The scorecard so far:
RN with HMS Penelope scores two German destroyers crippled and one still to get (before it manages to get cheeky with a "fish" or two in the water). At a cost of just a third of her ammunition quota (better have a chit ready).
KM: Barely scratched the paint work on HMS Penelope (for the loss of the above)
Now the 'precarious' sequence of play, well known to General Quarters destroyer captains, comes into play. In order for Z5 to launch its torpedoes she has to survive a maelstrom of gunfire from HMS Penelope, in the 'minimum range' bracket to boot, with everything blasting at 'rapid fire' rate, a rather tall order. Especially if you are the last remaining viable destroyer in the attack.
The die is cast. Z5 (topmost in the picture) takes savage damage on the hull (three boxes and is reduced to 3 inches speed) and also loses half her armaments, but 'importantly' still possesses one set of good torpedo tubes (4 fish). Meanwhile Z4 (lower left) positions herself cheekily for a long/extreme range torpedo pop (4) at HMS Penelope.
Some recompense is gained from the guns of Z5 as they are at last effective too, scoring one and a half hull boxes, penetrating her armour and causing Penelope's speed to drop to nine inches, ouch (but nowhere near fatal). The KM has somehow managed to put eight fish in the water, something serious at last for HMS Penelope's captain to think about.
The commander HMS Penelope now has the same dilemma faced by Admiral John Jellicoe at the Battle of Jutland in 1916. To turn towards or away from a torpedo attack? The German commanders have already scribbled their torpedo directions in classic GQ style, trying desperately to remember which is Port and which is Starboard in relation to the target ship (not an easy thing in the heat of battle). HMS Penelope moves, ordering a "turn hard to Starboard helmsman" at the torpedoes not away (the safer option).
Did he guess right? The papers are revealed: Z4 fired behind (miss) but Z5 fired to starboard (an attack die is rolled at a shortened range).
The classic way of representing a torpedo fan: pipe cleaners.
Crash, a huge column of water erupts amidships of HMS Penelope. Three full hull boxes and one full armament box damage, HMS Penelope immediately pulls up dead in the water with only half a hull box remaining. Technically (with that half hull box) she still has power (RN breath a huge sigh of relief) and thus her guns immediately cripple Z5 on the next round, removing all the remaining armament boxes and leaving her dead in the water too with only a half hull box.
Z3 and Z4 make good there escape under cover of smoke, while Z5 and HMS Penelope stare at each other.
HMS Penelope's captain cursing his luck on one hand but is thankful to be still afloat on the other. He wants to conserve his depleted ammunition stock so refrains from sinking the rather hapless (but valiant) Z5. The question is which sides reinforcements will turn up next? At least HMS Penelope can attempt to defend herself (though now at the 50% ammunition used point).
Damage control parties in Z5 regain creep speed propulsion and seeing the 'prize' attempting to depart, HMS Penelope promptly despatches Z5 to the bottom. On the horizon the RN destroyers HMS Hero and HMS Ilex appear and the tactical game closes down as HMS Penelope engines start on "creep speed" and she heads back to Scapa with her ASW escort.
Next: Taking stock?