Thursday, 1 October 2009

Wargame Night: The First Battle of Narvik (1)

I'm a happy man, no more thinking about it, but a bit of doing. A "night pass" (married folk will understand) is secured, hurriedly a box of toys tucked safely under an arm and off we go to actually ... wargame. It's been over a month, well over, I am so looking forward to it even though I am only going to be the umpire tonight. Now perhaps you would expect a 20mm WWII battle. No that would be far too sensible a thing for me to do. Far better to blow the dust off some of my old Navwar 1:3000 scale miniatures and try and to remember the GQ2 (General Quarters 2) rule set. I have not (and probably will not) made the transition to GQ3 as it unfortunately drops what I liked about the original rules, namely simplification and a pleasant level of abstraction.

The scenario was a bit of a thrown together "what shall we do at the last minute tonight affair" based on the hectic First Battle of Narvik in December 1940. The game was played in a serious (as becomes an Englishman playing a commander in the Royal Navy) but friendly fashion with a few embarrassing breaks as I fluttered through the rule book. Ahem, I knew these rules once!

A quick Google will tell you that in 1940 the Germans transported an invasion force to Narvik by destroyer (ten large ones in fact) and soon took control of the port facilities and hinterland. A sea journey so far north all but exhausted the fuel range of the destroyers so cunningly replenishment oil tankers accompanied them to top then up for the return journey. This extra complexity cost time and gave the Royal Navy the opportunity to strike a blow against the Kriegsmarine. Unsure of the exact size and strength of the German presence a reconnaissance in force was organised. The Admiralty after much procrastination sent the Second Destroyer flotilla of five 'H' Class destroyers under the command of Captain Warburton-Lee to aggressively probe and attack enemy shipping in the Narvik fjord system.

Players (J) and (D) took center stage. The British player (D) took the brief in his stride and in a damn-the-torpedoes style line-abreast, battle ensigns fluttering in the breeze, entered the fjord aggressively as shown below. Note: The terrain below is a completely haphazard concoction thrown together on the night, serving to facilitate a close action to the shore working with little or no room for maneuver. It probably bears little or no historical relevance, please accept this as so. Black hexes represent the sea, therefore it follows green gaps with 25/28mm rock scenery represent islands and/or shoreline.

The red poker markers indicate the furthest line of visibility (D) could see the moment the RN entered the fjord, the ships have moved their full allowance. The German player (J) has plotted his hidden patrol(s) in true "Fog of War" fashion. The visibility was randomly rolled for and came back with a very historical poor line of sight as per the snow-bound night of the 10th December 1940. Maximum visibility range was a mere 16 inches which meant gunnery combat (when it happened) would be in the murderous rapid fire category. In hindsight perhaps I should have used cm to widen the fjord and give the British more room to play with, for example if they wanted to try and dodge the/any patrols. As it was the British player intended to make contact with whatever was in the fjord, so strategically I think nothing was a miss here. The three British player bounded forward three turns until "contact".

The moment of "Contact":

The German "designated" Patrol destroyer (Von Roeder - bottom middle) is sighted by two RN destroyers (HMS Hunter and HMS Havoc). Gunnery ensued, with the Von Roeder coming off better after a brief but bloody exchange of gunfire over the next two turns. Key to this being the KM's ability to broadside and cross the T's of the Royal Navy flotilla (again, only two of which could engage due to the visibility and even then only for for half gunnery effect). HMS Hunter took the brunt of the firestorm, taking a critical in the boiler halving her speed, plus numerous hull and armament box hits (both being reduced by two). She was effectively out of the game in Captain (D)'s eyes.

In return the Von Roeder picked up only a half a hull hit. The Germans were blessed by the Brit(D) just rolling poor on the "to hit" dice. Nevertheless following written orders when faced by a superior force the Von Roeder made smoke RN and retired back to friendly forces behind the lee of a convenient small island. An alert (by signal flares and the sound of gunfire) was also sent to activate "other" German forces in the Narvik fjord area.

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