Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Denmark Strait Scenario: 24th May 1941 (Wargame) - Notes/Musings (Quite a big post)

Scenario specific details/notes to self on playing The Battle of the Denmark Strait:

Contact: Set-up: 05:35 24/5/41
KM Bismarck and Prince Eugen sailing at 28 knots on course bearing 220 degrees

The German lead in (see below, but not quite the final set-up, PE leading Bismarck following):

Range between RN and KM when smoke first detected: 34,000 yards (17 nautical miles)

Note: German hydrophones on the KM Prince Eugen picked up the approach of two ships while "over the horizon". Lutjens believed them to be additional shadowing cruisers and was amazed to discover two RN capitol ships bearing down on them. One identified as HMS Hood. This was the worst case scenario wargamed by the Germans as despite her age they knew they could not out run the Hood. In fact Admiral Holland in HMS Hood had asked Captain Leach in HMS Prince of Wales if she could make more speed. To which the reply was, "not without damaging her", The crew report HMS Prince of Wales was "rattling herself to pieces" as it was while she tried to keep up with the Hood (28knots). In effect HMS Prince of Wales was still very much "working up" (with civilian contractors and dockyard hands aboard).

HMS Hood and HMS Prince of Wales sailing at 28 knots on course bearing 240 degrees
At 05:38 turn of 40 degrees to 280 degrees course heading
At 05:49 turn of 20 degrees to 300 degrees course heading

The British set-up (see below):

Both fleets are on converging courses. The KM are moving away from the Greenland ice shelf being shadowed by HMS Suffolk and HMS Norfolk under the command of Vice Admiral Wade Walker RN. The HMS Hood and HMS Prince of Wales under the command of Admiral Holland are intercepting. The screen force of four destroyers are still to the east of the BCF (Battle Cruiser Force).

Note [Other RN Forces, HMS Suffolk and HMS Norfolk, plus the BCF screening destroyers (4)]: In this scenario both the shadowing cruisers and destroyers play no active part other than after a certain time limit they would have to be factored in as ready to engage. The Germans (KM) needs to have "won" by that point.

At 05:53 HMS Hood opens fire on Prince Eugen at extreme range, historically 26,500 yards, nearly over the horizon shooting.

The range is converted from inches to cm is 106 (so4cm per 1000 yards) due to the constrained playing area (this makes the ships appear overly large in context - maybe 1/6000 would be a better representation?)

HMS Hood (leading) and HMS Prince of Wales (astern at 80 degrees) are in a quartered formation (see below, given the large size of the ship in proportion to sea space this is done more for visual effect than simulation accuracy):

Because X and Y turrets on HMS Hood and Y turret on HMS Prince of Wales historically could not bear the German fleet is pushed some 12" in from the 'table edge' (apologies for mixing imperial and metric measurements) placing it slightly ahead of the British BCF (Battle Cruiser Force). The angle between the two fleets should be 80 degrees with the Germans slightly ahead, enough to mask the British rear turrets from firing.

Note [British Erroneous Targeting]: Historically HMS Hood fired first and she was targeting the wrong ship (KM Prince Eugen). The reason for this being that the shadowing cruisers had last seen KM Bismarck leading the German formation and it was assumed that this was still the case. However Bismarck had discharged her main battery at the cruisers and in so doing so "knocked out" her own radar. The KM Prince Eugen therefore took the lead.

Note [German Command and Control "Freeze" and Poor British Gunnery Mechanism on HMS Hood]: The British fire from HMS Hood is a freebie as historically Lutjens froze giving no orders to return fire. owever given the antiquated WWI Dreyer fire control system on HMS Hood only a roll of "0" on a d10 would hit (GQII WWI Gunnery Rule). The first opening salvo from HMS Hood misses much to the consternation or relief to the crew of the KM Prince Eugen. In fact Holland (in the Hod realised by observation of the Prince of Wales he was shooting at the wrong ship and ordered "shift to second ship" but this order historically did not come into effect as the Hood blew up. To simulate this lag HMS Hood has to fire on the Prince Eugen  for the first three turns. If Hood makes a radical turn of 45 degrees or more her Dreyer gunnery tables need time to recompute, so she suffers -10% chance of hitting for that turn (as the Dreyer tables were poor when the rate of change varies greatly, strictly speaking this could apply if the target was changing course and speed to but I am trying to keep it 'relatively' simple).

