Saturday, December 27, 2014

DANG 2014 - Cogs of War

The DANG (Dave’s Annual Naval Game) 2014 game was Cogs of War: The Hundred Years War at Sea. While sounds big, the mini-campaign really only covered actions in the English Channel in the summer of 1340. Historically, the French had spent the last two years conducting raids on English cities and disrupting trade. At the end of the previous fighting season the English had repelled the French raids and stabilized the situation. This set the stage for a new set of battles in 1340 and would lead to the decisive Battle of Sluys. Our game would see if the English could recreate a historical win.

Everyone began arriving at my place around 9:00 AM and we spent the next hour catching up on things, talking about the projects we are all working on and planning, and munching on some breakfast snacks.

After a short review of all the rules (we used David Manley's unpublished Medieval naval rules, which include fleet level rules, tactical rules, and the campaign rules), we split up sides for the game, with Scott, Dale, Mark and George playing the French and David S., Kevin, Arthur, and Dave C. playing the English. Each side then took some time to review the positions of their fleets and plan out their strategy. The campaign could be a maximum of 30 turns, with each turn representing approximately 3 days, and we would start rolling at turn 25 to see if the game ended early. With everything ready to go, I set up the campaign map and scoreboard.
Here is a better view of the map
Both sides started off by sending raiding forces across the channel. The English also caught a French force at Le Crotoy, but the French we able to win the initiative and avoid battle.
French ships from the first non-battle
Raiding continued for the next couple of turns, with the English scoring more points than the French, and almost catching the small French force (once again the English could not win the initiative to force a battle).
English ships unable to catch the French
On turn four the French moved a large force to combine with the smaller one that had been avoiding the English and charged to attack. Once again, the English failed to win the initiative and were forced into battle against the larger French force.
English setting up their ships
We set up the battle, but before starting the tactical battle we took a break for some food.
Potato boats
As you can see, we had some appropriately themed potato boat snacks. To paraphrase a famous naval quote: "We have met the enemy and they were delicious." There was some talk about using the potato boats for gaming, but we decided to eat them instead. Although that would bring a new meaning to the term “Food Fight.”

After the break it was on to the battle. The English had one crippled stand (from a semi-successful raid) and were hoping to do a little damage to the French and then break-off the battle. The French were just hoping the English wouldn’t just run away. The French set up to try to catch the English right, with a force of galleys leading the charge.
French forces on the move
French galleys closing in
The English sent a couple medium cogs were sent to take on the galleys and were able to cripple one with missile fire.
Cogs sent to take on the galleys
But the galleys were still able to close with the cogs and sink one. Note the missing cog below.
Galleys take out one cog
Over on the other side of the battle, the English decided to abandon their crippled cog to fate, hoping it would slow down the oncoming French.
Crippled cog being left behind
But there wasn’t really much it could do by itself and it was quickly dispatched.
The crippled cog being run down
Back on the right, a French squadron of small cogs was closing on the main English squadron and King Edward ordered a couple medium cogs to take them on. One of the French galleys moved to help out the small cogs, while the other two galleys attacked another cog.
Maneuvers on the right
A real scrum was developing on the right, which threatened to hold up the English line and allow them to be caught by the main French squadron.
Scrum on the right
A slightly different view
Luckily for the English, they were able to dispatch the galleys to clear the way, while the two medium cogs fought a rear-guard action against the French small cogs. The French were able to sink both medium cogs while the rest of the English fleet escaped. At the end of the battle, the English had lost four medium cogs and one small cogs (the cripple from the start of the battle), while the French losses were three galleys. At the end of the battle the scoreboard looked like this.
Score is pretty close
At this point both sides seemed to take a new look at their strategy for the game. The English thought their best strategy would be to expand their raiding (since that’s where most of the points were). The French were also thinking about more raiding, but still felt they needed to do something to drive off the English. Both sides were moving into better raiding positions when disaster struck the French.

