Monday, 20 August 2018

1864 Prussian Ships for Dahlgren and Columbiad


I've worked out the Dahlgren and Columbiad ship stats for the Prussian warships involved in the Second Schleswig War, including both the Battle of Rugen / Jasmund and the Battle of Heligoland. The number are based on some background research online and various books, together with a bit of cross referencing with the Iron and Fire supplement Blue Steel, Grey Thunder. I have uprated the manoeuvre class for SMS Lorelei and considered downrating it for the Camaleon class gunboats, which were notoriously sluggish and rolled badly, but decided to keep them as High manoeuvre so they can operate with the rest of the gunboat flotilla. I have also rounded down when calculating maximum speeds.


SMS Arcona

Screw Frigate
DF3
Maximum Speed 6''
Medium Manoeuvre
Unarmoured, AF +0
3 x 68pdr SB on each broadside, Port and Starboard Arcs, GF 2 / PF +2
10 x 36pdr SB on each broadside, Port and Starboard Arcs, GF 3 / PF +1


SMS Nymphe

Screw Corvette
DF3
Maximum Speed 6''
Medium Manoeuvre
Unarmoured, AF +0
5 x 36pdr SB on each broadside, Port and Starboard Arcs, GF 2 / PF +1
3 x 12pdr SB on each broadside, Port and Starboard Arcs, GF 1 / PF +0


SMS Lorelei

Paddle Aviso
Maximum Speed 5''
DF3
High Manoeuvre (uprated)
Unarmoured, AF +0
1 x 12pdr rifle on each broadside, Port and Starboard Arcs, GF 1 / PF +1


Camaleon Class Gunboats (1st Class)

Screw Gunboat
DF2
Maximum Speed 4''
High Manoeuvre
Unarmoured, AF +0
1 x 24pdr rifle on centreline pivot, Port or Starboard Arc, GF 1 / PF +2
1 x 12pdr rifle on each broadside, Port and Starboard Arcs, GF 1 / PF +1


2nd Class Gunboats

Screw Gunboat
DF2
Maximum Speed 4''
High Manoeuvre
Unarmoured, AF +0
1 x 12pdr rifle on each broadside, Port and Starboard Arcs, GF 1 / PF +1


SMS Preussischer Adler

Paddle Aviso
DF3
Maximum Speed 5''
Medium Manoeuvre
Unarmoured, AF +0
2 x 24pdr SB on each broadside, Port and Starboard Arcs, GF 1 / PF +0
                                                        or
2 x 36pdr SB on each broadside, Port and Starboard Arcs, GF 1 / PF +1

This website has been particularly useful and contains a lot of relevant information on the Prussian and Imperial German Navy, although it is in German and you will need to do a bit of translating:

http://www.kaiserliche-marine.de/

Sunday, 19 August 2018

All At Sea

That's a bit more like it?

I've been using my Tiny Wargames Dark Sea Cloth for the 1/2400th scale ironclad naval games that I've played over the holidays, as I could easily pack it away and it looks just right for a grey day in the English Channel. I bought it originally to use for 1/600th scale nocturnal coastal forces games and to double up for 1/3000th scale WW2 battles with my French fleet in the Med. It's a nice bit of kit but not cheap and a little too grey for a sunny day.


However, I've been thinking about something a bit more blue, especially for daytime games in less inclement weather conditions. I had a look at the Tiny Wargames standard blue sea cloth but at nearly sixty quid for a 6' x 4' version, it's at the far end of affordability. The alternative is to make some sea terrain myself, either a cloth or some modular tiles, as I don't have space for a permanent wargaming table or board. This would be ideal but it's off the radar until I retire!

I like the idea of modular tiles, as I can build some coastline sections and islands but would need to store them and make them light enough to transport. I have a load of 30cm x 30cm mdf boards that I bought in a Poundland sale which I could use as a starting point but the joints would look pretty horrible, so a base cloth and terrain pieces might be a better option? I may just try to find a cheap blue cloth that I can adapt for wargaming purpose or just make some coastline pieces to use with my existing dark sea cloth.

