December 16, 2005
Koger is a well known figure in the wargaming world. His Wargame
Construction Set: TANKS! was among the first games I owned.
His Operational Art of War series is still considered by many
to be among the best operational level wargames ever made.
After OPART Norm seemed to fade into the shadows. Or so we
and his partner former founder of Talonsoft, Jim Rose
recently put together Storm
Eagle Studios and started garnering some excitement for
their upcoming game Distant
Guns: The Russian Japanese War at Sea.
Distant Guns recently went live at the SES web site here.
I have had the chance to try out a very late beta of the game
and I can say that what I have seen at this point looks pretty
Premise Behind the Game
war was actually a pretty interesting idea as far as a naval
simulation goes. In the forty years since the Monitor and
the Merrimack warship design had changed dramatically. The
fifty year period between the Civil War and the First World
War was the fastest era of change in naval warfare the world
had ever seen, and has seen since.
changed from simple sailing vessels utilizing muzzle loading
cannons to large bore breach loaded weapons capable of penetrating
armor and fortifications. Warships were becoming increasingly
larger, better armed and armored. Ships considered cutting
edge just five to ten years earlier were considered obsolete
long before their functional life was over. Indeed, the pinnacle
of Japanese battleships, the Mikasa (actually made in Britain),
was considered obsolete two years after she was built when
HMS Dreadnought slid out for her sea trials.
war of 1904 is considered by many to be a turning point in
the fortunes of two countries. Russia, ruled by Czar Nicholas
II had tried for years to emerge from its reputation as the
poor cousin of the Western World. Japan, after centuries of
isolation, embraced the technology of the west with a zeal
that bordered on fanaticism.
countries clashed over the peninsula of Korea and the port
of Port Arthur. Japan had earlier won the rights to Port Arthur
in its victory over China in 1895 but pressure from Russia,
France and Germany forced it to relinquish control back to
China. Russia, hungry for an ice free port in the Pacific
'leased' Port Arthur from the Chinese, something that infuriated
the two naval powers were fairly closely matched numbers wise,
with Japan having some advantage in newer equipment. The biggest
difference was in quality and training of the troops. Underestimating
their opponent the Russians figured that beating the Japanese
would be an easy matter. The Japanese, managed by the brilliant
Admiral Heihachiro Togo managed to keep the Russian fleet
bottled up in Port Arthur however and as the fleet sat the
more despondent they became. Meanwhile the Japanese landed
troops around the port and slowly brought guns to bear on
the port. In an action that eerily predated the conquest of
Singapore the Japanese cut off and bombarded the Russian troops
and ships in port.
realizing the predicament that his navy was in, dispatched
the Russian Baltic Fleet under Admiral Petrovich Rozhdestvenskii.
Admiral Rozhdestvenskii, in a feat of seamanship still admired
among naval historians, managed to bring his entire fleet
of coal fired ships almost 18,000 miles to relieve the garrison
at Port Arthur. Besides being a logistical nightmare (the
Russians had to rely on German colliers since there were no
friendly ports during a large portion of the trip) these warships
were not designed for such long voyages.
he had to deal with poor, often substandard troops who knew
little of seamanship and even less of gunnery. Ammunition
had to be rationed because there would be no way to replenish
supplies lost for training. Furthermore the Czar decided to
send just about anything seaworthy (and a few scows not fit
for sea) along to give the fleet more bulk. The slowing down
of his relief fleet meant that he could not bring his fleet
to battle before Port Arthur fell. With Port Arthur, and the
Pacific Squadron there, gone Rozhdestvenskii had no choice
but to head to Vladivostotok. There were three routes available
but the only one that didn't involve either recoaling or getting
close to Japan herself was through the Straits of Tsushima.
every roadblock placed in front of him he managed to bring
his fleet to the Straits of Tsushima. This is where the Greek
tragedy that was the 2nd and 3rd Pacific Squadrons (as they
were called by then) played itself out.
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