Sunday, August 30, 2020

Battle of the Yalu River

Over the past couple months we've been discussing games to play while the weather is still good. John and David both have some of the old 1/1000 scale Houston's Ships for the Battle of the Yalu River (1894) and with the 126th anniversary of the battle only a couple weeks away, it seemed like a good time to pull them out. So this week's outdoor gaming event was the Battle of the Yalu River 1894 using the Fire When Ready rules

Chinese battleships and cruiser prepare for action

We did a little show and tell before the start of the game and then got things going. The Chinese had 14 ships, including two battleships, but all the ships were older did not have very good guns. We split the Chinese into 4 groups and they entered the map from one edge in line-abreast formation.

Chinese entering the table

The Japanese fleet of 12 ships was more modern (except for a few older ships), but mostly smaller guns. They entered in a line-ahead formation led by the four cruisers of the flying squadron.

Japanese moving in
The shooting started with the Chinese making lots of water splashes, but doing little damage.

The Japanese flying squadron gets doused
Initially the Japanese return fire concentrated on the older cruisers and gunboats, wrecking that side of the Chinese fleet.
Japanese gunfire wrecks an old cruiser
As the ranges closed the Chinese gunfire and damage improved, but so did the Japanese attacks.
Japanese cruiser Takachiho catches fire
Another Chinese cruiser is wrecked

Damage was accumulating on both sides. Damage was slowing the Chinese battleships, but it was looking like the Chinese cruisers would be able to make it off the board edge. Then the first Chinese battleship took enough damage to become wrecked.

Chinese battleship wrecked
Chinese cruisers headed for the board edge

The Japanese flying squadron also took a beating with all the ships becoming wrecked over the next two turns. But they did wreck the other Chinese battleship.

Two cruiser wrecked the third limps by, but is wrecked on this turn
The last flying squadron cruiser is wrecked

The second Chinese battleship succumbs to damage
Even with the loss of the flying squadron, the Japanese main fleet had enough ships to finish off the remaining Chinese cruisers before they could escape.
The Japanese main fleet finishes off the Chinese

With the last of the Chinese ships wrecked, we called it a game. A decisive Japanese victory. While the Chinese lost all their ships, they did manage to put the Japanese flying squadron out of action, so they did better than their historical counterparts. Overall it was another fun game of Fire When Ready. 


I'm hoping to finish out the summer with a few more games. The weather for the area normally stays good through the end of September. So that gives us around four more weeks of outdoor gaming opportunities.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Row Well

We got in another round of outdoor gaming this Saturday. This time it was galley warfare using a friend's galley warfare rules, called Row Well and Live, and his Xyston 1/600 scale galleys. I have played the rules before, but it has been a while and there have been some changes. 

My galleys for the game

The rules are tactical in scope and each of us ran a couple galleys. Experienced players could probably run two to five galleys. But there are some key decisions to make about moving your ships and there is a lot to do when you get into combat, so more ships per player can slow things down.

The battle was a meeting type action and victory was basically "row well and live" in a 2 player vs. 2 player setup. On my side of the table placed our ships a little farther back than the other side, so we were somewhat behind in getting into action. 

I'm on the right, closest to the back, while my ally is very close to the enemy
 We started out the game a cruising speed, so that we wouldn't fatigue the rowers. I had a medium and heavy galley (a teteres or, if you prefer, quadrireme and a hepteres or septireme). My ships only had archers and marines for combat, while everyone else's heavy ships had some sort of bolt thrower or catapult. But my medium ship did have a superior crew, which would help out. 

There were some tentative moves as we relearned the game. But the action started out soon enough with archers and catapults getting into action.

Catapults with fire pots start a blaze

The scrum on the left started with bow and catapult fire and an oar rake attempt, which failed. But this set up a ram attack by my ally's medium ship. The ram was successful, but didn't do a lot of damage because the attacker had not gotten up to full speed.

Burning ships and a ram

On the next turn, the medium ship turned and grappled with the opponents light hemiolia, while the heavy ships tried to douse their fires. The subsequent boarding action saw the hemiolia surrender.

Grappling and boarding action

Over on my side of the table, we were finally getting close enough to shoot at each other. I didn't do well on the imitative rolls, which allowed my opponent to try an oar rake (which failed). But I did cause a lot of casualties with my superior archers. After seeing what happened to the other hemiolia, my opponent decided to keep his out of arrow range and try to sneak into the non-firing arcs.

The ships pass as the oar rake fails

On the other side of the table, the still-burning enemy heavy ship moved to grapple as other ship pelted it with arrows and stones. The initial boarding combat was inconclusive and would run for another turn. By then the enemy's marines had been whittled down and they surrendered.

The boarding attempt fails and we get more galley slaves

On my side of the table, I was working to turn my ships around and catch the enemy heavy ship. The light was speeding away and their was no way I was going to catch them.

