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Battle of the River Plate using Email and War at Sea

 
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von Lucky



Joined: 28 Feb 2008
Posts: 923
Location: South Melbourne

PostPosted: Sat Apr 18, 2020 3:30 am    Post subject: Battle of the River Plate using Email and War at Sea Reply with quote

Like many wargamers COVID-19 has thrown up some interesting challenges to being able to play games. At the League meeting in March there was a slight unease in the air, and isolation and lock-downs that followed weren't that surprising given the developments of the virus globally over the last couple of week and months.

The WWII Eastern Front Play By Email (PBEM) game that Brett was running has stalled for this reason (games to be played on the tabletop), but it gave me an idea to run a game of my own. There have been a fair few blog posts, forum threads and YouTube videos that gave me some ideas.

I settled on WWII naval, and Ara, Brett and Liam expressed an interested on testing whether my ideas would work.

While we had all played WWII naval games together in the past with Mongoose Games' easy to play 'Victory at Sea' (no one mention the train wreck that Warlord Games' refreshed version appears to be), I decided to use a beer and pretzels game I played around 10 years ago - Wizards of the Coast's Axis & Allies Naval Miniatures: War at Sea.

Yes - the rules are relatively simple, but this means larger fleet actions could be manageable in the future (I'm a wargamer, I am already thinking of campaigns).

The only main changes I am going to make is to the movement ability of ships, their shooting arcs and stacking limits. At Ara's suggestion we added blind movement (one thing that would be harder to do on the tabletop). The change from the offset grid to hexes made no difference to the game.

Players wouldn't need to track their own turns as I had converted the felt mat (6' x 4' with 4" hexes on a 12 by 18 hex grid) in Photoshop to a virtual one with hex ID numbers using a Battletech template I had found online. I would email every turn the map with every ship's current position.

Brett and Ara were happy to have me, as GM, roll their dice. As Brett put it: "Happy for you to do all my die rolls for me and applying them to the target - A Captain doesn’t get involved in the aiming and the firing of the ships guns. That is the Gunnery Officers job!"

For something easy, and a popular introduction scenario for WWII naval gaming in many games, we settled on the Battle of the River Plate, with Ara commanding the Admiral Graf Spee, Brett the Exeter, and Liam the Ajax and Achilles.

More details on the rule changes here:
https://donnerundblitzenwargaming.blogspot.com/2020/04/battle-of-river-plate-using-email-and.html
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von Lucky



Joined: 28 Feb 2008
Posts: 923
Location: South Melbourne

PostPosted: Sat Apr 18, 2020 3:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Before the game I provided every player a briefing to the battle, that included the His Majesty's Stationery Office (HSMO) chart for the battle:



Along with the initial deployment positions (the ">" indicates direction of travel), based on the rough positions at 6:30 am.

Free reign was provided to the players on how to tell me their movement orders (giving the option for Brett and Liam to confer before notifying me). Remember rotation happens first (though players could choose to rotate at the end of a ship's turn if they chose to not use the ship's full movement).

Lieutenant-Commander Richard Jennings, HMS Exeter's gunnery officer remembers from the battle:

Quote:
"As I was crossing the compass platform [to his Action Station in the Director Control Tower], the captain hailed me, not with the usual rigmarole of 'Enemy in sight, bearing, etc', but with 'There's the fucking Scheer! Open fire at her!' Throughout the battle the crew of the Exeter thought they were fighting the [sister ship] Admiral von [sic] Scheer. But the name of the enemy ship was of course the Graf Spee."


Movement was limit to the map above, though in a virtual environment I could do a floating (hah! get it?) map. I also left victory conditions vague - as each captain would have their own idea of success.

More detail here:
https://donnerundblitzenwargaming.blogspot.com/2020/04/pbem-battle-of-river-plate-deployment.html
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Blog: Donner und Blitzen


Last edited by von Lucky on Sun Apr 19, 2020 1:46 am; edited 1 time in total
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von Lucky



Joined: 28 Feb 2008
Posts: 923
Location: South Melbourne

PostPosted: Sat Apr 18, 2020 3:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Turn 1

"Helm, Starboard – Ahead full."

"ACTION STATIONS, Number One!"

"Guns to bear, 060 - Fire when the target is in range."

"Radio – Message to Flag – Have sighted the Admiral Scheer, I am closing to engage."


