Wednesday, October 28, 2020

First Blacklands War - Duel of the Ironclads.

Situation shortly after 0700 hours.  It seems the
Hydra had already sighted Mesudiye.

As mentioned a couple of postings back, the onset of war found the Turcowaz Naval Ship (TNS) Mesudiye on a flag waving mission along the Ionian and Adriatic littorals. Warned of the imminence of hostilities - indeed, the Black Mountains Principality had already opened the ball by invading Kosovo - Mesudiye slipped anchor and departed its Kerkyra anchorage in the dead of a damp early October night. By dawn at 0700, Mesudiye was well to the west of Kephalonia, still heading southward into the open Mesogesean Sea, to give the Peloponnese Peninsula a wide berth.   Not the fastest swimmer in the Turcowaz fleet, and all alone, it would be touch and go whether the ship could ever make it back to Ionople.

Nevertheless, by the occasional subterfuge - such as taking and sinking a slow moving Hellenic merchantman fortuitously encountered, and, in releasing the crew, 'letting slip' the idea that Mesudiye was beginning a career of merchant raiding - after a little over a fortnight, she was within sight of the Anatolian shore, creeping northward in the predawn half light of a late October morning. As the sun broke over the Anatolian shore, Captain Burak Ubama and crew set eyes upon the distant but welcoming arms of the entrance to the Dardanelles Strait, and safety. 
Opening salvos. Both score hits.
Hydra's forward batteries are much
more powerful than Mesudiye's.

They also set eyes upon the Hellenic war shop Hydra, just barely out of range of its main guns, but rapidly closing. Anticipating that the final leg of the voyage might be contested, Captain Ubama had already ordered his crew into general quarters. It was his bad luck that he happened upon the enemy warship in the middle of the eastward leg of its patrol covering the entrance of the Strait. 

Side Note:  The entry point and heading of Mesudiye and the location and heading of Hydra were all determined by die roll. Mesudiye counted 2D6 hexes from the leftmost corner, its heading evens 'port', odds 'starboard'.  I rolled 8 and then an odd number.

The location of Hydra was determined by a similar 2D6 roll up the left side of the board. The roll was '7'. About to roll for heading, it occurred to be that Hydra could from the edge of the board scarcely bring the enemy into action before they were safely home. So I then rolled 1D6 for placing in from the board edge ( a '4') and for heading, numbering 1 to 6 from 'top right' clockwise to 'top left', rolled a '3' - a course directly aimed at Mesudiye!

Superb Turcowaz gunnery inflicts heavy damage
upon Hydra.

Action was quickly joined. Hydra changed course to due east, anticipating Mesudiye's run. Appreciating the dangers of the Anatolian shore (just off the board to starboard), Captain Ubama ordered a course charge 4 points to port, upon a northwest by north heading...

Another side note: There being just 6 or 12 'points' on a hex compass, I have approximated them as follows:
  • North
  • Northeast by North
  • Northeast by East
  • East
  • Southeast by East
  • Southeast by South
  • South
  • Southwest by South
  • Southwest by West
  • West
  • Northwest by West
  • Northwest by North 
In the picture immediately below, both vessels are on the northwest by north heading.
Possibly the damage already incurred has
affected both sides' gunnery.

Both sides quickly got the range, but Hydra's forward facing armament being much the more powerful, scored the more damaging hits. Mesudiye struck the first blow, but Hydra responded with three, two of them critically damaging. Swinging back to her former course, Mesudiye was able to bring her full broadside to bear. For her part, Hydra was forced to sheer off onto the same course, for fear of falling aboard the enemy, with who knew what damaging consequences. The Turcowaz crew reached the peak of their gunnery at this point - three critically damaging hits (i.e. three '6s', so scratch off SIX flotation points).  Unable to bring her most powerful batteries to bear, Hydra inflicted no damage in reply.

Thereafter, it seemed that much of the damage had been inflicted upon the armaments of both sides, as neither side managed to score such damaging hits. At this stage, Hydra had taken 7 hits; Mesudiye 5, soon to be increased by one each. By this time Mesudiye was nearing the mouth of the Dardanelles Strait.

Just then two 10.8-inch shells slammed into the Mesudiye.  Might escape yet be denied? Mesuhiye was not yet so damaged as to force Ubama to abandon her drive towards the Dardanelles. That escape could not be prevented by now anyway - provided the ship could still swim. Disaster was still possible - even likely...

A return hit from one of her casemate guns decided the matter.  In addition to the damage already incurred, it was enough to persuade Hydra's ship captain that to press the matter further might be to push her luck too far. 

A third side note: At this point, having taken the picture and about to move on, I realised that Musudiye ought to have been rolling 3 dice, rather than 2 for her secondary broadside battery. Checking just now, I discover it ought to have been 5! At any rate, I rolled one more die - a '5' which put Hydra on 9 hits, and, as a result, with just 3 flotation points remaining, forced to try to break off the action. The final two hits from Hydra had put Mesudiye on 8 hits - almost in as bad a shape.  Although not required to break off, there was no point in Mesudiye taking any further risk, so she carried on to safety.

The action was over.

Hydra levels up the damage (8 each);
but Mesudieh is wanting some 'secondary' dice...

Rudder hard a-port, Hydra scraped by the Gallipoli Peninsula as Mesudieh, her crew jubilant despite the damage and the casualties, continued on her way up the strait to Ionople.  
Hydra abandons the action, and very nearly
runs ashore (I cheated a bit there to prevent it!)

