The Amber War: An idea for a scenario

Whilst I have been sorting through the contents of the crates from the now-defunct shed, I have been thinking about a scenario for a possible war set in my Imagi-world of 1891. It would involve the two earliest imagi-nations that I ever used, Opeland and Upsland. (Technically-speaking I created Opeland and Upsland was created by my brother … but I don’t think that my brother would mind me ‘using’ his creation.)

Scenario: The Amber War between Opeland and Upsland
Both Opeland and Upsland have small professional armies and navies that are equipped with the most modern weapons their respective governments can afford to buy for them. The economies of Opeland and Upsland depend upon the exploitation of their natural resources (mainly wood and metal ores) and the small-scale manufacturing of weapons, ships, and furniture. They are also important suppliers of amber to the rest of the world.

A recent storm in the straits between the Britannic Sea and the Sea of Opeland has exposed a large deposit of amber on the beach of the small uninhibited island of Litenoy. The island is approximately halfway between the northernmost tip of the Jutaland Peninsular and the coast of Opeland. The amber was discovered by fishermen from both Opeland and Upsland who use the island as a safe anchorage during storms. The only problem is that the island is claimed by both Opeland and Upsland.

The potential area of operations should war break out over the island of Litenoy.

Both nations wish to be able to enforce their claim of sovereignty over Litenoy should the need arise, and to ensure this they have put their respective armed forces onto the highest state of preparedness short of war.

Having sketched out a scenario, all I need to do now is the raise the necessary wargame forces from what I have to hand … and then the campaign may commence!

Painting figures: Another experiment … and some related thoughts

Since returning from our recent cruise I have been experimenting with the use of cheap acrylic craft paints to paint figures … and I am very pleased with the results.

Other than the primer, the following figure was painted using nothing but acrylic craft paint.

I decided not to use Nut Brown India Ink to ‘shade’ the figure … and I don’t think the figure looks any the worse for it … as the following comparison shows.

I am now thinking about using this simple technique to paint some more 20mm-scale figures.

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking about my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War campaign project … and I began to come to the following conclusions.

  • I was going to have to ‘bath-tub’ the whole thing if I was ever going to be able to stop it becoming a monster … and that was a compromise that I was unsure about making.
  • In order to stop the cost of the project from escalating to a level I could not justify, I was going to use as much of what I already had in terms of figures and vehicles rather than start from scratch.

In the end I decided that realistically I was unlikely to ever fulfil my dreams of a full-blown Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War campaign, and that I had to rethink the whole thing.

At this point in my thinking I was reading through some of my old blog entries, particularly the play-test battles that I fought between Morschauserland and Eastland … and it made me wonder if I should consider rejigging the whole thing along similar imagi-nation lines. The pluses in favour of this are:

  • I already have an imagi-world with suitable imagi-nations. (This would enable me to avoid the ethical conundrum I would otherwise have to face regarding whether or not to wargame the politically/racially-motivated excesses committed by both sides during the real war.)
  • I would not be restricted to using specific model vehicles, aircraft, ships, figures, and even uniforms for my imagi-world version of the Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War. (I recently ‘found’ a large number of Spanish Civil War figures that I could use for smaller allied contingents and/or militia.)
  • I could use one or more of the sets of wargame rules that I already have to hand including:

The negatives are:

  • That I doubt that I could find a regular opponent to control one of the two sides … but as most of my wargaming is done solo, this is not a major consideration.
  • That it might not be seen as ‘proper’ wargaming by some people within the hobby … but I have been around long enough not to worry too much about what those sort of people think any more.

I am not fully committed to this course of action as yet … but the more I think about it, the more attractive it becomes.

Confrontation in the Fezian Sea: A play-test of the Itchy and Scratchy Naval wargame rules

The following play-test battle was set up to test the first draft of my ITCHY AND SCRATCHY NAVAL wargame rules. It was set in the Imagi-world of 1891 and was fought between warships of the Rusland and Fezian Navies.

After the earlier fighting around the island of Naverona, when ships of the Rusland Navy engaged the Fezian coastal defences twice (see The Guns of Naverona and Return to Naverona), the Fezians bought a new armoured cruiser from the Parker Brothers shipyard. The ship was – in fact – a copy of a similar ship that they had built for the Rusland Navy and was named Monopoli in Fezian service.

