"The Prussian 46th Interdiction Group had been battered aside at Kvitsøy, but their speed and experience negotiating the treacherous rocks of the Byfjorden allowed the surviving vessels to quickly encircle and entrap the Russian fleet, moving to block their advance in the narrowest region of the rock-strewn passage.
The White Banner Northern Fleet were aware of their pursuers, but their timetable allowed no fruitless pursuit or the seeking of alternative routes. Instead, they slowed to effect repairs and await reinforcement from Bombardment Group Slava, a naval formation dedicated to levelling cities and breaking curtain walls - walls like those found at the port of Stavanger.
Confident that they could smash through the Prussian ships as they had done before, the fleet made for Stavanger at a bold pace. The protection of the Bombardment Group was paramount if they were to crack the walls of Stavanger and find the Markgraf, and a few losses against a rag-tag formation of Prussian ships amid the rocks of Byfjorden were to be considered acceptable losses.
Whether the Russian commanders were aware of the flanking force of Prussian vessels moving from the south is a question that cannot be answered here, but can only lead to a debate on short-sightedness, ignorance or outright overconfidence...
- The Hunt for the Markgraf (cont.)
Naval Battles of 1873
THE SCENARIO - BREAKTHROUGH AT BYFJORDEN
To simulate the narrow passage of Byfjorden, we have something special for you this week - a modified scenario from the Campaign Book Operation: Sirocco - Scenario 7: Dahlak Archipelago. This divided the board into several different sections, with the Russian fleet split between them and their objective being the 12" strip furthest from their deployment. The Prussian defenders would be split between the objective zone and a small reserve who would arrive at the start of Turn Three. The game would officially last nine turns.
When adapting the scenario, we used the same breakdown on the different Naval groups - Vanguard, Core and Rearguard for the attackers, Defending Flotilla and Reserve Flotilla for the defenders, and used the same points values as recommended by the book. Scoring Victory Points, however, was adapted to use point values rather than Campaign Points, as this was not linked with any another scenario (except in a narrative sense).
The Prussians would score DOUBLE Victory Points for any Large or Massive models they managed to Damage, Destroy or Capture by the end of the game. In turn, the Russian Coalition would score Victory Points equal to the value of any Russian ship in the Objective Zone at the end of nine turns, so long as the vessel was not Damaged, Captured or Derelict. At the end of the game, the Victory Point totals would be compared.
Onto the battle!
|The scattered remnants of the 46th Interdiction Group, supported by squadrons out of Stavanger and Bremerhaven, hastily christened the Byfjorden Flotilla|
The Prussian Empire
Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleship with Elite Crew
Elbe-class Fleet Carrier with one wing of five Fighter Planes and one wing of four Fighter Planes
Three Uhlan-class Cruisers
Three Hussar-class Gunships
Three Hussar-class Gunships
Three Reiver-class Light Cruisers
One Squadron of four Arminius-class Frigates
One Squadron of four Saxony-class Corvettes
Two Wings of five Fighter Planes
The Prussian fleet would be divided into the Byfjorden Flotilla and the Interdiction Group. The Interdiction Group would arrive on the middle board edge at the start of Turn Three, and would consist of 500pts of Prussian vessels - Mike chose the Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleship and one squadron of Hussar-class Gunships. The rest of the fleet would deploy 12" on the short edge - the area the Russian fleet would consider their "Objective Zone."
The Prussian forces would be supplemented by six Minefields, placed just before the Russian fleet. They would have a value of 4AD, with the High Yield MAR like Danish Mines.
|The White Banner Northern Fleet, reinforced with the first elements of Bombardment Group Slava|
The Russian Coalition
One Khatanga-class Heavy Battleship
One Borodino-class Battleship
One Kostroma-class Fleet Carrier equipped with a Glacier Generator, accompanied by one wing of five Dive Bombers, one wing of three Dive Bombers and one Reconnaissance Plane
One Dudinka-class Assault Carrier equipped with a Glacier Generator, accompanied by one wing of five Dive Bombers and one Reconnaissance Plane
One Azov-class Battle Cruiser with Regular crew
One Azov-class Battle Cruiser with Regular crew
Three Tambov-class Gunships
Three Suvorov-class Cruisers
One Squadron of four Rostov-class Destroyers
One Squadron of five Kazimov-class Corvettes
Two Wings of five Fighter Planes
The Russian fleet would be split into three, the Vanguard (700pts) consisted of the Borodino-class Battleship, both Azov-class Battle Cruisers and the Tambov-class Gunship squadron. The Core Echelon (600pts) consisted of both Carriers, the Suvorov-class Cruiser squadron and the Kazimov-class Corvettes. The Rearguard was formed by the Khatanga-class Heavy Battleship and the Rostov-class Destroyers. Their set-up would be limited to different 12" sections of the board, but in practise the fleet managed to deploy fairly close together, as you can see below.