Of course, the whole affair was greeted as a victory by the people of Ionople, depressed in recent days by the defeat of the Army in Thrace. The crew were feted; the Sultan decorated Captain Burak Ubama with the Order of Osmaniye; but Mesudiye would require a considerable refit before she could again lie in the Turcowaz battle line.

Situation at the close of action, Mesudiye fairly 
within the Dardanelles Strait itself.

The Hellenic Navy was correspondingly chastened by Mesudiye's escape. Hydra had been badly knocked about, and no longer capable of patrolling the Dardanelles Roads. Not for a while at any rate. But wiser heads reflected that nothing had changed to compromise the blockade. It was yet possible anyway to represent the affair to the Hellenic public as a victory...

This was a very fast-moving action - just 6 turns - leaving both vessels in parlous shape. One thing I discovered about Hydra and its forward facing armament, is that, once that unit loses its forward facing against an enemy, it is not easy once more to recover it. Mind you, I conducted the whole action with vessels able only to face hex sides. It might be a different story if vessels may face hex corners.  That might be something to think about!

I am also wondering whether the '6' hits might lead to something more specific in the way of damage - say to armament, steering, motive power, magazines or control.  Something to think about for single ship duels, anyhow...


  1. A fine opening 'outing' with these lovely new vessels Ion. It was a fiery affair to be sure!
    Regards, James

    1. Hi James -
      After 'Hydra's' first salvo took out a quarter of 'Mesidiye's' flotation points, I thought 'Well, this is going to be quick.' The impression was strengthened when 'Mesudiye's' second salvo crossed out half of 'Hydra's'. After that, things eased off a bit, so both vessels got off still afloat. From my own point of view, satisfactory, although the dockside workers will be performing miracles to get both vessels in the battle line for Week 4 or 5. :-)
      Archduke Piccolo.

  2. Great game Archduke. The naval element to the campaign is an excellent addition - I must consider it for my next one, whenever that is.

    1. Hi Maudlin -
      It's funny how a simple campaign gradually grows in complexity or variety. First the garrisons, now the naval... There will be a fleet action, but I'm not sure when that will be. Turcowaz will certainly want either (a) to push a fast commerce raider through the Dardanelles blockade (the subject of the pre-Dreadnought action in Bob Cordery's book, and successfully achieved historically), or (b) to bring the Hellenic fleet to a decisive battle (this one didn't go so well). Possibly even both!
      Archduke Piccolo.

  3. Hello there Archduke,

    Cracking action old cha and the models look fantastic! The critical hit thing is something I shall be looking at next for the ACW stuff - given the low number of models typically featuring having this adds to the experience.

    Looking forward to seeing events unfold!

    All the best,


    1. Hi David -
      Thanks for your comments on the models (toys). In reading narratives of naval actions, often the detail of the damage inflicted adds to the the drama. HMS Exeter reduced to a single gun in action, or HMS Ajax losing its X and Y turrets near the close of the action - all contributing to the tension.
      Archduke Piccolo.

  4. Archduke Piccolo,

    Wow! That was a very interesting battle report, and threw up the problems that ships like Hydra (which were designed for head-on fighting prior to ramming) had when faced by ships that were expected to fight broadside-to-broadside.

    In a small action like this, I think that having some sort of 'critical hit' rule would improve the rules. Something like the card-driven hit system used in MINI AND TOUTOU GO FORTH or a 2D6 navalised version of the RESOLVING HITS ON UNITS table in the PW rules.

    I'm already looking forward to your next battle report!

    All the best,


    1. Hi Bob -
      So 'Hydra' WAS built to ram! I did wonder about that. Something to think about in future actions.

      I have considered a couple of methods of resolving 'critical' hits, and may even hoik out my 'One Brain Cell' set and see what I have there. The Mimi and Toutou system is also on my list of methods to investigate.

      Thinking about the fleet actions, I have a feeling that the Hellenic fleet is going to be a real beggar to manage properly, so disparate are their capital ships (especially Hydra!). But I have a feeling that not knowing the best way to handle the fleet will be more interesting and more fun than knowing!
      Archduke Piccolo.

  5. Very interesting report. Thank you for sharing.
    Would Northeast by North & Northeast by East not be Nor Nor East and East Nor East says he casing his mind back half a century to Bot Scout days?

    1. Hi Nobby -
      Thanks! The 'compass points' I have chosen are the closest I could get from the 32-point compass onto a 12-point for use on my hex grid. A square grid would be easier, with an 8-point 'compass'. Northeast by North lies between NE and NNE; and NE by E between NE and ENE. From North to East, the asterisks marking my '12-point' directions;

      N* / N by E / NNE / NE by N* / NE / NE by E* / ENE / E by N / E*
      I admit I much prefer the old fashioned compass points rather than the degrees of a circle, though the latter is 'de rigueur' for WW2, and probably for WW1 as well.
      Archduke Piccolo.

  6. It's not cheating ... it's crafting a heroic tale :-)

    Regards, Chris.

    1. Yes. It would not do for the Captain of the 'Hydra' to shove his command ashore after such a stern action! I might have to run a few little test actions before the biggy come November...

  7. Great write up! You have inspired me to pull out my old homemade ships and have a battle or two.