Russo-Japanese War Fleets – 1/3000 Navwar

Nineteen years ago I purchased the Navwar Battle of Tsushima pack. Back then if I recall correctly it cost about £19.00 or £25.00. Now, pack 3CBP04 costs £55.00. The pack itself contains all the major vessels from the Battle of Tsushima, Japanese and Russian sides, in 1/3000 scale. I added some extra vessels around the time as well to be able to reproduce most of the vessels involved in that conflict.

At the time I put this set together I did not have much in the way of painting information so painted the Russian fleets in basically the “Victorian Livery” of black hulls, white superstructures and ochre funnels. The Japanese vessels larger than a TBD were painted in a tropical white livery. Over time access to better research and information as well as some nice contemporary prints from Japan suggested that pretty much everything was in the wrong colour. Oh well, my excuse is that at the time I was a wargamer first and whilst an avid reader, my knowledge of nautical matters was limited – but I was learning.

So, I learnt that the Japanese vessels were in grey, and given that later in the 20th century each of the arsenals in Japan used a different shade of grey, I figured at least that the shade of grey was not that important for this project. I started to repaint them.

The Japanese TDBs and torpedo boats were in black. Everything was coal fired at this stage.

On the Russian side, as I mentioned above, everything had been painted in the Victorian Livery. Repaint started there as well. The Black Sea Baltic Fleet, “the Fleet that had to Die,” had very little needing to be done as they were in a Victoria Livery it seems. The Vladivostok and Port Arthur vessels were another matter however. The Vladivostok fleet was reported in some reading I did to be in a dark green colour, presumably to make it harder to discern the vessels against a green landscape. I had the impression that it was a Brunswick green but I may be misremembered the reading of 15 years ago and mixing them up with the pre-World War 1 Austrians. However, I opted for a slightly lighter shade.

The Port Arthur fleet was reported in some reading I did as having been repainted in a cinnamon colour. This is a darker brown and I guess it was to make the vessels harder to discern against the dusty hills behind Port Arthur. The brown shade may also have come from a shortage of paint in the correct shade so that when the paints available in Port Arthur were all mixed together to be able to maintain he vessels tied up there, a brown shade may have resulted. I opted for a lighter shade which I am not happy with and may repaint again when motivation strikes.

Lastly, at this stage of my naval wargaming career, I was taking a quick and easy route to basing. I picked up some Hammered Metal, Coral Blue from the hardware store. The Hammered metal ranges of paint are designed to look like old style metal filing cabinets. When painted on a flat surface they provided a sea effect. On the vessels I have repainted, I added a wake from the vessels to it is easy to see what has been redone and what is still in the original colours I painted in. That Hammered Metal when painted on a flat surface such as a 6’x4′ pieve of particle board. provides a very suitable sea surface.

The only other work I did on these vessels was to add a brass wire mast or masts where appropriate. Photos below.

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Fleet Admiral – Volume 1 Naval Warfare – 1890-1924

fleetAdmiralMy old mate Bill Madison, designer of the odd game such as Dawn of the Rising Sun — the Russo-Japanese War (and one of my favourites I must admit) and self confessed tragic of the history of the Russian-Japanese War of 1904-1905 (see the Russo-Japanese War Research Society) has turned his hand to writing rules for one of my favourite periods of naval warfare — the pre-Dreadnought period.

Fleet Admiral – Volume 1 Naval Warfare – 1890-1924 is a set of naval wargame rules designed specifically for that period starting about 15 years before the appearance of HMS Dreadnought and running to 1924, when aircraft started to play more of a role in naval warfare other than perhaps as interested observers and spotters. At the start of this period, admirals envisaged ship combats based around a range of 4,000 yards ship-to-ship and by the end of this period, lessons had been learned and big ship guns were opening fire at ranges hitherto thought impracticable.

The rules are divided into a number of broad sections – based on general principles; an example game outlining the various rule mechanisms; specific rule sections covering things such as movement, firing, torpedos, damage and such; and finally a section of tables and charts for use during the game.

The rules themselves adopt a couple of principles that we have generally moved away from. For example, recent rules have adopted the “I go, you go” method of movement (or variations on that) and cumulative damage points affecting flotation, speed and the ability to fight. These simplifications have kept games moving quickly but lose some of the flavour of these queens of the seas battling like the behemoths they were against each other, where a ship can heroically carry on fighting even when pounded to little better than flotsam.

The game scale used is either 1″ or 1cm being equal to 1,000 yards and makes the simplifying assumption that a nautical mile is 2,000 yards or 1,829 metres1. This scale gives a sea area for the standard wargames table (6’x4′) of around 860 square nautical miles, and a greater area of course for those gamers fortunate enough to have a larger area available.

Fleet Admiral also adopts a variable time scale of three minutes for surface moves and one minute per turn for aerial moves. Simultaneous movement is written into the rules and governed by both sides writing movement and firing orders at the start of each move. This may seem a reversion to the practices of the past but it does add the refreshing dimension of trying to second guess your opponent, an ability admirals of the past either possessed and successfully managed to find themselves in better tactical positions than their opponents or missed.