Turning to pursue the enemy

By the time I turned around and was getting close, the action on the other side of the table was done. Now outnumbered 2 - 1, the remaining enemy galleys headed for home.

We rowed OK and lived

Overall it was a fun game and great to see the Xyston ships on the table. Hopefully we'll see more of these in the future.

It was another successful outdoor game, even though the morning weather was a little threatening. We've got (hopefully) another month of good weekend weather to come and have a few ideas for upcoming games.

Friday, August 7, 2020

INWarD 2020 - Der Tag:1916

While I already posted an early International Naval Wargaming Day (INWarD) report, I thought I would also play a quick solitaire game on the official day. 


I selected the new Der Tag, 1916 game from Minden Games.You can get this directly from the Minden Games website, or as part of Panzerschreck #17 from Minden Games or at Wargame Vault. Panzerschreck #17 also includes two other games; Battle Over Dunkirk and Napoleon in Italy.

Der Tag cover

Der Tag, 1916 is a solitaire strategic game covering naval action in the North Sea during 1916. It puts the player in charge of the British fleet. There is an optional rule that allows you to switch sides and command the Germans, but for this game I stuck with the British. 


The game has 4 turns, with each turn composed 10 steps. That seems like a lot, but each step moves pretty quickly and some steps can be skipped depending on the situation.


At the beginning of the turn, you redeploy your ships to the four Royal Navy bases (Scapa Flow, Cromarty, Rosyth, and Dover). The only restrictions on the deployments are that each base has a maximum and minimum number of ships. In keeping with your high-level position, ships are deployed by type; BB+ (second-generation Dreadnoughts), BB (Dreadnoughts), BC (Battlecruisers), B (pre-Dreadnought battleships), and AC (Armored Cruisers). The game does come with named counters for the ships, but only types matter for deployment and combat. 


Next an action card is drawn. The action cards set what the German fleet does for the turn and where it happens. Most cards are raids or other missions where a portion of the German fleet comes out for a limited action. A couple cards are No Action, which means you skip all the remaining steps and go to the turn. One card is Der Tag, which represents a sortie by the full German fleet for a Jutland style battle.


After drawing the action, you use die rolls to determine the weather, the German ships in action, and location of the action. Then the Royal Navy player makes interception rolls to get ships to the action. 


Once you know which ships intercept, you set up combat. Combat can last up to 3 rounds. The German ships can participate in all 3 rounds, but Royal Navy ships may be limited to 1 or 2 rounds depending on their home base. Additionally, combat rounds may be cut short due to weather or other circumstances.


Combat is easy. You roll one die for each ship and consult the appropriate ship type table. The rolls result in automatic hits, hits, and saves. Each save negates an enemy hit, but not automatic hits. For each remaining hit, you roll to determine the ship type affected and then roll to see if the ship is sunk or just damaged. Damaged ships don't participate in the remaining combat rounds. 


When combat is complete, you score victory points based on the German action and any ships sunk during the turn.

North Sea Strategic Map

I started my game with the standard Royal Navy setup, with the fleet concentrated at Scapa Flow and Cromarty. Rosyth had most of the BCs and a handful of BB+ ships. Dover force had one BB, 7 old Bs, and 3 ACs. The German action was a BC raid on Hull. I tried for interceptions from all bases, but only the Rosyth and Dover forces were successful. The combat rounds resulted in some damaged ships on each side, but no ships were sunk and the Germans earned a victory point for the raid. 


On turn 2 I redeployed all my BCs and a couple more BB+s to Rosyth, but kept the main fleet in the north. The German action was a Tip & Run battle on Scarborough with all their BCs, 3 BB+, and 3 BB. This time the interception rolls went in my favor with Scapa Flow and Rosyth getting success rolls. However, the Scapa Flow force would not arrive until combat round 3. The first 2 combat rounds saw damaged ships on both sides and a German BC sunk. The third combat round was more decisive, with 17 battleships (8 BB+ and 9 BB) engaging the much smaller German force. When the smoke cleared, another German BC and 2 battleships had been sunk with no losses for the Royal Navy. The Germans did earn a victory point for the action, but this was more than offset by the victory points earned for the sunk ships. 


I didn't make any deployment changes for turn 3. The German action was another Tip and Run battle off Norway. This time the Germans sent all their remaining BCs, BB+s, and BBs. Luck was on my side again as I rolled successful interceptions for Scapa Flow, Cromarty, and Rosyth. This gave me a definite superiority in ships with 7 BC, 22 BB+, 9 BB, and 8 AC against 3 BC, 9 BB+, and 6 BB. But this is where my dice failed me. While I got lots of hits during combat, I couldn't translate those into sunk ships. The German dice were a little better, as they sank a BB+ and an AC, but they didn't earn any extra victory points for the action.


