Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Fox and the Hounds - Battle of the River Salver.

Kitsune in the foreground sailing on a northerly bearing;
the hunting squadron, Basenji, Staghound and Greyhound on a
240-degree bearing crossing Kitsune's bows just beyond gunnery

Right from the outset of the war, the Raesharn Imperial war leaders were fascinated to discover just how their super-large battleships would perform. The first of these laid down and completed, the Kitsune, had spent a few leisurely pre-war months on 'goodwill' tours, but with certain secret orders to be opened when certain events transpired or certain signals were received. So the Kitsune was at sea when war was declared. Ship captain  Hideo Sokituya duly opened the secret orders, but by this time could scarcely have been surprised at the orders given.  Commerce raider. Not an especially honourable mission, so the rather traditionally-minded ship captain thought, but as whatever he took, sank or burned was intended to strengthen the enemy sinews of war, such were legitimate targets. Meanwhile the Imperial Naval High Command waited with what patience they could muster for news of their wonder child battleship.

The fox was among the geese, a metaphor the more avidly seized upon by the Press when it was learned the Kitsune's first victim was the SS Clement Gosling. In several weeks the Kitsune pretty much cleared the Southern Ocean of commercial shipping. After a week's search following the capture and scuttling of SS Saabia Shell, Captain Sokituya thought it time to make for home. Pickings were becoming too thin to justify the commitment of a major naval unit far from the main theatres of war.

Meanwhile, the Kiivar and Saabian navies had begun to cooperate in forming hunter groups to track down the nuisance. A three vessel group, under Commodore Weatherby Jack, hovered about the western end of a major sea lane that terminated at the River Salver and the bustling city of Monteaudeo. It was fortunate for his squadron that he had, for Capt. Sokituya had it in mind to do some damage in those waters en passant during the voyage home. In the early morning the Kitsune lookouts spied smoke almost due north upon the horizon, with more to the westward. Imagining this was some busy merchant traffic, Sokituya ordered full speed ahead as the smoke gradually passed across his front, some 20 miles distant, on a 240-degree course.

Basenji and Staghound view the distant raider, still out of range.

But Kitsune had caught a Tartar - or someone had. Eventually discerning the enemy warships for what they were, Sokituya at once ordered battle stations, and eagerly hastened to face the enemy in real battle. The forces were:


Battleship IRS Kitsune, Ship-Captain Hideo Sokituya:
  • Protection: 16 
  • Strike: 12 (9x18-inch guns)


Battleship KNS Basenji, Commodore Weatherby Jack
  • Protection: 11
  • Strike: 8 (8x15-inch guns)
Battlecruiser SNS Staghound, Captain Galesforth Mower
  • Protection: 8
  • Strike: 5 (9x11-inch guns)
Battlecruiser SNS Greyhound, Captain Rainsbury Mattock
  • Protection: 8
  • Strike 5 (9x11-inch guns)
The vessels were based on Yamato and Bismarck battleships, and Scharnhorst and Gneisenau battlecruisers.

The following were pretty much KEV's rules, with the following adaptations to my hex board. 
Maximum speed: 2 hexes.
One 60-degree turn allowed per move.
Short range: 1-2 hexes; 4,5,6 to hit.
Medium Range: 3-4 hexes; 5,6 to hit.
Long range: 5-6 hexes; 6 to hit.

In the following pictures, hits are designated by explosion or shell splash markers. Just for the 'look' of the thing.

Kitsune scored a couple of hits on Basenji earlier; return fire
does the more damage to Kitsune.
As the range closed, the Commodore ordered his group to split, Basenji to turn to the southerly bearing whilst the two battlecruisers would turn onto a 120-degree bearing to cross the enemy front. Kitsune's first salvo scored a couple of hits upon Basenji, but the return fire from all three hunter group vessels doubled the account. The battlecruisers had rapidly shortened the range, with damaging effects.  But that could cut two ways...
A devastating salvo almost puts Staghound under - almost,
but not quite.

Meanwhile, the battle cruisers
shorten the range.
Beginning to edge away onto a 60-degree course, Kitsune pumped a whole salvo into Staghound. The battlecruiser reeled under the barrage: seven hits in quick succession left her in almost a sinking condition.  

The seven hits on Staghound.  Splashes and explosions
both signify hits.

... and Basenji still scoring the occasional,
as well
But at this short range the comparatively puny battlecruiser return fire, especially from Greyhound, was in turn being felt by the raider. Closing the range with as much speed as she could wring from her engines, Basenji could fire only the forward battery, but was still scoring the occasional hit at long range.  
Accurate return fire from Greyhound...

