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"Why Isn't WW2 Naval More Popular?" Topic

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1,936 hits since 22 Oct 2011
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JJMicromegas Inactive Member22 Oct 2011 8:37 a.m. PST

I am on a big WW2 naval bend right now, reading books, have rules, got the mini's the complete wargamer circle.

I like the period because I am fascinated by the story of the naval and land campaigns in the PTO, the ships are cool, compared to other naval periods it is more three dimensional with subs, planes, radar etc. There isn't too much technology making it still playable.

It is very portable with minimal set up required. There are several good rules out there and a large range of miniatures.

But compared to other gaming genre's (WW2, Ancients. Nap), it doesn't seem to have the same following or attention.

My question is do we need a FoW style type of model with one manufacturer making mini's, rules and a good marketing model or is it something else that is missing?

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian22 Oct 2011 9:06 a.m. PST

My theory is because it's functionally the same as starship gaming, and starship models are cooler. evil grin

JJMicromegas Inactive Member22 Oct 2011 9:16 a.m. PST

Well it seems like spaceship gaming is derived from WW2 naval.

Which IMO doesn't really make sense for spaceship gaming, see this other thread I started:
TMP link

Tgunner22 Oct 2011 9:18 a.m. PST

Well there is Axis and Allies miniatures with their naval combat rules. They seem pretty popular and a lot of folks collect them. I have a pretty large battle fleet of Americans and Japanese and I play it from time to time.

However I think it is a niche in a niche.

jameshammyhamilton Inactive Member22 Oct 2011 9:23 a.m. PST

Good question.

My thoughts are that really speaking WWII naval needs to be done almost at an operational level with multiple task forces, air searches and all that stuff. This works far better as a boardgame IMO.

I used to have a lot of US and Japanese cruisers and destroyers so I could play the battles in Iron Bottom sound but there was not a lot of interest from my gaming friends.

Personal logo Inari7 Supporting Member of TMP22 Oct 2011 9:45 a.m. PST

I think for WWII the aircraft ruin a good ship battle. The distances in WWII are HUGE and ships may never see each other.

Those darn aircraft.

zippyfusenet Inactive Member22 Oct 2011 9:46 a.m. PST

WWII naval action is dominated by air power, which is difficult to game in miniature. Surface actions took place mainly when carriers and land based air were out of range or unable to operate, at night or in bad weather. There were no full scale surface fleet-on-fleet actions like Jutland or Tsushima.

I'm interested in WWII naval gaming and have a small collection of ships, but none of my cronies has ever shown much enthusiasm for the genre.

idontbelieveit22 Oct 2011 9:59 a.m. PST

I lost interest in naval gaming because what happens on the table seems so far from plausible history.

1) you play a few turns at long range, not much is happening, then inevitably the two fleets charge each other and half the ships on the table are sinking and the game is over, and you've gamed like 30 minutes of real time


2) it's a night battle, but you know where and what everything is

I'd like to do ship battles, but it seems hard to get far from the above.

Mako11 Inactive Member22 Oct 2011 10:17 a.m. PST

I suspect it is still popular with many.

Adding a GM will help with a lot of the above.

JJMicromegas Inactive Member22 Oct 2011 10:55 a.m. PST

Or maybe the shooting distances need to be abstracted, for example like FoW or Dystopian Wars.

To accomplish this I play with 1/6000 ships, though admittedly they lack the wow factor of the 1/2400 ships.

21eRegt Supporting Member of TMP22 Oct 2011 11:07 a.m. PST

To add to what has been said, there is a false impression among many that in the PTO the Japanese are unbeatable early on and can't win after about November of '43. The huge swings in technology during the war makes it a more challenging period than WWI and earlier where the ships and technology were more balanced.

It's one reason I prefer to game the Mediterranean. Both sides had some good ships, old ships, new ships, and air power is less of a factor. The fact that aircraft forced most of the Pacific actions to be at night is a real drag. You need a dedicated ref to create the fog of war. That or play in a blacked-out room!

I have hundreds of warships and continually hear the "I'm navigationally challenged" excuse. So although I have many rule sets to go with my toys, I'm somewhat reconciled to being a collector.

Arrigo Inactive Member22 Oct 2011 11:48 a.m. PST

"WWII naval action is dominated by air power, which is difficult to game in miniature."

" There were no full scale surface fleet-on-fleet actions like Jutland or Tsushima."

