01 Jun 2013 NOVAG Game Day: Denmark Strait and Battle of the River Platte

As a favor to Tim Tilson of NOVAG leadership, I responded to his request to run games with a couple of “games in the hip pocket” as it were.  I think a dedicated miniatures hobbyist should always have something in a box ready to go for just this sort of occurrence.  So here’s my plan:

NOVAG GAME DAY, 01 JUNE 2013.  Location: Knights of Columbus Hall in Fairfax, VA.  Gaming starts at 1300 and ends at 1800.  That means I have all of 5 hours.  I could run one long or two short games, and my money is on two short ones.  I think Victory at Sea can support this.  It’s not the most complicated naval rule set I’ve ever seen (Harpoon it ain’t) and has very straightforward game mechanics that should execute quickly with minimal oversight.


The Battle of Denmark Strait.

Players: 4 max, plays reasonably well with down to 2 players.
In May of 1941, the Bismarck and the escorting Prinz Eugen finally broke out into the Atlantic and were free to begin their commerce raiding cruise.  Just two ships of the Royal Navy stood in their way, the HMS Hood and HMS Prince of Wales.
The resulting battle proved to be disastrous for the Royal Navy and lead to one of the greatest confrontations at sea during WW2.
Perhaps it could have gone differently, who knows?  The RN players will have the Hood and Prince of Wales, the Germans the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen.  Rules will be Victory at Sea by Mongoose Publishing.
Scale: is slightly larger than 1:600 (Axis and Allies War at Sea ships)
Rules: Victory at Sea,
Duration: Probably 3 hours max.
if needed in the late afternoon,
The Battle of River Plate
Players 4 max, the British player can play multiple ships
The first major naval engagement of WW2, the Admiral Graf Spee had been successfully raising merchant ships in the South Atlantic, but the Royal Navy’s Sought American Division was closing in.  On December 13th, 1939, three British Cruisers engaged the German pocket battleship.  On paper, they were outgunned.  Historically, the German captain balked due to his certainty that there was another RN squadron nearby (there wasn’t)– so he cut and run to a neutral harbor where he ended up scuttling his ship.  This scenario allows the half-completed historical battle to be played out.  In a stand up fight the British player will be at a gunnery and armor disadvantage, but will have the advantage of attacking from different directions.
Scale is 1:600, rules Victory at Sea, probably 3 hours max.

I expect the Bismarck scenario will run faster than the Graf Spee.  Since I’m playing with over-sized WaS miniatures the scale might be a little tight, and thus players will start closer together.
As mentioned the Bismarck scenario ship models are all from the War At Sea collection from Axis and Allies.  A little large for naval gaming and crude close up, but from a distance they look just fine to me.  I have picked these ups in dribs and drabs from flea markets and Ebay, it was a very cost effective acquisition of ship models.  Their great advantage is that they all come pre-painted, and that makes life easy.
To make the River Platte Scenario happen, I went wild (courtesy of a 25% off sale on Free Comic Book Day) and bought Mongoose Publishing’s BATTLE OF RIVER PLATTE battle set.

Battle of the River Platte. About 28 USD for me, and I consider it a pretty good purchase.

The miniatures are a pleasant surprise.  Scaled for 1:600 which some people find overlarge but I’m quite comfortable with after years of Uncharted Seas, these minis are very well detailed, solid, with think attached bases and some metal bits, such as turrets and masts, to cut out and glue on.  Each kit comes with a label on the bottom and an extra set of metal bits.  I’m impressed.  (edit: the Mongoose Publishing ships are 1:1800, not 1:600.  They compare favorably to the Axis and Allies War at Sea ships, which I discovered last night)

photo of miniature

Top, River Platte Set Miniature

image_1 (2)

Dude, I know. It came from the Publisher spelled that way.

These miniatures are competitively priced and very well done.  I just might acquire more, especially the battle packs for engagements with small numbers of ships engaged.

So, if you’re in my neck of the woods, and want to play a naval game or two if they let us go long, Drop on by.

Lastly, a little inspiration. I have discovered you can view several excellent films on these battles for FREE, on Youtube.

The Battle of the River Platte (This is a Playlist collection on youtube– Part 1 appears to be missing, but it’s not really required to enjoy this film)

This was a very accurate rendition of the battle shot in the 50s, with one of the British ships that participated in the battle (Achilles) playing itself and an American cruiser playing the Graf Spee. Sure, it has one turret too many, and there are a few other historical goofs, but no real howlers. I like this film for the same reason I like SINK THE BISMARCK (the British Action Film, not the documentary)– it’s not melodramatic, it doesn’t concentrate on human drama so much as portray the events as they occurred and it depicts both sides as doing a professional job of accomplishing their mission as ordered. The effects are subdued and even crude, but the melodrama is minimal and there’s not even a single shot of a captain staring up at the camera and shouting “Nooooooo” with a dying ensign in his arms.

Sink the Bismarck! (this is a playlist on Youtube of the History Channel’s documentary of the Battle of Denmark Strait (in full)).

This is a documentary, not the 1960 drama referenced in the paragraph above. The documentary is quite good and has good animations.

The Prinz Eugen Film of Denmark Strait

Camera footage taken from the Bismarck’s escort, the cruiser Prinz Eugen.

The Mighty HMS Hood (part 1 of a 4 part series)

A PBS documentary about the confrontation between HOOD and BISMARCK, likely originating from the BBC.

Battle of the River Platte newsreel

The Scuttling of the Graf Spee newsreel footage

Enjoy, hope to see you there!

EDIT: Just got this from Tim Tilson via email.

“The deadline for the PEL is Friday.  A final PEL will published early next week.  Currently there are seven games as follows:
SYW Land x1
Colonial x1
WWI Naval x1
WWII Naval x1 (two if necessary) That’s me.
WWII Land x2
Fantasy Land x1
We start at 1:00 pm so people can take of errands/soccer etc in the am.  Since this is not a library we can stay as late as we want.  A 6:00 pm end time is about right as most games will be done by then.  And yes the price is the major determiner.  We are not paying a set fee. Instead we will take all the $ from the admissions fees and donate that to the Knights of Columbus council.”  

4 responses to “01 Jun 2013 NOVAG Game Day: Denmark Strait and Battle of the River Platte

  1. Ecclesiastes

    Heyhey, just wanted to drop by and say that the mongoose miniatures are 1:1800, nowhere close to 1:600….

    Nice blog!

    • You’re absolutely correct. I assembled and primed the Mongoose ships last night, and did a size comparison with the A&A War at Sea ships I’m using for Bismarck. Almost exactly the same size. My bad, I probably read it on BGG or something and took it for gospel until I actually looked at it.

  2. Walt! I live in Fairfax! I could run a Mini Mech game for NOVAG as well..