Thursday, 15 June 2017

WW2 Baltic Campaign - Game 3 - Tallin Convoys


Welcome back Naval gamers, one and all, to Part 3 of the Baltic Campaign. This is a continuation of a set of linked scenarios based on the conflict between the Soviet fleet and the Kreigsmarine in late 1941, a sideshow to the massive land battles of Barbarossa but fascinating none the less.

If you are new to the Campaign below are the links to the two previous games, I would suggest reading at least the first part as it contains the rules for submarines and mines.

Campaign-game-1 - Daily Patrol

Campaign Game-2- Shore Bombardment

Convoy ! Not a single Yorkie Bar in sight
Umpire Notes

If you are following the Campaign, I use the following system to determine the condition of any ship damaged in the previous game. Half any damage or speed loss and use that as the starting point for that ship for that game. Any turret / Torpedo Tube losses, I roll a d6 with a 50% chance that the equipment is now working again. The first two games have been relatively short with small forces involved. This scenario contains large numbers of ships and quite a bit of air power (which needs tracking) so there is no easy way to cover this quickly, to shorten the game you could reduce the number of Convoys and or distance travelled.


Team Germany Part 1
We probably played this over three full days, which I appreciate is a long time, however followers of YG will know that we are blessed with a permanent set up so we never actually rush stuff, added to that we have a Fish and Chip lunch to fit in. Our group also have a sickness record on a par with the British Army in the Crimea so this ended up being on the table for about 6 weeks !


Air Power plays a large part in this game
Game 3 Historical Background

I must give a big plug here for the Command at Sea PDF Baltic Arena which can be downloaded from the Wargames Vault for a fee, which even if you don't game is still a fantastic source of information on this neglected theatre of the war. This scenario is very much inspired by the one in the book.

It's August 1941 and the German Forces are sweeping forward on land, Operation Barbarossa is still in full swing. As the advance has progressed the Soviet Navy has proved itself to be very useful in evacuating troops from various ports, the Germans however have noticed this and a number of Air units have been moved to the area to counter their actions.


Convoy No 1 leaving Tallin
In early August the Germans had reached a position some 50 km east of Tallin and therefore had cut off the supply lines from Kronstadt and Leningrad. The Soviets still had a large fleet of warships and transports available in the area to supply or evacuate their troops by sea. To stop this the Finns and Germans had laid extensive mine fields in the area.

On  August 27th, the Germans breached the defensive positions of Tallin and entered the outskirts of the city. The next day, the Soviets began to evacuate as many people as they could from the area, with priority given of course to Communist Party assets and personnel. The Soviets assembled ships to depart Tallin in seven groups:  the main battle force, four convoys, a screening squadron, and a rear guard squadron. The evacuation of Tallin by the Soviets would not be an easy undertaking, the Germans had anticipated such a move and were waiting.

So the scene for our game is set, it's 11am on August the 28th 1941 and the first Convoy has just left the harbour en route to Leningrad and relatively safety, but it's a long long way to go.


The table is set
Game 3 Set Up Map



The table is 12 ft by 6 ft, all the squares are the same size and were marked out with thread stretched across the table.

We gave all our transports a top speed of 20 knots which is high I know but we wanted a reasonable amount of movement for them to keep the game moving.

In Campaign turns we counted each game move as 10 minutes of Campaign Time.

I didn't have enough Minesweepers so ended up using some Italian Patrol Boats as substitute, I'm sure someone will have spotted this already.




Russian Briefing 28th August 1941

The German Land Armies continue to press our front lines back and our major Port of Tallin is under siege. We have no other option but to evacuate the port and move all the ships and personnel East to Leningrad.

Your Naval forces have been organised into 4 Convoys, each containing a number of Transports and supporting vessels, it is 11am and the 1st Convoy has just cleared the port entrance and the remaining forces will leave over the next few hours.

There are also 3 Naval Combat Sqns which are due to leave the port this afternoon.



Your mission is to get as much tonnage as possible over the finish line (yellow markers in D2) however due to your recent losses you need to try and save as many combat ships as you can, Kirov especially, there are only 4 Destroyers and 2 Battleships not committed to this operation.

You have 2 submarines to deploy in columns B to D, inform the umpire before the game begins.

Our Intelligence believes there will be extensive mining in the area.

You will receive some air cover and we have airfields still in our control in D1.