I like this slight, added complication, enabling as it does, for one to do the unexpected and not necessarily to be ground down by all your moves being shadowed by the second player to move.

The ships of the time are split into broad bands based on their size. This is a simple way to work out detection and movement but given the amount of smoke generated by the average coal-burning vessel of the time, I would have thought that apart from heavy fogs, the enemy ships were located where there was a big cloud of coal smoke. Admittedly whether or not they were battleships or destroyers was not so clear until the distance had been closed somewhat.

Vessels are further defined by:

  • length (useful for torpedo attacks and gunnery resolution)
  • speed
  • whether they carried ASDIC, hydrophones, anti-submarine weapons
  • the number of their main and secondary gun directors
  • aircraft carried
  • armour:
    • belt
    • deck
    • barbette
    • main and secondary battery
    • casemates
    • conning tower
    • magazine
    • vitals (important for protected cruisers who tended not to have belt armour but rather armour around the vital areas of the vessel – magazine etc)
    • bulges
  • armament:
    • main, secondary and tertiary batteries
    • light batteries
    • anti aircraft
    • torpedos (whether deck mounted, hull above waterline or hull below waterline)

As mentioned there is a variable move time and so the sequence of play is 1 or 3 minutes in length and follows the general order of writing orders for movement and/or firing with movement occurring simultaneously; combat; detection; reactive fire phase (for recently detected vessels); and damage control.

The rules are explained by an example game (a well known World War 1 battle) which is the next best thing to having someone who knows the rules play with you. They are well cross-referenced.

There is also some degrees of specific period flavour or change. For example, from 1910 onwards ships may engage multiple targets with different batteries depending on the number of directors that are carried. Generally more directors give more accuracy.

There are extensive rules for torpedos and I particularly liked the section “Torpedo Tactics 101”. This outlined different “phases” of torpedo work by Torpedo Boats, Torpedo Boat Destroyers and Destroyers. The phases are:

  • “Strikes” — where the other to attack is given;
  • “Threats” — where the presence of a large number of torpedo vessels prevented the enemy closing the range — or of the threat becoming accepted, turning it into a strike; and
  • “Melees” — where there is a confused close range encounter with combatants trying to strike each other whilst dodge the other sides launched torpedos.

Hits on vessels, whether by torpedo or gunfire, affect different areas of the vessels and have a different effect. For example, a hit on the bow will reduce the speed of a vessel by 1 knot (3 knots of the gun causing the hit was an 8″ or larger gun). A hit on the vessel may destroy a light battery (reducing that fire-power) or main magazine and so on. Hits on previously destroyed areas cause no further damage but may generate more fires.

One other thing I liked was torpedo hits of vessels with tumblehomes will cause those ships to sink faster — look up the effects of waterplanes2 to see why 🙂

The rules also make allowances for those infernal flying machines, both aircraft and airships and the weapons designed over the period to deal with them. Also dealt with are submarines and various anti-submarine weapons such as depth charges3, paravanes, anti-submarine mortars, ASDIC etc.

A series of optional rules also adds further variety and deals with weather effects; the time of year and location (visibility issues); smoke and wind; communications, tactical and otherwise by lamps or flags; mines; and some optional rules from the play-testers.

The rules themselves and the example game take up the first 41 pages; pages 42-52 are some scenarios (Asan and Yalu from 1894; Port Arthur, Yellow Sea and Tsushima from 1904; and Cape Sarych, Dogger Bank and the battle cruisers at Jutland from World War 1 amongst others). The remainder of the book has game tables, aircraft details, airship details, weapon details, blank order sheets and ship information cards.

The ship information cards that need to be completed before the start of battle will require the gamer to have access to Conway’s or Jane’s or the Internet to find the ship information necessary (speed, armour, armament etc).

I played a little test battle on the floor the other night (I haven’t got a wargames table here and double bed was not usable at the time) and the game played well. It was just a couple of pre-dreadnought battleships. It was harder to represent simultaneous movement by myself but it was easy enough playing a scenario from the point where the ships had spotted each other and in the best traditions of navies worldwide, had engaged.

I am not sure whether I would try and play out the full Battle of Jutland as a single wargame with these rules (memo to self – paint those fleets) however that battle tended to break down into a number of separate engagements anyway.

I can thoroughly recommend these rules as an alternative way of looking at the naval battles of the 1890 to 1924 period in 2014. I also like the fact that these rules specifically consider those pre-dreadnought battleships from the Sino-Japanese War of 1894, Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5 and the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913.

Bill is working on a companion set to take naval warfare through the Second World War.


Footnotes

1. Well, it’s not 2,000 yards but rather was supposed to be 1 minute of arc along any of the earth’s meridians. By modern agreement and convention, the calculation of that value now is agreed at 1,852 metres or 6,076 feet (2,025 yards). It is a simplifying assumption Bill makes but it works.

