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AAR: Battle of the River Plate

 
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cbovill
E5


Joined: 12 Dec 2004
Posts: 440
Location: Las Vegas, NV

PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2006 6:38 pm    Post subject: AAR: Battle of the River Plate Reply with quote

After Action Report: Battle of the River Plate

On Sunday, a bunch of us in Las Vegas got together to fight the battle of the River Plate. This was the famous action on December 13, 1939 in which the Royal Navy’s Force G under Commodore Harwood tracked down the German pocket battleship Graf Spee under the command of Kaptain Langsdorf off the River Plate estuary and forced her to give battle.


South American Cruiser Force G


Admiral Graf Spee in camo pattern

In preparation for this battle I have been trying to decide on a rules set for naval wargaming. I have Seabase III which is an ancient DOS computer based rules system (not recommended) and Command at Sea which doesn’t cover the Atlantic at all. So I downloaded the free Seas of War rules. In the process, I am looking into getting either GQ or Seekreig V to try them out too. And when GHQ’s comes out I will probably take a stab at those.

Back to the battle. My friend Eric Harvey commanded the Graf Spee, Hugh Bishop commanded the Exeter, Rob Juasamme commanded the Achilles, and I was Harwood in the Ajax. Hugh’s son Marshall was first gunnery officer aboard the Exeter. My wife and two young daughters were a series of squalls that kept blowing through the battle area, disrupting the ships at sea. None of us had ever played Seas of War before.

Victory conditions for the scenario were as follows:
Sink the Graf Spee = 10 points
Sink the Exeter = 6 points
Sink the Ajax = 5 points
Sink the Achilles = 5 points

Also, if the Graf Spee went off the west edge of the board, then she would be considered in neutral Uruguayan waters and a new scenario could be started with the British also having the heavy cruiser Cumberland available when the Graf Spee is forced out.

Setup:
The Graf Spee sets up on the western edge of the board heading southwest. Force G sets up in line ahead on the south edge of the board heading towards the northeast.

Harwood’s captains met aboard the Ajax just before the battle and decided that all three ships would immediately fan out in the direction (northwest) of Graf Spee with Ajax in the center, Exeter to port and Achilles to Starboard with 10,000 meters between each ship to prevent Graf Spee from slipping away. The British would also have to close quickly with Langsdorf to escape the rain of steel from the 11.1” guns of turrets Anton and Bruno of the Graf Spee, then launch a torpedo attack to finish her off. The assumption was that Lansdorf would concentrate on the Exeter as the most dangerous British ship freeing up the two light cruisers to get in close for the torpedo strike. Fanning out would force the gunners aboard Graf Spee to either concentrate their fire on one ship or divide their fire (and its effect) between multiple ships.



The Battle:
So the British cruisers quickly broke into the new formation and the Graf Spee followed suit and changed course heading directly south along the western edge of the board towards Exeter. After a few turns the range had closed to 27000 meters between Graf Spee and Exeter. The Graf Spee then opened fire with all of her main guns but none of them found their mark. The following turn the range had closed to 22800 meters, the Graf Spee fired again and this time scored a hit amidships on Exeter which knocked out her only AA guns and started the first of many fires aboard this ship. Exeter was able to open with her forward guns and straddled the Graf Spee.


Fire!


Hit!

Meanwhile the Ajax and Achilles continued on course to close in on the Graf Spee from behind. The Graf Spee and the Exeter continued to exchange fire at each other with the first hit from the Exeter knocking out the Spee’s wireless station – no more communiqués and interference from Berlin!


Graf Spee is hit.

Both ships continued to close the range and the differences between the two ships became more and more pronounced with each passing turn. Graf Spee’s massive guns continued to score hit after hit on the Exeter and wrecked everything but her main guns – even killing Captain Bell and everyone on the bridge.

Ajax was now close enough to join the fight and began pouring round after round into the Graf Spee.


Ajax opens fire with Achilles in the foreground.

Many hits were scored in rapid succession, but most simply bounced off of Graf Spee’s thick hide. However, one managed to penetrate the conning tower and killed Captain Langsdorf himself, another plunged through the deck armor over the magazines from 21000 meters out causing a chain of events that resulted in the loss of turret Bruno.

The result of Exeter and Graf Spee closing the range to only 12000 meters was that Exeter was now a flaming hulk dead in the water and on the verge of foundering, Graf Spee had fires raging and much of her engineering knocked out but was otherwise very much in tact and still a fearsome opponent. Ajax and Achilles were now both in range and had not been touched. At this point the Graf Spee broke into neutral waters and the pursuit was broken off.


Exeter and Graf Spee are burning. Ajax and Achilles close in.

