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"Pre-Dreadnought /WWI Naval Gaming" Topic


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boomstick86 Inactive Member18 Sep 2010 1:46 p.m. PST

I have been reading about the new wave of steel warships that appeared in the 1880s and admire the aesthetics and diversity of these warships, but I'm reluctant to spend the time and money to introduce them to my gaming club.

My concerns are that such a game consists of two beautiful-looking battlefleets steaming along in parellel lines, with players guessing ranges and rolling dice until one side loses. This sounds really boring to me.

Simply put, what makes such a game fun?

Personal logo Lentulus Supporting Member of TMP18 Sep 2010 2:00 p.m. PST

I played a number of games set in the 80s many years ago (with lovely hand-made 1:1200 models; sadly, the work of others).

In the very early period, before there was consensus on layout and armament you get ships which cannot work well together in line ahead squadrons, built in very small runs. This made tactics a challenge.

We also did the sort of hypothetical action that did tax the thoughts of strategists at the time, like French and British squadrons tangling with Russians of the coast of China.

And we kept the numbers small; I don't remember the rules (I think they may have been based on Jane's original) but no range guessing for sure.

The Monstrous Jake18 Sep 2010 2:02 p.m. PST

I don't do range estimation/guessing myself, so that part of the equation is out for me.

For me, the fun comes from the variability of the results. Having played and run some of the scenarios many times, I've found that a wide range of things can happen, depending a lot on what the players do.

Especially in the Pre-Dreadnought period, a lot of the ships were capable of dishing out lots of damage but not so good at taking damage. Most of the ships are big enough to be able to take a serious beating before actually sinking, so there is usually lots of action before most of the ships go down.

The only ships I've found are not fun are those designs that had only a small number of large, slow-firing, not-very-accurate guns. Lots of small or medium rapid-firing guns are more fun than a couple of large, slow guns.

platypus01au18 Sep 2010 4:45 p.m. PST

None of the rules I've used does "Guessed Ranges".

I've got a small American fleet using the lovely WTJ 1:3000 scale ships. Lovely ships.

We use Phil Barker's Damn Battleships Again. Very simple and gets you into the period without having to become an expert. Think DBA for ships. The rules include weather, etc. They are free, but not complete, so you should join the DBSA Yahoo group for some house-rules.

Other rules are QuickFire and Dark Days of Admiralty. More complex if you want that sort of thing. But still good, and not boring.

Cheers,
JohnG

Allen57 Supporting Member of TMP18 Sep 2010 4:48 p.m. PST

I love the ships but dislike the games. IMHO most naval battle games boil down to "Yahtzee at Sea". By this I mean that like the game Yahtzee it is a matter of rolling lots of dice to get winning combinations. As Lentulus mentions, with the right ships you sometimes get the need for maneuver rather than line ahead battle lines. It is interesting to see how some of the bizarre ships have to be played but I have yet to see where crossing your opponents T makes a significan change in the outcome of a miniature naval battle. It can also be fun struggling with ships that lose rudder control or hoping you can put out the fires which will take a ship you need out of the battle.

Far more fun from my perspective are campaigns such as those set out by Avalanche Press line of War at Sea games with simplified battles to reduce your available ships.

Al

bandrsntch18 Sep 2010 8:44 p.m. PST

Games can be anything but boring! We've played pre-dreadnought naval for some years using a mixture of scratch built and bought (Navis) 1:1250 scale ships. Is always exciting when you get a lucky hit and your opponents'ship goes up in a flash from a magazine explosion.

Have tried several rules and have settled on "Perfidious Albion" as the easiest to play while still giving some semblance of detail.

Check out link and look around for some truly amazing photos of one of our members scratch built ships.

Princeps19 Sep 2010 4:05 a.m. PST

I like Ironclads and Ether Flyers by GDW. Just ignore the Space 1899 elements (which are optional) and you have an excellent set of pre-dred historical rules.

Khusrau Supporting Member of TMP19 Sep 2010 5:29 a.m. PST

I will second DBSA – gives a fun game. The beauty of the period is the huge variety of types and the various theories that competed in the period.

boomstick86 Inactive Member19 Sep 2010 10:11 a.m. PST

I get the impression that the very things that repel me from the gaming experience aren't an issue for those who like them, but can anyone suggests ways to avoid the "Yatzee" effect, as Allen put it?

Perhaps coastal or river actions to make manuevering essential?

