Saturday, 16 December 2017

Eric Knowles R.I.P.

It is with great sadness, tinged with a certain degree of regret, that I have to report the death of Eric Knowles at the respectable age of 91. Eric was a contemporary of Grant, Featherstone, Lawford and Young as well as an old soldier to boot and whilst he may not be as well known as these worthies he possessed a formidable military intellect coupled with a politically incorrect NCOs sense of humour and with little patience for fools (or know it all teenagers).

I first met Eric when he and his wife Ivy owned and ran the New Model Army Limited wargames shop in Manor Park, East London way back in 1978. At the time Eric only worked in the shop at weekends as working full time was ruining his enjoyment of his hobby. As I recall he was working in security at the time and I remember him referring to the van he drove as the ‘Iron Zeppelin’.  I used to occasionally talk to him on Saturday mornings when the old Newham Wargames Club would meet to game in the cellar. There was also a meeting of Eric’s select few - including Chris Hardman, Neil Fox, Dave Weedon and others - on Wednesday evenings in the cellar to fight actions from his famous Madasahatta campaign. I can remember how proud I was when he asked me to come along on the Wednesday to take part - make no mistake, this was an honour, rather like being able to stay up with the adults at a party.

I was drafted in at the very end of the Madasahatta campaign but took my command very seriously - a pair of German gunboats during the allied bombardment of Port Victoria using Fletcher Pratt. They spent the entire battle circling in the inner basin of the harbour trying desperately to avoid 12 and 15” shells and then retaliating with single 3.4” guns....

I should also mention that it was about this time I had the good fortune to meet Bob Cordery.

Madasahatta (an island some 300 miles east of Madagascar which loosely mirrored the colonial scene in East Africa at the outbreak of WW1) came to an end and before the next great adventure started Eric decided that he wanted to make use of his huge 17th century Ottoman Turkish army (as I recall he had over a thousand 25mm Janissaries) to stage a refight of the siege of Vienna in 1683. I should mention that Eric was hugely fond of warfare in the early 18th century and possessed a vast collection of figures for the period. We duly fought this in the cellar with yours truly defending (or rather failing to) the walls. As I recall Vienna fell but the Turks were defeated in the field. It was great fun though and Eric was in his element as the director of operations. In fact he seemed to derive as much pleasure from organising these events as he did from fighting them. On a similar vein I can also recall taking part in a huge relight of the battle of Minden at a local school and Rossbach at Present Arms, the annual wargames show that used to be organised by SEEMS (the South East Essex Military Society). Eric certainly liked his battles in the grand manner. It was about this time that he and his son, Bill, made use of Eric’s collection for a wargame scene in the TV program Charlie Muffin.

Eric was also a very keen naval wargamer and owned a large collection of 1/1200th models. These, and his fertile imagination would form the basis of the South East Asia WW1 naval campaign fought using Fletcher Pratt rules on a tabletop - initially in the cellar but mostly at his house in Seven Kings. Yours truly was assigned command of the Turkish SE Asia squadron and again, I took this honour very seriously - in fact it started my lifelong interest in the Ottoman Turks. Eric churned out ship after after ship for this campaign, conversions of plastic kits (Eaglewall and Airfix) and also the Minifigs warships as well. All the participants contributed models  - I recall scratchbuilding a Goeben - and when the action commenced we had forces far in excess of what a colonial squadron would look like. Eric took command of the US Navy who initially were neutral. 

The central powers lost heavily from the outset, so much so that more and more outlandish ships were added to the mix to keep things going. When the US Navy declared war the Turks were there first target. I recall we had a number of very interesting actions with honours being even (I always felt that I went up a notch in Eric’s estimation as a result of this although he used to wince at the length and detail of my written orders we were required to submit).

Eric had a fairly elastic interpretation on any rules being used although he would always be able to justify any, shall we say, dubious decisions. He was very fond of making ‘umpirical decisions’ - usually delivered in a very tongue in cheek fashion - which occasionally did not sit well to those of us that were more closely wedded to the written word of the rule. He would brook no argument though and in retrospect his decisions were firmly grounded in historical precedent.

The campaign fizzled out after the Central Powers had been thoroughly trounced, several times.

When Eric retired he and Ivy moved to Lincolnshire where he continued his military interest by serving as a volunteer guide at Coningsby for, I believe, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. 

I last saw Eric some 30 years ago although I did speak with him around 15 years ago - he was looking to offload some of his collection but nothing came of it which was a shame as it was something to see. His house in Seven Kings had books and figures all over the place - I can only but wonder at Ivy’s patience!

It seems funny to be writing about someone that I have not seen for some 30 years but I am keen to acknowledge the debt I owed Eric in terms of my Wargaming career so to speak. Eric was a great exponent of telling a story around a game, of putting the tabletop action into some context. Madasahatta was a great example of this and the whole background was a labour of love. It gave the games some meaning. He also believed that rules should fit the history and not the other way round - the ‘flavour’ was all important. He could be encouraging and would always have time for a sensible conversation but did not suffer fools gladly and I know because I was certainly rather naive about history that he was well versed in.

Aside from the games I took part in Eric added to my lifelong interest in both naval wargames and anything Ottoman Turkish. He also gave me an understanding of the importance of gaming narrative - a lesson I have tried to conduct my games by because if you dont have a before and after then the middle loses its value.

I do not claim to have known Eric well and was never one of his closest circle of gaming friends but I consider myself to have been fortunate to have known him and and his family and am grateful for his impact on my enjoyment of Wargaming.

My regret is that I did make more effort to stay in contact but it does not lessen the respect I hold him in and the appreciation for what he indirectly inspired in me.

He was one of a kind and we shall not see his like again.

R.I.P. Eric Knowles - ‘the sea has risen and the mist has fallen’.


Wednesday, 13 December 2017

A Chip off the Old Block



A long time ago in a man cave far, far away....


One of my ongoing projects is making use of my block armies. These have been used for a wide variety periods ranging from the 18th to the 20th century. Invariably the games have been Command and Colours derived or else from the Portable Wargame stable and in the case of the latter very much during the earlier phase of its development. As an aside I am embarrassed to say that I have yet to tackle a Portable Wargame since the books came out although I am naturally familiar with the system.

All of these games have one thing in common in that 'units' are made up of (usually) 4, 3 or 2 blocks. This has worked well where removal of blocks as a result of combat is the norm. It is well known that the Command and Colours system has a fairly elastic scaling criteria as far as units are concerned and so it depends on the historical scenario being fought to define what the notional scale is. I have no problem with this as I have long since abandoned using any definitive scales for my games.

So far so good but the system falls down when you are using Heroscape tiles rather than Hexon. The blocks I use are basically unmarked Jenga blocks cut in two. They are roughly 3cm by 2cm x 1cm and so fitting four of them (a typical infantry unit) on a Heroscape tile is nigh on impossible. I had no such problems using Hexon so perhaps my disposal of the same was a little on the rash side...The only way you could comfortably fit a unit on a Heroscape tile would be to use single block units and mark them in some fashion when they take hits. I have a number of options as to how I can do this so I am not overly concerned at present. I have some very nice two coloured counters (black and white) from a travel version of the game Othello which I will use. The black can represent two hits whilst the white will do for one. Using one block per hex will have the advantage of meaning that having terrain features in the hex will not cause too many issues with a single block unit also deployed therein.

 
 
The blocks of the good doctorphalanx made from a set of Mah Jong tiles acquired from a charity shop.


On the subject of blocks and using them for wargames I came across a series of block related posts over at doctorphalanx. For his blocks the good doctor made use of Mah Jong tiles with basic home made labels. I must confess to not having thought of this but the tiles are a useful alternative source.
 
