Battle of the Korea Strait (fictional 1905)

On Saturday, March 3, the Jackson Gamers met to continue their foray into the wonderful world of 1:2400 scale pre-Dreadnought naval gaming.  Jim had portions of his Russo-Japanese War fleets ready to meet in the Korea Strait.

This was a fictional encounter that pitted the Russian 1st and 2nd Pacific Squadrons sailing from Port Arthur against the Japanese Combined Fleet.  The premise was the the 2nd Pacific Squadron had reached an uncaptured Port Arthur without encountering the Japanese fleet.  Informed that troop reinforcements and supplies were being poured across the Sea of Japan to the Korean peninsula, the Russian sortied forth to disrupt the Japanese convoys.  But first they would have to get by the Japanese fleet.

The Russians initially had eight battleships, three armored cruisers, and one protected cruiser.  The Japanese had six battleships, five armored cruisers, and one protected cruiser.  Action was joined quickly.

The Russians were commanded by Sean with Travis and Phil commanding subordinate divisions.  The Japanese were commanded by Jay, with Roger and Bill commanding subordinate divisions.

We used a modified version (for pre-Dreadnoughts) of Travis' Seas of Steel naval rules.

The Russian Pacific Fleet steams into view, lead by the 1stCruiser Division (Phil), with the 1st Battle Division (Sean) to the right and the 2nd Battle Division (Travis) in the background.

The Japanese Combined Fleet steams into view, with the 1st Division (Jay) on the left, the 2nd Division (Roger) in the center and the 4th Division (Bill) on the right.

In the center, the Russian cruiser Rossiya catches fire from Japanese shells while in cruiser Bayan (background) has taken severe damage, all from fire by the Japanese 2nd Division.
In the Russian 2nd Battle Division, the battleship Pobieda also has fires started by Japanese shells from some of the Japanese cruisers of the 4th Division.
The poor Rossiya can’t seem to get a break with a raging fire started by Japanese battleship shells added to the fires already burning.  The white-painted screws are the splash markers we use to designate which ship is shooting at which target.  The taller screws indicate main battery gunfire while the shorter screws indicate secondary battery gunfire.
The Russian cruiser Askold is targeted by three Japanese battleships and in short order is pulverized and sent to the bottom of the Korea Strait.  He is the first ship sunk in the engagement, but not the last.
The small Japanese cruiser Tsu-shima is next to feel the brunt of battleship shells, this time from the Russian 2nd Battle Division who send her to the bottom.
Battleships of the Japanese 1st Division take heavy fire from the Russians with fires being started on two ships.  But the more efficient Japanese damage control quickly suppresses them.

Towards the end of the engagement newly arrived ships engage each other at close range.  In the foreground, the Japanese 5th Division (Jim) composed of four small cruisers finds itself at “knife range” with the Russian 3rd Battle Division (Phil) of four battleships.  The lead Japanese cruiser Otowa is quickly pummeled under the waves.  In the distance, the Russian cruiser Gromoboi turns back to Port Arthur after having taken heavy damage while the 1st Battle Division continues its course towards the Japanese battleships.
At engagement’s end, the Japanese 1st and 2nd Divisions appear to have stymied the Russian threat against their supply lines in the Sea of Japan by crossing the Russian “T” and forcing them to turn away.  The smaller cruisers of the 5th Division are helping by ganging up on the trailing Russian battleship.  The Japanese armored cruisers on the 4th Division have all taken severe damage (black puffs) and are keeping as far away from the Russian battleships as possible.  In the far background, two of the three remaining Russian battleships of the 2nd Battle Division (the fourth one having been sunk) may still be able to get into the Sea of Japan but will have to continue on to Vladivostok if they do.  The third battleship (black puff) will be turning back to Port Arthur.  Out of the picture to the right, the Russian cruiser Bayan continues its slow trek to Port Arthur while the cruiser Rossiya burns to a blackened hulk and slips beneath the waves.
In the last action, one of the Russian battleships of the 1st Battle Division fired its secondary batteries at a Japanese target.  Rolling five dice, Sean came up with four tens and scored four hits on the Japanese ship.  Too bad the Russians couldn’t have rolled this good all during the engagement.
Although we had to end the action before a definitive outcome could be established, it was apparent to the game master (Jim) that the Russians had lost.  The six Japanese battleships were still in good shape and only two small cruisers had been lost.  The Russians had already lost one battleship and all their cruisers.  With the Japanese having crossed the Russian's "T" and forcing them to turn away, the initiative was passing to the Japanese.  Looks like the Russians will withdraw to Port Arthur to lick their wounds.  But will the Japanese army force them out to face the Japanese fleet?  Only time will tell.