As I’ve mentioned in a couple of previous posts, mainland Sondor is more water than dirt. There are so many waterways that it makes more sense to get around by boat than by any other means. In addition, most towns are built as a network of crannogs or pole-buildings (think Venice). Every building is something new for construction crews, so owning a building is absurdly expensive. Most people live on their boats, and keep them moored close to where they work. For centuries, the marsh kingdoms and river kingdoms did battle entirely on the water. After the economic collapse following the War of Karadenian Succession, the islands of Nala and Toruck, as well as the coastal kingdoms, submitted to the Crown of Qells and the Sondorian Empire was born. As time passed and the empire expanded inland, the ships evolved from river galleys and gun-barges to monitors, casemate ironclads, and eventually the famed river dreadnoughts.
I’m not making the river warships in any particular order, but this is the first I’ve done.
This is a river cruiser, the intermediate of her contemporaries (river monitors and river dreadnoughts) in terms of size. The river cruiser is much smaller than an oceangoing cruiser; at 78 metres long, this particular example is actually smaller than the CSS Virginia. That being said, river cruisers are nothing to scoff at in terms of firepower. While other major powers largely abandoned the casemate ironclad in favour of ships with turrets, Sondor chose to keep this design and update it because it possessed several advantages in river combat.
Notice the small squares atop the raised platform in the middle. These are viewports, very similar to the viewports one might see on a tank. The Sondorians discovered very quickly, during the early days of ironclad warfare, that low-profile ships could slip past enemies on the banks, taking advantage of the hull-down position. Obviously, the only thing that gives away the ship’s position is the funnel. Such a low-profile ship can also unleash a devastating barrage while the enemy’s guard is down, then slip away during the confusion, especially at night. Furthermore, the low profile and sloped armour makes the ship a rather frustrating target.
The casemate guns and turret guns are all the same calibre, 152mm in the case of this ship, which makes it unusually well-armed for a cruiser of the period. However, the casemate guns are almost always howitzers, strictly for the purpose of firing relatively high-angled shots over the riverbanks. The turret guns are proper cannons, and are capable of the necessary muzzle velocity for armour-piercing ammunition to do its job. Smaller guns may also be mounted on the top decks, such as machine guns. Many times, mantlets will be added to protect top deck gunners. Most river cruisers are also equipped with a sturdy ram, to be used as a last resort.
During the ongoing war against Taressim, Sondor used the comparatively stealthy river monitors and river cruisers to strike hard and fast at enemy encampments wherever they could, while the towering river dreadnoughts acted as a blockade. With so many large rivers in such close proximity, there was nowhere along Sondor’s eastern border that was not within the firing range of the dreadnoughts’ guns. That being said, the river cruisers saw most of the action during the war, both against the Taressimians and against various factions of Sondorian rebels. Along with the monitors, these ships were to Sondor what tanks were to the rest of the continent.
This model will be available in my Shapeways shop, as well as variations on it (round casemate, octagonal casemate, etc.) very soon. The monitors and river dreadnoughts will follow.