Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The Portable Naval Wargame (Again)....Part 4

Of Torpedoes, Destroyers and the concept of the Naval Melee....

I have used many different sets of naval rules that handle the subject of torpedoes in a variety of ways - from estimating the course change of the target to putting matches on the table and moving them. The one thing that has struck me though is that in virtually every case they are treated as a weapon of mass destruction rather than of mass distraction. Torpedoes are powerful weapons to be sure and there are plenty of historical examples of ships being sunk by a single hit but the problem with them, aside from the reliability aspect, is actually hitting the target. Consider this, the German fleet at Jutland according to their own sources fired off 107 torpedoes. Of this it was reckoned that 2 hit the target. Now clearly it would make for a dull game if we mirrored that unenviable strike rate BUT, the potential of such a weapon had a massive psychological impact historically so just how do we best factor it in?

Imagine, just for a moment this scenario. You are the commander of a destroyer and the signal has just gone up to attack the enemy battle line in the distance. Thus far all you had to do was to maintain station on your own battle line whilst the big ships traded salvo after salvo but now it is your turn to 'face the elephant'. As one the division of destroyers of which you are one swings its helm hard over and accelerates to attack speed. the engine revs increase as the ship buffets and noses into anything approaching a wave and the halyards sing and signal flags crack in the streaming wind. The range comes down and the target battle line gets larger by the minute. Then, like a sparkle of firecrackers the twinkle of the secondary guns followed by a succession of shell splashes mean that they know you are coming. It must seem like every enemy gun is trained on you and tour own artillery fires back - more in hope than expectation as all the while the volume of fire increases; the soaking of near misses drenching everybody topside. You hope and pray that the enemy is unable to adjust the range quickly enough until at last the range for torpedoes is reached and so they are fired - no salvos, just individual tubes. With the helm hard over the ship heels alarmingly as the turn away to safety and away from those terrible guns starts. You were lucky this time but others of the division were less fortunate and flames and smoke bear mute testimony to the enemy fire.

Dramatic and overwritten as usual I know but you can see the point I am making. Large ships cannot safely ignore a torpedo attack and just the threat should be sufficient to disrupt the enemy gunfire at least.

Here is how it will work.

All ships have a Close Attack  value equal to the number of Light gun dice the ship has. Destroyers add their torpedo rating (1, 2 or 3 depending on the size and quantity carried) to this figure so, for example, a battleship may have 2 light gun dice for a rating of 2 whilst a destroyer may have 1 light gun dice plus a rating of 2 for torpedoes making 3 in all. The destroyer declares a Close Range attack (at a range of 1 or 2) and nominates the target. At this point the target ship has two options. It can either engage the attacking destroyer using its own Close Attack rating (and thereby forfeiting any fire for the turn) or it can ignore the threat. In order to score a hit each player must roll equal to or less than their Close Range attack rating with a single d6. If a hit is scored the damage from the attack is based on rolling the number of d6 equal to the Close Range rating of the ship on the normal damage resolution table. All hits from a Close Range attacking destroyer are treated as hull hits. Potentially then, a destroyer could sink a dreadnought outright with the right combination of dice rolls. The destroyer though, if hit, will sustain heavy damage if it is damaged at all.

The target ship has the option to ignore the destroyer, thereby ensuring it can fire in the gunnery segment (I should mention that all Close Range attack resolution is completed before normal gunnery) but the penalty for this is the Close Range attacking destroyer goes straight to damage resolution - in effect a free hit - so this alone should force the player under threat to consider their options very carefully.

Again this probably looks more complex on paper than it is in operation and of course, it will need testing further.

I hope this short series of posts has given a little insight into what I am trying to achieve and also why I am trying to achieve it.


Paul of the Man Cave said...

Does engaging in Close action to defend against a destroyer attack then preclude the target ship from participating in the original gunnery duel? That would make sense as the ship manourves etc to the detriment of the big guns

El Grego said...

I like the Close Range idea a lot, simple yet agonizing decisions could make for great gaming. I think it leads to a more narrative description of the action rather than the rivet-counting bit - I say that as a former rivet-counter!

Have you thought that a similar procedure could be used for aircraft attacks?

David Crook said...

Hi Paul,

That is exactly right - if a ship decides to engage in a Close Range attack it has forfeited its main gunnery for the turn - but this is optional for the ship under attack (if it chooses to ignore the attacker then the attacker will get in effect a free attack). A ship that declares a Close range attack can only be attacked by an enemy close range attack.

This also means that the threat of an attack - regardless of whether or not it is successful will disrupt the opponents gunfire thereby perhaps relieving pressure on the destroyers own battle line.

Many thanks once again - your valid points have kept me on my toes!

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi EG,

Many thanks old chap! That is exactly the effect I want rather than the usual headlong charge by destroyers to unleash as many torpedoes as possible in the shortest possible time. I want the gamer to have to think - and the only way I could do this was to give the smaller ship increased longevity and a better chance of successfully attacking an opponent although all this is from a potential perspective.

I had not gotten as far as considering it for aircraft but now you have suggested it it would be churlish not to do so! Many thanks for the nudge!

All the best,


Conrad Kinch said...

Fascinating stuff, one of the most interesting aspects of the Fletcher Pratt naval wargame is how it handles torpedoes. Your mechanic is quite simple and a elegant.

I look forward to seeing how it works in practice.

David Crook said...

Hi CK,

Many thanks Sir! I need to crack on with testing the idea as this is the only concept in the rules that is unusual compared to gunnery and such.

I have launched and been on the receiving end of countless Fletcher Pratt torpedo attacks over the years and it is strange how the system seems to be a good one when firing them successfully and less so when being a recipient....;-)

All the best,