Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Battle of Tsushima- Little Wars 2019

This past weekend I was able to attend Little Wars in Chicago again after a couple year break due to work conflicts.  This is a great convention as it really focuses on historical gaming and I  enjoy running events and teaching new players.  Due to my schedule I knew I would not have much time to prepare something new, so I decided to return to Naval Thunder pre-dreadnaughts as it has been several years since I had them out.

I love this particular period and in my opinion it is where Naval Thunder really excels as a rule set.  It is simple and fast moving and allows for larger scenarios which is great for a convention setting.  I decided on the Battle of Tsushima  1905 as I have the complete OoB for the Russo-Japanese war and I had not run this particular battle in many years.
Japanese fleet sails into action
I opted to host two six hour sessions, one Friday afternoon/evening and one again Sunday AM with a total of 10 players in each.  my friend Mike, who I learned Naval Thunder with was available to assist.
Russian Main Battle line
The beauty of Naval Thunder is it is easy to teach with a very handy Quick Reference Sheet (QRS) and in this period, Rise of The Battleship, all the modifiers are pretty straight forward and easy to learn.  After about a 30min introduction to the scenario and rules we are usually playing.

Russian 2nd Pacific Fleet
If you are not familiar with the battle it took place on May 27th 1905 between the Japanese Pacific Fleet and the Russian 2nd Pacific Squadron.  In August 1904 the Russian 1st Pacific Squadron had been soundly defeated by the same Japanese Fleet when is had sortied from Port Arthur which was under siege.  As a result the Czar ordered the formation of a second fleet to go relieve Port Arthur and restore the pride of the Russian Empire. 

Full Japanese Fleet steams to intercept
The 2nd Pacific Squadron was formed from the Baltic fleet and comprise of some first rate Battleships and Cruisers along with a number of 2nd and 3rd rate older battleships.  The fleet was not allowed to transit the Suez canal and had to make the Arduous 18,000 mile  journey around Africa.  As a result when it arrives off the coast of Korea on its way to Vladivostok it was in poor shape. for a naval battle.  The long voyage and lack of opportunity for maintenance meant their bottoms were heavily fouled, significantly reducing their speed.

Admiral Togo aboard Mikasa
Admiral Togo commanding the Japanese fleet aboard the Mikasa sighted the Russians on the evening of May 26th and the Battle of Tsushima commenced the following day.

Admiral Togo commanding the Japanese fleet aboard the Mikasa sighted the Russians on the evening of May 26th and the Battle of Tsushima commenced the following day.

 Historically the battle was another devastating loss for the Russians.  They lost all their battleships and most of the cruisers to battle of being scuttled by the crew.  Three Cruisers escaped to Manila to be interred by the United States and only one cruiser and two destroyers made it to Vladivosok.  4,380 men died and another 5.917 were captured while 1862 were interned.  

In comparison, the Japanese only lost 3 torpedo boats with 117 men killed and another 500 wounded.

Tsushima proved to be a route and a glorious victory for Togo and the Japanese which essentially ended the war with the peace being settled finally in September of 1905.
 The scenario we used was straight out of the Naval Thunder "Rise of the Battleship" supplement.  All the ships were represented in 1/2400 scale on a 8'x4' playing area.  The scale is roughly 1" equals 500yards.

The Players were challenged with changing history, which essentially happened in both scenarios we played over the weekend.  I am not going to provide a complete battle report for both games, but will give a summary along with the photos for each.

Friday's Battle:

The first session started at 1 PM on Friday and was sold out.  One player was a no show, so Mike took command of one of the Japanese cruiser divisions.

In the battle Friday the Russians took an early lead delivering some hard blows to the Japanese early one of which even resulted in a magazine explosion.
Opening moves

Cruiser fight develops
I think the Russian commanders understood the mission to preserve their fleet and attempt to slip past the Japanese.  As a result they sent their Cruisers forward to provide a screen while the main battle line initially turned away and then paralleled.  I initially questioned this tactic as they were not moving toward the objective right away, but in the end it worked for them.
Cruisers exchange Torps

Casualties start to mount
The Japanese made a slight tactical error by sending the cruisers straight forward and turning the Battleships toward the Russian lighter ships.
Russian Battle line moves to engage

Remnants of fallen ships
In the end this essentially created a screen blocking Togo main battle line from engaging the best Russian units.  At the same time the Russians made great use of the destroyer flotilla by sending it straight into the jaws of the enemy.
Russian destroyer closing in on giant prey
The destroyers went after the Japanese Battleships.  I do not think anyone realized the threat these destroyers posed.  We had increased that threat by allowing all ships to fire torpedoes during the Battle ship shooting phase.  We do this during our WWII games where a destroyer represents a single ship and it works very well and provides satisfying results.  In this era a flotilla represents multiple ships, so it was probably an error on the judges part to allow this as capital ships do not have as many secondary and tertiary guns as they do during later periods.
Russian line looks to slip past the Japanese fleet
In the end the Russian destroyers which are armed with 3 torpedoes each were able to score multiple hits on the Mikasa and Shikishima the lead Japanese battle ships causing ongoing critical hits including flooding.
Japanese fleet still intact, but severely bloodied
One must also understand the during this period damage control is not that effective, so a fire or flooding which can be controlled fairly easily only had a 1 in 10 chance of being contained (natural roll of 1 on a 1d10) so they tend to cause a lot more ongoing damage  which can quickly sink ships which do not take as much damage during this period.

In the end, when time expired they Russians had sustained heavy damage, but none of the two main battle line were damaged while the Japanese had sustained almost as many casualties and two of the four battleships were damaged with ongoing issues. 

