Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Turkish un-delight (DANG IX)

Monday was the ninth running of Dave's Annual Naval Game (DANG). This is a tradition among a group of friends. Dave Schueler, former submariner and fellow technical writer, hosts a naval game that gets about 6 to 8 of us together for a day-long operational/tactical naval affair. Dave provided a compendium of DANGs past on his blog Naval Gazing.

For all but DANG I, Dave has provided a small set of possible themes that we can vote on to determine the year's game. This year's voting inclined towards the Battle of Lepanto where Turkish naval forces under Ali Pasha got shellacked by the Holy League lead by Don John of Austria. To put your suspense at ease: no, history was not stood on its head in our game.

The ships were Figurehead/Hallmark 1:2400 scale galleys. Dave bought these in October and painted both fleets in record time. The ships come with their own bases, but Dave put these on 20mm x 40mm Litko 3mm thick wooden bases for better movement and getting the ships to line up in formations better.

The Christian fleet, galleasses in front
After a brief intro by Dave, we chose sides. The Turks were Kevin Smyth, Dave Creager, Paul Hannah, and me. The Holy League was Dale Mickel, George Kettler, Scott Murphy, and Mark Waddington. The game started with each side choosing its admirals. We had a list of historical characters with a small bit of information about each choice. After choosing, we were given more information about each admiral, such as how they may react in a battle. The final characteristic of the admirals would not be known until they actually got into a battle, when we would roll to see if they are superior, average, or poor. More on that below.

The first part of the game was an operational phase where each side jockeyed about attempting to raid enemy ports, consolidating our fleets, and seeking out the enemy. The Holy League managed one successful raid on the Turkish-held Dalmatian coast. Our attempted raid on Crete was a disaster resulting in a great loss of fighting crews. We had to slink back to a friendly port to get more soldiers for the fleet.

The fleets consolidating for the big clash
Paul seemed very interested in a raid on Venice, which looked much too formidable—especially after our Crete disaster. We feinted that way with a dummy fleet, but the Holy Leaguers didn't bite. As it was, the operational phase ended when our fully consolidated fleets met off the coast of southern Greece.

Now we rolled to see what our admirals' qualities would be. Of our for admirals, three were sucky and one was merely adequate. This would affect how well we handled our fleets. (The Christians, I believe, rolled better.)

The rules we used for the naval action were Christian Fire and Turkish Fury by David Manley. The rules are an adaptation of the popular American Civil War rules Fire and Fury. Manley's take on the galley-style naval actions is that galley fleets behave more like formations in a land battle than individual ships. He did an earlier set of rules for ancient naval gaming called Greek Fire and Roman Fury, which put shape to his ideas. Christian Fire and Turkish Fury extends that concept to the gunpowder era. It's unclear how to get copies of the rules. They were published in a magazine some time ago. Dave has copies he got from David Manley.

Dave set up the playing area according to his predetermined idea of how coastal islands would feature for any given area on the operational map. The island placement restricted us to a narrow front. The Turkish ships are faster, so we might have attempted a flanking run if we had open water. However, we had to adapt our thinking to what was pretty much a head-on fight.

One restriction to our battle plan was Paul's admiral. Sucky though he was, Hassan, the son of the great Turkish admiral Barbarossa, was a fire eater. The wing he commanded must move at full speed towards the nearest Christian squadron. We lined up with my two Turkish squadrons in line abreast in the center. Paul was on our left in line astern, with the plan to skirt the island there and then form up against the Christian right. Kevin's Barbary squadron, our only elite formation, was behind me as a reserve, and Dave Creager's squadrons were on our right.

The Turks arrayed
We thought, well hoped, that we would have an advantage in numbers to offset the Christian advantage in technology. But that didn't seem to be so. Also, many of our "numbers" were smaller ships with paltry combat value. Against us were several elite Christian squadrons and their galleasses. In the Mediterranean of 1571, the galleass was the dreadnought of its day. With a much broader beam, it could mount a heavier battery, including broadsides, that provided all-around fire rather than being limited to straight-ahead fire as other galleys were. The Leaguers concentrated their three galleasses in the center between two galley squadrons.

The Christian center
We set up far enough apart that it took a few turns of movement before we came in gun range of each other. Paul (a.k.a. Hassan) ran up at full speed, while the rest of the Turks came on at half speed so as to be near enough to support Paul, without being the first into the narrows between the island groups.

The action started, as expected, with Paul's squadrons meeting the Christian right wing. Paul's two leading squadrons were wee galiots with poor long-range fire. The initial long-range volleys had little effect. But in the ensuing close range fire and melee, Paul's galiots fared for the worse worse. In the first couple turns of the game, our left wing was in severe trouble.

Christian fire! Dale shoots Paul's lead squadrons
In the center, I came on with my two large Turkish squadrons right into the teeth of Scott's galleasses. The result was predictable. Both squadrons got shot to bits. My lefthand squadron managed to get into melee contact with its tormentor, but that didn't change things. The Venetian galleys I fought had the upper hand throughout and my squadron was flotsam in just a few rounds. My other squadron held out long enough to inflict a bit of gunfire damage on Scott's ships. I even managed to put a galleass into disorder a couple times, although there was no chance of sinking one.

The fleets closing in after Paul and Dale's first clash
My squadrons engage - poorly
Kevin brought up his elite Barbary squadron and its supporting squadron of fustas. In just a few rounds, Kevin managed to shoot up Scott's lefthand squadron and then close in to destroy it. In the follow-up to that he also managed to contact a galleass that had been disordered by my feeble gunfire (my only tangible contribution to the game) and destroy it.

Kevin's Barbary squadron makes its presence felt
while only two ships remain of my two squadrons
On our right (the Christian left), Dave Creager and George slugged it out in the shadow of the hampering islets. The result was much like the legendary Kilkenny cats. Dave C. came out on top, but with only the bare minimum of ships in one squadron and only his wing flagship surviving out of the other locked in mortal combat with George's flagship, which was George's only survivor.

Turkish Barbary fury! Kevin's squadrons break through
supported on the right by the remnants of Dave C.'s squadrons
The situation by now was Dale victorious over Paul, with little damage to himself. Scott was somewhat diminished in the center, but with two of three galleasses remaining. George vanquished on the Christian left. My two squadrons were as gone as Paul's. Dave C. had just a few ships. Kevin was victorious and undamaged in our center. However, Dale's squadrons were turning in and Kevin had yet to bear the fire of Scott's galleasses. We called it a Christian win.

The day was another DANG success. Much thanks to Dave and his wife Lynn for their hospitality. In addition to a great game, they provide a spread of delicious food. One treat this year were Lynn's rum balls. I haven't had a run ball since the 1970s. My friend Chet's mother used to make rum balls and brandy balls every Christmas and I couldn't get my fill of them. I don't think I ever got drunk on them, but I did retain a fondness for rum well into my 20s.

The day ended with us admiring George's latest model aircraft creations. He's been making masters for 1/285th scale planes for about ten years. He had Phantoms, MiG 21s, MiG 17s, F-105s, and others that were being readied to be sent for casting. It brought to ind how long it's been since we played an air game. We also, discussed options for next year's DANG, although it will be October before we get down to voting on choices.

1 comment:

  1. Dang! That's a lot of ships. Very nice. Impressive game! Dean