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"New WW1 naval rules review - Dreadnoughts at Dawn" Topic

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World War One

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CptKremmen08 Dec 2017 3:52 a.m. PST

Dreadnoughts at Dawn is a new set of WW1 naval rules that I would like to review. I must own up right away that I wrote them and that they can be purchased for $5 USD from wargames vault if you like the sound of them

I decided to try and write a set of WW1 naval rules for relatively large battles of around half a dozen battleships plus supporting cruisers and destroyers per side that did not need any paper record keeping.

I achieved that in the end with a combination of small movement chits put beside the ships to indicate future movement orders and a little custom made dice tray behind each ship holding up to 6 7mm dice that represent the number of different calibre guns the ship has, it maximum speed and hull points as well as the class of armour it has. These have proven very successful, but for anyone who does not want to invest in the dice trays and the little dice, I have included a more conventional paper record keeping system that will not involve any purchases.

Speaking of which you will need some model ships, I use Navwar 1:3000 because they are cheap though GHQ 1:2400 are great if you can afford them!

Heavy cruisers and larger are individually based. Light cruisers have 2 ships on a base and destroyers have 3 ships on a base. The damage charts for light cruisers and destroyers are very much simplified.

An odd D6 is needed but most of the dice are D10 you would not need more than 6 to play the game.

The "clever" part of the game is perhaps the use of colour to represent both gun calibre and armour thickness. So an 11" or 12" gun is a "Red" gun whilst a 6" gun is a green gun. I started with the red / yellow / green traffic light colours and then added one each end so from big to small the range is blue / red / yellow / green / white with black being reserved for torpedoes.

Sequence of Play
Each turn roll 2D6 for initiative.
Place Move orders for next turn.
Carry out this turns move orders.
All players place splash markers on enemy ships.
All players place Torpedo markers against targets that are in range.
Both sides now fire their guns. Both sides alternate firing by gun colour.
Both sides then fire all their Torpedoes and resolve damage.
At the end of the turn remove all torpedo markers, all splash markers and this turns move orders.

So at the beginning of each turn you plot the following turns movement, this turns movement already having been plotted the previous turn. When I say plotted all you have to do is place a chit next to the ship that indicates forward, left or right, (and some rarely used moves). Thus you have set the broad scope of the following turns orders but allows the player to fine tune the exact movement when the movement takes place.
In play test the move orders were more detailed and more proscriptive but this was found to slow things down without adding any real benefit. If a rule does not add some meaningful benefit we have removed it, these rules are meant to be fun and fast play
Big ships then place splash markers that affect accuracy of firing.
You then alternate firing those guns in range, this is done by colour band so the side with initiative fires all it's blue guns followed by the other side then the initiative side fires red guns etc. All damage takes effect the moment it is rolled rather than simultaneously, this both gives a subtle bonus to the more powerful weapons as well as avoiding headaches remembering which damage has been caused earlier this turn but does not yet apply.
Because we are using 7mm D6 dice to represent gun batteries all ships have a maximum rating of SIX for each gun calibre and a maximum value of TWELVE for hull points (we use 2 dice to represent remaining hull)
So to give an example HMS King George V a 13.5" armed British dreadnought has the following values represented by dice
1 Blue dice on the top row with a value of 4 to represent the 13.5" guns
1 White dice with a value of 4 to represent the secondary battery of 4" guns
A blue dice on the second row with a value of 3 for speed. Movement is 2" per pip on the dice, so in this case 6" per turn
2 white dice on the second row with a total value of TEN to indicate remaining hull points.
The name plate on the dice tray has a red background which shows the armour is RED.

To fire at an opponent you roll 1D10 per value above and hit on a score of 6+ there are a few modifiers including splash markers but the main modifiers are range, so you need 4+ at close range, 6+ at medium and 8+ at long range to hit your target.

