Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Speaking of gunboats...

Recently I came across some interesting articles concerning riverine operations in New Zealand - especially during the 1860s campaign into the Waikato region.  That region is dominated by the river Waikato, which, issuing from Lake Taupo, emerges into the Tasman Sea south of Auckland.   It is a fairly sizeable river, navigable - give or take the bar at its mouth, a hazardous feature of many New Zealand's west coast rivers - for a considerable distance inland.  

Some links:
Waikato River Gunboats: 'The Ironclads'

Dressing the Lines blog spot.  There's plenty more on New Zealand's colonial wars to be found here.  Including this book review:

Grant Middlemiss, The Waikato River Gunboats, Cambridge, NZ, (2014)

A fine addition to a war games New Zealand wars campaign along the Waikato, or possibly the Whanganui, rivers.  

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

First Blacklands War - Ship Stats

 Following my last posting, with its closing comments on modifying the naval units' Flotation Points values to be based up the weight of the vessels, Bob Cordery reminded me of the system he developed in his Portable Colonial Wargame.  

How could I have forgotten?  I'd used them myself for my HRMS Blunderer and the battle with the ironclads.  So I thought here to recalculate those 'stats' in accordance with his system.  The following is based upon the beam and waterline length of the models, not the originals from which they were modelled.  I also calculated the carrying capacity of the warships and merchant vessels, both.

A reminder:
A Warship's Flotation Points are determined by the expression

FP(WS) = (W x B x C x A)/2  Where;
W = waterline length (I've taken this as overall length, the difference being trivial on my toys)
B = Beam
C = Construction: 0.25 for wooden; 0.5 for iron or steel. 
A = Armour, graded from none (A=1), to light (A=1.25), medium (A=1.5) to heavy (A=2).

As all my vessels for the Blacklands war are held to have iron or steel construction, I've simplified the formula for the warships to:

FP(WS) = (W x B x A)/4.

The formula for the merchant vessels is:

FP(MS) = (W x B x C)/4, which simplifies to (W x B)/8.  As I am classing the armed merchant ship as a warship, its FP will be determined by the 'WS' formula.

I have also calculated the carrying capacity of my warships and merchant vessels.  

Hellenic (Greek):

  • Lemnos: FP = (10 x 4 x 2)/4 = 80/4 => 20
  • Georgios Averof: FP = (10.5 x 3.5 x 2)/4 = 73.5/4 => 18 
  • Hydra: FP = (10 x 3.5 x 1.5)/4 = 52.5/4 => 13
  • Psara: FP = (10 x 3.5 x 1.5)/4 = 52.5/4 => 13
  • Thiros Class Destroyer: FP = (9 x 2 x 1.25)/4 = 22.5/4 => 6

Turcowaz (Turk):

  • Turgut Reis: FP = (10 x 3.5 x 2)/4 = 70/4 => 18
  • Hayreddin Barbarossa: FP = (10 x 3.5 x 2)/4 = 70/4 => 18
  • Masudiye: FP = (10 x 4 x 1.5) = 60/4 => 15
  • Hamidiye: FP = (9 x 3 x 1.5) = 40.5/4 => 10
  • Muavenet Class Destroyer: FP = (7 x 2 x 1.25)/4 = 17.5/4 => 4
Merchant Ships:
  • Armed MS: FP = (8 x 3 x 1)/4 => 6
  • Black: FP = (8.5 x 3.5)/8 = 29.75/8 => 4
  • Blue: FP = (9 x 3)/8 = 27/8 => 3
  • Green: FP = (9.5 x 3.5)/8 = 33.25/8 => 4
Carrying Capacity:
Merchant vessels have double the carrying capacity than do warships of a comparable size.   

CC(WS) = (W x B)/8
CC(MS) = (W x B)/4

Hellenic (Greek): 
  • Lemnos: CC = (10 x 4)/8 = 40/8 => 5
  • Georgios Averof: CC= (10.5 x 3.5)/8 = 36.75/8 => 5
  • Hydra: CC = (10 x 3.5)/8 = 35/8 => 4
  • Psara: CC = 4
  • Thiros Class: CC = (9 x 2)/8 = 18/8 => 2

Turcowaz (Turk):
  • Turgut Reis: CC = (10 x 3.5)/8 = 35/8 => 4
  • Hayreddin Barbarossa: CC = 4
  • Mesudiye: CC = (10 x 4)/8 = 40/8 = 5
  • Hamidiye: CC = ( 9 x 3)/8 = 27/8 = 3
  • Muavenet Class: CC = (7 x 2)/8  = 14/8 => 2

Merchant ships:
  • Armed MS: CC = (8 x 3)/8 => 3 OR (8 x 3)/4 => 6
  • Black: CC = (8.5 x 3.5)/4 = 29.75/4 => 7
  • Blue: CC = (9 x 3)/4 = 27/4 => 7
  • Green: CC = (9.5 x 3.5)/4 = 33.25/4 => 8

According to these numbers, the Hellenic/ Greek fleet is very slightly more powerful than the Turcowaz/ Turkish one. 

River gunboat,  Aithiops Empress: 

Now, how about this work in progress, destined perhaps for activities around Madasahatta, Zanzingabar or the East Aithiopian coasts and rivers?  Bear in mind, this vessel has been constructed to a different scale from the vessels so far discussed.  In 'real life', it would be no larger than the Turcowaz torpedo boat destroyers.