The Baltic in March is pretty grey

In the meantime, I'll have to bite the bullet and paint my ship's textured sea bases in what I think will match the terrain. In the end, the current Second Schleswig War project will probably just use the dark sea cloth anyway, as it's not a bad match for the Baltic on a wintery day and it would make things a lot less complicated. The British and French ironclads can also be painted to match, as the North Sea and English Channel aren't exactly a translucent tropical blue for most of the year. I'll definitely need an alternative at some point but it will just have to wait!

And I thought naval wargaming was the easy option?

Saturday, 18 August 2018

The Sino French Naval War


I'm now reading this, having really enjoyed the author's books on the Sino Japanese War and Russo Japanese War, although I have yet to read the second part of the latter which focusses on Tsushima. There's not a great deal of potential for naval wargaming, however, as most of the engagements were either very one sided or in support of land operations, rather than being actions of any significant size. There are lots of gunboats in support of amphibious landings and assaults but not much in the way of anything more substantial.


The only real exception is the Battle of Foochow, which ended in a decisive defeat for the Chinese, who were outgunned and outclassed by the more advanced French fleet. The French do have some very cool central battery ironclads and cruisers, however, so it's a paper thin excuse to get some of the later Victorian models from Tumbling Dice. I have a handful of these already but don't think I'll be getting any more, at least not until I have painted my existing earlier Victorian ironclads.

The Good, the Bad and the Mutie


I finally cracked and have ordered a set of The Good, the Bad and the Mutie at a decent price from an eBay outlet, which means I have yet another project to fit in somewhere before Xmas, if I can find the time. I was going to wait until Colours to get the Strontium Dog starter set and perhaps a few of the extras, but this was a good deal, so I thought I'd go for it now. If the rules turn out to be wonky, I can always use Galactic Heroes instead, although from what I've read and seen, they look pretty good. I still can't quite believe that Warlord have published this or that they've created a range of really nice 28mm figures but I'm really pleased that they have, as it is my all time favourite 2000AD strip. I just hope it doesn't get dropped like some of the other franchises have been in the past.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Dahlgren and Columbiad 1864


The couple of games that I've had with Broadside and Ram have been really good fun but they are definitely a fleet level set of rules for re-enacting large battles with numerous ships. I knew this when I decided to use them for more tactical level actions, so was prepared to make a few adjustments to reflect the smaller number of ships involved in a trade of for simplicity and fast play. This has paid off in many respects but, for the Second Schleswig War project I really think a tactical level set of rules would be more appropriate and effective.

As a result, I've decided to switch my rules for the Battle of Jasmund to Dahlgren and Columbiad, which I think would be a better fit, especially as there were only three warships involved on either side if you discount the Prussian gunboats and the Tordenskojd, neither of which actually turned up. It does mean that I have some work to do to devise the record sheets and statistics for each of the Danish and Prussian warships involved, not to mention the Austrians for Heligoland, but I don't think this will be too much bother. I'll get cracking on the number crunching over the weekend.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Broadside and Ram Rules Queries

HMS Monarch and HMS Achilles in Carrick Roads

I played the follow on scenario to the Broadside and Ram INWarD 2018 game today, this time featuring a clash between French and Royal Navy ironclad squadrons to the South West of the Scillies. I was playing solo so left out the optional rules for shoals that I wrote into the scenario, as it would have been difficult to have a Fog of War element of surprise. However, the game was otherwise played out according to the outline I posted a couple of days ago, which was a simple encounter set up on a 4' x 3' table using my (embarrassingly) unpainted Tumbling Dice ironclads.

I'll write a proper after action report later but the outcome of the battle was a decisive, if not final, victory for the Royal Navy. Although the French ironclads got away at the end of the game by sailing off the edge of the table, two of the three were badly hammered with the Flandre damaged and on fire and the Provence crippled, so the honour of the Senior Service has been restored. The British ironclads only suffered minor scratches to the paintwork and some blast damage topside, with HMS Achilles taking some dents that can be easily repaired.

Huzzah!

