Thursday, April 28, 2022

HMGS-Midwest Little Wars 2022

 This past week end over five hundred gamers gathered near Chicago for Little Wars 2022.  This was the first event I attended post Covid mask and social distancing requirements.  It was great to see many familiar faces and roll dice again.

Little wars was held at a new venue, the Sheraton in Lisle, IL.  Gamers as well as vendors were out in force.  The were over 160 games run over the course of the weekend and a very large vendor area set up in one of the atriums with a huge selection of new as well as used gaming related items.

My Schedule of events
This year I signed up to host four events based on the naval battles of the Russo-Japanese War (RJW).  I ran two iterations of the Battle of Ulsan, one on Friday afternoon and one Saturday morning.  I also ran the larger battles of Yellow Sea, Friday afternoon/evening and Tsushima Saturday afternoon/evening.

Battle of Ulsan-First Iteration

August 14, 1904 As the Japanese lay siege and close in on Port Arthur from the Land the Russian Navy's First Pacific Squadron made an attempt to sortie and escape. Admiral Togo and the Imperial Japanese Navy was waiting for them though. At the same time a Russian Cruiser squadron sortied from the base at Vladivostok to join forces with the First Pacific Squadron. They were intercepted in route. This is your chance to command....can you change history or will it repeat itself?

Opening shots as the Russians Engage

Japanese Gunnery and superior number of guns take their toll 

After The Rurik succumbs to damage the IJN turned
their attention and firepower on the Gromboi

Four player gathered to command the opposing forces.  Ulsan is a smaller battle and it was a good one to start with and knock the dust off the rules.  Both fleets handled themselves well, but the odds are stacked against the Russians from the outset.  The victory conditions do give the Russians a chance, but only if everything goes their way.  In the first outing the Japanese gunnery and numbers carried the day.  The smaller Rurik in the rear of the formation took early hits and eventually capsized.  Then the Japanese turned their attention on the Gromboi pounding the larger cruiser while they only sustained minor damage.  When the battle was called after two hours the Japanese had attained a tactical victory.

The Battle of the Yellow Sea

August 10, 1904 As the Japanese lay siege and close in on Port Arthur from the Land the Russian Navy's First Pacific Squadron makes a daring attempt to sortie and escape. Admiral Togo and the Imperial Japanese Navy are waiting though. This is your chance to command....can you change history or will it repeat itself?

After a quick break and reset the battle of the Yellow Sea commenced.  We again had a full table with eight players taking command of the opposing fleets.

Japanese initial deployment

Russian fleet sorties

Opposing fleets face off

Opening moves

Damage starts to accumulate

Russians score some early victories

Japanese gunnery proves deadly

Like history the Russian fleet is left in disarray

Fires rage on the surviving Russian battleships as the game ends

Once again the Yellow Sea was set ablaze.  This time the Russians made a fight of it and accounted for themselves well.  Unlike history the Japanese suffered some significant losses. In the end the superior numbers and the firepower of the Imperial Japanese Navy proved decisive.  Despite inflicting casualties the Russians were forced to capitulate in the end.

Battle of Ulsan-Second iteration

Saturday morning four new players gathered to refight the battle of Ulsan.  The Russian Admiral fully understood the objective and made a determined effort to link up with the fleet at Port Arthur.

Initial deployment

Ranging shots

Damage begins to accumulate on both sides

Casualties mount on both sides

Russian Victory!

This time the Russians proved worthy of the task at hand.  The Russian admiral chose wisely to stay on course and speed southward while the IJN maneuvered to close the distance instead of maintain an intercept course.  This proved decisive as it eventually put the Russian flagship out of range.  Despite being outnumbered in guns the Russian gunners proved worthy as they scored critical hits on the IJN cruisers eventually sinking one and crippling another.  The poor Rurik once again succumbed to the IJN firepower and sank.  Had the Rurik survived the Russians would have achieved a major victory.  As it was they were awarded a tactical victory which is no easy task.  

