Saturday, July 25, 2020

Fight in the Narrow Seas

With continued good gaming weather, I set up the popup and it was back to the yard for another weekend game. This time we heading for the narrow seas pulling out the World War 2 coastal forces for some action and David Manley's (relatively) new coastal forces rules Narrow Seas. Our group really enjoys Mr. Manley's rules, so we were looking forward to playing these.

For our game, I decided to set up a Royal Navy attack on a German coastal convoy. I set up two Royal Navy forces, each with a pair of motor gun boats (MGBs) and Vosper motor torpedo boats (MTBs). One set of MGBs had a forward 2 pdr, while the others had a forward twin HMGs with an aft 20mm gun. The MTBs had two torpedoes and aft facing twin HMGs.
Royal Navy group 1
Royal Navy group 2
The Germans had four merchants and four escorts. There was one Raumboote with only a 20mm gun, but the other three were larger vessels with 88mm or 105mm guns, along with more 37mm and 20mm guns.
German convoy setup
The Narrow Sea rules use a mix of stuff from his earlier rules (such as vessel damage levels instead of damage points) and new stuff (card drawing for move and fire activation). Spotting is done continuously throughout the turn - which seems unusual, but works out fine. When firing weapons, you determine if the attack is advantaged or disadvantaged, giving a +1 or -1 modifier for the attack. All combat uses D6s and the rules use hit location rules to determine upper deck (weapon, bridge, etc.) hits. The basic turn sequences is for large ships to move, followed smaller boats (both determined by card draws), then torpedo movement, and then gunfire (determined by card draw). There is also air phases and a damage control phase. Overall, we felt pretty comfortable with the rules after a couple turns and fire phases.

For our game, the Royal Navy groups set up on either side of the convoy and closed in. In hindsight it might have been better to attack from one side, to reduce the number of escorts that could easily engage. But it was the first playthrough of the rules (and we were social distancing), so we wen with the two sided attack.

After a couple turns of movement, we pulled into spotting range an the shooting started. The 2 pdr MGBs opened fire, but did not have much luck with hits. One accompanying MTB launched torpedoes, while the other waited to get a little closer. German return fire was much more accurate, doing heavy damage to one MGB and MTB, forcing both to try to withdraw. So, the MTB that waited to launch torpedoes would never get the chance.
Torpedoes away!
With torpedoes expended, it seemed like a good time to head for home.
Torpedo shots looking okay
Attack group 1 moving away at best speed
On the other side of the convoy, group 2 had puled in spotting range and fired off all their torpedoes.
Torpedoes loose!
German return fire was accurate and caused heavy damage ad destruction on the small British ships.
One of the heavily-armed escort trawlers blasts an MGB
A depth charge on an MTB is hit and explodes with dramatic effect
The surviving British made their way off the board, with fingers crossed that the torpedoes would exact some revenge.
Torpedoes closing in on the convoy
But it wasn't to be. The British dice went cold (no hits in half-a-dozen rolls) and the German convoy continued on its way.
Two torpedo misses
Four more misses
Convoy safely steaming to port
Counting up the damage, the Germans had some minor hits on the escorts. While the British lost two MTBs and an MGB. Definitely not a good day for the Royal Navy, but still a fun game.

It was good to get the coastal forces out again and we enjoyed playing the new Narrow Seas rules. We also had some time for show & tell as Kevin had just gotten two new ships from War Times Journal; the battleship (or armored cruiser) Texas and protected cruiser Raleigh.
Raleigh (foreground) and Texas (middle) with the Charlemagne for size comparison

Overall, another good day of outdoor gaming.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Beyond Trent's Reach

With another good weather weekend, I offered up my yard for some outdoor gaming (with proper mask-wearing and social distancing). This time we decided to play Ironclads and Kevin came up with an alternate Battle of Trent's Reach scenario called "Beyond Trent's Reach." The scenario assumed the Confederate James River Squadron was able to make it past the Union obstacles and fortification (with the chance of some damage) to fight the Union James River Flotilla. The Confederates victory conditions were to exit their ironclads off the edge of the board without taking too much damage, while the Union tried to stop them.

Kevin also had some show and tell with the latest ironclad ships he had finished. None of which were involved in the battle, but it is always fun to have a little show & tell.
ships from the American Civil War
From the bottom to top USS Tuscarora, USS Dunderberg, and USS Mississippi with the Hunchback and Miami in the background
I set up my naval mats with some river banks and a little bend. We also threw out some shallows near the banks, but I didn't have them out when the picture was taken.
The James River (although the water is a little choppy for a river)
The Confederates started with the ironclads Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Virginia II, along with the gunboats Hampton and Nansemond. They set up first and rolled for damage from running the obstructions and forts. Overall damage was light, but the Fredericksburg did take some speed damage, slowing her down.
Gunboats near the bottom, Virginia II in the middle, then Richmond and Fredericksburg
The Union side started with the converted ferry Hunchback and sidewheeler Miami on the board with reinforcements coming on turns 3 and 6.
Union ships making a tactical withdrawl
Out-numbered and out-gunned, the Union ships started making their way down river hoping to meet with their reinforcements. But the initial Confederate shots struck home. On turn 1, Hunchback was set on fire.
Hunchback on fire
Then on the next turn a critical hit exploded Hunchback's boiler putting it out of action and sinking. Meanwhile, Miami was also taking some hits and got a rudder jam that forced it to turn back toward the Confederates.
Hunchback explodes while Miami's rudder is stuck in a starboard turn
Miami did get some good hits on the gunboat Nansemond, which failed a morale check and was forced to turn away from the battle. Nansemond would later recover morale, but played only a minor part in the rest of the battle. The other gunboat, Hampton, continued to battle away with Miami. The two boats had a minor collision and gunfire from Hampton set Miami on fire.
Hampton and Miami at close quarters
The ironclads also fired at Miami causing even more damage. The sidewheeler was soon put out of action and would eventually sink.