Uhm, have you read about Point Stilo or Cape Teulada? Airpower was important but usually was quite herratic not always present and in the end if not used in massive numbers quite useless. If said midway… I would say it was a statistical aberration and extreme american luck coupled with awful japanese damage control and desing. The Akagi was sunk with a single bomb and with a whopping 33% hit ratio (usually hit ratios were on 20% if not lower). Even lot of planes sometime were just doing a lot of splashes reported as crippling hit. Anyway there are a couple of rules that try to simulate carrier warfare.

"To add to what has been said, there is a false impression among many that in the PTO the Japanese are unbeatable early on and can't win after about November of '43."

They were still winning some battles, just the battles became more lopsided. When your player are so nice just send them with a squadron of fletcher or gearing DDs agaisnt some japanese DDs, do not tell them anything about long lance, explain to them that there is no way that an electric torpedo can run more than 4000 meters that their radar is perfect and so on… then watch…maybe you can have a Burke or Mossbrugger but I doubt that! Then let the player to spread the new false impression!

Dynaman878922 Oct 2011 11:51 a.m. PST

> 2) it's a night battle, but you know where and what everything is

Just use blinds (lots of them!) and/or lots of dummy ships only when they get in range of each other can they spot the real thing.

Probably the biggest problem for most naval combat at the time was that once a miniatures scale battle was started the outcome was no longer in doubt barring some kind of gross mistake or bad luck. A game where the tactics are pretty much obvious is not all that fun.

zippyfusenet Inactive Member22 Oct 2011 12:18 p.m. PST

" There were no full scale surface fleet-on-fleet actions like Jutland or Tsushima."

'Uhm, have you read about Point Stilo or Cape Teulada?'

There were a nmber of interesting surface naval actions in the Med. None were on the scale of a Jutland, or a Tsushima. Not even close.

David Manley22 Oct 2011 12:19 p.m. PST

Who says it isn't? I know loads of WW2 naval gamers. In fact, more of them than I know Naopoeonic gamers.

Martin Rapier22 Oct 2011 12:26 p.m. PST

Personally I prefer WW1 or pre-dreadnought naval warfare. No pesky aircraft or subs in significant numbers to mess things up, just ships blasting each other.

hindsTMP Supporting Member of TMP22 Oct 2011 1:05 p.m. PST

It's still pretty popular, and manufacturers, more often than not, come out with their WWII naval stuff before other eras.

With respect to Jutland/Tsushima versus WWII Med, bigger isn't always better. :-)

Mark H.

zippyfusenet Inactive Member22 Oct 2011 2:28 p.m. PST

"With respect to Jutland/Tsushima versus WWII Med, bigger isn't always better. :-)"

I'll agree with that. But bigger tends to make in into the Decisive Battles compendia, and onto The History Channel. A lot more people have heard of Jutland than of Cape Spartivento.

Lee Brilleaux Fezian22 Oct 2011 3:03 p.m. PST

Is naval gaming in other post-sail era periods popular? Is WWI bigger than WWII, or modern more popular than pre 1950?

I'd suggest that all of these fit a particular style and approach to wargaming that simply differs from that of, say, medieval skirmish or Napoleonic columns advancing. Much of the joy of those involves toy soldiers on a colourful battlefield. Naval battles don't work on those aesthetics. While it's unfair to say that C20th naval battles are simply small grey things on a blue table, wargamers who love toy soldiers first and foremost aren't drawn to this sort of tabletop display.

Furthermore, naval warfare is naturally complex. Ships manouevre in a careful, planned way. Nobody rushes out of the bushes or finds liquor in a cellar and becomes uncontrollably drunk. Ships' fighting capacity degrades from protracted action more often than satisfying big explosions. There's a lot of accounting. That's just how it is. It's in the nature of the subject.

I have a friend who loves C20th naval games. He's detail-oriented, maintains concentration well, and doesn't mind keeping rosters. When I see him at a convention, he's playing with people who basically seem the same; they are a lot quieter, neater and less inclined to shriek than, say, the guys playing Viking raiders. Or the games that I put on.

JJMicromegas Inactive Member22 Oct 2011 3:56 p.m. PST

In terms of campaigns I think the Solomons and Guadalcanal campaigns in '42 make for fantastic games, they are relatively small so still playable. They have a good mix of air, sub and surface action. The forces are still relatively equal, and night battles make for violent and exciting games.

I think there's too much of a premium on large fleet battles, and they won't be much fun anyway, remember Jutland was an inconclusive slug fest.

Caesar Inactive Member22 Oct 2011 7:22 p.m. PST

Hey, MJS. Some of us enjoy both types of games.

