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"WW1 ship "values" by classes" Topic

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Killerkatanas07 Apr 2023 8:06 p.m. PST

I am not well versed in WW1 naval warfare, so I am hoping to get some insight from you experts out there.

As I am designing my scenario, I would like to know what you all think is the "value" or "equivalence" of the different ship classes to one another.

Take a dreadnought for example. From what I have read a battlecruiser would be equal to it in firepower, and above it in speed, but below it in armor.

So if we were to compare all ship classes to a WW1 dreadnought, how many of each type would be needed to be equivalent?

Here are my thoughts:

Dreadnought 1 = 1 Dreadnought
Pre-Dreadnought 2 = 1 Dreadnought
old battleship 3 = 1 Dreadnought
Battlecruiser 2 = 1 Dreadnought
Cruiser 5 = 1 Dreadnought
light Cruiser 10 = 1 Dreadnought
Destroyers 15 = 1 Dreadnought
Subs ?

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP08 Apr 2023 12:37 a.m. PST

It would be convenient if it were that simple but it isn't. Not all Dreadnoughts were even equivalent in effectiveness to each other and the variety in armament & protection of pre-dreadnoughts varied even more.

Most battleships could almost shrug off attacks by any cruisers in WW1 except for the danger from torpedoes – in that respect destroyers were almost as dangerous.

HMS Exeter Supporting Member of TMP08 Apr 2023 1:25 p.m. PST

What rules set are you planning to use?

Many/most have game stats for ships included as appendices that often have put values assigned. These can be used to roughly approximate equivalencies.

Killerkatanas08 Apr 2023 1:39 p.m. PST

What's a good set with this information?

emckinney08 Apr 2023 6:03 p.m. PST

15 torpedo-armed destroyers attacking a lone dreadnought would take losses, but would be nearly guaranteed to sink it.

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP09 Apr 2023 12:06 a.m. PST

WW1 torpedoes were neither reliable nor accurate enough to guarantee that. It would be highly unlikely that any dreadnought would be alone close enough to enemy TBD in that strength either.

Comparing ship types in isolated situations like that doesn't give any useful comparisons anyway, you need to consider their effectiveness in the realistic situations they faced in battle using the favoured tactics of the day. A much more difficult task.

Dexter Ward09 Apr 2023 1:53 a.m. PST

Best to pick a set of rules; that will give you a better idea of how to balance your scenario

Martin Rapier09 Apr 2023 4:55 a.m. PST

As noted, they aren't really comparable in that way. HMS Dreadnought rendered the entire worlds navies obsolete when it was launched, the tactical difference was like putting up wooden sailing ships against ironclads.

BCs had a very specific tactical purpose, which didn't involve being misused as battleships (although they often were).

As a minimum you need to separate out speed, protection and firepower, and even then that is likely to be an oversimplification.

bwanabill Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2023 6:40 a.m. PST

I have made extensive use of "Fleet Action Imminent" for WWI naval games for many years, and I have used them to run many convention games. FAI is a stand alone WWI variant of General Quarters 3 which is a popular ruleset for WWII. Both of these are sold by Old Dominion Gameworks.

I do not work for them, I just use their products.

FAI does not revolve around "points battles" but VP points are provided for each ship and they have proven to be very useful when I have designed "what if" scenarios.

charles popp09 Apr 2023 7:09 a.m. PST

In WW1 and to a lesser extent there is too much variability to say 1 Dn = 1Dn. as each nation built ships for their needs and missions.

Blutarski09 Apr 2023 5:11 p.m. PST

Hi Killerkatanas,
Welcome to the wonderful world of WW1 at sea a long time gaming favorite of mine. You indicated that you are still getting comfortable with the period. Hopefully the following comments will be useful for designing scenarios.

Broad guidelines -

First define the campaign area. "open sea" (Atlantic, Pacific, Indian Ocean) engagements (examples Coronel, Falklands, Emden vs Sydney) which took place in the major oceans far away from friendly ports, you will want nothing smaller than light cruisers; destroyers and torpedo-boats simply lacked the steaming endurance. OTOH, there were typically no subs to worry about in the open ocean.

In more confined seas (North Sea Adriatic, Aegean, Eastern Med), force selection as above is reasonable. If you use Bs, BBs, BCs, you will at least want one or more CLs as scouts and, better yet, a division or flotilla of DDs/TBs to screen your valuable capital ships against submarine threat. Cruiser squadrons, DD/TB flotillas could also operate on their own ( limit DDs/TBs to one day's steaming radius from their port).

Re purchase point systems to construct a force, consider this method of "pricing" ships.

Point cost of a ship = (Tonnage divided by 1,000) x (Speed divided by 10).