On turn seven a Storm random event hit the French fleet that was raiding the English coast causing the sinking of a large cog and the crippling of five medium and one small cogs. This was a major blow to the fleet. This was followed up on the next turn by a Widespread Storms random event that hit all the fleets in the game. Once again the French suffered a number of crippled and sunk ships, while the English only had a couple crippled ships. The storms also disrupted movement, preventing the French from getting to good raiding areas, while the English were already in good places to raid.

On turn ten a Becalmed random event disrupted movement, again hurting French efforts to launch raids.

By this time the English had been very successfully raiding the French coast and were running away in victory points, so the French players decided it was time to concede the game. The final score was 52 to 19, for a big win for the English and the storms of 1340.
Final Score (not so close)
Overall I thought it was a fun and interesting campaign. I think everyone enjoyed the game, although the French players certainly had a ‘what is going to happen to us next’ look about them at the end.

I need to look at rules on the battle setups again to see if I did something wrong there and there were a few suggestions about the raiding rules, but overall we liked how the games played out. The game could have gone either way until the weather intervened and disrupted the French plans.
DANG 2014 participants (L to R) me, Scott, Dave C, Kevin, Arthur, Dave S (seated), Mark, Dale and George

Monday, December 15, 2014

DANG 2014 Preparations

I've been (slowly) getting everything together for the DANG (Dave's Annual Naval Game) Cogs of War game.

Because I'm borrowing the my friend Kevin's scratch-built ships for the game, there really wasn't much to do for figure preparation. However, I always like to do a little something and Kevin was a little short of galleys for the game, so I decided to scratch-build some galleys for the game.

I wanted to have them blend in with Kevin's ships, so I got a couple photos of Kevin's ships for measurements. I built mine in a similar technique to Kevin, using basswood as the main construction material. However, but I built them with a lanteen rig instead of the sqyare rig Kevin used. I didn't take any 'in-progress' photos (I thought about it, but I didn't really use any special building methods, so I didn't think construction photos would be very interesting), but here are a couple photos of the completed ships.
Finished Galleys
At all angles
The other change I made was to use cardstock for the rear canopy and for the oar banks. I wanted to give the impression of lots of oars, but I didn't want to cut individual wires for them. I thought I would try a different method by cutting the cardstock with a sort of fringe pattern. After cutting and gluing to the hulls, it looked okay. But I wasn't sure how the oar banks would turn out one I applied some paint (this was really a big experiment). As you can see from the photos (click on them to enlarge them), everything looks okay. Although the photos make the oar banks look a little more red than real life (probably something to do with the lighting I used when taking the photos). The galleys and oar banks are nothing spectacular, but it does give the impression of a lot of oars (similar to how a lot of cast models look). So I'm going to count it as a success.

Now I've just got to finish the paperwork for the game (maps and order of battle information). Then the final shopping for victuals and set up the house for the game. The campaign is set to run on December 27 and it should be an interesting game. I don't think too many of the attendees know a lot about fighting with cogs (well that sort of goes for me too), but, as always, I'm still expecting a fun and interesting game. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

2014 NHMGS Game Day at the Musuem of Flight Recap

NHMGS held our annual game day at the Museum of Flight on November 2. This year’s game day sort of snuck up on me. I’m usually more involved with organizing the event, but other commitments kept me from doing much besides showing up.

This year the game day was back in the museum’s main gallery, but the event day was moved from Saturday to Sunday. We set up our information table and four gaming tables around the Blackbird. I spent the most of the day at the information table, but took time to grab some photos of the games.
The overhead view of this year's setup. you can see three of the gaming tables and the information table from here.
This view has the fourth table
The morning session had a Wings of Glory WWI game, a Check Your 6 Jets early Vietnam War game and a multi-player Lion Rampant game, and an All Quiet on the Martian Front game.
The Wings of Glory game had a German observation balloon as the central focus
And lots of players interested in attacking or defending it
The All Quiet on the Martian Front game had some nice Martian tripods
Some interesting Earth vehicles
And everyone seemed to like it.
MiGs jump a flight of F-105s in the Check Your 6 Jets game
There was a good turnout for the Lion Rampant game
Although some troops had to fight bad dice all day.
In the afternoon there was a Star Wars X-Wing Fighter game, a second Lion Rampant game, and a late-1800s France vs. Austro-Hungary naval game using the Fire When Ready rules.
The X-Wing Fighter game had lots of ships in a small area
The French and Austro-Hungarians ready for battle
Fleets closing for action
The afternoon Lion Rampant game
Being a Sunday, there were fewer people at the museum, but those that did stop by had lots of questions. Most that had questions wanted to know where they could get rules and figures. We even talked a few into trying out some games (Wings of Glory was very popular). I need to remember to come up with some better hand-outs for where people can get more information and maybe some free, easy-play rules to hand out.

