Battle of Cape Matapan: phase 1

Following on from yesterday’s “convoy” battle, another long-outstanding battle which turned up in my “to do” tray.  This was the battle of Cape Matapan, which I was intending to fight as a full scale game, but may be better fought as separate actions.

Whatever the final decision is, today I played the first action: the engagement off the island of Gavdos.

The account of the original action, taken from Wikipedia, reads thus (edited to remove hyperlinks):

“Action off Gavdos

On 28 March, an aircraft launched by Vittorio Veneto spotted the British cruiser squadron at 06:35. At 07:55, the Trento group encountered Admiral Pridham-Wippell’s cruiser group south of the Greek island of Gavdos The British squadron was heading to the south-east. Thinking they were attempting to run from their larger ships, the Italians gave chase, opening fire at 08:12 from 24,000 yards (22,000 m). The three heavy cruisers fired repeatedly until 08:55, with Trieste firing 132 armour piercing rounds, Trento firing 204 armour-piercing and 10 explosive shells and Bolzano firing another 189 armour piercing shells, but the Italians experienced trouble with their range finding equipment and scored no significant hits. HMS Gloucester fired three salvos in return. These fell short but did cause the Italians to make a course change.

As the distance had not been reduced after an hour of pursuit, the Italian cruisers broke off the chase, turning to the north-west on a course to rejoin Vittorio Veneto. The Allied ships changed course in turn, following the Italian cruisers at extreme range. Iachino let them come on in hopes of luring the British cruisers into the range of Vittorio Venetos guns.”

And with that in mind, how did the wargame progress?

At 08:00 the Italian squadron came within range of the British squadron, both heading to the south-east.  The Italian cruiser Trento opened fire at long range (10 hexagons), scoring one hit on HMS Orion.  Orion returned fire with her stern guns.  The range was good and four hits were registered, giving the Trento one point of damage.  The Trento fired again with her forward guns and damaged the Orion.  Trento’s secondary guns also fired but to no effect.

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The British squadron, aware that they could not outrun the faster Italian ships, turned to fight, planning to bring their broadsides to bear on the enemy.  Anticipating this manoeuvre the Italians turned to starboard and crossed the British front line.

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From this position the Italian ships were able to fire broadsides at the British, who had turned to inflict this upon the Italians.

HMS Gloucester fired her forward guns on the Trento, scoring 4 hits with the main guns for 1 point of damage, and a further hit with the secondary guns.  HMAS Perth added her fire with 5 hits and a further damage point.  Trento, with 2 damage points against a hull value of 3, was now “crippled”.  This means -1 to armour, vital armour and speed.

HMS Ajax fired a long range broadside at the Bolzano, scoring 3 hits but no damage.  HMS Orion also fired at the Bolzano, but failed to register any hits.

The Italians returned fire.  The Trento fired a devastating broadside at the HMS Gloucester with 11 hits from her main guns and a further 3 from her secondary armament.  The Gloucester began to sink.

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The Bolzano fired at HMS Ajax and scored 4 hits, inflicting 1 damage point. Trieste fired at HMS Orion with her forward guns.  2 hits were registered.

The head of the Italian squadron now turned to the south-east after crossing the British front.  On the British side, HMS Ajax made an emergency turn to starboard to avoid the sinking Gloucester, followed by HMAS Perth.  HMS Orion continued to the south-west to cross the new enemy front.  The destroyer HMS Ilex passed directly in front of the Italian destroyer Ascari, risking being rammed.

The Bolzano fired her main and secondary guns at HMAS Perth, inflicting two points of damage and a crippling effect.  The Trento fired at the destroyer Ilex and sank her before she could inflict any damage on the Ascari.

HMS Ajax fired at the Trieste and inflicted 1 damage point.  HMAS Perth and HMS Orion both fired at the Bolzano, scoring 3 and 2 hits respectively but no serious damage.  The destroyer HMS Hereward scored a hit on the Trento, but again no serious damage.