Aithiops Empress:
FP = (10x4x1)/4 = 10 (actually the vessel is 14cm, but as it is supposed to 'fit' a 10cm-wide grid area, it counts as 10cm)
CC = (10x4)/8 = 5.  


Sengoku - 'Thought Points'

When I set up the scenario for the battle described in my previous posting ('Sengoku - A Diversion'), I was inclined to think the balance was in favour of 'Clan Oda'. So the result was unexpected, and even now I think the Ikko-Ikki victory was due largely to a run of luck in the latter stages. Mind you, it is also likely that the rather leisurely early handling of Clan Oda's relief column didn't help their cause!

A few days after this fight, I could not help but set up a straightforward, head-on battle featuring the same armies.

Clan Oda: 

'Red' Army.


'Every colour but Red' Army. 

The observant reader might guess that, apart from the 2-figure command element of daimyo and standard bearer,  the figures represent the strength (points) within each unit. Loss of SP means the loss of a figure, in much the same manner as losses accrue in the Memoir '44 game systems.  
Army board for the RED faction in  Shogun
(Milton Bradley) now called Ikusa. As I was 
using the figure with the hexagonal base, Clan Oda 
the army was.

Shortly after the loss of Castle Dajji, the head of Clan Oda summoned one of his nephews to command a punitive expedition to take and burn the Jodo Shinshu temple that lay in one of the innumerable little valleys on the fringes of Oda lands.  So generally popular was the sect, that such a project could not possibly be kept secret, and so it was that, as Nephew Oda advanced up the valley, he encountered a considerable force of warrior monks, armed peasants and disaffected Ronin stretched right across the valley floor and blocking the way to the temple.

'You shall not pass!'

Now, I really expected that the qualitative superiority of the red army to bash their way through the barrier - or at least, that it had that capability. However, rather than wait around to be hit, the Ikko-Ikki took the fight to their opponents, the first clashes at about the red line on the map. The narrative may be quickly told in the picture captions that follow.

As Clan Oda push forward their flanks to clear the woods,
nothing can restrain the Ikko-Ikki lead lines from
surging forward.

First clash - a unit of ashigaru yari give as 
good as they get against the Diamyo's bodyguard

The first clashes have driven back the Ikko-Ikki with 
loss, except for a determined band of Ronin, in 
close quarter action on their left (grey figures
partially obscured in the distance).
The Daimyo's leads another mounted attack against
Ikko-Ikki spearmen.  Again, it seems, religious fervour 
makes up for differentials in martial skill: both 
sides achieve hits...

... and those hits result in 'kills'. 
What happens to the Daimyo? 
That 'six' tells the story!

Now leaderless, the Clan loses much of its 

Ikko-Ikki insurgents continue to press,
though losses are heavy.  In the distance, that ferocious 
band of Ronin, with some ashigaru support  are about to 
break through the Clan's line.

Having reached its exhaustion point, Clan Oda 
begins slowly to withdraw; covered by units 
still in contact with the enemy.

Clan Oda's fighting withdrawal finally discourages  
further pursuit. They break clear, the mission a failure. 

Though a victory for the Ikko-Ikki, it was a costly one - a pyrrhic success, withal. Both sides reached their exhaustion points, some 14SPs lost to Clan Oda, 20SP to Ikko-Ikki. Clan Oda reached its E.P. a few turns sooner that Ikko-Ikki, but, the units  remaining in contact with the enemy (as permitted by the rules) were able to inhibit pursuit and to inflict losses, whilst the rest of the army withdrew. Then those units were able themselves to break off the action and put some distance between themselves and the enemy.

Now to the 'Thought Points'

1.  Commanders.
So far, the Portable Wargames systems have assigned an arbitrary 6SP to commander units.  Having no fighting capacity in themselves, they go to augmenting other units', and to sustaining their army's morale, the loss of the commander taking an army a long way towards its 'exhaustion point'.

This Sengoku rule set assigns 0SP to the commander, his loss diminishing the army's coordination and control, rather than bringing it closer to exhaustion.  I'll come to this further in the section on Unit Activation.  

Although not explicitly stated, there seems to be a suggestion that one might have more than one commander in a given army.  I have used the idea of sub-commanders in many of my past PW actions, of course, assigning 2,3, or 4 SPs to them depending upon the command levels within the armies overall.  These, however were pretty big armies by PW standards!

Sengoku is a little different: the generals very much going towards command and control, rather than 'army morale'. 

2. Unit Activation.
The system used in this rule set is a deal more elaborate than used in most of the other PW rule sets. Now, the initiative roll is the same as that I have used consistently over the last several years. But the unit activation system developed for this rule set is something new - more elaborate. I'll go through it here as it has several features I wish to discuss.

  1. Sum the army's units still in action [I have so far assumed including the general(s) as unit(s) but this might be mistaken].  
  2. Divide by 6 and 'round down' by which I think is meant 'truncate' - take the integer part only of the quotient.  This is the base line number of D6 to be rolled
  3. Add 1 D6 for an extant (sic) general. Now, I am supposing this means 'for each', given the existence of more than one general (e.g. sub-commanders), but stand to be corrected on this.
  4. Roll these D6s, then halve the sum of the pip scores.  Ignore fractions again.
Let us take take the respective armies above:
  1.  Including the commander, Ikko-Ikki comprised 19 units, Clan Oda, 12 units.  
  2.  Divide by 6 and 'round down: Ikko-Ikki -> 3; Clan Oda -> 2
  3.  Add generals: Ikko-Ikki -> 4; Clan Oda -> 3
  4.  Statistical expectation of units activated (halved dice rolls): Ikko-Ikki -> 14/2 -> 7; Clan Oda -> 10.5/2 -> 5
In both cases, most of the time less than half the units will be activated.  In Clan Oda's case, even the loss of just one unit will seriously decrease its overall control: 11/6 -> 1D6; then 7/2 -> 3 - a statistical expectation that just 3 units may be activated out of 11.  

