Thursday, 14 December 2017

Ancient Battles with DBA Version 3: Sparta versus Argive (Part 2)

Just when you need high the Spartan King (me) rolls incredibly low (a one) for his PIPs. He surrenders the initiative somewhat by defensively extending his right flank but securing the King from immediate odorous peril (see below):

The Argives seize the moment and "pounce but also bounce". The armies move into contact and are aligned with each side's left flank being overlapped. A vicious combat then ensues (which seems much more deadly for Spears than I remember in DBA Version2.x). The result being the leftmost Spartan hoplite stand is killed (at the top of the picture), but the the Argives mostly "bounce" back apart from a litle local success in the centre (see below): 

The Spartan's retaliate and fell the errant Argive Spear who dared face the Spartan King. The combat modifier that makes the difference is the +1 gained by a Spear (or Blade) for a "solid" supporting Spear (or Blade) to the left or right [essentially a Phalanx or Legion bonus].  A Spear (+4) with rear support (+1) gains a further (+1) for a flanking Spear in it's support which equals (+6). At the ends of the line the enemy Spear (+4) is deducted (-1) for being overlapped. A +6/+3 basic combat before the die are rolled (+7/+3 in the case of the Spartan King combat). Spear versus Spear combats can now be quite brutal is the disadvantaged side rolls a "1" or "2"! I for one like it. It will also help the Republican Roman armies fight their enemies although not quite matching visually but rather abstracting their "three lines" of battle. Meanwhile a dangerous position is poised on the Spartan left. The furthest right Argive unit of Spear is eligible to "close the door" on the leftmost Spartans (two stands) as they have already  been positioned on flank for one move [a new DBA V3.0 restriction] so when (as they surely will do) come forward, two further Spartan Spears could be lost (see below .. dramatic music required):

The Argives move forward, the "door is closed", the die is cast and the Spartan's lose another two Spears (3-1) and are now just barely hanging on. (see below, the revolving battle is going the Argives way):

The Spartans retaliate and manage to take another Argive Spear down (3-2) pushing hard on their stronger right flank. Much more was needed though as the Argive initiative sees a plum "low hanging" Spartan Spear waiting to be plucked. Two Argive Spears (+4 basic with + 1 for supported "solid" Spears equals +5) to one Spartan Spear (basic +4 but overlapped -1 makes +3). The final blow lands (the Spartan Spears are doubled and die) and Sparta is defeated. One senses that a great chapter in ancient history will have to be rewritten. My old PhD supervisor is still the 'master' and I the acolyte (see below, the fourth Spartan hoplite stand dies 'heroically' and the battle is lost):

Defeat for Sparta is bad but there is worse news than that.

When I was writing up the battle account into this AAR I suddenly noticed something was wrong courtesy of careful examination of the pictures in the first part of the AAR post. Wheb handing the armies out I (yes it was by my own fair hand) had given the Argives an extra stand of hoplites (13 stands v 12) which allowed them to construct the overlap on both flanks so easily and which caused me so much discomfort losing the initiative as I realigned my troops! The Argives should have been 1x4Sp(Gen), 9x4Sp, 2x2Ps instead I gave them 1x4Sp(Gen), 10x4Sp, 2x2Ps, urk. The Ephors would be doubly unhappy with this particular Spartan King. My opponent kindly suggested a rematch for another night. The 'master' is still teaching the (now old and none the wiser) 'student' a few things even in his retirement!

Summary: Generally I am liking DBA V3.0 for Greek v Greek hoplite battles as the whole thing played out in under an hour without the arduous 'grind' I remember from DBA V2.x battles.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Ancient Battles with DBA Version 3: Sparta versus Argive (Part 1)

Now DBA and DBM (in particular) has a troubled past with me. DBA holds so much promise but IMHO (and I recognise it is mine not necessary 'others' belief) DBM is a "breaking bad" of a good set of rules. Even so DBA has it's "moments" too. I hummed and hawed but having "missed the boat" the first time snapped up a copy of DBA V3.0 when I saw a copy advertised on the WRG site.

I eagerly read the core "battle rule section" DBA Version 3.0 and liked the content (insert "all smiles" emoticon!). It cleared up lots of wriggles that had crept into the various versions of DBA 2.X's and to my delight correctly defined "a gap" being less that 40mm (let's not go there). The use of "base width" movement measurements and the need to spend one turn on the side (or overlap) before the "closing the door" move, I really liked (it was also a Redcar wargamers "house rule"). Hence I jumped at a simple Greek on Greek [Argive verus Sparta] run out with the rules against one of my favoured adversaries. We randomly rolled for sides, I became Sparta and my old PhD supervisor strode in as the troublesome Argives (see below, the hoplites phalanxes line up in a suitably flat plain in Greece as per normal - courtesy as it happens of the new deployment rules):

I opted for a thick double-ranked Spartan line, King as traditional to the right and helots to the left. I intended to keep well away from that troublesome looking wooded hill on my left flank. The Argives put their strength to their right but extended their line cunningly by thinning it out. The two units of Argive Psiloi took full advantage of the hill to their right (and the extra first turn moves allowed) on the first move (see above). Meanwhile I admired my scarlet line of Spartans (see below, I have started my line outside of the "edifice" as not to break up my battle-line as it was considered "rough going" and not suitable for a group move - Note: I regretted this later!):