Going into turn 4, I still had a 18 to 8 lead in victory points. But bad rolling could change that. I shifted a couple more BB+s from Scapa Flow to Rosyth,but kept the other forces as is. The German action turned out to be No Action, which ended the turn and the game with a win for the Royal Navy. A fitting end for INWarD 2020.


The game played quick and was fun. There is a lot of variables in the actions, so I can see myself pulling it out again. The game also doesn't need much table space, so it would make a good travel game. 


I generally like the little games that Minden Games produces and would recommend taking a look at their website, but I know they aren't for everyone.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Early International Naval Wargaming Day Battle

I hosted another outdoor gaming session over the weekend and decided to run an early International Naval Wargaming Day game. The reasons for the early game is that August 6 is on a weekday and most of my gaming group are busy on the weekend. So this looked to be my best chance to get in a naval game with other people. I have something in mind for a solo game on August 6, but more on that later.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with International Naval Wargaming Day, in 2017 David Manley, well know rule writer and naval gamer, kicked off the first International Naval Wargaming Day as a day to "Celebrate the birth of the father of naval wargaming, Fred T. Jane, by running or taking part in a game of your own!"

For this year's game, I wanted to get the 1/1250 pre-dreadnought ships back in action. We are using the Fire When Ready rules, with some local variations that beef up the damage ships can take and limit the damage of smaller guns against armored targets.

A quick "vanity" shot of my French battleships with some coal smoke
I had proposed a couple order of battles for the game, which would pit a combined Austrian-German squadron against a French squadron. The general idea being that the Germans were visiting Austrian ports in the Adriatic and the French decided to send a squadron to demonstrate their disapproval. As the squadrons meet, someone says something that is misunderstood and the shooting starts (it wouldn't be much of a fight without shooting). I was able to talk the others into trying a 5 ship on 2 ship battle.

The Austrian-German squadron was made up of the light battleships Erzherzog Karl and Hapsburg, and the armored cruiser Sankt Georg.
Austrians ships (left to right) Sankt Georg, Hapsburg, and Ersherzog Karl
The Germans contributed the armored cruiser Furst Bismarck and (barely) protected cruiser Vineta.
German ship (left to right) Vineta and Furst Bismarck
The French force consisted of the battleships Charlemagne and Jena. 
French battleships
This scenario was designed to have a slower, but heavier force (the French) facing off against a lighter, but more numerous enemy (similar to Graf Spee at River Plate or the hypothetical WWI Goeben vs. British armored cruisers).
The Austrian-Germans turning in line
The Austrians heavy ships led the way, with the expectation that they would be able to better withstand the French guns. But this deployment did cause the Germans to be blocked and unable to fire for the first few turns.
The view from the French side
As expected, the French concentrated their fire on the two lead Austrians. Throughout the game French die rolls were really good. Early in the battle Erzherzog Karl took a lot of hits that slowed the battleship and jammed the rudder.
Erzherzog Karl being battered
The jammed rudder forced some fancy maneuvers on the Austrians to avoid a collision with the damaged battleship. At this point, the Germans decided this was a good time to strike out on their own, splitting up the squadron.
the combined squadron splits
The Austrians had been getting hits on both Charlemagne and Jena, but not doing a lot of damage. But the first German shot from Furst Bismarck did cause some excitement as it hit and started a raging fire on Charlemagne. The Austrians started another fire on the French battleship. While this was good news, there was also some bad news for the Austrians as Erzherzog Karl failed a morale check and began turning for home.
Raging fires on Charlemagne
With the Austrians and Germans split, the French shifted fire to the Germans. Their first shots only damaged the Furst Bismarck, but the second round of fire crippled the armored cruiser, While Vineta was almost sunk (once again the French die rolls were good as each of the German cruisers suffered a Bridge special hit that prevented return fire).

With both cruisers in bad shape, the Germans decided it was time to break off. The Austrians were in slightly better shape, but with the battle now 2 on 2 they also decided call it a day.
Austrians heading for home
Victory went to the French, but the battle was not as one-sided as it seemed. Charlemagne would eventually put out the fires, but not before one explosion, and was at her morale check point when the fires finally went out. Jena only took moderate damage and was still in good fighting shape. The good (and timely) French die rolls certainly made it look like the French had an easy time. But it could have turned out differently with average die rolls on both sides, it would have been a closer battle.

The test rule that limited the damage of smaller guns against armored targets definitely helped the French, but it also limited the damage done by the French secondary guns. Overall it seemed to work well and we will probably keep it.

Before we broke up for the day, I grabbed a quick photo of David's German and Japanese ships. I believe these are all manufactured by Hai, but David repainted and mounted all of them and they just look great.
Germans and Japanese (with red funnels)
As I mentioned at the start of the post, I will probably put together a solo game for the real International Naval Wargaming Day. See you then.