Saturday, August 23, 2008

The battle of Formosa

This battle was fought using Phil Barker's Damn Battleships Again rules.

In 1894, France demanded control over Formosa from China and Japan. To support her claims, France sent the Saigon fleet steaming north under the gallant Admiral Marchant (rated Chivalrous in the rules).

The Chinese fleet, commanded by the Court Mandarin, Ma Kin, who had never been to sea before (an Idiot under the rules) sailed south.

Worried about the situation in the Pacific, the Americans send a squadron under Admiral Chester C Stevens, a notorious braggart (rated Cautious under the rules), to support China.

The alliance between China and America was fragile at best. At one point the Americans declared that after they had won the battle they "were going to sail upriver and bomb Nanking" before remembering which side they were on. The French played on this by reminding the Americans that "blood is thicker than water".

And so, one hour before dawn, in a light wind and calm seas, the two fleets met near the coast.

In the picture below looking South, there is a Chinese shore battery with the Chinese fleet to the east. Keeping some distance further to the east are the leading American battleships. In the center is a flotilla of French torpedo boats commanded by Captain Jacque, who have just buzzed by a couple of junks sailing to Hong Kong. To the North can be seen the leading battleships of the French

A flotilla of Chinese gun-boats pushes past the shore battery.
The French TBs push into the night looking for an easy kill; when they suddenly hear the Chinese and turn on their floodlights.
All guns start firing at the Chinese, but the unprepared French only score one hit.
The Chinese return fire decimates the French flotilla, forcing Captain Jacque to transfer his flag in a jolly boat.
As the sun rises, Chinese gun-boats sail through the French line ramming and sinking at will. Captain Jacque has to get back into his jolly boat.
While the affair of the gnats plays itself out in the centre, the French battle line, now steaming West opens fire on the lead American and Chinese battleships.
The second French squadron. The last ship in the line is an obsolete rust bucket.
The leading American battleship takes a couple if hits.
Concentrated French fire soon turns it into a flaming inferno, first crippling it, and then sinking it before it can steam to safety..
To the South the Chinese battleships and cruisers under Ma Kin maneuver for sea room.
As the French push West, the table gets moved East. Some American battleships have dropped out of view. 
To head off the French, Ma Kin pushes his cruisers forward at top speed. Fear of the Dowager Empress means he cannot afford to turn away from the enemy (see the rules). However, faced with the fire of the first French squadron, the Chinese take terrible punishment. French Admiral Marchant's sense of gallantry forces his squadron's captains to engage the enemy one-on-one.
The French, smelling blood, commence a turn to the South.
But fire from the big American battleships takes its toll on the battleship Courbet.
Catching up, the Americans also pound the French flagship.
...not without cost though
Looking North one wonders about the American commitment to the alliance, as the American first class cruisers take shelter behind Chinese battleships. French fire has crippled the Chinese flagship.
The crippled French ships steam out of the battle line. 

The Chinese battleships have been hit hard. Now the American ship Texas disappears behind a wall of splashes. No more hits though.
Both fleets have had enough, but as they part the Chinese flagship finally blows up. However, at the last minute, some lucky shots sink two French battleships
This war is not over!


  1. Very nice battle report. I especially liked the way you have mounted the French destroyers.


  2. Very nice report . . . and I too really liked those destroyers were based. I'm thinking about getting into pre-dreads and your report was exciting to me. Thanks.

    What scale ships were these?

    And the board looked to be 5 tiles by 8 tiles . . . what size are these tiles (in other words, what size was the table?

  3. They are Houston's 1/1000 scale line. You can see them at

  4. Thank you for the ship size . . . what size table were you playing on?

    -- Jeff

  5. The table was 8 feet by 8 feet, which wasn't big enough, so we used some the scrolling table

    Which are:

    When one sides wishes to "scroll" the table by 1 foot we do an opposed die roll
    to see if they can. This is important because scrolling the table can send your opponents
    ships off table.

    We look at all the ships that you want to move "over the edge" and all the opposing ships
    that would fall off the other edge, and then add points on the basis of "mostest"
    and "fastest".

    Mostest means the player with the most ship points effected gets to add one to their die roll

    Fastest means the player with the highest average speed amongst effected ships
    gets to add one to their die roll

    If the mover wins the table is scrolled and he can move onto it. If he or she looses the table is not scrolled and the ships need to change direction or leave the table
    for good.

    Sounds worse than it is, but without this rule all ships end up in one corner,
    which is just silly.

    Ships that have been scrolled off table can return at the same "lattitude" they left from by rolling a die before they move. To re-enter the table they need: 2 for a battleship, 3 for a cruiser and 4 for a TBD.

  6. Mac,

    Thank you for your answer . . . but I think that I need a bit of clarification.

    From the photos the table looks to be 5 squares wide by 8 squares long.

    Does your 8 foot square table mean that there are three "side rows" that are part of the playing surface but not on the table proper?

    And, by the way, I'm very impressed with the overall look of this battle.

    -- Jeff

  7. This report is typical of the distorted view promulgated by the French imperialists.

    The late Admiral Ma Kin was a gallant officer*. That the French would claim otherwise just shows the depths of deceit that they are capable of!
    (*His ships expend 1 extra PIP for any turn that increases the range to the nearest enemy ship, except when this is a submarine.)

    The rumours that the Empress had promised him an imperial post with the castrati if he did not return victorious are completely unfounded!

    The fact that he went down with his flagship, rather than report it's loss to the Empress, is another vile rumour and is future evidence of scurrilous French propaganda!

    ps. The table was about ~5' x 8', the tiles are just under 12" across, with the scrolling the area that the battle was fought over was ~8' x 8', next time we might put some tabletops on to give a bit bigger area.. Though I'll be wanting more coastal terrain - as I think that would make the area feel "bigger" as long range shooting would be more restricted. Also I'll be arguing for less points (we had 120 pts per side) as well - or a scenario as massed battleships can take a long time to play to a clear resolution... though if the TBDs had made it to torpedoes range of the BBs and been a bit lucky..

    All the best


  8. G'day all,

    Additional to Mac's great report...

    One of the Chinese "flat iron" gunboat bases did make it to close range of the French Battleships, unfortunately it failed to achieve a hit before being blown out of the water. For game purposes it was rated as a TBD, which means that had it hit the BB (with it's 10" gun) it would have crippled the BB (as per a hit from a Torpedo). While two French TBDs did make it to close range of the Chinese cruisers, they both were crippled by that point and their fire was as a result ineffective. As per usual with TBDs and TBs they didn't last long enough to make another attack.

    All the best