Saturday, January 29, 2022

Belated DANG 2 - Black Sea Battle

We played the second of the mini-DANG (Dave’s Annual Naval Game) games today. Those of you that follow the blog will remember the games were postponed due to snow. We were only missing one person for this session. Today’s game was World War 2 coastal forces action in the Black Sea. The Soviets have launched an amphibious attack across the Kerch Strait (Note: Historically would have been part of the Kerch–Eltigen operation in late 1943). Soviet naval forces are supporting the attack with supply runs, bombardment missions, and minelaying to prevent interference from the Germans. The Germans are trying to stop the Soviets, while providing their own naval support. We used David Manley’s Narrow Seas coastal forces fast-play rules to resolve today’s action and Warlord Games 1/300 scale Cruel Seas coastal forces with a few scratch-built merchants.

Soviet ships preparing for the operation

The Soviets had a Project 53-U (Fugas) class minesweeper, 2 Project 1124 Bronekater armored gunboats, a pair of MO-4 submarine chasers for escorts, and 3 merchant supply ships (Note: Historically the Soviets would have been using Project 165 landing craft, but I don’t have any of those right now and so the merchants are substituted in). The Soviets started on the east edge of the board and basically had to exit the merchants, Bronekater gunboats, and minesweeper off the west edge. They had the option of staggering their entry over the first 3 turns but chose to have everyone enter on turn 1.

Soviet forces

The Germans had a pair of S-boats (S-30 class) motor torpedo boats (MTBs), an AFP flaklighter, an R-boat motor minesweeper, and three Italian MAS MTBs (Note: Historically these boats were turned over to the Romanian when the Italians left the theater. In this game I gave them a random quality and 2 of the 3 crews were green). The Germans we tasked with stopping any Soviet support from getting through to the beachhead. The AFP flaklighter and R-boat started on the west portion of the board, the S-boats entered on the northwest edge on turn 1, and the MAS boats entered the southwest edge on turn 3.

S-boat on the prowl

We used hidden units and dummies for the game. I was trying to give the players a chance to hide their intentions and try to scout things out. But being normal gamers, they moved straight into action.

German hidden ship markers

The larger ships sighted each other pretty quickly. So, the Germans knew right where the Soviet supply ships were and also spotted the minesweeper, while the Soviets spotted the German AFP. Early shots by the big ships were fairly ineffective, with each side only doing light damage to the other.

Soviet supply ships

Soviet minesweeper
German AFP bristling with weapons

With the supply ships spotted, the S-boats made their way to intercept and fired their torpedoes. On the other side of the board, the MAS boats moved on and launched torpedoes at the minesweeper, while the other two too long-range torpedo shots at the supply ships.

S-boats launching torpedoes at the supply ships

MAS boat launches torpedoes at the minesweeper

The Soviets tried to evade the incoming torpedoes. One supply ship was able to turn bow-on to the torpedoes and both missed. The other supply ship and the minesweeper were not so lucky, with both taking hits and drifted to a halt (Wrecked in the game rules). Even with these losses, the Soviets still had the Bronekater gunboats and two supply ships that could complete the missions to win the game.

Torpedo hit!
Minesweeper sinking

With their torpedoes shot, the German S-boats and Romanian MTBs began a retreat. The S-boats looked at reloading their tubes. But it would take 5 turns at slow speeds to do it and the Soviets would be gone by then. The AFP continued to blast away at Soviet ships, but was not having much luck. The R-boat decided to try to drop some depth charges in the path of the supply ships, hoping to disable or sink them. But the R-boat had to fight its way through the MO-4 escorts. 

R-boat in close action with an MO4 escort

On the other side of the board, the Bronekaters caught site of the fleeing MAS boat that had torpedoed the minesweeper and hit it squarely with a 76mm round, sinking the little boat. 

Bronekaters blast the MAS boat

MAS sinking

The R-boat was able to get in front of the supply ships and started dropping depth charges. It narrowly avoided colliding with one of the supply ships (only the paint was scratched). However, the supply ships were able to make their way through the depth charge patterns with only wet decks. 