Anyway, the game did throw up some more queries about the rules, which I am thinking about and will need to resolve before the next scenario in the sequence.


Firing In Support

In the rules only one ship can be targeted by another but you can add a +1 support modifier if another ship is in range and arc of the target.

I have been reading this as the only addition to the Gunnery Attack  roll required but this seems a bit odd as the supporting ships own Attack Factor doesn't get used. I think I should be adding the firing ships AF and the supporting ships AF plus the + 1 support modifier to the calculation, not just the +1 support modifier?

If I did, there would potentially be a lot more damage done to the target, which would give some far more dramatic results, not to mention spoiling the French naval commander's petit dejeuner.

Firing Arcs

I have based all my ship models on laser cut mdf bases but realised today that this could make arcs of fire more difficult to work out. I decided in today's game that the arcs of fire would be measured from the bows and stern of the model, not the actual base, although I may change to the latter approach in the future to make it obvious. This is nothing to do with the rules but is worth thinking about.


Repairs

This one really bugged me today, as the crews of Flandre and Provence repeatedly negated Silenced and Crippled results by just spending the required repair AP's, of which they were not in short supply due to some nifty dice rolling. It may just have been 'lucky dice' but it did seem to be very easy to 'fix' badly damaged ships, so that the effects of gunfire in one turn were almost immediately cancelled out at the start of the next, much to the frustration of the British gunners.

Again, I may be getting the system wrong but it did make it much harder for the Royal Navy to make the all important 'knock out' blow. I did notice that the AP costs for repairs to Silenced and Crippled ships are higher in Broadside and Salvo, so I will probably bump them up by 1 AP per attempt, making it 3 AP and 4AP respectively. That should throw a spanner in the works, quite possibly in more than one sense.


Criticals (Fires)

Flandre caught fire at one point during the battle due to a D6 roll of 1:6 whilst under broadside fire from HMS Monarch with HMS Achilles in support. This meant that a 2D6 roll had to made in each subsequent turn, with a 2-3 causing the damage level to go up by one and a 10-12 meaning that the fire was extinguished. There was also a -1 penalty to shooting but as the Flandre was also either Silenced or Crippled, this made no difference. 

This is all fine but it did mean that the fire continued to rage for the rest of the game to no real effect, not being put out and not spreading any further to cause the damage level to go up. 

I think I might change this to a different system, so that the chance of extinguishing the fire are greater but so too are the risks of it spreading further and bumping up the level of damage (Roll 1D6: 1-2 Fire Extinguished, 5-6 Fire Spreads (increase damage level by one). I also thought about a 1AP cost in the repair phase for each attempt to put out the fire. 


Any suggestions, corrections or criticisms of my ham fisted rules interpretation would be very warmly received. 

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

1870 Anglo-French Naval Campaign Ideas


I've been having some tentative thoughts about a solo naval campaign using Broadside and Ram, loosely based on the campaign system used in different forms for the various Long Face Games supplements. The idea would be to set up a series of linked games for a fictitious but not entirely improbable conflict between the French and British navies, focussed on the English Channel and Western Approaches. This would be set in 1870, as an adjunct to the very real Franco Prussian War.

The cassus belli for this clash of naval forces would be an actual historical attempt by the French to destroy most of the Prussian navy at the start of the Franco Prussian War, which in reality failed dismally but in my counterfactual version of events, actually succeeded. This idea was inspired by a passage in the Broadside and Ram supplement for The Schleswig Holstein Question, which also includes the Franco Prussian War even though nothing very notable actually happened in nautical terms:

The French almost managed to eliminate the most powerful ships in the Prussian order of battle at the outset of the war. The ironclads Konig Wilhelm, Friedrich Karl, Kronprinz and the smaller Prinz Adalbert (originally built for the Confederate States Navy) passed through the English Channel to exercise in the North Atlantic. The French planned to cut off and destroy this force, but the Prussian intelligence service in London caught wind of the plan. A warning was sent from the ambassador in London to the Prussian squadron who eluded their pursuers and returned to Wilhelmshaven. In the event the French squadron sent to hunt down the Prussians did not sail until 8 days after their quarry had reached home, but the potential for an action in the Channel was there.(p7)


Of course, in my version of events, the Prussian spies did not learn of the French plan until too late and the French got their act together much earlier, so that the Prussian ironclad squadron was intercepted and heavily damaged by a powerful French sortie from Cherbourg. However, the big showdown just happened to be off the Lizard, with the remnants of the Prussian squadron limping into Devonport to escape it's French pursuers. This placed the British government in a tight spot as they were really interested in staying out of any continental 'entanglements'.


