Friday 8 January 2010

War at Sea Sans the Grid ......Part 2

I have now had the opportunity to read the War at Sea table top rules derived from the Axis and Allies: War at Sea WW2 Naval game. I have to say that they look pretty good and I was most taken by the fact that they enable the gamer to have a little more control over how they manoeuvre on the tabletop. Basically, when moving a ship and dependent on the type, a player is able to face the ship in any direction by sacrificing a ‘leg’ of movement. A ‘leg’ is equal to 3” and a ship that can move 2 squares in the standard game can move 4 ‘legs’ – in other words a square equals 6”. I think this is a good idea and successfully tackles the scale issue – we are using 1/1800th scale ships on a 6ft by 4ft table after all – by removing all the issues around using turning circles and such like. I do not profess to have any expert knowledge on the turning circle of a battleship at any given speed bit I would suspect that a ship travelling at 30 knots would be able to change its facing by pretty much anything within 3 ‘legs’ or 7,500 yards (or even a square and a half and bear in mind that is equal to just under 5 miles). I realise that this statement may incur the wrath of the naval purist but as a workable game mechanic it certainly gets my vote. As both players will be under the same effect any advantages/disadvantages will be largely nullified in any event.

Gunnery now has to consider firing arcs and this is most welcome – especially in conjunction with the movement rule modifications. This means that players will need to consider how their ships are placed and so makes securing the initiative very important.

Air power is also a major beneficiary as the spacing rules mean that only a ship under direct attack can use its AA at full effect – any escorts within range (that is between 3 and 6 inches or 2 ‘legs’ away) suffer a -1 to each dice roll. Although the scaling of aircraft is, in my opinion, too high (an aircraft base represents 25 actual aircraft), at least now it has a little more survivability and will be able to attack more often, or rather, potentially have more effect when it does attack.
I have not considered Submarines yet within this version of the rules simply because using them in a naval battle is for me a non-starter although obviously for convoy actions their importance is magnified.

In summary then, I believe that this version of the War at Sea rules will have greater appeal to the traditional naval gamer and will serve to ‘open out’ the playing area to an extent. I am still committed to using grids for naval actions and certainly for larger games I think that they are a better way to play but for the smaller actions of WW2 (at least those outside of the Pacific!) the use of this variant offers a viable alternative to the original game.

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