Soon after entering service with the Fezian Navy Monopoli was ordered to patrol a disputed area of the Fezian Sea that was known to be frequented by the Rusland battleship Tsarina. The captain of the Monopoli was ordered to confront this ‘blatant and provocative aggression into the waters of the peace-loving Fezian people‘ and to ensure that the Ruslanders were made aware that they could no longer regard the Fezian Sea as their ‘Mare Nostrum‘.

Not long after sunrise the lookouts on both the Monopoli and Tsarina spotted smoke on the horizon, and their respective captains turned their ships to turn towards the smoke to investigate. A confrontation was now inevitable.

Turn 1
Neither ship altered course or opened fire on their opponent but the crews of both ships began to prepare for battle.

Turn 2
The Tsarina then turned towards the Monopoli and opened fire with her main armament … but caused no damage.

The Monopoli also turned and closed the range. She then fire at the Tsarina, but her gunfire was equally ineffective.

Turn 3
The Tsarina‘s captain seemed intent upon maximising the destructive power of his main armament, and brought his ship to almost point-blank range before he ordered his guns to fire. At that range it was almost impossible to miss … and the Monopoli was holed below the waterline.

The Monopoli‘s captain tried to move his ship so that it was out of the arc-of-fire of the Tsarina‘s main guns before opening fire on the Rusland battleship … but although the Monopoli‘s guns managed to hit their target, the shells had no effect on the heavily armoured hull of the battleship.

Turn 4
The Tsarina now turned across the stern of the Monopoli and fired at her … and knocked out the cruiser’s rearmost gun.

As the Monopoli was also in range of the Tsarina‘s starboard battery of light guns, these were also fired at the cruiser … holing her yet again below the waterline.

The Monopoli turned so as to lengthen the range and to try to come around the stern of the Tsarina. She then fired at the Tsarina … and missed!

Turn 5
The Tsarina moved abeam of the Monopoli, fired at her … and missed …

… and the Monopoli continued to try to go astern of the Tsarina, firing (and missing) as she did so.

Turn 6
Both ships were now trying to get astern of the other. The Tsarina‘s main armament did no damage to the Monopoli

… but a miscalculation on the part of the Tsarina‘s captain allowed the Monopoli to get astern of the Tsarina … and to fire a torpedo!

Although the Tsarina was only just in range of the torpedo, the Monopoli‘s torpedo did not miss … and caused considerable underwater damage to the Rusland battleship.

Turn 7
The Tsarina‘s captain realised that his ship was in danger of being sunk by the Fezia cruiser, and decided that he should terminate the action as quickly as possible and get his damaged ship back to port so this could be repaired.

The Tsarina‘s rear medium gun fired at the Monopoli, which deterred the cruiser from closing the range and continuing the battle …

… thus ending this short but sharp confrontation.

The rules worked better than I had expected, and the play-test battle was exactly what I had hoped it would be … a quick, fun, ‘knock-about’ naval battle that was not too unrealistic. I hope to do some more work developing these rules over the next few weeks, but I do need to build some more model ships before the next play-test.

Now where did I put all that basswood?

Return to Naverona

Having built two more coastal defence guns, I have been waiting for the opportunity to use them … and today that opportunity finally arose!

The recent increase in tension between Rusland and Fezia over ownership of the Island of Naverona had already led to an exchange of gunfire between the Rusland battleship Tsarina and the Fezian coastal defence fortress that overlooked the Straits of Naverona. The Fezian fortress had come off worse in the encounter, and this had spurred the Fezian government into action. The original armament of the fortress – two medium coastal defence guns of the latest design – were remounted and two larger coastal defence guns were added to the fortress’s armament in order to boost its firepower, which was now equal to that of the Rusland warship.

News of the rearmament of the fortress soon reached the ears of the Rusland Navy’s High Command (both sides had extensive networks of spies in the disputed border areas) and they decided that the next time warships ‘visited’ the island (i.e. sailed around it to reinforce Rusland’s claim), it would be as part of a small flotilla. The flotilla comprised:

  • The battleship Tsarina (two heavy, one medium, and four light guns) and
  • The armoured cruiser Monopoly (two medium guns).

It was felt that this was a sufficiently strong force to deal with the fortress and any other Fezian coastal defences that might be in place.