Near-miss on the collision

In the middle of the board a fight was developing between the AFP and the Bronekaters. The AFP’s bad rolls continued, and it couldn’t connect any good hits on the gunboats. While the gunboats were getting hits on the AFP. 

AFP faces of against the Bronekater gunboats

At this point we decided to call the game. There wasn’t much the Germans could do to stop the remaining supply ships from getting off the board and the AFP was having no luck against the gunboats. With this in mind we gave the Soviets a minor victory.

Overall, the scenario played out well. The Soviets could have delayed the entry of their supply ships to allow the other ships to deal with the Germans before they could get into torpedo range. But it is hard to argue with the plan that won the game.

It was a fun game and everyone had a good time and enjoyed the rules, which lived up to their billing of fast play rules. The Warlord ships look good on the table, I only wish they were coming out with some more useful ships.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Book Reviews – Fire and Fortitude and Island Infernos

I had meant to post a book review of John McManus’ Fire and Fortitude last year after I read it, but never got around to it. With the release of the second books in the series, Island Infernos, it seemed like a good time to review both books. McManus is writing a trilogy of books covering the U.S. Army in the Pacific during World War 2. Fire and Fortitude and Island Infernos are the first two books in the series. When talking about land battles in the Pacific, popular history tends to focus on the efforts of the Marines. McManus points out that U.S. Army had more troops to the Pacific than the Marines and similarly fought tough actions against the Japanese across the Pacific.


Fire and Fortitude covers the U.S. Army in the Pacific from 1941 to 1943. The book has some pre-war discussion and then goes on to actions at Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, New Guinea, Guadalcanal, the rest of the Solomon Islands, China, the Aleutian Islands, and the Gilbert Islands. McManus does a good job of covering the combat in the Philippines, which is often skipped or given little mention in most histories. McManus also spends a lot of time covering American POWs, which is another topic that is usually only found in subject specific books. The New Guinea section does a good job of discussing the difficulties of jungle fighting on the island for both the Allies and Japanese. Army involvement on Guadalcanal and rest of the Solomon Islands is area that is a footnote in many histories but is well covered in the book. The book ends with the Gilbert Islands Campaign. Where McManus provides a good explanation of the differences between Marine and Army strategy for island invasions and how Marine General Holland “Howlin Mad” Smith felt the Army wasn’t aggressive enough during the campaign. After finishing the book, I thought it was a good start to the series and really captured the Army’s actions.

The series continues with Island Infernos, which came out in late 2021 and covers Army Pacific actions in 1944. The book starts out with the continuing action in New Guinea and other efforts to isolate the Japanese at Rabaul. It covers the amphibious actions to bypass and cutoff Japanese strongpoints and set the stage for the invasion of the Philippines. The book then goes on to cover the invasions in the Marshall Islands, Marianna Islands, and the return to the Philippines. McManus also revisits America POWs, which again is rarely covered by most histories. As in the previous book, Island Infernos gives detailed accounts of the Army's actions and internal in-fighting.

Both books are well researched and long. They are not for a casual reader or for a quick look at a single campaign. General Douglas MacArthur plays a key role in both books, and I felt like McManus provided a balanced view of this controversial leader. Praising and pointing out flaws where appropriate. 

 There is an obvious comparison to be made between this series and Rick Atkinson's work on the Army in the European Theater. The writers have different styles. I think Atkinson is a better writer, but it is close. That said, I think the McManus books are definitely worth the read, especially if you have in World War 2 Pacific land battles. For those of you who are unsure about this, I would recommend checking with your local library to see if they have copies of the books (I’m a big fan the Seattle Public Library and libraries in general), so you can have a look without having to buy.

From a gamer’s point of view there is a lot in these books. If you’re looking for new ideas for Pacific battles (and not just the usual Marines vs. Japanese), these books have what you want. The main problem is there are very few miniatures manufacturers that make 28mm U.S. Army in the Pacific figures. That said, I’ve been thinking about scenario ideas for Company B’s Alamo Scouts and SeeBees figures. Island Infernos has an interesting section on the formation of the Alamo Scouts and their first recon mission on Los Negros island. It got me wondering if I could make a scenario on that using Osprey’s Black Ops rules.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Belated DANG #1

We played the first of the two mini-DANG (Dave’s Annual Naval Game) games today. I had postponed both games after the snowstorm made travel difficult. We set the date after things had thawed out, but due to weather and health issues, half of the crew had to cancel for today. But the other half decided to press ahead with the game, which gave me a chance to play to even out the sides. Normally I just referee things because it is a mini-campaign and there are a lot of behinds the scenes moving parts. But the small one-off scenario allowed me to jump in on this one.


