Sunday, December 16, 2012

Pook Turtles at Memphis ,June 6, 1862

Tonight, Spike and I played out the Naval Battle of Memphis, using Memoir of Battle at Sea, 1860-1870.  The only "tweaking' to the rules was the addition of ratings for three groups of wooden rams.

US Ellet Rams: Move-2 hexes, Gun Range-1 hex, Floatation-6 points,Critical Point-2 points

CS Armed Rams Move-2hexes, Gun Range-2 hex, Floatation-6 Points, Critical point-2 points

CS Unarmed Rams-Move-3 hexes, gun Range-1 hex, floatation-4 points, Critical Point-1 point

The Us started with five City Class casement ironclads, also known as the "Pook turtles", as well as four lightly armed Ellet rams.

The Confederates face a hopeless task, defending the river with three armed, and four almost unarmed river rams. Their task is to make the passage of Memphis expensive for the Federals.

As dawn broke over Memphis, the Confederate ships steamed toward their destiny. The Federal Rams broke out in front of the "turtles".

The opening rounds of fire see damage done to both fleets' leftmost ship.

The rams begin to do horrific damage to each other.  After ramming, the guns try to sweep the decks at close rang.

The smaller Confederate rams are destroyed early, but the Federal lose an Ellet, and have another damaged and limping to safety.The larger southern ships get in a last attack, and sink two more Ellets, before being sunk by the gunfire of the slow moving ironclads.

Another section of the great river is now unvexed...

Game Notes: Spike did much better than the REAL Confederate Navy River Defense Force. She sank three Ellets, and did serious damage to another. , for the loss of all ships. The actual battle saw one CS vessel get away (the Van Dorn), and no Union vessels sunk.( The ram Queen of the West was run aground).

The game played out in about fifteen minutes. Using two mats, 11x18 hexes, gave plenty of room to move your ships. The "edge" hexes were considered "shallow" and any ship entering would need to dice to avoid grounding.

The models are all paper, and available from the same site mentioned on my previous post, "Hampton Roads".

Some background reading: "The Civil War Military Machine", by Ian Drury and Tony Gibbons, and  "Warships of the Civil War Navies", by Paul H. Silverstone.

The captains  and crew of those river rams were heroic beyond reason. I salute them!

NEXT WEEK: "No Sailor, but a Fool": Some Thoughts on Ships against Forts

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Naval Ensigns PDF file

For those of you who love details on your gaming tables...and who doesn't?....I am making my PDF file of naval ensigns available to share on Google Drive. You may need to create a Google account to download the file, but I believe anybody can view it beforehand.

The link is here > flags.pdf at Google Drive

Most major navies are represented, but if you are in need of a flag that isn't included, let me know in the comments and I'll try to add yours to my next PDF.

Until next time, happy gaming!


Monday, December 10, 2012

MoBaS:Hampton Roads Virginia

Hopefully I can get back on schedule  this week. Tonight i fought the two naval actions at Hampton Roads, Virginia, that saw the introduction of ironclads to the  American navies.  Using "Memoir of Battle at Sea 1860-70" and some paper ship models downloaded from
I was able to fight two interesting battles in about a half hour.

The first action saw the CSS Virginia steam out to attack the blockading vessels USS Congress and Cumberland. both Union ships were at anchor, and had to "raise steam" by rolling a d6 each turn until they each accumulated 12 points. They would then have a move of "1' on their first turn, and full speed of '2' on the next.

USS Minnesota was run aground, and had to roll each turn to try to back off the shoal. A d6 was rolled and the total tallied until "'25" was accumulated.

The Virginia moved in against Congress first, trading shots as soon as the two ships were in range. The ironclad placed a shell from the bow rifle through the vitals of the wooden ship for two floatation hits on her first shot.  The southern vessel shrugged off a long range shot from Congress.

Continuing to close the range, both ships fired with some effect. Congress continued to work to get up steam, despite the hammering from the Virginia. Cumberland also readied for action.

Just as Virginia began to move up for a ramming attack, Congress hauled anchor and left its mooring. Virginia turned to port, and the ships traded broadsides, Congress began to sink.

