Monday, October 8, 2012

Wargaming Against the Weather: Outdoor Naval Wargaming

'Sorry Curt, I can't really hear you from the howling wind and my pulled-down touque. Did you say something about someone looking like a dork?'
Sylvain again here. (With unwarranted photos and editorial comments from Curt.)

Not long ago, I presented some newly painted 1:1200 ships on this blog, along with some crazy plans to play outside. I came up with an hypothetical scenario: 

7 December 1941 - Because their crews were involved in a bar fight the week before, the Admiral decided to send at sea the USS Colorado and the USS Arizona, for a gunnery practice involving lots of healthy drilling. However, after a day at sea, the two battleships stumbled upon two Japanese battleships, part of the Japanese Fleet sent to attack Pearl Harbour.

AMERICANS: USS Colorado, USS Arizona
With their slower units, the Americans know they are in trouble. The American player's objective is to inflict damage to both Japanese ships in order to slow them down and then try to escape in order to participate in the defense of Pearl Harbour.

Banzai! The goal of operation Tora Tora Tora is to eliminate as many American capital ships as possible. The Japanese player wins by sinking at least one American ship and then escaping.

All the models are from Superior Models.

After a week of being harassed, Curt and Peter kindly agreed to give the game a try. The weather was as to be expected for the season, but a little challenging for wargaming: cloudy, about +8C, very (VERY) windy.

Peter: 'Right, and who's idea was this again?'
Admiral Peter, of the US Navy, in command of the USS Colorado and the USS Arizona, about to spot the Japanese intruders.You can read his report of the game here.

Curt: 'F*ck, its cold! This is not the South Pacific, its the bloody Murmansk Run!'
Kaigun Taisho "Kaato" (Japanese pronunciation of Curt), maneuvering the IJN Kongo toward Pearl Harbour. He is holding a turning gage, formerly known as a paper plate.

This picture gives a sense of the firing distances. Ships were firing at 20', and they were about 40' apart. Hits happened at about 30', which is about 12,000 yards. "Real" naval engagement, according to what I have read, would take place at about 18,000 yards (45' at this scale).

Sylvain cutting quite the dash in his wargaming toolbelt - Ooh, TRES sexy!

Peter rangefinding with his... iPhone... obviously the Americans have a leg-up in gunnery technology.
Shells from the Colorado are getting dangerously close to the Kongo. Captain Peter proved to be very effective at guessing range. On the following turn, the Colorado scored a hit on the Kongo while the Ise hit the Colorado in return. Both ships lost a main turret.

Kongo's fire ranging in on one of the American battlewagons.
A hit! A palpable hit!

Peter running madly after a turn gauge being blown away in the wind. I'm sure there's a song somewhere in there...
Sylvain is having waaay too much fun with his monster tape measure.
Curt's Kongo getting 'bracketed' by American fire. Ouch!
Bullseye! Guessing the exact range, directly onto a a ship's base translates in 2 hits. The Kongo, at this point, had lost a main turret, half the secondary armament, AA guns and was crawling at a speed of 14 knots. The Japanese commander decided at this point that bombarding Pearl Harbour with battleships might not be worth that much trouble after all and decided to rendez-vous with the main fleet. Admiral Yamamoto, a little busy right now, might not find the time to read the battle report before a few days. The American ships, hearing bomb explosions in the distance, decided to head back home to see what was happening.

Because of the heavy wind, there was no way to keep the "splashes" upright. The wind even knocked down my tool box full of playing equipment!

Playing in this crazy weather felt like a combination of cross country skiing, paragliding and wargaming. Afterward, Curt and Sarah treated us with delicious hot tea and pie.

How to describe this kind of gaming experience? "Different" comes to mind. It really gives a feeling of how distant modern dreadnoughts were when exchanging shells. Using "distance evaluation" replaces the luck of the dice with the evaluating skill of the players. There might not be another game before next spring, so I will have plenty of time to make some adjustments.