I received an email from Mark at Stonewall Miniatures to tell me that the final part of my order is now on its way from the wilds of the West Country. I am delighted with this news and in the meantime have been dusting off the work I had undertaken on bringing the old Avalon Hill Jutland rules into something rather more to my curent thoughts on the subject of WW1 naval warfare. It is funny that the passage of time since I made a start on this particular part of my project has not dimmed my enthusiasm to any great degree but it has reminded me of the problems I experienced the first time around - namely attempting, in effect,to reverse engineer the ship specifications and such like.
My plan is to use the Jutland system pretty much as it was written but with my own take on the gunnery and damage. You may recall that I felt that the original system made for a very short game as ships could be rendered impotent in fairly short order by some fortuitous enemy gunnery. This is probably realistic in terms of the effects of a ship being pummelled continuously (or, to be more accurate, being hit repeatedly in a short space of time) but does not make for an entertaining game, especially of you are the recipient of such an exchange! I read somehwhere recently that at Dogger bank the combined fleets fired around a thousand heavy calibre shells with something like fifteen recorded hits - of which two thirds were scored by the Germans. Clearly then, for a GAME we need to have something a little more decisive but not shatteringly catastrophic (unless you happen to be in command of a British battle cruiser of course!).
The Jultand gunnery system uses a d6 and a combat results table. In a nutshell you look at the column equal to the number of firing 'factors' your ship currently has and then roll the die. This will give the number, if any, of hits scored. These are crossed off the targets gun factors first and when these are all gone they can be taken as flotation or protection hits. Ships ar only sunk when all the flotation or protection hits have been crossed off unless the target has been torpedoed, in which case the damage is taken directly from the flotation or protection value.
The problem with the system as it stands is that capital ships only have main guns and no provision is made for secondary weapons. There is a system available from one of the numerous magazine articles written over the years but this is not really what I was looking for as I wanted to represent carying gun calibres with separate factors. I factored this in but then hit a minor snag in that it meant that ships in effect gained extra damage boxes so ships with more guns would last longer before having to lose flotation or protection points.
My solution owes a debt to Paul Hague's WW1 era rules featured in his book - Sea Battles in Miniature. In a nutshell, and I have yet to work out the specifics, each hit that is scored against an enemy ship is rolled for. The hit in each case is recorded against the ship dependent on the effect roll. I have yet to determine the table for for this but one could also state that each hit must be assigned on an alternate basis e.g. main, secondary, flotation, main, secondary and so on - in other words hits effect the ship all over rather than just in a single area first. Using the latter as an example then every third hit suffered by a target ship comes off the flotation value. Historically ships under heavy gunfire tended to take most damage above the waterline but the possibility of an underwater hit cannot be ruled out. Using the latter 'one in three goes below' approach will allow for this. As ever, this will need to be tried out and once I have a selection of models ready I fully intend doing so.
Jutland uses formation counters for 'Light Ships' - meaning that light cruisers and destroyers are massed with the former typically representing two or three ships whilst the latter could be anything up to nineteen vessels! Clearly this will not do and so I have settled on a destroyer base representing four such vessels and the cruiser base two. In each case this could be varied depending on the scenario.
So far, so good then.
The biggest stumbling block I came across previously was around the question of protection values. They did not seem to be consistent in that I thought that it was based around the maximum thickness of belt armour. This was fine for (most) of the German ships but without exception the RN vessels seemed underprotected. Now I am not about to start a debate around the relative merits of German as opposed to British shipbuilding and damage control etc - I doubt that I could add little to such a contentious subject - as what I want is a consistent measure of this figure. I have settled on using the maximum thickness of belt armour as the benchmark so the ships of the Royal Navy will be better off than under the original game - usually by a couple points. It may not be the most scientific method available but it works for me and the games I want to fight. The important thing is that the approach will be uniform and that I will know the whys and wherefores of what the numbers actually represent!
It is always a good idea to step away from a particularly thorny problem and to revisit it with a fresh pair of eyes at a later date. Certainly in this case it was a good idea as the issues I was previously grappling with now seem a little less daunting.
Once the models arrive from Stonewall I shall be busy with the painting so getting the rules ready in advance is a sensible course of action.
I am hugely excited by this!