Wednesday 30 December 2015

Russo Japanese

I decided to end my wargaming year with an inaugural "big" naval game in the log cabin with some of my old NWS chums. Tim,. Peter and Stuart came over yesterday to try out my Russo Japanese mini campaign and a modified set of the old "DBN" rules that were published in Wargames Illustrated many, many years ago. The first challenge was finding my 1/3000 pre-dreadnought collection - I recall having all the ships for the campaign down to protected cruisers, but some seem to have gone AWOL over the years so some French proxies were brought in to fight on each side and a few ships had to "double up" for sisters.

I never expected to get all that many turns in - we didn't start until nearly eleven and ENDEX was at 1600 (plus we had a very nice pub lunch at the George over the river which took up quite a bit of time). In the end we managed two (out of a maximum of 40!)

In turn 1 the Japanese surprise attack on Port Arthur was detected before it went in and the Japanese decided to withdraw. The Russians decided from the outset to go for an aggressive strategy which saw the entire Port Arthur fleet sail to contest sea control in the Tsushima Straits (a few protected cruisers stayed behind to shell Japanese troops at some of the minor ports in Korea). The Russian move coincided with the first large Japanese troop convoy sailing from Sasabo, which was given a very heavy escort (the entire Japanese battleship and armoured cruiser force, plus a number of protected cruisers).  Ineviatbly the two forces clashed and Tsushima happened early, although in this case it was the Japanese who came of worse, losing four battleships to two Russian losses. The cruiser fleets of both sides were savaged and the Russians lost a number of destroyers. However the convoy escaped and returned to Sasebo.

Outset of the February 1904 Battle of Tsushima, as seen from the Japanese side. The armoured cruisers are deploying to the east, the battleships to the west. In the end the battle effectively split into two separate actions as each sides battleships and cruisers headed away from each other and squared up against their opposite numbers. 

Turn 2 saw another attempt by the Japanese to get their troops to Korea. This time they assembled just about any warship that could float and sent them along as escort. They encountered a patrolling force comprising their three undamaged battleships (ships hit in actions are required to remain in port for repairs on at least the following campaign turn) and a handful of cruisers and destroyers. The Russians, clearly intoxicated by their earlier victory, steamed in to the attack, but numbers tell and the battleships succumbed to a hail of gunfire from the Japanese armoured cruisers and a skillfully delivered series of torpedo attacks. All three Russian battleships were sunk, he surviving lighter ships making a swift escape to Port Arthur. The Russian commander later cursed his aggressive approach and agreed that letting the convoy through, given the size of he escort, would have been prudent

In little more than a month of "real time" both sides were fought practically to a standstill as far as major warships were concerned, the Russians reduced to three operational battleships, the Japanese to two. The rest of the war, had we played on, would have been much more subdued as the players realised the need to play the "long game", the benefits of basing out of multiple ports, covering their strategic objectives and gaining a better understanding as to how the area movement and sea control system would help them.

The rules themselves worked fine, as always the post-action discussion revealed a few areas where clarifications were needed and where rule tweaks would help, and so a revision was duly typed up in the small hours. But what we did establish was that the campaign and tactical rules did provide for a fun and relatively fast campaign system, easily adaptable to other pre-dreadnought theatres of operation, and well suited to a weekend or an occasional evening campaign.


  1. It sounds like a great game. The Russo-Japanese War campaign rules sound pretty interesting. I have been looking at that for my annual game, but haven't been sure of what campaign rules to use. I would love to see yours when you've revised them. So will this be the start of an annual naval game?

  2. One of my favorite periods...hope to get the fleets back out this year as I also have complete OoB for Russo-Japanese as well as SPAN-AM wars.

  3. Hi there.

    I'm sorry to raise this from the dead, but i have a question about White Bear, Red sun.

    A question, with respect to board size.

    The rules say that each side deploys 'within 18"' of their board edge. The campaign section says that Disengagement occurs when the ships are 24" apart.

    It seems that if one is on a standard 6'x4' mat, the closest the pursuer would be to the pursued is 54", if the fleeing force deploys on the table edge. Therefore, if 24" is the disengagement range, one will never catch anybody.

    if the table is 4 x 4, the initial starting distance would be 30", so closer, but still outside disengage range.

    what am i missing?

  4. You are missing the text that I omitted. Ships can only disengage if they are equal in speed or faster than the fastest enemy ship. If they are slower then they can only disengage if the enemy decides to let them go. Well spotted though - first person on nearly 4 anda half years to spot that!