roll which also comes up as 6! Sadly this is followed by a miserable 1 but it means that there are two natural 6s that mean four potential damage rolls, a 5 that goes to a 6 due to the range which means a further two damage rolls and a 3 that goes to a 4 meaning that there are SEVEN damage rolls to make! These are all at evens as the penetration factor of the guns from H.M.S. Superb are rated 4 and the armour of the Turkish ship is reduced from 6 to 4. The 7D6 come up with two 6s, a 5, a 4, a 3, a 2 and a 1. The two 6s result in an extra roll at the same odds and come up with a pair of 5s. That is an incredible 8 points of damage inflicted on the Turkish ship which means that her critical point has been reached. the obligatory critical hit role comes up with a 5 which is a flood. As this generates an automatic point of damage, making 9 in total, the Turkish ship slowly sinks and settles, ignominiously, at her moorings!
End of Turn 3. With a truly shattering broadside the first Turkish ship literally disappears under an avalanche of heavy calibre shells (the white counters represent the bubbling resting place of the hapless Turkish ship). A ragged cheer goes up from the crew of H.M.S. Superb but her captain knows that retribution will be following - and swiftly!
I should have mentioned this earlier but under the rules of the scenario the Turks are unable to fire until the game turn after the Royal Navy does. The ships at anchor do not have cold boilers but they will not be able to move other than to pivot. To reflect the shock of the Royal Navy appearance the Turkish ships may only fire or pivot after rolling a D6 equal to or less than the current game turn - this is in the first phase of the turn.
Turn 4. The only firing comes from the fort as the forward batteries of H.M.S. Superb are out of effective range of the next enemy ship - they could hit it but would not be able to cause any damage at that range. The fort rolls 1D6 with a plus 1 because it is a fort firing. The roll is a 5 going to 6 so there are two potential damage rolls. The armour of H.M.S. Superb is a 6 but she is being assaulted from her stern so this gets a minus 2 making 4 in all. The dice modifiers are even. The scores are a 5 and 4 so the ship suffers two damage points from her total of 12. There is no initiative roll so H.M.S. Superb moves.
“Mr Shrub I want to lose some way so one quarter speed please!” Captain Hornblower, his thoughts always one step ahead, was looking at the next Turkish ship and a way out - the fort was now active and he knew that once they had the range measured it would require some deft manoeuvring to get away. He had little time to think about this though as his ship slowed as she drew level with the stern of the second Turkish ironclad. “Fire as your guns bear men!” The shout was eagerly taken up by the crew despite the ominous series of bangs and thuds as heavy calibre artillery found the stern of H.M.S. Superb. “A damage report if you please Mr Shrub, it appears the enemy now knows who we are!” Mr Shrub hurried aft to see the extent of the damage.
Meanwhile, the gunners of the Turkish fortress, seeing the first of their shots striking home on the enemy ship prepared to administer more of the same. H.M.S. Superb would be caught like a rat in a barrel….
End of Turn 4. Despite the damage sustained from the Turkish fort Captain Hornblower has positioned his ship off the stern of the second Turkish ironclad - the Muin-i- Zaffir.
The view from the fort - Mustafa Popathim, seething at the deception and humiliation visited on him, urges his gun crews to aim true at the enemy warship.
Turn 5. The fort opens fire once again with 1D6 with modifiers of plus 2 - one for the fact that it is a fort firing and two because the target is a large ship - something overlooked by the gunners in their initial salvo. The remaining Turkish ships, after the loss of the Avnillah, are suddenly galvanised into the action - at least as far as they are able. The fort rolls a 4 which, with the plus 2 means that there are two potential hits to roll for at evens. The rolls are a positively miserable 1 and a 2. H.M.S. Superb opens fire - 4D6, each at plus 2 (plus 1 for range and plus 1 for the the fact that the target is at anchor) - giving a 6, two 5s and a 3. The 6 is an automatic reroll which come up a 2 so with a plus 2 means a further potential damage roll (which with the 6 means three already). The two 5s each go to 7 so with the 6 which goes to 8 (plus the 2 going to 4) means we are looking at 7 potential damage rolls BUT as ther are scores over 6 - two 7s and an 8 - there are three more rolls to make, The sevens require a 1 and the eight a 2 - and only one of the 7s rolls a 1 so there is further potential damage point meaning 8 rolls in all. The scores are a 6, a 5, two 4s, a 3 and three 1s. That is 5 damage points before the reroll of the 6 - which comes up with a further 6 and then a 5 - an extra 3 damage points meaning 8 in total. The critical roll is a 5 which is a flood and an automatic damage point. Like her sister ship the Muin-i-Zaffir slowly slips beneath the waves! Two enemy ships engaged and two sunk!
