‘Oh we sail the ocean blue …’ : Simple pre-dreadnought naval wargame rules play-testsPosted: June 8, 2016
Scenario 1: Protect the convoy
In this scenario a single protected cruiser is attacking a small convoy that is being escorted by a pair of destroyers. The cruiser’s task is to destroy as many of the merchant ships as it can; the destroyers’ task is to protect the convoy and – if possible – drive off the attacking cruiser.
The cruiser came into sight of the convoy and the destroyers moved forward to engage the cruiser whilst the convoy turned away.
The cruiser fired at the nearest destroyer, and hit it, causing it to lose 2 flotation points.
The cruiser managed to evade the destroyers, …
… and opened fire on the nearest merchant ship … which it missed! It also engaged the other destroyer with its secondary armament, hitting it once and causing it 1 flotation point of damage.
Both destroyers fired their torpedoes at the cruiser. The torpedoes from the destroyer immediately behind the cruiser missed, but the other destroyer’s torpedoes hit home and inflicted the loss of 2 flotation points of damage on the cruiser.
The cruiser continued to pursue the convoy, and the destroyers attempted to distract it from doing so.
The cruiser fired at and hit the destroyer that was abeam of it with its secondary armament and caused it to lose a further 2 flotation points. At the same time the cruiser fired at one of the merchant ship with its main armament, and hit it.
The destroyers’ tactics seemed to be working, and one of them managed to interpose itself between the cruiser and the convoy.
In the ensuing exchange of gunfire the destroyers failed to hit the cruiser, but the cruiser hit and sank the destroyer that was immediately astern of the convoy.
It now appeared that the cruiser had the convoy at its mercy, …
… and very soon it had hit – and sank – one of the merchant ships.
As the cruiser manoeuvred into a position what it could sink the convoy one by one, the remaining destroyer rushed in …
… and in the exchange of gunfire it was sunk … but not before inflicting sufficient damage on the cruiser to force her to turn away and to leave the convoy to escape.
This was a sharp little action, and proved that destroyers can pose a potent threat to large ships if they are properly handled.
Scenario 2: Hunting a raider
An armoured cruiser has evaded the blockade and has been attacking merchant shipping. Two protect cruisers have tracked her down, and have to sink her or damage her so that she has to surrender or return to port.
The two protected cruisers initially approached in line ahead formation, but on seeing their enemy, they split away from each other in order to force the armoured cruiser to split its fire between two targets.
In fact the armoured cruiser was able to engage one of the protected cruisers at extreme range, but without hitting its target.
With both forces approaching each other at maximum speed, it was not long before all the ships were involved in an artillery engagement.
Whilst the two protected cruisers were unable to do much damage to their armoured opponent (it suffered the loss of 1 flotation point) …
… the latter’s heavy main armament was able to inflict considerable damage on one of the two protected cruisers. (It lost 4 flotation points to one of the enemy ship’s salvos!)
When the damaged protected cruiser moved out of gun range, the armoured cruiser now concentrated its fire on the other protected cruiser …
… and inflicted a similar level of damage (the loss of 4 flotation points) as it had to its other opponent. In return the protected cruiser was able to inflict only minor damage (the loss of 1 flotation point) on the armoured cruiser.
The ships now began to circle each other …
… firing as best they could but inflicting little damage on each other in the process. (The armoured cruiser was hit by a single shell and lost 1 flotation point.)
The armoured cruiser was able to turn inside the turning circle of the nearest protected cruiser, …
… and whilst its main armament engaged the other protected cruiser (with no effect), it was able to fire its bow torpedo tube at the nearest protected cruiser, with quite deadly effect. (The torpedoes caused the loss of 3 flotation points, thus forcing the protect cruiser to withdraw from the battle as best it could.) That protected cruiser’s gun proved to be poorly aimed, and it was unable to inflict any damage of the armoured cruiser.
The armoured cruiser fell upon its damaged enemy and at point-blank range opened fire with all its main and secondary guns.
The result was a foregone conclusion … the protected cruiser was sunk … but not before it had fired its own guns and its port side torpedo tube, all of which caused extensive damage to the armoured cruiser! (The armoured cruiser lost a total of 4 more flotation points, which meant that it was now forced to withdraw from the battle.)
Both cruisers now circled each other warily …
… and the armoured cruiser inflict further damage on the protected cruiser. (It lost 1 more flotation point.)
The protected cruiser now tried to move outside of the range of armoured cruiser’s main armament …
… but it suffered further damage. (It lost yet another flotation point.)
Now that the protected cruiser had moved out of range, the armoured cruiser began to make its way back to its home port. The damage it had suffered would keep it in dockyard hands for some time to come.
The two protected cruisers had achieved their mission … but at a considerable cost!
