Friday, 17 November 2017

Naval Relativity

A rather atmospheric painting of the Battle of Jutland

The 1/2400th scale collection is moving along nicely so barring any unforeseen dramas is on schedule for completion at the end of the year. The other side of the project is of course the old chestnut of what rules to use. I have a vast number of sets for wargames in the period which of course will be a safe fall back option but I have a hankering to do something myself. It is with this in mind I have written this post as I wanted to share my rationale behind the thought processes involved. I hope it is of some interest and of course, comments would be greatly appreciated.

My fondness of the game Jutland is well known - as is my oft mentioned comment about the tactical rules being rather simple, brutally so if truth be told. Taking into consideration all of the various advanced and optional rules that have appeared over the years you get a tactical system that is better within the spirit of the game but does still not really cut it as a pure standalone tactical naval set.

One of the biggest problems I have experienced in trying to 'wargameify' the rules has been the difficulty in reverse engineering the ship specifications - namely the gunnery and protection values. I looked back over all my noted on the subject and whilst they have a number of valid observations are still very much in the 'hit it and hope' category. With the advantage of some time away from the project and with the benefit of a fresh pair of eyes I can see that in some cases the ships were probably factored based on their historical performance in the battle rather than by the pure translation of their technical specifications.

Photo-shopped I know but what a picture!

The 'pure translation of their technical specifications' is a very common part of the naval wargame and in my opinion every set of naval wargame rules should show how the ships were factored - especially when wanting to add a ship not featured. Naval wargamers usually set great store by their knowledge of the ships of their chosen navy - I know I do!

A well known picture with a coloured twist. S.M.S. Seydlitz after the battle - and very lucky to be there!

The Jutland approach then, of modelling ship characteristics to suit a specific scenario, whilst working well within the confines of the game being represented itself, loses out when they are used outside of this, either hypothetically or for other historical refights. Essentially then, what is needed is a baseline of characteristics for all ships - a common standard if you like - upon which the rules can be built. Using Jutland as is, even with all the add-ons, is, in my opinion not going to cut it.

For me personally this is scary stuff. Much as I love the game it is not going to fulfil my immediate needs for a set of naval rules covering 1905 to 1920.

With this sobering yet strangely liberating thought in mind it puts a lot of what I was trying to do previously into a far better context. Instead of trying to adapt an existing set of rules my efforts will be concentrated on drafting a set of rules based on the Jutland system rather than attempting to take it into a direction it was not really intended for.

I genuinely believe that the core mechanics of the Jutland game system could be used as the basis of a very good tactical game of naval combat but that any such undertaking needs to have some clearly defined parameters around what does what, when and how.

Naval Wargame Rules based on Avalon Hill's Jutland

Taking all the above into consideration I shall now set out my stall in respect of the core principles I will be working with in the formulation of the rules - a kind of mission statement I suppose. I will expand on each area in later posts but for the moment the key areas are as follows. The points marked with a J are taken directly from the game rules.


1. 1 gunnery box per actual barrel - regardless of size.
2. Guns are rated by ship type i.e. - BB, PB, CA, CL and DD (to be defined) - J
3. Two stage firing i.e. - fire to hit and then fire for effect
4. Gun types will have variable effects against target types based on calibre of weapon and armour of target.
5. Range effects as per rangefinder from the game. - J


1. Guns destroy ship systems whilst torpedoes sink ships. - J
2. Critical hits - as they add flavour! - J
3. Protection/Flotation value calculated by a clear formula
4. Use of fore/aft and port/starboard hit locations and gun based Protection/Flotation hits.


1. Hard to hit with but effective when they do
2. 'Comb the tracks' option to negate an attack. - J
3. Limitations on types using these weapons and the numbers available. - J


1. Use of turning devices and national restrictions. - J
2. Use of long/short move (see Barry Carter's book) if grid based.


1. Use of damage record sheets - J
2. Working to a 6ft by 4ft playing area with maximum daylight gun range around 3ft and maximum ship movement of around 1ft.

So there you have it, a brief outline of what I want to do - all I have to do now is to do it!


Michael Peterson said...

I wish you all the best with this project, Jutland has long been a fascination of mine. Your instincts seem quite sound. I loved the AH Jutland game for its playability, and I think with a large number of ships, that sort of abstraction is necessary.
Best, Michael

David Crook said...

Hi Michael,

I think I was guilty of over thinking what I could shoehorn into Jutland rather than what I could take from it. As a self-contained game system it is fine as long as you are using all the constituent parts, especially within the context of a map game. For one off games it is less satisfying and therein has been my problem.

Many of the mechanics though are transportable and so that will now be my focus.

All the best,


Ken Reilly said...

Nice stuff David, you probably saw my own Project Jutland on the Yarkshire Gamer blog, it's a big old game for sure, best of luck with your endeavour

Regards Ken

Phil Broeders said...

We used to use Victory At Sea for naval warfare but tried General Quarters and found it much better. Easy to pick up and great gameplay.

David Crook said...

Hi ken,

I saw you Jutland set up on FB and was seriously impressed! Lovely looking models for sure and I know you had to work very hard to get he fleets together. It looks like a lot of GHQ (and a lot of money!) on display! What rules did you use?

I got as far as getting the capital ships painted (mostly Panzerschiffe with some Stonewall) but baulked at the numbers for cruisers and destroyers. I am keeping things a lot more modest now and from a dreadnought perspective would probably leave it at squadron sized or around a dozen or so models a side.

I would be keen to hear your thoughts on Jutland (the Avalon Hill game) if you have tried it.

All the best,


Ken Reilly said...

Hi David,

Thanks for the kind words. Most of the ships where GHQ but I used quite a few WTJ ships for the lighter forces, they are a lot cheaper and very close in terms of detail.

I wrote the rules for the game, I already had a set of WW2 Naval rules that had been in use for a while so it was a relatively painless job to convert to WW1 and then simplify for Jutland.

I am exclusively a miniature gamer and never had the Jutland game in my collection so unfortunately I don't know how it works.

Regards Ken

David Crook said...

Hi Phil,

I used to use GQ1 and 2 'back in the day'. I still have them and they are a cracking set of rules.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Ken,

Avalon Hill's Jutland is not a board game in the traditional sense. The ship counters (scaled at 1/4800 for the capital ships) are moved on a table top as in a conventional wargame. The best bit is the map movement system which is designed to generate the tactical side.

Your collection looked superb and I was so glad that somebody was able to do the battle justice.

I would be keen to see your rules if they are available to share.

All the best,


Ken Reilly said...

Cheers David, I might try and pick up a copy 👍

Putting the rules up Is on my bucket list, I promise, and they will appear on the Yarkshire Gamer site at some stage. It's just getting round to sorting it, I keep getting side tracked. Last night's Napoleonic Naval needs a new play sheet and some more ship cards, I need to paint a unit of 28mm Queens Rangers for next week's AWI game and 3 Mk VI tanks for the Desert game after that, and etc etc, but one day !

If you join the Google plus Naval Wargaming group or follow YG you shouldn't miss them.

Regards Ken

Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Fingers crossed you get it on the table sir ;)