Thursday 14 February 2013

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.


  1. Hi Bob,

    Cracking little playtest! I suggest the next coastal artillery project may be to build a larger version of the two medium guns to be placed in the central redoubt.

    The Fezians are sure to retaliate in some fashion - perhaps deploying some light, quick-firing artillery for close in work or possibly even some minefields although I suspect the central channel may be too deep.

    Perhaps the Fezians may consider building a fort on the island as well.

    The models looked really good and I am thinking about one of those Hexon forts for my own use!

    All the best,


  2. David Crook,

    I thought that you might like this battle report!

    I am already planning to build some larger coastal defence guns as well as deploying field artillery to bulk up the close defences of the fortress. I am also looking at how to portray minefields on the sea hexes as well as the possibility of some land-based torpedo tubes.

    Building defences on the Island of Naverona might be a little too difficult ... but you never know!

    All the best,


  3. The island could do with a fort like Hoo or Darnet in the Medway. (They show up well on google eart)

  4. Nigel Drury,

    That is certainly the sort of fortification I would like to have on the island.

    All the best,


  5. Mines, torpedo boats, chain and log booms, gun rafts, local fishing boats, hidden reefs, sudden squalls.

    I'm sure there's more!

  6. Jim Duncan,

    I somehow think that some of the things that you mention in your comment might appear in a future battle.

    All the best,


  7. You could depict mines with paper punches. You could use a darker shade of blue to hint at how they would appear from the surface. Scrap-booking stores have punches that produce different shapes-perhaps a star.

    The number placed in a hex would indicate field density, and any ship passing through that hex would have to roll higher than the number present to avoid hitting one. Perhaps use a D10 or D12 to give ships a fair chance. And of course if a ship hits one, remove one of the markers.

    If you employ minesweepers, you could let them roll trying to get under the number to safely explode a mine. But if they roll the exact number-oops! Boom! Maybe give the sweeper two attempts each time it passes through the hex.

    Actually it just occurred to me that you might be able to find adhesive stickers (dots & stars) that would work and stay in place better.

  8. SAROE,

    Thanks for the plethora of ideas for minefields. I will investigate their potential over the next week or so.

    I have already written some draft rules for minefields on the assumption that they would be command minefields (i.e. exploded by an observer onshore using an electric circuit) rather than contact mines.

    All the best,


  9. How about 'disappearing guns'? On Ripapa Island near Christchurch (actually almost inside Lyttelton Harbour) there is a Fort Jervois on the site of a former Maori pa. It was equipped with 4 disappearing guns, each it is own circular emplacement. They were raised to shoot, and lowered to reload.

    The guns were arranged in a trapezoid, all facing seaward or across the harbour, and behind them was an observation emplacement protected overhead by metal plate. Clearance for observation would have been less than a foot, and would have been near invisible from the sea.

    The installation was built late in the 19th Century, and equipped with heavy, I think Blakely, rifles. The motive for building it was a panic in New Zealand that was occasioned by news that a Russian invasion force was headed this way (I kid you not. Of course no such Russian expedition was ever considered, let alone planned and put into effect).

    This whole project looks wonderful, Bob: great stuff!

  10. Great looking game Bob! I played one the other night with almost the exact results, using two medium guns vs.a Us monitor armed with two heavy guns.
    "Sand bars" and current forced the Monitor to close within range of the fort. A very nice little action for both of us.

  11. Archduke Piccolo (Ion),

    I would love to be able to model guns on disappearing mounts, but at present I am not sure how to achieve a working solution. If and when I do, I will certainly give it a go.

    The guns were raised using hydraulics, and the recoil forced them back below the parapet of the gun pit. When they were in the gun pit, they were almost invisible.

    I knew a little about the 'Russian Invasion Scare' in Australia and New Zealand; it led to the building of quite a few coastal defence positions around major cities as well as several torpedo and gun boats.

    All the best,


  12. Steven Page,

    What an amazing coincidence! I look forward to reading your battle report at some time in the future.

    All the best,


  13. At Crownhill fort near Plymouth they have a restored Moncrieff disappearing mounting for one of the fort's guns. We were lucky to visit for its first public demonstration a few years ago. It had been funded with lottery money, nice to see it going on something worthwhile.

  14. Nigel Drury,

    I will try to visit the fort next time I am in that part of the West Country. It sounds like it would be very worthwhile ... as well as being a good use of National Lottery funds.

    All the best,


  15. I was initially going to suggest the Fezians put a couple of field guns on a ferry and drop them on Naverona - South Georgia style.

    However with all the other excellent suggestions, I this might be an ideal scenario for a card driven defense system. Pick the edge you enter on. Maneouver to maximum gun range and draw a defence card. These could include nothing, minefields, fortified island, disappearing gun, torpedo boat, poor weather and so forth.

    Nothing game breaking but just enough to add a little fog tot he table.

  16. Pat G,

    Thanks for the excellent ideas. The card-driven defence options would certainly make the scenario repeatable several times without the circumstances being the same .

    All the best,



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