Friday, 19 January 2018

Russo-Jap War Naval: Port Arthur Break Out (Part 6) Freedom or Death?

Yet another similar looking Russian photo of the "enraged" cruiser action (the lighter ships do seem to get hurt when they get hit). A this point the Japanese cruisers seem to have the upper hand. The Russian battleships seem to have a fairly straightforward run off table (see below):

A vicious round of gunfire sees a damaged Japanese battleship (red hit) top left, in the middle of the battle line, but in return a pounding of the Russian flagship causing a critical hit, a steering jam pointing her to the side of the table (away from the target bottom edge) and a morale failure which hurts even further the thought/chance of getting off table. Meanwhile another "silenced" Russian protected cruiser but a huge crippling explosion on the lead Japanese protected cruiser (silenced and dead in the water). Additionally the Mikasa leading the two armoured cruisers is getting back into the fray (see below):

Not caught on camera was the escape of the battered Russian protected cruisers to Vladivostok via courtesy of the of the world/table edge "fog bank". The Russian battleships were in chaos as despite fixing the steering the Russian flagship could not fix its morale as quickly. So as they headed for the wrong edge of the table the remaining (one had sunk) Japanese protected cruisers sallied forth in a do or die torpedo attack on the meandered Russian First Battleship Division. They took severe damage from the Russian battleships but also managed to silence the last remaining Russian cruiser [the Rurik I think] (see below):

A lot of action was missed but this photograph helps in a way fill in the missing gaps. In the top of the picture (middle) the old (obsolete) Japanese battleships are departing along with the Japanese protected cruisers. For all their valor they scored no hits with their torpedoes. They did however delay the Russian battleships to allow the Japanese (modern) battleships and armoured cruisers to close to effective range. The Second Russian Battleship Division is seen middle right. It has to be said the Japanese obsolete battleships still managed to deliver telling blows on each of them, as they all carry a red permanent damage marker. Honour, praise and respect for their courageous commander. Down at the bottom of the picture the First Russian Battleship Division is making its bid for freedom. However the Japanese Battleship Squadron is "peppering" their tail. The Japanese armoured cruisers are once again in the fray in a supporting fire role, but trying not to block "line of sight" from the bigger more deadly battleship calibre guns (see below): 

There is a huge explosion from the last in line Russian battleship, as she goes from damaged, to silenced, to then crippled (aka dead in the water). To remove the crippled status it would take too many "Command Points" so the Russian Admiral pragmatically knows she is doomed. In the back ground the Second Russian Battleship Division's rear ship also suffers a critical hit leaving her chugging along at half speed. Not what you wanted when you were two full speed turns from exiting! (see below):

Another "almost duplicate" Russian photograph. The only thing to add was that the unfortunate half-speed Russian battleship also became silenced (see below, well actually the one Russian ship you cannot see is off table top left silenced):

End Game: 

The game as it ended (there was a family keen to sit down and eat their supper) as night fell. Where have all the Russians gone? All off to Vladivostok I suspect apart from one crippled stationary battleship and one critically damaged half speed battleship (their names sadly escaped me) that the Japanese have eyes on sinking. A third lingers top right but will depart into the "end of the world" fog bank (see below):

The verdict?

Well most of the Russian Fleet is off table heading to a friendly port (albeit some perhaps looking like a colander). However they are shell torn (certainly the cruisers) and battle worn (battleship wise). The Japanese Admiral was keen to claim the two Russian "limpers" as sunk or captured. That would mean an even 4:4 ratio in battleships, but he also has a squadron of armoured cruisers. Yes he did lose a couple of protected cruisers (and a few more damaged) but it was the battleships he was after. Now strategically the Russian can feel more happy. As he knows the Second Pacific Squadron (along with the Third Pacific Battle Squadron) is en route (if they can get past the Hull fishing fleet that is). So when they turn up instead on a breakthrough to Vladivostok Operation Mark II, Togo is facing a potential "pincer movement".

Tactical: Japanese
Strategic: Russian Advantage

The rules: Simple and brilliant, highly recommended, all I have to do is now go away and read them!

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Russo-Jap War Naval: Port Arthur Break Out (Part 5) Tooth and Claw

The Russian Admiral seemed to like to take very similar "pairs" of photographs. Perhaps Russian intelligence have developed a stereoscopic 3D image viewer? Anyway, top left you can see a pesky Russian destroyer flotilla have laid a defensive smokescreen to cunningly shield the main squadron of Japanese battleships from hitting the First Russian Battleship Squadron. Over to top right, the revers situation is in play where a Japanese destroyer flotilla shield the Japanese Obsolete Battleship Squadron from Russian battleships. Meanwhile the two squadrons of protected cruisers (one Japanese and one Russian) fight it out at the bottom of the picture. One Russian protected cruiser has received critical rudder damage and it sailing in the "wrong direction". To the left hand side the Mikasa and the two Japanese armoured cruisers have reformed from their disorder and are attempting to reenter the battle. The Russians are hoping to vigorously "punch through" (see below):