2. The horizontal plane which passes through a floating ship on a level with the waterline:

3. They are depth charges Bill … not depth chargers 🙂

My Ship’s Come In

Well, several thousand of them really. My ships, in periods from the Russian Japanese War with a couple of extra pre-dreadnoughts through World War 1 and on to World War 2. They have arrived back from Mongolia. So, what came back? There are a couple of pre-dreadnoughts that need painting from WTJ, namely the following vessels:

  • Saiko Maru
  • Kumano Maru x 2
  • A ship with the code 0033101 (Spanish?)
  • Yakumo
  • Navarin
  • Carlos V
  • Asahi

Some of these vessels were extras after doing my Russian Japanese War collection, others are samples that Jim from WTJ sent me. Of course, these came back in company with my painted Japanese and Russian vessels from that War.

Also back and ready for paint is the Italian and Austrian fleets from World War 1. These were a set I put together when I was in Mongolia. I have plans to expand that set to include the French fleet as well as the Turks and Greeks.

In the collection for a while and ready for me to start painting is the Grand Fleet and the High Seas fleets from Jutland. I’ve had these for a few years now and it is time they were painted. Elsewhere here in the Hole you’ll find the article from Mal Wright about warship colours of World War 1 ships. Also there is a link to the collection in the US of World War 1 (in particular) dazzle schemes for merchant vessels. I may need to get a few merchants for the odd World War 1 convoy.

We then move forward to World War 2 where I think, if I look hard enough, I’ll find some German U-Boats, destroyers and other surface vessels as well as some British – but this is still be be confirmed. Definitely in the collection is the return of my French and Italian vessels of World War 2 – two smallish fleets but certainly enough for playing some games with. These are complemented by the Battle of Matapan set – all the vessels from the Battle of Matapan. These, along with all the others that a manufacturer is not specifically identified for, are from Navwar in the UK.

To round out the vessels needing paint, there is the Allied (mostly American) and Japanese fleets from the Battle of the Philippine Sea. There are a bucket-load of vessels for this to paint.

To complement that as well as doing something a little different, I also built a collection of all the vessels from Task Force 57 – the British and Commonwealth Pacific Fleet. Also included in that collection is a large number of 1/3000th scale aircraft. Originally I was going to mount these on a flying style of base – some thing brass wire about 5 cm tall, a metal washer for the base and a tiny hole drilled into the plane. Perhaps even three models would be glued to a single upright. However, after a closer examination again today, maybe I will glue the aircraft to the flight decks of the aircraft carriers.

There is some latitude being taken with the aircraft. Navwar does not make a 1/3000th scale Seafire or Spitfire so a Corsair is going to have to represent them. In any case, Corsair’s were used by a number of squadrons in that fleet.

This then is the plan – along with working on and finishing the Victorian Science Fiction. I’ll blog later on their progress although I will say here that two Aeronef fleets are just about finished.

Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships: 1860-1905, editor Robert Gardiner

conways_01.jpgConway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships: 1860-1905 is probably my most used and viewed reference work at the moment (along with The China Steam Navy reviewed elsewhere). Conway’s is the most complete reference on ironclad and pre-Dreadnought vessels in service from the American Civil War through to the Russian Japanese War of 1904-1905.

To read more about this, follow this link.

Korean War Memorial Museum

Korea War Memorial MuseumThe Korean War Memorial Museum notes about it’s raison d’être that “since the end of the Korean War many important war records have been disappearing and that generation [that fought in that war] has also been disappearing”. Korea was established through a number of struggles and the War Memorial Museum was proposed and built to pull all this information together.

So, the purpose of the Korean War Memorial Museum was for the collection, preservation and exhibition of historical relics for all the wars that Koreans fought in. At the front of the museum, there is also a plaza area that is there to serve as a reminder of the past sacrifices in war. It should also be noted that the museum was built to “commemorate loyal martyrs and their services to the nation.” There are, as a result, a couple of areas that most westerners would consider a little “heroic” in their appearance and what is displayed.

Follow this link to read more about the museum.

Poltava and Cataluna from WTJ Naval Miniatures

WTJ Naval is the manufacturing and foundry branch of The War Times Journal. Their main goal is the creation of affordable wargaming miniatures that have clean, accurately scaled features. The current line of 1/3000 scale naval miniatures was kicked off with the release of a long sought selection of pre-dreadnought battleships and cruisers, which will eventually include both war time fleets of the Russo-Japanese and Spanish-American Wars, as well as many rarely depicted European capital ships of this important era. The vessels are 1/3000 in scale allowing players to put on games within a medium to small sized area. Large fleet actions on larger battle zones can also be used. For example, using the General Quarters Rules and replacing the inch measuring system in them with centimetres, the Battle of Tsushima can be fought on an area the size of a standard table tennis table.

To read the rest of this review, click on this link. There are some pictures there of these vessels too.

WTJ Naval Miniatures website has painting guides and a full catalogue.