But things weren't all bad for the Union. On turn 3 the reinforcement roll gave them the twin-turret monitor Onondaga and the 90-day gunboat Itasca. Itasca moved up to engage Virginia II, while Onondaga went up the center.
The mighty Onondaga arrives
The problem for the Union was too many targets and not enough guns. Onondaga fired on Richmond, which was trying to slip down river along one bank, and also block Fredericksburg, which had fallen behind the other ironclads.
Onondaga in the center, Richmond at the top, and Virginia II at the bottom. Fredericksburg is just out of the picture to the left
Turn 6 brought more Union reinforcements with the arrival of the captured and re-flagged ironclad Atlanta and double-ended gunboat Massasoit. Atlanta entered near Onondaga (and the Confederate Richmond), while Massasoit rushed to help Itasca.
Massasoit (bottom) and Atlanta arrive to bolster the Union line.
Atlanta turned to fire at Richmond as Onondaga moved to engage Fredericksburg. Itasca and Massasoit were firing their large guns at Virginia II and taking some pot shots at the gunboat Hampton. But a critical hit on Itasca temporarily knocked out her boilers and forced her out of action.
Itasca and Massasoit take on Hampton and Virginia II (with Atlanta in the background)
But the way was clear for Richmond and Virginia II to make a run for the board edge for the victory points.

That left Fredericksburg alone to face Onondaga and Atalanta (yes, the gunboats were still there, but they didn't have much firepower to take on the Union ironclads).
Onondaga blast away at Fredericksburg, while barely noticing the little gunboat
Atlanta (on the right) also gets into the action
By this time Fredericksburg was close to the point of having to turn back due to damage. The ironclad had been heavily hit by the 15" Dahlgren guns and Brooke rifles and, due to its slow speed, probably would not have gotten away. At this point we decided to end the game.

Looking at the results, the Union lost two small wooden vessels and probably would have destroyed Fredericksburg. But the other two Confederate ironclads had escaped downriver in pretty good shape, which gave the Confederates the victory.

Overall an enjoyable game and fun to see the ironclads on the table again.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

4th of July Gaming

With the weather finally turning better and with various COVID restrictions, I decided to plan for an outdoor game. I ordered a pop-up shelter and found a good spot on the front lawn to set it up. I put out the invite to a small group for July 4th. Several people already had plans (not surprising), but I had three takers for the game.
pop-up shelter and gaming tables ready to go
Since I was hosting, I wanted to get my recently acquired French 1/1250 ships into some action. After going over ship lists from the participants, I came up with a scenario. Basically, the American's are enforcing the Monroe Doctrine, while Europeans (in this situation, France and Germany) are looking out for their own interests in the Caribbean. This battle had scouting forces from a combined Franco-German squadron meeting up with the Americans off Haiti. We were using the Fire When Ready rules, with a couple modifications to the damage values to beef up the cruisers staying-power. With masks on and maintaining distance as best as possible, we were ready for some gaming.
French cruisers preparing for action
The French part of combined squadron was made up of the cruisers Dupuy de Lome and Amiral Charner. The Germans contributed the cruisers Kaiserine Augusta and Arcona.
German cruisers Kaiserine Augusta (right) and Arcona (left)
The American force consisted of the cruisers New York, Olympia, Detroit, and Tacoma.
American cruisers heading into action
The game started with both sides closing in. The French got in the first hits on the lead American cruisers. Then Franco-German force then split up to go around the island in the center of the board.
Germans split off to get into the action
The Americans concentrated fire on the French, doing some heavy damage to both cruisers and knocking out the helmsman on the Amiral Charner (the second cruiser in line). The French returned the favor, doing heavy damage to both New York and Olympia.

As the Germans cleared the island, they concentrated their fire on New York, while the French fired at Olympia and the trailing cruiser Tacoma.
Americans caught in the cross-fire
The Germans fire wrecked New York, causing the American to have to dodge the sinking ship.
New York wrecked and sinking as the Americans move around it
The French fire then wrecked Tacoma and jammed the rudder on Olympia. Olympia was able to clear the jam later, just before running into the land in the upper  left of the image below.
Tacoma wrecked
American return fire wrecked Arcona. But with heavy damage and out-numbered 3-2, the Americans decided to break off the action.
Arcona (lower center) also sinking
With the battle done, we did a little show & tell and talked over various rules and other things. We even raised a properly socially-distanced pint to our friends in the UK to celebrate the re-opening of pubs there (okay, not really, but we did enjoy some beer because naval wargaming is thirsty work).
As it says on the can "We like beer"
Overall the outdoor gaming worked fine. There wasn't much wind and the pop-up shelter kept us out of the sun. With the current restrictions on stores and large gatherings, I expect to plan a few more lawn games over the rest of the summer (weather permitting).