Whilst I am happy with the standard horse and musket blocks I have I am less enthusiastic with the 20th century equipment - vehicles etc. I have used standard NATO type symbols which are OK but, to be honest, are a little soulless when used in a 3D setting. I have produced too may of them to redo the collection so will make do with them as they are. I will be doing something a little different with them though as I plan to use models for vehicles and artillery for the 20th century. These will be the Tumbling Dice 1/600th types. This will mean wooden blocks for the infantry and models for everything else - with the infantry blocks being replaced with figures in due course. This is the plan for the new year and I will need to get some extra bits and pieces to realise this part of the project.
 
I have a few other ideas rolling around for use with the block armies which will feature in later posts but for the meantime I shall be using them as they are on my Heroscape terrain tiles with a single block representing a unit and travel Othello counters for hit markers.
 
Best get some games organised then.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, 11 December 2017

Where we are and why we are there....

 
The latest offering from the indefatigable Bob Cordery


After the previous bout of Jutland related posts I figured it would be a good idea to sit back and see exactly where I am with other 'stuff'. Jutland is not dead by any stretch of the imagination - I have a couple of admin related tasks to tackle before I can say it is a done deal. I need to cut out the remaining counters and draw up a play sheet for the map moving part of the system. I will also need to make some copies of the ship damage record cards as well as tweaking the formatting ever so slightly on the tactical playsheet. This is not a show stopper but is one of those things that is a niggle and so will need some attention at some point.

The 1/2400th scale ships will be on their way once again - the next batch (18 x RN 'B' class 4 funnelled destroyers) are based and undercoated although I am seriously thinking about cutting the down the funnels as they seem too tall. This needs to be carefully done! Once these are ready it will then be full steam ahead (no pun intended) with the cruisers and battleships.

Next year will see me tackling the 1/600th scale kit in earnest for use with the Portable Wargame and a few other things besides. I am thinking of Rommel and possibly Blucher by Sam Mustapha although the latter may be further away than the former. Aside from the ground based action I have planned for this set (WW1 and 2 with a side dish of something colonial) I also have some aircraft to tackle as well.

By way of a diversion I also have a whole pile of 54mm French Foreign Legion and their Tuareg opposition to tackle. This will be suitable for use with not only the Portable Wargame but also The Men Who Would Be Kings.

Another twist in the tale was the welcome news that Bob Cordery has released a third edition of his masterful Spanish Civil War wargamers' guide La Ultima Cruzada (see the picture above). I am really looking forward to getting this (it will be a Christmas present to me from me) as I know that Bob has added a lot of new material from the earlier version. I have a copy of the out of print second edition - which I thought was excellent in any event - but I am looking forward to the new version, especially as it is available in hardback as well. The 1/600th scale land stuff could well be used for this period and it will perhaps provide sufficient inspiration for me to tackle the naval side in 1/3000th. As if to inspire me further I noticed that this morning Bob has posted the following The Smallest Dreadnoughts.

The naval side of the SCW is perhaps more interesting in theory than it was in practise but it does have the advantage of not needing much in the way of material. It would be very much a self contained mini project at some point.

Finally, I have a hankering to cobble up some HOTT/DBA armies on the cheap which will mean using Risk figures from their Medieval version. These are rather nice and would paint up readily enough.

All in all then there is a good selection of stuff for me to be getting on with. Some of the ideas are bigger and more expansive than others and to be honest this list is pitched very firmly 'in an ideal world'. I also hope to get some games in along the way - Jutland naturally but also with the block armies. All in all then it helps to have an idea of what one may do rather than to have no idea of what one can do.

Or not, as the case may be.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Jutland Part 12: Necessity is the mother of invention

 
 
The newer version of the Jutland rangefinder - the folded pink and white card on the left. You had one for each side.


The playsheet for Jutland is ready. To be fair it was merely a case of adding a few extra bits and pieces from some of the myriad of articles on the game I have access to. There are a few formatting issues to address but  I will get this attended to over the next couple of days. I had previously drafted most of the playsheet back in 2013 and to be honest was pleasantly surprised to see how close to completion it was even from back then. I should point out that the playsheet only covers the tactical game and so one for the map game will need to be tackled in due course although the need is not quite so pressing.

 
The older version (which I have) of the rangefinder which is in two halves. You can also see the movement gauges and battle area markers used to aid deployment from the map to the playing area.


The only remaining problem I have - aside from punching out several sheets of counters that is - concerns the movement and turn device and the firing rangefinder. The rangefinder uses a different scale to the movement device. The rangefinder uses a scale of 20mm to 1,000 yards - a curious mix of metric and imperial measures. the movement device uses a scale of 15mm to 2 1/2 knots. I am going to settle on 1 inch equalling 1,000 yards across the board which will mean that new 'devices' for both firing and movement may be needed.

I say 'may' be needed because in reality you do not really need to use the devices supplied in the game - a ruler would serve just as well. The rangefinder device quotes distances in 1,000 yard increments and also shows maximum ranges for weapons and visibility. It also shows the ranges at which hits are doubled, tripled or halved. All of these detail will be (and indeed have been) incorporated into the tactical playsheet so the only thing needed apart from a ruler marked off in inches will be a turning device of some kind.

In respect of the game and its components it is becoming more and more difficult to find replacements. The game has been out of print for some years and prices on Ebay seem to get higher and higher. The rangefinder I have is from an earlier printing of the game and is thick cardboard and in two halves. A later version was one piece of card that folded in half  to fit in the box. I doubt if I will be using either device as a ruler is far more practical and having all the details on a play sheet is far more convenient.

One thing I have discovered though is that our friends in the US are far better served in respect of spares for boardgames - even ones that are no longer available. the only downside is the inevitable postage and customs charges which add to the cost in some cases quite dramatically.

Still, I have enough to be going with and so can use the game virtually as is. There are a few administrative details to tackle - printing ship charts being he main one - but as far as my Jutland collection is concerned we have lift off.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Jutland Part 11: Postscript - "More drama, less accounting"

 
Avalon Hill's Jutland in all its glory - and not a play sheet in sight!


It was a strange evening last night when I eventually returned to Chez Crook and too late to do anything meaningful. SWMBO had one of her headaches (mercifully not frequent but quite debilitating when they do make an appearance) so retired early on leaving the lounge to myself, one of the three cats and the Christmas tree. I resolved to get something done in order to take advantage of having time of my own as, if I am honest, I was feeling pretty flat about matters gaming related in the light of my recent decision re the Jutland project. My decision was made for all the right reasons and I have no regrets but I do have that nagging feeling that Jutland and I will reunite once again in the future - it what shape though I cannot tell.

Charles Litka very kindly commented on my last post with some interesting ideas and experiences - especially playtesting the 2nd edition of Jutland some 50 years ago! It was a pleasure to read and one expression he used struck me as summing up everything I am trying to achieve in terms of naval wargame rules - in fact I used it for the title of this post (many thanks Charles!).

Emboldened by his comment (and others - thanks to Dave and Ken) and with the lounge to myself I decided to finish up sorting out the collection of Jutland related magazine articles and the folder that they now live in. It was a very therapeutic experience and I rediscovered several important pieces. I should mention that I have everything written on Jutland that appeared in the old Avalon Hill General and Boardgamer magazines on a very useful CD that features the same for all of the Avalon Hill naval titles. I also own a facsimile copy of the Avalon Hill gamers guide to Jutland. What I rediscovered though was something entirely different.