The gunnery officer aboard the Graf Spee sees that the Exeter has strayed just into range for her main 28 cm (11 in) guns. Both turrets open fire.



A hit! (Each 4 and 5 counts as one success, while a 6 counts as two.) The Exeter takes one point of hull damage to one of her boilers.



Larger images and more detail:
https://donnerundblitzenwargaming.blogspot.com/2020/04/pbem-battle-of-river-plate-turn-1.html
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- Karsten

Blog: Donner und Blitzen


Last edited by von Lucky on Thu Apr 30, 2020 9:18 am; edited 3 times in total
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von Lucky



Joined: 28 Feb 2008
Posts: 923
Location: South Melbourne

PostPosted: Sat Apr 18, 2020 3:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Turn 2

"Christ! We are in for it now, Number one!"

"She will want to concentrate on us as much as she can, before Ajax and Achilles get into range."

"Helm – Starboard rudder, ahead full!"

"Gunnery – Fire as she bares!"

"Signalman – Signal Ajax and Achilles – Come on fast. Can’t take much more of this. Need assistance now!"




The Admiral Graf Spee swung to port away from the Exeter, but Captain Bell ordered his ship ahead full speed and have the guns ready to take aim on the Graf Spee. Commodore Harwood responded to the call to close in after the Exeter had taken a hit, and the Ajax and Achilles steamed in line to the south.

The Ajax's shots missed, as did secondaries of the Graf Spee. Her primaries did not.



The noose was closing, but the Graf Spee had only begun to fight.

More detail here:
https://donnerundblitzenwargaming.blogspot.com/2020/04/pbem-battle-of-river-plate-turn-2.html
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Blog: Donner und Blitzen


Last edited by von Lucky on Thu Apr 30, 2020 9:19 am; edited 2 times in total
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von Lucky



Joined: 28 Feb 2008
Posts: 923
Location: South Melbourne

PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2020 11:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Turn 3

"She is turning, Sir! Could she be running for it?"

"She won’t want to get between Ajax and Achilles... or us."

"Helm – Full stream ahead. Engine room – Give me everything she has. Got to shorten this range."

"Gunnery Officer – Engage the Scheer, as soon as you are able. Fire at will!"

"Signalman – Signal Ajax and Achilles – I am pressing my attack. Can you slow her down or turn her?"

"The Scheer is firing on Ajax... She has her range... Geez... Ajax has taken one in her midships, Sir!"


The Ajax found herself out of arc, but in turn out of arc too, to the Graf Spee. Her main guns unsurprisingly only caused superficial damage, while the Graf Spee returned fire with her secondaries and while good rolling (getting a total of three), was not enough to cause further damage on the Ajax.

In an effort to spread the damage around the Royal Navy taskforce, The Graf Spee now switched her main guns to the Achilles, that had not taken an active role but was also closing in. The batteries opened fire, and a hit landed on the New Zealand ship.



Each of the Commonwealth ships had now taken damage, while the Graf Spee had managed to avoid being hit. While technically a heavy cruiser because of the calibre of her guns, the Exeter was a scaled-down version of the County class, designed within the limits of the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 and wasn't as robust as the two Leander class ships accompanying her.

More here:
https://donnerundblitzenwargaming.blogspot.com/2020/04/pbem-battle-of-river-plate-turn-3.html
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- Karsten

Blog: Donner und Blitzen


Last edited by von Lucky on Thu Apr 30, 2020 9:19 am; edited 1 time in total
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von Lucky



Joined: 28 Feb 2008
Posts: 923
Location: South Melbourne

PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2020 11:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Turn 4



What would follow would be a (relatively) lucky round for the Commonwealth forces.

Rolling a total of 4 on 3 dice (with a 13% chance of success), the Ajax landed a hit on the Graf Spee while firing at half capacity with her main guns. Her lone torpedo attack was ineffectual.




In return the Spee split her fire between the Ajax and Achilles.

The Spee's main guns got 8 hits on the Achilles (a 9 would’ve been an automatic sinking). However the Achilles is now crippled. This means her Movement is reduced to 1, armour is weaker (by 1) and guns need a 5 or 6 to hit (with a 6 still counting as two hits). This was clearly showing the potential of the 28 cm guns.