The same scene from a slightly different angle. The Russian heavy forces look like they might just have enough momentum to push on through, if the Japanese Protected Cruiser Squadron can be disposed of (see below):

The smokescreens dissipate and a maelstrom of battleship gunfire erupts. Although it is within effective range the renewed opening bout of salvos are strangely bloodless. The Russian destroyer flotilla (now without torpedoes) which has strayed too close to the Japanese Battleship Squadron is however damaged for its troubles. The major conflict here is between the protected cruisers at the bottom of the picture  (see below):

Spot the difference? A missing orange tape measure? Note the Mikasa bottom left, taking  apop at the protected cruisers (see below):

Again the Russian Admiral was keen to take "composite" shots of the scene from various slightly different angles. Nice photographic composition (see below):

Note: The edge of the table seen [right] below is no good as the Russian Fleet has to escape to the bottom of the table, past the Japanese protected cruisers.

Panning out you can just see the "exit table edge" to the right hand side and the orange Japanese tape measure on the left hand side (see below, bottom right):

The cruiser action up close. In the initial exchange the Japanese were besting the Russians as all the Russian ships were carrying permanent "red damage" markers. It is just the question as to whether the Japanese can get in a killing blow. A second hit is "silenced", but a third would be "crippled". The only thing to add is that the Russian battleship van is also "carrying damage" with two out of three of the battleships carrying a "red" hit (see below):

The battle is approaching its climax!

Next: The Final Push

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Russo-Jap War Naval: Port Arthur Break Out (Part 4) A Crisis Point in the Breakout Battle

The battle has formed as the Japanese Admiral Togo wants it. He it heavily engaged with a portion of the Russian battle fleet (thus having a slight numerical 4:3 advantage) and is trading blows to his advantage,#. Also by threatening to cross the Russian "tee" they are changing course, The old obsolete battle squadron is catching up and his protected cruisers are on course to intercept the Russian protected cruisers. Tojo is much more interested in stooping the Russian battleships from escaping (see below):

A close up of the battleship action sees that the Japanese have traded two 'red damage' hits given to one taken. At this point it is critical they follow up and cripple the engaged Russian battleship squadron by pressing home and taking the initiative (see below):

However the Japanese Admiral faces a dilemma as at the rear of his battle line, where the armoured cruisers are stationed in a separate division, they have been worsted by the Russian protected cruisers and long range battleship gunnery from the second Russian battleship squadron. The lead armoured cruiser is silenced with critical steering damage, swinging out of line of battle (see below): 

Suddenly all is chaos. There is a profusion of destroyers laying defensive smoke screens (using the ever so useful 'belly button fluff' from the tumble dryer). A Russian destroyer flotilla shielding herself from the long range fire of Japanese obsolete battleships (see below, top left), a Japanese destroyer flotilla shielding the obsolete Japanese battleships from the Russian second battleship squadron (see below top right) and finally retreating armoured cruisers from the Russian protected cruisers and long range Russian battleship fire (see below, bottom right). Confused? That's how the battle was. Very confusing! In addition to all the smoke the Mikasa had suffered a second red hit silencing her and in addition took a critical steering hit. This deluge of damage demanded a morale test which Togo failed (in a very untimely and uncharacteristic way) and the Mikasa sadly limped out of line (see below bottom left above the Japanese protected cruiser squadron). The three remaining Japanese battleships still managed to maintain contact with the Russian first battleship squadron, keeping the contest "hot" (see below):

The Russian Admiral senses a chance to achieve his "breakout". He is over half-way down the table [two thirds if you look at the lead Russian protected cruiser squadron -see below bottom/middle right] and the Japanese barrier of impenetrable (mostly British made Vickers Armstrong) steel has been broken into three parts. The obsolete Japanese battleships are engaging the Russian second battleship squadron to their disadvantage, the three Japanese battleships are crossing the reverse "tee" of the Russian first battleship squadron and Mikasa has been recovered (spending lots of command points to remove the second red damage marker indicating "silenced") and has formed a composite battle squadron (see below, middle/bottom left) with the disengaged Japanese armoured cruisers. Finally the Japanese protected cruisers have positioned themselves in a good place to cross the Russian protected cruisers "tee" (see below): 

The Japanese commander has command and control headaches. Togo needs to bring the disparate elements of his battle squadron together and attack the Russian battle squadron before they "turn the corner". This may mean sacrificing the obsolete battleships (well fully committing them .. to almost assured destruction ) and bringing the Mikasa back into the action as soon as possible. The down side is that the Russian Admiral, with an uncharacteristic national attribute (for a 1904-05 Russian Admiral), has been astute, resolute and has managed to coordinate and concentrate his forces effectively.