Some time ago (and I wrote a blog post about it) I purchased a whole series of replacement game counters from a chap based in Canada. these included replacements for the original game and supporting a series of articles that appeared in the General and the Boardgamer. As well as additional types for the North Sea there are also counters (and scenarios) for the Baltic, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. The Mediterranean set is of particular interest as you get the French, Austrians, Italians, Black Sea Russians, Turks and the RN. Not only do you get the ship counters and control sheets there is also a complete set of plot maps for the Mediterranean and a detailed campaign/scenario set of rules. Of particular interest is the use of colliers as well as formation counters for use on the map itself. Finally, there is also provision for the use of light cruisers as individual ships.

With the North Sea additions there are a number of interesting tactical and strategic scenarios including a 1906 'What if' featuring lots of pre-dreadnoughts, a 1914 'What if' when the RN and Germans had virtual parity in capital ships for a short while and two scenarios featuring the return to Germany of Von Spee and also of the Goeben and Breslau.

Having been enthused by all this lot I figured it was about time I cut the counters out - 8 sheets of them - and actually used them. Remember that Jutland is in effect a miniatures game in a box and the counters (scaled at 1/4800th) can be readily substituted for models. A couple of things struck me whilst sorting through all this lot. Firstly, the game badly needs a playsheet - especially with the advanced and optional rules, both official and unofficial. This is something I have in hand and it will make life a whole lot easier than referring across multiple magazine articles during a game. Secondly, and most importantly, Jutland really is a naval warfare game that is 'more drama, less accounting'.

In short then, perhaps I should be making use of what I have for what it is rather than trying to fashion something I have not.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Jutland Part 10: Endgame


 
S.M.S. Seydlitz - battered, bloodied but unbowed, limping home after Jutland. She would spend some time in dock being repaired but was back with the fleet by November.


I am truly sorry but my mind is made up. I have spent the last few days pondering a whole series of things associated with the naval rules I have been working on and however I dress it up it simply does not work in the way I would like. I have therefore decided to abandon the attempt.

I enjoy Jutland the 'board' game as is and within the context of what it is trying to represent (operational squadron/fleet sized naval combat) it is a wonderful game. I shall continue to use this (and all the various expansions) as it is an old favourite with much potential. As far as 'tweaking' the rules are concerned I shall not bother as they are fine as written, subject to my oft-repeated caveat of 'context'. In attempting to modify or port certain features of the system I have learned an awful lot from all of the research I have carried out as well as trying out the various game mechanisms I have explored, so the time and effort has not been wasted.

My plan instead is to revisit some old rules that were left unfinished and unloved and to 'dust them off' so to speak. These are rules that will definitely offend the purist and will also step away from the usual level of hard data that form the basis of so many sets of naval rules.

This will require something of a leap of faith from myself as I have been firmly wedded to the concept of translating technical data for naval rules for as long as I have been playing naval wargames.

It will be a refreshing change though, to tackle rules that are not set out to be quite so dogmatic.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Jutland Part 9: Stepping Forward


 
An oldie but goody - and is available via the History of Wargaming Project run by John Curry 
 

I thought long and hard about my recent play test and the changes I would need to incorporate in the next version of the rules. To be honest they are not many but they will make a difference. I mentioned that some of the processes were a little clumsy and so I hope that my changes have simplified things for the better.

I am satisfied with movement and all that need to happen with this is a little clarification around speed changes and turning so nothing too heavy. This kind of stuff is largely self-evident so I will not stress the point too much.

Firing is OK in terms of how you do it but damage allocation is the biggest problem as currently it involves some 'messy' calculations. These are OK when running a solo action but could get confusing in a multiplayer environment. I have taken a whole step out of the process in this case - it added little value - so damage inflicted will still remain at two steps (roll to hit and then for damage)  but the second will be a lot more straightforward. At this stage I will look to incorporate critical hits in due course.

One of the issues arising from my review of the play test concerns how ship protection/flotation values are calculated. Initially my thoughts were concerned with armoured cruisers As the playtest featured four of them) but they soon expanded to include smaller ship types. If you recall the base game of Jutland only reflected ships on an individual basis rated as CA (armoured cruiser) or larger. Light cruisers and destroyers were deployed on a combined basis so that 2 - 4 light cruisers were represented by a single counter and for destroyers it was complete flotillas. This worked well enough for Jutland but became a little too abstract when dealing with smaller ships. One of my aims was to allow for these ships on an individual basis so that lower level games had a little more depth to them. In both cases the ship record consisted of a number of boxes with each box representing a single ship in the formation.

I suppose what it comes down to is how do I want my ships to be represented? If an average dreadnought has, for example, 10 to 12 flotation points then other ships should be scaled back from this. Barry Carter, in his book Naval Wargames, adopted a fairly loose approach to damage points as he applied a notional figure to a type and then adjusted for other types accordingly. He liked his battleships(WW1) to have around 1,000 points or so (damage was based on the calibre of shell hitting the target) and then scaled back to light cruisers and destroyers with the later having around 100 or so points. The point is that he was fairly relaxed about how these scores were arrived out so long as they felt right and in relation to other ship types.

I must confess that being able to calculate a defence value for a ship based on a whole host of variables - tonnage, internal structural integrity, armour protection etc. - is a very difficult, if not impossible process. It is with this in mind that I am now not even going to try. Instead I will assign a notional value to a ship type and adjust classes either up or down from this benchmark depending on such factors as age, technological advances, actual historical performance etc. Selecting the baseline for these values will for the most part be a 'best guess' but I can make use of the values in Jutland (and the various additional articles etc.) and work with these as a guide.

With this in mind I envisage the following protection/flotation point ranges as being representative of the ships I shall be using.

BB - 10 to 14
BC (and yes, this is a new category!) - 6 to 12
PB - 7 to 10
CA - 5 to 8
CL - 4 to 6
DD - 2 to 4

I shall also refer to these henceforward as the flotation value rather than the protection/flotation value as this is more indicative of what the figure actually represents.

The figures above allow for a good spread of ship capabilities within the same notional type with classes dropped in as appropriate. I have allowed for some wider spreads for the older type of ships - the armoured cruisers and pre-dreadnoughts - simply because there was a bewildering variety of these in service during the Great War with many older vessels being pressed into use. This is also the case with the BC category as the early British types were effectively large armoured cruisers unlike their German counterparts. Of course there is also the late war RN oddities including HMS Repair and Refit....

In fact one could almost apply a similar approach to gunnery factors but that is a bridge I will fall off as and when (or even if) I get to it!







Sunday, 3 December 2017

Jutland Part 8: The Curate’s Egg

Right then. I ran the play test and it went pretty much as I expected. I apologise in advance for the fact that there is no detailed after action report but there was a couple of reasons for this. To begin with the pictures I took of the action did not come at all well - so much so that it was nigh on impossible to tell which side was which. Also, the action came to logical end fairly promptly - which was expected - which made for a game that may have been technically interesting as a test bed but far less so as an act of naval drama!

The rules worked well enough and although simple to use they did come across as quite clumsy. I am thinking of scaling back a few parts of the gunnery/damage mechanism to streamline the process a little. I have a feeling I may have over-egged the pudding in some respects. Movement was OK although again, some clarification is needed. I also think that I need to revisit the protection/flotation process as armoured cruisers seem a little too durable.

It was good to get a game in though, even though it appears to have been a little bit of an anticlimax.

For the record the basis assumption was that Troubridge decided to engage the Germans with the view to slowing them down if possible so that the British battlecruisers could finish off the Goeben. Upon sighting the German ships heading South at a range of around 23,000 yards Troubridge ordered his four cruisers to split into two formations. The idea was to engage the Goeben from either beam and to hopefully cause the German ship to have to split its fire, thereby reducing its potential effect. The Germans meanwhile decided to get in a short and sharp attack on one of the British ships so as to deter the others from closing and therefore allowing them to continue their escape.

