An expedition to Norway

Last Sunday I played a wargame with my young friend Benjamin.

We decided to play a WW2 naval game as the scenery would be simple and it could be set up (and put away for the Memsahib’s satisfaction*) reasonably quickly.
I have a set of rules adapted from the game Axis and Allies – War at Sea, previously mentioned on this site.

*Actually Mrs. GeneralWhiskers said she was impressed with the layout.

The adaptations are to allow play on a hexagon grid rather than the rather more basic sea area maps provided with the game.
My adaptations therefore involve actually steering the ships and include arcs of fire from the various guns and torpedoes.

The table available is 270cm x 900cm (9ft x 3ft), i.e. long and narrow.  Searching for a suitable battle I decided on something based on the Royal Navy attacks on Narvik. The game would involve a British task force steaming into the Fjord, wreaking havoc and getting out again.
The location was Ingenstedsfjord, south of Narvik, known to be a haven and refuelling depot for the Kriegsmarine.  The date was 31st April 1940. (Yes, I know, but I got the idea from Len Deighton’s excellent book “Bomber”).  The location translates as “nowhere inlet”

The forces were determined by dealing the first 12 cards of ships available in early 1940 from the deck (no pun intended) for each side. Unfortunately this resulted in the following very unequal balance:

British:
1 Battleship*
2 Carriers
2 Cruisers
6 Destroyers
1 Minesweeper
*actually a flower class corvette was dealt, but turned out not to have been built yet. The next card was HMS Warspite!
“Oh dear, ‘ow sad, never mind” as BSM Williams[#] might have said.

Germans:
3 Submarines
5 Destroyers
2 Auxiliary supply ships
2 Commerce raiders

As it happens, the German force would not be unusual to be sheltering in a Norwegian Fjord, but a Graf Spee, Prinz Eugen or Bismarck might have been useful! I did flirt with the idea of one of these three turning up half way through the game, but decided to play what fate had dealt.

I topped up the German defences with a minefield across the Fjord entrance which proved more effective than expected, even though I ensured that there was a path through it with careful seamanship.

I placed MDF hexagons from another game around three edges of the table to indicate the limits of the Fjord and created a small town at the north-east corner. I added a couple of islands for good measure (of which more later).

DSCF0009And so, with a mixed bag of 1:1800 ships, 1:900 aircraft, 1:1200 houses and 1:600 forests on a sea scale of 1:360000 we were ready to play.

One German destroyer and one submarine were on patrol. All other ships were moored and would take 1 average dice of turns to get up steam.

DSCF0011

DSCF0012
The British approached from the west end of the table. The minefield was about one turn in from the edge.

HMS Halcyon, the minesweeper, darted in and failed for three turns to clear a single mine, even though there were only five, a 2/3 chance of each being removed, and arranged so that she could attack two at a time. Cries of “mine, mine” as performed by the seagulls in “Finding Nemo” echoed around the room. The German destroyer Diether von Roeder failed equally to cause any damage to the Halcyon during this part of the operation.

Then the big boys arrived. HMS Illustrious and HMS Victorious, each with two flights of Swordfish biplanes, entered the Fjord and sent the ‘planes to do the dirty work. They were the nemesis of the German fleet.
The rules allow all aircraft to fly a mission every turn and so each turn four flights attacked a single ship. The best defence a destroyer could offer would be for one flight to be chased off before attacking, and so it would still be subject to six torpedo attacks, with a roll of 6 being sufficient for a deadly strike.
Rules have been rewritten for the next battle.  (See below)

Both sides of necessity fed in their ships piecemeal, but the Swordfish just picked off the Germans in a most unsatisfactory way.

DSCF0015The hardest thing for Ben as British commander was manoeuvring his larger ships between the numerous wrecks that began to litter the fjord. It also appeared that one of the islands was too close to the northern shore for any ship to sail through the gap.

He did lose most of his destroyers to submarine attack or from the guns of the Altmark, and I thought it most cowardly when he started to hide his  destroyer screen behind his carrier, behind an island, DSCF0014.JPG

but we called it a day when it was clear that the Germans could not run, nor beat off those deadly Swordfish.