Aside from possibly misinterpreting some aspects, I have a feeling that such a constraint upon control of the army, although going towards 'chance' perhaps, might tend to frustratingly piecemeal battles. If using this system I would suggest (without yet going so far as to recommend):
  1. Ignore generals in the unit count
  2. Round fractions - exact halves being rounded up.  [Or even go 1D6 per 6 units or part thereof might be worth a look].
  3. Loss of units and general(s) still may affect command and control.
How, then, would this look? As it happens, given the armies featured in this article, it would make no difference at all to begin with, but it would mitigate against very early subtractions in command and control as losses mount. Even then, though, I find it hard to get my head around the relative unlikelihood of activating more than half the army at any time; and the huge advantage likely to accrue when it does happen!

3.  Missilery Ranges.
These are very short under this rule set, so short, withal, that close combats simply have to be 'voluntary'. Bow-armed samurai can shoot to 1 grid area range; arquebusiers and cannon to 2 and 3 grid areas, with 1 area being 'short' range. By the way, I notice that the game system assumes a square grid, but I see no reason so far to suppose it to be unsuited to a hex gridded battlefield.

The effect of this is, that units in contact with enemy have to be activated to engage in shooting or hand-to-hand combat. One might conduct a 'holding attack' by marching up to the enemy and standing in front of them, the only combats taking place in one's opponent's turn.  Meanwhile reinforcements are coming up, or one develops some other, potentially decisive, attack. One has to bear in mind that the enemy is under the same constraint. I believe attackers would have to accept heavy losses until the main attack develops decisively.

An interesting effect of the game system is this particular Close Combat D6 modifier: "+2 for Mounted Samurai attacking a Tepo unit." This must be in the Samurai own turn. What happens in the Tepo turn? They are not going to be so silly as to engage in close combat, are they? - even though the Samurai +2 modifier won't apply. The Tepo will shoot, with the Samurai unable to respond until their own turn. For their part the Samurai could choose in their turn to shoot; a fire fight would still be a winning proposition, but the close combat would be a 'winninger' one.  

I have been tempted to add 1 to all the missilery ranges, but before so doing, I guess one has to examine the potential of the existing game mechanics. Methinks there will be a couple more Clan Oda vs Ikko-Ikki actions before the jury comes in.

This is looking like a game set that requires a deal of action in order to get the best out of them, and thence to come at a fair assessment.  Tricky!

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Sengoku - A Diversion

Every so often, one finds, despite having plenty to write about, there sets in a disinclination to 'put pen to paper' - I suppose one should say now: 'put finger to keyboard'. Hence the three week hiatus, which, absent the imaginary shotgun I'm holding to my head, could easily extend to as many months.

Having recently accepted delivery of the latest Portable Wargame volume - The Portable Pike & Shot Wargame; I'm building a considerable library of Bob Cordery books! - I was most interested in it, I thought, for the 30YW and ECW game systems. As it turned out, the 'Sengoku Variant' (by Antoine Bourguilleau) caught my eye. Without wishing to embark upon a whole new project with a whole new collection of figures I had no storage room for, it occurred to me that I have a whole range of figures that I could use - the figures from the Shogun board game that has been sitting idly doing nothing for nigh on 20 years. All that was wanting was the mounted arm (represented by a dismounted Daimyo figure I have supposed).  

So, I bought a box of Zvezda mounted samurai (I've long known them to be superb figures, but had resisted so far in getting any), and hope soon to acquire a couple more. Now, not wanting to wreck the board game by painting the figures, but also not happy with the thought of painting the mounted figures an overall colour, I  undercoated them black, dry-brushed overall with white, and painted red all the tassels and fringes I could find. I'll probably add some extra details here and there later on.

Early moves - 

So, to battle.  

The first outing for the 'Sengoku Portable Wargame'  was a pickup action played with Paul 'Jacko' Jackson one evening just over 3 weeks ago. Clan Oda was in combat against an Ikko-Ikki insurgent army. Hideoshi Oda himself led a relief column to rescue an adherent's castle from attack.

