Friday, 1 July 2011

Revisiting an Old Friend and Learning from the Experience

Some time ago I acquired a copy of a disc of Avalon Hill Naval games  included in which was a complete set of the components for the classic WW1 game Jutland. I use the word classic intentionally because the game is quite simply one of the most entertaining games of naval warfare ever designed. For those of you that have not enjoyed the sheer unadulterated pleasure of playing this I will outline the salient points briefly.

The game covers the famous battle of May 31st 1916 on both a strategic and tactical level. Each side has a plot map of the North Sea onto which the moves of their various task forces and squadrons are written in secret. Searches are carried and when sighting on the map occurs play is transferred to the table top and the ensuing battle fought. After six tactical turns the plat reverts to the strategic plotting stage. Tactical combat is handled very simply with ships from armoured cruiser level upwards represented by single counters and smaller ships by division and flotilla sized counters. Ships have protection factors and a number of gun boxes and firing is handled very simply by rolling a d6, counting the number of firing factors and cross referencing the score against a hit table. Depending on the ship type various target types are not permitted to various firing ships and each generic type of vessel has a range limit. Hits are halved above certain ranges, doubled and tripled when closing.

Various additional scenarios and optional rules (including extra counters) appeared in the Avalon Hill General (the in house magazine) and most of these feature as scans on the disc.

I would be less than truthful if I said that I was not inspired and filled with misty-eyed nostalgia about this game as I have played this many, many times and it has certainly given me much unexpected food for thought in respect of the Portable Naval Wargame. So much so that I am planning to incorporate some of the ideas from Jutland into the revision currently being drafted.

One of the rules that really struck me as brilliant concerned torpedo attacks. These are declared at the end of the turn and in the following the target has the option of turning 90 degrees away from the direction of the attack and not firing for the entire turn. The torpedo attack then automatically misses and the destroyers have used up the applicable number of torpedoes.

I have already incorporated ranges based on the measuring 'range finder' included in the game which translate nicely into hexes. I should also point out that the plot maps are in hexes so the obvious connection between that and my Hexon may be a temptation too far....;-)


Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

I've always meant to get my hands on this, electronic or not

Nice post

David Crook said...

Hi Geordie,

It is very easy to label games as classics but this ticks every category you could think of and is a brilliant game. Ping me off list and I may be able to help you later!

All the best,


Mark said...

Got this mouldering away in a cupborrd. Bought it in the 80s and never played it as I stuck with models and not gaming. Have to have another look and see if my war games buddy wants a shot.

David Crook said...

Hi Mark,

Try it as it is a really good game. The tactical side is a little simple compared to many mainstream naval sets but that is no problem IMHO!

If you cant find a player then I have a PBM kit and would be happy to oblige or failing that, if you want to offload it let me know!

All the best,


Peter Douglas said...


This was the first wargame I owned back when I was 16, but I lost it along the way. The tactical side had its moments but does look dated today. However, the strategic side was a gem - the map was great!



David Crook said...

Hi Peter,

Very true about the tactical system although I have to say that the supporting articles(s) in the AH General add to them substantially and also covers the all important designers notes (how the ships stats were arrived at).

I was always quite fond of the tactical system as part of the strategic game as the two went together really nicely. As you rightly point out though, the strategic side was a gem and I shall certainly use it (or a variation thereof) for my own purposes.

All the best,