Soviet Fleet

After the first Convoy leaves the Game Clock moves on at 10 minutes a turn, each Soviet Ship Group is given a depart time below, this is the expected departure and is varied as follows,

Beginning 20 minutes before departure time for each group of ships, and every turn after (until released), roll 1d6. Taking Convoy 2 as an example, which is due to depart from Tallin at 13.00. At 12.40 a 6 releases the ships early, at 12.50 a 5 or 6 releases, at 13.00 it's 3,4,5,6, anything but a 1 will see them away at 13.10 and then regardless they leave at 13.20.

On table turn 1 in sq D8 is Convoy 1

Destroyers - Surovy and Svirepy (Class 7U)
Minesweepers - x 3
Transports - x 8 with a total tonnage of 20,000


Convoy 2 is scheduled to leave Tallin at 1300 hours

Destroyer - Karl Marx (Novik Class)
Minesweepers - x2
Transports - x 7 with a tonnage of  10,000

Convoy 2
Convoy 3, expected departure 14.00,

Destroyers - Lenin and Yakov Sverdlov (Novik Class)
Minesweepers  - x 3
Transports  - x 9 with a tonnage of 20,000

Screening Force, expected departure 14.20

Destroyers - Minsk (Destroyer Leader), Skorkyi and Slavny (Project 7U Class)

Main Force expected departure 14.50

Heavy Cruiser - Kirov
Destroyers  - Ognevoi, Vlasny, Gordyi and Smetivvyi (Project 7 Class)


Convoys 2 and 3 in motion
Convoy 4, expected departure at 15.20

Destroyers  - None
Minesweepers  - x3
Transports - x 7 with a tonnage of 12,500

Rearguard, due to depart from Tallin at 15.30

Destroyers  - Silny and Serdityi (Project 7U Class), Grozyashchi and Gnevnyi (Project 7 Class)
Plus all surviving Destroyers from games 1 and 2 that have not already been allocated.

If you are playing along remember to remove any losses from the above orbats.

The rearguard accelerate away from Convoy 4
Russian Air Power (all from airfield in Sq D1)

2 flights of 6 MiG 1 Fighters
2 flights of 6 I-15 Fighters
2 flights of 6 I-16 Fighters
4 flights of 6 Ar-2 Bombers
2 flights of 6 DB-3B Torpedo Bombers

The Soviet Commander may request any of the flights as support in the air phase of a turn, the umpire will roll a d6 for each flight requested with the planes being released for operations on a 3 to 6. Once airborne the planes take one turn to enter the table, they then operate as normal. Once their mission is complete they will take 1 further turn to land back at base. They will then be unavailable for 6 turns as they refuel etc prior to the planes being added back into the ready pool.



German Briefing 28th August 1941

The advance of the Wehrmacht continues unabated, the front line has moved forward dramatically over the last few days and the vital Port of Tallin (D7) is currently under siege. The Soviets have large numbers of ships and resources in the Port and an evacuation is believed to be planned for today.

We have limited Naval Forces in the area although lead elements of the Baltenflotte may arrive this afternoon if you decide to commit them, most of the work today will need to be done by the Luftwaffe. We have three operational airfields in A1, A4 and A7.


Row 3 and Row 6 have been extensively mined, if you travel through these rows you must keep a straight line or be subject to potential mine attacks.

Our Intelligence suggests that we are unlikely to find any Soviet mines but there are submarines operating in the area.

Although losses have been light so far in the campaign, light forces are limited. Destroy as many of the transports as you can but avoid ship losses.

German Fleet

On table at the start of the game in square A6 are all the remaining Destroyers and Torpedo Boats from games 1 and 2, so we had

Destroyer - Z-20
Torpedo Boats  - T2, T4, T5, T7, T8

If you are playing along remember to remove any losses from the above orbat.

Reinforcements

The Germans may request the Scheer Taskforce at any time however it is not available until 14.00, when requested (from 14.00 onwards) roll 2d6 needing a 12 to release the ships, minus 1 from the total required each turn. They arrive in sq A8. The Taskforce consists of,

Heavy Cruiser (Pocket Battleship) - Admiral Scheer 
Destroyers  - Z24, Z25, Z26, Z27

Taskforce Scheer
German Air Power

At an Airfield off table by square A1, 3 Flights of 6 Buffalo Fighters and 1 Flight of 6 Blenheim 1 operated by the Finnish Airforce.

At an Airfield off table by Square A4, 1 Flight of 6 MS406 Fighters and 1 Flight of 6 Fiat G50 Fighters both run by the Finnish Airforce. 6 Flights of 6 JU88-A4 Bombers.

At an Airfield off table by Square A7, 2 Flights of 6 Hawk 75 Fighters (Finnish) and 2 flights of 6 JU88-A4.