Allen57 Supporting Member of TMP19 Sep 2010 11:16 a.m. PST

I hate being the downside guy but perhaps you really dont want to do naval warfare. Much of it is the esthetics of seeing ships which you like moving about on the table and struggling with damage issues. You either enjoy this or you dont. Sounds like you dont. What do you like to play? Based on that preference perhaps we can suggest a rules set you would like with ships. I like the ships but hate most of the rules systems out there primarily because they require rosters. I dont like rosters in any games. Naval warfare is really about control of the sea lanes not the individual battles. As I said earlier a campaign system with simplified battles that allow you to appreciate the miniatures may be your solution.

Al

bobblanchett Inactive Member19 Sep 2010 10:03 p.m. PST

i've payed with "fire when ready" and "perfidious albion" from A&A.. great fun rules.

WarpSpeed21 Sep 2010 8:20 p.m. PST

Quick fire is a nice fast,free rule system and supports WTJs 1/3000 minis.Micro managing internal ship systems in a fleet battle makes no sense…try doing it in the sci fi-SFB.While i recognize that each ship is unique and deserves every possible chance the only way to effectively do that is 1-2 ships per player and elect an overal leader per fleet and also an unbiased games master to preside over it(read long game ,some ones leaving angry,game group dissolves in a few months).Fast and furious simple rules for me ever since.

WarpSpeed21 Sep 2010 8:23 p.m. PST

Quick fire is a nice fast,free rule system and supports WTJs 1/3000 minis.Micro managing internal ship systems in a fleet battle makes no sense…try doing it in the sci fi-SFB.While i recognize that each ship is unique and deserves every possible chance the only way to effectively do that is 1-2 ships per player and elect an overal leader per fleet and also an unbiased games master to preside over it(read long game ,some ones leaving angry,game group dissolves in a few months).Fast and furious simple rules for me ever since.Dont get me wrong ,for small ship to ship encounters i love the all encompassing rules(SFB rocks!).

wpilon Inactive Member22 Sep 2010 7:21 a.m. PST

For me the key is scenario generation.

The scenario's you describe are all too commmon. I try to come up with "mission oriented" stuff such as:

a "mine-laying" mission where a German minelayer has to spend 4 X d6 turns laying mines within 15,000 yards of a harbour entrance. The minelayer is protected by a couple of cruisers and a flotilla of destroyers.

The Brits have a CL on patrol (can't deviate until it "spots" the ML or escort).

2D6 turns after "spotting" the enemy the British "cavalry" shows up in the form of another couple of cruisers and a flotilla of DDs.

korsun0 Sponsoring Member of TMP24 Sep 2010 6:01 a.m. PST

I have 1/6000 1905 Russians and Japanese courtesy of a swap here on TMP. I had never really tried naval and now I love it! Something different and fun. I use rules from WTJ as well, not sure if it is quickfire or the other set (name escapes me) but hell, its fun. Had some great games.

boomstick86 Inactive Member26 Sep 2010 9:05 a.m. PST

@ Allen,
Well, I usually to play a lot of frigate actions from the War of 1812 with moderately details rules, and I liked having to maneuver for the weathergage, worry about completing sailing evolutions without exposing my ships to raking fire, and selecting ammunition loads for best effect. Its just the steel navy games don't SEEM (haven't played one) to have such things. Guns traverse, ships steam, all ammunition is HE, so what input is necessary? It seems like the ships run themselves until a lucky hit sends one side to the bottom.

@ Warpspeed,
I've got a great gaming group that has been together for over 25 years and can leave games up indefinitely on an 8' x 24' table, and plays rules like EMPIRE Napoleonics. Within reason, complexity shouldn't be a deterent.

@ wpilon,
What a great idea! Objectives beyond "Sink, burn, or take her aprize…" sound like they would add a lot to these games. The one weakness here, is that it seems like the combinations of opponents are rather limited. Do you set up "what-if" games? Say, the Japanese Empire declares war on Britain in 1906 or something?

wpilon Inactive Member26 Sep 2010 4:42 p.m. PST

Do you set up "what-if" games? Say, the Japanese Empire declares war on Britain in 1906 or something?

I don't, I'm just getting into WWI so all I have is the Germans and Brits, but there's no reason that you couldn't.

If you've got fleet for a bunch of different countries, you could set any number of scenarios up in and around China, where everybody and his dog had pre-dreadnoughts stationed.