The Germans were able to engage the leading British cruiser - The Duke of Edinburgh - at around 9,000 yards and inflicted some telling damage. Not to be outdone the Duke fought back hard giving slightly better than she received. At this point the German commander ordered the Breslau to escape whilst the Goeben reversed her course - a move which totally confused the British - and engaged the Black Prince. Although the range was now down to some 5,000 yards the effect was minimal - presumably all the frantic high speed manoeuvring had thrown off the ranging. That was pretty much the last throw of the dice as the British were facing the wrong direction to chase and with one of their number hard hit. The Goeben disappeared over the horizon nursing her wounds and looking to rejoin her companion.

I am not going to say that it is a case of going back to the drawing board but I will need to think about a few things.

The First of the Few




The first ships of my new 1/2400th scale collection. German torpedo boats.

This is not a veiled reference to the film about the design of the Spitfire - rather it is the first public showing of the new 1/2400th scale naval collection I am working on. It has been a chastening and embarrassing experience I don’t mind telling you! Sometimes you just seem to have a painting task that no matter what you do something always goes wrong. I am really pleased to have gotten these finished but the problems were many. To begin with it was the first painting project I have undertaken for a while so I guess I was a little rusty in terms of technique. 

The ships themselves were very easy to paint - overall black with a very light grey dry brush as were the bases but the blue I used and the varnish - despite my efforts at stirring and warming them up (I used new tins of Humbrol enamel in both cases) dried semi gloss and looked horrible. It was also the first time I had used MDF bases and I even had problems with them. Finally, the labels gave me untold problems in terms of positioning.

Despite all of that though, they are at last finished and don’t look too bad after all.

The naming convention I have used may seem a little strange but there is a good reason for it. German torpedo boats prior to around 1911 all had a number rather than a name with the letter indicating the shipyard they were built in - in this case Schichau-Werke, Elbing. All of the early era torpedo boats were redesignated as T when the newer types came into being in 1911. I opted to call them S and T to reflect this as the number remained the same so S90 became T90 and so on.

Next on the tray are the 18 B class four funnelled destroyers of the same era. Thankfully they will be a little more interesting to paint and I do not expect to have anything like the trouble I had with the Germans!

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Portable Wargame Thoughts

 
Hammerin' Iron by Peter Pig in action. Note the 'free hex' system in use. For a fuller account of action take a look at Trebian to whom thanks are extended for the use of his picture.


Although things have been very nautically inclined recently I have not been neglecting my ideas around the use of Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame series. For me the obvious fit would be WW1 and WW2 but I am also giving serious thought to something colonial. In fact, when I prepare the khaki army it would very simple to use some of the Tumbling Dice 1/600th open order infantry as loose order tribal irregulars of some type. Magister Militum have a large range of material in  this scale - far larger than the Tumbling Dice offering - so cherry picking odds and ends from them would be a useful alternative. Mounted camels would be very handy indeed for a couple of ideas!

I also have a large selection of the Peter Pig troop blocks that are available as part of their Hammerin' Iron ACW naval range. This is quite limited but covers infantry, infantry skirmishers, cavalry, artillery and command bases. the infantry blocks are rather nice and would be ideal for pretty much anything close order and linear for the 19th century. I am toying with the idea of using these for Napoleonics at some point - and Bob has mentioned the possibility of a dedicated Napoleonic Portable Wargame at some point.

My original thought in respect of WW2 was to replicate the approach from Memoir 44 using Heroscape tiles and 1/600th scale models. So far I have limited myself to what models Tumbling Dice have produced which is fine for the infantry and for the more vanilla vehicles. By that I mean I have a Panzer 4 F2, Shermans and T34/85s. Trucks, halftracks, artillery and antitank guns as well as armoured cars and SPs will need to come from magister Militum but I will not need many of them for sure!

Terrain will be pretty straightforward and I already have a selection of pieces that would suitable - including some palm trees! There are a few pieces available in the Peter Pig 1/600th scale Hammerin' Iron range that are useful as well including a rather nice farm/homestead

One of the other ideas I have been messing around with it the use of the Portable Wargame in a non-gridded way. I reckon that the core mechanics could be readily taken off the grid and games fought over a 2ft square playing area, DBA style. This is not an entirely original thought but it is a mechanism used in the Peter Pig Hammerin' Iron ACW naval rules. They make use of a 'free hex' mechanism whereby all combat and movement was handled using hexes but not on a hex grid as such. The unit being moved was assumed to at the centre of a hex orientated with a hex side across the bow of the ship (see the picture above to see this in action). This representational hexagon would then have the normal six sides facing off the ship for movement, turning and firing etc using hexes as the unit of measure. I think it could work with land actions as well and would give the advantage of opening up the playing area. I think it could also be used with squares and in fact think that they would benefit even more given the restriction of having four sides as opposed to the six of a hexagon.  It is something to ponder and I will give this some more thought in due course.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Jutland Part 7: "More slaughter, more misery"

 
S.M.S. Goeben sporting the Turkish flag


The playtest I am planning on running over the course of next weekend is fairly low key but is based on a potentially significant historical (in)action. The clue is in the title but a more fuller version of the quote from Winston Churchill I used runs as follows:

"....more slaughter, more misery, and more ruin than has ever before been borne within the compass of a ship."

I am of course referring to the escape of the two German warships the Goeben and the Breslau at the outset of the Great War. I will not go into the full story - you can read about it here - but suffice it to say that my play test will feature a small part of the saga or rather potentially a small part of the saga.

The piece of the action I have chosen as the basis for my playtest takes place somewhere in the southern Adriatic and involves the Royal Navy armoured cruisers H.M.S. Defence, Black Prince, Warrior and Duke of Edinburgh with three destroyers against the German battlecruiser S.M.S. Goeben and the light cruiser Breslau.

I confess that my knowledge of this particular affair is rather hazy on the exact timeline and details (something I shall be taking steps to remedy) but for my immediate purposes the British are trying to engage the Germans in an effort to slow them up so that the battlecruisers of the Mediterranean fleet - H.M.S Inflexible, Indomitable and Indefatigable - could catch them and render them hors de combat. The problem for the British historically was that the commander of the armoured cruisers - Sir Ernest Charles Thomas Troubridge KCMG CB MVO - was under orders to "not to get seriously engaged with superior forces."

For the purposes of this scenario I have assumed that the British are more prepared to engage the Germans. As the Royal Navy ships are for the most part slower than the Germans (even allowing for the boiler woes of the Goeben) they will need to get in quickly if they are to have any chance of slowing them down. The three destroyers in support were all that were able to stay with the armoured cruisers at the speed they were travelling, mainly due to running out of coal. I am undecided about including them at all as they would have been hard pressed to have engaged the Germans in any event

For the purposes of the scenario I have assumed that the Germans are crossing he front of the British at an angle so the window of engagement will be  relatively brief.

The ship specifications look something like this.

