As usual the Tunbridge Wells Wargames Society organised the show, and the venue was the Angel Centre in the centre of Tonbridge, Kent. Parking was not too much of a problem, and I was inside the venue by just after 10.00am.
There were already quite a few people inside, and I decided to start with a quick look around the main hall.
I then made my way towards the smaller hall where the ‘bring-and-buy’ and several participation wargames were taking place. To get there I had to pass through a lobby area …
… which is where I met up with David Crook. We were able to exchange a few items that were had planned to swap (a box of books for two boxes of Hexon II blue hexes … a very fair exchange in my opinion!) and to have a quick chat about his plans for a Madasahatta-type campaign set in the southern part of the Arabian peninsula.
Whilst we were there we were joined by Alan Abbey (the creator of the BLOOD, BILGE AND IRON BALLS naval wargame rules and the organiser of the annual ‘Broadside’ wargames show that take place in Sittingbourne), who has a new set of American War of Independence rules in the final stages of development.
I then paid a visit to the smaller hall …
… and spent some time looking at the various games that were in progress.
Staines Wargamers: HOTT (Hordes of the Things) demonstration/participation games
Maidstone Wargames Society: Road to Homs 1982
North London Wargames Group: Monoontour 1569
Gravesend Gamers Guild: Warmachine
Southend Wargames Club: Helmand Rescue
Tonbridge Wargames Club: Chickamauga Day 2
This game used the latest version of Richard Borg’s BATTLE CRY rules, Hexon II hexed terrain tiles, and 10mm-scale figures.
In a small room adjoining the smaller hall was the …
Society of Ancients: Battle of Trebia 218 BC
… game being run – as usual – by Professor Phil Sabin and …
The League of Gentlemen Anti-Alchemists: Rommel: Our part in his downfall
Inside the main hall there were also several wargames in progress.
Friday Night Fire Fight: Zulu! 1879
Peter Pig: Hammerin’ Iron
Hailsham Wargames Club: Malplaquet 1709
This wargame was staged using hundreds of Les Higgins 20mm-scale figures … and was very impressive!
Deal Wargames Society: Prison Break! Los Banos, the Philippines, 1945
Crawley War Games Club: Trench Raid
This was – as usual – a great little wargames show.
The book was published last year as No.228 of the ‘New Vanguard’ series (ISBN 978 1 4728 0950 6) and covers the cruisers, liners, and freighters used by the Imperial German Navy to disrupt sea-borne supplies to Europe by capturing and destroying Allied shipping. The ships covered include:
- SMS Dresden
- SMS Emden
- SMS Karksruhe
- SMS Konigsberg
- SMS Leipzig
- SMS Berlin
- SMS Cap Trafalgar
- SMS Cormoran
- SMS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse
- SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm
- SMS Priz Eitel Friedrich
- SMS Mowe
- SMS Wolf
- SMS Seeadler
By the time that this blog entry appears, I will have already uploaded the PDF versions of THE NUGGET and THE NUGGET COLOUR SUPPLEMENT to the Wargame Developments website, and both should now be available for members of Wargame Developments to read online or to download and print.
IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the sixth issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2015-2016 subscription year, and that members who have not already re-subscribed can still do so if they want to. This can be done by visiting the relevant page on the Wargame Developments website.
- 10 x Blue single hex terrain tiles
- 10 x Green flocked single hex terrain tiles
- 10 x Desert flocked single hex terrain tiles
- 30 x Desert Transitional flocked single hex terrain tiles
When added to my existing collection, I now have:
- 30 x Blue single hex terrain tiles
- 30 x Green flocked single hex terrain tiles
- 30 x Desert flocked single hex terrain tiles
- 30 x Desert Transitional flocked single hex terrain tiles
- 10 x Marsh single hex terrain tiles
This is more than enough to enable me to stage battles on my mini-campaign board as well as being very useful adjuncts to my collection of 6-hex Hexon II terrain tiles.
It appeared to be a card-based version of the traditional paper-and-pencil game and although I could not imagine when I might use it, I thought that the component parts might be of use.
Inside the box were eighty eight playing cards split into two colours, red and blue. Each colour has:
- Twelve coordinate cards (five are ships cards [an aircraft carrier, a battleship, a destroyer, a motor torpedo boat, and a submarine] and seven are ‘miss’ cards)
- Thirty destruction cards (ten white ‘peg’ cards, twelve red ‘peg’ cards [seven with one ‘peg’, four with two ‘pegs’, and one with four ‘pegs’], and eight ‘power’ cards), and
- Two reference cards.