A diplomatic row ensued, in which the indignant French demand that the Prussian warships are forced to leave the sanctuary of the Hamoaze, whilst the obstinate Prussians appeal to the British to allow them to stay. In the end, Her Majesty's government decides to be pragmatic and declares that the patched up Prussian ironclads, escorted and protected by a Royal Navy squadron, will be allowed to return via the North Sea to Wilhelmshaven. To avoid any potential accusations of a lack of neutrality, this escort will be very light and composed of only a steam frigate or two, with strict orders to avoid any confrontation.


Unfortunately, the French navy isn't as reasonable and decides to seize the opportunity to finish off the Prussian naval threat once and for all. A battle ensues off Portland, in which the Prussian ships are destroyed by a powerful French ironclad squadron, at the cost of the unarmoured Royal Navy frigates being battered into matchsticks when they attempt to intercede. The French obviously claim that the Prussians fired first and that the British warships effectively 'took sides', firing on the French ironclads as well.
We are not amused

This doesn't wash with Queen Victoria, the government of Mr Gladstone or the Admiralty, let alone the electorate, so war is duly declared by Great Britain against the French Empire on 26th July 1870. However, this war in itself is largely conceived as a limited naval campaign rather than an intervention on land, given the relative weakness of the British Army and the strength of the Royal Navy. It is also considered by Her Majesty's government as a 'punitive war' designed primarily to punish the upstart French for their arrogance but not at the expense of the tax payer or to the obvious benefit of Von Bismarck and King Wilhelm I.

A good basis for a campaign map c1870

This leads to a good old fashioned blockade of the French naval ports along the English Channel and Atlantic Coasts, with the French effectively bottled up in Lorient, Brest, Cherbourg and Le Havre, so that they cannot themselves impose a blockade of the Baltic and North Sea. In the end, the war on land takes it's historical course and France is defeated by the Prussians, but not before the French make several attempts to break the blockade and launch 'cruiser warfare' sorties against merchant shipping in the Western Approaches.

I think this is not a bad basis for a solo campaign, without the need to have any complicated land actions or invasions, and only involving limited numbers of ships for either side.

It also has some specific objectives for both the French and British, which means that there will be a clear outcome based on how successful they are in achieving them. It also is clearly time limited, as the French surrender in May 1871 brings the campaign to an effective close after ten turns, each equivalent to a month, thus enabling the campaign to be linked by a series of individual scenarios. I will also be thinking up some random events and rules for repairs, to make things a bit less predictable and so that each game turn has consequences for the next.

(thanks to Matt H for the inspiration)

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Broadside and Ram: Action off the Scilly Isles


The apparent ease with which the French ironclad squadron managed to escape from Cherbourg has caused uproar in the Houses of Parliament and panic in the corridors of Westminster. The Lords of the Admiralty have been spurred into decisive action and have dispatched two of Her Majesty's latest ironclad warships from Devonport to hunt down and destroy the Gloire, Provence and Flandre. In addition, several of the warships blockading Brest have been released to patrol the Western Approaches in order to intercept the French squadron before it can reap havoc in the North Atlantic.

The French, meanwhile, have charted a course close to the North coast of Brittany overnight and at dawn are now steaming in a North Westerly direction toward the Bristol Channel. The squadron commander has been ordered to harass merchant shipping in the Western Approaches and intends to intercept and sink any merchant vessels flying the red ensign. After sinking as great a tonnage of shipping as possible, the French ironclads will make a dash for Brest or Lorient, breaking through the Royal Navy's blockade before they can be stopped.