Germany (Mittelmeerdivision: Konteradmiral Wilhelm Souchon commanding)

S.M.S. Goeben (BB)

Flotation value: 12
10 x BB guns (5 x 2)
12 x CL guns
12 x DD guns
Movement: 10

S.M.S. Breslau (CL)

Flotation Value: 7
12 x CL guns
Movement: 11

Royal Navy (Rear Admiral Sir Ernest Charles Thomas Troubridge KCMG CB MVO commanding)

H.M.S. Defence (CA)

Flotation Value: 10
4 x CA guns +1 (2 x 2)
10 x CA guns
16 x DD guns
Movement: 9

H.M.S. Warrior (CA)

Flotation Value: 9
6 x CA +1
4 x CA
24 x DD -1
Movement: 9

H.M.S. Black Prince and Duke of Edinburgh (CA)

Flotation Value: 9
6 x CA +1
10 x CL +1
20 x DD -1
Movement: 9

A couple of points on the numbers above. The flotation values look quite close together in that the Goeben comes in at 12 whilst the average for the armoured cruisers is 9 and the Breslau comes in at 7. This is intentional and the actual calculation will be revealed later.  Suffice it to say that the rationale behind it is so that ships have some survivability (or rather to make the game last a little longer!) when facing their peers. The effect of damage from larger weapons on less well protected ships is reflected by the damage modifiers based on the calibre of the firing weapon and the type of target so although the numbers look close once the appropriate factors come into play the damage points should accrue fairly quickly!

The + or - modifiers next to the gun types are a reflection of their impact within the same notional gun type. Remember in a previous post that the 15" guns of the QE class had a +2 modifier compared to the standard 12" weapon? This is an extension of that same basic principle - the DD -1 guns represent the 47mm weapons carried which are not as effective as the 3.4" used as a baseline. Again all these assumptions will be obvious once the rules are drafted - and you can feel free to tweak them up or down to suit! 

I shall be using counters for the ships in this action which are scaled at 1/4800th and so will be using centimetres rather than inches for all measuring. I will write up an after action report with some pictures if possible but the purple prose may be in short supply - it is a test after all!


Jutland: Intermission



 
At this point there should perhaps be some dreamy music whilst the popcorn, drinks on sticks and numerous other comestibles are consumed....
 

For the record this is not way of saying 'I am bored with this and so I am now looking to do something completely different' rather it is a pause for reflection and to serve as a reminder of what has gone before and how it fits in with what is to come.

My original intention was to expand the tactical system from the Avalon Hill game Jutland to make them more to serve as a standalone set of WW1 naval rules. This idea was abandoned in favour of designing a set of naval rules for the period using selected mechanics from the original game.

I am happy with the process I have devised for designing ship damage record cards and believe that I have addressed the thorny issue of firing and the effects of such fire in such a way as to reflect the combat capabilities of the ships in question.

At the time of writing I need to factor in critical hits and also the whole torpedo attack mechanism but both of these areas can be more or less lifted straight from Jutland with very few adaptions. There are a number of other processes that will also need to be considered including manoeuvring, formations, visibility and weather etc.

I am the first to acknowledge that sometimes my written explanations may seem a little unclear and I freely admit that on occasion I may have overdone things a little. All will become clear though once I have run a couple of play tests and also have a draft of the rules ready - and I am aiming on fitting the whole thing on two sides of A4!

These rules will not appeal to everybody but I have always maintained that variety is one of the strengths of our hobby. They are not uber-detailed in the way that Seekrieg or Fear God and Dreadnought are, nor are they as simple as, well, the original version of Jutland. The rules are more concerned with the overall effects of damage accumulated over a period of time rather than micro-managing every single shell fired and its point/angle of impact. I believe that this should be variable and not merely a matter of hit, damage, hit, damage, hit, damage. More like hit, possibly damage, hit, actually damage, hit actually damage more/less than the last time. Above all the rules are designed to give a fun game that captures the flavour of WW1 naval combat as far as it is possible using models on a table top.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating as the old saying goes and with this in mind I am hoping to run the first play test this weekend.

I am rather excited about what I have achieved so far and I hope that the final results meet my expectations.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Jutland Part 6: Firing and Damage

 
H.M.S. Lion about to enter the fray


In the original game of Jutland firing was handled very simply. Essentially you measured the range, added up the number of gunnery factors (gunnery boxes) firing, selected the appropriate column from the firing table and then rolled a single d6. The score rolled would determine the number of hits scored. This number could be modified according to range so the closer to the target you are the more damage you could potentially score. This is all straightforward stuff.

The rules I am working on will use this system but with an additional step. Hits scored are now referred to as potential hits as you will then be required to roll a further d6 per potential hit to see what, if any damage is inflicted. Damage inflicted will be variable and also subject to modification depending on the calibre of the weapon being used and the type of target - and this is a crucial difference to the Jutland system where all damage was 'flat'. In Jutland one hit scored one point regardless of the firing weapon or target type. The greater effect of heavier weapons in Jutland was represented by using additional gunnery factors. H.M.S. Warspite for example having 12 gunnery factors representing her 8 x 15" guns so heavier weapons had more factors which in turn meant more potential hits and therefore more damage. I prefer to have the damage inflicted on a variable basis* so that a larger weapon causes potentially more damage than a smaller one. As Jutland assumes a norm of 11 or 12" weapons for its capital ships I believe that larger or smaller weapons should have their potential damage adjusted up or down accordingly and not as a mean figure. With this in mind I am currently working on the following system.

After having secured a hit or hits the firing player then rolls a further d6 per hit. If the score is 1, 2 or 3 then no damage is scored. If a 4 or 5 is rolled then one point of damage is scored. A roll of a 6 is two points of damage. The damage inflicted may then be modified depending on the calibre of the weapon firing and the category of ship being fired upon.

A couple of examples of this are as follows. Our old friend H.M.S. Warspite has scored two hits on S.M.S. Seydlitz. The two hit dice come up 2 and 5. Warspite has hit Seydlitz with her 15" main guns which have a plus 2 modifier due to their size. There is no modifier for ship type as we are dealing with BB type weapons hitting BB type targets. The first roll of 2 is no effect - either the shell(s) hit and failed to explode or it caused no effective damage. The 5 though is a different matter as this is one point scored. However, due to the crunching impact of a 15" shell(s) the Seydlitz suffers a further 2 points of BB calibre damage or 3 damage points in total.

In another example S.M.S. Lutzow has fired her main guns at the RN armoured cruiser H.M.S. Warrior and has scored 3 potential hits. The dice are rolled and come up a 1, a 5 and a glorious 6. the 1 is discarded. As the Seydlitz is using BB rated guns against a CA target each hit receives a an additional 1 point of damage. This means that 1 point of damage is scored for the roll of 5 and 2 for the roll of 6. Each adds an additional point (BB weapons hitting a CA target) so the Warrior has suffered 5 BB calibre points of damage.

It is all very well scoring damage points but what do we do with them?

I mentioned previously that in Jutland damage points were first applied to the gunnery factors. When all of these had been marked off then any further hits could be applied to the protection/flotation value. The rationale behind this was that once the topside had been suitably battered that any further damage would have more chance of wrecking the vitals, loosening bulkheads etc. I have no great issues about how hits are applied when suffering damage and indeed believe that  variety is a good thing however, it does need to have a degree of control otherwise unscrupulous gamers will take advantage of the fact and apply any damage to the least important part of the ship. I also believe that gunnery could (and indeed did) cause damage below the waterline or in game terms against the protection/flotation factor. With this in mind the following applies. Within a single firing attack (that is the effects of firing from a single ship) consecutive damage points may not impact the same system. For example a target receives three hits. The first hit is applied to any part of the ship (lets say the main guns) and then second hit is applied. This may not follow the first (so not the main guns) but must be used elsewhere. The third hit could be used against the main guns again if desired. The area hit may also sustain additional damage depending on the calibre of the firing weapon and the calibre of the target damage. For example a BB rated gun has hit a BB rated target with two points of damage. The target ship wants to ensure his main guns are kept intact (at this stage of the action it is tactically prudent to do so) and so elects to apply the damage to his secondary (CL rated) guns. He may only apply 1 point  to the secondary guns (remember no damage points are applied consecutively) BUT as they are rated as CL (and this is two steps down from BB/PB the damage point adds an additional two to the point being applied. This means that a BB calibre gun hitting a CL calibre target or the CL part of a BB/PB/CA type ship will score three points. A table reflecting his will be drawn up and added into the text of the rules.

