Friday, April 20, 2007


The focus of our fictional Great War campaign now shifts away from Africa to the High Seas for a bit. In August 1914, the German Commerce Raider SMS Elke (a converted merchantman) left her base in China for the last time to pursue a Guerre de Course against Entente shipping. Under the leadership of Captain Grimm (a cousin of the sailor we saw meet his doom on lake Wittelsbach a while ago) in the following weeks she made a mockery of her enemies, ranging far and wide off the coast of Asia and into the South Seas, capturing numerous prizes.

After a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with the Japanese light cruiser Matakishi in the maze of islands and treacherous shoals around Pulo Prabang, the Elke escaped and slipped into the Indian Ocean. Discovering that HMAS Kylie and HMAS Dannii had been sent to sink her, Captain Grimm decided to head away from the sea lanes, to raid a little-known British possession: The Coconut Islands.

(Table set-up: Click for bigger pics)
Leaving behind most of her recently captured prizes for the time being, she headed for the island of Little Coconuts accompanied only by the Scheherazade, a private British pleasure boat that she had captured recently. Little Coconuts presented quite a plump target for the Germans, containing an important radio transmitter, a fuel-oil depot, and most importantly, the world's most tasty coconuts! Renowned around the globe by connoisseurs, they are said to contain that certain something. Grimm was determined to thumb his nose at the British by making off with a few, and would personally present them to the Kaiser for his table upon his return to Germany.

Though not common knowledge, another target was present here: The top secret undersea communication cable from the WACA to Lord's. German Naval Integillence had discovered that this cable crossed the island, too. Grimm had secret orders to locate and cut the cable, in addition to any other mayhem he might be able to cause. With the cricket scores from Australia unavailable in time, the 1915 edition of Wisden Cricketer's Almanac would not be able to be published, sending morale throughout the British Empire plummeting at one fell swoop! The Cricket-obsessed British would be unable to recover from such a blow, and would surely be knocked out of the war.

So to recap, the German player's objectives were as follows:

1) Destroy the radio equipment and antenna mast.
2) Blow up the fuel-oil depot.
3) Steal as many luscious coconuts as possible.
4) Cut the Trans-Oceanic Cricket Score Cable.

The Scheherazade would be used to put ashore a landing party. It was known that the British, thinking that the Coconut Islands were too far off the beaten track to be attacked, had left them virtually undefended, just a few lazy Royal Marines would be all the opposition Grimm's men faced.

But Grimm's intelligence was out of date. The Germans were sailing into a trap...

Realising the vulnerability of the Islands, the Entente powers had moved swiftly to make them more defensible. In the true spirit of the Entente Cordiale the French had dropped off a detachment of sailors with two naval guns to bolster things for now. They had already positioned their guns, and constructed quite strong earth emplacements for them...

(Actually, I had planned for the gunners to be Royal Navy, but my RN gunners weren't ready when the gaming night was sprung on me at short notice, so my "Belgians" had to stand in as Frenchmen.)

In addition to the French gunners, the radio hut was ready to send out a distress call to the nearby sister island of Big Coconuts, where the RNAS had recently completed construction of an airfield, and had two planes standing ready to intervene should the call come.

So Grimm, brimming over with his irrational Teutonic hatred for Cricket, and possessed of an unnatural lust for King George's coconuts, sent off his men to meet their fate in the Scheherazade, while the Elke positioned herself to support the attack with its big guns.

(Pierre Moreau often gave out autographed books to his men, he is pictured here with a rare unsigned copy.)

Here we see the French sailors relaxing before the battle. Notable among them is their leader, Enseigne de vaisseau de deuxième classe Pierre Moreau, the famous author of 17th Century Romances-turned fighting seaman. Known of course for the Baron Connard series of books, such as "L'Epée Rose." Who can forget the charismatic Baron Connard? With his supreme fencing skills, witty quips ("You, sir, are a gross exaggeration!"), and his silver-tongued way with the ladies ("Madame, je bande de toi!") he is certainly a character that will stand the test of time. Enseigne Moreau has found that handing out free copies of his book to the men raises morale tremendously. After all, good toilet paper can be hard to come by on a long sea voyage...

Anyway, enough Pete-baiting, on to:


Things got going with an exchange of fire between the Elke's big guns and the emplacement on the mole, where Moreau was directing the gun crew.

Then the previously hidden French gun on the little island joined the party.

The Royale Marines headed off towards the beach to have a look at what was going on. Hearing gunfire, the radio operator frantically began tapping out the distress call, hoping to summon the RNAS planes. He was told to "Calm down" and not be seen to panic in front of the "Frogs." That would be worse than actually losing to the Germans.

"Come on, chaps! Don't lag behind. Last one to the beach is a rotten egg!"

With the Elke giving supporting fire, the plucky Scheherezade ran the gauntlet of the French guns.

The Elke's gunners scored a hit. The smaller French gun was unseated and two of its crew killed.

Moving into a position where she could see the fuel depot, the Elke spoke again with her guns, sending massive columns of smoke and flame into the tropical blue sky.

But by now she was having troubles of her own. Moreau's gunners were begining to take their toll on her. A small fire started on her decks had now spread, and was becoming dangerously out of control, despite the best efforts of the damage control teams.

Things were just getting worse! The Elke was losing men by the bucket load, and soon both the main guns had fallen silent. A problem with the rudder didn't help matters much, either. Moreau's men turned their attention to the Scheherezade , which was now looking extremely small and vulnerable. A few shots and she turned tail and fled back out to sea, her decks washed with blood. With the Elke now unable to silence the defending gun battery, there was nothing for it but to call off the attack.

So still burning, the much-vaunted "Terror of the South Seas" fled with her tail between her legs, which serves Grimm right for the beastly things he said about Cricket. Quite right, too. The French sailors cheered themselves daft, but their joy soon turned to sadness. Lying unnoticed until now on a pile of sandbags was the crumpled body of Moreau. There was not a mark on him, but he sadly lay dead. One of the Elke's barrages must have landed too close for him. So while literary critics in Paris heaved a collective sigh of relief, lovers of swashbuckling action and romance would mourn the news. No more would L'Epée Rose thrust its way through the ballrooms and bedchambers of France...

The Royal Marines sat on the beach and enjoyed the show, but were a little miffed at the way the Froggies had hogged the limelight. The RNAS turned up too late to be of any use and sullenly flew back to Big Coconuts. Worried about the Australian cruisers, Grimm would have to swiftly rendevous with his other prizes and retrieve their crews to replace his losses, and then make a dash for the safety of German Central Africa to make repairs. More of that another day...

Well, from an umpiring point of view the game was an utter disaster. I had hoped for a landing, a fight with the Marines, and some action with the aircraft to make it all a real exciting stew of action. But the German failure to silence the French guns completely put the kibosh on everything. And it was ALL MY FAULT!

A hitherto unspotted flaw or glitch in the rules made it almost impossible for the Elke to hit the battery on the mole, and almost impossible for the battery to miss the Elke. Oh well, call it play-testing, I suppose. At least we've got it sorted now. Funny thing is, it didn't spoil the game for the players at all, they seemed to have a real good time. The German player seemed to revel in the desperate situation he found himself in at the end. So I suppose it just goes to show that with good players, even the most (unintentionally) one-sided of games can be fun for all. And they did take out the smaller gun and the fuel tanks, too...

1 comment:

Poruchik said...

Bravo and three cheers for good gamers!

Urrah, Urrah, Urrah!

An excellent looking game and with the class of jackets and ties no less! I do hope a suitably sofisticated dinner was in the works as a reward.