Sunday, August 28, 2022

Gun sites and Splash markers

A little prep work is in order before I play out the Heligoland action.

I decided I didn't have anywhere near enough splash markers, so these are now under weigh. They're fabricated from off cuts of clear plastic stuck in place and made more water-like with copious blobs of hot glue. Markers for the Heligoland artillery emplacements are centre-right. Since this is likely to be a one-off game I'm not bothering with a lot of detail for these.

Along with this I had to buy a new blue sheet for use with naval gaming. I clean forgot to remove the last one before our cat decided to use it to sharpen his claws...

And now for a gamer's dilemma - nothing to do with naval gaming. I've sold a large batch of unwanted miniatures so now I'm contemplating what to buy with this windfall. I should get enough figures to more-or-less finish off my 10mm ECW collection (if a collection can ever be said to be finished...). 

But! As wargamers know, there's always a new period flaunting its gaudy temptations to draw our eye. Peter over at Grid Based Wargaming is running a neat episodic 1917 Middle East campaign. A tough modern Ottoman force, ANZAC troops, Imperial infantry in pith helmets, Lawrence of Arabia, tanks, aircraft, armoured cars. A set of brigade-size rules in the shape of If the Lord Spares Us from Too Fat Lardies. What's not to like? I'm sorely tempted to splash some cash on Pendraken's starter packs for this period and theatre.

Decisions, decisions...

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

“A ship’s a fool to fight a fort.”

So said Admiral Lord Nelson. With the centenary of Trafalgar so fresh in the collective minds of the Royal Navy, the Admiralty is pondering the Hero’s words anew as they contemplate an attack on Heligoland.

After the island was transferred to Germany in 1890, the new owners immediately began work on
fortifications centred around a quartet of 21cm/8.2 inch guns and eight 28cm/11 inch howitzers. These were supplemented by a number of 4.1 inch/105mm guns positioned around the island for close-in defence. Since the main artillery is located two hundred feet above sea level it also has the attribute of increased range and plunging fire.

Twelve heavy artillery pieces on a rock-steady firing platform and plunging fire capability… Quite.

The only bright spot is that this heavy armament won’t be augmented any time soon, as there’s a tug of war between the German navy and the army when it comes to the allocation of artillery. Troops are massing along the Franco-German border, and the French army artillery is superior to that of the German army. There's at least one company of troops in garrison on the island. It's believed their complement of machine guns has been increased.

So it is that the Admiralty ordered up the four Royal Sovereign class battleships Royal Sovereign, Empress of India, Resolution and Repulse. Their 13.5 inch main armament offers a ‘bigger bang for the buck’ when it comes to shore bombardment.

The class has the unfortunate reputation of being unstable in high seas, hence their nickname of the ‘Rolling Ressies.’ Stormy weather in the North Sea precluded any immediate move against Heligoland after the Battle of the Humber for this very reason. Now April has turned into May the weather has settled and the operation is on once more.

The plan is for the Royal Sovereigns to close with the island in the afternoon so the sun will be in the eyes of the defenders. The bombardment group will commence targeting the shore defences while the five London class and four Majestic class battleships stand off as cover in case the German fleet sallies forth from Jade Bay. Under no circumstances are the village or the lighthouse to be targeted. The civilian area is marked by the steeple of St. Nicholas’ church. (The kazern/barracks for the island’s garrison is located too close to the village to be targeted safely and so is, unfortunately, also out of bounds).

The fleet has the usual complement of cruisers and destroyers, among which is HMS Charybdis. This elderly Second-class Protected Cruiser was used for troop transport from 1905 onwards, and performs the role for this mission.

Game Mechanics.

All heavy artillery on Heligoland will range up to 20,000 yards (10 nautical miles). Add one to the firing dice for a totally stable firing platform and there are no penalties for bad weather. Each weapon counts as one calibre larger on the progressive fire table to reflect the effects of plunging fire, so 11 inch guns will count as 12 inch, 8.2 inch as 9.2 inch.

Shore bombardment takes a different approach. All ordinary hits are ignored. Critical hits count, but only Turret, Gunnery Director Centre, Fire and Magazine hits have any effect. A Magazine hit will only destroy the turret it serves. A result of Fire indicates that undergrowth or buildings have been ignited by a shell burst. Depending on the wind direction this will decrease the defending fire factor by one due to smoke obscuring the range finders.

Victory Conditions.

The Royal Navy has to destroy all twelve main artillery positions for victory. Once this has been achieved it’s assumed the smaller vessels will close with the shore to suppress the 105mm guns and provide fire support as Charybdis lands her troops.

The German defenders will achieve victory if two ships of the Bombardment Group are sunk or crippled, at which point the group will withdraw.

With luck and a following wind - and cooler weather - I'll fight out the engagement in the next few days. 


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