Sunday, 27 January 2013

Adding a naval dimension

The response to yesterday's blog entry about my two play-tests was somewhat of a surprise – and an encouragement – to me. I had never before considered that the idea of wargaming a battle between ships and coastal/shore defences – either as the precursor to an amphibious landing or as a separate military operation in its own right – would appeal to anyone else ... but it obviously does.

I was already thinking about how I could include the effects of coastal artillery gunfire on warships in the next draft of the PORTABLE WARGAME rules, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that what I needed to do was to add a whole naval dimension to my PORTABLE WARGAME rules. I had already written a set of optional rules that allow aircraft to be included (and which are a self-contained set of air combat rules in their own right) and it seemed to me that I needed to do the same for ships.


My starting point is going to be my existing PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME rules. They follow the same format as the other PORTABLE WARGAME rules, but will need to undergo some revision in order to be compatible with the existing rules.

8 comments:

  1. Bob,

    While trolling through the freebies from Amazon for the Kindle, I ran across "The Great War in England of 1897" by William LeQueux. It's an alarmist novel depicting how a Franco-Russian Alliance conquered the country because Britain had let its army and navy (especially the latter) decline to the point where they could no longer safeguard her shores. It came to mind because of your posts about imaginary wars and (most recently) coastal bombardments.

    I wouldn't call it a great novel, but the ideas for scenarios are certainly there, and you can't beat the price!

    Best regards,

    Chris

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  2. Chris,

    Thanks for the recommendation. I read Le Queux's book last year (along with his THE INVASION and Saki's WHEN WILLIAM CAME), and had forgotten about the Russian and German attacks on the coastal towns along the East Coast.

    You are right about the book not being great fiction ... but you are also right about it being a great source for scenarios.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  3. Although I am not a Naval gamer per se, I find this line of expansion a very interesting one. I thought you had already covered it in the draft available, but look forward to developments.

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  4. Sean,

    The rules I am writing are essentially naval rules that will integrate with my existing PORTABLE WARGAME rules, and should be seen as an adjunct to them. I am, however, trying to ensure that they can be used as a stand-alone set of naval wargames rules … but I doubt that they will appeal to the ‘purist’ naval wargamer.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  5. A promising project you have ... stumbled? ... into! I once played a (sort of) combined ops ACW game in which half the table was a stretch the Mississippi River, and the other half the shore, upon which stood the CSA Fort Cushion (you've heard of the more well-known Ft Pillow, I dare say...). The land forces were my Airfix plastics; the naval my wooden scratchbuilds in 1:300 scale.

    The result was a near-run tactical victory for the Confederates, though I rather think the had the thing been a campaign game, rather than a pick-up, they would have abandoned the place overnight.

    The plan was a Divisional assault supported by a battery of mortar barges, they being protected by Eads gunboats and an Ellet ram.

    The Confederates had a Brigade field force, a small fort garrison, and, coming upstream to help, a flotilla of cottonclad rams.

    To cut the long story short, the Confederate navy fought the Union gunboats to a standstill, although one of the latter got close enough to start firing into the fort at point blank range. The Union land forced forced the Rebs off the banks of a small tributary stream, crossed a tract of cleared timber and broke into the fort. At one point, the garrison had turned a couple of the smaller guns around and were firing across the parade ground into the Union soldiers surging over the works.

    At last, so close to victory, the Union had lost so many troops they fell back out of the fort and withdrew into the forested country to the north. But the South had taken damage as appalling, their riverine fleet decimated, the protecting Brigade practically destroyed, and the garrison severely reduced. I believe the Union still had their mortar barges.

    The main problem came with scales. On land one gun represents 4 in my rule set, but one vessel represents one vessel. Rather arbitrarily I called 2 naval guns as the equivalent of 4 field. That is to say, where a model field piece got one die, a broadside of 4 guns of an Eads gunboat got 2 dice. That seemed to work out all right, but it was an ad hoc decision.

    Fun game, though!

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  6. Archduke Piccolo (Ion),

    The battle you describe is the sort of action that I envisage using the naval aspect of my PORTABLE WARGAME rules to re-fight. (It also sounds like it was a lot of fun to fight!) I don’t just want to fight ship vs. shore battles, but ones where the ships will be in support of a land battle/opposed landing.

    Your battle is very typical of this sort of action, although the defenders do seem to have been luckier than most. I have been doing some research into shore bombardments, and by the last twenty five years of the nineteenth century the balance had shifted in favour of the bombarding ships, except where they were up against purpose-built steel and concrete coastal defences. Even then it took considerable firepower to reduce the defences they did face.

    The problem you mention with regard to scales is one that I am currently struggling with. I suspect that I will have to compromise along similar lines to those that you have outlined.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. Bob:

    Further to your comment to Ion, I think the advantage to the naval bombardment goes back to the ACW and the advent of steam. Once a ship can maneuvre independently of wind, it can be a constantly moving, constantly unpredicatable target vice a stationary fortress. The only advantages the defender can build in are, as you say, defensive material, and upgraded armament.

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  8. Michael Peterson,

    The steam-powered warship did mark a major change in the conflict between land-based and ship-based artillery. The ship's ability to be able to move without having to rely on the wind gave it a flexibility that sail-powered warships did not have ... but when optical ranging and aiming equipment began to be introduced, the balance swung back in favour of land-based artillery that could fire on pre-registered target areas where the range and bearing were known.

    Naval bombardment is an interesting - and very important - aspect of warfare that is often ignored by military historian and wargamers alike.

    All the best,

    Bob

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