Assuming your target is a capital ship you then roll a D10 for each hit, this indicates where you have hit on the target vessel. You may have hit hull, Primary guns, secondary guns, the steering or the magazine.
There is a simple colour coded range matrix of weapon calibre versus range. (There are only 3 ranges) this shows the maximum colour of armour that can be penetrated at that range.
So for example if we were firing at the King George V with an armoured cruiser armed with 9.2" (yellow) guns we could penetrate red armour up to a range of 14", yellow armour up to 24" and green armour up to 36". Assuming the armoured cruiser was within 14" all the hits would count. If it was over 14" you would not be able to penetrate the armour of the king George V. Now obviously not all parts of the ship are as well armoured as others, to avoid complex rules the damage table that you roll a D10 for is divided into rolls of 1-5 and 6-10. 1-5 are unarmoured parts of the ship this includes hull and secondary guns that can be destroyed by any gun, whilst 6-10 includes the magazine, primary guns, steering gear and some armoured parts of the hull that can only be damaged if you can penetrate armour at that range.
Sound complicated? It really isn't because everything uses small numbers, and colour coded guns, armour and ranges it is very quick and easy for a new player to pick up.
Quick example based on above figures. The King George V above wishes to fire at a german battleship 35" away.
Quick look at one small table shows blue guns at 35" is medium range and can penetrate blue (basically any) armour.
Roll the 4D10 needing 6+ to hit as medium range. Roll 3,5,7,9
Re roll the 2 hits and compare to the hit location chart, roll a 4 and an 8 which is a secondary gun and a primary gun destroyed, the hit on the primary gun also destroys one hull point (this is on the hit location chart as "Primary gun + 1 hull"
That's it, very quick and because of the colour coding system we find it very intuitive for people to pick up.
As a part of my real job I write complex network diagrams and technical manuals and have long since found the use of shape and colour greatly aids in quick identification of different aspects of a system. I applied this same approach with colour to these rules.
The rules themselves are 36 pages including title pages, introduction etc, as well as 3 pages of quick reference sheets and full British and German fleet stats at the end of the rules. To clarify I have included all british and German ship classes that were present at Jutland plus a few important ones that were not present. If anyone feels I have missed a ship let me know and I will add it on.
The rules do not include USA, Japanese, Italian etc fleets though these will be made available at a small additional cost if there is any demand.
When you download the rules you get 3 files.
The rules pdf itself.
A separate pdf with just the Quick Reference sheets in it (that is all we use to play the game, in fact once you have played one game all you need is one side of the QRS that includes the lookup tables
And lastly a spreadsheet with all the ships on including not only points values for all the ships but all the formulas exposed as to how the points are arrived at. So if you think 6" guns are over priced or under priced and you have even a basic knowledge of excel (which is all I have) you can change the values easily.
I bought the game into my local club, Wargames Association of Reading in the UK, and was so pleasantly surprised by how well the game played and how much everyone who played it liked it, I decided to write up the rules in detail and publish them on wargames vault.
I have kept the price really cheap as I am more interested in people enjoying the rules than making myself a pdf billionaire 😊

I am not totally sure about TMP policy on advertising, I thought it would be ok to mention them if I did it as a useful review of just how they work and why they might be of interest to some people
Feel free to ask any questions here or email me directly on andy at Watkins-family dot co dot uk

Joe1870 Supporting Member of TMP08 Dec 2017 4:37 p.m. PST

I will try to check into these some more. Do you sell the custom dice trays, as that would be a big interest of mine indeed.

CptKremmen09 Dec 2017 8:25 a.m. PST

I do not but Warbases do. If you check out the rules you will see that the standard one is a 6 cell tray, whilst 3 and 4 cell trays can also be used for some ships.

I strongly suggest you buy 3mm deep rather than 2mm. I tried 2mm and they were too shallow the dice fell out. Stuck 2 together to make 4mm and couldn't get the darned dice out.

If there was a demand I could in theory get the dice and the dice cells from warbases, put the little paper name tags on the bottom and sell them as a an entire package.

I am prepared to consider doing this if there was enough interest or you can just buy straight from Warbases.

I am the trade organiser for Warfare each year, and know Martin and Diane from Warbases well, they are incredibly helpful, if you mention you are interested in the same dice cells that he did for Andy Watkins he will be able to sort you out with what you want.

I realise the little dice cells are a lot more money than just using a piece of paper with the ship details on and crossing them off but they do look cool, and you can see on the table how many hull, weapons etc you have rather than having to keep refering back to a paper record card.

I have nevertheless done up paper record cards for all the ships for those that want to use that method, I have not used them myself but believe they have all the information on them you could need.


colkitto10 Dec 2017 12:12 p.m. PST

Well done on this and thanks. I bought these the other day and like the look of them. I am always a sucker for something which makes it look like you could actually do Jutland, and these (with their "one model = two capital ships" scale, and what seem like reasonable firing ranges – not too close, when you consider the length of the line) remind me of Paul Hague's Jutland rules (meant as a compliment – for me these are the gold standard for the particular way in which they reconcile accuracy, flavour and playability/fun) I'm looking forward to giving them a go, although I may stick with the paper records rather than the dice trays on personal aesthetic grounds. The convenience is tempting though.

One thought: if you included a page with order chits on them, we could stick them to the back of blue cardboard and cut them out. (Anything to save effort!) And what are the empty squares at the end of the QRS?

As well as enjoying the colours, I liked the inclusion of pictures of suitable models, scenery etc. And I was pleased to see your good word for Navwar!

Molecatcherjohn11 Dec 2017 9:34 a.m. PST

I played a game with the author at the weekend and I'm not just saying this because I know Andy, but it was the most gaming fun I'd had for a long time. I'm not a fan of "extras" on the table (and I said this at the start of the game) but I thought that the little trays of dice worked really well and didn't detract too much from the overall impression – I was converted to this idea. I think he has the balance of historical accuracy and playability just right with these rules – looking forward to playing them again!