Towards the close of the action, perhaps the 6 hits recently
taken knocked out some of Greyhound's guns...
Once more Kitsune edged away, onto a 120-degree bearing, but those battlecruisers were clinging on like terriers, even after a salvo scored six hits upon Greyhound. Both battlecruisers in desperate condition, Kitsune was in no better shape. Staghound's gunnery, hitherto unimpressive, landed four hits on the raider, which was now also in a near-sinking condition.  
... whilst Staghound's gun crews finally hit their straps.
But was the distant Basenji that delivered the coup de grace. At no time closer than medium range, and only her forward turrets in action, Basenji put one 15-inch shell aboard the raider. That was enough: holed and on fire in several places, Kitsune slid beneath the waves, last seen in the early morning sun, screws slowly rotating as she plunged to the bottom of the sea.
One hit from Basenji at medium range at last delivers the quietus
to Kitsune.
The following picture and battle map tell the story (substituting the names given in the narrative). Formidable as Kitsune (Yamato) was, taking on the hunting group trio had to be a losing proposition. Even taking on a Bismarck class with just one of the battlecruisers would have been chancy, to say the least. This turned out to be a very quick - maybe 20 minutes - and interesting play test of a promising concept....
How the action unfolded.  

Damage to the respective vessels.  Both battlecruisers were
barely afloat as the action ended.
In the absence of direct news, Raesharn High Naval Command had to wait upon their enemies' press agencies to discover what had happened to the vessel into which they had sunk so many hopes. The elation displayed in these accounts were inclined to depress their spirits more than somewhat, until a relatively junior officer pointed out that their tenor indicated a strong admixture of relief attending their celebrations. The 'Salver lining' they called it.  It was suggested, with a thick ladling of tact, that the expenditure of a major unit upon merchant vessels was scarcely a bargain.  The loss of Kitsune was not to be squared by the account of the mere 90,000 tons of shipping it had destroyed.

The super-battleship programme was allowed to continue, but... not for commercial raiding.


  1. Archduke Piccolo,

    What a spiffing little naval battle! At least Kiivar and Saabia squadron did not use the same tactics as the RN at the Battle of the River Plate. Recent research shows that the British tactics were developed at the RN Staff College using the RN's naval wargame, which contained several glaring errors.

    All the best,


    1. I admit I was very surprised at just how quickly 'Kitsune' went under, especially as I don't recall that 'Basenji' ever got off a full broadside, even at long range. I do wonder what might have happened had there been some effect on speed and firepower with the accumulation of damage. I suspect that Scharnhorst would have been driven out of the battle, followed by Gneisenau towards the end of the action, but they would have done enough to prevent Kitsune's escape.

      In other words, much the same, but events unfolding a bit more slowly.

      I don't know a whole lot about the River Plate action (though I recall reading a paperback when I was a kid, back in the 1960s). I have always rather thought the action itself went in favour of Graf Spee, but the British (and New Zealand!) cruisers did enough to place the German vessel in an impossible strategic position.

      As for this solo action, who says that one can not spring surprises!? I don't think Ship-Captain Sokituya's tactics were very clever, but the ranges to the battlecruisers closed very quickly.

      Methinks we might be on to something here!

  2. Never seen the movie??!?? You must remedy that!

    Great little game! Good use of Kev's ideas.

    1. There was a movie?! Of course there was. Inevitable, now that I think on it. Looking it up, it's great to see that HMNZS Achilles not only got to fight the battle, but also to play in the movie.

  3. Replies
    1. Took a deal longer in the telling than in the play. The action took maybe 20 minutes. No doubt adding things suggestive of the effects of accumulating damage would add time to the action.

      Might have to test that out when the 4-vessel 'Polar Squadron' makes its dash for home through the perilous Omez Straits...

  4. Hi...I've just joined as a 'Follower' and look forward to following your naval games. Great to see your Battleships out for some very entertaining battles. Pleased you have made some use of my Toy Battleship Rules for your naval actions- very pleased indeed and Thanks for mentioning it. Cheers. KEV.

    1. Least I could do, KEV - Inspirational. Apart from the grid thing - and that was simply to make use of a small space - I stayed with your original. For my own games, I probably will bring in some reduction in firepower and speed as damage accumulates, but will probably leave it at that.

      Thanks for joining!

    2. Oh, by the way, this might interest you...

      ... and this:

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