Today’s game was a hypothetical action near Haiti around 1904. Yes, Haiti is in turmoil (again). American ships and Marines were deployed to protect American interests in the country. European countries also want to protect their interests (and don't trust the Americans), so they sent their own ships to Haiti. The situation escalated to the point where the French sent a strong cruiser/battleship squadron, supported by a pair of German armored cruisers, to the region. The Americans responded by sending the North Atlantic Squadron to Guantanamo Bay to watch out for the French. The French have stopped off in Martinique to resupply before heading to Port-Au-Prince.


Originally the scenario included armored cruisers and battleships for both sides. But, because we only had half he expected players, we did a quick shift in the scenario and made it an initial contact between cruiser forces. I had set up one small island as a semi-obstacle and placed some foliage on the island, so this became the Battle of Giant Palm Island (Bataille de Giant Palm Tree Island in French or Schlacht von Giant Palm Tree Island in German).

A publicity photo for the "Visit Giant Palm Island" tourism marketing campaign

The scenario started out with the French cruisers (Dupuy de Lome and Amiral Charner) and German armored cruisers (Prinz Adalbert and Prinz Heinrich) pursuing the American scout cruiser New Orleans as the American armored cruiser force (Brooklyn, New York, and Olympia) charged in to the protect the smaller cruiser.

French cruisers Dupuy de Lome (left) and Amiral Charner (right)
German cruisers Prinz Adalbert (left) and Prinz Heinrich (right)
American cruiser New Orleans
American cruisers Brooklyn (left), New York (center), and Olympia (right)

Early in the game, the German and French guns found the mark starting fires on Brooklyn, New York, and New Orleans.

Brooklyn and New York on fire
New Orleans aflame

Things didn’t look good for the Americans at the beginning, but they eventually put out the fires and started dishing out their own damage. The Americans concentrated their gunfire on the German cruisers. American gunfire seemed to be trailing the Germans a bit as they caused 3 different rudder jam special hits during the game, which completely broke up the German formation.


Before long, Brooklyn, New York, and Prinz Heinrich were out of action and New Orleans was knocked out shortly after the big cruisers.

Prinz Heinrich out of action
New Orleans sinking

Just as things were looking bad for the Americans, the battleship Maine arrived on the board near Giant Palm Island. Note that this is the second Maine (BB-10), not the one that exploded in Havana harbor. Unfortunately, for the Americans, the battleship had just come out of refit and the crew was inexperienced. So, they were not good shooters and didn’t have high morale.

Maine arrives

At this point in the battle the Americans had the undamaged battleship Maine and the damaged cruiser Olympia up against the damaged German cruiser Prinz Adalbert and the two undamaged French cruisers. The French concentrated gunfire on Maine, while the German took shots at both Maine and Olympia, while trying to clear a jammed rudder. The French guns weren’t strong enough to penetrate any vital sections on Maine, but they did start fires and cause a lot of upper works damage.

Maine taking damage

Eventually, the Americans knocked out Dupuy de Lome and Prinz Adalbert.

Prinz Adalbert out of action, with the French cruisers in the background

But heavy damage to Maine forced a morale check, which it failed forcing the battleship to withdraw from the action. This left the heavily damaged Olympia and lightly damaged Amiral Charner. We decided to call the game at this point figuring the remaining ships would withdraw to try and rescue survivors from all the sinking ships.


It was a hard-fought battle that basically ended up in a stalemate (we talked about a future fight with each sides battleships arriving after the cruiser carnage). The French cruisers did get a moral victory for forcing the American battleship out of action.

Overall, it was a fun game and pretty balanced for an off the cuff scenario. While it wasn't the normal DANG mini-campaign, I think everyone enjoyed themselves.


Belated DANG game #2, coastal forces action in the Black Sea, is planned January 29.