The Argives, defending their turf from the aggressive invading Spartans (see below, can you spot anything funny? .. see post Part 2 for further details):

The phalanxes march forwards. The Spartan helots were left behind to act as a flank guard against the Argive Psiloi. Rather alarmingly I noted that I was overlapped by the Argives on both sides but thought my depth could puncture their "thin" line. I expected a "revolving door" style of battle as often happened with the ancients (see below):

The Argives closed to almost touching distance, even bringing out a Psiloi from the wood on my left flank to "worry" my last unit of Spartan hoplites. However it was pleasing to see that even the hoplites get on with it under the new "base width" movement system. I was however facing a DBA dilemma as I really could only "move forward" with my Spartan battle line. "Conformance rules" (meant you slip to the longer side overlap) would leave my Spartan King dangerously overlapped and that could spell a very short game indeed with but one bad dice roll (see below, three Argive figures on the overlap are my undoing and they will shift left which is not what the Spartan wants to happen):

The Spartan King was locked frontally but the rear rank of spears now has the movement to flip-out  and extend the Spartan right to conform to the Argives just where it is needed. It would however break the old adage "No one stands to the right of a Spartan King in line of battle"! The Spartans are notoriously superstitious and may not like this (lead figures have feelings too). Also I should have paid far more attention in my initial battle dispositions especially since I set up second. The Spartan King (me) had no excuses he had "messed up"!

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Another Winter Warmer Wargaming Project #2: The Portable Wargame - Thoughts and Scenarios

This is very much on my radar, I've read it, now need to play it (which always is fun trying to remember the rules once read but now faded from memory). The good thing is that it can be done solo! (see below, several other bloggers have already "boldly gone before" where I hope to follow):

Roll of Honour (of blogged battles, note: by no means exhaustive):
The last one is the first one I want to replay from the Portable Wargame book!
Also a link to Rob Cordery's Pre-Dreadnought Rules:
The follow-on book takes the concept into other periods (see below):

So yes, I need to first do a few replays from "the book" and other peoples blogs (see blog list above) then explore my "own battles" across a range of periods (Note: Fantasy and Sci-Fi are not excluded).

GOAL: To get a portable game played through before Xmas.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Sci-Fi Project: The Yaeter (Part 4)

My first "Yeater Task Force" formed up (as per Star Gruntz army builder rules) into an "insertion formation" [150 points]. Twenty two bodies all told (see below: three basic six man squads [in a diagonal running down the photograph top left to bottom right], a two man command team [top middle] and a two man [sniper] asset [top right]):

Close up of the First Squad (see below, obviously laying down covering fire):

  • 4 x StarGruntz
  • 1 x Missile Man
  • 1 x Laz Man (LMG equivalent) 

Close up of the Third Squad (see below, on "point"):

Seen from the perspective of the rear "Command Position" (see below):

Overall I am quite please with how they have come out :)

Note to self: I still have another fifteen figures to finish off (in the same painting style methinks), but the above force is supposed to be dropped from a heavy transport (photo to follow in another post) and is "all" that is needed for my first game of StarGruntz.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

What the [US] Professionals Say About Wargaming

The current state of affairs from the US (non-hobby) wargamers:

Note to self: Board Gaming Site/Resource

Interesting Board Game Web-Site:

In particular a game about the Peloponnesian War (Athens v Sparta) from GMT and the same designer who created the Victory Games one I have (and have been meaning to play for teh last decade):

Not cheap but looks good!

An alternative from the Plastic Soldier Company is:

There is also always the DBA Campaign ;)

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Battleground 2017: The Haul

Slightly overdue in coming ...

I was quite sensible (well to my strange mind) and all these purchases made a sort of practical sense to expand and fill out my existing collections. Firstly I acquired some Britannia Miniatures 20mm British Paratroopers from Grubby tanks so I could cover the Order of Battle for a Chain of Command "Red Devil" Para Platoon and therefore have no real excuse for painting up a WWII 20mm platoon in metal. I bought three - two man Bren gun teams, one - three man Vickers HMG, two [wait for it as this bit is a tongue twister] - two man: two inch mortar and one - three man: three inch mortar (see below, D-Day and Arnhem "we are go"):

Next came something sensible, Perry's Renaissance Light Horse, so I can expand my Renaissance Impetus army building project (see below, I think this was a "sensible" purchase - mug of coffee not included):

And finally the mandatory "mad saw it on the day purchase and could not say no" three WWII Soviet late-war JSII 20mm pre-made and painted plastic metal assembled kits (ones that are usually given as the toy part of a magazine offering .. Del Prado or the like). For three pounds each I could not complain or say no but in a way I was good in limiting myself to three (there was a big box of them), knowing I also had two JSII plastic kits already made but needing to be painted in the loft (see below, "Uncle Joe" says hello):

As a bonus ball I was honoured by Renko giving an early Xmas present from a bookstall of (another) Bismarck book. This comes recommended as the author "knows his stuff" (see below):

All in all a nice bag of goodies and all of which should find a good use and home in my collection(s).