Note: At this point the Japanese Admirals camera phone "ran out of power". Fear not, the Russian Admiral took over and has supplied photographs from the "Russian perspective" of the second half of the battle. The "race to the edge of the table/world".

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Russo-Jap War Naval: Port Arthur Break Out (Part 3) Fire All Guns that bear at the Bear!

The Russian destroyers sweep past their Japanese counterparts unabashed and bravely face the "obsolete Japanese battleship's secondary armament" which proves to still have teeth as well as ornate paintwork. One Russian destroyer flotilla is "dispersed" (some sunk, some damaged and some morale broken) and takes no further part in the battle. The second Russian destroyer flotilla conducts a torpedo attack but is unsuccessful (see below, red shell splashes indicate where the first Russian destroyer flotilla used to be):

From the "viewpoint of the gods". The Russian Fleet is steaming down the middle of the table, bar the destroyer attack on the top right of the photograph. The objective of the Russian Admiral is to breakout to Vladivostok with as much as his fleet as possible. The Japanese have him hemmed in on three sides (see below, Togo and the battle fleet to the bottom, protected cruisers to the left and obsolete battleships to the right):

The Japanese main battle line find the range of the leading Russian battleships. The Japanese Admiral chose (unwisely) to engage opposites and thus spread damage along the enemy battle line, whereas the Russian Admiral chose to concentrate his fire on the Mikasa (and Admiral Togo) and try and take him out of the battle (see below):

The IJN Mikasa bears the brunt of the Russian fire but sails majestically on (see below):

Meanwhile the Russian "protected cruisers" come into range of the two Japanese "armoured cruisers" trailing the main Japanese battle line and score a damaging hit on the leading Russian ship (see below):

Good shooting by the Russians "returns the compliment" and the IJN Nishin is rather unexpectedly damaged in the exchange of fire. At this juncture the Russians are in danger of having their "tee" crossed but paradoxically they need to surge through the enemy lines at all costs (see below):

Telling blows are being landed at this point. The Russians and Japanese are committing their battleships to a "slugging dual". The end of the table is an artificial "end of the world" and represents either a fuel limit or fog bank that saves/hides any ship that enters.

Next: Forcing the Gate (or not)

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Russo-Jap War Naval: Port Arthur Break Out (Part 2) Action Stations

On patrol outside of Port Arthur, aboard the flagship Mikasa, Admiral Togo sees the unmistakable form of the Russian Fleet in battle order steaming directly at him. He sets in motion the signals to concentrate all the Japanese battle squadrons which are currently in three separate formations: The main battle squadron, a squadron of protected cruisers and a third squadron of obsolete old battleships (see below, "The Russian First Pacific Fleet" in a condensed sailing formation trying to bust the Japanese encirclement):

Sensing an opportunity to strike first the Russian commander orders his destroyers to concentrate on the obsolete Japanese battleship squadron (see below, in the top part of the picture two Russian destroyers head towards the Japanese battle line). If nothing else this desperate attack should delay their  arrival in the main theatre of action and increase the odds for the Russian breakout to be successful. As a countermeasure the Japanese Vice Admiral detaches his destroyer formation for protection (see below):   

Meanwhile the Japanese third force appears on the horizon. A squadron of four protected cruisers with another destroyer flotilla. Note: They are armed with small relatively calibre guns but carry torpedoes with are a greater threat (see below):

The Japanese destroyers trade blows with their Russian counterparts, however given the 2:1 odds some Russian destroyers are bound to get through. The Japanese obsolete battleships main their secondary armament in anticipation of a fierce battle to come (see below):

Away from the destroyer action the main contest begins at long range. The Japanese expertise in gunnery shows (or was it just the dice) as the Retvizan suffers the first serious damage of the contest. First blood to the Imperial Japanese Navy. Note: The significance of this is that it is permanent damage and cannot be repaired. This means the Russian ship has a negative Dice Roll Modifier (DRM) in its attack rolls (see below):

The van of the Imperial Russian First Pacific Battle Squadron (First Division) is surrounded in long range shell splashes. At this point it in teh proceedings it becomes apparent that the odds are 4:3 in the Japanese favour, as four Japanes battleships are firing to the three Russian Battleships. A small tactical advantage the Japanese wants to use, particularly as there are three Russian battleships lurking yet to be engaged (as in the The Imperial Russian First Pacific Battle Squadron, Second Division). Unbeknownst to the Russians the Japanese have actually lost two battleships that were struck by mines and floundered outside Port Arthur. To supplement their depleted battle line and make it back up to a round "six" Tojo has pulled in two armoured cruisers to "strengthen the line". However it is a very mute point as to whether or not these armoured cruisers really want to go toe-to-toe with a battleship, even if it is a Russian battleship. Currently they are sight seeing events at the back of the battle line (see below, the armoured cruisers are out of the picture but following on bottom right, a friendly squadron of Japanese destroyers can also be seen bottom right):     

Next: Time to Trade Big Blows

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

28mm Soviet Project - Chain of Command: Stalingrad Campaign (Order of Battle)

Reading history is interesting, reading rules can be a "rewarding" chore (there is always some pain involved) being part maths and part logic, but then sometimes something as strange as the evolution of an Order of Battle provides more curious insights, reflecting on "what happened" over time.