Play appears to be quite simple. Before the game starts each player chooses a colour, and then separates their coordinate cards and destruction cards into two separate decks. Each deck is then shuffled, and the coordinate cards are placed face down in a 3 x 4 grid in front of them. They then take the top five cards from their destruction card deck … which is shown below with the portentous name ‘Deck of Destruction’!
One player goes first. (The rules state that this should be the youngest … but as an aged curmudgeon I object to this sort of ageist tosh!). They select a card from their hand and play it. Once the card is played a replacement card is taken from the top of their destruction deck, and the used card is placed in a discard pile.
Players can use white ‘peg’ cards to search for enemy ships. They choose which of the enemy coordinate cards they wish to turn over, play the white ‘peg’ card, and the enemy’s card is turned over to reveal what is there. A white ‘peg’ card cannot normally do any damage to an enemy ship unless it is a submarine, in which case the ‘peg’ card is placed under the coordinate card and not onto the discard pile.
Red ‘peg’ cards can be used to search for enemy ships and to damage them. It is played in exactly the same way as a white ‘peg’ card except that if an enemy ship is revealed, damage is caused and the ‘peg’ card is placed under the coordinate card and not onto the discard pile. Once an enemy ship is revealed, further red ‘peg’ cards can be played in future turns to sink it. (The number of ‘peg’ cards required to sink a ship are shown on its ship card.)
Players can use ‘power’ cards to:
- ‘Shield’ a ship (i.e. help prevent further damage to an already damaged ship)
- Discard a white ‘peg’ card from their hand so that they can draw another card from their destruction deck or play two more cards this turn
- Repair a ship (i.e. remove a ‘peg’ card from one of their damaged ships) and play another card from their hand this turn or draw three more cards from their destruction deck (thus increasing the size of their hand) of which they must play one.
Each type of ship has special powers as well. For example once a player’s destroyer is revealed, all further white ‘peg’ cards that player uses can cause damage to enemy ships in the same way that red ‘peg’ cards do.
I suspect that the game will prove to be quite subtle when played and not quite as simplistic as it at first appears to be. As to the components … well I suspect that they might well have their uses.
Yesterday during a visit to the local branch of Waterstones I saw a book on the Osprey display stand that confused me. It was a recently published book in their ‘Campaign’ series entitled KURSK 1943. Now I knew that I already had a book with that title and published by Osprey on my bookshelves … but I also knew that I bought it quite a long time ago. Being intrigued – and a little bit confused – I bought it … and when I got home I discovered that it was in fact a completely new book.
My original book is actually entitled KURSK 1943: THE TIDE TURNS IN THE EAST. It was written by Mark Healy and was published by Qsprey Publishing in May 1992 as ‘Campaign No.16’ (ISBN 978 1 85532 211 0).
It contains chapters entitled:
- The Origins of the Battle
- The Opposing Commanders
- The Opposing Armies
- Opposing Plans and Preparations
- The Battle of Kursk
- The Aftermath
- The Chronology
- A Guide to Further Reading
- Wargaming Kursk
The new book is KURSK 1943: THE NORTHERN FRONT, and was written by Robert Forczyk with illustrations by Steve Noon. It was published by Qsprey Publishing in September 2014 as ‘Campaign No.272’ (ISBN 978 1 78200 819 4).
It contains chapters entitled:
- Origins of the campaign
- Opposing commanders
- Opposing armies
- Orders of battle
- Opposing plans
- The campaign
- The battlefields today
- Further reading
So I have ended up with two very different books with what appears to be the same name from the same publisher.
Confused? I certainly was!
IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the sixth issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2015-2016 subscription year, and that members who have not already re-subscribed can still do so if they want to. This can be done by visiting the relevant page on the Wargame Developments website. A printed reminder was sent out with THE NUGGET 283 to all subscribers who had not yet re-subscribed.