  • Board: Memoir '44, with terrain pieces (woods, walls and home-made 'castle') added.
  • Foot figures: From the 'Shogun' board game, left 'as is'. The red figures were Clan Oda; the 'every other colour but red' were the Ikko-Ikki. The grey figures were Ronin.
  • Mounted figures: Superb 'Zvezda' mounted samurai, given a black undercoat, white drybrush and red details.
  • Artillery: Souvenir piece from the Tower of London (I have 4 of these).
Clan Oda garrison:
  • 1 unit each foot samurai, elite, 4SP
  • 1 unit ashigaru yari (spearmen), average, 3SP
  • 1 unit ashigaru tepo (gunners), average, 2SP
  • 1 unit artillery, average, 2SP
Clan Oda relief column:
  • Hideoshi Oda (Daimyo), 0SP
  • 2 units mounted samurai, elite, @3SP = 6SP
  • 1 unit foot samurai, elite, 4SP
  • 3 units ashigaru yari, average, @3SP = 9SP
  • 1 unit ashigaru tepo, 2SP
Totals: 12 units (including Daimyo) -> Activation = Int(3D6/2)* 32 Strength Points: Exhaustion @ -11SP; Rout @ -16SP.
  • Commander (a certain Ori Gami, high priest of Jodo Shinshu), 0SP
  • 2 units ronin, average, @3SP = 6SP
  • 12 units ashigaru yari @3SP = 36SP
  • 4 units ashigaru tepo @2SP = 8SP
S = Samurai
T = Ashigaru Tepo (arquebusiers)
Y = Ashigaru Yari (spearmen)
Totals: 19 units (including leader) ->
Activation = Int(4D6/2)* 50 Strength points: Exhaustion @ -17SP;
Rout @ -25SP. * Int(expression) = the integer part of of a given rational number. It is a way of expressing truncation, rather than rounding. For example Int([1+3+4+5]/2) = Int(13/2) = Int(6.5) = 6. The table was set up in the map, the board being from the Memoir '44 game set - very useful for battlefields it is! Paul was offered the choice of army; he surprised me by taking the Ikko-Ikki.
So it was that in the first year of Tomohito Emperor, the Ikko-Ikki of Etchu province essayed an assault upon Clan Oda, beginning with a attack upon an outlying adherent Matsu Diron's residence, Dajji Castle. Matsu Diron could count upon his personal retinue of foot samurai, some cannon, and his entourage of ashigaru spearmen and gunners, but one sight of the hordes descending upon his lands led him hastily to dispatch runners to call for help from the nearest Clan leader. For their part, Dajji was to be the Ikko-Ikki beginning of the total obliteration of the hated Samurai class and what they stood for, according to the ideology and aim of the insurgents. Well - maybe this little action could be a generating circumstance for a campaign! The tale is soon told. The Ikko-Ikki launched an immediate attack upon the Dajji walls, where they were met by a hail of shot from arquebus and cannon. As the attack lapped around the walls, the Samurai bodyguard came into action. Boldly daring, the defending ashigaru spearmen sortied into the open and into left flank of the attackers.

For long the assailants struggled to secure a lodgment over the walls. The defenders exacted a steep toll, but the heaviest attacks were pushed against the apparently weakest of them. But each time the attacks against the guns and gunners met a check or repulse, the latter followed up their success with shot. Yet for all their losses, nothing would dismay the Ikko-Ikki. At last overcoming the cannoneers, the insurgent Ronin swarmed into the defenders' positions.
Meanwhile, the relieving column had become strung out along the road, the samurai and hand gunners having opened up a gap before the trailing spearmen. At that, the Diamyo permitted himself to be distracted by insurgent spearmen flanking the move towards the castle. Having got entangled in petty skirmishes, the samurai found it difficult to extricate themselves and resume the march.
That dilatoriness turned the action. Having incurred heavy losses storming into the castle, the Ikko-Ikki now began to exact a heavy vengeance. At one point the whole Samurai force had lost just 5 strength points against at least 12 Ikko-Ikki. The cannon lost, the isolated arquebusiers fell back into the castle. There the warrior monk leader, Ori Gami led the victorious ronin and spearmen in smashing their way into the stronghold. Outnumbered five to one, the defenders reeled out the back door. For their part the samurai defenders were still able to present a solid front.

Having freed themselves from the attentions of the more distant ashigaru, the mounted samurai made rapid progress to the aid of the castle, somewhat protected on their right flank by ashigaru tepo in a small wood not far from the castle walls. Riding down a band of spearmen, they appeared on the brink of victory despite the momentary loss of the castle, as much of the garrison was still fighting in the grounds. At about this point, the Ikko-Ikki had lost 15SP - just two more would bring their attack to an end. Clan Oda had taken barely 50% losses so far. How a battle can turn! The main castle won, the triumphant assailants began hunting the Clan Oda defenders in the grounds. The arquebusier remnants they quickly dispatched, then surrounded the samurai, who refused to abandon their charge. Losses quickly mounted, as the garrison samurai were whittled away to nothing. In his hurry to bring help, pushing his way through swarms of ashigaru spearmen, Hideoshi Oda received an unlucky spear thrust that laid him low. In striving to finish off the insurgent army, Clan Oda had brought about its own discomfiture. Although the Clan continued to press on for a time, they too keenly felt the loss of their leader. Attacks became disjointed, the ashigaru spearmen were still somewhere down the road, all despaired of regaining the castle. Exhausted, Clan Oda gave up the battle.

This was quite a turn up. Although the castle was lost only after the garrison had exacted a heavy toll, and well into the action a clear samurai victory seemed likely (6 or 7 SP lost against 15 SP), the massacre near its close quickly narrowed the margin, and it was Clan Oda that reached its exhaustion point first. So the castle was lost, and Clan Oda defeated. This was quite an interesting first outing for the rule set, with some 'thought points' emerging owing to its own particular game mechanics, in particular the unit activation system, and the 'missilery' ranges. A discussion of these I'll leave over for another time.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

First Blacklands War: Convoy

A week after breaking out from the Dardanelles Strait, the protected cruiser TNS Hamidiye was lurking far to the south in the open Mesogesean Sea, and heading further south, past the small island of Kassos.  As luck would have it - there seemed no other explanation for the fortuitous encounter - as the Hamidiye came clear of the island, its lookouts at once spied, at no great distance to the southeast where it had been previously masked by the island, a small Hellenic convoy, heading due west.  Obviously those ships would soon have altered course to pass through the strait between Kassos and Creta, thence on to Piraefs, the port of Athenae.   