The game day is always a good opportunity to show off the hobby to the general public and the museum is a really great forum for it.

This year we also shared the area with the radio-control airplane hobbyist. They had some really nice stuff and I took a couple minutes to look through their display and snap a few photos.
A nice radio-controlled 'Ike' racer
And an equally nice F-86 Sabre

Monday, November 3, 2014

Book Review – British and Commonwealth Warship Camouflage of WWII: Destroyers, Frigates, Sloops, Escorts, Minesweepers, Submarines, Coastal Forces and Auxiliaries

 [Full Disclosure: I was involved in proof-reading this book, so my opinions might be a little biased.]

This is the first volume covering British and Commonwealth warship camouflage during World War 2 (the second volume is expected to cover battleships and carriers, with cruisers filling up the third volume). This book covers all the different classes of destroyers, frigates, sloops, corvettes, and other escorts, along with submarines, auxiliaries and coastal force craft. There are over 700 color illustrations in the book showing the different camouflage patterns (official and unofficial) used in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Pacific. You can tell that a lot of research went into the book, since many of the camouflage schemes are hard to find in other sources. Additionally, the ship descriptions provide information about weapons and electronics on ships, including changes during the war.

Overall, I think that British and Commonwealth Warship Camouflage of WWII is a great reference book. It provides great information in one volume, so if you want to know what colors to use while painting small ships from the Royal Navy and other Commonwealth navies, then this is the book for you. The descriptions of weapons and radars will also be helpful for modelers, making it a valuable resource.

For gamers, this book is all about how to paint your ships. This might sound limiting, but it really isn't. There is a lot of information in this one book and, if you are a World War 2 naval gamer, it will really help you decide the best way to paint up your fleets.

While it is really interesting to read the descriptions and look at the paint schemes, this book does make me realize that I’m going to have to repaint some of my coastal forces ships. Apparently they used a lot more green and blue colors and less grey than I originally thought. It will mean some extra work for me, but that will make for some more colorful games.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Planning for DANG 2014

I started to prepare for my yearly naval game: DANG (Dave's Annual Naval Game) a little earlier this year than in previous years. There were a couple games on the ballot that would have required a lot of work, so I wanted to make sure I had time to complete everything.

We ran through the voting in September and this year’s game is “Cogs of War – The Hundred Years War at Sea.” While that might seem like a big topic, the game will only focus on actions in the English Channel around the summer of 1340. Here is a brief overview of the game situation:
The Battle of Sluys from Jean Froissart's 14th Century Chronicles(Wikipedia)
The Hundred Years War started off, as many of the wars, as a dispute over who is the rightful king of a country. Things basically kicked off in 1337 when Edward III of England refused to pay homage to Philip VI of France, leading the French King to confiscate Edward's lands in Aquitaine. This caused Edward to declare himself rightful King of France, starting the war.

During 1338 and 1339 the French, their allies, and hired mercenaries conducted numerous raids and attacks against English towns, shipping, and islands in the English Channel. These attacks not only damaged the towns, they disrupted English trade, and put a strain on the English treasury. While raids like this were not uncommon during this time, these attacks were different in that they were targeted major English towns with a deliberate strategic aim in mind. Toward the end of 1339, the English fleet was able drive off the French and mercenary fleet and stabilize the situation along the English Channel.

As the summer of 1340 approached, the stage was set for more naval action in the Channel.