The Germans have 2 Flights of 6 Bf109-F2 Fighters and 3 Flights of 6 JU87D-1 in reserve and these can be used on a like for like basis when a flight is lost in combat.

All aircraft requests go through the umpire in the Air Phase of the turn, the umpire will roll a d6 for each flight requested with the planes being released for operations on a 3-6, all Finnish Flights are subject to a minus one on their roll.

Once released, planes arrive on table one turn later, operate as normal, then take one turn after leaving the table to land. They are then unavailable for 6 turns as they are refilled etc.


German Land Forces

The Germans have 2 batteries on the Cape Juminda headland. One has three guns the other 4. It very much depends on how your rules work. We basically treat them as a stationary Destroyer but much harder to hit.

Victory Conditions

This is all about the transports, once over the safe line (the red line in row 2 of the map) the Russians can add the tonnage of that transport to their saved tonnage total.

Total Convoy Tonnage = 62500
German Decisive Victory = less than 20,000 tonnes make safety
German Tactical Victory = less than 30,000 tonnes make safety
Russian Tactical Victory = more than 35,000 tonnes make safety
Russian Decisive Victory = more than 40,000 tonnes make safety.


How did we get on ?

With ships, lots of aircraft, extensive mine fields, shore batteries and gamers throwing dice there was always going to be something going on, so here is my timeline of the events.

11.00 We are off

11.30 The first air attacks go in, the Germans on the Convoy and the Russians on the land based batteries. Damaged is caused to the transports but they are all going forward, for now.

12.30 The first big event occurs when one of the Land Batteries causes a fire on the Soviet Destroyer Svirepy which rapidly spreads to the Ammunition causing a large explosion, sinking the Destroyer and also a Convoy ship which was alongside. Convoy 1 enters the first minefield in row 6.


12.40 Transport L5 is the first to find a mine whilst two of the Minesweepers now have fires on board.

12.50 10 minutes early Convoy 2 sets off. The Destroyer Surovy hits a mine but escapes with minor damage, the 2 Minesweepers sink, unable to control their fires.

13.00 Surovy runs out of luck hitting a second mine in two turns as Convoy ship L11 breathes a sign of relief as it hits a mine but it fails to go off.

13.20 All the escorts for Convoy 1 are now sunk leaving 5 transports vulnerable and exposed.


13.40 The German ships launch a torpedo attack on the front Convoy, it sinks two and damages a third. The Germans put a request in for the Scheer Taskforce.

14.00 The first good news for the Russians as their bombers silence the German Land Batteries.

14.20 Comedy moment when the Finnish MS 406 Fighters attacked the Russian Ar2 bombers and the Fins after some "interesting" dice rolls lost the "dogfight".

14.30 The MS406 Fighters try again against the Ar2s and lose again, it's back to base for the Fins with their tales between their legs. An Air Attack goes in on Convoy 4 sinking a transport, whilst two Merchants hit mines, both of which are duds ! Questions needed to be asked back at the Mine Factory in Germany, I think.


14.50 Convoy 4 is on the table but at the other end the last ship of Convoy 1 is sunk just 50 cms from Freedom.

15.20 A rare Russian Air attack on the German ships fails to hit the target.

15.40 Taskforce Scheer arrives and engages the Kirov.

15.50 Kirov gets the range on Scheer and gets a penetrating deck hit.

The Russian ships sticking to the swept lanes.
16.00 A mass German Air attack of 48 Ju88s causes extensive damage to Convoy 3. Leningrad and 3 other Russian destroyers attempt a high speed run through an unswept area of Mines, the luck holds initially but Leningrad hits a mine losing 15 kts and sets on fire. Scheer takes a turret out on Kirov but takes hits in return.

16.10 Gradually throughout the game the German destroyers have been taking steady damage which is now taking effect on their operational capabilities and with their torpedoes spent and Scheer taking damage the Germans make smoke and turn for home ending the game, knowing that their ships will be needed again soon in game 4.

The Russians managed to get 33,500 tonnes home safely, after all that, it's a draw.


Afterthought

A really interesting tactical match up, as a Russian player you have to get into the mind set of losing ships (and lots of them). Convoy 1 is in for a real kicking what ever happens but as more and more Soviet ships arrive on table the German ships become more and more vulnerable to a point where at the end the Russians where on the offensive.

So of the three games we have had two draws, will the heavy defeat for the Russians in game 2 cause problems in the final game of our Baltic Campaign ? Tune in soon too find out.