Scenario 3: Jeune École
A blockading battleship is moving along the enemy coast. A small flotilla of destroyers is sent to intercept it and – if possible – damage or sink it.
The battleship came in sight of a flotilla of enemy destroyers that were in line abreast. Considering such craft as to be mere ‘mosquitoes’ that can be easily swept aside, the battleship’s captain did not change course … and neither did the destroyers!
Whilst the battleship remained on its existing course, the destroyers split into two separate groups.
Whilst one group of the destroyers attempted to approach the battleship from the stern, the other pair approached her from ahead and sailed down either side of her.
The battleship’s response was devastating. Her port secondary armament engaged the enemy destroyer on her port side and inflicted the loss of 4 flotation points.
On her starboard side, the main armament and starboard secondary armament fired at the other destroyer, and also caused her to lose 4 flotation points.
In reply the two destroyers fired back with their puny guns … and the battleship lost 3 flotation points!
Before they sank, the destroyers both fired a torpedo at the battleship. One cause the battleship to lose a further 3 flotation points and the other caused her to lose 1 flotation point.
The remaining destroyers now moved in to mount their attacks on the damaged battleship
The battleship fired her rear turret at the closer of the two destroyers … and missed!
The destroyers then both fired a torpedo at the battleship, and the battleship lost a further 4 flotation points!
By this stage the battleship was badly damaged and needed to break away, but the superior speed of the destroyers allowed them to manoeuvre into a position to mount a further torpedo attack.
Although she was damaged, the battleship was still able to fight, and her guns made short work of the closest destroyer (it suffered the loss of 4 flotation points) and damaged the other, which lost 1 flotation point.
The destroyers were still able to fire their remaining torpedoes, and these slammed into the battleship with devastating effect.
The remaining destroyer stood by to receive any survivors from her sunken sister ships and the battleship. Once they were picked up, she then made her way back to base to make the world aware that the theories of the Jeune École appeared to be valid, and that from now on no unescorted battleship was safe from small, fast, torpedo-armed destroyers that were working as a team.
Note about Scenario 3:
The Jeune École (Literally ‘Young School’) was a strategic naval concept developed during the 19th century and adopted for a time by the French Navy. It advocated the use of small, powerfully equipped vessels (e.g. torpedo boats) to combat a blockading enemy battle fleet along with the use of fast cruisers to attack and sink enemy merchant ships.
Scenario 4: Line of Battle
Two enemy battle squadrons are sailing towards each other. They each comprise two battleships and an armoured cruiser, and the armoured cruisers are leading their respective battle lines.
Initially both sides continued to sail towards each other.
Once the leading ships of the opposing battle line got within range of each other, one began to turn to starboard to cross the enemy line’s ‘T’.
The two leading ships (the armoured cruisers) then fired at each other, and both inflicted some damage on its opponent.
In order to prevent their ‘T’ being crossed, the other battle line also began to turn, but in their case it was to port. Seeing this manoeuvre, the other side’s armoured cruiser also turned to port, again in the hope of crossing the enemy ‘T’. Unfortunately, in doing so it began to move ahead of its slower compatriots.
The armoured cruisers fired at each other, and yet again inflicted damage on each other.
One of the battleships was also able to join in the exchange of gunfire, and promptly hit the enemy’s armoured cruiser.
The two opposing armoured cruisers now turned so that they were sailing on parallel courses. In their wake the battleships began to manoeuvre to follow suit.
The armoured cruisers let rip at each other with their main armaments, …
… their secondary armaments, …
… and then their beam torpedo tubes. Both ships were by now extensively damaged, and it one case (the armoured cruiser on the left) this caused her to sink almost at once.
Whilst this deadly engagement was under way, the battleships began firing at each other. One side was able to concentrate its fire on the other side’s leading battleship, and heavy damage was inflicted on it. This was not, however, a one-sided exchange, and the the leading battleship on the other side was also badly damaged.
As the badly damaged armoured cruiser began to turn away to seek safety, the two groups of battleships sailed on parallel courses.
Unfortunately one battleship was masked by its sister ship, and as a result it was not able to join in what turned out to be a very one-sided exchange of gunfire. The damage inflicted on its sister ship was so severe that it turned over and sank.
The remaining battleship now began to turn away, not wishing to continue to fight in such an apparently one-sided battle.
As it did so the pair of battleships engaged her and inflicted considerable damage on her … but in a magnificent piece of shooting her rear turret hit the leading enemy battleship with several shells … and the enemy ship exploded and sank!
Both sides now withdrew to lick their wounds and to repair the damage their ships had received.
These four play-tests have been extremely helpful and I need to take some time to think about the changes that need to be made in the light of the results. I hope to do that over the next few days.