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Posted on May 24, 2019 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

You sank my battleship!  Jack Greene’s “Togo Dawn of the Dreadnought” Board Game Review

You sank my battleship! Jack Greene’s “Togo Dawn of the Dreadnought” Board Game Review

Rick Martin

Jack Greene’s “Togo Dawn of the Dreadnought – Naval Battles of the Russo-Japanese War”    Board Game Review.  Publisher: Bonsai Games and Quarterdeck International   Game Designer:   Jack Greene  Price  $39

Passed Inspection – well organized, clearly written rules.  An elegant system for ship to ship combat.  Easy to learn. Excellent value for the price

Failed Basic –gun combat results table needs an identifier for the columns and rows to help with identification, fleet sheets are slightly larger than 8.5 x 11 so can provide a challenge to photocopy for use

“Certainly the Japanese navy had performed well, but its opponents had been weak, and it was not invincible … Tōgō’s victory [helped] set Japan on a path that would eventually lead her to the Second World War.”


-Historian Geoffrey Regan

“You are young, and it is you who will one day retrieve the honor and glory of the Russian Navy. The lives of the two thousand four hundred men in these ships are more important than mine.”

-Russian Rear Admiral Nikolai Nebogatov, to his men, as he prepared to surrender.

“The “long nineteenth century” was the time of the Great Powers. Britain, Germany, France, Austria-Hungary, the US, Italy, they were all jockeying for power and prestige, a great game that would culminate in the wholesale slaughter of the First World War.

Russia was another of those Great Powers, but one that was beginning to fade. In the early 20th century, under Nicholas II, the Empire had struggled with numerous internal and external difficulties, problems that would eventually result in the overthrow of the old regime in 1917. In 1904, the Empire was still looking to expand its borders and influence in all directions, and one of its targeted areas was its eastern shores and the Pacific Ocean.

Japan had undergone major changes in the century leading up to the Russo-Japanese War. In 1868, the Meiji restoration had begun a transformation in the formally isolated island nation, as it opened up to the rest of the world, began a belated industrial revolution and embraced western ideas and technology. Japan was desperate to be the Great Power of the Pacific and be seen as an equal of the European nations.

Naturally, the two nations became rivals in the area over a number of issues. These included the status of Korea, which both wanted to control, the Russian leasing of Port Arthur and the surrounding area from China (the Russians needed a warm-weather port to replace Vladivostok, but Port Arthur was uncomfortably close to Japan), and Russian occupation of parts of Manchuria in the wake of the Chinese Boxer Rebellion.

The continuing series of clashes resulted in lengthy diplomatic wrangling, but the talks that took place in 1903 and early 1904 were doomed to failure. Russia had no intention of leaving their position in Manchuria or Port Arthur and Japan was unwilling to relinquish its superiority over Korea. After a succession of possible treaties were rejected, it came to war.”

 Quoted from:

Russian forces in Manchuria were losing in their battles against the Japanese army.  The Japanese forces were laying siege to the Russian Eastern Fleet in Port Arthur. The Eastern Fleet ended up surrendering after the five month siege.  The Russians knew they had to gain control of the Yellow Sea and Sea of Japan in order to relieve their land forces.  To that end, the Russian Baltic Fleet of eight battleships and 20 other ships set out to the rescue but first needed to resupply in Vladivostok which is North of Korea.  The Japanese navy included 4 battleships and 85 other ships.

The battleships were the kings of the ocean during this time period and both the Russians and the Japanese developed their naval theory around them much as we do today with our aircraft carriers.  Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky sent his Baltic fleet through the Straights of Tsushima between Korea and Japan which was the shortest path in order to resupply their ships in Vladivostok.  Admiral Togo Heihachiro sent his force of 4 battleships, cruisers and support ships to intercept.  The Russian fleet was all but decimated in what would be known as the “Battle of Tsushima” and only three Russian ships made it to Vladivostok intact.  The Japanese lost three torpedo boats.  After their defeat Czar Nickolas II sued for peace and Korea was annexed to Japan in 1910.  The stage was set for not only the overthrow of the Czar but for the horrors of the Japanese occupation in Korea and, ultimately, for World War II.

Jack Greene is legendary amongst war gamers for his over 39 years of wonderful designs including “Ironbottom Sound”, “Royal Navy” and “Destroyer Captain” as well as his authoritative history books.  Fans of his will not be disappointed by “Togo Dawn of the Dreadnoughts”!  Tsushima is the focal point of this game but other battles between the Russian Navy and the Japanese Navy are included.

“Togo” is packaged in a zip lock bag and includes the following components:

a 24 page rule book

a 24 page book of fleet sheets

a 22” x 24” map sheet

a small map extension with a turn chart divided to time of day for each turn

mounted tables

132 die cut double sided counters

gun charts

torpedo charts

errata sheet

You will need some 10 sided and 6 sided dice in order to play

Each counter is one ship or a small squadron of ships in the case of torpedo boats, destroyers or transports.  Each ship counter displays the nationality, ship’s name, ship type, speed, armor class.  The silhouette of the ship faces left and the left side of the counter is the ship’s bow.  The ship types included in the game are pre-dreadnought battleships, armored cruisers, armored coast defense ships, protected cruisers, gunboats, divisions of destroyers, torpedo boats and groups of transports.