|The Russian Fleet faces the blockade, cautiously approaching the minefield|
|The Prussian defenders present a tight formation, built around the Fleet Carrier. Beyond the rocks, a squadron of Uhlan-class Cruisers prepare to defend one of the passages through the rocks|
|The Russian formation is equally close, preparing to thread through the rocks and defend themselves from the Prussian reserve force approaching from the south|
|The Khatanga-class Heavy Battleship forms the rearguard alongside a squadron of Destroyers|
|The staggered order of the Russian fleet is lead by the Gunships and Battleship, followed by Cruisers and Carriers|
|The outnumbered Prussian fleet prepares to weather the storm before their reserves can strike|
|The Russian Fleet takes the initiative|
|The Prussian fleet utilises the cover of the rocks and the oil platforms|
|Potshots damage the Gunship squadron|
|The Russian flagship leads the charge|
|One Hussar-class Gunship suffers a lucky strike at long range|
|The Mimic Generator aboard the Borodino-class Battleship copies the Glacier Generator of the Dudinka-class Assault Carrier behind it, and forms a wall of ice before the Russian advance|
|The Assault Carrier moves in support, readying the Heavy Mortars|
|The Prussian squadrons, having moved into the shadow of the derricks, suffer heavy bombardment from the Dudinka-class Assault Carrier. Several ships are destroyed|
|Surprisingly brutal, the opening moves have seen damage scored by both sides|
|The Russian advance builds momentum|
|Advancing quickly, the Russian fleet must be wary of Prussian reserves en-route to intercept|
|The Saxony-class Corvette darts forward and seeks to set-off the Mine, which would hopefully damage all of the Tambov-class Gunships. It proves to be a dud, however|
|Aware of the threat posed by the Uhlan-class Cruisers to starboard, the Borodino-lass Battleship blocks the narrow channel with ice, after damaging several Prussian ships with powerful gunnery|
|The damaged Hussar-class Gunships squadron move through the rocks, tracing lines of fire to the enemy Gunships and flagship. They cause minor damage|
|The Azov-class Battle Cruiser ploughs through another Minefield, but is undamaged|
|Continuing forward, the Battle Cruiser sights several targets|
|Incredible firepower from the huge turrets smashes the Elbe-class Fleet Carrier, cripples a Reiver-class Light Cruiser and obliterates one of the Arminius-class Frigates lurking at the back|
|Rather than waste their shots on the Prussian Corvette blocking their path, Dive Bombers swoop in and clear the path for the Gunships|
|The Azov-class Battle Cruiser feels the wrath of the Elbe-class Fleet Carrier|
|The mighty Kostroma-class Fleet Carrier unleashes its broadside into the damaged Hussar-class Gunship, adding further misery|
|Reiver-class Light Cruisers pour more fire into the exposed Battle Cruiser - it cannot take much more punishment!|
|The Dudinka-class Assault Carrier once again makes its presence felt, firing in all directions to destroy two Frigates and one of the Gunships|
|Carnage as the Russian fleet enters optimum range|
|Reconnaissance Planes mark the last Arminius-class Frigate for death|
|Prussian interceptors see the value of the Reconnaissance Planes, and shoot one down|
The Azov-class Battle Cruiser fire over the rocks to finish the last Arminius-class Frigate
|The Uhlan's crest the island and open fire, hitting one of the Suvorov-class Cruisers|
|Return fire causes critical damage to the lead Cruisers, however|
|Rostov-class Destroyers add their weight to fight, finishing one of the Uhlan-class Cruisers|
|The Tambov-class Gunships begin to move through the derricks, their fire destroying another Hussar-class Gunship and damaging the Elbe-class Fleet Carrier further|
|The Russian advance shows no sign of slowing, and the Prussian defenders have suffered a huge amount of damage|
|The Prussian Gunship, Frigate and Corvette squadrons have been lost, but reinforcements are on the way! Can they stall the Russian advance?|
|The remnants of the 46th Interdiction Group attack from the starboard side, moving into the middle of the Russian fleet|
|The Hussar-class Gunships pour their fire into the Dudinka-class Assault Carrier, causing massive damage to the Glacier Generators and weapon systems|
|Rostov-class Destroyers react quickly, opening fire at point-blank range into the reactor of the Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleship|
|The destruction of the Battle Cruiser scatters debris across the area, hitting the nearest Hussar-class Gunship and igniting the magazine in a chain reaction! Another ship in utterly destroyed!|
|As the battle behind them glows hot, the surviving Azov-class Battle Cruiser moves against the Reiver-class Light Cruisers. A boarding action damages one, but the gunnery is ineffective|
