Help support TMP

"WW1 German dreadnoughts, harder to sink? ...or not?" Topic

28 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Naval Gaming 1898-1929 Message Board

1,738 hits since 9 Nov 2012
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

warren bruhn Inactive Member09 Nov 2012 5:08 p.m. PST

First time I did anything like a WW1 naval miniatures game was in the 1970's when I was a teenager, playing the old Avalon Hill cardboard Jutland game. In that game the German dreadnoughts get more hull boxes than the British dreadnoughts, and thus take a few more hits to sink.

As a teenager I was inspired by this intriguing North Sea situation, more dreadnoughts on the British side vs. fewer but harder to sink dreadnoughts on the German side. Over the next three decades I read every book I could get my hands on regarding this topic, from the school library, from the downtown LA library, from US Navy base libraries, from bookstores, from college libraries, from local libraries, etc. Most of the books would mention the German dreadnoughts having wider beam, more small watertight subdivisions, and a torpedo bulkhead along much of the hull, in contrast to the British dreadnoughts of similar displacement and vintage which lacked these advantages. It all seemed to confirm my original impressions from playing the old AH Jutland game, that German dreadnoughts were harder to sink.

But over the last decade or so, as I've played various naval miniatures rules systems, I've noticed a trend. The miniatures rules make sinking and slowing down a dreadnought a function of displacement alone, and seem to give no benefit or greater hull factor to the German dreadnoughts. The British have bigger shells, and the damage factors tend to pile up faster on the German dreadnoughts. The end result seems to be the German dreadnoughts losing hull boxes and speed and sinking just as fast or faster than the British dreadnoughts.

This has been somewhat disturbing to me, as it contradicted the books that I had read over the previous three decades, and it went against the prejudice that I had from playing the old AH Jutland game before playing these various miniatures rules. Also, it struck at one of the fundamental reasons why I find this period interesting, the potential clash between a more numerous British dreadnought fleet vs a smaller German dreadnought fleet that is harder to sink. Without this feature, the whole period is much less interesting to me.

So, what are your thoughts on this topic? Who is right? Did the German dreadnoughts have any historical advantage in this characteristic, or not?

Only Warlock Inactive Member09 Nov 2012 5:11 p.m. PST

They absolutely did, because the British started building first, allowing the German shipbuilders to take advantage of the British learning curve to start out with more advanced features like the greater subdivisions of compartments and the Wider Beam making a more stable gunnery platform in Heavy seas.

Maddaz111 Inactive Member09 Nov 2012 5:21 p.m. PST

Too big a topic.

I think from my reading of this subject over the last "?" years is that.

German doctrine was more effective on a ship by ship basis,

Better use of Watertight doors and damage control parties.

Slower rate of fire on German ships – but more accurate fire.

Faster British fire was obtained at the penalty of leaving anti flash protection doors open, allowing catastrophic fires/explosions.

I think hull points/boxes should be about equal, but the chance of a critical kill should be lessened on a german ship.

I had a set of rules that I wrote that gave a german ship one extra box of damage over its weight class, and one entire row of criticals was no effect to German ships, but caused additional damage/and fire in some cases to other nationalities, and always caused fires on British ships!

Sundance09 Nov 2012 5:40 p.m. PST

There was also the issue of British ammo being less effective than German – there was a thread here on TMP in the last few days about that…

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP09 Nov 2012 5:43 p.m. PST

If the Hun can hit you faster and harder than you can hit him, the number of hull boxes loses its meaning.

It's nice to keep your magazines from exploding, which I think is a bit more important than hull boxes.
"There is something wrong with our batlecruisers today!"

Personal logo Florida Tory Supporting Member of TMP09 Nov 2012 5:44 p.m. PST

The logical conclusion to the development of technology is that the later designed ships tended to have the advantage, irrespective of nationality, because of the lessons learned and evolution of the engineering. Hence, the QE class were more successful than many/most of the German designs.

There was some interesting discussion relative to the Bismark, which was effectively a re-treaded WWI design, in a prior thread:

TMP link


Personal logo sillypoint Supporting Member of TMP09 Nov 2012 7:25 p.m. PST

"So, what are your thoughts on this topic?"
Don't let historical revisionism (?) get in the way of a good game.
"Who is right? Did the German dreadnoughts have any historical advantage in this characteristic, or not?"
Based on your extensive reading of the topic, make generalisations to make a playable game.
Set of rules that does not encourage you to put the models on the table= BAD. Set of rules, models are on the table and a game is played= GOOD.