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Note: Although it looks like these ships are at very close quarters, the actual model at 1:1800 scale represents its “sea room” required for operation.  A cruiser occupying two hexagons is actually using an area of about 400 x 200 yards and the opposing ships are about half a mile apart.

By 08:25 the battle had broken down into individual engagements with each ship operating to its best advantage.

The Ascari, with no room to manoeuvre, struck the sinking HMS Ilex and took severe damage to her bow.  She too began to sink.  HMS Orion fired at the destroyer Corraziere, inflicting one damage point.   HMS Hereward damaged the destroyer Carabiniere.

HMS Hasty launched torpedoes against the Bolzano, but they failed to strike home.

HMAS Perth scored five more hits on the Trieste, crippling her.  HMS Ajax destroyed the destroyer Carabiniere with an overwhelming barrage, scoring 9 direct hits.

At 08:30 the Corraziere attacked HMAS Perth but with no significant damage.  The Trento sank HMS Hasty.  Trieste fired a broadside at HMAS Perth, scoring five more crucial hits and crippling her.  The Bolzano joined in and with 11 more hits sank the Australian cruiser.

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In the next five minutes the Italians completed their destruction of the British squadron.  The Bolzano hit the Orion six more times, and the Trieste added five more hits to the stricken cruiser.  The destroyer Corraziere sank HMS Hereward and the Trento scored eight telling hits on HMAS Perth.  Three British ships began to sink and the battle was over.

A decisive victory for the Italian navy.   From the British squadron of four cruisers and three destroyers all had been sunk except the cruiser HMS Orion, which was severely damaged but able to escape.  The Italians had two cruisers and one destroyer severely damaged by enemy fire,  one destroyer sunk and a second destroyer sunk after a collision.

The turning point in the battle was literally just that.  The British squadron turned to attack but the Italians seized the initiative and crossed their line in Nelsonian fashion, and were thus able to bring all their guns to bear at short range.

Rules: tweaks and clarifications

Each salvo is to be adjudicated independently.  If a ship is firing both main and secondary (or even tertiary) guns, the damage effect is registered for each set of guns independently.  Likewise, if two ships attack one, the damage from each is registered separately, not cumulatively.

No ship may fire guns and launch torpedoes in the same turn, because the effect of firing would disrupt the balance of the ship and thus the aim of the torpedoes.

Depth charges may only be used if no other weapons are in use, it being deemed that if main guns or AA guns are in use there are higher priorities on the surface or in the air!

 

 

 

 

Atlantic Convoy

A test game using my Axis & Allies* naval, adapted for hexagons, rules.

It’s a lovely day, so I decided to play a short wargame in the garden.  I have three lightweight trestle tables, each 60 x 100cm and 95cm tall, so I took them from the Shedquarters and set them up on the patio area. I covered them with my somewhat bright blue hexagon cloth, clipped it to the table edges and set to.

Situation.  A convoy of merchant ships, escorted by two British destroyers, is approaching a screen of German submarines in the North Atlantic.

The submarines submerged.  Each is replaced by one real submerged token and 1d6/2 dummies (rounding down).  They all look the same, but the real subs are marked with a number on the bottom and the dummies with a small ‘x’.

Both destroyers have the “Sub Hunter” special rule, so after each German turn, they turn and move 3 hexagons towards the nearest German submarine.  This turn is deducted from their next maximum move.  I decided to change the operation of this rule, see below.

The two destroyers went after the nearest contacts and the convoy was ordered to make best speed, so some of the larger ships increased to maximum speed of 4 hexagons. (around 22 knots)

The entire convoy of 16 merchant ships was now spread over a length of 15 hexagons, or around 3000 yards.

Two submarines closed on HMS Hasty.  One was a dummy, and after declaring its attack was removed from the table.  The other fired a torpedo at the destroyer’s port bow at 1 hex (around 200 yards) range.

Two dice were rolled: 5 and 2.  One hit was scored for the 5.  (4 and 5 score 1 hit, 6 scores 2 hits).  One point of hull damage was caused, and with only one hull point remaining the ship was marked as “crippled”, losing one point from armour, vital armour and speed.

