Wednesday, 1 June 2016

A slice of Jutland

Over the weekend I took part in a wargame well outside my comfort zone. To commemorate the centenary of the Battle of Jutland (31st May, 1916), seven of us got together at the Wee Gamers' bunker to play the 'Run to the South', (we started the game at 15.31) the initial phase of the battle which saw an outgunned German squadron under Admiral Franz Ritter von Hipper lead off part of the British Grand Fleet (under Admiral David Beatty) towards the concentrated Kaiserliche Marine High Seas fleet.

I admit (quite freely) that I was a little lost for much of the day as my knowledge of 20th century history is next to minimal, and my knowledge of WWI naval history and strategy is worse than that. To compound matters, I was playing a variant of Broadside, by James Bryant that I had only ever played once, and that was some time ago. Broadside is a great 20th century naval simulation which involves minute-by-minute written orders and (for me at least) a whole lot of range finding gunnery before your guns are able to tell on the enemy fleet. Once in the swing of things, the basic mechanics are easy to follow, even if still hard to execute with any degree of panache. 

I was playing as the  Kaiserliche Marine battle cruiser SMS Seydlitz and had to play catch up with everyone else who clearly understood the history far better than I.

We were playing at a 1/6000 ground scale (maximum range for my guns was 297cm), but using 1/3000 scale ships to enable identification. Ha! As we weren't supposed to approach the opposition's table, identification of the the ships was a challenge to say the least. The photo above was taken with maximum zoom on my little camera. The black plumes of smoke aid in seeing where the ships are!

Here are our ships with true scale 1/6000 'shadows'. Following the orders phase (movement and gunnery orders written down), the larger playing models were moved as ordered, leaving the shadows behind. Gunnery was then conducted, directed and measured from the shadows, trying to hit the new position of the enemy vessels.

As the Kaiserliche Marine order their turn to the south, British shells start falling. Happily, most missed at this stage of the game. The British outgunned the Germans, but our cruisers had much better armour, and handy casement guns for firing at their torpedo boats.

As the fleets closed, the tables were moved. Our gunnery began to fall on or near the enemy positions. At least two destroyers were sunk and a British cruiser caught fire. Meanwhile the only damage we received was to the flagship which took direct hits to both funnels (with little or no practical effect).

The little table in the middle was swarming with destroyers (I think) which by this stage had launched torpedoes vaguely in our direction. 

Unfortunately I had to leave much earlier than the other gents, so I didn't get to see how it ended. I was there for just under five hours which equated to 11 turns (with banter), equating to 11 minutes of the actual battle. JB put in such a massive (and solo) effort prepping for the game and it turned out to be a whole lot of fun - just a shame that I missed the conclusions.

The British squadron when I left. The red plume is coming out of the burning (and sinking?) battleship.
The German squadron drawing the British south. You can see the dismal effect of British range finding here (almost as bad as mine throughout) with the water plumes marking the locations of falling shells.

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