Lee John Ayre10 Nov 2012 2:48 a.m. PST

I could well be wrong but I thought the German ships had more watertight sub divisions because they were designed to operate away from their base for short periods and didn't need to accomodate the crew for lengthy periods. Royal Navy ships were designed for longer periods at sea.
More watertight compartments mean they are harder to actually sink but they could still be put out of combat due to damage above the waterline (casulties, fires, loss of guns etc).
So well German ships may be less likely to actually sink they could be put out of action just as readily as Royal Navy ones.
How many Dreadnought Battleships (not Battlecruisers) were actually lost to gunfire ? The R.N Battlecruiser losses seem to be explained by thin armour and poor ammunition handling practices.

Rudi the german Inactive Member10 Nov 2012 2:52 a.m. PST

Dear warren,

I understand and share your point of view.

This is a very difficult question…. I will add some more:
Who won the battle of skagerak? Who had better moral? Who had better taining for sailors? Who had better gunnery practice?

The history gives us no definite answer… and sometimes it is better so as the answers would have to be paid in blood.

I would go with silly point on this topic and can only say that you have to decide how you rate your ships.

But i can give you a advise: before you lose interrest in the topic due the fact that the german navy does not life up to your expectations, please visit the city of laboe.

There you will find all your answers ….. All the game disigners overlooked…




YouTube link

Make sure you are there in juli when the german navy/ regatte week is!

Have fun…..

Rudi the german Inactive Member10 Nov 2012 3:03 a.m. PST


Another one

Personal logo David Manley Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2012 6:24 a.m. PST

Bit of a myth. The assessment of the Baden and other ex-German ships conducted from 1919 showed that, whilst the degree of subdivision was greater it wasn't excessively so. And its effectiveness was pretty much crippled by the extensive arrangements of pipework which penetrated the bulkheads at low levels. This was an era where the effects of air and underwater shock were not well understood, in particular materials to resist shock; These low level penetrations were prone to shock damage and consequential flooding. Mind you, it was a lesson that most navies failed to pick up on in a big way for some time – failures of cast materials under shock was still prevalent early in WW2.

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP10 Nov 2012 10:56 a.m. PST

And, frankly, let's not forget most rules writers don't really know poop about their subject, going with what they think "should" happen, rather than any knowledge of "how" things happen.


CampyF Inactive Member10 Nov 2012 2:37 p.m. PST

Later German ships had a major Achilles heel. The torpedo rooms for the large torpedoes allowed for major flooding to occur. This is blamed for the loss of the Lutzow at Jutland. Baden hit a small Russian mine and almost didn't make it home.

Determining a ship's damage rating is ridiculously complicated. In essence, no ship is ever as good as it looked on paper. Some proved more durable than expected. I will point out that the HMS Tiger took perhaps 18 hits and was still battle worthy.

desert war Inactive Member10 Nov 2012 8:09 p.m. PST

Open up the sea chocks on the German ships and they go right down. (sorry had to get that in)

Agesilaus Inactive Member10 Nov 2012 9:56 p.m. PST

I like the theories, but this issue is truly a can of worms. British and German design philosophy were quite different and the number of encounters, with definitive results, were too small to make accurate assessments. Basing the success of a design on a few isolated incidents is misleading because critical hits could severely damage or sink any unit in either navy.

Charlie 1210 Nov 2012 10:10 p.m. PST

TVAG- That's a cheap shot. Of the rules authors I know, all are very conscientious about their research. The ones you're talking about are the exceptions, not the rule.

Rudi the german Inactive Member11 Nov 2012 2:44 a.m. PST

Nope. The TVAG is right on this one. The most rules are unrealistic snd symulate a semirealistic world or just simulation based on selective and biased factors. And these factors are mostly picked outof one single source of truce or based on one cultural myth.

Greetings and have fun

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Nov 2012 8:11 a.m. PST

Some rules authors do go the other way too.

They gather all the technical data they can and use that to build their performance model with no real understanding of how the systems work together (or, as is more common, fail to do so). Much of the data is taken from tests in perfect conditions or even on-shore and little or no account is taken of even the most rudimentary error analysis of such results.

The models produced are oftem wildly optimistic in hit probabilities and often fail totally to model the range of possible ways that a real battle might go.

I'm not sure that it is actually possible to do more than guess intelligently anyway at what would / would not happen. In almost all periods between the development of armour and the rise of aircraft at sea we have relatively few battles from which to take data and in many of them special factors skew the results and make interpretation even more difficult.

I'd say that WW1 should be the easiest to get and use data for but the wide range of different interpretations seem to say that even a well documented period is open to many possible conclusions in the way of representative rules.

Ponder Supporting Member of TMP11 Nov 2012 9:35 a.m. PST

Good morning,

Evaluating what is required to sink a ship is difficult. I suspect the trend toward displacement is based on operational research of WW2 data.

Ponder on,


Charlie 1211 Nov 2012 6:37 p.m. PST

Considering that the academics in the field can't agree on some the issues raised, is it no wonder that various rules reflect the same variability. Case in point: The impact of director fire control is acknowledged, but to what extent has been debated for some time (especially when comparing different systems). Not too long ago, a very nasty academic debate was waged regarding the different systems used by the RN during WWI (and largely went unresolved). Now, enter the rules writer: Given two different intrepretations by acknowledged and respected expects in the field, just where is he suppose to land when writing his rules?