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Winter Scenery Master Class .. Wow

Sometimes "Wow" is all you can say, check this out:

This guy is one well talented dude!
Respect for creating the book.
I am very, very impressed.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Netflix: Road to Victory - US Army in Europe 194-45

Despite the kids having a 99% control of Netflix (true it keeps them quiet) I do occasionally manage to get the odd "time-slice" in. I saw this little treasure trove and liked it, albeit concentrating on the US side of operations only (see below, I really enjoyed it or rather them):

The US invasion beaches (Omaha and Utah) and the American 101st and the 82nd Airborne dropping behind the beaches. The chaos the airborne troops found themselves in (small squads searching each other out) suggests some very interesting skirmish (Chain of Command) scenarios.

Hell's Highway:
Two thirds the way up it! 101st and 82nd perspectives. The incredible river crossing at Nijmegen but them the heartbreaking failure of command (not pushing on while the Germans were completely dislocated). Plenty of scenario (again skirmish) material here.

The Bulge:
Frank description of the battle, bringing out the best and the worst US experiences. Intriguingly it was the small squad sized battles that shaped the course of the battle with the Germans encountered resistance where they least expected it. The Winter seemed to be the worst enemy to both sides

Very interesting to see it from the American perspective (not a "we won the war" but a "this is how we fought it"). It also served as an inspiration to ... paint some US 20mm forces for Chain of Command! If I can do it for Star Gruntz (Yaeter) then I should be able to make an inroads into my WWII American 20mm collection.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Paint Experimentation: Vallejo .. Things other than paints, inks and washes.

What's this? What's this? Other things apart from paints, washes and inks from Vallejo. Whatever next and what do they do? (see below):

The "Retarder Medium" this slows down the drying time of the paint which gives you longer to blend colours together. I think this may be of use in larger scales and models (tbc). I do remember some painting blogs extolling its virtues.

A few drops of the "Matt Medium" makes the colour more transparent, increase paint (i.e. runnier) and produces a 'matter' finish. To me this has WWII 20mm (plastic and metal figure) potential to get a dirty camouflage look!

Lastly the "Metal Medium" again mixed with metal paint gives a paler metallic shade and can be also used for metallic highlights. I was thinking 25/28mm Wars of the Roses (Perry's), Renaissance (Perry's, Warlord Games) and other plastic 28mm ranges such a Normans, Vikings and Saxons - even up to Crusades (FireForge, Conquesr and Gripping Beast).

Watch this space for some results ;) 

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Sci-Fi Project: The Yaeter (Part 3)

After the Airfix While Satin highlight I thought the (newly painted) Yeater were looking too parade ground shiny so I decided to give them a slight Yellow Sepia Vallejo Wash around the crevices and recesses. This meant a slight touch up of the Airfix Satin White was required, but IMHO was well worth it (see below):

The yellowy look gives the 'grime' effect I am looking for. Next up I will have to go back and do a bit of sand terrain basing before going back to do the "other twenty" before I start thinking of Xmas present additions to my forces from GZG (see below, nearly ready for the tabletop):

As I was painting the small GZG (New Israeli) Yaeter I couldn't help dabble with this 54mm Star Wars figure from my youngest sons collection. The colour schemes are very compatible and you can see where my inspiration was coming from. He is only party done. The top half is benefiting from the shiny Airfix Satin White. The rear has lots of kit details I may have to "just make up" (after all it is just Sci-Fi) or scan some Star Wars images (see below, may need to experiment with some washes and Humbrol weathering dust I pick up a while back but have not yest used):

One disturbing comment from my youngest son was that he preferred the smaller toys. I will have to watch out here as they may go AWOL!

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Sci-Fi Project: The Yaeter (Part 2)

This is sort of my "Wargaming Advent Calendar" in the run up to Xmas, a post a day. Therefore the next stage of my 15mm Sci-Fi fictional Yaeter race of humanoids (see below, half [20] of my collection of [40] figures are on the Painting Tray) :

Nearest to the camera shows a "completed" Yaeter Trooper, behind him comes a field of WIP. After the primer undercoat and wash, Vallejo Game Stone Grey was applied (in a gappy crevice/recess leaving fashion) then followed by a Vallejo Game Dead While highlight. A mixture of Vallejo Game Gun Metal and Anita's Acrylics Metallic Black (2:3 ratio) was applied to anything that looked like part of a gun or helmet visor [just to get it "dark shiny"]. This was then dampened with a Vallejo Sepia (certainly it was brown) Wash to dull things down and emphasise the shadows again.

They are mow waiting to dry overnight and for the Airfix Acrylic Satin White to be applied to (sparingly) raise a shiny white highlight and also lightly highlight weapons with Vallejo Game Gun Metal. Next comes the basing .. watch this space!

Psst. They may even be the forces I even use for some fun with the Portable Wargame concept from Rob Cordery's fertile mind!

