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Subject: AAR - The Troubridge Decision rss

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Matt Blackman
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Gloucester
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After the fun that was The Battle of Cromer I decided to continue my Seekrieg V exploration with a scenario called The Troubridge Decision (from the Seekrieg website), which starts adding in a little more complexity.

This ‘what-if’ situation, set in August 1914, sees Sir Ernest Troubridge obey orders (in reality he was court-martialled, but acquitted) and use his squadron of four armoured cruisers to intercept the German battlecruiser Goeben, under Konteadmiral Wilhelm Souchon, which is attempting to slip away across the Mediterranean to Constantinople.

Victory conditions:
- The British want to “…inflict sufficient damage so as to permit interception by own battlecruisers”
- The Germans want to “…avoid engagement with superior forces. In the case of engagement, serious damage to the Goeben is to be avoided at all costs.”


Set-up and pre-game

Set-up is pre-established. I changed the scenario because – as written – it seems an auto German win. The Goeben sights smoke on the horizon at 31,000 yards. According to the visibility tables, the British ships won’t sight it until 23,000 yards. So the Goeben immediately turns away at top speed and the British won’t ever see it, let alone catch up, irrespective of what they do.

Historically, the Goeben was low on coal and heading to Greece to get more. So I gave the Germans a 'victory' withdrawal heading - on a bearing between 75 and 150 degrees - which ties in (approximately) to the historical situation. I closed the range to 25,000 yards, a point at which the British ships spot smoke and (according to the visibility tables) a more reasonable distance for the Goeben to sight the British ships on a clear, calm day.

Some analysis and plans

The maximum speed for the British in formation is 19 knots, while individual ships can make 23. The Goeben can make 21 and then has to roll (15% chance) to accelerate, but can get up to 24. So staying in formation is suicide for the British cruisers. It lets the German battlecruiser dictate the range for the entire engagement.

Troubridge’s plan is to split into two intercept groups hoping that one group can slip through the incoming fire and get into the 8,000 yard range where the British guns might realistically cause problems.

Souchon is going to be a little more reactive, but essentially is aiming to keep any enemy in the 12-15,000 yard range and pick them off with his superior fire control and shell weight. His primary tactical concern is finding a use for the light cruiser Breslau, which he’d like to try and get into a position to screen, lay smoke for an escape or ram an enemy ship in desperation.

The first 11 turns:



Troubridge had written battle orders to break into two groups and head north and gave the command as soon as smoke was spotted. Souchon ordered Breslau to catch up from its station 8,000 yards astern, while starting to arc slowly to the north-east with the Goeben, sensing trouble.

After eight minutes, or four turns, the Warrior and Duke of Edinburgh opened fire on Goeben; unfortunately, they would hit nothing but water for the opening stages of the battle.

The Goeben found a firing solution for Black Prince on Turn 5, at 15,750 yards. The opening shell ricocheted off a turret housing and the next turn a second smashed through a stairwell without detonating. Black Prince went into evasive manoeuvres on Turn 7 but, now at 14,500 yards, four shells crashed into her, one of which punched through her belt and flooded a propeller shaft.

The Goeben was in position to bring all ten guns of its main 11” battery to bear, while the British ships could only fire two or three and at a range too great to hope to penetrate. It was also apparent that evasive action was self-defeating, slowing the pursuit and allowing the Goeben to keep the battle at ranges which overwhelmingly favoured her.

So in keeping with their initial plan the British pushed on hoping to weather the onslaught and get one or two ships into an effective firing position.

With the Black Prince slowing, Goeben switched fire to the Warrior. Within six minutes the British ship was listing heavily to starboard, with no fire control, no secondary batteries and all but two guns silenced. Flooding had cut her speed to 19 knots. She turned hard to port to bring her remaining guns to bear, but hit nothing.

After 20 minutes of woeful gunnery, the British landed a shell on target as the Duke of Edinburgh bounced a 9.2” shell off the turret plating of the Goeben. I could have sworn I heard ironic cheers from the British ships.

Meanwhile the Breslau had accelerated to 27 knots and was following orders to harass Defence and Black Prince. The three ships traded shots for several minutes at ranges of 15,000 and 12,000 yards to little effect. The Breslau landed a HE shell on the deck of the Defence followed by a semi armour-piercing round which glanced off the control tower but her guns lacked the penetration to cause serious trouble.

With half the British neutered and his light cruiser pulling into position Souchon felt confident of escaping the British ambush unscathed. His only minor concern was ammunition, having used up 244 rounds of the 810 available for his main guns.

A map of turns 11-17:


And yet Turn 13 saw the first glimpse of a possible shift in fortunes. The Duke of Edinburgh shrugged off three 11” shells from the Goeben with little more than intermittent power failures and a couple of smashed searchlights. And while her return fire was stopped by the armour of the Goeben’s rear barbette the shock of the impact derailed an ammo loading hoist and started a fire.

Black Prince was also in the mood, crashing a shell through Breslau’s main belt and leaving the German repair crews with an almost impossible job to get two damaged engines running again. That allowed Troubridge to order the damaged Black Prince and Warrior to deal with Breslau while he went after Goeben with Defence and Duke of Edinburgh.

Breslau was gamely following orders, but sailing into trouble. She was readying torpedos for a run on Defence but close range fire from three sides reduced her to little more than a slowly submerging hulk inside five minutes.

