Pre-Dreadnought Naval, Perfidious Albion, 1/1200
Something’s wrong. This was the second incredibly silly multi-player game in two weeks. In fact, both games were remarkably similar – multi-national contingents all battling it out for no apparent reason. The premise – a very loose one – was that a major European war broke out during a multi-national naval review in 1910. In other words, the First World War started early. Five nations all had contingents there – the British, the French, the Germans, the Austro-Hungarians and the Russians, while a lone Italian battleship stayed neutral and tried not to get in the way of the ensuing carnage. Of course, all the five nations had scores to settle, and allies. For instance, the German was allies with the Austro-Hungarian, but would happily shoot the French or the Russians. All of the five nationalities had two battleships and a cruiser, and two enemies and one ally. It was sort of like the final gunfight in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, only with battleships and five shooters!
True to form the British and the French immediately opened fire on each other, and within two turns the biggest British battleship – the Lord Nelson – was hit in the magazine, and she blew up. The remaining British ships pulled away, but the cruiser Arrogant was promptly fired on by the Austro-Hungarians, and she went under. Meanwhile the Russians were firing on the Austrians, while the Germans held their fire and sneaked up behind the Russians. The Russians destroyed the Austro-Hungarian light cruiser Tiiger, only to be fired on by the British – trying to settle scores after the Crimean War no doubt.
The result was a catastrophe for the Russian commander – both of his battleships – the Tssesarevitch and the Slava – both blew up in the same turn. That left him with the cruiser Aurora, and rather wisely the Russian streaked off towards the open sea. By this time the French had appeared, and took on the Austrians and the Germans, thereby buying time for their Russian allies to quit the arena. The five-funneled French battleship Danton proved particularly deadly with its multiple turrets. Strictly speaking she entered service in 1911, and was really a semi-dreadnought, but we felt the French needed her, and besides, I had a lovely scratch-built model of her. In the ensuing exchange the French battleship Charles Martel and the German one Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse were both damaged, and the Germans turned away, hoping to avoid the devastating fire of the Danton. The game ended and the scores were tallied – 3 points for each of your surviving battleships, and 1 point for your cruiser, and the same points for the ships you sank. The British emerged the winner with 11 points, followed by the French on 10, followed by the Austro-Hungarians and the British. The clear loser was Mother Russia, with 1 measly point.
Granted, this was a particularly silly game, and the rules – Perfidious Albion are vaguely reminiscent of “Battleships”, but they’re also fun to play, and very fast moving. The real stars of the game though were the ships – 15 lovingly scratch-built pre-dreadnought warships, made from wood and wire by the late Mike Earll. They’re quite fragile, so I based them on clear perspex, and with a bit of TLC they’ll remain in action for many years to come – a lasting tribute to the skills of the modeller. I have a lot more of his pre-dreadnought ships – all of the era from around 1900-10, and I might augment them at some stage with a few metal ones, to fill in the gaps in my fleets. For the moment though, its just Mike’s ships – and they remain a real treat to play with.