Monday, September 6, 2010

Action on the narrow seas

We played a Labor Day game at The Panzer Depot on Monday. I rummaged through my storage, dusted off my old 1:1250th scale coastal forces models, re-read my Action Stations rules, fiddled about with InDesign to create the ships charts, etc. and then put on a game.

The scenario was a German coastal convoy off Norway in 1943 attacked by a mixed force of British gunboats and torpedo boats.

The Germans had four tramp streamers of roughly 400-ton to 1200-ton size escorted by two VP-boats (vorpostenboot), two KFKs (kriegsfischkutter), and a single MFP (Marine Artillerie-Fährpram).

Attacking them were three Denny SGBs (steam gunboats), Two Fairmile D MGBs (motor gunboats), and one Fairmile D MTB (motor torpedo boat).

The Game started with the Germans forces strung out in convoy using markers to keep their identity from the British. The British had the option to enter the board under way or to lie in wait with their motors off and make a crash start when the enemy hove into sight. They opted to try the old ploy of launching a gunboat attack on one side and then launching the torpedo boats a turn or two later after the enemy was focused on the gunboat attack.

Accordingly, Ken Kissling started things off by crash-starting his pair of Fairmile D MGBs to attack to starboard (that's nautical for "right") of the German convoy. He immediately started mixing it up with Chris Craft's kriegsfischkutter. Chris, as his luck usually has it, rolled two "1s" to get two hits on Ken's leading MGB with his 37mm autocannon. Ken, as his luck had it, got the worst possible damage result. Half his force was now damaged and burning wildly.

Chris' wee KFK shooting it out with Ken's MGBs (the yellow is illuminated area)

Meanwhile, Mark X. got his Fairmile D MTB and SGB into action on the rear port side of the convoy. He got results right off against John Kennedy's VP-boat, hitting it with his foreward 2-pdr pom-pom and setting it afire.

John's VP-boat burns. Soon to be the least of its trouble.

The hits didn't put it out of the fight and John gave back a few hits on Mark. However, Mark launched two torpedoes from one of his MTBs and one struck John's VP-boat and blew it up. The other torpedo ran on and a few turns later missed my large tramp steamer. (My first lucky break.)

Steve Puffenberger brought the last british group into action, which was two of the SGBs. He launched a single fish from one towards Mark Serafin's MFP.

Torpedo headed straight for Mark's MFP

Having hit nothing with its pair of 88s and 20mm cannon, Mark regretted that his ship would go down without doing anything. However, the fish missed and ran on (fatefully). Mark's MFP had several more turns in which to hit nothing.

My ships, the tramp steamers with green gun crews, shot only a few times—to no effect—and then went silent. Their size made them impervious to most hits from the small guns carried by the British boats. However, their one weapon mount seemed to be a shot magnet. The first hit every one took, knocked out its gun. From then on, the only rolling I did was to determine hit damage on my ships (which was never much, anyway).

Ken's floating torch kept at it. The fires were partially put out and then restarted a few times and it was several turns until the fires were out. With minimal floatation left, and running low on working armament, Ken kept at it until his boat went under. He put Chris' KFK's engines out of action, but Chris got them restarted and kept on fighting. However, the maximum speed of the KFK is 6 knots, while, even damaged, Ken's remaining MGB was going much faster.

Rather than stay and shoot it out with Chris' 37mm autocannon and 20mm flakvierling, Ken started moving towards my two leading steamers. Peppered with 2-pdr pom-pom, HMG, and LMG fire, my first ship shrugged most of it off (except for those weapon hits).

At close quarters

However, my lead ship was a smaller class and not so impervious to small-caliber cannon. I started taking hull hits and a couple of machinery hits that stopped me in the water. Steve got into the action as well. Having shot off all his fish, Steve moved in close to my ships to try and hurt them with his surface fire. At one point, lacking anything else, he got close enough for me to get a serious shot with rifles and pistols (possibly even hand grenades). Of course I missed.

Mark X. still had a MTB with two fish and he manouvered his boat towards aft of the convoy and fired off a single torpedo towards Mark Serafin's steamer. Mark turned his ship to present his narrow stern (a harder shot), but the torpedo struck anyway. Loaded with ammunition, the ship took even more damage than normal (8 D10s), but was still afloat after the explosion. This was the only steamer hit seriously in the game.

Finally, the fish from the spread that missed Mark's MFP had run on until, near the other side of the table, it ran into Chris' KFK. The torpedo was set to run shallow, but even with the minuses for ship size and shallow draft, the torpedo hit and blew the KFK to bits.

We called the game a German win. Even though we lost two ships (well, boats), the British failed to sink a single merchant ship—even though Mark's steamer was certainly in dire straights. Also, the British lost one gunboat and all but one of the remaining gunboats were pretty shot up. Two of the SGBs were nearly sinking, Ken's remaining MGB had one hull box left.

I haven't played Action stations since D.A.N.G. in January and it was nice to get back to it. Before D.A.N.G., I hadn't played in years. It got me digging out all of the unfinished models I have, including more Fairmile Ds, more S-boats and R-boats, and some larger ships, like British Hunt class DEs and German M35 minesweepers.

The ships we used were Hallmark Figurehead 1:1250th scale coastal forces range. Phil Bardsley and I jumped right on this range when it came out and we finished several models. I also augmented my Hallmark ships with some Navis-Neptun models of larger ships. However, Hallmark has added several larger ships and expanded to include Italian, Russian, Japanese, and American coastal vessels.

This game was the second naval game I've done recently. Last week, Ken ran a General Quarters 3 game as a foretaste of our incipient Solomons campaign. I'm digging out my unpainted packs of GHQ Micronauts and filling out the holes in our US and Japanese navies (basically, lots of Yugumo class DDs).