As one DANG voter put it “Cry ‘Ahoy’, and let slip the Cogs of War!”

Historically, the English fleet devastated the French fleet at the Battle of Sluys, giving the English naval superiority in the Channel for the next several decades. 
Kevin's French Fleet from his 2011 Sluys game
For our game, we will use Kevin's scratch-built cogs and David Manley’s Medieval naval campaign rules for the operational movement and fleet action rules for the battles. Kevin built cogs for his Sluys game from Enfilade 2011. But I 'm looking at building a few galleys to round out the mix. I'll post information about building the smaller ships later.

This is DANG’s thirteenth year and here are links to recaps of games from before 2010, the 2010 Lepanto game, and the American Civil War river game from 2011, the 1812 Lake Ontario game from 2012, and last year’s Operation Landcrab game.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Book Review - On Seas Contested: The Seven Great Navies of the Second World War

On Seas Contested is a joint collaboration by seven different authors and three editors covering the major naval powers during World War 2. The book has chapters on the navies from the United States, Japan, United Kingdom and Commonwealth, Germany, Italy, France, and Soviet Union. While there are a lot of books on the navies and naval actions during World War 2, I can’t think of one other book that compares all the navies at this level.

The editors set up a chapter outline for each author to follow covering each navy’s: History, Mission, Organization (including personnel and intelligence), Doctrine (surface, air, submarine, anti-submarine, amphibious, trade protection, and communications), Material (ships, aircraft, weapons, and logistics), and an Assessment of the navy’s wartime operations. The authors all worked independently, so every now and then some information is repeated between the chapters. However, it is not repetitive but is used to illustrate the different views each navy had on the information. Each chapter has a lot for anyone interested in naval history.

I found the sections on Doctrine and Material particularly interesting, since not every navy planned to fight in the same manner and knowing those differences really shows why certain decisions were made when procuring ships, aircraft, and weapons. I also thought the section that provided the assessment of wartime operations was interesting. That section wasn’t just a rehash of winners and losers; but an evaluation of how a navy performed given its pre-war plans and wartime changes. I really though all the authors did a good job of assessing the performance of the navies. It was also interesting to see information on the French and Soviet navies. Those two are often neglected when talking about World War 2 naval operations.

Overall, I enjoyed On Sea Contested and thought the authors did a good job getting all the information into the pre-defined outline. However, because there really isn’t much on battles, this probably isn’t a good book for the casual naval historian (if there is such a person) and I certainly understand that not everyone is interested in how the Italians trained their sailors or Soviet’s anti-submarine warfare plans. But if you are interested in reading information on why navies did certain things during the war, this is a book for you.

For gamers, this book can provide ideas for setting up victory conditions and orders for naval actions. It can also give you some ideas for special rules for different navies should operate.

Finally, there is a website for the book that provides backgrounds on the authors and editors, along with some extra material and links to primary sources and other naval websites. Even if you don't get the book, the On Seas Contested website is worth a look.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Thinking about Fall projects

With Summer turning to Fall here in the Pacific Northwest, I‘m taking some time to plan for some projects for the last three months of the year.

Over the summer I added to my modern Chinese Navy by picking up a 1/700 scale Type 054+ frigate from a (fittingly) Chinese company called Dream Model (note, if you are looking for the company use the web address; if you just type the name into Google, you’ll end up with a Hong Kong model agency)

The kit looks pretty nice, with good molding and a few photo-etch parts. It will make a nice addition to my Type 056 and Type 022s, if I don’t muck it up too much. I’m planning on using it with the Bulldogs Away! rules and as a target for the AirWarC21 rules (David Manley, if you are reading this, can you let me know if there is going to be an air-to-sea supplement AirWar C21? I’d really like to add more naval targets and would like to see your take on them).

I’m working on some blog posts about the Osprey On the Seven Seas rules, a couple book reviews, and one on my annual naval game, DANG. I’m also starting to plan my games for Enfilade 2015, but I probably won’t be posting about that for a couple months.

