The Great War at Sea, Fleet Action Imminent, 1/2400 scale
After a couple of weeks off due to other things getting in the way, we felt like a naval game. So, none of the players had played these rules before, I kept things simple. This was a fictitious clash between battlecruisers, with the German 1st Scouting Group intercepted off the Frisian Islands, while heading home from a sortie into the North Sea. This German force, commanded by Vice-Admiral Hipper in Lützow, consisted of five battlecruisers, he others being Moltke, Derfflinger, Seydlitz and Von der Tann. The British Battlecruiser Fleet had six battlecruisers available – Lion, Tiger, Princess Royal, Queen Mary, New Zealand and Indefatigable. They were led by Vice-Admiral Beatty, who flew his flag in Lion. We played the game on an 8×6 foot table, with both sides appearing out of the mist. Visibility was 6 sea miles – 12,000 yards, or 120cm on the tabletop. The Germans were played by Sean and Thomas, while Lindsay and I led the British. We each had three ships apart from Sean, who had to make do with Lützow and Derfflinger. The great thing about Fleet Action Imminent (the Great War variant of General Quarters 3) is that almost everything you need to play is right there on the ship cards or the playsheet. So, even with three nautical novices, things rolled along very smoothly. Actually, things got off to a great start – or rather they started with a bang. On the first turn the leading ships of each column sighted the enemy, and the next turn was spent closing the range. Then the shells started flying. The British gunnery wasn’t particularly good at first – only two of Lindsay’s ships could see the enemy through the fog, and they missed. Only three German ships could see – the ones commanded by Thomas – but they all fired at Lion and Tiger. All but one of the salvos missed. the exception was the one fired by Seydlitz. She achieved a perfect straddle, and one of the shells caused a critical hit on Beatty’s flagship.Things became really interesting when Thomas rolled “Explosion” as his damage effect. A gun turret was hit -0 in this case Lion’s “B” turret. That means Lindsay had to roll to successfully to flood the magazine, or else the ship would blow up. She needed “2-5”. Instead she rolled “11”. So – BOOM! Lion blew up, taking the unfortunate Beatty and his men with her. You couldn’t really get a better start to the game than that – if you’re a teenage German player!Well, after that we decided to get serious. No more faffing about. So, as my alter ego Rear-Admiral Pakenham was now in charge, commanding from New Zealand, we closed up into a nice firing line and began blazing away. This time all the German ships were visible, steaming on a reciprocal course- in other words heading the opposite way from us. So, each British ship fired on its opposite number, with Indomitable at the back firing on Lützow, their lead ship, and our front on Tiger firing on Moltke at the back of the German line. While we didn’t achieve anything spectacular, we started scoring key hits by knocking out gun turrets. Soon, Lützow was down to two turrets, while all but Von Der Tann lost one or two of their own. By contrast the German response was less effective, although Sean was concentrating on Indefatigable, and Thomas on Tiger and Princess Royal. Eventually we started losing turrets too, but it was obvious that with several turrets out of action, the German fire was slackening. Soon, Lützow was down to just one turret. It still scored a useful hit though, when its shells caused a Critical Hit on Indefatigable. This knocked out her steering, and until it was repaired she started turning in a circle to port – right under the German guns. Our revenge though, was to silence Hipper’s flagship the following turn. So, Sean decided to head off the table with her, protected by the remaining German battlecruisers. By now both sides had been circling to port, like fighters circling round each other. We kept firing though, but we were now at maximum visibility (120cm), and this was messing up the ability of our shells to penetrate that kick-ass German armour. So, we decided to edge closer, and at the same time head them off from the eastern table edge, and the safety of their base. With the range dropping, and the Germans about to be cut off from home, Sean ordered a Gefechtskehrtwendung – a simultaneous 180° turn by all of the battlecruisers. That meant the battered Moltke was in the lead, and instead of heading west into the North Sea, the Germans were now heading east, towards safety. The British were about 4.5 miles (90cm) to the south of them, and losing the race to cut the Germans off. The consolation prize though, was a hit on Derfflinger’s steering – she started circling to starboard just before the German ships turned – and the knocking out of all the turrets on Seydlitz. For our part Indefatigable had fixed her rudder, but she was badly knocked about, and her engines were damaged. She was struggling to stay in the fight, and now had no chance of overhauling the Germans. So, the game ended as the German battlecruisers steamed off the eastern table edge. There was nothing we could do to stop them. So, with Beatty killed and Lion sunk, and the German ships safely home, this was a clear German victory. In the fight though, the German ships had suffered badly, and were quite lucky to make it off the table. All in all it was a great little game, and a good introduction to naval wargaming for the naval newbies. I’m sure we’ll put to sea again, and with luck this time, the crew of Lion will be avenged!