End of Turn 5. With the element of surprise H.M.S. Superb continues to wreak havoc amongst the anchored Turkish ships. Her devastating broadsides have so far accounted for two of the enemy ships but - how long can the luck of her captain last?
As the second Turkish ship slipped beneath the waves Captain Hornblower, oblivious to the cheers f his men, considered his next move. The ship had been ranged in by the enemy fort and he assumed that only his sudden reduction in speed has caused their aim to be awry judging by the forest of shell splashes that had dosed the ship forward. In an instant he made his decision. “Mr Shrub, have the forward batteries on standby as we will engage the next ship head on!” Mr Shrub hurried forward, urging the gun crews as he did.
Turn 6. Once again Mustafa Popathim urged his gunners to wreak the Sultan’s vengeance upon his enemies (forgetting that the Royal Navy were actually doing the Sultan a service by taking out these rebels) and so the guns spoke once again. 1D6 at plus 2 comes up with a 4 making 6 so two potential damage rolls. These come up as a pair of miserable 2 for no effect. H.M.S Superb opens fire at the next Turkish ship in line with her forward battery as she prepares to cut across the stern of the enemy ship. These are rated as 2/3 so 2D6 are rolled at a range of one hex. A double 6! This means that the scores are a pair of 8s so that means a pair of additional rolls for the two 6s and then a pair of rolls for the scores of 8 requiring a roll of 1 or 2 for another potential damage roll. The two 6s come up with a 5 and 3 so there are a 7 and a 5. The two “over 6” rolls are are a a 4 and a 5 so are of no effect. Taking all this into effect we have 4 damage rolls for the pair of 6s, 2 damage rolls for the 7 and 1 for the 5 or 7 in total. The rolls come up with a pair of 6s, a 5, two 4s, a 3 and a 1. This is 7 points of damage in total but the pair of 6s generate a further pair of rolls - these come up with a 1 and a 3 so although being severely damaged the Turkish ship - the Feth-i-Bulend is still afloat.
Despite the blistering salvo H.M.S. Superb was able to pour into the Turkish ship Captain Hornblower knew that the time had come to beat a hasty retreat. He could see the remaining Turkish ships making ready for action and the enemy fort was starting to get the range to his ship and so, mindful of the damage they could cause, decided that discretion would be the better part of valour and so ordered the helm hard over to starboard so as to withdraw.
As the great ship ponderously leaned into her starboard turn, H.M.S. Superb crossed the stern of the next Turkish ironclad the Feth-i-Bulend, unaware that, although she had been badly damaged, she still had her teeth and was about to use them.
End of Turn 6. Despite being battered into a nearly sinking condition, with steam and smoke billowing from every hatch, door or porthole, the Feth-i-Bulend was still afloat and ready to fight. Meanwhile, H.M.S. Superb prepared to beat a hasty retreat.
Turn 7. The fort resumed firing at maximum range meaning a single D6 with a plus 2 (one for the fort and one for the target being a large ship. the roll was a 3 modified to a 5 meaning one potential damage roll. This was a 4 so a further point of damage was scored on the Royal Naval battleship. The Feth-i-Bulend opened fire at a range of one but with only 1D6 due to the arc. This was at plus 2 (the target being adjacent and a large ship) and the roll of a 6 was most welcome! The additional roll for the natural 6 was a 4 which moves to a 6. The natural 6 plus the two making 8 meant that a further roll of 1or 2 would result in a further damage roll. A 1 was scored! This meant that the number of damage rolls was as follows: two for the original roll of 6, one for the ‘plus 2 over 6 roll of 1’ and finally the additional roll of 4 which moved to 6 meant that a further two damage rolls or five in total. All of these would be at minus two overall as the target being adjacent (and therefore minus 1) despite the penetration of 3 against the armour of 6 ordinarily being a minus 3. Two 6s, two 4s and a 3 were rolled - meaning a further two points of damage - 6 minus 2 equals 4 for a two points of damage - the 4s and 3s being discounted. Considering the battering the Turkish ship had received this was outstanding gunnery.
