Monday, August 18, 2014

Thunder in the Korea Strait

Despite owning both of the NWS Steam and Iron games, I've never tried the campaign portion of either. I guess I wasn't sure I understood enough about naval warfare of the era to do a campaign justice. All of the focus on WWI this month rekindled my interest in the era, and that combined with picking up a game about the naval campaign of the Spanish American War prompted me to revisit these fine simulations.

The cruiser squadron at the heart of my force in the Bay of Korea. CL Hashidate took a torpedo hit during a skirmish with Russian destroyers.

I've just finished playing out the first week of the war. The campaign starts immediately after the Japanese surprise attack on Port Arthur. It's clear that the Japanese focus in the campaign, as it was historically, is to shut down Port Arthur. My sole objective for this week was to sink two transports in the entrance to Port Arthur's harbor as blockships.

Ship data for CL Hashidate. Note that she's lost her main armament and taken a torpedo hit, causing flooding and a speed reduction.
To accomplish this objective I allocated two cruiser divisions to escort four transports from the Japanese naval base at Haeju Bay for a night attack on Port Arthur. My intelligence sources also told me to expect an enemy operation, which I suspected might be an anti-shipping strike in the Sea of Japan or along the Korean east coast. To preempt that attack, I allocated a cruiser squadron supported by two destroyer squadrons. I decided to leave the heavies in port this time and accrue operations points (necessary to activate ships for missions) for later.

Light cruisers scouting ahead of a cruiser division. These were the escorts for the transports that were successfully sunk as blockships at Port Arthur.

Blockships in place. I sent four transports, expecting attrition from the heavy shore batteries to sink some of them as they crawled inbound toward the target. Instead, the first two snuck in under the cover of darkness and were scuttled. The remaining two ships, out of the command range of my force's flagship and so under AI control, decided to do some dawn fishing in the area and were quickly sunk by the guns on shore.

Patrolling in the Sea of Japan. Ineffectually, it turns out.

Theatre situation, about a third of the way through the turn.

Daylight begins to bring reports of Russian forces at sea. A strong force, if the reports are accurate.

The blue flag indicates a report of a Russian squadron, in this case made up of a battleship and three armored cruisers. Luckily my light cruiser force was able to get in and out in the darkness and avoid an engagement.

Despite successfully placing the blockships, the Russians were able to get down into the Straits of Korea with a cruiser force and sink a number of merchant ships. Combined with the transports lost during the blockship mission, this is enough to tilt the victory points seriously in Russian favor.

The Russian cruiser division responsible for sinking six of my merchant ships.

One of my absolute favorite game features: this shows the time annotated course tracks of all ships engaged. My patrol was never in the right place at the right time to intercept the Russian cruisers.
I've always enjoyed the tactical combat aspects of the Steam and Iron  games. The campaign game really adds a lot by opening up early 20th Century naval operations in an accessible way. I'm looking forward to trying a WWI campaign now.