Cumberland now was moving, trying to get out in front of the deadly ram. she, too opened fire on the Confederate vessel. Virginia answered with her bow gun.

Virginia again tried to turn in to ram, but the swifter vessel turned away. Again, close range broadsides were exchanged. Again the deadly Brooke rifles tore through the wooden walls of the  US frigate. Cumberland settled on the bottom. Virginia, feeling the effects of the Northern guns, turned away to home, seeking repairs. She would return for the grounded Minnesota in the morning.

(Between battles, I rolled a d3, to allow Virginia to repair some of the five points of floatation damage taken in the first fight. Three points were repaired that night).

On steaming past the previous day's wreckage, Virginia's  commander, Catesby ap Roger Jones was interested to find a small turreted vessel in place guarding the still-aground Minnesota.  The monitor wasted no time in opening fire, landing a hit before Virginia's guns were in range.

Virginia steamed straight at the Federal ironclad, intending to test the ram. The Union captain moved his ship slightly, maintaining his position between the southern ship and its helpless target. Again the monitor landed a damaging shot on the armored ram.

Virginia turned to line up a ramming attack on the Union ship. Monitor slipped in close to the monster. Both ships unloaded punishing close range salvos. When the smoke cleared, both vessels back away from their foes. Enough damage had been done. There would be  a time to settle this later.....

Enough damage had been done. There would be  a time to settle this later.....

Game Notes: MoBaS is a wonderful set of rules for smaller actions such as these. The variable initiative system makes it very interesting when you are close enough for ramming.  The "critical point" rule keeps captains from slugging it out at all costs.

Had Virginia succeeded in ramming another vessel,I was going to make a roll to see if she lost the ram, as she did in the actual battle (1-3, lost;4-6 still attached). One of the mounting flanges had been broken when attaching the 'beak' to the ship, and never replaced, causing the ram to be lost on day one. Amazingly, this was not noticed, despite the taking on of water from the damage.

The game was played on an 8x11 hex board.

NEXT WEEK:The Naval Battle of Memphis! Ellet Rams Galore!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Two Books You Should Read

I am making a serious effort to read an average of one book per week this year.  Here an reviews of the last two returned to the bookshelf completed.

First up is Paul G. Halpern's "The Naval War in the Mediterranean 1914-1918"(Naval Institute Press, 1987).

Any book of First World War naval history is doomed to be anticlimactic. Unless the author veers into "speculative fiction", there is NOT going to be a sea-going showdown in the Adriatic, Black Sea, or even in the North Sea.  What emerges from this study by Paul Halpern is an incredibly documented  examination of naval strategy, as influences by procurement, politics, and often personalities.

The major powers entered the final summer of peace expecting to one day see a major fleet action between the forces of France and Britain, on one side, and Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire on the other. When Italy chose to remain neutral, then eventually join the Allies, the Austrian fleet was facing a potentially overwhelming force.  A combination of poor equipment, inter-Allied jealousy, poor allocation of  resources, and a huge learning curve in anti-submarine warfare led to the Austrians being able to maintain a "fleet in being" long after their opponents should have forced their hand.

Halpern gives many examples of the logistical shortcomings faced by both sides. Due to the location of  some Allied repair centers, in order to maintain thirty destroyers on station, it was necessary to have ninety available. Italian capital ships seldom left port, because of the threats of mines and submarines. Shortages of coal and oil kept many boilers 'cold' while in port. when an emergency arose, the ships needed were not ready.  Wooden trawlers, so important to the maintenance of the anti-submarine Barrages, were on duty for such extended periods that their hulls became unseaworthy.

Submarine warfare dominates the action in the book. The political effects are discussed at length, especially the Austrian reaction to German unlimited warfare, and the use of Austrian flags on German subs, when attacking vessels belonging to nations not yet at war with Germany.

This book is not a "light" or easy read, but it is a very important one for those seeking to understand why the Allies did not pursue a more aggressive strategy in the Mediterranean and Adriatic. It deserves a place on the shelf of anyone interested in Naval or diplomatic history.

My second review is on a subject I never tire of studying: the Monitor and the Merrimack.  William C. Davis wrote "Duel Between the First Ironclads" in 1975.