The dark moonless conditions have obscured the progress of the French squadron and made the task of the Royal Navy that much more difficult. However, at dawn the Gloire, Provence and Flandre have been spotted by fishing boats from Newlyn to the South East of the Isles of Scilly, with reports of the sighting passed on via fast dispatch vessel to HMS Captain and HMS Monarch, who inadvertently crossed paths with the French during the night. The squadron had been steaming a South Westerly course, hoping to intercept the French off Ushant.


In addition, HMS Achilles has rendezvoused with HMS Captain and HMS Monarch, adding much needed firepower to the Royal Navy pursuit squadron. HMS Achilles had been dispatched from the Brest blockade and had been patrolling the coastline off Ushant as a blocking force. The combined squadron had been steaming North West but has now altered course to the North East in an attempt to intercept the French off the Scillies, before it can enter the shipping lanes of the Bristol Channel. 

The three Royal Navy ironclad warships are now closing on the French squadron to the SW of St Agnes, wary of the nearby shoals and reefs around the islands but confident that if they can find the Frogs, they can sink them! The scenario set up can be seen in the diagram at top of the page. As an optional twist, a dangerous 12'' x 6'' shoal may be positioned six inches in from the long table edge and equidistant from the short table sides. The shoal is not marked on the table but both players will be told that there is a danger of going aground, so they need to be cautious.


A shoal may be detected each move by spending 1AP per ship in the repair damage phase, but will only be effective if the ship is steaming at cruise speed or slower and only if it is within six inches of the shoal. The position but not the extent of the shoal will be revealed but only to the player who made the successful spotting attempt. A failed spotting attempt will mean the hazard remains undetected. If a squadron is in formation (p16), all ships will be made aware of any shoal that has been spotted, as the hazard will be identified by flag signal or semaphore. If any ship goes aground (see p18) the extent and position of the shoal will be revealed to both players and will remain marked on the table for the rest of the game.

I'm hoping to play this game at some point over the next couple of days.

Target Locked On! Special


The latest revised and updated edition of Target Locked On! is currently discounted to less than seven quid over at Wargames Vault. It's a really neat system and fast play, with minimal book keeping and straightforward mechanics. I've made a couple of tweaks to gunnery and pilot ratings but otherwise have had to make hardly any adjustments to the core rules to give a very smooth game. Good fun!

Monday, 13 August 2018

French Ironclads for Broadside and Ram


There's a pretty comprehensive list for the French in the Broadside and Ram supplement for the Franco Prussian War, as you would expect. However, one class that isn't included is the Cerbere ironclad ram, four of which were launched in the late 1860's and early 1870's as a follow on from the experimental Taureau class ram. 

They were built with wooden hulls sheathed in 7-8'' of armour and with a turret mounting two 9.4'' or 24cm M1864 -1866 rifled breech loaders, in addition to a ten foot long ram. I have found one source that says the turrets were fixed to fire forwards but at least two others that clearly indicate that they were able to be trained, which seems much more likely:

'The vessels are all revolving turret vessels, with the exception of the Taureau, which fires the gun 'en luhette'    
Modern Ships of War (1888) Sir Edward Reed MP

I think that's definitely a revolving turret

A bit difficult to tell from the photo though?

There were four ships in the class including Cerbere (1870), Belier (1870), Bouledouge (1872) and Tigre (1871). The Belier could make 12 knots but I suspect that was on a good day and they would normally be less nippy. There's a lovely model in the Tumbling Dice 1/2400th scale range, of which I have no fewer than three (!), so I thought it was a good idea to work out the vital statistics:

Type       CS         MS           AF          DF          Points

AS           3             4             3T          5                 11

The DF has been bumped back down to 5 rather than 6 due to the wooden construction, which was a weakness in the design and according to at least one source, would have meant that any ramming attack would probably have damaged the Cerbere more than the actual target ! (I've also amended the DF for the Taureau). The numbers closely match the other ironclad rams in the rules including the Dutch Buffel, which was designed at around the same time for the same purpose.

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