The Duke of Edinburgh continued to defy the odds, soaking up shell after shell from the Goeben while still fighting, but unable to land a damaging shot herself. Defence, however, started to hit the target at 6,500 yards and 34 minutes into the battle the accumulated damage began to tell; Goeben lost communication with the con, two main battery turrets went down and a serious fire erupted towards the front of the ship as readied ammo caught fire.

At this point (Turn 17) the Breslau, Warrior and Black Prince were largely out of the action – it was down to Defence and what was left of the Duke of Edinburgh to inflict any further damage they could on the Goeben, which was steaming away at 22 knots. In reality, they were looking simply to keep some pressure on the battlecruiser while hoping the ammo blaze caused more serious problems.

However the effectiveness of the gunnery hit a lull while the fire on the Goeben only burnt out a set of fire control circuits on the secondary batteries before the crew brought it under some sort of control. With the Duke of Edinburgh now struggling to stay afloat due to ongoing flood damage the British decided to call it a day and broke off.


Final roundup and some numbers

The Goeben had failed to disengage on its preferred course – communications loss between the bridge and the con meant it couldn’t turn reliably, although those problems would have been quickly repaired once disengaged.

Overall damage amounted to a broken ammo hoist, downed mast, collapsed funnel, two main gun turrets out of action, damage to secondary fire control and the loss of one knot of speed. It had also used 514 rounds (63%) of ammunition for the main guns. So, not totally unscathed but still able to sail at close to full speed.

On balance I thought it was a minor victory for the Germans; the Goeben would still represent a serious threat in any future battle but had been forced away from its refuelling rendezvous. The Breslau had been sacrificed – it didn’t sink during the game but its days were numbered.

On the British side Black Prince was limping along at half speed, Warrior was listing badly with barely any guns left and no-one is quite sure what was holding the Duke of Edinburgh together. A high price paid to force the Goeben to make a detour.

Ship stats:
Shells fired – Hits – Hit % – Starting DPs – DPs lost – % DPs lost – Final Damage Tier

Goeben: 826 – 32 – 3.9 – 2731 – 585 – 21 – Tier 2
Breslau: 184 – 9 – 4.8 – 1285 – 1133 – 88 – Tier 9

Defence: 212 – 6 – 2.8 – 2195 – 175 – 8 – Tier 0
Edinburgh: 319 – 6 – 1.8 – 2115 – 1750 – 83 – Tier 8
Black Prince: 71 – 2 – 2.8 – 2115 – 645 – 30 – Tier 3
Warrior: 119 – 5 – 4.2 – 2115 – 1065 – 50 – Tier 5

British gunnery on the day was abysmal and the dice were with the Germans. The Goeben rolled 01 on percentiles (the best ‘to hit’ roll in Seekrieg V) at least three times during the game. That said, she also fired more shells than all the British ships put together, showing how the combination of range, speed and positioning allowed her to pick off attackers with full salvos of fire.

The Royal Navy needed some good fortune early in this fight; either avoiding serious damage or landing some unlikely damage effects to hinder the German battlecruiser. They couldn’t afford to lose speed – which is exactly the fate suffered by the Black Prince, stalling the British charge. When the Warrior lost her guns it looked like the Goeben would escape without even a scratch. The British caused trouble as their ships closed the range but had taken too much damage on the way in – they needed another undamaged cruiser alongside the Defence to make a real fight of it in the latter stages.

However, I never felt the British were entirely out of it. Just one critical piece of luck at the right time could have swung the battle their way. It wasn’t to be, but the threat and tension were there. Great fun.
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Charles Lewis
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It would appear that the gunnery issues suffered by the British at Jutland were perhaps a bit more endemic to the fleet.

Great report - looks like a fun endeavor!
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Edward Kendrick
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Redditch
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chaochou wrote:

and no-one is quite sure what was holding the Duke of Edinburgh together.


"The only reason she stays afloat is 'cos the maggots is 'olding 'ands"

Traditional RN saying.
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Warren Bruhn
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Variations that you could try in the future include (1) having the battle occur at night, (2) having the battle occur in restricted waters (I set a Fleet Action Imminent scenario in the Cervi Channel at the southern tip of continental Greece), or (3) using both 1 & 2 together.
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Matt Blackman
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Warren Bruhn wrote:
Variations that you could try in the future include (1) having the battle occur at night, (2) having the battle occur in restricted waters (I set a Fleet Action Imminent scenario in the Cervi Channel at the southern tip of continental Greece), or (3) using both 1 & 2 together.


Thanks. I like the idea of a pre-dawn to dawn action (as I think Troubridge had planned) to see how things turn out at closer range.
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Xander Fulton
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Does seem kinda like the exchanges of fire were causing critical damage to the ships somewhat ahistorically fast (a LOT more shells seemed to be finding their marks than most long-range duels from this period).
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Joe Czarnecki
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There are two hit resolution tables provided in the game, H1 and H2. One lets players get on with the hitting; the other provides more historical results. Not all gamers have the patience for historical accuracy so the designers provided for both.
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Brandon Musler
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It's best when playing this scenario to shield the Breslau behind Goeben rather than have her engage in a gunnery dual she can only lose. She is also good for laying smoke in the event Goeben requires it or finishing off a Brit AC with torps, but opportunities for the latter are rare indeed if you want Breslau to see Turkey.

Other than that I thought this was a terrific AAR!

- bmusler

P.S. Joe C. is correct. The H1 "to hit" chart is for convention games where quick results are favored. SK5 enthusiasts almost universally prefer to play using H2 so the results mirror history more closely. In fact I don't think I've ever actually played a game using H1 because it is inevitably voted down by the majority of the participants.
 
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