The articles included in this issue are:
- Briefing (i.e. the editorial) by Henry Hyde
- World Wide Wargaming by Henry Hyde
- Forward observer by Neil Shuck
- Clapping in time: The continuing tales of a wargames widow by Diane Sutherland
- Fantasy Facts by John Treadaway
- The Featherstone Annual Tribute
- Send three and fourpence by Conrad Kinch
- Bob Marrion: A prolific painter passes by Charles S Grant
- The man who would be king: A campaign to carve out your own kingdom by Jim Webster
- Hammerhead 2016: Official Show Guide
- Travel tiles: The virtues of 2-D battlefields for wargames by Paul D Stevenson
- Eindecker!: The Fokker scourge of 1915-1916, part 1 by Chris Russell
- Hex encounter by Brad Harmer-Barnes
- A game effort: Making a wargame out of Game of Thrones by Gary Pready
- The Battlegames Combat Stress Appeal report by Henry Hyde
Quite a lot of interesting articles again in this issue. Besides a well-deserved mention of Trebian‘s ‘Wargaming for Grown-ups‘ blog, Neil Shuck discusses the use of counters in place of figures (something that I personally have no problem with) and Conrad Kinch makes some interesting observations about writing scenarios. Charles S Grant’s obituary for Bob Marrion is a more than fitting tribute to this most excellent of military artists, and Jim Webster’s The man who would be king article is well worth reading. Paul D Stevenson’s Travel tiles was also of interest to me as I fight a lot of my wargames on a fairly small tabletop, and his ideas are thought-provoking. I cannot see myself going down the route he has chosen because most of my wargaming is done on a gridded playing area … but it is worth having something like this available if ever I want a bit of a change.
When I saw it I was struck by several things. Firstly that nearly 50% of the participants were women; secondly that they all seem to have deployed their destroyers between the two battle lines; and thirdly that at the distance on the floor at which they were estimating the range between their own ships and their targets was very short indeed
Of these points the first is easily explained. By 1938 taking port in one of Fletcher Pratt’s games had become a social event, and both men and women took part in quite significant numbers. Amongst the latter was Inga, Pratt’s wife, who ran wargames during her husband’s wartime service in the United States Navy, and the former included Isaac Asimov, L Ron Hubbard, L Sprague de Camp, Trevor N Dupuy, and Jack Coggins.
The second point I find less easy to explain. It has always been my understanding that once the battle lines had formed up and begun firing at each other, smaller vessels kept well out of the way until they could be deployed to administer the coup de grace on crippled enemy ships. In this game they seem to be being used to try to disrupt their opponent’s battle lines during the slogging match between the opposing battleships, and may well be the result of one of Fletcher Pratt’s experimental tactical exercises.
The third point is the most difficult to explain. Having taken part in quite a few naval wargames over the years using Fletcher Pratt’s rules, I know that the estimation of range is quite difficult. It is my experience that players who are new to the rules vastly underestimate the distances between the models, and so end up trying to get as close as possible to reduce the level of error in their estimations, whereas once more experienced players have ‘got the range’ they tend to try to keep any changes relatively manageable so that they can keep hitting the enemy. In this case both sides seem to have shortened range and in theory should be hitting each other with almost every shot they fire. (I say ‘in theory’ because in the excitement of battle I have known players to mistakenly increase their range estimations when they should decrease them and vice versa.)
What I find interesting is the method that Fletcher Pratt adopted for simulating gunfire in his naval wargame, especially when it is compared with that used in the earlier but equally famous Fred Jane Naval War Game. In Fred Jane’s game players had to try to hit a paper target with something that looked like a wooden fly-swat (known as a ‘striker’), in the face of which was embedded a small pinhead. The pinheads were not in the centre of the head of the strikers, but offset … and players were not allowed to look at the the face of the striker before they used it.
Examples of the equipment used to fight a Fred Jane Naval War Game. Included are two wooden strikers, one of the 1:3000th-scale models used, a target, and a scorer (i.e. an image of the target ship on which any hits are recorded).
In addition the size of the target they had to hit varied depending upon the range.
A reproduction of a target. The smallest was used when the range was 4,000 yards, the middle-sized target when the range was 3,000 yards, and the largest when the range was 2,000 yards. The ship represented here is the Turkish battleship Torgud Reis.