Hasty swung to port and depth-charged the sub, with five dice scoring 6,6,5,4,3 for six hits.  With hull points of 1 and vital armour of 5 the submarine sank immediately.  I decided to adjust the depth charge rule as well (see below).

HMS Herward also depth-charged and sank a submarine with two hits.

Meanwhile Penguin and Countryman, two of the faster ships, both swung to starboard to avoid the destroyers operating in their paths.

The other ships ploughed on at about 12 knots.  One of the cargo ships on the edge of the convoy was struck and began to sink immediately.

The destroyers chased another two targets, both of which turned out to be false contacts.

Three more submarines lined up to attack the convoy but two, on declaring their attack, were revealed as dummies.  The third failed to hit the Atlantic, a large tanker.

Hereward depth-charged another dummy U-boat.  With several wrecks in the process of sinking, ships were now having to take avoiding action to avoid collisions.

Another cargo ship was struck by a torpedo near the centre of the convoy.  She continued, crippled.  Hereward steamed for the location and sank the last of the German submarines.  The convoy proceeded towards Liverpool.

Losses.  One cargo ship lost and one crippled.  HMS Hasty crippled.  Three U-boats sunk.  A good day for the Royal Navy.

Rule changes to be applied.

Depth charges.  Rather than rolling 5 dice for hits on any submarine adjacent to the rear half of the destroyer, I will apply the same system of splitting the dice as I do for gunnery.   Thus the depth charges are thrown in a pattern into the three adjacent hexagons to starboard rear, starboard port and directly astern.  Up to 1/3 of the dice available, rounding up, may be used for each hex, provided that the total number is not exceeded.  

Targeting 5 dice at 1 hex is overkill, because it only needs 1 hit to sink most submarines.  With 1 die there is a 50% chance, with 2 dice a 75% chance and with 5 dice almost 97% chance of rolling 4,5 or 6 on at least one of them.  

Sub Hunter.  Rather than arbitrarily moving the ship at the end of the enemy move, I decided that a destroyer with this special rule must at the start of its turn roll a die and immediately head for the nearest enemy submarine within 1D6 hexagons, notwithstanding any search pattern she is working to.

Summary

All in all a fun little test game, and I think with the rule tweaks the submarines might have a better chance of surviving more than one destroyer sweep.

* “Axis and Allies” and “War at Sea” are copyright to Wizards of the Coast, and the use of their original rule concepts is acknowledged.

A quick naval engagement

Today I played a test naval game based on one of the early engagements of the second world war.

The situation was that a slow cargo ship, accompanied by a British E class destroyer, was encountered by a German submarine.  This would be a test of my submarine adaptation to my already adapted version of the Axis and Allies naval rules.

Situation.

A cargo ship, escorted by a destroyer, is aiming to move west-east across the table.

One German submarine is on a direct interception course from the east.

Rules.: Adapted for 6cm. hexagon Axis & Allies (c) naval rules.

The submarine, when submerged, is represented by 1 average die of transparent tokens, one of which is real.

Turn 1.

U22 submerged with 3 transparent models to represent the real submarine.

Cargo ship moved east 2 hexes, escort moved east 3 hexes.

Turn 2.

German sub tokens advanced 1  hex submerged, then turned outwards from the centre.

Cargo ship moved 2 hexes, escort 3 hexes.

Turn 3.

Submarines all moved 1 then turned east.

Allied units moved west 2 hexes.

Turn 4. 

Submarines moved west 1 hex.

Allied ships moved 2 hexes east.

Turn 5. 

German submarines moved 1 hex west.

Allied ships moved 2 hexes east.  Destroyer turned to port.

Turn 6.

German torpedo attack.  German player checked the submarine and it was a dummy.

The submarine was replaced and no attack was actually made.

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British destroyer moved 5 hexes, including one turn to the east.

A depth charge attack was made against one of the enemy submarine tokens.

5 dice @ 1 hex.  1,1,4,5,6 = 4 hits.

4 hits = armour of submarine, so 1 point of hull damage.

Submarine hull points = 1.  Submarine was real and was therefore sunk.

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Battle ended.