Friday, 1 December 2017

Sci-Fi Project: The Yaeter (Part 1)

Wargaming Promise #1 to fellow wargamer. I will finish painting the StarGruntz 15mm GZG Sci-Fi kit I first started back in November 2014! Not my longest running wargaming project but embarrassing because of how few figures there actually are and how small and easy to paint they are (40 in total plus some odds and sods "random Sci-Fi" stuff I found lying around). The first batch of twenty troopers are here (see below, early days as the first primer coat, wash, grey shade has been put on, more white, wash and satin white to follow): 

Half my "platoon". Two squads of ten men (humanoids) each, a manoeuvre team of a NCO plus fire light "laser shooters", then a commanding officer ("Lewt") with supporting heavy (heavier) section. The heavier section deploys a two man(? .. well humanoid) "missile" (anti-armour [AT] or anti-air [AA]) team with shooter and lazer spotter/sniper and two heavier "LAZ guns" with a bit more kick to them. The other twenty troops replicate (as in the same figures of) the above. I think the overall force  needs a Platoon Command HQ and a Heavy Supports Section, but I have not decided "what form" that should take.

Even though I put up an initial form of resistance I am coming round to an Order of Battle that is looking more and more like a Chain of Command WWII squad/platoon organisation. Hmm, I feel that I may need to shake that up a bit by putting some funky AI mechanised micro-armour and special automated gun pods, or augmented human robotic helpers in the mix. This means mixing up the Ground Zero Games ranges which I think is a good thing in itself. Perhaps even some "civs" be it scientists or technicians or maybe even the odd crazy couple of mercenaries/scouts.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The Battle of the Denmark Strait an Amazing Fact

Sometimes you come across actually a quite common known fact to others that had totally passed you by, but when others kindly retell it to you, it just simply stops you dead in your tracks. I knew that after the destruction of HMS Hood her consort, HMS Prince of Wales, had been hit on its bridge by a German 15" shell during the engagement. The shell tore through the unarmoured bridge without exploding leaving behind it a trail of carnage. On the bridge at that time were Captain Leach of HMS Prince of Wales along with fifteen officers of his bridge crew. Of the sixteen, thirteen were killed outright and one left badly wounded and completely blind. Captain Leach was one of the two standing survivors and managed to con his battleship out of harms way under cover of a smokescreen. The blinded bridge gunnery officer eventually regained the sight in one eye but only after a whole year convalescing. During that time HMS Prince of Wales had sailed off to the Far East to fight the Japanese and had been lost along with HMS Repulse as part of Force Z, taking with it Captain Leach.

After the war, when it came to filming Sink The Bismarck, an ex-naval officer who had returned to his pre-war profession of acting was cast in the role of Captain Leach, as seen in the iconic still from the film (see below). That actor was a one Esmond Knight, who in fact was the former gunnery officer whom had been blinded on the bridge of HMS Prince of Wales. Knight had stood by Captain Leach during the whole engagement and only by being so severely wounded was given the perverse chance by fate to escape death in the sinking of HMS Prince of Wales. To me this is totally mind blowing. He is not acting but in a time machine back to that fateful day, his expression carrying across with it the horror and magnitude of event far, far better than any words could describe (see below).

Picture Source:

You Tube video of KM Bismarck v HMS Hood and HMS Prince of Wales (3:24 into the video clip):

You Tube documentary link:

Monday, 27 November 2017

The Battle of the Denmark Straits as we took it to the show (Battleground 2017 - Part 2)

The early ranging shots and salvos of both sides were traded with limited damage (apart from HMS Hood's opening salvo) to the point where HMS Hood historically had made it past her second 20 degree turn. Importantly this meant that the full broadsides can bear for both British battleships, as X and Y turrets cleared their arcs of fire. At this point HMS Hood had survived for longer than the historical counterpart (see below, RN bottom KM in the distant, with the little hands of Admiral  "Lutjens" [KM Admiral "A"] just visible):

Turn four saw a really effective exchange of heavy fire with HMS Hood having many visible (in the sense of shell bursts on her or in her) "battle scars" but these were mainly of the non-penetrating nature or penetrating but superficial (in GQII you can do the hard part of hitting but still do no damage). "Lady Luck" was holding out and smiling today for the Mighty Hood! Straddled by the KM Bismark she was in 'harm's way' but had escaped with just a slight reduction in speed to 9cm but still firing with all her main armaments (see below, HMS Prince of Wales sails on unmolested in the Hood's wake in the background):

By way of contrast the KM Bismarck bears the full force of 18 RN naval barrels (8 x 15" from HMS Hood and 10 x 14" [which if looked at closely had the better penetration power] from HMS Prince of Wales). The KM Prince Eugen by this time had suffered by too much attention from HMS Hood. Initially slowed to 6cm, she was then again hit and slowed to a creeping 3cm. Her main armament was also savaged and reduced to half. At the start of play KM Price Eugen would be hard pressed to hurt a battleship, now it was a sliding mathematical scale towards the impossible. Her torpedoes were now her only real threat and there was no way she could get in range to use them. After a few distracting shots to HMS Prince of Wales she tried to retire under smoke away from the 'battleship only' arena. Unfortunately HMS Suffolk and HMS Norfolk were well placed to make that escape infeasible (see below):