Allen57 Supporting Member of TMP22 Oct 2011 8:37 p.m. PST

Mexican Jack and our beloved editor sort of hit it on the head.

"My theory is because it's functionally the same as starship gaming, and starship models are cooler."

"naval warfare is naturally complex. Ships manouevre in a careful, planned way. Nobody rushes out of the bushes or finds liquor in a cellar and becomes uncontrollably drunk. Ships' fighting capacity degrades from protracted action more often than satisfying big explosions. There's a lot of accounting. That's just how it is. It's in the nature of the subject."

These are also the folks who write the rules. I love Naval history (Heck, I am a retired Navy officer) and games but the rules writers really do capture the minutiea of Naval warfare but not wargames aspect. My eyes roll back up in my head when I have to deal with all the stuff in naval wargames rules.

I also agree that it is not as visually appealing to most folks as land warfare or starships. But for guys like me a column of warships is a beautiful thing so long as they are not 1/6000 models which I cant see. I need at minimum 1/3000 and much prefer 1/1200 if there is enough room for them.


ptdockyard Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Oct 2011 9:19 a.m. PST

Go coastal. Lots of possibilities, most actions took place at night with little air action and the battles were often wild melees that saw boat crews throwing grenades and boarding enemy craft.

Dave G
The PT Dockyard

Personal logo Striker Supporting Member of TMP23 Oct 2011 10:15 a.m. PST

I'd love to get into naval gaming but it never comes about. I like the feel of the 1/6000 scale but also like the detail of the bigger scales but then space is an issue as I don't like the 1" = 20,000yds type look. If someone was going to play it then I'd be in. I suppose a rule set that's between the bolt counting and "everything is a BB" is what I'd need. I also would be in for naval games from the age of sail but the same problems come up.

Mako11 Inactive Member23 Oct 2011 11:57 a.m. PST

Yep, coastal battles with small boats and ships are great fun.

And don't forget about the ramming, and collisions – lots of historical precedent for that sort of thing in coastal actions.

As for the Age of Sail, it's less of an issue, since the gun ranges are much shorter, and the vessel speeds are considerably less. Try the free Beat to Quarters 4.0.1 rules, found on the net. Great fun, and the ships look superb!

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Oct 2011 7:16 p.m. PST

Well, I do sell a lot of WW2 naval miniatures….

Pontius24 Oct 2011 2:07 a.m. PST

I have played 1/3000 WW2 naval on and off for the last thirty-something years. To me the best format is a mini-campaign, whether based on reality or imagination. One of the best, and largest, was many years ago when we tried to play out the Norwegian campaign of 1940. It went very well with aid of a committed referee/gamemaster who looked after all the tedious aircraft and submarine sighting reports and fed in plenty of incorrect reports and political interference to keep both sides on their toes.

The campaign eventually died out because of perceived failings with the rules we were using. What it did was to create the many seemingly one-sided actions that so often occured in real-life and players had to make realistic descisions based on scanty intelligence. These sometimes resulted in actions where the aim of one player was solely to try to withdraw keeping as many of his forces intact as possible, and others where ships were deliberately sacrificed to protect troop convoys.

Very rarely have I played anything like a full fleet action. A raid by Force K against an Italian convoy, or the Hipper against an Atlantic convoy can result in a very interesting hour's gaming, but to achieve the full flavour the pre-game moves on a chart ought to be played out first. That pair of stragglers being chivied along by a corvette can prematurely raise the alarm or a poor lookout can let one force get in close without being spotted.

Martin Rapier24 Oct 2011 2:46 a.m. PST

"There's a lot of accounting."

Umm, that depends on your rules doesn't it. I blame that Fletcher Pratt myself.

We mostly play period variants of Colins Standish's 'De Bellis Navalis' aka DBA with battleships. Lots of ships manouvering in formation and satisfying big bangs, but no tedious book-keeping.

TheDreadnought Inactive Member24 Oct 2011 7:05 a.m. PST

Allen57/Striker -

If you haven't checked them out yet, you might want to take a look at Naval Thunder. They were written specifically the customers who want to actually have FUN playing naval games, while still getting realistic outcomes from the rules. They're fast and easy to learn. . . and cheap!


gregoryk Inactive Member24 Oct 2011 6:24 p.m. PST

For campaigns, you have The Solomons Campaign, from Old Dominion GameWorks. It is keyed to General Quarters III, but can be used with any good set of naval rules.