On the strange tangent side, I’ve been thinking about buying the SAGA The Crescent and The Cross. For some strange reason, I have a fascination with wargaming the Crusades; these rules would seem to be one way to go and there are other gamers in the area already playing SAGA, but the entry price seems pretty steep for a tangential interest. There has also been some talk about the new Osprey Lion Rampant rules, which are a similar period and scale, but are a lot cheaper. So I might go that route instead, especially since I am such a slow figure painter. But this would just be a diversion from my normal naval and air gaming.

I also added a new blog called RED IN THE MORNING to the list on the right side of the page. The writer goes by the nome de plume (or would that be nome de web?) of Queen Catherine and is covering tabletop naval gaming and space gaming. There have been some interesting posts there about the War Times Journal WWI ships and other naval stuff, so it seemed like a good addition.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

August Game Report

August was a fairly busy month for me, but I did get in one game early in the month. It was an American Civil War naval game using the Sail and Steam Navies rules.

The scenario was at the close of the war with Union blocking forces trying to prevent a Confederate ram from slipping out to sea. In this game the Union side had more and better ships, but the game started out with limited visibility and the Confederate ships knew the terrain.

There were four Union players, with six ships, and we set up our ships in groups that could try to cover the river exit. I had some small ships in the first and third group. There were ironclads and heavy ships in the second and fourth group.

With the limited visibility, my first ship was supposed to raise the alarm and try to slow down the rebels. I decided to use a ferry for this purpose, since it had pretty good speed and some decent guns.
My recon ferry the Commodore Barney
We hoped the second group, with an ironclad and heavy ship, would be able to do some heavy damage.
Union second group
I had a 90-day gunboat in the third group. I was hoping that it would only be needed to mop-up after the heavies in the second group.
90-Day gunboat Pinola
The final group was made up of the ironclads Choctaw and Essex. As you can tell, this was a pretty formidable force.
Choctaw waiting to see something
On the Confederate side, there was the sidewheel ram CSS Webb and a pair of torpedo boats. This might not seem like much compared to the Union force, but the Confederate goal was for the Webb to escape.
The torpedo boats and Webb make their appearance
Things started out slow, with visibility limiting our actions. Meanwhile, the Confederates were increasing speed and trying to avoid the Yankees. Finally, my recon ferry spotted one of the torpedo boats and opened fire.
Barney opens fire
I was able to sink one torpedo boat, but only caught a glimpse of the Webb as it sped by. I poured on the coal and began chasing, but there was no way I was going to catch the speed ram.
Barney in a futile stern chase
In the next area, the Union heavy ships found themselves out of position and Webb sped down the edge of the table.
Webb (in the upper portion) on the run
Between the poor visibility and speed of the Confederates, the heavy group only got off a couple long range shots that missed. The heavies eventually destroyed the other torpedo boat, but that did not make up for missing their main target.

My gunboat was next up. I exchanged fire with Webb, but could not do enough damage to slow it down. Our last hope was that final pair of ironclads.

Choctaw is a heavy ship, but has really poor arcs of fire and is relatively slow. Using speed and visibility limitations, Webb was able to maneuver to avoid most of Choctaw's heavy guns and run by her.
Choctaw trying to get off a couple shots.
Essex was the only ship standing between Webb and escape. The game came down to the final shots by Essex.
Essex with the last shots
Even with a couple hits, the damage did not slow the Confederate ship, allowing it to race off the board for a victory.

It was a fun game and could have gone the other way if the Union side had gotten some lucky hits, but it would have taken lucky hits to slow the Webb.

There were a couple things that we thought would make it a little better. The limited visibility really hurt the Union chances of engaging, while it did nothing to slow the Confederates. We suggested that the maximum speed for any ship be limited by the maximum visibility (this seemed pretty logical, since most ship captains wouldn't want to travel too fast when they couldn't see). However, to give the Confederate player an option we thought that he could choose to move faster than visibility,but would have to check for grounding any turn he did that.

Overall, it was a nice diversion from my chores at home. Now with Fall approaching, I'm hoping to have a little more playing time and you should start seeing some more activity here on the blog.