The meat grinder phase of the battle showed that the ratio of 2:1 in RN firepower (when exotic statistical outlier results do not creep in) are brutally unforgiving. There was a steady attrition of straddling and hit (after hit) accumulation began to take its toll on the KM Bismarck's statistics. Before long her batteries were falling silent one by one and her speed slowing down (see below):

There was a brief phase when both sides seemed to throw bad dice but then at the end there was a maelstrom of violence directed at the KM Bismarck. In the exchange HMS Hood had lost half her armament and survived an interesting critical hit but the KM Bismarck was left travelling at 3cm with a lonely solo turret firing. Her end was in clearly sight (see below, "the flashes" indicated critical hits which resulted in extra hull and armament boxes being lost):

In the end it was the HMS Prince of Wales (even with an extra dice roll to see if all her guns worked) that provided the "coup de grace" with a final massive hull critical which that wiped out the KM Bismarck's flotation and then some. The battle ended how the RN Admiralty had intended the historical version to end. No German 'swan-song' on this occasion. Both player admirals shook hands at the end and departed still "best of friends"! It was a good participation/demonstration game, plenty of spectator comment and nice to see the scenario played through to the end.

Second re-fight (without pictures): As the traders were starting the long process of packing up, myself (Admiral "M" RN) and one of the other game organisers (Admiral "I" KM) decided to do another quick replay, not as tied to the historical event, with more latitude of action shall we say. Here HMS Hood decided to concentrate on hitting and dispatching the KM Prince Eugen who seemed to be intent to close to torpedo distance. This meant taking several hits from the KM Bismarck, leaving HMS Prince of Wales to fight her battle for her. HMS Hood was thus reduced to 6cm but thankfully nothing worse. HMS Prince of Wales sadly did not even scratch the paintwork on the KM Bismarck. Admiral "I" KM was happy to play a long distant gunnery duel game with the British battleships. The speed advantage was in his favour (HMS Prince of Wales 11cm and HMS Hood 6cm to KM Bismarck's 12cm). As the range lengthened Admiral "M" RN (me) deemed it prudent to disengage and resume shadowing with the cruisers (HMS Suffolk and HMS Norfolk) and regain contact with her "lost or misplaced" RN destroyer screen (the four escorting destroyers that could not keep pace with the battleships in the bad weather). This would also give the British time to organise a Swordfish torpedo attack from HMS Victorious (as historically happened) and allow perhaps a damaged KM Bismarck to be re-engaged by the combined force of one battleship (HMS Prince of Wales), two cruisers (HMS Suffolk and HMS Norfolk) and three destroyers (assuming that one is left to escort the damaged HMS Hood). In addition there were the additional heavy units of the Home Fleet (HMS King George V and HMS Repulse with Tovey) closing in "with all haste" or even those heavier ships still on convoy escort duty (the battleships HMS Rodney, HMS Ramillies and HMS Revenge, plus the cruisers HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Edinburgh) that could come into play. Force H from Gibraltar may or may not be needed (probably used as insurance a policy). If not they may have been on hand strategically to help out (or be sunk) in the Mediterranean, as the invasion of Greece and Crete was in full swing at this point.

Wow. All good fun and a very, very enjoyable day out. In between battles I managed to pick up a few other bits and pieces, but more of them later. Also a huge thank you to Renko for kindly lending me the dark blue North Atlantic playing surface and those very useful plastic hit (orange 3D explosion) and critical (red exploding star) markers. The very effective looking smoke came from tumble-dryer belly button fluff! With three kids I seem to have an endless supply of the stuff ;)

Sitting back with a relaxing cup of "RN Cocoa" I was thinking on what the "lessons learned" were for the whole day/experience (but that is for another post).


Sunday, 26 November 2017

The Battle of the Denmark Straits as we took it to the show (Battleground 2017 - Part 1)

I have to confess that I got a huge buzz from Battleground 2017 (Stockton, UK) today as for the first time I was involved in a demonstration game (The Battle of the Denmark Straits 1941). Normally when I go to a Wargames Convention I spend most of my time circulating around the traders and "Bring and Buy" looking for essential purchases and bargains, trying desperately to stick to a "budget". My conversations with other wargamers are very restricted to comments to other shoppers and the 'talkative' stall owners. I scan the demonstration games (huge battlefields crammed with excellently painted figures ranging from 28mm to 6mm), consume the vista and move on. I have never as yet really participated in any of the participation games being more keen to move onto the essential shopping and get back to the family before it is too late. This year was different as I had babysitters (although my kids are now not babies) arranged and a full afternoon pass (the wife was also away enjoying herself on a University reunion).