JJMicromegas Inactive Member24 Oct 2011 7:06 p.m. PST

I just picked up TSC, will hopefully get a campaign started soon.

myrm1125 Oct 2011 9:01 a.m. PST

I have used General Quarters and Victory at sea for naval gaming of WWII. These provide fun games but its all fairly small numbers – this allows for systems with reasonable detail per ship and still be quick play.
THe problem is usually the models – we don't have many players with models and thats what brings players to the table – the GQ games have all been one player bringing their models in – the VaS games all the flats from the game I own.
Without a playerbase of models to select from, the historical games are by their nature self contained, and a bit gods eye. Fun games but always a little constrained somehow as the aircraft get left out substantially in both the above systems and its relaint on a smaller collection of models.

OTOH some of the best WWII naval gaming I have had is over the internet on a turn based, email driven totally fog of war through umpires game called Subs Ahoy run by a couple of guys in New Zealand. There is something about naval and indeed any wargaming where you have to find the enemy as well as simply engage him, potentially sparse or focussed forces, objective driven scenarios and a total unknown as to what you face makes for a really really fun game.

Omemin Inactive Member25 Oct 2011 1:32 p.m. PST

I use poker chips, old plastic ships I got when I was a kid (from the ads in the backs of comic books), and then models to simulate limited knowledge of enemy forces in double-blind games to play any night/sub/limited visibility game.

Carrier games we do on clear plastic sheets. Draw the map on the back, then move on the front. Use water base magic markers (Vis A Vis by Sanford are excellent) to do search, movement, and so on. The judge's map tracks weather. Air attacks are played out with the miniatures using Seapower II and III rules.

The big thing with naval games is that nobody commits naval forces of appreciable size without something pretty big at stake. They're too expensive and take too much time to replace for them to be chucked in on a whim.

The "could lose the war in an afternoon" deal also means you could win it in an afternoon. Naval battles and sea control are MAJOR strategic stuff. If the Allies were still fighting a losing Battle of the Atlantic by late 1943, there would likely have been a very different invasion, if any at all.

JJMicromegas Inactive Member25 Oct 2011 4:50 p.m. PST

Based on my limited experience, I think WW2 naval has to be highly scenario based or have a campaign built around to make it interesting. The show up with 2000pts and play model doesn't work really well because those games would just turn into a slug fest.

Furthermore the scenarios have to be well designed with a lot of uncertainty built in. After I have tried TSC I can comment more on how a WW2 Naval Campaign works.

Lastly, I don't think aircraft ruins the game, but rather adds another layer of complexity, if the scenario is done right one can minimize the power of aircraft. In most of my games with aircraft I roll a die to determine what turn they will arrive in.

vichussar Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member28 Oct 2011 3:28 a.m. PST

Some of us at have recently started playing WW2 Naval using GHQ's Micronauts, General Quarters 3 & Naval Thunder with 1/2400 ships on 6x4 tables. you can see the initial After Action reports here.

JJMicromegas Inactive Member29 Oct 2011 7:15 a.m. PST

Vic, I saw your AAR's looks like you guys have tried out GHQ's rules, I'm curious what you think of the other two rule sets when you get to try them out.

When you get to GQ3 I would recommend you use the campaign air and sub ops as it streamlines the game significantly.

Lion in the Stars31 Oct 2011 5:08 a.m. PST

Air and subs really slows the game down.

I will also add the bookkeeping issue, but I was playing a computer-moderated ruleset back in 1999.

I'll happily play Seapower (got a copy of the rules somewhere…), and I have a good-sized Japanese fleet to go with it. But I like smaller ships and surface-only engagements. In fact, I'd prefer scouting squadron type operations!

I mean, if you need to do bookkeeping, treat each ship like she is a character in an RPG! The two subs I served on had very different 'sailing' qualitites, and they were built to the same design about 12 years apart.

HesseCassel Inactive Member14 Dec 2011 7:54 p.m. PST

I just don't see this. WWII naval is as popular as any other game, as long as it is well done and the games is fun and teh minis interesting to look at.

I was a hard sell on anything WWII, until Flames of War came around. I enjoy the game, and I'm willing to play it regularly. Would their excellent system of playing (points, missions, lists) work with WWII? Not very likely, as naval vessels are shockingly expensive. So they aren't risked unless there is a very good reason to risk them. An infantry company (or battalion, or division) might be thrown away in any number of pointless gestures. But the sinking of a ship requires a lot of explaining to a board of inquiry.

