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The Battle of Cape Hel, 1905


Pre-Dreadnought Naval, Perfidious Albion, 1/1000 scale

Apologies for the delay in posting this – and the next few reports. I suppose it’s fortuitous really, as with Covid-19 on the rampage, and all socialising on hold, then its good to have a backlog. Silver lining and all that. This was a fictitious naval game, set in the Baltic, just off the Hel Peninsula, on the German coast near Danzig. The lovely models are all scratch-built by a modeler, and bought when his friends were clearing his estate. I was going to sell them, but thanks to the virus all e-bay sales are on hold. Silver lining again. This clash pitted two forces of pre-dreadnought battleships – five German on one side, and three Russian and two French on the other. In this scenario, the two Allies had teamed up, and were challenging German control of the Baltic. Gyles and Maly commanded the Germans, while Sean and I took charge of the Allies, with Sean taking the Russians while I had the two French ships. The game was played out on a 6 x 6 foot sea mat. Both sides approached each other from opposite table edges. Strangely, the Germans advanced in a sort of dispersed formation, heading straight towards the enemy. Sean and I went for a more traditional approach, and swung to starboard to form a battle line, in line astern of the Russian flagship.The next problem was the ranges. Gyles read them as centimetres, and was surprised when we started lobbing 12-inch shells at him at 40 inches, rather than 40 cm. On our second salvo we scored a direct hit on the Kaiser Frieidrich III’s magazine, and the ship blew up. So, first blood to the Allies.Gyles and Maly tried to form their own battle line parallel to us, but things started unraveling fast. The next ship to go was the Hessen, which blew up after being hit by a Russian shell. They were firing back though, and both the Charles Martel and the Slava were hit, and had guns knocked out.Still, it wasn’t enough to stop the rot.By now the Germans had struggled into a line, but with three remaining battleships the odds weren’t on their side. In the two turns that followed the best their guns could do was to inflict a steering hit on the Tsessarevitch – Sean’s flagship – forcing it out of the line.In return though, in a single turn, they lost two more ships – the Preussen and the Deutschland. Once again both were lost thanks to fluke hits on the magazines! In Perfidious Albion – a set of rules you can’t take too seriously -these things are unusually common! That left them with only the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse. Clearly the thing to do was to flee, but this being a wargame the German players shot it out. The Allied ships had larger-calibre guns, and while the German battleship was pretty well armoured, at that range – less than a mile in real distances – it was hard to miss. The result was inevitable. With her main guns knocked out and her decks ablaze, the last German battleship  slipped under the waves. So, it was a huge win for the Russians and their French allies five ships to none. The game was rather daft, but good fun. Even the two losers enjoyed themselves, and as I said, you can’t take the rules as anything other than a lighthearted romp. I still might sell these – the trouble is, I only have a few ships of each nationality, so multi-national games are the way to go. With British, Germans, French, Russians, Austrian and even an Italian, there’s no shortage of sides. However, I have a hankering for the Russo-Japanese War, so these cool scratch-built ships will probably get replaced with something duller and 3D-printed. At that point, with a more sensible set of rules, the fun might well get sucked out of this period! 

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4 Responses “The Battle of Cape Hel, 1905”

  1. 24th March 2020 at 6:23 pm

    Look like great models, and I haven’t tried the Perfidious Albion rules. As you say, they do seem to have these extraordinary events on a much too frequent basis. But I guess at least you get a result.

    Somewhere In Oz, there is my 1/3000 WTJ French and German Pre-dreadnought fleets, and here i have a further 1/3000 German fleet, purchased when WTJ sold off their last white metal models.
    What rules would you recommend for the period?

  2. STEPHEN CALLAHAN
    25th March 2020 at 8:40 pm

    Those are great models. I have a collection of Houston’s 1:1000 ships for Span-Am war, plus a few odd bits of Italians and Austro-Hungarian. Finding good rules is always a problem. PA results in WAY too many magazine explosions, like several in every game.

    • 25th March 2020 at 9:56 pm

      I agree Stephen, but they ARE fun. I think the way to go is to take a leaf from GQ3, and give babies the chance to flood their magazines, or make an explosion roll. Otherwise, as you say, it becomes a bit crazy. Fun though, but crazy! What rules do you prefer?

      • STEPHEN CALLAHAN
        26th March 2020 at 2:37 pm

        lately the WTJ Quickfire rules, a bit generic, but fast. I find I don’t have the attention span to learn very complicated rules sets for naval games I play rarely.

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