Allen57 Supporting Member of TMP27 Sep 2010 8:39 a.m. PST

@boomstic86, agree that ammunition type is not an issue. Maneuver should not be automatic. Signals from the admiral to a squadron may be misinterpreted. Some ship in a squadron in line abreast may not get the order to turn to port and form line ahead. Ships which are not in sight of the enemy may have some restrictions on their movement. Decisions on whether to illuminte (searchlight or star shell) need to be made with their potential penalty for both sides. Remember there is no radar yet. There is also the issue of when to send in the torpedo boats. You seem to want detail rather than simplicity. You should take a look at the General Quarters WWI rules or Naval Thunder. If you want lots of complexity Sea Krieg comes to mind but I dont recall if those have a WWI/predred supplement. In any event there are complex and simple rules. You need to find a set which appeals and try them out.

evilmike28 Sep 2010 5:56 a.m. PST

"I like Ironclads and Ether Flyers by GDW. Just ignore the Space 1899 elements (which are optional) and you have an excellent set of pre-dred historical rules."

Yup.

And, with the design rules, you can test your designs against the historicals and see what happens.

laptot08 Oct 2010 9:05 a.m. PST

Another vote for Ironclads and Ether Flyers.

The dificulty with this period is finding a rule set that keeps die rolling and record-keeping to managable levels and still simulates the curious design elements of specific vessels. Simple rules often gloss over the specific characteristic of one-off vessels constructed at a time when naval design was rapidly developing in the absence of opportunity to see their effectiveness in war. This is what's so interesting about this period.

The games you describe appear to be simple slugfests using rules that have so generalized the capabilities of the ships that there is little to destinquish them. Naval rules sets, however, are particularly suseptable to becoming bogged down in record keeping and consulting gun and armor penitration tables.

Our club is tinkering with the I$EF rules a bit as currently the game gives too much power to batteries of light guns. Since each gun fires individually, the sheer mass of small guns generates far too many critical hits. The crit hit tables are also to be modified. Far too easy to jam rudders. During our first game half the ships on the table were steaming in circles with jammed rudders. The game also seems to have been designed for hex board as far as I can make out from the turning rules. I've scrapped those and replaced them with turning arch templates of various diameter based upon ship size.

Although we've changed much, the ship stats for gun and armor values are excellent resources. The game mechanics are not too cumbersom given that one is firing by batteries accounting for every gun and one rolls to see first if there are hits and then penitration. Does a good job of simulating the pros/cons of specific ship designs which is the most interesting aspect of this period.

If one also like VSF, these are the rules to use. Wessex games has long promised naval rules to fit with Aeronef (sp.?) and land ironclads rule sets. Looks as if we will continue to wait. Actually I'm thinking of using I&EF as a system to game Aeronefs and land ironclads. The Wessex rules are clean and simple, but they fail to account much for the gun/armor layout of given vehicles. All units have the same firing archs and there is no specificity as to front or side armor.

desert war13 Oct 2010 9:41 a.m. PST

" hate being the downside guy but perhaps you really dont want to do naval warfare. Much of it is the esthetics of seeing ships which you like moving about on the table and struggling with damage issues. You either enjoy this or you dont. Sounds like you dont. What do you like to play? Based on that preference perhaps we can suggest a rules set you would like with ships. I like the ships but hate most of the rules systems out there primarily because they require rosters. I dont like rosters in any games. Naval warfare is really about control of the sea lanes not the individual battles. As I said earlier a campaign system with simplified battles that allow you to appreciate the miniatures may be your solution.

Al"

I too love the minitures, but like the idea of a campain or controlling sea lanes aspect. I love the idea of a game where you have to decide where to send your ships to protect your shipping and try to destroy your enemys. If you have the biggest and baddest battleship it dosn't matter if you send it to the wrong spot.

laptot14 Oct 2010 8:17 a.m. PST

Desert War

Yes, the FOG of war is most important to naval engagements and I've wondered how to include a pre-game campaign session that determines the occasion of a battle to be resolved on the table. It would be nice if this can be done w/o an umpire.

One suggeston is the old matchbox system. A map is devided into a grid. Each square on the map has a corisponding matchbox. The matchboxs are glued together so many high and so many wide corisponding to the map and each box is labled with a coordinant. At the beginning of the game every ship has a representative counter which is placed in the matchbox corrisponding to the actual location of the unit on the map. Each player takes turn moving fleets and patrols along the map and inspects those matchboxes where his ship occupied in the course of the move. The non-moving player turns his back while this is done. If the moving player finds enemy counters in an inspected box, the result is either determined by die roll in the case of a small encounter, or on the table if it's a fleet to fleet engagement. This system is not symultanious and is therefore abstract, but no umpire is needed.

Each player can also be attempting to move commercial convoys in an effort to gain victory points if these ships reach given destinations. This gives the enemy stratigic motivation for their movement.

Victory points are awarded not only for inflicted losses, but for how long certain sea lanes are open or closed etc.