Damage to Exeter was so severe that she would have sunk shortly thereafter – there were too many fires to bring her under tow. Ajax and Achilles would have taken off her survivors and then be joined by the Cumberland to await the Graf Spee’s next move. The Graf Spee would spend her time in Montevideo putting out her fires, restoring her wireless, burying the dead and repairing some of her engineering, but she would remain a slow target for the British cruisers on the scene and with only half her main guns in working order. Her demise would have been virtually assured as there were many more British and French ships en route. It would require Admiral Marshall sailing with the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau to distract the allies and allow the Graf Spee to slip away, but that would only have a small chance if her engines were in tact – and they weren’t.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable battle to play. We kept it moving and the 1:1 ratio of people to ships was excellent. The game scale however left a lot to be desired at 1cm = 100m. Guess how many feet of playing space that scale would require! In addition, good luck trying to find a metric measuring tape in the USA. They don’t exist except for the one very large and clunky unit I found at Lowes. In addition, rule 5 for communications has not been written, nor have the rules for mines and submarines although we kept away from those in this opening scenario, and some of the aircraft don’t have any data so air combat would be interesting. But hey, they’re free rules so I’m not complaining! We did find it interesting that very few hits were scored on primary gun turrets. Only Ajax scored a direct hit on turret Anton but it bounced off.
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jb
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Joined: 10 Mar 2005
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Location: Antananarivo

PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2006 7:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

...great AAR.The pictures are C Cool Cool L. It is really nice to see a naval action on this forum. How about the sinking of the Bismark next?
Thanks! cbovill.
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DrBig
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Joined: 22 Jun 2006
Posts: 227
Location: California

PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2006 8:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From what I've read, GQ would not be the rules for a small engagement like this. You need something with a little detail in it. Check this out

http://theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=80011

also, Seekrieg is a free download I think. You could try that first.
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Mobius
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Joined: 25 Oct 2004
Posts: 481
Location: Glendale CA

PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2006 11:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

cbovill. when we play in a fairly small area we condense the ranges to 1:20000 scale (and half the movement). At least until the ranges fall to around 10,000 meters. Then go back to normal scale.

One surprising source I found for metric tape measures was the check out area of a Rite-Aid drug store. Found some cheapy ones for $3-$4 each. Bought several as they never have the same kind there when I go back. Might check the check-out area of chain drug stores or places like Target.

Very nice effect on the sea boards.

I guess I forgot to release the sub rules for Seas of War. I just posted them at the site now that you remind me. I don't think they are fully tested. I found sub battles were a lot of work and not as much fun as a surface action.
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El Grego



Joined: 15 Dec 2004
Posts: 98
Location: Seattle area

PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2006 7:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Howdy,

Great report Very Happy

DrBig is correct - GQ does not handle small encounters very well at all.

Seekrieg4 is available for free here: http://www.seekrieg.com/ but it is rather different (from what I understand) from Seekrieg5.
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Two blogs - not much GHQ content, yet...

http://pewterpixelwars.blogspot.com/

http://minishipgaming.blogspot.com/
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cbovill
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Joined: 12 Dec 2004
Posts: 440
Location: Las Vegas, NV

PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2006 10:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the tips Mobius! I had come up with this crazy scale conversion to get us into a smaller space to conduct the battle, but I think next time I'll try your suggestion. Looking forward to seeing the rest of the rules put out there too.

Rite Aid for metric tape measures - who would have thunk it. I've been going around to all the gigantic hardware stores thinking they if anyone would sell them.

Also, thanks guys for the info on GQ, I can cross that one off my list.

Chris
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Mobius
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Joined: 25 Oct 2004
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Location: Glendale CA

PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2006 10:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
="cbovill" Looking forward to seeing the rest of the rules put out there too.
Chris
Chirs, that was a great AAR. if you have specific areas of data that are missing for you scenarios let me know. I'll see if I can fill out the tables.

River Plate and Denmark Strait are our favorite scenarios and we usually play them at least once or twice a year. .
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ww2navyguy
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Joined: 29 Jul 2005
Posts: 210
Location: Sunny Florida

PostPosted: Tue Jul 25, 2006 12:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

cbovill,

Great report! I love the work on your models!

I hope to read more on your future naval battles on this site.

Thanks for sharing!

Scott
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Doug B



Joined: 08 Mar 2006
Posts: 29

PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2006 3:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow... fantastic ships & report. How did you do the muzzle flashes & smoke? Did you dye cotton two different colors or just take some orange yarn and dye it black?

