We played a game on Friday night this week instead of the regular Thursday as my friend Curt from Regina was in town. He ran a lovely little Great War naval action using the new General Quarters III "Fleet Action Imminent" rules (and his BEAUTIFUL 1:2400 scale GHQ ships). It was quite good fun and quick to pick up.
The Battle of Coronel, 1914
At the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914 Admiral von Spee, commander of German naval squadron in the Far East, found his command in a very tenuous position. Germany, while having significant influence in the European theatre of operations exerted very little power in Asia and the Pacific. Germany had only the pretense of an Asian 'empire', only holding a naval station at Tsingtao China and this provided no guarantee of supply from the Fatherland. Spee's ships required large quantities of coal in which to operate and this could not be relied on by the German possessions or allies in the region. Due to the demands of re-coaling Spee felt compelled to either order his ships to operate individually as privateers in order to take supplies by force, which would break-up his command, or to stay together and attempt to break out of the Pacific and make their way back to the security of the High Seas Fleet in Germany. Being a naval officer from the 'old school', Spee decided to keep his forces together and attempt a passage back to home waters.
Conversely, the British, while commanding a huge fleet, possessed a far-flung empire, which divided both its resources and attention. The vast majority of England's most modern warships where husbanded in home waters to face the German High Seas Fleet and to secure the critical Atlantic convoy traffic supplying Great Britain. It therefore fell to a polyglot force of mismatched assets under Admiral Sir Christopher Craddock to face the challenge of tracking down and confronting Spee's squadron. Craddock held no illusions to the chances of his success but hoped that with a little luck he could maul Spee's force and give a good account from his command.
On the afternoon of November 1, around 100 miles offshore of Coronel, Chile, the two squadrons sighted each other, closed and engaged.
The action will start upon the opposing fleets first sighting each other at approximately 26000 yards. Spee's German squadron is composed of the two modern armoured cruisers Scharnhorst (his flagship) and Gneisnau, along with three light cruisers Leipzig, Nurnberg and Dresden. Craddock's British command is made up of his flagship, the old armoured cruiser Good Hope, two other armoured cruisers, the Monmouth, and the Defence, along with the light cruiser Glasgow and an armed merchantman Otranto. (Please note: the Defence has been added for greater play balance as historically it was not at the engagement, being in transit at this time to support Craddock.)
John and I played the Germans. I took the two armoured Cruisers, and John took the three light cruisers. Gary and Curt played the British. Gary had the Good Hope and Monmouth, while Curt took the Defence, Glasgow and Otranto.
(Remember: click on the pictures for a bigger version)
The starting position of the German Far East Squadron lead by my two armoured cruisers; the Gneisnau and Scharnhorst.
The British Squadron.
Close up of the Defense – aren’t they just lovely little ships?! Bravo, Curt!
The Monmouth and Good Hope.
The Gneisnau and Scharnhorst
The first couple turns we spent turning our line around and trying to close the distance between the squadrons to give ourselves a bit better chance of hitting. The Light cruisers with only 4.2” guns would have to get quite close.
Looking back we (John and I) probably could have each taken one of the Armoured Cruisers and a couple of the Light Cruisers and just stood off and pummeled the British Squadron from a distance. I was surprised how quickly they actually closed….
The British broke their line-ahead formation and came at us as a gaggle.
For the first half dozen turns or so – which were closing and maneuvering we had a line down the center of the table that represented 10000 yards – this is taken shortly after we had closed enough distance that it could be removed. In the foreground is the British Squadron. In the distance are the Germans.
Around this time we stared exchanging long range shots.
Now the germans have finished turning and are in a full line-ahead formation and the Gneisnau and Scharnhorst are starting to pound the British.
The Gneisnau and Scharnhorst have turned to give the British broadsides and the lighter cruisers are carrying on ahead to close the distance some more.
The British are taking a pounding – that’s four penetrating hits on the Defence from the Gneisnau on Turn 11– resulting in Main Turret damage, Bulkhead damage, and an Engineering Critical…. OI!!!
The next turn the Gneisnau scored another 5 hits on the Defence, including another main turret hit and THREE more bulkhead hits. The Defence went down with all hands…
I think this is the Good Hope taking hits from the Scharnhorst. Their first volley caused ammunition and BRIDGE criticals – Killing Craddock!!! Luckily they flooded the magazine and the whole ship didn’t go up on the first volley… but they were essentially done at this point.
The next turn one of John’s ships, the Nurnberg, got a shot in on the Good Hope causing a Fire Control critical – not sure what the effect was… but it sounded drastic!
This must still be turn 12 because the Defense is still out there… not for long though…
This is probably Turn 13 – the Glasgow, the one with all the big sploosh markers in the background) is being pounded by the German Light Cruisers. The Leipzig (in the immediate foreground) took some serious damage from the British. I can’t remember if it sank…
The Gneisnau and Scharnhorst, in the middle of the picture are actually firing broadsides at the Good Hope and the Monmouth which are off to the right.
The Good Hope taking some more hits.
This is Turn 15 – the last turn we played. Having sunk the Monmouth the previous turn the Gneisnau started firing back at the Glasgow (which had been firing at it for a couple turns).
On this last turn the Scharnhorst sank the Good Hope and we called it a game….
I was the Bulkhead sniper I don’t think there was a turn that I wasn’t causing bulkhead hits on one ship or anther once the shooting started – and they seemed pretty nasty; if you damage control parties didn’t seal them off in the damage control segment they just kept filling up your ship. In a couple of instances I caused multiple bulkhead hits on the same ship in the same turn and only one could possibly be repaired each so it was guaranteed further damage in the following turn – which sank t least one a ship…
This was a totally fun game (THANKS CURT!) …and I’m not just saying that because we utterly destroyed the British Squadron – we all pretty much knew it was going to work out that way from the get-go. I would have had just as much fun playing the British – seeing how much damage I could do before heading to Davey Jones Locker.
I have to say when Curt busted out the play sheets the tables and charts all looked rather intimidating! Once we actually figured out what they all meant (which wasn't so difficult as I initially imagined) it was really rather simple and played very quickly. Four of us (three who had never played the system and were completely ignorant of Great War naval combat), playing with about 5-6 ships, all picked it up rather quickly and played out the engagement in 3-4 hours (and there was a lot of side discussion taking place). The scale of the action seemed about right. I'm not sure how really large actions would play out; I could see it bogging down a bit.
It’s got me thinking again about making my own little generic looking Great War ships… (in the same vein as my sailing ships - except they’d be skinnier, grey and lacking sails…. Maybe I’d even try modeling some of the larger turrets… (Stay on target! STAY ON TARGET!!!)
Coming soon on Tim’s Miniature Wargaming Blog:
I’m thinking I might take the next week or two off painting and modeling figures to finish Taking Stock, and maybe work on a bit of terrain…