Battle of Tsushima

May 27, 1905 After the crushing defeat at the Battle of The Yellow Sea in August 1904 The Russians have dispatched the 2nd Pacific Squadron to sail from the Baltic to meet up with the 1st Pacific Squadron. After the long harrowing journey, the Japanese are waiting for them near the straights of Tsushima. This is your chance to command....can you change history or will it repeat itself?

Japanese initial deployment

Russian fleet sailing into the gauntlet

On Saturday afternoon/evening ten players gathered to refight the historic engagement of Tsushima.  I have run this scenario several times.  Using the historical setup it takes several turns for the main battle lines to get engaged which usually happens just before the time expires.  This time I added more time, but also altered the first two turns.  Instead of normal movement I told the players that  heavy fog bank drifted in between the fleets and told them to plot a double move on the first and second turn and did not allow them to fire until after the second turn move phase when the fog suddenly lifted putting the fleets well within range. 

Opening maneuvers

First salvos reek havoc on the cruiser forces

The decision to allow two turns of double speed moves was a good one.  The alternative was to simply alter the setup and position the fleets closer.  This way the players/admirals were able to develop plans and close the distance as they wanted.  By the turn two fire phase portions of the fleets were at close range when they were able to open up on each other.  This made for more causalities than previous scenarios, but meant that all players were engaged throughout the game.

Cruiser lines hotly engaged

IJN Armored cruisers and Battleship come in range

Casualties begin to mount on both sides

Magazine explosion lights up the water

The Russian fleet made an excellent accounting for itself.  At one point the Russians held a sizable lead as the cruisers lines decimated each other and then fell in range of the battleships.  The crucial moment was when the Russian battle ships continued to target IJN Protected and Armored cruisers when the Japanese Battleships initially came into range.  This resulted in the Japanese big ships avoiding 1-2 rounds of fire from there equals while they began to score hits.

Russian main lines bring the big guns to bear

Main big guns exchange salvos

Cruisers caught in the middle go down at a fearful rate

Damage continues to accumulate on both sides

Russian line presses forward

The Russian fleet made a valiant effort, but fell short of victory

In the end the IJN scored a very narrow victory, but at a much higher price than they did historically.  The Russian fleet was neutralized, but no protected cruisers remained, half the Armored cruisers were sunk or crippled and the IJN lost a battleship and had another crippled.  A Japanese victory, but a costly one.

Prize Support
 Thanks to the generosity of my employer, Noble Knight Games, every player was given a pair of our 25th Anniversary dice.  Additionally the winning side was given a Noble Knight pin.  Little wars also provided some support so some of the winning admirals were given gift certificates. Thankyou to all the players who signed up for my events, we completely filled every one in the end.

Special Recognition-Mike Bates

This past year we lost a special gaming friend, Michael Bates.  Mike and I first met playing Naval Thunder over a decade ago at NAVCON in Milwaukee.  We went on to form the Naval Thunder Gamers (NTG) and hosted many NTG events in the years since.  
Michael Bates 11/26/63-5/16/21

Unfortunately Mike was diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 2020 and left us shortly after Little Wars last year in May of 2021 after his courageous nine month battle.  I will always cherish our lengthy discussions and debates on history.  While Mike is no longer with us physically he will always be at my gaming tables in spirit.  The sunken ship counters you see in the pictures were made by Mike and will always be part of my games.  You are missed my friend.
Other Games

As mentioned earlier there were over 160 games played with over 500 attendees.  Unfortunately my schedule was full running games, but I did get a chance to roam a few times and take a few pictures throughout the convention.  As you can see there were some amazing set ups.  Many looked more like dioramas than playable games.  I apologize for the lack of captions as I was not sure which each one was.  

Kudos to all the GMs who took the time and effort to make Little Wars 2022 a success.  Thankyou to all the vendors who made an appearance.  I apologize for not getting pictures, the vendor hall was spectacular. 

A very special thanks to the HMGS-Midwest staff and everyone behind the scenes that made this convention possible.  Your tireless work does not go unnoticed and is very much appreciated.  Already looking forward to HMGS-Midwest Little Wars 2023 as well as the other events scheduled to happen in between.

In the meantime keep those dice rolling.....