Note: [The "Weather Gauge" disadvantages the British.] HMS Hood and HMS Prince of Wales were running into a heavy sea and the light advantage was to the German favour (dark horizon and silhouetting the RN). In particular HMS Prince of Wales (and all KGV class ships) were very "green" and took in lots of water over their forecastle. "A" turret was ankle deep in icy water for the whole battle. Hence British Gunnery is reduced by 10% in its chance to hit.   

Note: ["Crack" German Gunnery] "Until" the first successful straddle the Germans gain a 10% modifier chance to hit a British ship. This is to reflect the initial sharpness of the German guns on the day of the battle as they straddles their targets almost immediately.

Note: [HMS Prince of Wales erratic gunnery, "teething problems"] Due to her status of "reporting for duty" but in fact was not fully yet worked up HMS Prince of Wales has gunnery problems. At the time of the battle she had never initiated a full broadside. Something always broke. The quadruple 14" gun turrets were the problem. The RN did not solve these problems in KGV class battleships until mid 1943. Hence when HMS Prince of Wales hits a d6 is rolled:

1: 50% of armament boxes
2: 100% of armament boxes
3: 100% of armament boxes
4: 100% of armament boxes
5: 100% of armament boxes
6: 100% of armament boxes

On reflection this might be actually "too" generous?

Firing begins and something of interest almost immediately happens. HMS Hood is straddled by the Bismarck losing a turret and a hull box plus a "critical" is rolled (see below, will history come alive"?):

With bated breath we see extensive boiler room damage and she is reduced to half speed (6cm) becoming an annoying blocking hazard to HMS Prince of Wales (see below)

More smoke is added for aesthetic purposes (see below):

Heavy blows indeed against the RN on the first turn. No hits were landed on Germans in return. Holland (in HMS Hood) performs a radical turn towards the enemy to allow HMS Prince of Wales to fire this turn and pass by her next turn. This allows HMS Hoods "T" to be crossed by both the KM Eugen and KM Bismarck (see below):

The Germans look Teutonic and menacing, while in the distance smoke is belching from HMS Hood (see below):

The ships move and fire again. HMS Hood this time lays into the KM Eugen, despite the adverse weather gauge and her old RN 15" gun she takes two hull boxes and halves her speed in return (down to 6cm). KM Bismarck suffers from good gunnery from HMS Prince of Wales, losing a turret and a hull box (see below, note RED indicates visible damage to the enemy [such as a destroyed turret], BLACK not so obvious damage that is not disclosed to the enemy or simple no damage but a straddle):

Hoods "T"has been well and truly crossed. She is punished losing another turret [A] and taking another hill damage reducing her speed further (3cm). HMS Prince of Wales however is cleared for action (see below):

More damage on the KM Prince Eugen sees HMS Hood take out an eight inch turret (see below, note both German ships have been reduced to 6cm and HMS Prince of Wales is making steady progress to cross the Germans "T" in the not so distant future):

HMS Hood is hammered. More critical damage to her boilers stops her in the water and she is reduced to a single forward turret firing. The German battle line however has been hammered. KM Prince Eugen is really only a threat with respect to her torpedoes and Bismarck has just to say got two functioning main turrets. The (erratic) gunnery from the Prince of Wales is hurting (see below, the poor battered Hood):

HMS Prince of Wales finally bring the KM Bismark to her knees reducing her to 3cm speed. There is no way she can either become a commerce raider or even realistically escape additional units of the RN. Especially as HMS Prince of Wales is untouched (albeit with implicit gunnery problems). KM Eugen cannot escape either. The game is called a RN victory. The German ships do not have enough umpf left (see below, the broken and battered HMS Hood lies to the top left, but the unbroken HMS Prince of Wales steams off to the right ready to administer the "coup de grace"):

Additional smoke is now seem from HMS Suffolk and HMS Norfolk closing. The KM Prince Eugen is their target. Admiral Holland issues a visual lamp order to the destroyer escort which now arrives on the scene: "Execute torpedo attack on German Battleship Bismarck". Her fate is sealed.