So I spent a whole afternoon "virtually" in the Denmark Straits or talking about the battle and other other naval stories. I was amazed by the level of detail other people had on the subject and also some fascinating anecdotes and personal connections (in particular with HMS Hood and HMS Prince of Wales). After we set the game up I was called upon to start the General Quarters II (GQII) demonstration. To help me I had two young admirals rolling the dice. We'll call them "P" for the RN and "A" for the KM. The forces were placed on the table (see below, the Germans on the 1/3000 plot approaching at bearing 300 degrees to North):

We also had a 1/1200 representation of the local tactical arrangement, whereby most of the markers would be placed to keep the 1/3000 plot clear of unnecessary 'clutter' (see below, KM Prince Eugen leading the KM Bismarck):

Admiral "P" leads the RN in on their historical 220 degrees to North bearing (see below, both sides have pink "Post-It" notes close to the respective ships with their GQII characteristics on so damage can be easily marked off. Also note the small flag denoting nationality):

Standing back and the table area revealed the 1/3000 'battle area' (middle), the top section of the table with a laptop running various videos and also 1941 facsimile documents [something I discovered in a "remnants shop" one day while I was mooching] and the "messy bottom" area with the GQII rules and also the two 1/1200 tactical areas (see below, you can just see the 1/1200 model of HMS Hood bottom right):

History was immediately rewritten as RN Admiral "P" hit the Prince Eugen with a salvo from HMS Hood (10% chance, don't leave 'dice' in the hands of small children as they can do the impossible) causing a massive two hull box damage and immediate reduction in speed to 6cm. As the KM Prince Eugen slowed and veered away the KM Bismarck passed her and masked her from additional RN shots. It was now a stand up fight between two RN battleships (one old 'The Mighty Hood' and one [too] new the 'PoW') and a KM one at the peak of its efficiency (see below):

The KM held a brief advantage in penetration capability at this long range but the RN battle line was closing fast. The "battle royale" was about to begin!

Next: Let the "big guns" speak!

Saturday, 25 November 2017

The Battle of the Denmark Strait 1941: Battle Set-Up - It is all in the Angle of Attack (80 degrees of separation)

Reading through the historical accounts of the battle from various sources and studying the maps has been really interesting. From this the consensus seems to suggest the following battle set-up (see below):
  • Germans enter bearing 220 degrees
  • British enter bearing 300 degree
  • Range 26, 500 yards at first shot from HMS Hood
  • German ships will be slightly ahead making British X.Y turrets "out of arc"
The last pre-show run through of the rules and kit we've put together and ever so kindly been lent. It revealed that the odds show the Bismarck "gets it" (again) unless she gets 'lucky' early on. The final fate of the KM Bismarck is shown below (Note: We used the 1/3000 ships are used for the gunnery "plot" and the 1/1200 ships to indicate how the ships appeared to be damaged and when they are being straddled [and by whom]):

The higher level plot showed the 'bird's eye view" (see below, RN at bottom, HMS Hood (left) leading slightly damaged [down a turret but at full speed] and an untouched HMS Prince of Wales (bottom right) whereas the KM Bismarck is well and truly battered laying dead in the water (top right) with only one turret working. The KM Prince Eugen (middle left) is desperately trying to close to a "good" torpedo range on the Hood [aka to slow her down] before trying to make a run for it):

References and sources used to date are as follows:
  • The Loss of the Bismarck: An avoidable Disaster (Graham Rhys-Jones)
  • Hood and Bismarch: The Deep Sea Discovery of an Epic Battle (David Mearns and Rob White)
  • King George V Class Battleships (V.E. Tarrent)
  • German Capital Ships and Raiders in World War II, Volume 1: From Graf Spee to Bismarck 1939-41 
  • Hunting the Bismarck (C.S. Forester)
  • Pursuit (Ludovic Kennedy)
  • The Bismarck Chase: New Light on a Famous Engagement (Robert J Winklareth)
  • Battleship Bismarck: A Survivor's Story (Baron Burkard Von Mullenheim-Rechberh)
Naturally any additional sources of information would be greatly appreciated

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Atlantic Fleet Computer Game: Part of the Battle of the Denmark Straits Project

Well given the heightened interest I have in all things naval and in particular I decided to plunge into my Steam game account and purchase Atlantic Fleet. It is placed in the simulation rather than online game-play (World of Ships), but the graphics are sufficiently detailed for my interest and to see things "come to life" gives me a buzz (see below):

Naturally, even though a novice at the controls, I jumped straight into The Battle of the Denmark Strait (and in the urgent sense of shiny freshness I played it four times, twice as British and twice as German). It was really nice to see all the ships moving in the battle.