Captain Hornblower decided that his ship had done enough and now looked to secure the best possible route to the open sea. “Mr Shrub, full steam if you please and have the crew make ready to salute the fort as we go past!” The first lieutenant saluted and hurried away to ensure that the Captain’s orders were executed in a timely fashion. “Starboard your helm and a keg of rum to the crew that takes down that Turkish flag! A ragged cheer forum the gun deck followed as the great ship continued to heel into the turn.
End of Turn 7. After putting her helm hard to starboard H.M.S. Superb made ready to run the gauntlet passed the Turkish fort into the open sea and safety.
“Mr Shrub, a damage report if you please”, asked the Captain, his eyes never moving from the fort and its heavy artillery. Mr Shrub gave the only reply he knew his captain would want to hear. “Engines and pressure fine, artillery all in order and the crew ready to comply!”. Captain Hornblower allowed himself the smallest of grins but caught himself before his officer noticed. “Harrumph” he spluttered. “Thank you Mr Shrub”. The great ship moved steadily forwards.
Mustaf Popathim had seen the carnage the English ship had caused and knew that unless he was able to rectify the situation he would likely find himself in sack dumped in the Bosphorus. He ordered his gunners to once again intensify their fire against the rapidly approaching bulk of the enemy ship.
Turn 8. The fort continues to fire at H.M.S.Superb. 1D6 at plus 2 to hit and rolls a 4 making an adjusted 6 to two potential damage rolls. These are both at minus 2 and the rolls are a 1 and 6! The 6 means a further roll which is a 5 and so not enough but the two points of damage continue to eat away at the British ship. There is no return fire. H.M.S. Superb positions herself to run the gauntlet past the fort via the main channel.
End of Turn 8. Whilst the Turkish ironclad at anchor continues to belch great gouts of steam H.M.S. Superb prepares to run the gauntlet to the open sea and safety.
“Full steam ahead, Mr Shrub if you please, make ready to fire on the fort when we pass!” The great ship, steam and smoke issuing from her torn hull, open hatches and gunports and with her decks seemingly a mass of tangled and superfluous rigging but still coming along at close to her top speed, presented an awesome spectacle - a sight that moved Mustafa Popathim to exclaim “The English ship is dead but doesn’t know it - no wonder these English rule the waves, their hearts of oak are now hearts of iron!” He shook his head sadly and give the order to his gunners to intensify their fire. The claws of the eagle would tighten around the throat of the English ship.
Turn 9. The fort continues to rain fire on the luckless English ship. As the range reduces so the number of D6 creep up - it is now 2D6, each at plus 2. A 6 and a 5! The natural 6 extra roll is a 5. The original 6 and 5 go to 8 and 7 so there are two chances of potential additional damage rolls - the scores of 4 and 6 are too high, a 1 and 2 being required. There are four potential damage rolls each at minus two. A 6, a pair of 4s and a 3 result in a single natural 6 roll scoring a magnificent 6 for a further point of damage. H.M.S. Superb has sustained two points of damage in all, making 9 in total. She does not fire back but continues to steam as hard as she is able for the open channel.
End of Turn 9. Battered, but with her steaming ability unimpaired, H.M.S. Superb makes the deep water channel en route to the open sea and safety - has she done enough to escape after her audacious raid?
“Mr Shrub, damage report if you please” Captain Hornblower knew that his ship had been sorely tested as shot after shot had battered his hull but so far her engines were still running and he offered up a silent prayer of thanks to the stokers for their efforts in maintaining the ship’s speed. Mr Shrub, minus his hat, his face and uniform streaked with soot and his right arm sporting a bloody looking bandage made his report, knowing through experience of his captain what he would want to know first. “Engines and steering fine but not sure how long this speed can be maintained due to casualties and damage to bunkers. Enough crew available to man half a broadside should you wish as crew told off on damage control duties. Overall sir, there is nothing major but there is a lot of minor damage that needs attention”. The Captain pondered this for a moment. “Very good Mr Shrub, please have Mt Etienne report to me and then go below to the surgeon to have that wound tended.” Mr Shrub knew better than to argue and so left the captain to find the second lieutenant.
Hornblower knew that the ship needed to be out of range of the fort as soon as possible because she could not carry on indefinitely under this weight of fire. It would be a race to clear the channel before her damage took its toll.