Are there hacks out there? Of course (and I won't name any rules, no matter how much I'd love to). But there are also those who take the time to navigate the disparate views to get something that actually works on the tabletop.

(Oh, and BTW, those of you so quick to criticize might try writing your own sometime… It's not as easy as you might think…)

Ponder Supporting Member of TMP17 Nov 2012 5:12 p.m. PST


Overall, are far more bloodthirsty and push their ships much farther than reallife commanders would.

Perhaps instead of so much technical focus, it would be better to develop a good "morale" system for naval combat. After all it's not the hull that governs but the crew.

Many game systems layon a gloss of this, but I've yet to see such a system effectively presented.


warren bruhn Inactive Member19 Nov 2012 2:59 p.m. PST

Ponder, I wouldn't put that "morale" issue on the "crew" while the ship is at sea. The "crew" has no where to run to, unlike troops in a land battle. If "morale" is an issue, it is so for the captains and the division, squadron, and fleet admirals, all the way up to the Kaiser. In port, it may be a different story. Running in the face of a clearly superior force is mere prudence. But if there is a friendly asset that must be protected, such as a convoy or bigger more valuable ships, then some naval officers may choose to sacrifice themselves and their crews in order to attempt to save the more valuable asset. It's not as if the crew got to vote on that issue. In fact, that would be the expected behavior of captains of TBD's, destroyers, and cruisers.

On the flip side, after Troubridge was disgraced for not keeping up the pursuit of the Goeben, it's hard to imagine any British officer failing to sacrifice himself and his ship and crew. The "morale check" in that case would probably be whether or not the officer has enough "morale" to make the sensible decision and decline to sacrifice himself and his crew and ship, in spite of the likely disgrace for failing to do so.

Fleet Action Imminent has "morale" ratings.

warren bruhn Inactive Member19 Nov 2012 3:06 p.m. PST

I think a lot of rules writers want to design a game based on putting the historical outcomes clearly at the apex of the bell curve of possible outcomes. But in naval miniatures wargames designers seem to get hung up on including a lot of armor and penetration data, and on making the process evocative (i.e., plotting a path for torpedoes).

Since I've invested in Fleet Action Imminent, I'm getting concerned that WW1 German dreadnoughts are losing speed and sinking too fast compared to the historical incidents that I'm reading about involving damage inflicted on them.

Ponder Supporting Member of TMP20 Nov 2012 12:06 p.m. PST


I agree the morale is based on the command, not the crew.

How does the morale system you referenced work?

Ponder on,


Charlie 1220 Nov 2012 4:55 p.m. PST

Basically, when a ship reaches a certain threshold of damage, a die roll is made for the ship; if it passes, it continues as before. If not, it must withdraw from the battle. Rating of the ship's 'morale' is based on multiple factors (mostly experience and damage control doctrine). Navies with better damage control and experienced crews will generally pass. It's a pretty basic system, but anything more expansive would never gain acceptance.

Let's face it, morale rules in naval games are as popular as ammo rules or logistics rules and just as likely to be ignored.

warren bruhn Inactive Member21 Nov 2012 3:38 p.m. PST

In Fleet Action Imminent, ships are required to check morale whenever ships have more than half the hull boxes marked off (typically ships have 4 to 7 hull boxes), or when ships have lost their main battery, or when more than two hull boxes are marked off due to a torpedo hit.

Warships are rated as Green, Regular, or Veteran, and there is also a column for AC – AO (non-warships). The die rolled is a d12. There are variations for nationalities, with Britain being the most saguine regarding continuing in action after damage, the Germans and Austro-Hungarians a little less so, and the Russians and Italians being a bit less sanguine about continuing after damage than the Germans and Austro-Hungarians.

Warships that fail the morale check must attempt to withdraw from the action. Non-warships see their crew abandon ship.

By the way, I remember ammo allotments in Seapower. When reading about Jutland I found it interesting that many of the battlecruisers had shot away most of their ammo by the end of the battle. They would not have been able to continue shooting for another hour.

Ponder Supporting Member of TMP23 Nov 2012 10:15 a.m. PST


That's not really a morale roll. But ok.

In my Great Pacific game, there is mandatory break off with a specified level of damage.

I'd think morale, as I'm thinking of it would be at the squadron or division level. I'm just not sure the best way to go about it.

Ponder on,


Charlie 1223 Nov 2012 5:26 p.m. PST

"I'd think morale, as I'm thinking of it would be at the squadron or division level. I'm just not sure the best way to go about it."

Easy enough to come up with, but impossible to get anybody to use…. (trust me on that…)

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.