Thursday, 11 February 2010

Chemulpo: DBA Scenario Ideas.

A look now at some ideas as to how to present Chemulpo 1904 as a 'Damn Battleships Again' Scenario, looking in particular at the various vessels, their classification, and how one might 'level the playing field' somewhat, in order to turn what was always going to be a one-sided encounter into something a little more balanced.

As I'll be using the ships that were present during the Boxer Rebellion from my earlier campaign, I don't have the requisite models to represent every vessel, but given that historically not all the Japanese vessels seem to have engaged fully, (I suppose the Asama alone could have done the job, in reality....) I'm going to work around that.
I think the battle could throw up some interesting outcomes, and depending if you extend into 'what-if' territory, the involvement of the four neutral warships could be crucial.

All the vessels in the photos here are Navwar 1/3000th, and eagle-eyed viewers will note that my Varyag is actually a masquerading French Chateaurenault - I ordered the wrong pack, so had to make do! All ideas relating to the scenario are not official, emanating from myself, rather than such luminaries as Mr Barker et al.
If you don't have an immediate reference like a Naval Annual or All the World's Navies, thankfully there are a number of sites online that have good information available for this period.
The always interesting website has a nice summary of statistics for the various participants here:

In addition to the major surface vessels, they mention eight separate Japanese Torpedo Boat types, although I have yet to see these particular ships confirmed by other sources; some say three boats, some six, and most have no detail as to which ones; certainly, historically, they seemed to have taken no part in the main action, although that doesn't stop you adding them in for maximum mayhem!

First up then, some basic ship statistics, starting with the Varyag, or 'Viking' herself:

HIRMS Varyag: 1st Class protected Cruiser
Speed: 23 knots
(I hasten to add that this was optimal, sources put her capability at more like 19 kt on the day.)
Armament: twelve 6"QF, twelve 3", eight 47mm QF, six 15" Torpedo Tubes.
Damn Battleships Again Class: 2nd Class Cruiser, 6 Ship Points.

Next, her consort, the sea-going gunboat the HIRMS Korietz or 'The Korean':

Speed: 12 knots (on a good day....)
Armament: two 8" L/35 muzzle-loading guns, one 6" muzzle loader, four 4", six 47mm QF. The website above also gives her a single 15" Torpedo Tube, but I have not seen this mentioned elsewhere.
DBA Class: Obsolete, this seems rather harsh, but in view of her weaponry and size.....2SP? Perhaps for the sake of balance, a 3rd Class Cruiser designation might hold, at 4SP - both these ships punched above their weight in terms of gallantry and bravado!

Now for the rather weightier opposition; first up, the impressive Armoured Cruiser, Asama:

Speed 20.5 knots
Armament: four 8", sixteen 6" QF, twelve 12pdr QF, seven 2.5pdr QF, five 18" Torpedo Tubes
DBA Class: 1st Class Cruiser, 8SP.

HIJMS Takachiho and Naniwa (sister ships):

Speed 18.5 knots
Armament: six 6", two 57mm QF, four 18" Torpedo Tubes
DBA Class: 2nd Class Cruiser, 6SP.

HIJMS Naniwa (Rear Adm. Uriu's flagship):

HIJMS Akashi (Suma Class):

Speed 20 knots
Armament: two 6", six 4.7", four 3", ten 47mm QF, two 15" Torpedo Tubes
DBA Class: 2nd Class Cruiser, 6SP.

HIJMS Niitaka:

Speed 20 knots
Armament: six 6", sixteen 3", four 47mm QF
DBA Class: 3rd Class Cruiser, 4SP.

HIJMS Chiyoda:

Speed 19 knots
Armament: fourteen 6", ten 4.7", three 15" Torpedo Tubes
DBA Class: 1st Class Cruiser, 8SP.

HIJMS Chihaya:

Speed 18 knots
Armament: two 4.7", four 3"QF, five 18" Torpedo Tubes
DBA Class: 3rd Class Cruiser, 4SP.

So, even discounting the up to eight TBs, Japan seems to have a whacking great advantage, but I think with some special rules, you could engineer in some interesting bonuses to give the Russian pair a chance.
Depending on whether you see Rudnev's mission as to go down in a blaze of glory, or to attempt to break the blockade, then DBA allows for some interesting impacts on play using wind and weather as well as navigation hazards. If you saw the map I linked in my previous post, you will notice not only the Yo-dol-mi island, but also the 5 fathom line across much of the eastern edge; this would play well as a shoal, for instance.
Next of course, we have to factor in the dash and elan of the respective commanders, Uriu certainly seems to have been relatively cautious and methodical, conservative, even, whilst Rudnev allowed himself to be caught in a situation that could only engender rashness - I like the Flag Officer's Classification no4: "He is a gallant officer and/or completely mad" - could have been written for him!

Then, of course, there is the potential involvement of the neutrals; this could take the form of running interference, as it were, with perhaps them behaving as merchant shipping under the rules, and just happening to sally out in line astern and covering the Russian pair in the process (Will Uriiu fire on/through them?), or even something more active.

Historically speaking, the U.S.S. Vicksburg was definitely erring on the Japanese side of things, geopolitically at this period, the two countries were, if not allied as such, benevolently disposed toward each other, and indeed, in terms of trade, the dominance of a victorious Russian Empire would perhaps not have been in America's interests.
Perhaps we could then discount her active participation, but what about the British HMS Talbot? Bayly had made his point as "Yours, disgruntled of Chemulpo....." with his protest letter, but surely, could not have gone further, attacking an ally at the expense of a global competitor?
I think, on balance, he will act as he did historically, although it would be nice to think he would come up with some sort of diversionary wheeze as I mentioned above to allow the Russians to leave without bloodshed....

Turning finally to the other two European nations, this is where I think that the best possibilities for action lie. The French, if anything, were natural allies of the Russians at the time, and how could they resist the romance of that last, gallant sally? In reality, they looked on, a la Charge of the Light Brigade, and shrugged "C'est Magnifique....mais ce n'est pas la Guerre!", but wouldn't it be great, if impassioned by the Russian example, they joined the fray?

Descartes Class Cruiser, Pascal:

Speed 19.5 knots
Armament: four 6.4", ten 4", two 18" Torpedo Tubes
DBA Class: 2nd Class Cruiser, 6SP.

Finally, the Italians; not to stereotype their nation, but could they stand idly by and watch the French go to glory and beyond without them? I say: "Avanti Italia!"

Lombardia Class Cruiser, Elba:

Speed 17 knots
Armament: four 6", six 4.7", eight 57mm QF, seven 47mm QF, two 14" Torpedo Tubes
DBA Class: 2nd Class Cruiser, 6SP.

Plenty to think about, there, I think, I'll be running a refight along these lines in the next few days, so keep a lookout for the After Action Report!

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