The rationale behind this is that quite often secondary and tertiary weapons were less well protected than the overall class of the ship would indicate. A large calibre shell exploding within a thinly armoured casemate could wreak havoc so the additional damage goes some way to representing this effect.

Finally, as far as possible damage has to be applied to the part of the ship that is nearest to the source of the fire. This means port, starboard, fore or aft.

I appreciate the above may seem a little confusing and at this stage is not complete but I hope that what I am trying to convey makes sense. Once the rules have been drafted in their entirety all will become a lot clearer!





Friday, 24 November 2017

Jutland Part 5: The Devil is in the Detail

 
S.M.S. Von Der Tann - the first of the German battle cruisers. This superb looking model is by GHQ in 1/2400th scale from the collection of Ken Reilly and forms part of his Jutland collection. Ken was able to do what I was not able to and built both sides for use in a Jutland refight. His blog details the story of the collection and the action. It was a magnificent effort!

One of the main things I want to achieve with my as yet unnamed naval rules is to have a transparent system for setting up ship damage records. If you recall from my previous posts one of the weaker areas of the original Jutland rules was how the ships damage record cards were set up. They are detailed enough when used within the game itself but not for my needs. 

I have tried to reverse engineer the Jutland ship specifications but not with any degree of success. In any event what I want to use is a little more detailed. Calculating the specifications for any given ship is something that most naval wargamers will be familiar with, even if their favourite set of rules had plenty of types included. There is inevitably a ship that is missing from the rules or the existing record for a particular vessel is inaccurate and requires amendment. 

The biggest problem though is that the original Jutland rules had no provision for ships of light cruiser size or smaller. This is one of the reasons I am looking to go my own way. 

The construction of a ship damage chart (hereafter referred to as SDC) looks at a number of factors some of which are straightforward, others less so. The main areas we are concerned with at this stage are armament, protection and speed.
 
Speed. This is very straightforward and as I am working on the basis that a 30 knot ship can move 12” the number are readily convertible. Essentially 2.5 knots of speed equal one inch of movement. Fractions should be rounded up if more than one knot over a 2.5 knot multiple e.g. an 24 knot ship would be treated as moving 25 knots (10”) whilst a 23 knot ship would be treated as 22.5 (9”) knots. I will cover ship movement in more detail in a further blog post. 

Armament. For every gun a ship carries it has a box on the SDC. These should reflect their position on the ship itself so turrets will have their boxes together in twos or threes. Secondary and tertiary weapons should also be deployed in their correct positions on either beam. I should mention that I will be using a top down view for each SDC. Guns are of course rated using the method mentioned in my last post – BB, PB, CA, CL and DD. For the most part these categories are largely self-explanatory but as mentioned previously there is a degree of overlap. As a base the BB and PB category includes weapons of 9.4” and above, CA is larger than 6” up to 10”, CL is 4.1” to 6” whilst DD is 4” and smaller. I will detail the overlaps and their effects in a later post. Finally torpedoes. One box is marked on the SDC for every two carried.  At this stage I am only considering those carried by 'light ships' - light cruisers and destroyers - although I may rethink this.

Protection. This has given me more headaches than anything else with this project and try as I might I have not been able to see how the original numbers were calculated. I have a formula I am working with which may look a little inconsistent but bear in mind I am looking to model ship characteristics in such a way that one could readily have a good game featuring any permutation of ships types. The key assumption with this part of the process is that unless using torpedoes or barring something like a magazine explosion it was extremely difficult to sink a ship by gunfire alone. I will explain this in more detail in a further blog post. For the moment though it is sufficient to note that the protection, or more accurately, flotation factor is based on a combination of armour carried and tonnage.

Damage is another area that has given me much to think about and after much deliberation I shall be using the original Jutland model but with a number of additional factors. The original rules assumed that two ships exchanging gunfire would inflict damage above the waterline (the gunnery factor boxes) and when every box had been marked off the protection/flotation value would be reduced by one point per hit suffered. For every protection/flotation hit scored the movement factor of the ship was reduced by one. the ship was sunk when this factor was reduced to zero.

The key thing with is that until everything above the waterline had been destroyed the ship could still belt along with, in effect an undamaged hull and no speed restrictions. It also meant that ships with more gun factors would last longer as there were more hit boxes to cross off. Surely increasing the number and types of guns available (remember the base game made no allowance for secondary or tertiary weapons) would mean that certain ships would accrue an advantage simply because of having more weapon boxes to cross off?

This is certainly true as, for example, H.M.S. Warspite under the original system had 12 gun factors and 10 protection points. Under the new system it has 8 x BB rated gun factors and 12 x CL rated gun factors meaning 20 gunnery boxes instead of 12. The protection value changes from 10 to 14. So the new Warspite has a total of 34 damage boxes rather than the 22 of the original version. The problem becomes even more acute when you start looking at the Germans dreadnoughts that routinely carried secondary and tertiary weapons. I have a solution to this in respect of gunnery damage effects which will serve to negate some of this artificial survivability which I will outline in a further post.

I will have a mechanism in place for critical hits as this adds to the overall mayhem and also adds to the flavour. It also makes the after action reports more interesting to read!

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Jutland Part 4: The Reason Why

 
The last dreadnoughts of the Imperial German Navy built during the Great War - the two ships of the Bayern class


I think that one of the main things you need when undertaking the design or amendment of a set of rules is to have a clear idea of what it is you are trying to achieve. From my own experience it helps to be quite focused at this stage otherwise you can end up with an unwieldy and unplayable monster that raises more questions than it answers.

As I collate my notes and order my thoughts I figured it would be a good idea to set out what I am trying to achieve with the naval rules based on Jutland (and not Jutland based naval rules - an important distinction) project I am currently embarked upon.

What do I want?

1. A set of blue water naval rules that will allow for ANY ship type from torpedo boat destroyers up to dreadnoughts during the period 1895 to 1920.

2. Designed for use on a 6ft by 4ft table with a maximum firing range of 4ft and a maximum ship speed of 12".

3. To use individual ship damage record cards.

4. To have gun types 'banded' using ship categories.

5. To have a d6 based two stage combat process - roll to hit and if successful then roll for effect.

6. To use those game mechanics that are suitable from Avalon Hill's Jutland.

I think that is a fairly straightforward list to work with and seeing it written down makes (to me anyway) perfectly good sense.

I spent some of yesterday evening drawing up some ship specifications for a variety of types and was struck by how intuitive they appeared. For sure having generic gun types (more of which later) may seem like the easy way out but the rules will allow for variation of damage inflicted within the same notional category. Similarly there will be modifiers when the target ship is not of the same type as the weapon being used by the firing ship. An example of this would be a BB type weapon firing at a CA type ship or a DD type weapon firing at a CL type ship. There will be some overlap with this but all will make sense when the firing/damage table is drawn up.

I will detail the formula for the creation of a specific ship type in a future post but for the present the foundation of this is based on the following ship categories.

BB - Dreadnought type battleships and battlecruisers

PB - Pre Dreadnought battleships

CA - Armoured cruisers

CL - Light Cruisers

DD - Destroyers

These broad categories are the basis of much of the rules in that they refer not only to gun types but also ranges and protection levels. There is flexibility with these, even within the same category,  so quite different ships can be represented under the same notional type. An example would be H.M.S. Dreadnought compared to S.M.S. Baden. They are both BB type ships but are very different.

 
H.M.S. Dreadnought - the differences between her and the Bayern class are substantial as technology evolved into bigger, faster and more powerful.


