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"Distant Guns" - The Russo-Japanese Naval War 1904-1905

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Post  Mr. Digby Mon May 17, 2021 2:40 pm

Gentlemen

Start screen:
"Distant Guns"   -  The Russo-Japanese Naval War 1904-1905 51183051406_105e3b0fed_h

I should have thought of this way back in lockdown but I have only just reinstalled this game after not playing it for many years. The software is Norm Koger's "Distant Guns: The Russo-Japanese War at Sea, 1904-1905" which was released in 2006. The game concept I'm proposing to Kriegspiel members is a campaign played by e-mail or Zoom discussion, by two teams of players, taking the roles of Russian and Japanese naval commanders and the players will issue all the strategic and basic tactical orders for both campaign decisions and tactical moves (actual combat).

The software covers the whole naval conflict from the surprise attack by Japanese torpedo boats on the Russian Pacific Squadron at Port Arthur on the night of the 9th/10th February 1904 to the conclusion after the Battle of Tsushima on 27th/28th May 1905. The campaign deployments start with the historical positions but from there the two sides may choose any strategy they wish.

Theatre of war:
"Distant Guns"   -  The Russo-Japanese Naval War 1904-1905 51184132155_16cff7b08a_b

There is a land campaign in progress which is the Japanese army's advance from northern Korea into Manchuria which has the aim of capturing Port Arthur and therefore denying Russia her only fleet base in the Far East. The land campaign is dynamic but only represented to the players by reports of advances and combats. The Japanese advance is dependent on supplies and reinforcements that are sent by sea from the Japanese home islands to the port of Chemulpo on the Korean west coast. The Japanese navy must protect these supply vessels and the Russian fleet must sink or capture them. In addition to this the Japanese navy was intent on bringing about a major fleet action to destroy or disable a significant portion of the Russian Pacific Squadron, based at Port Arthur, which the Russians wished to avoid (mostly through reluctant or incompetent leadership).

After hostilities broke out, one of the most famous (or infamous) military operations of all time was attempted which was the sending of a second fleet assembled of units from Russia's Baltic and Black Sea fleets, and designated the Second Pacific Squadron. This sailed around Africa and arrived off the east Chinese coast in May 1905 to be destroyed at the Battle of Tsushima later that month, effectively ending the war. By this time Port Arthur was in Japanese hands and the Second Pacific Squadron had to reach Vladivostok, Russia's only Far East naval facility.

The arrival of the Second Pacific Squadron is scripted to appear with variable timing in the campaign. Notices of its imminent arrival are given to both sides as its progress was extremely public. If by the time of it's arrival the Russian (First) Pacific Squadron has not been neutralised, then the Japanese navy will be considerably outmatched.

So the aims of the two sides are each two-fold:

Japan:

1) Ensure the safety of military supply ships on route between Japan and Chemulpo.
2) Destroy or severely weaken the Russian naval forces at both Port Arthur and Vladivostok.
...and then 3) Destroy the Second Pacific Squadron when it arrives in-theatre.

Russia:

1) Sink as many Japanese army supply ships as possible - the fewer that reach Chemulpo the slower the Japanese land assault will be. If too many get their cargoes ashore the Japanese army will be able to lay siege to and capture Port Arthur.
2) Preserve the Port Arthur fleet so that it can sail to combine with the Second Pacific Squadron when it arrives in late spring 1905, or use this force offensively to bring the Japanese fleet to decisive battle allowing their supply transports to be mopped up at will.

The game software is single player but it gives the option to play either side as computer (AI) controlled or human controlled and by selecting human player control for BOTH sides I can play the entire campaign issuing orders for both sides. The software can be paused and saved at any time in either map mode or combat mode allowing me to "hold" battles while fresh orders are sought and issued.

I will then feed back to the two teams updates on progress as well as upload videos to YouTube that show the action in the battles. I won't be able to upload the campaign map gameplay footage as that will show the location of both sides, removing much of the fog of war. I can though supply screenshots of the whole map, sections of map and the tactical formations of the various squadrons as still images to the two teams.

If anyone is interested in participating in this campaign, please announce it here, specifying which side you wish to play if you have a preference.