After the battle we sat and discussed how the rules could be bettered.
We thought the submerged submarines would be better if each had a couple of dummies for the enemy to chase.
The existing rule was that a submerged submarine would actually be in any one of the seven hexes containing or around the actual model. This resulted in one of my subs accidentally running aground when I was not paying attention.

The biggest amendments were to the operation of carrier aircraft.
First, a mission would not be restricted to one turn only, so a longer range attack over several turns would be possible.
Second, after landing, one complete turn would be spent refuelling and rearming.
Third, Only one flight could target a single ship in any one turn.
Fourth, no carrier would be able to launch aircraft and receive returning aircraft in the same turn.

In total there are 12 new rule amendments.
If anyone wishes to see my rule set, please e-mail paul.wisken@btinternet.com for a copy.
(But please give me time to rewrite including the revisions).

Our next foray on the foaming seas will probably be the hunting of the Bismarck next year.

[#]A character in the BBC sitcom “It ain’t half hot Mum”, played by Windsor Davies.

Cyber-Spying? There are easier ways.

Forget cyber-spying….

What does your postman know about you?

Today I delivered my car for a post-accident financial check-up.
The body-shop manager greeted me in a friendly way. We actually occasionally meet as dog-walkers locally.

His first question was: “Have you walked the dog, and is he in the car?”.
His idea was that I could walk Sparky while his chaps examined the damage.
I replied that I had come prepared to walk Sparky home if they needed to hold the car.
He said: “Not all the way to xxxxxxx”
I looked surprised.
He said.: “No. 7 isn’t it. Mr Wisken? I used to be your postman.”

Unexpectedly I got a small courtesy car, with permission for Sparky to use the back seats (“He’ll be OK”).
In fact I made Sparky scramble into the boot area after folding the seats forwards.

But it was a lesson that not only computers know all about you, but also much friendlier local folks, and what can tell more about you than your postal deliveries??

Cold callers

Don’t we all love those telephone calls that come right in the middle of something we are deeply engaged in, be it painting, modelling, reading or simply watching TV?

No, we don’t.

I have devised a quick question list for those annoying people, based on their own methods.

What is your reference number?

 I see.  Before we proceed I have to ask you a few security questions:

          Your full name

          The first line of your address

          Your postcode

          Your date of birth

          Your mother’s maiden name

 Thank you.  How may I help with your enquiry?

In practice, I rarely get beyond line 2.  Most hang up on line 1.

I have other methods.  If it sounds entertaining I will keep them on the line for no tangible result.  My best ever was someone offering me a better mobile telephone package than the one I had: handset provided by my employer and calls (within reason) paid for by my employer.  He elaborated on the potential savings, etc., etc.  Naturally I did not reveal my actual package for about 15 minutes.  Then I was called “a naughty man who has wasted my time.”  I replied that he had called me to waste my time and I thought we should compete on equal terms…. [click, silence].

My shorter response is: “If I did not call you, then clearly I do not need your services.  Goodbye.”

Operation Acorn

My young friend Ben, who happens to be the Memsahib’s godson, has expressed a wish to play more wargames.

So, in the near future, we will engage in a WW2 naval battle, loosely based on the two battles of Narvik in 1940.

In this battle, the Royal Navy, task force shown below..

will enter a Norwegian fjord with the intention of destroying the German supply vessels.  But the Germans may have some surprises …

From a pedant

I freely admit that I am a pedant.  I also acknowledge that language evolves. But I am becoming increasingly annoyed about the wrongful use of the word “multiple”.

I hear it all the time nowadays.  The latest was on the BBC news “multiple people have been shot…”

I believe they mean “many”, or “several”, or “some” or “a number of” or even “lots of”.  Multiple people by definition means people composed of several components, which I guess means all of us.  It is not any form of quantitative evaluation.

If we could please revert to the real meaning of “multiple”, as in “six is a multiple of two and three”, maybe we could also dispense with the horrid dumbing down phrase of “timesed by” rather than the correct “multiplied by”.

Of course, three times two equals six, and three multiplied by two equals six, but “timesed by” makes no sense whatsoever.  I cannot find any definition of the word “timesed” except in the plebian “Wiktionary”, compiled by contributors of no officially recognised knowledge of the subject matter.