Turn 10. The fort continued to fire at the English ship. The range is 2 so 2D6 are rolled with plus 2 to each - 1 for the fort and 1 for the larger target. A 3 and a 5 come up which are adjusted to a 5 and a 7 meaning three potential damage rolls and a 1 in 6 chance of a further roll.This comes up at 4 which is too high, a 1 being required. The damage rolls are at minus 2 being the difference between the fort penetration factor (4) and the target armour (6). The three damage rolls are as follows: 6, 5, and 3. Only the 6 counts for a single damage point but there will be a further roll. This comes up as a 6 for a single damage point as this is rolled at the same modifier as for the original damage roll. As there were three original damage rolls the maximum number of natural 6 rerolls is limited to three so the second 6 can be rolled again - fortunately for the English ship the score is a mediocre 3 so no effect.
H.M.S. Superb has sustained a further two points of damage making 11 in total which is her critical point. She rolls for the obligatory critical hit and scores a 5 - a flood! She takes an immediate pint f damage which is sufficient for her to reach her damage point total and so she begins to sink - right in the middle of the main channel! The roll for the number of tuns to sink comes up with a 4 meaning that she skips beneath the waves after four turns.
End of Turn 10. With her hull riven through and her pumps unable to manage the sudden influx of tons of boiling, foaming seawater, H.M.S. Superb begins her final journey - to the bottom of the main channel leading into the harbour of Navarone.
Captain Hornblower, the wreck of his ship around him, needed no one to tell him that H.M.S. Superb was doomed. The instant the ship shuddered violently under the impact of heavy shell hits and the telltale lessening of speed as the way fell off of her told him all he needed to know. All that remained now was the safety of his officers and men. The main deck was a confused jumble of tangled rigging, splintered wood and twisted, scorched metal. “Mr Etienne, order the crew to abandon ship but send a gun crew to me at the double!” Mr Etienne picked his way through the shambles of what had one been the main deck.
The ponderous bulk of H.M.S. Superb wallowed as she settled but Captain Hornblower wanted to make sure that his ship could still be a thorn in the side of the enemy. It was essential that the ship could not be salvaged - especially her machinery and artillery - so he ordered a gun to run inboard and fired at maximum depression through the ships engine space and underside. He quickly outlined his plan to the assembled gun crew. “Quickly now, raise her up as far as we can - used blocks or anything if you have to!” The crew bustled, heaved and cursed as the huge gun barrel was gradually tilted towards the main deck. “Ok men, over the side, quick as you can” Captain Hornblower made sure that the men were over the side and without pause fired the gun. The effect was immediate and dramatic. A cavernous hole appeared in the main deck followed by a great gout of steam. The gun, recoiled and ran completely off her track to finish laying on its side pointing, almost accusingly at Hornblower himself. Then, almost lazily, it rolled off the deck, over the side and into the water, disappearing instantly. The captain took a final look around and, despite the loss of his ship, felt sure that he had done the right thing and that when the rest of the squadron arrived it would be mission accomplished. Without further ado, Captain Hornblower of H.M.S. Superb, climbed over the grab rails and jumped into the sea and an uncertain future.
Mustafa Popathim saw the great ship slew to a halt and settle by the bow along with the ant-like scurrying of the crew as they jumped for safety. He ordered the gun crews to cease firing and the troops of the garrison to head to the shore to pick up survivors. Although he had successfully stopped the English ship it was at a grievous cost - a cost that he may yet to pay with his life.
OK, cheesy I know and on the face of it quite contrived but never let that get in the way of a great game -and this was just that! I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and all that was missing was a good soundtrack to accompany the action. Having said that there are a few elements of the rules that with hindsight could be tweaked ever so slightly. There is a danger in doing that - think of Maverick in the Darkstar when it hits Mach 10 - so I shall ponder these points further. Not changes as such, just a better understanding of what works and how.
Although it was freakish luck that saw three ships reach their critical point and then all roll the same critical hit - number 5 which is a flood - I have no issue with that. I am of the opinion that should a flood occurs then there will be an instant impact on the ship so allowing an automatic damage point feels about right. Think of it as being the straw that broke the camel’s back!
My plans to expand the Royal Navy and the Turkish fleets have moved up the project list so the prospect of an 1879 war between the two makes for an interesting prospect.
All in all then, it was a really enjoyable way to spend some time over a few days.