CptKremmen11 Dec 2017 11:48 a.m. PST

Thanks John, though one of the reasons you enjoyed the game is because i made so many mistakes placing my order tokens! Keep getting my left and right mixed up, thinking of doing some new tokens with P and S for port and starboard on them.

Colkitto Thanks for your words of encouragement

Yes at a push you could do Jutland, certainly the German fleet was not that huge, one of the reasons i went for the 1 model = 2 real ships was that the game works well with "divisions" of 2 ship models one behind the other.

I think generally historically these ships sailed in divisions of 4 ships, so at 2:1 2 models represent a division of 4 battleships quite well.

I loved the old Paul Hague sea battle books, i think there were 2, both in the garage somewhere, i was not influlenced directly by them as i have not read them in at least a decade but i am going to go and dig them out now and see what he did. as a kid i loved his ancient galley rules with airfix britons on them as marines!

There are 2 very good reasons to stick to the paper records over the dice.
1st it is far cheaper and easier to just print out a paper sheet, mark off the damage and throw it away at the end of the battle
2nd yes the sea is less cluttered.

As john said though when I played him for the 1st time Sunday he started by saying he was very ocd about his battlefield and did not like clutter. Before long though he loved the way you could both record damage easily with the dice trays and see at a glance on the table what weapons you had left, how much damage ships had suffered etc without having to go and look up a sheet of paper.

In the end i have provided both options and you may use whichever works for you.

I could indeed have done a page of chits that had P and S on them or left and right arrows, the chits have ended up so simple i honestly thought most players could come up with something fairly easily themselves. If I remember i will add a page to version 1.1 when i update.

Sorry i never did explain the empty squares at the end of the QRS and just left them on incase anyone wanted them. If you use the little dice trays you glue a piece of paper to the underside of the dice tray that has the ships name on it. This has the dual purpose of stopping the dice falling out the bottom when you pick the tray up! and giving you the ships name and colour of it's armour.

I print them on white paper and then just use a highlighter pen to show the armour colour, thinking about it I could instead of put the name and baclground in colour on the printed sheets.

I wanted to have a set of rules that at least abstractly felt "historical" but basically very simple, fun and fast play as well. I think nearly all rules writers will say that and most would agree it is difficult to achieve. I honestly believe I have gotten pretty close with these and all my other friends seem to agree, they are never slow to tell me when my ideas are rubbish :)


colkitto12 Dec 2017 1:33 p.m. PST

You know, I might just be prepared to give the dice trays a try. With your under-tray name labels you do practically spoon-feed us here – and I am convinced by the historical/simple argument too.

Will be interested to hear any reflections you have on the Hague approach. The Jutland stuff is in the first book ("Sea Battles in Miniature") – one of the all-time greats of wargame writing, IMHO.

CptKremmen13 Dec 2017 10:32 a.m. PST

Took a while but i found the book. I deffinitely think i was subconciously influenced by this book.

We have had similar ideas, I would say mine are quicker and more streamlined but deffinitely a similar approach

CptKremmen17 Jan 2018 3:03 a.m. PST

For anyone interested i have released a small expansion (for free) on wargames vault called Dreadnoughts at Dawn – Washington Treaty, it adds the ships that would have been built by the early 1920's if either the war had not finished in 1928 or the washington treaty was never signed.

As it is free, take a look it might give you more of an idea about the rules.

A second expansion will be out shortly covering Russian, Japanese, American, French, Italian, and Austian warships of the 1st world war and just before


Brigman200018 Jan 2018 2:01 p.m. PST

When it reads 1D3+1 in the Expansion and on the tables what does that mean?

1D6+1 in other games generally means 1 six-sided die roll + 1 more added to the die roll.

Does 1D3+1 mean something like that?

CptKremmen20 Jan 2018 12:03 p.m. PST

It certainly does

1D3 is most commonly interpreted as 1,2 = 1 3,4 = 2 5,6 = 3
so do that and then add a further one meaning total damage will range between 2 and 4 hull points.

Any questions feel free to email me directly or drop them here

PS I am hoping to put up a detailed AAR in a couple of weeks time

CptKremmen27 Jan 2018 4:42 a.m. PST

I have just updated Dreadnoughts at dawn, plus other powers plus Washington treaty expansions to V1.1

The rules now cover from 1900 to the mid 1920's and have full data sheets for more than 190 classes of warships from Britain, Germany, America, Japan, France, Italy, Austria and Russia

If you have purchased any of these you should get an email link to a free upgrade. If you have not bought a copy try downloading the Washington Treaty expansion it is free and will give you a good idea what the game is all about.

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