It was 'Helm aport!' at once aboard the Hamidiye.  The convoy comprised four vessels, the armed merchant cruiser SS Iphaisteio, and 3 unarmed merchantmen.  Slow as these lumbering vessels were, there was little hope in outrunning the faster light cruiser.  Commanding the convoy aboard Iphaisteio, Commander Yiannis Xiphias at once ordered the convoy to alter course to the south, and, steering his own vessel such as to bring his broadside guns within range, made for the rapidly closing enemy.

This was something of an indulgence: I simply wanted to 'do' a HMS Jervis Bay type of action. To be sure, it could go but one way, but what the hang, eh? As it happens, Paul Jackson had stopped by to have a look at my newly acquired Turing Tumble toy (a birthday present six weeks early), and I thought I'd rope him in to the action commanding the commerce raider.

Here are the Stats;
Turcowaz: Captain Rauf Orbay:
Speed: 3 hex maximum.
Hellenia: Commander Yannis Xiphias:
SS Iphaesteio   Flotation 6/1 Main Broadside  3  2  2  1  x
                                               Main Fore/Aft   1  1  1  1  x
                                               2-dary B/side     1  1  1  1  x
SS Ithaca         Flotation 6/1  Unarmed
SS Skythios      Flotation 4/1  Unarmed
SS Lefkada      Flotation 4/1   Unarmed

(I had the EXCEL file copied in fine, but, discovering a slight error, corrected the file, then tried to replace with the correction.  Of course it wouldn't 'take'.  What did I expect?)

In a change to the original Gridded Naval Wargames I made all merchant vessels' speed 2-hexes maximum.  I figured that if they could match the raiders' speed, the chances of their escape were just too high. I also decreed that a vessel whose Flotation Points (Value) had been reduced to 0, was not sunk, but became salvageable, perhaps, given time, by its own crew.

I actually made one other change - actually a mistake - but I'm inclined to think not an unreasonable one.

The encounter occurring about early to mid-afternoon, I gave the raider 15 turns to do whatever damage he could

So to the action:  SS Iphaisteio at once took on the enemy raider.  As the range rapidly closed, the Hellenic vessel altered course to the southwest to bring both its main and secondary broadsides to bear at maximum range. She even got off the first salvo, but without effect. As it transpired that was her last. Hamidiye's immediate reply started fires along the main deck, but, more seriously opened a large hole along the waterline. Winning the initiative thereafter, Hamidiye's next salvo effectively knocked out the forward gun turret, and two more hits left the escort cruiser dead in the water, a flaming wreck.
Of course, I ought to have allowed Iphaisteio a last salvo, and a lucky hit might have done enough damage to permit the convoy to scatter and get away.  At any rate, her fight was over, now.  Hamidiye might have stayed a few minutes longer to finish the job, but instead at once set off due south to haul in SS Ithaca.  That vessel hadn't got very far, and Hamidiye rapidly closed the range to point blank. Two salvoes were enough to send the merchant ship to the bottom. 
By this time, the smaller merchant ships had made off to the southeast. SS Skiathos was also soon overhauled. Making its best speed past that vessel Hamidiye sent in a couple of salvoes that also reduced Skiathos into a flaming raft. The raider then set off after the single remaining vessel of the convoy. Narrowing the distance to about medium range, Hamidiye sent after the fleeing SS Lefkados a salvo that scored a minor hit somewhere aft.
By this time, the afternoon was far advanced - perhaps 9 or more turns having passed by. The sun beginning to fade behind the Mesogesean early evening haze, Captain Rauf Orbay chose to retrace its steps and finish off the floating wrecks left behind.  At his approach, the crew of Skiathos hastily took to their lifeboats, whereat a single salvo finished off the vessel.
Then came the long haul back to the flaming Iphaisteio.  That vessel died hard.  In the gathering twilight, the flames might have helped the raider's aim.  But it was to take three salvoes, the last at point blank range, finally to sink the gallant escort cruiser.  
By then, of course, SS Lefkados had got clean away to the open sea and into the night.  Captain Rauf Orbay declined to order a pursuit, but himself took his ship southward, away from the islands, after which he planned a short visit to the Peloponnesos.  The sinking of three quarters of a convoy, and damaging the rest, would look well on his report to the Admiralty...

Well, perhaps not the most exciting naval action, and getting the lumbering merchant ships to scatter turned out to be a deal harder than I thought, but had Turcowaz naval gunnery aboard Hamidiye been less formidable early on (in one salvo, he rolled 3 'sixes' for hits), maybe one more vessel could have escaped.

For his part, Paul was so enthused by the action, that he resolved to build a small navy of his own.  Last Tuesday evening, whilst I added two more torpedo boat/ destroyers to each of my Hellenic (Leon and Aetos) and Turcowaz (S167 Numune and S168 Gayret) fleets, and made a start of a second Hydra class vessel, Paul put together a small freighter, and a destroyer-sized warship that might stand for destroyer, armed trawler or perhaps a minelayer/ minesweeper.

Something about the rule set.

I'll take the time here to discuss something about the original Gridded Naval Wargames 'Pre-Dreadnought' rules, in particular how Flotation Points (FPs) are assigned. The author, Bob Cordery, determined the FP by type of vessel. Quite arbitrary, but perfectly reasonable. However, I noticed a considerable disparity of weight between coastal battleships Hydra and Mesudiye, even though their dimensions of length and beam were fairly comparable, and their designations - coastal defence battleship - the same.  