Consider the Chain of Command WWII Soviet Rifle Platoon Order of Battle ... imagine you are a Soviet NCO junior section leader. When war broke out (Barbarossa 1941) you commanded eight rifleman and a LMG pair (and there were four sections to a platoon commanded by a Senior Lt Leader). By end of July 1942, in each section, two of those rifleman had been killed and not replaced [25% down on a full pre-War complement]. Then comes along a cauldron like Stalingrad. My forces (a full Soviet Rifle Platoon) start on the "friendly" Russian bank of the Volga looking across the river into the fiery maelstrom that is now Stalingrad. The campaign starts with 3d6 casualties from this "daylight" crossing: I roll a 6, 6 and a 1 which equals 13 dead, MIA or wounded. Urggh not a great start (see below, black shaded area indicate pre-Stalingrad "wear and tear" on Soviet formations up to this point, the scored through circles casualties because of 'enemy fire' on the Volga crossing, obviously a barge or two took a direct hit!):

There were "thirteen" casualties (horrendous in other words), spread across four sections, which  means taking away  3, 3, 3, 4 soldiers respectfully. I deplete each section's riflemen accordingly, leaving the LMG teams and Junior SMG leader intact. Boy does this look "fragile"! I then decide to disband one "fragile" section to "pump-up" the others. The first section gets the LMG team and two rifle troops, the second section gets a rifleman  and the third section gets the demoted Junior Leader - probably now wielding a rifle (see below):

The battle damage to the platoon means it is probably 'en route' to the later Stalingrad Order of Battle where sections start to reduce rifles and bump up their LMG content to two where possible!

Monday, 8 January 2018

WWII 20mm Soviet "Shadow" Project

As you may know from what I have already posted in 2017/2018 I am engaged with one new "active" wargaming project, i.e. collaboration with a group of "like minded wargaming individuals" to put on a 'mini' Chain of Command campaign in early spring 2018 , the twist being it is in 28mm. Hence the "I am gonna do this thing" 28mm painting posts to jump start my efforts. You may also recall  my wargaming world view is that 20mm is "the one true [certainly in Skirmish "What You See Is What You Get" (WYSIWYG) and possibly higher level (MegaBlitz probably "yes", but Command Decision a "maybe" or "no" [if there are lots of tanks flying about]) aka the Operational Art of War level] WWII wargaming scale". All other scales are whims and fancies, the dragon's teeth thrown down by the necromancer in Jason and the Argonauts! OK. I think I had an early, formative Airfix experience when I was young, my older brothers gave me lots of Airfix "presents". Hence as I descend into this 28mm madness I have hatched a cunning 20mm "escape plan". I will replicate my 28mm OrdBat in 'fresh' 20mm as well. Mirroring the Warlord Soviet 28mm Winter Infantry is the Plastic Soldier Company (PSC) 20mm-1/72 Summer Russian Infantry Platoon (see below):

I immediately noticed one 20mm advantage, there are "more of them" per box. That means one PSC 20mm Russian Infantry box contains more than enough infantry to complete the full Russian Stalingrad platoon OrdBat I am after without the annoying need to supplement 'gaps' with expensive metals or begging unwanted LMGs from other people's plastic sprues, or buy another expensive 28mm "box" of figures. Besides that I literally have hundreds of other plastic (even metal) Russian figures I could pull in at a stretch to fill in any of those "silly gaps" + required support options, seriously NO PROBLEM. I am not going to purchase a 28mm Soviet Tank! Additionally I really like the PSC Soviet Infantry as I think they have plenty of character and are nicely posed. Therefore this is a "win-win" scenario for me (see below):

Hence the first Stalingrad Chain of Command (CoC) Platoon has now been primed in my preferred Airfix Acrylic (01) Grey. I hope to shadow the 28mm in 20mm as it progresses along (Note: Madness would mean I should also paint the 15mm PSC Soviet Infantry I have .. but I don't think I'll go there just yet)!

Note to self: This mean I am slightly updating my 20mm Russian WWII Infantry Painting Guide

Painting Prep Phase:

  • Step 1: Fix washed plastic soldier to a base via UHU glue
  • Step 2: Apply Airfix Acrylic Grey Primer (01)
  • Step 3: (Next) Wash figures in Vallejo Brown Wash