Jutland as a game went some way to addressing ship type differences within the same notional category as far as was needed for the subject matter in hand - the system I will be using goes into more detail and is therefore more representational of the vessel being used.

I am planning to flesh out the process for creating ship damage cards in the next post and from then on will concentrate of particular areas of the rules and how they have come about.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Jutland Part 3: Setting the record straight

 
 
The famous Otranto barrage designed to keep the Austrians honest and scene of a number of tactically interesting actions involving smaller vessels.


Despite a train cancellation on the journey home last night I was able to spend some quality time reordering the files and notes around the Jutland rules project. It was a strangely therapeutic experience and more importantly has served to focus my thought process. The following post is very much a 'retrospective clarification' of exactly what it is I am trying to achieve and more importantly, why I am trying to achieve it. Some of this may well fall into the category of 'stating the obvious' but it is relevant.

Jutland was the epitome of the big fleet battle - I am quite sure we all agree on that score. The Avalon Hill game of Jutland reflects this and is designed to enable the gamer to recreate the action in a manageable fashion. The rules are concerned with capital ships and the smaller ships, the light cruisers and destroyers, whilst important are very much supporting players. The game mechanics reflect this to the extent that light cruisers and destroyers are represented by formation counters, each containing any number of ships. In short, they are abstracted out. This is fine as for Jutland as we are concerned about the battleships and battlecruisers. For this level of operation the game works extremely well.

What about smaller actions then? Destroyer sweeps, 'hunt the raider' actions, shore bombardments and a myriad other non-fleet sized activities.

The Jutland tactical rules are not really suited to use for single ship games and in my opinion struggle with even small squadron sized actions - why would they need to be concerned with such engagements as they are designed for use with whole fleets.  As they designed for fleet actions, specifically THE fleet action, the smaller scale stuff is of less importance.

Therein has lain my problem and although I had reached this conclusion some years ago I had to relearn it....

It is not a new phenomena. As wargamers we read about a battle and then raise a force that represents a small part of it. We then try and use that small force to fight the larger battle we have read about - or (in this case) vice versa. The problem is that we invariably have a set of rules that are not suited to what we are trying to game. I am not saying that everyone suffers from that but I have seen and experienced it first hand.


The small but very useful looking Austrian Navy. The Otranto barrage kept the Austrian surface fleet honest but was a lot less successful keeping the submarines penned in.


The majority of naval actions I have fought have tended to be quite small in terms of the number of models - usually around a dozen or so a side. With this in mind I want a set of rules that will enable me to fight an action to a conclusion in a couple of hours gaming time and with around a dozen or so models a side. A typical force (and this is VERY general) may be division of battleships (say 2 or 3), a couple of cruisers and half a dozen destroyers. For something of this size every ship is important and has a role to play. Clearly then, using Jutland would not be suitable, focussing on as it does the challenges of fleet level command.

It is not all doom and gloom though as the core systems of Jutland (which are very soundly thought out) can be used at a lower level of operations and still give a satisfying game. By 'telescoping' the rules down a notch so that all ships from destroyers upwards have some form of damage record card it will ensure that the lower level flavour is not lost in higher level processes.

On the face of it then the approach will be similar to that employed by Paul Hague in the original version of Sea Battles in Miniature. Essentially ships smaller than an armoured cruiser used a different calculation for their vital statistics (damage points etc) than the bigger ships. This is quite easy to factor in really as various prohibitions were employed around what types of ship could fire at what. For example battleships could not fire their main guns at a destroyer nor vice versa. Jutland also had provision for this but not for scoping out smaller ships.

In a nutshell then, I am devising a set of rules that will work at the lower end of the tactical scale - primarily by treating smaller ships as individuals similar to the larger types - using most of the mechanics from Jutland but with some subtle changes. By setting a series of baselines for ship types based on any of the following - guns, armour, tonnage etc I will be able to model their characteristics more readily but still maintain the Jutland 'big ship' flavour. These rules will include big ships as a matter of course - think as what I am doing as adding the 7/8th of the iceberg to the 1/8th that is above sea level.

That is the plan then.

1/600th Portable Wargame Ideas

 
A quite superb book
 
I have mentioned a number of times of my fondness for Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame system and this has been recently reinforced (as if it needed any such assistance!) by his recent sequence of games set in the Shin Valley on the NW Frontier. My plan is to use these rules and my collection of Heroscape tiles in conjunction with the 1/600th Tumbling Dice models I have been acquiring. I have flirted with a number of ideas for campaigns to represent using this method with contenders being the Arab Revolt - including the Sanusi and the Iraq version in 1920, the NW Frontier - including Waziristan, WW1 in the Caucasus, WW2 Western desert or something in the Aegean or possibly even something 'imagi-nation-ish'. Luckily the size of figures means that several armies can be represented using one basic paint job.
 
For any of the above conflicts a desert type paint job on the Heroscape tiles would suffice. As long at the result is suitably arid and barren it would be fine.
 
The interesting thing about the Sanusi affair is that much of the terrain fought over would see troops of a very different kind contesting the same area in WW2.

 
The following passage taken from Amazon gives you a good idea of what this particular conflict was all about.
 
"This is the exciting story of a forgotten war, fought out on the fringe of the great First World War campaigns. At its centre stands Sayyid Ahmad al-Sharif, the Grand Sanusi, a charismatic Arab leader caught between the rival war aims of the Turco-German alliance and the British Empire. In November 1915 HMS Tara, a requisitioned ferryboat, is torpedoed by a German U-boat off Sollum on the north-west coast of Egypt. The 92 survivors, nearly all Welshmen, are handed over to Turkish and Sanusi soldiers across the border and sent as prisoners of war deep into the Libyan Desert. The Turco-Sanusi Army then overruns Sollum and pushes into Egypt. The British, occupying that country, are caught off guard and forced to launch a military campaign to expel the invaders. Over the next few months, four battles are fought before Sollum is retaken and the threat contained. Finally, the Duke of Westminster leads a large column of Rolls Royce armoured cars and Model T Fords into Libya to rescue the Welshmen. Based on original source material, The Sanusi's Little War tells for the first time the full story of the Turco-Sanusi invasion and the subsequent military campaign. The author describes secret German missions and Turkish efforts to win over the Grand Sanusi. He reveals the fascinating role played in the campaign by British officers, particularly Leo Royle. Most unexpected of all is his discovery that T. E. Lawrence played a role in these events".
 
 
So you have Turkish trained Sanusi regulars and irregulars against Imperial troops with armoured cars and aircraft. this has the makings of something rather interesting and more importantly, slightly more conventional than the more usual Arab Revolt.
 
 
One for the project pile to be filed under 'Contender'.
 
 


Monday, 20 November 2017

Jutland Part 2: 2 steps forward and 3 back...

 
One wonders how history would have played out had a certain Commander Jellicoe not escaped from the sinking H.M.S. Victoria

You know that feeling you get when you think you have something virtually sewn up and then something crawls out of the woodwork and proceeds to unstitch pretty much everything you have done so far?  Well that is what has happened. 
I was typing a few notes up on the Mac last night when I happened to browse an old folder of files called Wargame Rules. This is the folder that includes a vast number of downloaded rules for land battles for various periods. At least that is what I thought was in it. As I idly scanned down the list of files (with some real corkers there that will need revisiting at some point) imagine then my surprise when I came across some old files relating to Jutland. These files are at least seven years old, probably longer, and represent a fairly comprehensive revision to the Jutland rules incorporating all the various updates from the AH General and Boardgamer magazines and some additional items from yours truly.
 