It seems Mesudiye displaced roughly double the tonnage of Hydra. Now, I have in a different (simple) rule set, determined that FP might be geared to displacement, some of that weight assumed to be going towards armour.  But the method I used for that 'other' rule set simply wouldn't work here. After a deal of playing around with numbers I came up with this:

FP = √W
Where W is the tonnage of the vessel. Yes, this is quite arbitrary, but, the result, rounded, is designed to accommodate the size of vessels from, say, 500 tons (or even less) to well over 10,000.  It seems to 'fit' pretty well.
The outcome is to increase the FP slightly for the larger ships, but let us see what it looks like for my Blacklands War navies:

Lemnos - modern pre-Dreadnought.  Tonnage = 13,000  FP = 23 CP = 6
Georgios Averof - armoured cruiser.  Tonnage = 10,000 FP = 20 CP = 5
Hydra - coastal battleship.  Tonnage = 4000 FP = 13 CP = 3
Panthir Class - destroyer.  Tonnage = 880 FP = 6 CP = 1.

Turgut Reis - older pre-Dreadnought. Tonnage = 10,000  FP = 20 CP = 5
Mesudiye - coastal battleship.  Tonnage = 9000 FP = 19 CP = 4
Hamidiye - protected cruiser. Tonnage = 4000 FP = 13 CP = 3
Muavenet  class - destroyer.  Tonnage = 700 FP = 5 CP = 1.

At the moment, the Turcowaz fleet looks the more powerful, but the addition of a second 'Hydra' (call it Psara) will go to equalising them.

I have yet to test this suggested system.  That might have to wait for a 'Second Blacklands War'...

Thursday, January 28, 2021

First Blacklands War - Battle of Vladicin Han (2)

The action as we left it in the previous post.

We left the narrative last time with the action having reached a momentary deadlock: both flanks stalled, and in the centre the battle raging for the ridge just southwest of Vladicin Han. Stranded on account of the field battery between themselves and a safe retreat, 5th Bejelan Infantry found themselves flailed by incoming rifle fire from the ridge and from the woods overlooking their left flank.

For their part, their opponents of the veteran Turcowaz 3rd Infantry, were finding their position equally uncomfortable: field artillery to their immediate rear along the ridge, and another flanking them astride the road as it turned westward behind the high ground.

The field of battle.

The imminence of 5th Infantry's disintegration persuaded General Bojovic to withdraw the field artillery from before the town, back across the bridge. The 'golden bridge' thus provided, 5th Infantry - such as remained (1SP) soon availed themselves of it. Their place taken by 6th Infantry, the enemy Turcowaz on the hill were not long to enjoy their victory. Once the Bejelan Medium Artillery joined in, and the 1st Field redeployed into battery action, their combined weight battered the Turcowaz artillery into silence. 
Overall view...

At first abandoning the position, they tried to reoccupy their battery position along the ridgeline, only to lose more horses, personnel and guns.  
9th Turcowaz Infantry and 2nd Cavalry sideslipping
to their right to prevent any crossing via the railway
bridge. 10th infantry occupy the woods flanking the road

Then it was the turn of the Turcowaz medium artillery, but it was not long before they too shared the fate of their lighter brethren - knocked to pieces by double their strength of shellfire, and shredded by machinegun and rifle fire from across the road. Third Infantry remained alone on the ridge, reduced to a third of the strength with which they began. From the cultivated fields adjoining the town, 6th Infantry at last nerved themselves for an assault upon the elevated position.
Bejelan 8th and 9th Infantry arriving;
1st Fld Arty withdrawing to the east side of the river.
Unfortunately, it seems I chose this moment to let the excitement of the action take over, and forgot to take pictures. Sixth Bejela Infantry swept over the ridge and the remnants of 3rd Turcowaz, and onto the flank of 2nd Field Artillery, which had shortly before silenced their counterparts across the river. Fighting desperately. the gunners almost fought off their opponents, but, already weakened by past battles, they too were finally overrun.

Having cleared the high ground, 6th Bejela
Infantry strike Turcowaz field artillery in flank

Their centre driven in, the Turcowaz Army had little more to offer by way of counter-action. On the right, the silencing of the enemy artillery beside the railway bridge brought 9th Turcowaz onto the hill opposite, to engage 4th Bejela by distant rifle fire.  The cavalry were on hand to discourage the enemy 2nd and 4th from crossing.  The situation in this sector remained deadlocked.
Firefight near the railway bridge, but the 
Turcowaz centre had been driven in.

Events were taking a turn for the better for Bejela along the Monastir Road, as well. Third Bejela Infantry got the better of its musketry duel with 25th Bashi-Bazouks. Driven back into the woods, the cover therein availed them nothing. Within a short time, the unit disintegrated. Behind them, 15th and 16th Infantry had lined the woods overlooking the road, but seemed unable or unwilling to help out their irregular comrades. 

The fact is, in this battle, the martial shortcomings of Ali Riza Pasha became painfully apparent. In his previous battles, he had been fortunate in his initiative and activation dice rolls. Not this time. In initiative he was probably out-rolled two to one, or close to it. But his initiative rolls were woeful. With a minus for his ability rating, half his rolls at least must have been low, and I remember but one high roll, and that late in the day. His far more 'able' counterpart, General Bojovic, rolled rather more than his fair share of high activation rolls, again especially as the battle wore on. When you can activate 9 units for your opponent's 6, matters are likely to go fairly well, even when they have gone ill hitherto...