This book moves at a brisk pace, following the design and building of the first two ironclad ships to see battle. Some of the in-fighting among the designers and manufacturers is covered, particularly the animosity between Virginia  designers John Porter and John Brooke. There is a good discussion of the design of the ships armored protection,and a basic description of the guns mounted on the two vessels.

Both of the days of battle at Hampton Roads are covered in some detail, as is the later history of both ships, and the men who commanded them.  At only 170 pages, plus notes, this book is an ideal quick and enjoyable read, full of action. There are forty-one illustrations and photos.

NEXT WEEK: Memoir of Battle at Sea: Hampton Roads 1862

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dogger Bank-Memoir of Battle at Sea

One of the indelible images of the first World War is the photograph of the SMS Blucher sinking at the Battle of Dogger Bank. Tonight I refought the battle using Bob Cordery's Memoir of Battle at Sea rules, with a few modifications.

First, i used the same ratings for all of the battle-cruisers involved in the action . They were given a speed of 4 hexes per turn, a gun range of 10 hexes, flotation value of 12, and a critical point of 4. I also allow capital ships an 'anti- torpedo boat" fire range of 4 hexes. This has no bearing on the use of the main battery.

I restricted the guns on torpedo boats and destroyers to targets of "light cruiser' and smaller  classes.

I tried an experimental 'critical damage' rule. It is this. any "6" rolled against a ship is re-rolled. A 1-4 is still two flotation hits. A "5" is one flotation hit and a loss of one gun range/dice. A " 6" is a loss of one flotation factor and a loss of one hex of speed.

The battle opened with the British battle-cruisers gaining on the Germans. the German light cruisers and torpedo boats fanned out to set up a screen.One light cruiser is hit early.

Seydlitz leads the way home, followed by Moltke, Derflinger, and the armored cruiser Blucher.

"Yes, I have too much stuff on my shelves"

The light cruisers and torpedo boats form a scrum. The Germans try valiantly to slow down the British ships.

Hit by shells from the German battle line, then torpedoed, HMS Lion sinks suddenly.

Harwich force arrives, to sink or chase off the German predators. Tiger is also hit, while landing shots on Derflinger.

Tiger must leave the action, badly damaged. Harwich force begins to close in on the damaged and slowly moving Blucher.

Princess Royal, New Zealand, and Indomitable continue to pound the German ships.

Blucher slides beneath the waves. She was not fast enough to escape the British, and under-gunned to stand against them.

The British send a late salvo, sinking the Derflinger, as well. The other two German capital ships cleared the bar and escaped.

German losses were severe. One battle cruiser, one armored cruiser, two light cruisers, and seven torpedo boats. The British lost flag-ship Lion, one light cruiser, and three destroyers. Two battle-cruisers and three light cruisers were also severely damaged, and the British would be without them for a number of months.

GAME NOTES. The game was played on a 6x4 foot table. It took only thirty minutes to play out the action.

The critical damage rule worked well in this game, with the emphasis on a speedy get-a-way for the Germans, and a rapid pursuit for the British. Losing a point of speed was fatal to two German vessels.

I cut the number of actual destroyers and torpedo boats in half, and still had a table full of them. Next time I run this one, I will use a 1-3 ratio.

Next Week: A couple of book reviews.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

An Unexpected Bargain

I have been checking Amazon every day since June, hoping to find a "good" or better copy of "Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905" for less than $80.00 US. Tonight I bought one online for $25.00. The next lowest price was $90.00.  Persistence pays off, sometimes! Now to go sit by the mailbox waiting, like I did at the age of four:-)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Slight Delay.....Hopefully

I am sorry I don't have today's entry ready. We are dealing with a problem with a family member. Hopefully, everything will soon resolve itself properly, and I can resume my writing schedule in a few days.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fast and Easy French Pre-Dreadnoughts

When I first examined a copy of "Jane's Fighting Ships 1914" the ship that grabbed my imagination more than any other was the French pre-dreadnought "Bouvet", laid down in 1893. The photograph and plan drawing showed an amazing collection of turrets, housing guns of several sizes. The bulge of the tumble-home hull with the low turrets riding thereon, gave the appearance of a vessel already sinking. Looking at the pictures of "Henri IV", "Carnot", and "Charles Martel" one realizes the French naval architects were working with an totally different vision than that of other navies.