Meanwhile in frustration Captain Bell (Hookie to his friends), launched one of the ship's Supermarine Walrus seaplanes to get a better idea of what was happening (or was it to get closer so he could hit the Spee with his sword?). Historical note: with her third salvo the German ship straddled the Exeter; shrapnel from the near misses killed the crew of the starboard torpedo tubes, started fires amidships and damaged both the Supermarine Walrus seaplanes.



More here:
https://donnerundblitzenwargaming.blogspot.com/2020/04/pbem-battle-of-river-plate-turn-4.html
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- Karsten

Blog: Donner und Blitzen


Last edited by von Lucky on Thu Apr 30, 2020 9:20 am; edited 1 time in total
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von Lucky



Joined: 28 Feb 2008
Posts: 923
Location: South Melbourne

PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2020 8:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Turn 5

“Achilles has take a pounding.. Sir!”

“I can see that, midshipman, Graham.”

“Helm – Port rudder, full ahead.”


While over on the command deck of the Graf Spee, Captain Langsdorff shook his fist across the waves at the allied ships;

"Bah, those lucky Englisch Schweinehünde! They have damaged my beautiful ship! They will pay for that!"

The Achilles was still belching smoke, but Parry aligned his ship with the course Woodhouse had steered the Ajax. Both were closing in, with Exeter still trailing some distance behind.



The Achilles opened fire, scoring only one hit (remembering that 4s don't count when crippled). Not enough to cause any damage. (It's worth noting that these photos would be the first time the players would see the results.)

The Ajax added to the thunder of guns, scoring a hit! The Spee was crippled! Cheers went up amongst the crews on all ships. (Her torpedo attack however missed its mark.)



As the noise died down the silence was broken as the Spee's shells whistled through the air. Heavy heavy shells crippled the Ajax, while the 15cm secondaries managed to rip through to the aft ammunition store of the Achilles to break her in half. She sank in less than 10 minutes.




In commemoration to the sinking of the Achilles, Harrison Reginald St Normanby was commissioned by the War Artists' Advisory Committee to paint a tribute to the men that served with her. His piece 'Achilles' Return to the Styx' has received praise for its sombre tone.



Full write up here:
https://donnerundblitzenwargaming.blogspot.com/2020/04/pbem-battle-of-river-plate-turn-5.html
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- Karsten

Blog: Donner und Blitzen


Last edited by von Lucky on Thu Apr 30, 2020 9:20 am; edited 1 time in total
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von Lucky



Joined: 28 Feb 2008
Posts: 923
Location: South Melbourne

PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2020 8:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Turn 6

"Achilles is burning from bow to stern, Sir! She is listing heavily."

"Thank you Midshipmen Graham... I can see!"

"Helm – Hold your course, now port rudder and full ahead."

"Lieutenant Burton, begin firing!"


The Exeter had managed to close in on the Spee, and readied the guns that had been out of range for the majority of the battle.



The earlier damage sustained and the engines running at full capacity had caused havoc to the gun sights calibration, the salvo was a bitter disappointment.

The Ajax fared little better, having the same level of success with the main guns and torpedoes.

The Spee meanwhile had no such failures, the main guns found their mark on the Exeter, crippling her.





...leaving very little left. (Note this photo is the HMS Barnam exploding after a U-Boot attack.)

A (very) marginal victory to Ara and the Germans. Most likely the Spee would limp to Montevideo and history would repeat itself (though this time it was a tactical victory but a strategic loss).

Months later, the Führer was still pleased with the effort of the Spee, and had the Reichskulturkammer (Reich Culture Chamber) commission a painting to deride the efforts of the War Artists' Advisory Committee. The result was 'Revenge for Falklands', a reference to Maximilian von Spee's defeat at the Falkland Islands in 1914.



In the silent ocean under a cool midday sun the Exeter moved through the flotsam of the Achilles and Ajax, picking up the few survivors before turning back slowly to the Falklands.

Final turn write up here:
https://donnerundblitzenwargaming.blogspot.com/2020/04/pbem-battle-of-river-plate-turn-6.html
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Martin



Joined: 15 Dec 2011
Posts: 114
Location: Behind You!!

PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2020 1:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looks magnificent!!!
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von Lucky



Joined: 28 Feb 2008
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Location: South Melbourne

PostPosted: Thu May 07, 2020 8:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Martin - aiming to do the north Pacific campaign in the next week or so.
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Cawdorthane



Joined: 18 Jan 2007
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PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2020 12:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ausgezeichnet Karsten!

cheers
Mark
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