So, for example …..
HMS Invincible costs (17) x (2.7) = 46 pts
Arethusa Class CL costs (3.5) x 29 = 10 pts
M Class DD costs (1) x (3.4) = 3 pts rounded off

DDs should be bought by division (4 ships if British, 4-5 if German)

Winning and Losing
At the end of the battle, count up remaining ship point values as follows -

Ship post-battle condition:
No damage claim full point value.
Damaged – claim remaining proportion of ship point value.
Disabled but towed to safety lose full point value.
Sunk, but crew saved lose 2x full point value.
Sunk and crew lost lose 3x full point value.

TacticaL Winner = side with highest proportion of remaining point value.


DeRuyter Supporting Member of TMP11 Apr 2023 9:48 a.m. PST

Sources for rules and stats:

WTJ is mostly Dreadnoughts prior to WWI

Broadside Empire of Steel is specifically for WWI and has a ton of stats:

4th Cuirassier13 Apr 2023 12:09 p.m. PST

A couple of complications not mentioned in Blutarski's post are armour and broadside weight, which are often but not always a function of displacement. Unless all the ships you are working out points for are very similar, you sort of have to reflect these differences otherwise you get anomalies.

At the extremes the Royal Navy had what it called a "large light cruiser", HMS Furious, which had 3 inches of armour and was armed with one 18-inch gun. At 19,000-odd tonnes and 32 knots she'd score about 60, which is the same points-wise as Germany's Baden, a battleship with 15-inch guns and 14 inches of armour. Furious has no tactical value at all that I can see but would cost you the same number of points.

Of course it can get a bit out of hand because broadside weight should really reflect rate of fire and effectiveness against armour as well…

Blutarski13 Apr 2023 4:53 p.m. PST

Hi 4C,
I was applying the KISS standard, relying on the relationship between more and bigger guns (or greater speed) being reflected in greater tonnage.



4th Cuirassier14 Apr 2023 1:20 a.m. PST

@ Blutarski

Which is fair comment. My point really is that the OP is opening a bigger can of worms than he perhaps would expect.

Historically, valuing one ship versus another is extraordinarily hard even for experts. Troubridge thought one Goeben superior to four armoured cruisers. Coronel would seem to bear this view out. The Falkland Islands battle would seem to undermine it, a bit.

I'd struggle to rate Furious above 0 in any sensible way at all. To this day I don't know why Fisher thought the navy needed a thirty-two-knot monitor with one gun and a flying-off deck. How do you straddle a target with a one-gun broadside?

I suppose if you consider her to be a light cruiser, on the basis of her armour and secondaries, then her speed and displacement make her constructively invincible to other light cruisers, but at a huge points penalty.

Blutarski14 Apr 2023 3:26 p.m. PST

Hi 4C,
"a bigger can of worms" a very apt description of trying to write naval wargaming rules … ;-)

I recall once reading that the idea behind the design of FURIOUS was connected to a scheme involving a large-scale multi-corps Russian landing on the German Baltic coast north of Berlin (Berlin is actually only a bit more than 100 miles from the coast). FURIOUS was supposedly to act as a monitor bombarding land targets in support of the landing.

I do know it sounds pretty crazy. But OTOH we are talking about the same crowd who dreamed up Zeebrugge and the idea of attacking the first-class naval fortress of St Nazaire with a bunch of commandos in kayaks.



DBS30320 Apr 2023 7:24 p.m. PST

Furious actually had two 18" guns. Her half sisters Courageous and Glorious had four 15" guns. Blutarski is right about the Baltic connection – the three ships were designed for shallow waters to facilitate a Baltic amphibious operation, but it is very misleading to call them monitors. They were very fast, very shallow draft capital ships, but fighting power was just too compromised.

When Fisher left office as 1SL, the RN realised that the three ships were of little value in general fleet operations, which is why Furious was selected for conversion to be the very first aircraft carrier, and Courageous and Glorious followed suit after the war (with two twin heavy turrets they were marginally more useful). They were fast ships, 30 kts as originally built.

Enjoyed the nicknames of Spurious, Curious and Outrageous until converted into something useful.

I think Blutarski is confusing St Nazaire with the Cockleshell Heroes raid – no kayaks at the former! It is of course the 105th anniversary of Zeebrugge this coming Sunday.

Blutarski21 Apr 2023 4:31 a.m. PST

Hi DBS303,
Thanks for correcting me on the St Nazaire raid. It's not something that I ever studied with great care and it clearly showed in my post.

I can however help on WW1 naval, which is an area of particular interest to me. HMS Furious was originally intended to mount 2x 18-inch guns in single turrets fore and aft, but her design was altered during construction and she was completed and launched with only a single 18-inch turret aft and a flying-off deck erected forward in place of the intended forward turret.