One of my first games of "Memoir of Battle at Sea" was to be a match-up of  German and French pre-dreadnoughts. I had the four German ships built in the style of Bob Cordery's SMS Schleswig-Holstein model. Now I needed the French opponents.  I did not feel I had the ability to accurately carve the odd contours of the French style hull, but wanted to suggest it in some way.  I laid out the basic cuts to be made on a four inch by two inch piece of 3/16" balsa. I also cut a four inch by 3/4" piece of 3/16" wood to represent the main deck.

Both pieces were cut to shape with an X-acto hand saw, then sanded. The outer edge of the larger piece was sanded to suggest the inward slope of the hull.

The two pieces are glued together, then weighted until they dry.

The upper hull/deck is sanded to match the contours of the lower hull.

These  are the other pieces. With the exception of the four half inch sections of 1/16" dowel(guns) and the 1/2" by 7/8" piece of balsa next to them, every piece here is a pre-milled  hardwood fitting available at Hobby Looby or other craft stores.  Two are small spools(stacks) and there are three sizes of furniture plug (various turrets). A small wooden cube is also used (chartroom).

Here are the first pieces attached. Support for stacks, chartroom, two medium turrets, and the sponson for the flank main turret.

Next to be added are the stacks, and the fore and aft small turrets.

Holes are drilled for the main guns, which are then glued in place. They are propped on a piece of scrap to dry.

Main batteries are added. All she needs is paint and a flag.

Here is an early effort with a coat of  Testor's Gull Grey and one of Spike's printed flags.

Total cost of materials is about $2 US. Time for construction is about thirty minutes each.  So far they have an 0-2 record against the High Seas Fleet.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A brief post from Spike on in-game photography

Thank you to all the people who have given positive feedback on the photography in both of Steve's blogs. It was the hobby of miniature gaming that got me enthused enough to take my photography from simple snap-shooting up to the next level. I'm still a hobbyist with no real intent of going professional, but I thought I might share a few tips for others who want to get pictures of games in progress.

With any sort of photography, light is the most important thing. The brighter the area, the faster the image can expose. Quicker shutter speeds equal less blur and less work for the automatic focus. If your game area is under-lit, there's no need to spend piles of money. I invested in three "clamp lamp" style shop lights...basically a bulb socket with a removable metal reflector found at your hardware store for around $7 USD. Each is fitted with a 20 watt "soft white" CFL bulb, and all three are arranged around the room so that their light is directed toward the ceiling and reflected evenly on the game table below. This gets a nice even light with no harsh shadows.

Secondly, a sturdy tripod and hands-free shutter operation make for a crisper photo. Most modern digital cameras, even the inexpensive compact kind, have a 2-second timer option which eliminates any shake that a finger on the shutter button might cause. Many of the more sophisticated DSLRs have a jack for a remote shutter control and/or an infrared remote controller. 

For super-macro shots taken at "ground level" on the playing table, sometimes the slope of the terrain will not permit simply setting the camera flat on the game board. For those occasions, I keep a zipper style plastic bag full of uncooked rice. This allows me to position and level my camera on an uneven surface where a tabletop tripod isn't feasible.

But the most important thing to remember with in-game photography is not to excessively inconvenience the players. Experiment with different angles and vignettes before the game begins. If your camera has a manual white-balance function, take a moment to adjust white balance right then rather than have to fiddle with it in your photo editing software later.  Try to avoid using flash, as it can be anywhere from a mild distraction to a great headache, depending on the player. But mostly try to pay attention to the game even if you aren't a player. That way you're always ready for the "highlight" moments.

I was a little sad not to get to play in the two Martian scenarios, but then again I get to have games with Steve all the time...which is how he would have it if not for day-jobs and the need for slumber. I may one day soon ask him for a rematch and avenge Ben's vanquished Martian invaders with my "WOMD"...the mother of all tripod walkers...

Halloween Special: ...That ends Welles

As we  have seen in Adventures in Portable Wargaming, Britain has been invaded by Mars. Giant tripods have defeated a force of Territorials, and have moved to the coast. A shipload of refugees is trying to escape, covered by the Royal Navy.  Four armored cruisers move up in line abreast, seeking gun range. The Martians ignore the transport ship, seeing nothing to fear from the vessel.