Anyway, we've been having a great time with General Quarters 3, and playing the Solomon's Campaign. It's a fascinating campaign, with even chance on both sides, and when we use the missions realistically, both sides have a good chance to "win" altho winning doesn't always mean sinking or not sinking ships. All the games are at night, which adds a little complexity, but nothing unmanageable. And in daylight, or limited visibility, it's no more complicated than Flames of War, that for certain. I spend the same amount of time trying to figure out the rules in both games.

I think with a 12x6 table, you could get away with completely realistic, and fun, night actions between DDs up to CAs in big scales, without a lot of trouble, say 1/1200 to 1/700. If you don't want many details to keep track of, you can eliminate a lot of it by making a command one ship type (4 Bagley DDs, for example).

The scale distortion issue is not a big deal anyway, a ship is mostly on the open ocean, where land obstacles aren't needed to "scale in". A squall or fogbank is terrain, and the occasoinal peninsula might be important in a game.

I think the key with naval gaming is you have to be interested in a mission, not just blasting away. But you can certainly blast away and have a great. time.

Also, I like Naval Thunder for a simpler game.

John D Salt Inactive Member19 Dec 2011 5:02 a.m. PST

I'd say WW2 (and later) naval wargaming has to deal with two big problems.

First, the business of search. Finding the enemy is absolutely critical in naval combat, and wargames often still fail to address this adequately.

Second, the massively different time-scales of air and sub-surface warfare. An air strike may have its decisive effect in a matter of seconds and minutes; and ASW hunt lasts for hours, maybe days.

I am slightly mystified as to why I have not yet met any variable-length bound naval games.

All the best,


HesseCassel Inactive Member19 Dec 2011 8:39 a.m. PST

Well, General Quarters 3 has a 3-6 minute variable depending on night v. day actions. For the wide variety of actions you describe – the slow sub vs. the fast air – I think you have to start with a fairly brief turn, and then work it in multiples for a slower action.

Personally, I find WWII popular. However, it is best played in a larger operational context which means "campaign game" or else it just becomes a ship-bashing exercise, which isn't very interesting on a continual basis.

Etranger Inactive Member20 Dec 2011 8:38 p.m. PST

John – Mal Wrights convoy rules are effectively that, with 4 hour map turns & then very short tactical moves. Air strikes, usually Fw200 & the like, only take a turn.

Omemin Inactive Member21 Dec 2011 10:00 a.m. PST

We have had difficulty with many naval rules (including our own house sets), mostly because the causes of loss and major damage in warships at the time (capsizing, near misses, critical hits, fires, and so on) are generally not well done in any one set.

Of course, the large battle/small battle dichotomy leads to using two sets, one more detailed for smaller fights (e.g., Seekrieg) and another, simpler, one for larger battles (e.g., General Quarters).

Mal Wright Fezian Inactive Member22 Dec 2011 3:55 p.m. PST

My CONVOY series design has been based on eliminating the problem with most naval campaign games. That is to say long periods of boredom while people move on a map and nothing is happening….then in submarine actions….a similar boring series of movement phases with most players twiddling their thumbs with nothing to do.

I've designed my games around putting players down in the midst of a tactical situation and telling them to 'deal with it'. Time is variable to handle that.

The crux of a good game is having a tactical situation develop between both sides and then the players using their skill to resolve it.

In my experience with naval wargamers I have found that far too many are stuck in a mire of old gaming styles and levels of detail that are just not necessary. Many want to be every person on every ship instead of accepting that the captains get on with it and have officers and crew to resolve the things they cant do themselves.

Battles were resolved by commanders using known information and data. Their main concern was if the ship could fight and if there were limitations. It was up to someone else to plug holes in the hull, pass ammunition and do a multitude of other tasks.

My convoy rules can easily be used for surface actions, air actions, or submarine actions. They cover it all.

In the instance of campaign surface movement I have abandoned the old traditional style and gone for something quite different, with players moving across a map and being required to deal with the day to day issues that arise. They know what is happening around them. If they want anything more they should wait until they reach port and read a newspaper! grin

Movement 'triggers' events, much like a computer game would when you do a move. But the events can be different almost every time you play the game.

The events they have to deal with are taken straight out of the history books. The types of damage ships might suffer…and the wear and tear breakdowns…are straight out of the history books.

For speed of play, as much information as possible is in the hands of the players via the damage charts for their ships. Its all based around decades of playing naval games and using the lessons learnt in eliminating the slow boring stuff that turned players off naval games.

My CONVOY games are based around the merchant convoys. But in fact all sorts of things can happen during a game, including a clash of surface ships…up to capital ships.
In the latest release RISING STORM…surface raiders can be every bit as big a threat as submarines and more likely than aircraft.

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