Bejelan forces regroup into line: 2nd and 4th 
Infantry lining the east side of the river; that
line continued on the opposite bank by 8th and 6th.
If Ali Riza lacked something in the handling of his army, he was not wanting in courage. As enemy infantry triumphantly advanced down the road, the Pasha joined 15th Infantry to oppose them, throwing them between the oncoming Bejelans and the baggage train just beginning to pull out. In the close quarter battle that ensued, twice did bullets pass through his attire (twice I had to roll for risk to his person), but he remained unruffled and unhurt. Eventually the Turcowaz held, and 6th Bejela Infantry pulled back to the high ground. There they might have remained, as the Turcowaz Army was clearly beyond any further offensive action. Unfortunately for them, they came under renewed fire from 10th Turcowaz in the woods on the other side of the road. Already much diminished during the course of its attacks, 6th Bejela disappeared from the high ground and scattered. Thereafter, the Turcowaz Army pulled back to form a rather tenuous line some distance south of the ridgeline they had earlier occupied.

The 6th Bejelan Infantry scattered by rifle fire; but
the Turcowaz Army reforms a thin -
 and gunless! - line to the south

Close of the action: the Turcowaz draw off, 
Bejelans too exhausted to pursue...
Having cleared the high ground and woods lining the southern side or the Monastir Road and forced back Second Turcowaz Army, the Bejelans had won an undoubted victory. The 37,000-strong Turcowaz, though defeated, were not, however, routed, and were able to draw off in good order. Even so, the loss had been grievous: 8000 casualties (16SP, halved) and its artillery decimated (all 4SPs lost).  

According to none other than Carl von Clausewitz, there are times at which the cost of victory may be such as to compel a retreat.  Such was the case, as General Bojovic surveyed the damage.  His army (46,000) had also lost some guns (2SP worth), though fewer than had the enemy, but all of 8,500 (17SP, halved) dead, wounded and missing.  There would be no march to Monastir, no summons to surrender, no siege.  Resting upon the field overnight, his exhausted army began the next day their weary march back to Vardar Province. By some miracle, Ali Riza Pasha had in defeat pulled off something approximating a strategic victory... 

To be continued:  Convoy!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

First Blacklands War - Battle of Vladicin Han

The events of the first month of the First Blacklands War had on the whole gone well for the Turcowaz Empire. Though battered by several invasions, the Turcowaz armies, against all expectation, had beaten them back. No Hellenican or Chervenian now stood on Imperial soil; the Black Mountains and Bejelan forces, their invasions already repulsed, were each attempting a second. The Black Mountains had the remote and isolated city of Scutari under a none-too-secure siege, and the Bejelans, having consolidated their two badly mauled armies into one, were marching south, through Vardar, into Northern Macedonia, in the hope of taking Monastir City, the provincial capital.

Situation and moves, first week of November

By now, a degree of mutual exhaustion seemed to be settling over the whole conflict. During the first week of November, two of Chervenia's armies were retreating into their own country for rest and recuperation, as was Hellenica's sole army after their defeat at Kozani. Indeed, the Hellenic government of Ephtherios Overzelos was beginning to wonder whether the campaign was worth continuing. Embarrassed in one naval action and worsted in two subsequently, the campaign at sea was going as badly as that on land. Now a fast Turcowaz commerce raider - ITS Hamidiye - was at large in the Eastern Mesogesean Sea.  
Battlefield of Vladicin Han.  

For their part, however, the Turcowaz armies were, too, becoming badly worn down.  Having seen off the Hellenes, Second Army had to turn about, retrace its steps and attempt to take on the freshly reconstituted Bejelan Army. So far Ali Riza Pasha, not known for his martial capacity, had performed well above expectations with two victories to his credit. Could he pull off a third?

After the mauling received near East Thrace, Fourth Army was retreating to Salonika. The equally damaged First Army was abandoning its raid into South Chervenia.  Apprehending a contact with an Army issuing forth from Sofia, Nazim Pasha elected at once to retire into Rhodope, rather than take the longer route into North Macedonia. Probably that was just as well, for he might well have run into the much more powerful Bejelan force, or even the Ist Chervenian Army marching from Sofia.  For the moment, and for the next fortnight, only the Second and Third Armies would be available for operations. There was certainly no prospect of relieving Scutari at any time soon. Turcowaz was scarcely better off than the Allies.

General view of the battlefied, looking northwest, 
as the heads of the armies march up.

With most of the armies of both sides retreating, or marking time, the only battle of note to begin November took place in Northern Macedonia.  The Bejelan Army had taken the route to Vladicin Han, a small town but important crossroads, whence the west road would carry the army to Monastir.  It was to intercept the Bejelan Army that Ali Riza Pasha directed his own forces thereto.
Head of the Tucowaz column.

The Second Turcowaz Army comprised this order of march:

Turn 1:
  • 2nd Cavalry (trained) = 3SP
  • 3rd Infantry (veteran) = 3SP
  • 3rd Field Artillery (trained) @ 1SP with Army Command @6SP = 7SP
  • 26th Bashi-Bazouk Infantry (green) = 4SP
Turn 2:
  • 9th Infantry (trained) = 3SP
  • 10th Infantry (trained) = 3SP
  • 4th Field Artillery (trained) = 1SP
  • 15th Infantry (trained) = 3SP
Turn 3: 
  • 16th Infantry (trained) = 3SP
  • 7th Medium Artillery (trained) = 2SP
  • 3rd Transport Column = 1SP
  • 4th Transport Column = 1SP
Turn 4: 
  • 25th Bashi-Bazouk Infantry = 3SP
  • 14 Units: Median 7-1 ('Poor' general) = 6 Activation Points
  • 37 Strength Points: Exhaustion Point = -13SP
Head of the Bejela Column.

