Inspired by recently watching the film “Yangtse Incident” about HMS Amethyst and the Chinese Civil War in 1949 I was inspired to create a game. This game could also be easily adapted to, for example, the evacuation of Khartoum in 1884. Keeping with my policy this year of using the toys I already own rather than buying and painting new stuff I abstracted the game somewhat.
I do have a perfect 1:3000 model of HMS Amethyst, or at least the ship from which she was converted, but nothing else useful for the game, so I made a board game as described below.
An incident in the Belgican Civil Wars. Sometime between 1890 and 1950. As the war reaches one of its periodic flare-ups the Anglian Government is advised that there is a danger to civilians in one of the towns along the Indeterminate River that runs between Vlaams and Wallonie. The Royal Anglian Navy sends three “U class” gunboats to rescue them.
Although the ships (RAS Unsteady, RAS Unstable and RAS Uneasy) are flying the red cross of Anglia from their mastheads it is not entirely certain that either of the warring sides will recognise or respect it.
I have a large collection of Avalon Hill Squad Leader boards, including four No. 7, two No. 8 and one No. 40, as depicted in the picture below. For ships and shore batteries I used the navy and army pieces from an old Diplomacy game.
The game begins with one random board on the table and the three ships off the left end. The entire game will use six randomised boards end to end with randomised orientation.
One ship is moved onto the first board on each of the first three turns. A ship moves six hexagons per turn and may make one sixty degree turn during each move. The speed will be reduced if the ship is damaged.
Other rules will be described as and when they occur.
The first board is No.8, oriented with the ID in the top right (NW) corner.
RAS Unsteady steams into view. Entering a new board one die is rolled for each of the warring sides to determine how many batteries they had on the board.
Yellow (Wallonie), to the south, has two. I placed one on a promontory at K5 and one behind a protective wall at S2.
Green (Vlaams), on the north side of the river, has three. These were placed on the cliffs, within the walls of the castle, at X4; on the projecting cliffs at O8 and on the hill at B8.
The nearest gun battery to RAS Unsteady is a Vlaamser, three hexes away. A two is rolled for identification, so the ship is unidentified and presumed to be hostile, so the battery opens fire. Rolling five, one damage point is inflicted. Unsteady returns fire at a penalty of one for the damage. A four is rolled, reduced by one for the damage and one for the stone walls, and is insufficient at three hexes range to do any damage.
Unsteady continues at a reduced speed of five hexes, turning to port to follow the far shore line from the Vlaams battery. RAS Unstable enters the board. Hoping to avoid the fate of Unsteady she hugs the south shore, keeping maximum distance from the Vlaams shore battery. The battery is tracking Unsteady and fires again at four hexes, rolling five and scoring a second hit. Unsteady, her guns reduced to four points, is unable to fire back with any effect. She is now within two hexes of the Wallonian battery, and identified by them as a neutral in difficulties. RAS Unstable, checking the range to the Vlaams battery, decides to hold fire and try to evade hostile fire.
Unsteady moves downriver past the Wallonian battery. Unstable has to make an immediate turn to port to avoid running aground, which then brings her very close to the north bank. Uneasy enters the board following the same middle course as Unsteady had in turn 1.
The first Vlaams battery now has a choice of two ships. One has just passed and one is approaching. Both are unidentified. The battery fires at the approaching ship, HMAS Uneasy, and misses. Uneasy returns the fire, also doing no damage.
On the south side of the river the Wallonian battery has two ships in sight. The first has clearly been damaged by enemy fire, and so can be assumed to be not one of theirs. The second, at a range of four hexes, is identified as a neutral by rolling a six.
RAS Unsteady is now within range of a second Vlaamser battery. At five hexes she is not identified, but a couple of random shots fail to find the range.
Unsteady continues at slow speed on the south side of the river. Unstable overhauls her on the north side. Uneasy passes the castle headland and comes between the two opposing batteries.
Wallonians. Battery 1 fails to identify RAS Uneasy as neutral and opens fire at two hexes, causing one damage point. Uneasy returns fire, also causing one point of damage to the battery. Further down river RAS Unsteady is identified by Battery 2 and not fired upon. She blocks the view of RAS Unstable.
Vlaamsers. The castle battery spots the flags on RAS Uneasy, already under fire from the south bank, and lets her pass. Down river the second battery correctly identifies the two ships.
Unsteady stays midstream while Unstable draws alongside to port. Uneasy continues behind them in the centre of the channel, followed by a parting volley from the first Wallonian battery. The second Wallonian battery ignores the ships that have passed and concentrates on the approaching RAS Eneasy. Unidentified, shots are fired at long range but do no damage.
From the north bank the Vlaams battery hits RAS Uneasy and causes further damage. Uneasy’s guns fail to hit the battery.
The leading ships steam on, avoiding as far as possible the battery on the north bank. Uneasy trails, still within reach of batteries on both banks. Unstable offered Unsteady a tow, which was declined as she was still under two-thirds power. (Decided by rolling lowerthan the current damage points for a tow to be accepted.)
Uneasy is fired on from both banks, and suffers damage from both. Returning fire against the Vlaams battery does no damage.
A new game board is added. A die roll selects the first board from the pile, which is board 7. A second die roll determines the orientation of the board. See the next photo.
Rule change. From experience of action on the first board I halved the potential number of gun batteries. Now 1,2 is one battery; 3,4 is two batteries; 5 is three batteries and 6 a gun ship.
With rolls of five and three there are three more Vlaams batteries and two Wallonian to be placed on the new board. The board is heavily wooded and with several marshy areas, as well as three islands, so the batteries are placed on the best available open areas.
RAS Unstable leads the flotilla into this difficult to navigate river area. Passing close between two potentially hostile batteries she comes under fire from the south bank, but suffers no damage. Returning fire she inflicts one point of damage.
Uneasy is hit again by Wallonian fire and is now in severe difficulty.
Unstable, in the van and as yet undamaged and with speed to her advantage, tries the main channel, hugging the north bank to gain protection from the Vlaams batteries.
Unsteady positionsherself to seek the safety of the narrower south channel. She is in direct sight of the battery on the south bank, but their shells fall short.
Uneasy is hit again by the Wallonian battery on the south bank and is finally abandoned.
An exchange of fire between the Wallonian battery and RAS Unsteady results in no damage. RAS Unstable and Unsteady continue unimpeded.
RAS Unsteady runs aground in the marshes on the south side of the river. RAS Unsteady continues through the wider channel.
And there, dear reader, we shall leave the ships. The game will continue