An enjoyable play test. A few things were played wrong on the night but corrected in hindsight. Nothing that would have changed the outcome of the above.

Final Rule Notes:
Basic GQII: Multiple ships firing at same target, 2nd+ ships -10% to hit target
House Rule: If your ship is straddled then it is -10% chance to hit (being put off by shell splashes)

Result: Comprehensive RN Victory

HMS Hood should be "salvageable" although perhaps a constructive loss
The KM Bismarck and KM Prince Eugen look "doomed" their loss of speed being the biggest factor that weighs against them. They are now targets for destroyers, cruisers, submarines, swordfish and that is not to mention the fully functioning HMS Prince of Wales. In addition HMS King George V in accompaniment of  HMS Repulse with HMS Victorious will soon be within striking range.

It makes the events of the battle all the more fascinating and thought provoking given the catastrophic loss of HMS Hood.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Experimenting with Naval Visuals (1/1200) for The Battle of the Denmark Strait (1941)

Like it says on the tin I was experimenting with a "small tactical sea base" to mount 1/1200 ships on to represent their configuration in a long range naval gunnery duel. First up is the KM Bismarck (see below, as yet no foaming wake or cutting white bow spray):

Is this a more dirty looking "Atlantic green sea" (see below, pulling back the shot to get a full profile):

The German "raiding party" together for Operation Rheinuburg on the circular tactical base (see below, a way of reducing the 20,000' General syndrome or is this just another case of wargaming madness?):

The Royal Naval guardians of the Denmark Strait, HMS Hood leading HMS Prince of Wales (see below):

Part of the "cloak and dagger" operation to shadow HMS Suffolk (see below, HMS Norfolk is still suffering from my reluctance to customise the my duplicate HMS Suffolk into a reconfigured HMS Norfolk. The more I look into it I keep seeing more bits I have to do):

A single ship does seem the more sensible basing (see below, you can see that I envisage putting on counters around the outside of the 360 degrees of the "tactical board". Peoples thoughts honestly appreciated!):

Finally something 'caught inbound' on the "Mighty Hood" (see below, the Bismarck fires eight but two "straddle-splash markers" unaccounted for, something is brewing inside HMS Hood. Also note 'X' and 'Y' turrets are about to 'clear arc'):

More thoughts and experimentation to follow and perhaps even a walk-through war game using the old favourite GQII.

Big Boys .. this is just a simulation (or rather a "painting exercise") .. not the start of a collection.

Tim Gow do not get excited I am NOT going 54mm "that is the way of madness" I was only practising some 'painting techniques' on my son's "big toy soldiers". There is no reason to be alarmed gentlefolk of the jury, this was a "one off", despite a curious feeling of enjoyment in not having to squint so much! (see below, two Airfix Australians, a Star Wars Storm Trooper and a Jedi milling around on the painting tray):

Note: I need to be concentrating on my naval for the Denmark Straits battle, you can see a pot of Tamiya Blue in the background ;)

Friday, 17 November 2017

The Battle of the Denmark Strait: The Gathering of 1/3000 forces from the Loft

Pulled out of their respective Navy Boxes from the loft the "extended" order of battle for the Denmark Strait (see below, Navwar 1/3000 with basic colour schemes and "blue sea" - nothing fancy):

Trusty old warriors that have been in my collection for a long, long time. They were painted back in the days when the "sea was always blue" (and probably from a pot of Tamiya paint pot). The intention is to present the historical battle alongside the hypothetical counterfactual scenarios (HMS Suffolk and Norfolk engage, and if the six destroyers had managed to keep up and were not diverted to cover "if" the Bismarck and Prince Eugen had reversed their tracks).

Here is one somebody has prepared earlier, David Manly's link to his re-fight:

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Letting the youngest DM .. and me being Solo Adventurer!