Turn 1
The Monopoly led the Rusland flotilla towards the Island, and as soon as it was in range one each of the Fezian heavy and medium coastal defence guns opened fire on her … and a heavy shell hit hit, causing serious damage!

The Monopoly replied with her forward medium gun … but missed her target!

Turn 2
Despite her damage, the Monopoly continued on her course, followed by the Tsarina. Both ships fired at the Fezian fortress, but their gunnery left much to be desired and no damage was caused.

On the other hand the Fezians seemed to be firing with greater than normal accuracy, and hit the Monopoly yet again, causing her further damage.

At this point it looked as if the Rusland Navy might have to call off its ‘visit’ as its reception was proving to be rather ‘hot’!

Turn 3
The Rusland warships continued on their existing course, trading fire with the Fezian fortress. By now the range was so short that it was almost impossible for the Rusland guns to miss, …

… but the same was true for the Fezian coastal defence guns, who repeatedly hit the Monopoly.

The Monopoly was now in a bad way, having suffered numerous serious hits, and her captain signalled to his admiral (who was aboard the Tsarina) that he would have to break off from the action.

Turn 4
The Rusland admiral replied to the signal from the Monopoly and ordered that the ship should continue of her intended course, which would take her around the Island of Naverona … and shield her from the Fezian fortress’s gunfire. The captain of the Monopoly complied, but this did not prevent her from suffering even more damage.

The Tsarina now brought all her available guns to bear on the Fezian fortress and did considerable damage to its armament, knocking out its heavy coastal defence guns. The fortress’s heavy coastal defence guns did, however, manage to damage the Tsarina before they were put out of action.

Turn 5
As the Rusland ships began to turn away from the Fezian fortress, the exchange of gunfire began to diminish. The Tsarina‘s rear-facing medium gun did some further damage to the fortress …

… which it turn did some minor damage to the Tsarina.

The crew of the Monopoly began the process of repairing what damage they could in order to make their ship seaworthy.

Whilst they did so, her captain sat quietly in his cabin wondering whether or not the admiral had been wise to send his ship through the Straits of Naverona first. He came to the conclusion that asking such questions was not a sensible course of action for an ambitious captain … and began writing his action report with this thought firmly in the front of his mind!

Turn 6 onwards
The Rusland warships sailed around the Island of Naverona and then made their way back towards their base.

Both sides felt that they had achieved their objectives. The Rusland Navy had shown that it could and would stand up to the Fezians, regardless of how many powerful coastal defence guns they mounted in the fortress; The Fezians felt that they had given the Rusland Navy a bloody nose, and that they could claim to control the Straits of Naverona and hence the Island as well.

In many ways the captain of the Monopoly was right. The Rusland admiral sent his weakest ship through the Straits first … and as a result it was unable to match the firepower of the Fezian heavy coastal defence guns. The later did considerable damage to the Monopoly before the Tsarina was able to knock them out.

This was a very interesting battle to fight, and was much more evenly matched that the previous encounter between the Rusland Navy and the Fezian coastal defences. Had the Fezians had a minefield or two … or perhaps a Brennan Torpedo launcher … the outcome could easily have resulted in the destruction of one or both or the Rusland warships.

The Guns of Naverona

Having built some model coastal defence guns, it seemed obvious that I should used them as soon as possible. As I already had a number of suitably painted artillery crew (Egyptians who would pass muster as Fezians) and a model battleship (HMS Empress who, for the purposes of this battle, would serve as the Rusland battleship Tsarina), it was obvious that the battle would be yet another skirmish in the on-going border dispute between Fezia and Rusland.

The purchase of some new coastal defence artillery by the Fezian government enabled the building and equipping of several new fortresses, including one that overlooked the Straits of Naverona. This new fortress was armed with two medium coastal defence guns of the latest design.

The Straits of Naverona separated the Fezian mainland from the Island of Naverona. The latter was an uninhabited (and uninhabitable) rocky outcrop that had been claimed by Rusland for many years.

The Imperial Rusland Navy regularly ‘visited’ the island (i.e. sailed around it) to reinforce Rusland’s claim …

… but now the Fezians were in a positions to stop them … should they so desire it. Their new fortress commanded the Straits of Naverona, and should the Rusland ship enter Fezian territorial waters uninvited, the fortress was bound to open fire to ensure Fezian sovereignty was not infringed.