|The Suvorov-class Cruisers, battered after being engulfed in multiple explosions, try to engage the Uhlan-class Cruisers but are ineffective|
|Prussian Dive Bombers descend upon the Tambov-class Gunships, causing damage to the lead vessel|
|The Dudinka-class Assault Carrier attacks the Prussian Fleet Carrier, but the Fore Guns have suffered too much damage|
|The Heavy Mortars fire to the stern, and manage to score a direct hit on one of the damaged Hussar-class Gunships, finishing it off|
|Prussian Fighter Planes intercept the Russian Dive Bombers before they can deliver their payload|
|The massive broadside of the Kostroma-class Fleet Carrier shreds the defences of its Prussian counterpart|
|Desperate to defend the labouring Fleet Carrier, more Prussian interceptors engulf the Russian Dive Bombers|
|The Uhlan-class Cruisers take the bold (suicidal?) move to ignite the Minefield|
|The blast is powerful enough to destroy one of the Suvorov-class Cruisers, and damages the second Russian Cruiser and the Prussian Cruiser that hit the Mines in the first place|
|Tambov-class Gunships thread through the derricks, opening fire to limited effect upon the Prussian Fleet Carrier and Light Cruiser squadron|
|Retaliation from the Reiver-class Light Cruiser destroys one of the damaged Tambov-class Gunships|
|The rest of the Light Cruiser squadron moves to defend the Fleet Carrier, destroying two of the Kazimov-class Corvettes|
|The Borodino-class Battleship ploughs through the Minefield, suffering minor damage in the process|
|Sighting weakness amid the Prussian ships, the Kazimov-class Corvettes move into their formation|
|Lumbering into the battle, the mighty Khatanga-class Heavy Battleship bombards the Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleship with everything it has, breaking through the Shield Generator and causing major damage|
|The two fleets have begun to mix together - the battle will be decided here|
|The Khatanga-class Heavy Battleship finishes the ruined Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleship, and also damages the last Hussar-class Gunship with a volley from the broadsides|
|The Elbe-class Fleet Carrier ploughs into one of the Kazimov-class Corvettes, smashing it asunder|
|Lightning in all directions causes chaos for the Russian fleet, damaging one of the Tambov-class Gunships, a Kazimov-class Corvette and the Kostroma-class Fleet Carrier, whose Ablative Armour is lost and engines ruined|
|The Dudinka-class Assault Carrier ends the Elbe's reign of terror, and floods the decks with drunken conscripts. They Capture the Fleet Carrier, revenge for the loss of the Russian flagship!|
|The last Reiver-class Light Cruiser swoops around the Kostroma-class Fleet Carrier, damaging it with Tesla broadsides before firing upon the crippled Dudinka-class Assault Carrier and finishing it. The stricken vessel slowly sinks beneath the waves|
|The Kostroma-class Fleet Carrier hits a Mine, but it is another dud and does not damage|
|The Hussar tries to slow the mighty Khatanga|
|Rostov-class Destroyers launch forward to try and recover the Borodino-class Battleship, but they are too far away. They do damage one of the Uhlan-class Cruisers with their powerful Fore Guns, however|
|Prussian Dive Bombers fail to stop the Tambov-class Gunships from moving forward, but the drifting hulk of the Reiver-class Light Cruiser does halt one|
|The second Gunship breaks past the rocks and the derricks to come around and launch an attack on the Captured Borodino-class Battleship. After a brief but bloody battle, the Russian flagship is recovered! A big blow for the Prussian morale|
|The Kazimov-class Corvettes break past to move to the Objective Point|
|As the sun begins to set, Russian ships fire up massive flares in an effort to illuminate the passage|
|The Prussian fleet has suffered several more blows, but the Russian fleet did not escape unscathed. The loss of the Assault Carrier and the Battleship will hurt their victory, and the Fleet Carrier is also very badly damaged|
|The Uhlan's try to move past the rocks, but one cannot avoid them and is broken. The second cannot break through the massive prow armour of the Khatanga|
|The Khatanga-class Heavy Battleship ends the Prussian resistance in several precise volleys from the Heavy Mortars, and the remaining Russian ships are clear to advance down the Byfjorden|
|The only remaining Prussian vessels are Derelict hulks or Prizes|
|The Borodino-class Battleship has been damaged by Prussian Luftlancers, but has been recovered by the crew of the Tambov-class Gunship. The path to Stavanger is now clear|
Carnage! The Prussian Empire succeeded in destroying the Dudinka-class Assault Carrier, severely damaging the Kostroma-class Fleet Carrier and rendering the Borodino-class Battleship a ruined hulk (though admittedly one in possession of the Russian salvage crews). This would slow their advance, and gave Mike a score of 1,350 Victory Points. Impressive!