Having walked the kids through their first D&D adventure I could see the sparkle stay in my youngest's eyes (he's only seven). He so wanted to "play with the toys" I had to let him become the storyteller (DM) and you know what, I think that bright young mind did it far better job than me. I was placed in the precarious situation of being a solo "dungeoneering". "This won't last long" I thought to myself, first monster and he will choose the biggest one in the box (probably the Umber Hulk ... a miniature that has never yet been killed in one of my D&D games)! So there I was walking across the stony floor of a chamber and it was announced that I had encountered a trap. Ooops.  One (failed) skill test later and I was left imprisoned by a falling cage (in true comic book fashion). That was it I thought .. monster meat! However with a benevolent sense of imagination, the monster that appeared was a small mushroom man that befriended me. He (it?) said that it would help me escape as it knew where the special key was for the cage! I then played the mushroom man getting the key from a locked chest. Ingenious. He (or was it, it?) set me free and my new BBF and I explored the next room (see below, we are sneaking around in the background trying not to be seen by a Big Blue Monster and two young hatch-ling Dragons [Red and Blue]):

One unremitting axiom of dungeoneering is that where you find treasure chests you find big ugly monsters. In this case a green one that came from a very old Warhammer starter pack. I didn't manage to catch his name as he bludgeoned me into the ground (three rounds of combat which I all lost) as I was distracted open treasure chest withe the allure of gold inside it (see below, I was left unconscious as my new BBF did a very good "hide in the shadows" which is perhaps what I should have done):

Luckily my mushroom BBF was on the ball to once again come to my rescue. It(?) sneaked away and opened a chest where he knew there was a secret healing potion in that resuscitated me (see below, my seven year old was definitely out dungeoneering me hands down):

Once I was back on my feet Mr Mushroom introduced me to Miss Mushroom (pink hat, I get it) his girlfriend(?) who would help me from here "as it was too dangerous for him to go on". Not only narrative but he ingested the sense of peril into the storytelling. I was impressed (see below):

There we had to leave it until another time. My only chance of survival is to "follow the mushroom" to find a way to safety. I think my youngest is a bit of a groovy hippy at heart ;)

Monday, 13 November 2017

Dungeon Delve with the Dungeons and Dragons Board Game

It's the classic tale. Two adventurers and a DM. Limited resources, one character each, pretty much their first dungeon delve and a whole load of mysterious experiences for these youngsters to come, my two sons. Bravely they lit their torches and pursued the band of Goblins who had captured the local village sheriff . Opening their first dungeon door (I wonder if they will remember this defining event thirty years hence), they surprised the distracted Goblin guard, wounded him and then watched him run off down the corridor to try and alert his friends (same old story at least guard always gets away to warn the others). Fearlessly they decided to push on (see below):

The guard ran to find his friends and this group of three Goblins turned to face the adventurers outnumbering them 3:2. This bravery turned out to be pure folly as the dwarven-magic-user (interesting) and human fighter's ranged bow felled two breaking the Goblin's brittle morale. Were these the serious monsters who overwhelmed the local village. Searching around the two adventurers found a wealth of magical treasure locked in checks (obviously the Goblins were packing up lot ready to move off). With a new found magic sword in hand, two potions of healing and a strange magic scroll (watch this space) the lucky duo passed into the final hall of the adventure. Deftly avoiding some nasty pit-traps (thanks to the dexterity of the fighter-their) they pinned the remaining five Goblins (four normal and the big sub-leaser) into their lair - but no sign of the "sheriff" (see below):

Here the novice dungeon delvers learned first hand of the power of a "sleep" spell. Four out of five of the Goblins were subdued and the fifth slain by the fighter. The remaining four never "woke-up" (the ethical consideration of this I am still pondering as a father .. but they were evil .. perhaps I should have hinted they could have been "tied-up" as prisoners). The adventure part one is over. As the adventurers sift through the treasure chests "lo and behold" they discover a map to where the "sheriff" is being held. This small band of Goblins were but a mere scouting party for something more bigger and sinister!