They did not have long to wait …

Turn 1
The Tsarina (which was armed with two heavy guns, a medium gun, and four light guns) had been ordered to make the customary, regular visit to Naverona. However, as she approached the entrance to the Straits the ship’s lookouts reported that a new and apparently heavily armed Fezian fortress had been constructed overlooking the Straits. The commander of the Tsarina immediately called his crew to battle stations and ordered the ship’s engineers to bring the ship up to full speed.

The approach of the Rusland warship had not gone unnoticed, and the fort’s commander ordered that all the guns should be manned … but not loaded. Shells and charges were made ready in case they were needed; the charges to fire a salute if the Rusland warship paid the normal honours to the Fezian flag, and the charges and shells in case they did not.

Turn 2
The Tsarina steamed onwards at full speed … and apparently ignored the Fezians as she made a slight turn to port. No honours were paid, and the Fezians loaded their guns with shells and charges and prepared to fire a warning across the bows of the on-coming Rusland warship.

Turn 3
The Fezians fired a warning shot across the bows of the Tsarina

… who responded almost immediately with a salvo from her main armament.

Although one of Tsarina‘s shells missed its target, the other did not, and the Fezian coastal artillery suffered some casualties.

The Tsarina proceeded to steam as close to the Island of Naverona as she could in the hope that by keeping the range as long as possible, they might be able to avoid the worst of the Fezian artillery fire.

Turn 4
Now that battle was joined, both sides engaged the other with the utmost vigour.

The one of the shells from the Fezian guns hit the Tsarina, but only caused it minor damage. The other shell landed harmlessly just ahead of its target. The Rusland warship’s gunnery was less accurate than its first salvo had been, and failed to hit anything of importance.

Despite suffering minor damage, the Tsarina continued to follow her existing course.

Turn 5
The artillery duel between the battleship and the shore continued … but this time the advantage lay with the Rusland warship, whose secondary armament was also able to fire at the Fezian fortress.

The Fezian coastal defence guns hit the Tsarina … but only caused her further minor damage whereas the Rusland warship’s guns took a very heavy toll. One of the Fezian coastal defence guns was dismounted and its crew killed whilst the other had its crew reduced by 50%.

After this exchange the Tsarina changed course and appeared to be about to begin make her away around the Island of Naverona.

Turn 6
Even though she had turned away, the Tsarina was able to fire at the Fezian fortress with her aft-facing secondary armament, although it had little effect. In reply the remaining Fezian coastal defence gun returned fire … and this time some serious damage (the loss of one Flotation Point) was inflicted on the Tsarina.

Turn 7
The Tsarina then changed course yet again, and began to turn to starboard. Both the Rusland warship and the remaining Fezian coastal defence gun fired at each other … and although the Fezians missed, Tsarina‘s guns did not, and the remaining Fezian gun was knocked out of action.

Turns 8 and 9
The Tsarina completed her turn to starboard and sailed towards the Fezian fortress …

Turn 10
… which she sail past, unmolested …

Turn 11
… at almost point-blank range.

Rusland’s claim to the Island of Naverona had been further strengthened by the successful outcome of this battle … but it also ensured that the Fezians would oppose the next visit by a Rusland warship with whatever weapons it could deploy.

This was a very interesting battle to fight, especially as it was quite typical of the sort of ship vs. shore actions that were seen during the nineteenth century. I suspect that if the Fezian coastal defence artillery had been heavy rather than medium calibre guns, the Tsarina might not have escaped quite so lightly. Likewise, had a cruiser rather than an ironclad been sent to ‘show the flag’, it might have been bested by the shore batteries.

The UK’s coastal defence artillery in 1891

As David Crook has already surmised, my latest set of wargames rules have been specifically designed to go with my IMAGI-WORLD OF 1891 project. As it will involve land, sea, and land-sea battles I decided that I need to review the information that I had about coastal defence artillery of the period. Most of my data is about the UK’s coastal defence artillery in 1891, so I drew up a list of what was available in the period from 1890 to 1900 on the assumption that most nations would have similar equipment available to them.