Results from four "Play Tests"

HMS Hood leading HMS Prince of Wales into battle (see below, screen shots from the start of the game):

Three as the British (Human Player) and German (AI):

  • All three times the KM Bismarck and KM Prince Eugen are sunk with HMS Hood heavily damaged (twice noted as being scuttled).
KM Bismarck with her consort KM Prince Eugen (see below, screen shot from the start of the  game): 

Two as British (AI) and German (Human Player):
  • Once, KM Bismarck was sunk and took HMS Hood sunk with her, but KM Prince Eugen "disengaged" [although she had nowhere to go and would have been "hunted down"]. HMS Prince of Wales was untouched in all three. 
  • Then in the other simulation the KM Prince Eugen was sunk (as a battleship broadside from HMS Prince of Wales took her out in one fell swoop) but she did manage to launch an annoying spread of torpedoes that worried the British battleships. However the RN (AI) should have been more worried about the KM Bismarck as she sunk both HMS Hood and HMS Prince of Wales (by crossing their collective "T" - Artificial Dumbness rather than intelligence methinks) albeit at the cost of heavy damage to the paintwork on her hull (OK and some flooding inside to slow her). Note: The Bismarck's heavy armament was firing 8 x 15" for most of the game, only dropping right at the end to 6 x 15". HMS Prince of Wales seemed to go down very quickly one the Bismarck got her range. I am not sure if it was a lucky hit or is she just easier to sink?
The KM Prince Eugen in (one of her many) her death throes (see below): 

I think I might get up to twenty replays before Xmas ;)

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Denmark Strait Scenario Notes: 24th May 1941 (Wargame) - Quite a big post

Scenario specific details/notes to self on playing The Battle of the Denmark Strait:

Contact: Set-up: 05:35 24/5/41
KM Bismarck and Prince Eugen sailing at 28 knots on course bearing 220 degrees

The German lead in (see below, but not quite the final set-up, PE leading Bismarck following):

Range between RN and KM when smoke first detected: 34,000 yards (17 nautical miles)

Note: German hydrophones on the KM Prince Eugen picked up the approach of two ships while "over the horizon". Lutjens believed them to be additional shadowing cruisers and was amazed to discover two RN capitol ships bearing down on them. One identified as HMS Hood. This was the worst case scenario wargamed by the Germans as despite her age they knew they could not out run the Hood. In fact Admiral Holland in HMS Hood had asked Captain Leach in HMS Prince of Wales if she could make more speed. To which the reply was, "not without damaging her", The crew report HMS Prince of Wales was "rattling herself to pieces" as it was while she tried to keep up with the Hood (28knots). In effect HMS Prince of Wales was still very much "working up" (with civilian contractors and dockyard hands aboard).

HMS Hood and HMS Prince of Wales sailing at 28 knots on course bearing 240 degrees
At 05:38 turn of 40 degrees to 280 degrees course heading
At 05:49 turn of 20 degrees to 300 degrees course heading

The British set-up (see below):

Both fleets are on converging courses. The KM are moving away from the Greenland ice shelf being shadowed by HMS Suffolk and HMS Norfolk under the command of Vice Admiral Wade Walker RN. The HMS Hood and HMS Prince of Wales under the command of Admiral Holland are intercepting. The screen force of four destroyers are still to the east of the BCF (Battle Cruiser Force).

Note [Other RN Forces, HMS Suffolk and HMS Norfolk, plus the BCF screening destroyers (4)]: In this scenario both the shadowing cruisers and destroyers play no active part other than after a certain time limit they would have to be factored in as ready to engage. The Germans (KM) needs to have "won" by that point.

At 05:53 HMS Hood opens fire on Prince Eugen at extreme range, historically 26,500 yards, nearly over the horizon shooting.

The range is converted from inches to cm is 106 (so4cm per 1000 yards) due to the constrained playing area (this makes the ships appear overly large in context - maybe 1/6000 would be a better representation?)

HMS Hood (leading) and HMS Prince of Wales (astern at 80 degrees) are in a quartered formation (see below, given the large size of the ship in proportion to sea space this is done more for visual effect than simulation accuracy):

Because X and Y turrets on HMS Hood and Y turret on HMS Prince of Wales historically could not bear the German fleet is pushed some 12" in from the 'table edge' (apologies for mixing imperial and metric measurements) placing it slightly ahead of the British BCF (Battle Cruiser Force). The angle between the two fleets should be 80 degrees with the Germans slightly ahead, enough to mask the British rear turrets from firing.

Note [British Erroneous Targeting]: Historically HMS Hood fired first and she was targeting the wrong ship (KM Prince Eugen). The reason for this being that the shadowing cruisers had last seen KM Bismarck leading the German formation and it was assumed that this was still the case. However Bismarck had discharged her main battery at the cruisers and in so doing so "knocked out" her own radar. The KM Prince Eugen therefore took the lead.

Note [German Command and Control "Freeze" and Poor British Gunnery Mechanism on HMS Hood]: The British fire from HMS Hood is a freebie as historically Lutjens froze giving no orders to return fire. owever given the antiquated WWI Dreyer fire control system on HMS Hood only a roll of "0" on a d10 would hit (GQII WWI Gunnery Rule). The first opening salvo from HMS Hood misses much to the consternation or relief to the crew of the KM Prince Eugen. In fact Holland (in the Hod realised by observation of the Prince of Wales he was shooting at the wrong ship and ordered "shift to second ship" but this order historically did not come into effect as the Hood blew up. To simulate this lag HMS Hood has to fire on the Prince Eugen  for the first three turns. If Hood makes a radical turn of 45 degrees or more her Dreyer gunnery tables need time to recompute, so she suffers -10% chance of hitting for that turn (as the Dreyer tables were poor when the rate of change varies greatly, strictly speaking this could apply if the target was changing course and speed to but I am trying to keep it 'relatively' simple).