Other counters represent torpedoes, water line hits, sinking ships, fires, wind direction, sun direction, etc.

Each game turn is 7.5 minutes and is tracked on the turn tracker per hour.  Each hex represents 1000 meters.

A handy chart in the rule books shows how to figure the firing arcs of the different types of ship mounted weapons.

The turn sequence is as follows:

  1. Reinforcements enter the map
  2. Torpedo launch phase
  3. Initiative determination phase
  4. Movement phase
  5. Gunnery execution and gunnery damage results phase
  6. Torpedo results phase
  7. End of turn phase

The 24 page Fleet Sheet book includes all the ships that participated in the Battle of Ulsan (August 14, 1904), the Battle of Tsushima (May 27 and 28, 1905), the Battle of the Yellow Sea (August 10, 1904), the June 23rd Sortie (June 23, 1904)and the February Sortie (February 1904) and the scenarios are conveniently broken down in to introductory, short, medium and long games.

Each page of the Fleet Sheet book lists the ships by name and then gives data boxes which can be checked off when the ship’s systems are damaged.  Each ship is represented by a picture of its counter and then data is given for the victory point value of the ship, armor factor, floatation factor, numbers and types of torpedoes, gun type and arcs, hull point boxes and movement factor boxes.  You’ll probably want to photocopy these charts as you’ll be marking off boxes as the ships get damaged.  Ships can be damaged and systems break down, critical hits occur, ships catch fire and finally sink.

Rules are included for ramming and collisions, divisional fleet orders, smoke from the guns and smoke stacks of the ships which, depending on the direction of the wind, can affect aiming of the guns, attacking in to the sun, ships blocking fire on other ships, etc.

Combat is fast and furious.    Guns are broken down in to arc and type of guns. You have heavy guns (usually grouped in turrets which can fire fore and aft), medium, light and anti-torpedo boat guns.  Each class of gun has different ranges and different affects based upon the armor type of the target ship.  You figure the gunnery factor of the weapons you are shooting.  The gunnery factor of the weapons shot and a percentile die roll results are cross referenced on the Gunnery Combat Results Table.   Plus or negative die roll modifiers are factored in based upon range, position of the ships, etc.  The resulting number is the number of hits on the target ship with that type of guns.  Then you go to the damage tables and roll 2d6.  The type of gun and armor factor of the target ship give you a table to roll on and that’s how you find the damage.  Critical hit tables and gunnery accident tables are also included and add to the dramatic narrative of the battle.  You then mark off the damage on the Fleet Sheet for that particular ship.

My only real complaint is that the Gunnery Combat Results Table needs a caption for both the rows and columns to remind players what is what.  In the heat of gaming, forgetting what the rows and columns mean predicates having to reread the whole text of the combat section as a reminder.

In addition, the fleet sheets are slightly larger than 8.5 x 11 so they can provide a challenge to photocopy or scan for use.   I think the layout could have been a little tighter in order to make them easier to scan or copy.

Torpedo rules are a little simpler than the gunnery charts but achieve easy to figure out results which can be devastating for the ship struck.

Optional rules include simultaneous movement, flagships, obvious targets, towing, damage control procedures, mines, crew fatigue and much more.

Informative designer’s notes are included.

I really can’t say enough good about this game.  It is easy to learn and exciting to play.  I played the introductory Battle of Ulsan scenario in about 2 ½ hours while learning the rules. I would think that the larger battles could be played in 4 or 5 hours.  The tactical nature of the game gives you a “you are there” feel.  While no solo bot system is included, as long as you don’t mind changing captains’ hats, it is easy to play solo.  The Battle of Ulsan is almost perfect to play as a solo game as the Russians are trying to get across the map and survive.

It should be easy to create additional user generated battles with the system by using the ships victory points as a way to balance the forces.

The rule system would be perfect to play this game with miniatures.  If I still had any skill in painting or building minis, I would do this in a heartbeat!

If the battles between the Russian Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy are your cup of tea, get this game!  It’s another classic from the mind of Jack Greene!

Armchair General Rating: 96 %

Solitaire Rating: 3 (1 to 5 with 1 being Poor and 5 being Perfect for Solo)

About the Author

A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!  Rick is also the designer of Tiger Leader, The Tiger Leader Upgrade Kit and Sherman Leader.

gunnery charts
damage charts
Fleet Sheets
crossing the T
sinking a ship
tracking damage
Rurik goes down


  1. Great review. I would only copy/scan those ship charts by division anyway. This is also a very good looking package.

    • Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the review. I can’t wait to play more of Togo!