The list is as follows:
Rifle Muzzle Loading Guns

  • 17.72″ Rifled Muzzle Loading Gun
  • 16″ Rifled Muzzle Loading Gun Mk.I
  • 12.5″ Rifled Muzzle Loading Gun Mk.I
  • 11″ Rifled Muzzle Loading Gun Mk.II
  • 10″ Rifled Muzzle Loading Gun Mks.I and II
  • 7″ Rifled Muzzle Loading Gun Mk.III

Early Breech Loading Guns

  • 110 pdr 72 cwt. Breech Loading Gun
  • 32 pdr 42 cwt. Breech Loading Gun
  • 40 pdr 32 cwt. and 35 cwt. Breech Loading Guns
  • 20 pdr 16 cwt. Breech Loading Gun

Later Breech Loading Guns

  • 12″ Breech Loading Gun Mks.I, II, VI, and VII
  • 10″ Breech Loading Guns Mks.I, II, III, and IV
  • 9.2″ Breech Loading Gun Mks.I, IV, VI, IX, and X
  • 8″ Breech Loading Gun Mk.VII
  • 7.5″ Breech Loading Gun Mk.2
  • 6″ Breech Loading Gun Mks.I, I/IV, I/VI, IV, VI, V, VII, and VIII
  • 5″ Breech Loading Gun Mks.I, II, III, IV, and Mk.V
  • 4″ Breech Loading Gun Mks.II, III, IV, V, and VI

Quick Firing Guns

  • 6″ Quick Firing Gun B Mks.1, 2, and 3
  • 4.7″ Quick Firing Gun Mks.I, II, III, and IV
  • 4″ Quick Firing Gun Mk.3
  • 12 pdr 12 cwt. Quick Firing Gun
  • 6 pdr Quick Firing Gun Mks.1, 2, and 3 (Nordenfelt)
  • 6 pdr Quick Firing Gun Mks.1 and 2 (Hotchkiss)
  • 3 pdr Quick Firing Gun Mk.1 (Nordenfelt)
  • 3 pdr Quick Firing Gun Mks.1, 1*, and Mk.2 (Hotchkiss)

Looking backward and forward

It is the end of one year – again – and the beginning of yet another new one, and just as I did at this time last year, I am going to take stock of what I have achieved … and what I have failed to achieve.

Last January I set myself the following objectives:

  • To fight at least one battle per fortnight during 2012.
  • To paint some toy soldiers … probably beginning with my Spencer Smith Miniatures!
  • To continue to develop my Imagi-world of 1891 project … probably by fighting a campaign or two set in it
  • To begin preparations to fight a bath-tub campaign set on the Eastern Front, possibly starting with Operation Barbarossa and just seeing where things go from there.
  • To do some serious writing for THE NUGGET … and possibly to produce a book of grid-based wargames rules
  • To help to organise COW2012 so that attendees will remember it as being one of the best ever!

So how did I do?

  • Well I did not quite manage one battle per fortnight … but I was not too wide of the mark.
  • I never managed to paint any toy soldiers … but I did get around to basing some that had been sitting in a storage box for a long time. Furthermore, I actually used them on the tabletop … once!
  • I did manage to develop my Imagi-world of 1891 project a bit and did fight a short campaign set in it.
  • My preparations to fight a bath-tub campaign set on the Eastern Front are progressing slowly but surely … and I do now have a set of rules that intend to use.
  • I did manage to do some writing for THE NUGGET and I have done some preliminary work on a possible book of grid-based wargames rules
  • I helped to organise COW2012 … and I think that it certainly lived up to my expectations.

What was my particular wargaming high spot?

Well that has to be the latest versions of my PORTABLE WARGAME rules. They are almost about as finished as they are ever likely to be – assuming that I can stop trying to tweak them! – and they have a small but enthusiastic following. They seem to fulfil a need that some wargamers – including myself – have; namely a simple, fast-play set of rules that are capable of adaption to a variety of different historical periods (and personal preferences) with the minimum number of changes being required.

And what are my objectives for 2013?

Basically they are the same as those for 2012, but with one addition … and that is to try to create at least one more FUNNY LITTLE WARS army. I know that I will not manage it in time for the centenary event that is planned, but with luck Wargame Developments will be marking the anniversary with a special game at COW2013, and that would be an ideal target date for me to aim at.