Unfortunately, the Prussian fleet had been utterly destroyed by the Russian Coalition, and seen the Capture of the Elbe-class Fleet Carrier and one Hussar-class Gunship. Several Russian squadrons would also make it into the Objective Point by the end of the nine-turn game, giving the Russians extra points - ultimately, they would score 2,335 Victory Points, an incredible tally! Victory for the Russian Coalition.
CONCLUSIONS AND LEARNING POINTS
It was good to play something different from the usual line-up and smash - more scenarios (adapted from the books or original) coming up!
The Russian Coalition have once again proven themselves capable of smashing the Prussian Empire - after so many games, it never feels easy, but a lot of the strengths of the Prussian fleet are nullified by the strengths of the Russians, and they really struggle to maintain an even footing against the great slab-armoured vessels of the North.
Nonetheless, the Prussian Empire proved they have teeth - the Close Gunnery of the Cruiser and Gunship squadrons caused a great deal of damage in the middle of the game, and surprisingly (to me, at least), the Reiver and Uhlan squadrons caused significant damage even at the very end - maybe I had ignored them in favour of the Gunships and Heavy Battleship, and they were relatively unscathed for a late-game comeback.
The Uhlan Squadron was particularly useful in blocking the passages between the rocks with their Mines - in these tight areas, there was no way to avoid them and they would deny the Cruiser squadron access to the Objective Point.
Mike was cavalier with his ships - throwing several into the Mines on purpose to set them off and damage my ships! A dangerous tactic, and also somewhat risky given the random nature of the Mine damage values, but one that did cause me some trouble at points.
On the Russian side, I misused or plain forgot about the Glacier Generators later in the game - these could have really helped defend the Borodino-class Battleship and the Assault Carrier. The terrain was not as ideal for their use as the previous game, where Ben used them to effectively split the Prussian fleet in two, but they could still have helped the Large vessels survive a bit longer.
Perhaps if I have positioned the Battleship and the Carriers further forward, rather than behind the Medium squadrons, they would have been more useful at the start of the game - something to consider for next time! I was pleased with the blockade across the bow of the Battleship as it negotiated the rocks - next time I just need to remember to defend the stern as well!
Concussive on the Russian guns was forgotten too many times, again!
Reconnaissance Planes proved their worth this game, and Indirect Fire is something I intend to use a LOT more. Unfortunately Mike saw how dangerous they were early on, and shot them down before I could use them to their full potential. I imagine Mike was annoyed he did not have any of his own during this game, given the Line-of-Sight blocking nature of the terrain.
Losing both of the Azov-class Battle Cruisers was a shame (I guess you can never plan for Magazine Explosion, though). They still proved themselves undoubtedly useful - in combination with a Gunship squadron and the Assault Carrier, the firepower the Russian fleet can throw out is brutal.
Overall, the Russian fleet performed admirably, and held their own against the flanking force of Prussians well - even with the cascading Magazine Explosions ripping through both fleets! (I guess it hurt Mike more than me, to be fair) As usual, I am really enjoying using the Russian fleet, and am continuing to expand in order to try out some of the other tricks and tactics available - at the moment I have a squadron of four Nikel-class Heavy Frigates on the painting table, ready for more Indirect Fire shenanigans, and I think the next few vessels might be Submarine in nature... Target Painters, anyone?
"The Prussian 46th Interdiction Group were finished after the debacle in the Byfjorden, their abortive ambush smashed asunder by the Russian Bombardment Group and the vanguard that preceded it. Their sacrifice would buy the defenders of Stavanger some small amount of time as the Russian fleet attempted refits and repairs on their damaged carrier ships, but Bombardment Group Slava was still mere days away from shelling the port out of existence. The Prussian Empire and its Danish allies were rapidly running out of time..."
Thanks for reading,