The AH game Jutland has a pre-battle search period that involves players sending out patrols. Players take turns calling out hexs that they are searching sort of like the game "go fish". The enemy responds by either saying there is or is not something there. The disadvantage with this system is that players have to disclose the location of there own scouts (which may or may not be large fleets). The matchbox system keeps these patrols secret…but who can get their hands on several 100 matchboxes these days?

Malcolm

Martin from Canada16 Oct 2010 9:26 p.m. PST

Malcolm, I say who needs matchboxes when you have MS Excel.

For campaigns, I set up a new worksheet with 3 sheets.

I have my Blue and Red forces sheets where each cell is equivalent to a matchbox. (You can even use a real map as a background to make the grid more realistic)

Now here is the thing of beauty. On the third sheet, insert this formula in A1

[=IF('Blue Team'!A1=""," ",IF('Red Team'!A1="","",'Blue Team'!A1&" Vs. "&'Red Team'!A1))]

Now drag it to the right and as far down as you need.

During the campaign, if there are two forces in the same corresponding cells, they will show up on the sheet with the formula and there are the forces for the battle.

bobblanchett Inactive Member14 Nov 2010 7:55 a.m. PST

martin could you post a link to an example spreadsheet?

4th Cuirassier14 Nov 2010 8:07 a.m. PST

Buy some GHQ Micronauts, superdetail them, park them on a glass shelf.

All the aesthetic appeal of naval wargaming without the feeling that it's Yahtzee at sea.

chironex15 Nov 2010 5:54 a.m. PST

Superlative suggestion, though I'd be going with something larger, like the old Houston 1/1000 or some others in 1/600…..

I just think ships should be big…

Jeff of SaxeBearstein15 Nov 2010 6:19 a.m. PST

chironex,

Great Endeavors carries the Houston line (which seem rather nice):

link

And Merrimack Old Glory Shipyard carries some 1/600 ships . . . although I think that they're supposed to be a bit "exaggerated" (I've never seen them):

link


-- Jeff

HesseCassel Inactive Member29 Nov 2011 11:45 a.m. PST

And if you want it, here's where to buy it:

link

freecloud29 Nov 2011 4:21 p.m. PST

"We also did the sort of hypothetical action that did tax the thoughts of strategists at the time, like French and British squadrons tangling with Russians of the coast of China."

I have those fleets in WTJ 1:3000, I play DBSA

It's not quite line up and shoot, especially if there are islands etc to make things hard and scenarios to play out.

HesseCassel Inactive Member30 Nov 2011 9:31 a.m. PST

Here's the essence of Naval Gaming (not necessarily naval warfare, fleet planning, etc).

If you present either a small ship to ship fight in a detailed game, then the fun is for the players to be a captain and run their ship properly while engaging the enemy.

If you present a fleet action, then you need to present the entire action, including wind, weather, terrain (islands, coastlines, etc) and command issues, including the lead-up to the battle.

What I do with a fleet action is include the 2-3 critical decisions that the commanders had to make historically, THEN I deploy the fleets throw in mother nature and they can have at it.

At the end of the day, Naval Warfare is always highly dependant on technology and using you gear effectively while trying to minimize the effectiveness of your enemy's gear. People enjoy it b/c sinking ships is fun, and if you've a detailed game even just damaging them is fun. Also, the tactics of maneuver are fun.

Recently, we've been playing General Quarters 3, and we played the Savo Island scenario twice, end-to-end. There were a lot of decisions to make just to set up, there were decisions on how to engage the enemy (direction, formation, etc) and there were decisions about maximizing the effectiveness of gunnery and especially torpedoes. We didn't always make the right decisions, but we had a great time and it wasn't just a line-em-up-and-shoot game. It was night, there were detection and acquisition issues, and our result was totally different from history.

We used Panzerschiffe ships, and them and the 1/3000 ships are so cheap that one can take a risk, IMHO.

Good luck and have fun!

afilter20 Jan 2012 10:43 a.m. PST

I have gamed many periods and I will say in the last two years Pre-dreads has become my favorite naval period to game. Many contests devolve into slug fests and as someone mentioned pre-dreads can dish out alot of damage, but tend to be rather fragile compared to thier dreadnought successor. Kind of like a prize fighter with a galss jaw.

For rules we use Naval Thunder rise of the Battleship. Simple, but gives a good flavor of the time period.

I also enjoy the modeling involved. I use panzershiffe 1/2400 and then masts which gives them alot more detail at a fraction of the cost of some of the other options.

Here is a sample of my models and an AAR fro RJW.

rallyroundtheflag.blogspot.com

Aaron

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