 

The Battle of Sevastopol, September 1902

Part of my “Diplomacy plus” campaign.

Situation:  The Turkish navy has been ordered to move into Sevastapol harbour.  The Russians have been ordered to move into the Black Sea.

The two Russian battleships in the harbour at Sevastopol were ordered to break the blockade and move out to the Black Sea.  However, a Turkish squadron of three ships was stationed to the east of the port to prevent such an excursion. The Turks wanted to capture and use Sevastapol for their own expansion into eastern Europe.

The battle was resolved on a 6’ x 4’ table with a 6cm hexagon grid superimposed. The model ships were painted models from the “Axis & Allies 1914” game. The rules were locally adapted from the “Axis & Allies Naval” game for World War 2, and further tweeked as the game progressed.

The Turkish battleships Abdülmecid I, Abdülaziz I and Mahmud II were cruising southwards off the western shore of Crimea. The Russian battleships Feodor II and Boris Gudenov attempted to break out to the south-west.

On first contact the enemy, at long range for their main guns, could barely be seen through the telescope. Here is a sample the opening view from the bridge of the Abdülaziz I

The Turks, having spotted the Russians to the north-east, began to turn to engage. The Russians turned north-west to engage with their full broadside while attempting to escape to the west.
The Mahmud II and Abdülaziz I were within long range but failed to score any hits with their first volley. The Russian ship Feodor II returned the fire and scored 3 hits on the Abdülaziz I but caused no damage.

The Turkish squadron turned to the north-east while the Russians steamed north-west with all speed.
The Mahmud II engaged Feodor II with its bow armament, scoring 6 hits, but no significant damage. Abdülaziz I joined in with her forward guns but with 7 further hits did not damage the enemy ship.
Feodor II returned fire with a broadside. 9 hits were scored causing 1 damage point, reducing the capability of the Mahmud II.
(Rule. If the armour points of the ship are equalled or exceeded by the enemy hits in one firing, all the ship’s factors are reduced by 1).
The Boris Gudenov also fired a broadside at Mahmud II, scoring 12 hits with the primary guns and a further 3 hits with the secondary guns. Mahmud II sank with 100 of the crew. (Most of the rest made it to the shore and spent the foreseeable future in a Russian PoW camp).

The Russians continued to make all speed to the north-west. The two remaining Turkish ships turned north to intercept them.
Feodor II fired at Abdülaziz I and scored 6 hits. Superficial damage only.
Boris Gudenov also fired at Abdülaziz but scored a paltry 2 hits.
(Note. Although the combined firing would cause a damage point, each ship’s firing is decided individually. Let us assume that between volleys the Damage Control Parties have been active.)

Abdülaziz I fired back with the forward turrets against Feodor II, hitting 6 times to no effect.

The Turks moved north to intercept the Russians. Abdülaziz I turned north-west to engage the Boris Gudenov with her broadside. The main guns scored 8 hits and the secondary batteries a further 5. this was enough to send her to the bottom with 400 crewmen lost.
Feodor II returned fire with her stern guns. 3 hits were scored on Abdülaziz I, who continued north-west to intercept the Russian escape.
Abdülmecid I continued north, having been the southernmost ship at the start of the engagement.
Feodor II turned south-west to use her broadside against the enemy.
Abdülaziz fired a broadside and scored 8 more hits on Feodor II, sufficient to reduce her capability. However, still fighting, she returned fire and with 10 hits damaged the Abdülaziz still further.

Abdülaziz I crept slowly onwards to the north-west despite the extreme damage. At the same time Abdülmecid I, who had been out of the battle, closed quickly and turned north-west to use her broadside.
Feodor II could only move north-west at a slow rate.
Abdülaziz I fired another reduced-power broadside at Feodor II, scoring 9 further hits and leaving her dead in the water. Abdülmecid I added to the damage.
Before finally going down Feodor II managed to score significant hits on Abdülaziz I, crippling her so that she needed to be towed back to port by Abdülmecid I.

A Turkish narrow victory. 2 enemy ships sunk, one friendly ship lost, one badly damaged and one survived.