Fred Jane’s method was developed when battle ranges were expected to be short, and when individual gunlayers were expected to use sighting telescopes to aim their guns themselves. At the time Sir Percy Scott was at the forefront of the improvement of British naval gunnery, and one of his training methods was the use of the ‘Dotter’. It was developed and used as follows:
Fortunately it occurred to me that I could design a contrivance with a target moving up and down at about the same rate as a ship rolls, and compel the pointer to manipulate his elevating wheel quick enough to follow it. This contrivance was made, and the men christened it the ‘Dotter’. A description of the arrangement may be of interest.
On a vertical board, opposite to the muzzle of the gun, was a metal frame which, by means of rollers and a handle, could be moved up and down at either a slow or a fast rate. On this frame was painted a bull’s-eye, and beside it was a card with a line drawn upon it. On the face of the board, and moved either up or down by the muzzle of the gun, was a carrier containing a pencil. When the men under instruction pressed the trigger of the gun the pencil, actuated by an electrical contrivance, made a dot on the card, and the pencil at the same time moved a space to the right. If the gun was truly pointed at the bull’s eye at the moment of firing, the dot would be in line with the bull’s-eye. If the gun was not truly pointed, the amount of error was indicated on the card.
At this machine the men were given constant practice, and in a very short time they were able to follow the target up and down with remarkable accuracy. In other words they had all learned to do what the one man had done intuitively.
The next time we went out firing there was a considerable roll, but it made no difference to the men, whose shooting was admirable, a fact which I attribute entirely to their course of instruction at the ‘Dotter’.
BT., K.C.B., K.C.V.O., HON. LL.D. CAM (Published 1919)
A ‘Dotter’ in use.
A ‘Dotter’ being used in combination with a deflection teacher. This was also developed by Sir Percy Scott.
When compared with Sir Percy Scott’s ‘Dotter’, Fred Jane’s method of simulating naval gunfire seems to be quite a reasonable analogue of it.
During the period after the Russo-Japanese War the world’s major navies began to experiment with coincidence and stereoscopic rangefinders in place of sighting telescopes. Alongside these came director control of a ship’s armament, where all the guns were controlled centrally by the gunnery officer rather than by individual gun captains, and the introduction of electro-mechanical gunnery computers such as the Dreyer Fire Control Table which enabled director controlled naval guns to attained even greater accuracy.
The Scott Director Tower.
A 1918 Mk.V Dreyer Fire Control Table.
Fletcher Pratt’s method of simulating naval gunfire seems to have been developed with these changes in mind. Players sight their guns as if they were all firing a single salvo in unison at the same target, estimate the range, and write orders on the firing arrows they have placed down. In an earlier version of the rules the players could stipulate where the shells landed (e.g. ‘All shells will land on the same spot at x-inches range‘ or ‘Shells will land x-inches apart, starting at a range of y-inches‘), but in the later version it was assumed that two shells from a salvo would fall at the range written on the firing arrow, with each additional shell in the salvo alternately falling one inch short or over (i.e. in a salvo of eight shells, two would fall at the given range, three would be under at distances of one, two, and three-inches respectively, and three would overshoot by distances of one, two, and three-inches respectively).
The Fletcher Pratt system in action. The red golf tee indicates a hit whilst the blue tees indicate the fall of shot of misses.
This certainly seems to reflect the results of live gunnery fire exercises that took place between the wars, and as such it must also be regarded as a reasonable analogue.
The only problem with both the Jane and the Pratt methods is the time it takes to adjudicate the results. In Fred Jane’s gunnery rules mechanism the umpire has to carefully examine the target and then transfer the results over to the scorer. It has the big advantage that the firer has no idea what the results of their gunnery are, but once squadrons of more than three or four ships per side are involved, the process can become tediously slow. In the the Pratt rules it requires two umpires to adjudicate the fall of shot (i.e. one at each end of the tape measure, with one making sure that the tape lines up with the firing arrows and the other placing the fall of shot markers) and sometimes a third to mark up each ship’s record card. The damaged caused is secret from the firer, but as they can see where their fall of shot markers actually land they can use that information to adjust the aim and range estimation for the next turn.
The photo of the pieces used to play the Fred Jane Naval War Game comes from the collection of Curator Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command.
Yesterday I sent Kallistra an order for six sets of pre-flocked single-hex terrain tiles. I probably use my existing collection of single-hex tiles more than I use my collection of standard six-hex tiles (they work particularly well with my mini-campaign board), and as I expect to use this board even more frequently in the future, it seemed to make sense to ensure that I had more than enough single hexes to meet any foreseeable needs.