In short, pretty much everything I have been wittering on about recently….
I thought I had moved all of my Jutland related files into the Jutland folder but somehow had not done so with these. In my defence I have also changed computers twice since these were created so that is possibly how they have fallen through the gaps.
As well as the revision to the rules I had even gone as far as drawing up fairly comprehensive ship damage charts for both the Royal Navy and the High Seas Fleet.
In truth I had completely forgotten about these revisions and am more than a little embarrassed at myself for having overlooked them. Had I not done so it would have saved me a lot of time.
 
A cursory glance has shown that I was on the right track with my recent thinking so I will make a point of harmonising the files into something approaching a system so I can get a definitive draft prepared. I will make this available in due course but for now I need to tidy things up and make a mental note to be a little more careful where and how I store things....


Sunday, 19 November 2017

Jutland Part 1: The Blooding of the Guns



The damage record sheets from Avalon Hill’s Jutland

I  mentioned in my last post that I have moved on from trying to adapt the tactical rules from Jutland into something more ‘wargamey’ to instead making use of some of the ideas and mechanics contained therein  in a self designed set of rules. Surprisingly enough I had made a fair amount of progress with this for my ill-fated Jutland project so the work of making sense and adding some coherency to the whole thing in theory should not be too difficult.

The first thing I want to outline (or rather, think out loud) is the firing mechanism. As it stands I am using many elements from the Jutland system but with a few of my own twists. I shall outline how the Jutland system works and will then describe my ‘take’ on it.

Jutland the board game uses a system of gunnery factors for the ship in question which is cross-referenced on the appropriate column of the gunnery table and a single d6 is rolled to determine the number of hit points scored. Gunnery factors are also key to the damage system as they are the hits first scored against a target ship (more of which later) reduce the target ship’s own gunnery factor. The number of hits scored is modified by the range at which the firing ship engages the enemy. This means that long range fire typically reduces the number of hits scored whilst the closer you get the more damage is caused. Gun types have maximum ranges and are defined by typical ship types rather than calibre. For example, anything from 11” upwards is rated as either PB or BB. There are also sizes for CA, CL and DD. There are also restrictions on which gun types can Fore at what category of target, for example DD rated guns may not fire at ships classed as PB or BB. There is also a critical hit option so if a ships rolls a 6 to hit then there is a further roll to see what the critical hit is. I should also point out that a single game turn represents 10 minutes. Capital ships do not have any secondary weapons although the optional rules appearing in the AH General magazine allow for this.

Straightaway there are a number of issues arising. Try as I might I have been unable to work out how the ships gunnery factors were calculated - even to the point that I had an email exchange with the game’s designer, James Dunnigan, a few years back. Sadly he could not remember how he worked it out but given it was around 1966 he designed the game it is perhaps understandable! Most of the capital ships have 1 gunnery factor per barrel and the factors are grouped into turrets on the ship damage record. there are some crucial differences though. Take the Queen Elizabeth class armed with 8 x 15” guns. They have a gunnery factor of 12. I took this as being the base of 1 factor per barrel times 1.5 which works out fine. Hurrah you might think (at least I did), bu Jove he’s got it! Sadly not as if you look closely the numbers do not quite add up.

The factors for the Royal Navy ships follow a largely consistent approach in that the 15” gunned QE and R class all come out at 12 factors for their 8 x 15” with 4 x 3 factor turrets on the damage sheet. The 10 x 13.5” also come out at 12 factors meaning, for arguments sake, the number of barrels has been multiplied by 1.2. If you take the 8 x 13.5” gunned ‘splendid cats’ - Lion and Tiger etc, this comes out at 9.6 or 10 factors when rounded up. You can see what I mean by looking at the picture above.

Then comes the High Seas Fleet.

For reasons lost in the mists of time the only ships in the High Seas Fleet that seem to follow the RN lead of 1 factor per barrel for 12” or 11” armed ships are the Westfalen class battleships and the pre-dreadnoughts. Given that all the Germans capital ships at the battle were armed with 12 or 11” weapons it would be logical to assume that for the most part the gunnery factors would match the number of guns carried. Why then is there the discrepancy?

There are lots of theories as to why this may be. Is it allowing for the advantage that the Germans had when ranging in? Is it because some of the later ships had a superior version of the 12” gun to the bulk of the 12” armed RN battleships? This could be the case but does not allow for the 11” armed battlecruisers. I have no objection to adjusting the capabilities of a ship to reflect a specific combat situation where it is a known quantity but when the rationale for doing so is absent we have a problem.

The solution I have decided upon for this is quite simple. For the rules I am devising I will be using the standard of one factor per gun barrel and any differences due to the calibre of the weapon being employed will be factored in as modifiers to the damage effect. Taking the ships mentioned as an example I would give the 15” ships a +2 to their damage rolls whilst the 13.5 (and 14”) types would get a +1. Those battleships with a main gun of 9.4 or 10” would get a minus 1. The pluses and minuses will be explained further so don’t worry about the specifics for the time being.

I intend using the existing Jutland firing table to determine if a hit or hits are scored (based on the number of guns firing) and then to roll a d6 per hit to see what the effect is. I will also be using the Jutland based range effects on the number of hits scored - the to hit roll is made as normal but depending on the range can be tripled, doubled or halved. I prefer to roll a number of dice rather than just the one as I think it adds to the fun. The ‘roll to hit and then roll for effect’ adds a degree of uncertainty to the proceedings as it may be quite possible to score a number of potential hits that translate into no damage. Looking at the damage suffered by a number of the ships at Jutland it appears that damage effects could be variable depending on where was hit and what calibre was doing the hitting. 

The rolls for effect are very simple to implement. Essentially for each potential hit a d6 is rolled. 1, 2 or 3 means no effect, a 4 or 5 is one hit and a 6 is two hits. Aside from the modifiers to the damage inflicted due to the calibre of shell hitting the target there will also be a modifier adjusting for the armour type of the target. This is intended to ensure that armoured cruisers have their historic vulnerability to battleship calibre artillery. 

As an example (and I appreciate that you will have to take a lot of this on trust) take a look at the following to see what I mean.

H.M.S. Warspite, a Queen Elizabeth class dreadnought armed with 8 x 15” guns opens fire at the German battle cruiser S.M.S. Seydlitz at a range of 12,000 yards. There are no modifiers for range so the player commanding the Warspite looks at the column on the headed 8 to 9 and rolls a d6. The player scores 1, the best result (I may change these around as I prefer a 6 to be the best score and 1 the worst), meaning that Warspite has scored 2 potential hits. The player then rolls a further two d6 scoring a 1 and a 4. Sadly the 1 is a no effect (although the imaginary mast-high column of water would have given the bridge crew of the Seydlitz a deep sense of foreboding....) but the 4, plus the modifier of +2 for the 15” guns makes 6 which gives 2 damage points. 

How this damage is applied will be detailed later but for the time being these damage points would be taken from the main guns of the Seydlitz meaning that she has, in effect, lost two guns from the 10, or a turret has been knocked out.

The action continues.

S.M.S Seydlitz, down to 8 guns but at a range of 9,000 yards after some canny manoeuvring, opens fire on H.M.S. Warspite (no doubt circling furiously with her steering stuck....). At this range potential hits are doubled so with some good fortune things could potentially get very uncomfortable for the hapless Warspite. Rolling on the same column as the Warspite the Seydlitz again rolls a 1! This means 2 hits doubled to 4! The resulting rolls for effect come up as 2, 4, 6 and 4 meaning a total of 4 points of damage - 1 for each 4 and 2 for the 6. That would be a turret lost for sure and other damage as well. 

As I am writing this I am aware of a couple of things that will need to be nailed down - particularly as far as where damage is taken and that will form the follow up to this rather lengthy post.