As a result all agreed this day would go to the Russians and it was unlikely the Japanese would be able to stop many of the Russian capital ships from limping to Vladivostok.

While the flotilla did seem a bit over powered sue to the rule modification we did not feel it effected the final outcome as the Japanese did not focus fire on them until it was to late and they would have still been able to attack.  Either way the Japanese fleet was out of position.

Sundays Battle:

Sunday's game started at 9 AM.  Again we had a full table of ten players and this time Mike did not play, he just helped judge.  The only change we made to the scenario was using the torpedo rule as written where each class of ship launches in their respective fire phase.

 This time the battle unfolded in a more historical fashion.  The Japanese wisely held their main battle line back to see where the Russians would go before committing.
Opening moves
The Japanese scored several early successes against cruisers and took an early lead.  While many critical hits were scored on both sides they did not result in nearly as many fire and flooding results like we observed in the previous battle.
Ranging Fire

Some skillful sailing in line abreast
 The Russian admiralty did make good use of their destroyer flotilla again, this time attacking the Japanese Armored Cruiser division.  Not as many destroyers made it through, but they did score multiple hits.

Svyetlana and Destroyers find themselves in the middle of the Japanese line

Russian battle line moving into range

Cruisers in line abreast
Russian destroyers wreak havoc

Battle lines exchange fire

Casualties begin to mount

Fires erupt in the chaos of battle

Coastal Battleship represent well

Japanese battleships in line abreast
The Japanese returned the favor with their two destroyer flotillas and scored hits with guns as well as torpedo hits.  The essentially took out the Russian flagship , Knyaz Survorov, by the end of the battle starting multiple fires and floods along with damaging the Imperator Alexandr III and Oslyabya.
Japanese destroyers close in

Russian Flagship gets punished
The Russians were able to inflict more damage than they did historically, but suffered many crippling blows including to the first rate battleships.  The moral highlight for the Russian fleet was a lone destroyer that was limping north past the Japanese force.  Had the battle continue, like history, it is unlikely many other ships would have made it past to join it.
As the Knyaz Survorov slips beneath the waves the Oslyabya battles fires and floods
Command rolls did play a bigger role in this game with several Russian captains losing their nerve and deciding to retire along with a couple of Japanese ships.
Russians end in a general state of disarray
The Command check and results is one thing I would like to play with in future scenarios.  I like the idea that ships out of command or that just watched their flagship get destroyed may decide to voluntarily retire, I do not like the idea that they simply disappear.  I think they should simply turn away and continue to move away at their fastest speed as their presence while escaping could influence the battle as opposed to just disappearing.

This concludes the trilogy for my Russo-Japanese War reports.  Although separated by many years you can go back and look at my previous reports for Battle of Yellow Sea and Ulsan.  The only other major action would be the attack on Port Arthur and I am not sure how I would game that.

Battle of the Yellow Sea:


Battle of Ulsan:


I really enjoyed getting the fleets out again.  In case you are wondering the majority of the models are from Panzerschiffe (see favorite vendors), mounted on 3' x 1" metal bases.  I then added the masts to all the ships using piano wire.  This is a very affordable option to get into the hobby as the most expensive ship is only $4.00.  Adding the masts was a long and painstaking task, but really makes the models pop.
Russian Battleship Oslyabya
While the masts look great, they make the models a bit delicate for convention play.  As a result, several masts were damaged during the course of the weekend This was nothing that cannot be easily repaired with an evening in dry-dock though.. 

I like the metal bases dues to the fact that I use magnetic storage boxes and my preference if for the ships to sit flat on the table.  This does require very delicate handling tough.  If I continue to bring these fleets to conventions though I many fashion some thicker acrylic bases that can be magnetically attached to the existing base bottom so they can be more easily grasped which is the cause of the issue.  A raised base will be more practical for these events and likely result in fewer damaged ships.

I am definitely looking forward to getting these fleets along with my other pre-dreadnaughts out again sooner rather than later.  I really enjoy this period of naval history and the Naval Thunder rules really shine for any engagements up through WWII which are gun fights.

Hopefully you will see more naval posts in the near future.


  1. An enjoyable report, but I can't distinguish one side from the other in your photos. To my untrained eye it looks like a bunch of stands. Maybe you can use the Markup function in your photo edit function to either annotate the pictures or maybe place a red dot next to the Japanese stands and a blue or green dot nextbto the Russian stands.

    I know that the individual stands have the name of the ship and the country, but these aren't easy to see to someone looking at the photographs.

    1. Something to consider in the future. Just glad I remember to take pics throughout. :)

  2. wow what a great battle to do. I wish I could have been there.

  3. I was fortunate to play in the Friday game. It was my first effort a NAVAL THUNDER and it played very well. Thanks for putting on the game Aaron... Bill Rosser

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. Had a great weekend, I always enjoy teaching the rules to new players.

  4. Great report! The models and game markers look fantastic. Interesting results from different effects and decisions.

  5. Fantstic pictures.



  6. Thanks for this, id discussed with my usual naval thunder organiser about a russo-japanese battle for our next session.

    Cheers flakstruk(forumini)

  7. The course of the battle would have been totally different if the Russian fleet had sailed East of Japan and taken the Tsugaru and/or La Perouse Straits routes to Vladivostok instead of obligingly steaming into Togo's guns at Tsushima. There probably would have been no battle.

  8. thank you for providing me with the information. Really neat time of History the Dreadnoughts and all.

  9. Thank you for providing all the information I like reading history.