Monday, 26 March 2012

Fletcher Pratt Naval War Game

Yesterday saw the monthly gathering of the Jockey's Field Irregulars, and today's game used Fletcher Pratt's Naval War Game rules. The scenario was based on an attempt by the German Navy to attack and – if possible – destroy a convoy on its way from the UK to Russia.

As I had supplied all the merchant ships that made up the convoy, it was natural that I was given command of the convoy of twelve merchant ships and its close escort. The latter comprised a light cruiser (Dido-class), two destroyers (Tribal-class), and two minesweepers (one Algerine-class and one Bangor-class). The distant escort comprised a King George V-class battleship, HMS Renown (a battle cruiser), two County-class heavy cruisers, and four destroyers (including a US Navy vessel). The German attackers included two battleships (Tirpitz and Scharnhorst), a heavy cruiser (Admiral Hipper), and four destroyers.

The battle began with the German force sailing straight for the convoy, which immediately signalled the distant escort for support. This initially came in the form of the two County-class heavy cruisers, which were followed soon afterwards by the battleship, battle cruiser, and destroyers.

The British heavy cruisers engaged the Germans, and although several merchant ships were hit and sunk by gunfire from the German battleships and cruiser, the Germans eventually had to switch their fire to engage the British cruisers. The cruisers did not emerge from this confrontation unscathed. They had, however, achieved their purpose and given time for the British heavy units to join the battle, and the latter scored several telling hits on the German warships.

The British destroyers closed upon the enemy, and the cruiser and destroyers from the convoy's close escort turned to engage the oncoming German destroyers. The convoy, escorted by the minesweepers, used this opportunity to turn away from the Germans.

The battle had – by now – degenerated into something of a melee, with both sides firing whole shoals of torpedoes at each other, mainly to force their opponents to turn away. Both sides also laid down smoke, and the Germans used it to attempt to disengage from the melee. This proved to be only partially successful, as one British destroyer managed to sneak close enough to the Tirpitz to hit her with torpedoes. This sealed the ship's fate, and she sank soon afterwards. This marked the end of the battle.

The loss of Tirpitz ensured a British victory, although it was only achieved at a considerable cost in terms of ships and men. Almost half the convoy had been sunk as had one of the British cruisers and several of the destroyers. Of particular note was the shooting conducted by the British heavy units, which was both accurate and effective.

The Germans. (The arrow-shaped 'Post-it' notes were used as firing arrows throughout the battle.)
Scharnhorst.
The British heavy units: A King George V-class battleship and HMS Renown.
The two British County-class heavy cruisers, one of which is under fire.
One of the British heavy cruisers fires back.
Two of the British destroyers. (One is actually a US Navy unit serving alongside the Royal Navy; the other ship is a British Tribal-class destroyer.)
The convoy comes under attack, and HMS Hermione (the heaviest unit of the convoy escort) is hit by three enemy shells. (The red upturned golf tees show the hits; the others show misses.)
HMS Hermione was hit by three German shells. They reduced her speed to 25 knots for the rest of the battle.
The German heavy units open fire again.
Admiral Hipper and three of the German destroyers move towards the convoy.
The British heavy units engage the enemy with very accurate long-range gunfire.
The convoy's close escort turn to engage the oncoming Germans.
The German destroyers fire torpedoes (the tracks of the torpedoes are shown here by pipe-cleaners) whilst the heavy units turn away and make a break for home.
The Tirpitz is hit by four heavy shells fired by the British heavy units. She was subsequently hit by several torpedoes, and these slowed her so that she could be finished off later in the battle by further gunfire and torpedoes.

16 comments:

  1. Sounds like a good game - an a good result for the RN in sinking the Tirpitz. Just one thing - where are all the photos of the convoy?

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  2. Tim Gow,

    It was a great game ... and the result was touch-and-go until almost the end.

    The convoy photos are a bit few and far between because I was spending too much time moving the ships and watching the action to take very many. I am sure that you recognise this problem from your own wargames.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  3. Great stuff Bob!

    How big was the playing area?

    Jim

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  4. A great game and a great write up - thank you

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  5. I normally use firing arrows to show torpedo launches. Then the other side often do no realise they have been launched for one turn, until the firing arrow starts to move.

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  6. Jim Duncan,

    It was a very enjoyable game.

    We fought the battle in an area that must have been about 18' x 18'.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. Pat G,

    I am glad that you enjoyed reading this battle report. It was great fun taking part, even though I did lose half of my convoy.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  8. Lecturer,

    This sounds like a rather devious idea ... and one I might try one day.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  9. Looks like a good game.

    How many players?

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  10. Conrad Kinch,

    It was a great game.

    There were four British and three German players plus two umpires.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  11. Ross Mac,

    If you have never tried Fletcher Pratt's Naval War Game, you ought to. It is great fun.

    The game is very easy to play and enjoy ... but the preparatory work can be very extensive and tedious.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  12. Fletcher Pratt can be a really fun game. We played one time years ago on a basketball court using the large floor ranges and 1/600th scale models. The Japanese admiral was in the Yamato, and headed straight at the enemy to close the range, figuring he wouldn't be hit that far away. One of the opposing battleships walked his ladder right up the deck, long range plunging fire. It put the Yamato clear out of the action. We had a very cranky Japanese admiral on hand for the rest of the game. :)

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  13. Bill,

    I have never used the rules with anything larger than 1:1200th-scale models ... but I would love to try them with 1:600th-scale!

    I love the story about the Yamato, I can imagine the Japanese player's 'displeasure' at what happened. Many years ago I commanded the Fuso in a battle where she took on a group of pre-dreadnoughts ... and she was like a fox in a hen house! Each of her salvoes hit and sank an enemy ship. The opposing player was not very happy, and accused me of having range calibrated glasses.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  14. Geordie an Exiled FoG,

    Most of the models are quite simple ones 'made from the box' (or in my case, made from basswood!) that have been painted as best they can be by their makers. They are not 'works of art', but the do the job well enough.

    As to the game ... well if you have never tried Fletcher Pratt's Naval War Game rules, you ought to. They are great fun to use, and employ a bit a skill rather than pure luck ... which is a big 'plus' in my book.

    All the best,

    Bob

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