Japanese cruisers off Chemulpo:
"Distant Guns"   -  The Russo-Japanese Naval War 1904-1905 51183051446_b77464c2b2_h

Russian cruiser Varyag and armoured gunboat Koryets:
"Distant Guns"   -  The Russo-Japanese Naval War 1904-1905 51183051431_c4dfdf17e0_h
Mr. Digby
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Post  Smoke Grenadiers Mon May 17, 2021 6:49 pm

I'd be interested in giving it a go from the Russian side.
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Post  Mr. Digby Mon May 17, 2021 11:54 pm

Thank you very much! Any takers for the Japanese?
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Post  King_Rufus Mon May 31, 2021 10:53 am

Hi Digby, registering interest!
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http://www.kriegsspiel.homestead.com

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Post  Mr. Digby Fri Jun 04, 2021 3:14 pm

Aha! That's great. If you are to play Japan, Paul we have our two sides as long as Mr. Smoke is still willing.

If you would both conform again to me you are available and happy to play Russia (Smoke) and Japan (Paul) by PM, I will get some information packages sent out to you.
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Post  Mr. Digby Mon Jun 07, 2021 3:46 pm

I've had conformation emails from both King_Rufus (aka Admiral Togo) and Smoke (aka Vice-Admiral Makarov) and will send out information packs soon.

Thank you gentlemen.
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Post  Mr. Digby Sun Jun 13, 2021 9:10 pm

I have sent the opening information packs to both Admiral Stark and Admiral Togo and await these gentlemen's orders and/or questions.
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Post  Grog Mon Jun 14, 2021 6:46 pm

Interesting Campaign, Martin. I remember Wargaming the period and building the Russian battleships from scratch. Where there 4 of them? I loved the way the bows seemed to slope forward and gun turrets protruding from the main hull. Ugly as hell but full of character. Where they French made?
Don't remember sinking any Japanese battleships.
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Post  Martin Mon Jun 14, 2021 7:55 pm

Will you be posting your usual entertaining campaign reports, Diggers? Hope so.

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Post  Mr. Digby Mon Jun 14, 2021 8:36 pm

There were seven Russian battleships at Port Arthur and Adm. Rozhestvensky, brought another 8 or so with him, though some of these were coastal vessels. You're probably thinking of the 4 Borodino class ships:

https://www.naval-encyclopedia.com/ww1/russia/borodino-class-battleships

The Japanese had six initially. Yes, mostly the Russian vessels followed French designs or were even built in French yards. The Japanese battleships and most cruisers, in contrast followed British practice and were built in British yards. However the commitment and mentality of the two opposing sides probably meant that had the Japanese crewed the Russian ships and vice-versa, the Japanese sailors and officers would probably still have won. It was one of those conflicts where what a wargamer calls "morale" was the deciding factor.

Martin - I might include some written reports but most of the information should come via gameplay video.
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Post  Grog Mon Jun 14, 2021 10:40 pm

Ah, yes. Borodino class, that's them.
Thanks Martin.
Good luck with the Campaign. I can't join in, unfortunately, but will watch with interest
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Post  Mr. Digby Wed Jun 16, 2021 11:38 am

I've uploaded a test video of a small action between light forces in the Helgoland Bight in my 1915 campaign using Norm Koger's second naval title "Jutland". The game originally covered the N Sea theatre in 1916 but there was a Dogger Bank expansion pack and a 1915 campaign which I find more challenging.

This is for comments by Admiral Stark and Admiral Togo mainly so that they can see what the action looks like and the typical decisions an admiral needs to make in combat. For the RJW campaign videos I'll use my mic and not captions.

Basically the decisions one needs to keep in mind are:

1) What direction is the action developing in? Is this a favourable direction for my forces as regards my nearest safe port and the likely direction supporting enemy forces could arrive from?

2) Do I open, close or maintain the range?

3) How hard are my guns hitting the enemy vs the enemy hitting me? What should I do about that if its an unfavourable situation? (See 2 above about ranges as well as issues like concentration of force or application of destroyer screens to make -or make feint- torpedo attacks).

4) Do my damaged ships need to cease fire, slow down and make repairs? Damage control is conducted by all ships at all times as necessary and an admiral doesn't need to order it but it is significantly helped if a ship is steaming more slowly and not in action.

5) If I need to run have I the speed to break contact? If not, have I light forces that are available to cover a retreat?

You can see some of these decisions being taken by the RN commander in the video. The AI is not that bright but if it has an advantage it will be merciless and it will run from stronger and slower forces. In the case of the video the enemy forces were stronger and faster, so it had little choice but to stay and fight and try to take some enemy with it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3E1yupTNdM
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Post  Mr. Digby Fri Jun 18, 2021 6:45 pm

Regrettably for personal reasons one of our players (Togo) cannot now devote time to this campaign so I am again seeking a player to command the Japanese fleet.
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