They had a formidable foe to face, the Bejelan Army comprising:

Turn 1:
  • 1st Cavalry (trained) = 2SP
  • 2nd Infantry (trained) = 4SP
  • 3rd Infantry (trained) = 4SP
  • 1st Machine Gun Company (trained) @ 1SP plus Command @6SP = 7SP
Turn 2:
  • 1st Field Artillery (trained) = 2SP
  • 4th Infantry (trained) = 4SP
  • 5th Infantry (trained) = 4SP
  • 6th Infantry (trained) = 4SP
Turn 3:
  • 2nd Field Artillery (trained) = 2SP
  • 10th Medium Artillery (trained) = 2SP
  • 1st Transport Column (pack horses/ mules) = 1SP
  • 2nd Transport Column (pack horses/ mules) = 1SP
  • 3rd Transport Column (carts and wagons) = 1SP
Turn 4:
  • 8th Infantry (green) = 4SP
  • 9th Infantry (green) = 4SP
  • 16 Units: Median = 8 + 1 ('Good' General) = 9
  • 46 Strength Points: Exhaustion Point -16EP.

Bejela occupies the town...

Route march along a road gave an extra movement allowance to all troops provided the entire move was along the road. I made no allowance for the proper depth or intervals of individual units, and even allowed two units into the same grid area if they could fit (not possible with the horse drawn units of course). As the columns stretched along 12 grid areas of road or thereabouts, I figured that was enough to represent our route marches. On reflection, though, it might have been more 'realistic' to allow but one unit, of any type, onto 1 road hex whilst on the march - a thought for another time, perhaps.
... as the rest of the column moves up behind.

The successive sections of troops off table but following on from the first arrivals, did not require activation to enter the table, it being assumed that the route march was their 'default' state. Once having arrived, though, then they did require activation. This method permitted a fairly rapid deployment of the heads of the columns, which would be slowed as the reinforcements arrived.  
Move 2, and the Turcowaz column has yet to deploy.

So it was that armies clashed at the crucial crossroads around Vladicin Han, the Turcowaz arriving just in time to intercept the invaders. The heads of the Turcowaz column quickly seized the ridge southwest of the town, at the moment the leading Bejelan units were entering the place, the cavalry exiting by the south road. The Turcowaz cavalry covered this move by charging their counterparts and chasing them into and beyond the town.  
Turcowaz seizes the ridge and lines it with 
infantry and field guns.

The following Bejelan units were more circumspect. Second Infantry lined the riverbank whence they could bring under fire the southern approach road and eastern end of the ridge beyond.  The 3rd passed through the town to take up positions in a small wood to the west, whilst the machine gun company established itself in the fields close by the built up area. First Field artillery took up a battery position upon the outskirts of the town facing the ridge, whilst 5th Infantry carried on through to clear the pass between ridge and river - the victorious Turcowaz cavalry having withdrawn, betimes. Forcing 9th Turcowaz Infantry back beyond the bend that took the south road behind the ridge, the 5th turned to flank the ridge itself, where stood the veterans of 3rd Turcowaz Infantry. 
Bejela establishes a bridgehead about the town. 
Although their cavalry have taken a drubbing,
the Army extends the bridgehead west and south.

The ensuing firefight between 3rd Turcowaz and 5th Bejela proved costly to both sides - neither able to retreat on account of obstructions behind them. Meanwhile, both sides extended their lines to both flanks. Led by 25th Bashi-Bazouks, 15th and 16th Infantry penetrated the wood west of the main ridge, overlooking the Monastir road. The Bashi-Bazouks actually reached that road and began advancing along it towards Vladicin Han itself.  Flanked by 3rd Bejela Infantry and faced by machine guns, that advance was quickly halted. The Bashi-Bazouks fell back with some loss.
The battle develops...

To the east, 2nd and 4th Bejela lined the riverbank either side of the railway bridge.  Unwilling themselves to make the crossing, they awaited the approach of the enemy.  So far, nowhere along its length, was the river found to be fordable (This was decided by a die roll for every river grid edge except where there was a bridge, a 'six' revealing a ford.  Do you know, for not one of the ten river edges, did I roll a 'six'.  As the onus of effecting crossings came down upon the Bejelans, that rather cramped their style... a little).  The enemy were, however, content in this sector of the field to maintain a watching brief.
Firefight! 3rd Turcowaz vs 5th Bejela
Ninth Turcowaz Infantry and the cavalry stood at a distance from the railway bridge, ready to contest the crossing. The Bejelans brought up a field battery in support of 4th Infantry, but soon found themselves caught up in an artillery duel with Turcowaz field guns standing between the main ridge and 9th Turcowaz's wood.  
Both sides pinned down in the centre...
For a time, so matters stood: a small, but bloody, battle taking place at the east end of the ridge, the Turcowaz flanking move from the west stopped and driven back, and the Bejelan left flank waiting along the riverbank. Losses had so far redounded to the advantage of Turcowaz, but not so much as to offer a predictor of victory... 
Event slow to develop on the flanks...

To Be Continued...