The after 18-inch turret featured 30deg elevation, which conferred a maximum gun range of ~30,000 yds. A main battery of a single (slow-firing) gun was clearly unsuitable for any naval engagement, hence my description of her as a "monitor".

The other two ships, Courageous and Glorious, served with the Grand Fleet through to the end of the war, basically as light cruiser leaders. Both participated in patrolling the Scandinavian trade route as part of 2LCS (note- these two ships were the only cruisers with sufficient speed and seakeeping to catch the fast German light cruisers Brummer and Bremse), later participating in the 2nd Battle of Heligoland Bight (1917).

Fisher's ultimate wisdom in causing these ships to be built was borne out by the fact that all three were retained after the end of WW1 (despite the draconian reductions in fleet strength during the inter-war years), were re-constructed as aircraft carriers and saw active service in WW2.

Footnote re Fisher's career -
Fisher had actually retired from his position as First Sea Lord in 1910. Upon the outbreak of WW1, Fisher was lured out of retirement by then First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill to act as Churchill's personal "consiglieri" on naval matters. It was from this position that Fisher orchestrated the construction of these ships. That he was able to do so, in the midst of wartime, was IMO an amazing example of artful bureaucratic prestidigitation. Much in the way of their odd design particulars derive far more from pre-existing bureaucratic restrictions than from any intention on the part of Fisher. Fisher had to navigate some difficult official waters and certain design compromises were unavoidable.

Hope this helps/clarifies.


DBS30321 Apr 2023 12:34 p.m. PST

Fisher was actually reappointed as 1SL in November 1914, after Battenberg was forced to resign for being too German. (Family then changed its name to Mountbatten, just as their relatives in the Royal family changed to Windsor from Saxe-Coburg for the same reason.) Fisher left office a second time in 1915 over Gallipoli. So he was able to push for these designs as the professional head of the RN.

Blutarski21 Apr 2023 1:28 p.m. PST

Hi DBS303,
I checked Fisher's service record and you are absolutely correct. Thank you for correcting me.

8 December 1914
Recalled to the Admiralty as First Sea Lord.

15 May 1915
Resignation as First Sea Lord over the Dardanelles question.
(putting it politely)

- – -

Also found an interesting passage re the big cruisers in the same book ( "Records", by Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fisher, Hodder and Stoughton, 1919 (pp 230/231)


Note When I came to the Admiralty as First Sea Lord in October, 1914 -three months after the War had begun- I obtained the very cordial concurrence and help of Mr. Churchill and Mr. Lloyd George (Chancellor of the Exchequer) in an unparalleled building programme of 612 vessels of types necessary for a Big Offensive in Northern Waters (the decisive theatre of the War). Coal-burning Battleships then under construction were re-designed to burn oil, with great increase of their efficiency and speed, and the last two of these eight Battleships were scrapped (the "Renown" and "Repulse"), and, together with three new vessels -the "Courageous, "Glorious" and "Furious"- were arranged to have immense speed, heavy guns and unprecedented light draught of water, thus enabling them to fulfil the very work described in this letter below of absolutely disposing of hostile light cruisers and following them into shallow waters. They were also meant for service in the Baltic.

Ever since their production became known, Naval critics in both Houses of Parliament (quite ignorant of the new Naval strategical and tactical requirements) have consistently crabbed these new mighty Engines of War as the emanations of a sick brain, "senile and autocratic!" Hence the gvalue of the following letter from an eye-witness of high rank:

To Lord Fisher from a Naval Officer
December 12th, 1917

In the late action in the Heligoland Bight the only heavy ships which could get up with the enemy were the "Repulse", "Courageous" and "Glorious" (the "Renown" and "Furious" were elsewhere)*. They very nearly brought off an important "coup"! Without them our light cruisers would not have had a "look in" or perhaps wold have been "done in!" When public speakers decided to decry the work of the Board of which you were a member in 1914 and 1915, and particularly that part of the work for which you were so personally responsible as this new type of heavy ship, no condemnation was too heavy to heap on your design!

It is a pleasure to me, therefore, to be able to let you know that they have fully justified your anticipation of their success

I trust you are quite well and will believe me,
Yours sincerely, __________"

(*) These are the five Battle Cruisers built on my return to the Admiralty in 1914-1915.


DBS30322 Apr 2023 9:35 a.m. PST

The interesting thing about Courageous and Glorious is that Fisher wanted them to have the same 2x18" armament as Furious, but accepted the 2x2x15" because that ordnance was available more readily – but the barbettes were designed to accept both types of turret. In similar vein, the machinery was that of the C Class cruisers, doubled up, to again use available material rather than have something bespoke.

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