Have you tried the old Avalon Hill game Bismark for minis? I had their Jutland game for years & recently got Bismark off of eBay expecting it to be a WW2 version, but was impressed by the much higher level of detail. Probably *too* detailed if you have more than a couple of ships per player but once you get the hang of it it seems to play pretty easily.
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cbovill
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Joined: 12 Dec 2004
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 02, 2006 1:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For the muzzle flashes and hits I took cotton balls and tore off a small bit of the cotton, sprayed one end with Tamiya translucent orange and the other with Tamiya smoke - both are sold as spray cans. They work equally well on my 1/285th land battles to mark who's been hit. You just shove the end of the barrel into the cotton up to the turret.

For the ships, I just shoved it on the end of the turrets if they were firing, and for registering hits it sticks into the masts of the ships quite well to show that the ship has fires started on her.
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av8rmongo
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Joined: 11 Dec 2004
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 14, 2006 9:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I downloaded the rules you mentioned and read through them but without playing a practice scenario there is one thing I don't understand. Does the DAF (Descent Angle Factor) accurately reflect the range banding effect between horizontal and plunging fire (horizontal fire hitting the vertical armor belt, plunging fire hitting the horizontal deck armor)? The gun tables list a belt armor penetration factor all the way out to the maximum range of the weapons, which would seem impossible to achieve given the balistic trajectories required to achieve maximum range.

I use Command at Sea rules, which factors much of Seas of War detail into overall armor and penetration factors. While this is a sacrifice of detail what they did was an elegant solution because it is really quite easy to see how any two ships stack up against each other, where immunity zones are and all of that. Tactical concepts which would have been drilled into every ship captain and so any player who takes the time to ** CENSORED ** the situation gets a realistic view of where they should position their forces for the best advantage. I'm not saying that Seas of War doesn't do that because I admit I am not familiar enough with it yet.

While Command at Sea doesn't yet have an Atlantic war supplement The Naval SITREP magazine put out by Clash of Arms does cover this famous battle. Based on CaS rules and the situation you outlined it looks to me that Graf Spee would have been in the 'immunity zone' from the light cruisers and even with one turret out of action could have been able to deal with the two light cruisers without much danger to herself provided she kept the range between about 11,000 and 17,000 yards. Which is why I ask the question about the DAF and its effect on plunging fire.

Paul
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Mobius
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Joined: 25 Oct 2004
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 14, 2006 3:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
="av8rmongo" I downloaded the rules you mentioned and read through them but without playing a practice scenario there is one thing I don't understand. Does the DAF (Descent Angle Factor) accurately reflect the range banding effect between horizontal and plunging fire (horizontal fire hitting the vertical armor belt, plunging fire hitting the horizontal deck armor)?
Yes, it does. It is a ratio of vertical to horizontal exposed areas (rounded to the nearest 10%).

Quote:
The gun tables list a belt armor penetration factor all the way out to the maximum range of the weapons, which would seem impossible to achieve given the balistic trajectories required to achieve maximum range.
No, for that to happen the shells would have to decend at 79.4° or more giving the horizontal area 95% of the exposed area. Most low level bombs don't even come down that steep.

Quote:
, where immunity zones are and all of that. Tactical concepts which would have been drilled into every ship captain and so any player who takes the time to ** CENSORED ** the situation gets a realistic view of where they should position their forces for the best advantage.
In reality immunity zones are never that cut and dry. What you have in reality are ranges where there is a higher degree of protection than other ranges.

Quote:
without much danger to herself provided she kept the range between about 11,000 and 17,000 yards
If you look at the SoW charts the 6" SAP will penetrate 1.5" of deck only over 16,800 meters. As the GS has 1.5" of deck protecting the engines and magazines.
6" SAP will penetrate the main belt only up to 11,300m but not through all belts plus secondary belts until under 5200m. However, numerous hits can cause other damage and start fires which could cause all sorts of damage. So its not 'immune' from damage. The light cruisers would probably fire Common, HE at these ranges as this have a better chance of causing fires.
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Last edited by Mobius on Mon Aug 14, 2006 7:59 pm; edited 3 times in total
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av8rmongo
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 14, 2006 7:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mobius,

Thanks for the explanation. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to suggest that GS would be totally immune from damage just from major damage caused by penetrating shells, even CaS has reduced damgage for rounds that hit but do not penetrate.

Paul
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People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.
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chrisswim
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2006 8:49 pm    Post subject: Graf Spee Reply with quote

My father's next door neighbor has part of the Graf Spee in a den in his room. The neighbor served in His & Her's Majesty's Royal Navy.
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cama
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2006 9:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, seeing as this battle report was on the forum, and there was only 4 ships in the battle, I thought this was a good way to break into WWII naval.

So I broke down and picked up Graf Spee, Exeter, a Leander class (Ajax?), but the store, only 150km away, only had one Leander. So I have to substitute a Dorsetshire until I get a Leander class for Achilles.

Now I will be waiting impatiently for GHQ's WWII naval rules...
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