Note: [The "Weather Gauge" disadvantages the British.] HMS Hood and HMS Prince of Wales were running into a heavy sea and the light advantage was to the German favour (dark horizon and silhouetting the RN). In particular HMS Prince of Wales (and all KGV class ships) were very "green" and took in lots of water over their forecastle. "A" turret was ankle deep in icy water for the whole battle. Hence British Gunnery is reduced by 10% in its chance to hit.   

Note: ["Crack" German Gunnery] "Until" the first successful straddle the Germans gain a 10% modifier chance to hit a British ship. This is to reflect the initial sharpness of the German guns on the day of the battle as they straddles their targets almost immediately.

Note: [HMS Prince of Wales erratic gunnery, "teething problems"] Due to her status of "reporting for duty" but in fact was not fully yet worked up HMS Prince of Wales has gunnery problems. At the time of the battle she had never initiated a full broadside. Something always broke. The quadruple 14" gun turrets were the problem. The RN did not solve these problems in KGV class battleships until mid 1943. Hence when HMS Prince of Wales hits a d6 is rolled:

1: 50% of armament boxes
2: 100% of armament boxes
3: 100% of armament boxes
4: 100% of armament boxes
5: 100% of armament boxes
6: 100% of armament boxes

On reflection this might be actually "too" generous?

Firing begins and something of interest almost immediately happens. HMS Hood is straddled by the Bismarck losing a turret and a hull box plus a "critical" is rolled (see below, will history come alive"?):

With bated breath we see extensive boiler room damage and she is reduced to half speed (6cm) becoming an annoying blocking hazard to HMS Prince of Wales (see below)

More smoke is added for aesthetic purposes (see below):

Heavy blows indeed against the RN on the first turn. No hits were landed on Germans in return. Holland (in HMS Hood) performs a radical turn towards the enemy to allow HMS Prince of Wales to fire this turn and pass by her next turn. This allows HMS Hoods "T" to be crossed by both the KM Eugen and KM Bismarck (see below):

The Germans look Teutonic and menacing, while in the distance smoke is belching from HMS Hood (see below):

The ships move and fire again. HMS Hood this time lays into the KM Eugen, despite the adverse weather gauge and her old RN 15" gun she takes two hull boxes and halves her speed in return (down to 6cm). KM Bismarck suffers from good gunnery from HMS Prince of Wales, losing a turret and a hull box (see below, note RED indicates visible damage to the enemy [such as a destroyed turret], BLACK not so obvious damage that is not disclosed to the enemy or simple no damage but a straddle):

Hoods "T"has been well and truly crossed. She is punished losing another turret [A] and taking another hill damage reducing her speed further (3cm). HMS Prince of Wales however is cleared for action (see below):

More damage on the KM Prince Eugen sees HMS Hood take out an eight inch turret (see below, note both German ships have been reduced to 6cm and HMS Prince of Wales is making steady progress to cross the Germans "T" in the not so distant future):

HMS Hood is hammered. More critical damage to her boilers stops her in the water and she is reduced to a single forward turret firing. The German battle line however has been hammered. KM Prince Eugen is really only a threat with respect to her torpedoes and Bismarck has just to say got two functioning main turrets. The (erratic) gunnery from the Prince of Wales is hurting (see below, the poor battered Hood):

HMS Prince of Wales finally bring the KM Bismark to her knees reducing her to 3cm speed. There is no way she can either become a commerce raider or even realistically escape additional units of the RN. Especially as HMS Prince of Wales is untouched (albeit with implicit gunnery problems). KM Eugen cannot escape either. The game is called a RN victory. The German ships do not have enough umpf left (see below, the broken and battered HMS Hood lies to the top left, but the unbroken HMS Prince of Wales steams off to the right ready to administer the "coup de grace"):

Additional smoke is now seem from HMS Suffolk and HMS Norfolk closing. The KM Prince Eugen is their target. Admiral Holland issues a visual lamp order to the destroyer escort which now arrives on the scene: "Execute torpedo attack on German Battleship Bismarck". Her fate is sealed.

An enjoyable play test. A few things were played wrong on the night but corrected in hindsight. Nothing that would have changed the outcome of the above.

Final Rule Notes:
Basic GQII: Multiple ships firing at same target, 2nd+ ships -10% to hit target
House Rule: If your ship is straddled then it is -10% chance to hit (being put off by shell splashes)

Result: Comprehensive RN Victory

HMS Hood should be "salvageable" although perhaps a constructive loss
The KM Bismarck and KM Prince Eugen look "doomed" their loss of speed being the biggest factor that weighs against them. They are now targets for destroyers, cruisers, submarines, swordfish and that is not to mention the fully functioning HMS Prince of Wales. In addition HMS King George V in accompaniment of  HMS Repulse with HMS Victorious will soon be within striking range.

It makes the events of the battle all the more fascinating and thought provoking given the catastrophic loss of HMS Hood.