Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The Portable Naval Wargame (Again)....Part 3

Of Hit Points and Armour

This is another tricky subject to right in a set of naval war game rules. For me the latter has been far easier to address and so I have gone for armour/protection levels equal to heavy, medium or light. What does this actually mean in a game context? Heavy is reserved for those ships with extensive armour protection and of a meaningful degree of thickness appropriate to the type. Invariably this will mean battleships. I have not considered the location of the said protection simply because there is no need to as gunnery does not look at hit location as such. Medium protection is generally lighter than the heavy type - either because the actual thickness of the armour is lesser or is not as extensive in its coverage. This could also be used for older examples of a given ship type - I am thinking of such things as older, first generation pre dreadnoughts for example. Light protection is taken as having little or no armour and so during the WW1 era would tend to be light cruisers or destroyer types. I am toying with the idea of having gunfire at range 6 (the maximum range for my purposes) treat all armour as light regardless of what the ship is armoured as. The rationale for this is to allow for the effects of plunging fire whereby shells at the end of their trajectory and range tend to hit the target from above and at a steep angle and usually down through the deck into a ship's vitals.  Even for dreadnoughts with armoured decks this was a major problem simply because deck armour was always inadequate as the effect of this type of attack had never been seriously considered.  I will experiment with this and decide later how to apply this - from a rules perspective it is simple to include.

Hit points for ships have given me more sleepless nights than any other aspect of naval rules writing I can think of! It is such a subjective topic although you would not think so when you see the tables of ship specifications in any one of a number of sets of rules. I have experimented with many different approaches to this subject but at the end have come down to assigning an arbitrary figure to a given ship type and then taking it from there. As a benchmark a typical dreadnought battleship will have around 10 hit points. This can be moved up or down as required for older or later examples or for those that differ in some way from the dreaded 'norm'. An example might be to allow for the famous German build quality for their dreadnoughts or for the vastly superior protection offered on the war built dreadnoughts. Everything else can be scaled back from that level  - and in this I have made a couple of what seem to be inconsistent decisions. My smaller ships tend to have proportionally more hit points than would seem logical - for example I want my destroyers to have between 2 and 4 hit points. The reason for this is purely 'gamey' in concept. In most naval games I have taken part in (and this includes those of my own design!) the lot of a destroyer commander is usually a short and exciting one and invariably ends with most of the types being sunk very easily and quickly. Of the 139 destroyers and torpedo boats at Jutland some 13 were sunk or under 10% of those engaged.

Of course destroyers are vulnerable ships when faced with batteries of 5.9 and 6" weapons determined to ruin their day but just because they are does not mean that all they should be is target practice. I want these ships to have some meaning in a game context and so survivability is an important factor. If a destroyer commander is foolish enough to attempt to out shoot a bigger and invariably better armed opponent then he is asking for everything he gets but the canny player - using his ships in a tactically sound fashion - has the ability to fully utilise the strengths of the ships under his command. Essentially I shall be doing away with the 'one hit wonder' approach for this class of ship in the interests of both playability and historical accuracy.

The final part of this series of posts will look at the concept of the Close Range attack or how I did away with torpedoes and lived to tell the tale....


Peter Douglas said...


One idea you could look at is a hit result for torpedo craft that causes them to break off and retire instead of being sunk. There's plenty of historical examples of little ships seemingly getting bashed about but when the fire dies down and some quick repairs are made, they are good to go.

Another idea for fleet actions would be to remove DDs as if sunk but have them rejoin the fleet once the battle is over.

You've got good ideas - press on Mr. Crook.

David Crook said...

Hi Peter,

I have a mechanism in the rules whereby once a ship takes a certain number of hits it must break off the action and head back from whence it came if able. This number can be scenario specific if need be and can even reflect, dare I say it, national characteristics if you want some real controversy!

All the best,


Ross Mac said...

I find that one of the dangers in writing abstract or "for effect" rules is that it is easy to get confused with what things mean and hung up on the obvious like bigger well armoured ships can with stand more hits. Modifying the "to hit" score vs destroyers never seems like enough. To me allowing them to take more "hits" than their size would lead you to expect makes perfect sense. If you will it suggests that the hits represent not the number of actual hits suffered but the amount of gunfire that a ship can take. In the case of the destroyers, it indicates that many of the "hits" aren't really, just close ones that would have hit a bigger ship or shells that go right through a non-vulnerable spot etc.


Paul of the Man Cave said...

You could also craft the modifiers so that small ships are still killed by one salvo of big guns, but their fast speed and evasive manourves invoke a -1/2 penalty on such fire. Thus the big guns hit less often, but hurt when they do.

David Crook said...

Hi Paul,

I have taken an easy way out with this - basically any gun larger than a 6" may not be used against destroyers. I know on occasion they were but 'quail shooting' with a 12" naval gun at 15,000 yards against a 700 ton destroyer barreling along at 30 knots does not seem right! Not to mention the ammunition expenditure. Leave to the escorts as that is what they are paid for - that and our own secondaries should they close enough! In a sense the Close Range attack, by stopping the main gunfire should the target decide to engage the attacking destroyer, could be seen as the main guns firing at the smaller assailants, albeit ineffectively.

Good points well made though and many thanks as ever.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Ross,

That is effect I am trying for. Destroyers are vulnerable against any other than their own kind but should not be swatted away like flies as 'one hit wonders'. True enough a single shell hit could disable or sink them but I want the effect of them being a valid threat and therefore requiring of an effort on the part of the opponent to neutralise. I have seen, and taken part in games where the losing side has invariably lost all their destroyers whilst the winner is down to a single example which just does not feel right.

I am going to test this further but think that I am on the right track with the concept (at last!).

All the best,