Rear Admiral Uriu's ultimatum to the two Russian vessels anchored in the Port of Chemulpo, Korea, is about to expire, when to the west of Yo-dol-mi Island, the silhouettes of two ships appear in line ahead, heading straight for the Japanese.
The after-action report then, on the re-fight of the last stand of Varyag and Korietz, using Phil Barker's "Damn Battleships Again" rules, with a few adjustments of my own thrown in here and there.
In order to balance the inevitability of the Russians being overpowered, we deployed a 'cunning plan' involving two of the neutral ships; as described in my last post, the French Pascal and the Italian Elba. These vessels made an interference run in the direction of the Japanese, ostensibly as neutral shipping under the rules.
I was hoping also that wind and weather might become a factor, but unfortunately, and perhaps typically, the die rolls gave us 'Light airs and calm', and of course the time of day also did nothing to mask the Russian breakout attempt.
Rudnev, commanding the Russian flotilla was rated as type 4 gallant/mad, whilst Uriu was type 5 cautious.
To further mask the strength of the historical Japanese fleet, I resolved to employ only the models I had for actual vessels, rather than using proxies for the remaining ships, so this served to limit the firepower available. The balance of Uriu's fleet, including the Torpedo Boats, were judged to be further out to sea, watching for any Russian reinforcements approaching from Port Arthur.
Meanwhile, to the East of the Island, Varyag and Korietz, make best speed for the open sea:
Much to his annoyance, the shapes of the ships approaching Rear Admiral Uriu's Naniwa resolve themselves into two neutrals, and he furiously crosses their bows in order to prevent them from masking his line of battle, and the all-important guns of the armoured Asama.
The Japanese battle line resolved itself into the Asama, Takachiho and Akashi, and a tentative long range shot from the 6" guns of the Varyag failed to make any impression on the armour of the foremost Japanese cruiser; things were not looking good when in reply, Korietz was immediately damaged. Instead of puffs of cotton wool, I am using the 1/2400 shell splashes, CM36, available from Quick Reaction Force.
Thunderous fire from the Asama and Takachiho bracketed the two Russian vessels, and in a few cruel minutes, both were damaged, whilst ominously the Akashi began to pull away from the Japanese line, moving to cut off their enemy's escape route ahead:
Not dismayed, however, Rudnev's gunners fought back against the smoke and flame, and loading their weapons like men possessed, found the range against the Takachiho: a hit!
The intervention of the neutrals had effectively put Naniwa out of the fight, and some inspired rolling meant the Russians could actually strike back against the better armoured Japanese, whilst they in turn had some hideously low rolls, failing to make a dent, even on the 4SP Korietz.
The bit between their teeth, the valiant Russians turned into the approaching foe, and the range narrowing all the time, let loose a barrage of torpedoes, only to be damaged in turn by a rain of Japanese shells:
Varyag was damaged for the second time by the Asama, but incredibly, both gun and torpedo hits were made on the Akashi, however, with her impetuous turn into the enemy, Varyag was now effectively doomed; the weight of fire incoming meant she was going to be in real trouble.
The only bright spot was it meant that Korietz was able to pull ahead, whilst her companion took the heat.
Then, disaster! Blinded by smoke and torn and wrenched by weight of shot, a cruel blow was inflicted on the valiant Varyag, and she is crippled by the fire of the enemy....
The nobility of Rudnev's sacrifice means that the weaker Korietz, bloodied but unbowed, can make good her passage toward Port Arthur and immortality:
To be frank, the Japanese at this point could have closed in for the kill on the smaller ship, which was going to be easily outpaced by the cruisers, but in good gentlemanly fashion, Uriu refused to engage such a weakened opponent; whether the TBs waiting out to sea would have been as kind, remained to be seen....
Honours, even, then, the vast armoured bulk of the Asama, unscratched by the lighter guns of the Russians, is chivalrous enough to allow the brave Korietz to pass:
The immortal Varyag and Korietz:
So, having weighted the game as much as possible away from favouring the Japanese, the Russians, mainly due to some very fortunate dice, gave not a bad account of themselves. In reality, however, just as historically, there was not a lot they could do against the ships with greater defence factors; closing the range gave them a better chance to hit, but of course this works both ways!
The combat ranges were adjusted downwards, to allow for the 1/3000th models, and the engagement easily took place on the 4x4 foot sea mat, although more shipping would have made things rather tighter.
The neutrals declined to take an active part, but had they got into the fight, things might have been more even, or at least made very interesting for the Japanese.
Good fun as a game, not least in paying tribute to the valiant and gallant fight put up by Rudnev and Belyaev, and of course things ended without the need to take on board the inevitable scuttling of the Russian ships that was to follow....