The Martians launch their "black clouds", which do no damage to the ships, but do impede the sailors' gunnery.  The cruisers hit the tripod on the left for minor damage.

The heat ray hits one of the cruisers, doing frightening damage. Meanwhile, the Torpedo Ram Thunder Child moves up behind the merciless enemy.

The cruisers concentrate their fire against the right most walker, giving the refugee vessel a chance to escape. Thunder Child moves into position, still unnoticed. Three of the cruisers are in trouble.

Thunder Child strikes, hitting with a torpedo, then ramming the left walker. Still it survives.

Two of the walkers turn their heat rays on the valiant little vessel, sinking it in moments.

The undamaged cruiser moves in close to the right walker, and unleashes a powerful broadside. The walker hits the water steaming.

The moment of glory is short-lived, as the remaining two walkers turn their heat rays on the heroic ship and crew.

As the refugee ship, and the three damaged cruiser escape, the Tripods also fall back, to consider the threat that is the Royal Navy.  What will tomorrow bring?

The cruisers are my balsa Defense and Warrior class models built last week.
The tripods are built from pre-milled wood pieces bought at Hobby Lobby, then sprayed with chrome paint.

Rules used were Bob Cordery's "Memoir of Battle at Sea".  The tripods were considered "pre-dreadnought battleships" with the addition they could each turn launch a "black cloud"by rolling a d6, with a 4,5,6 landing the cloud on a ship. Ships thus hit lose one gunnery dice for the next turn.

Thunder child is a model of the HMS Polyphemes. It was treated as a light cruiser, with no guns,, a bow torpedo and a ram that does four d6 damage.

Ben played the Martians. Spike took the photos. The game took fifteen minutes, and was great fun.

I hope everyone has enjoyed our little tribute to  two great talents, Wells(H.G.), and Welles(Orson).
Have a safe and happy Halloween.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

"An Enemy then Flying" The Pursuit of the Goeben

As promised, this week we see the new British  armored cruisers in action against the German battle cruiser SMS Goeben., and the light cruiser Breslau.  Spike and I played this game in about twenty minutes, using Bob Cordery's Memoir of Battle at Sea, with the addition of a new ship class, the Battle cruiser.

BATTLE CRUISER Move 4 hexes, Gun Range 10, Floatation 12, critical 4 points

The first turn saw the two German ships move on board from the west, trying to get off the east edge without suffering serious damage (critical point or less).  Intercepting from the southeast were the British armored cruisers, HMS Warrior, Black Prince, Defense and Duke of Edinburgh. Turn number two saw Goeben range in on the lead British ship.

The Warrior took three hit points, without being able to respond. Still the cruisers steamed onward in line astern. Both Goeben and Breslau  again fired on the squadron leader, inflicting enough damage to make the British ship limp away. Goeben took only minor damage in the exchange. Breslau also was hit by Black Prince.

In a bold move, the two German ship put on full steam to "cross the T" on the British.  Goeben unleashed a salvo on the Black Prince(4 points) while the British ship matched shot-for-shot(5 points). Breslau poured gunfire and torpedoes into the Defense (6 points) , while the British cruiser fired effectively and sank the lighter ship. Warrior continues to slip away from the battle.

Goeben switched her fire to the battered Defense, and poured in a series of hits that finished what Breslau had started. Defense and Edinburgh  inflicted further minor damage to the battle cruiser(now at critical point)

Goeben tried to steam eastward, on to Constantinople, but Edinburgh moved in, trading  iron with the beleaguered vessel (four points of damage each). Goeben heeled over, slipping beneath the waves.  Turkey would not receive the German ships.

The battle was costly. Germany lost  its Mediterranean Squadron, and Britain lost one ship, sunk, and two others would be in repair for many weeks.  Lord Fisher would praise the squadron for "upholding the traditions of the Navy" by closing with a superior enemy and showing him no mercy. Admiral Troubridge's star was on the rise.


NEXT SUNDAY: How to Build a Quick and Easy French Pre-Dreadnought!