Saturday, 28 August 2010

Axis and Allies: War at Sea 33% and Floored

Whilst on holiday I was able to spend a little time considering the ‘tweaking’ of the Axis and Allies: War at Sea rules in order to turn them into something a little more ‘wargames-like’. You may recall that I had previously considered morale etc in order to avoid the ‘last ship afloat is the winner’ syndrome. An idea I am mulling over is to apply DBA type victory conditions i.e. when a fleet loses a third of its number then it is deemed to require breaking off of the action where possible thereby conceding the game. At first thought this would mean that ships would then concentrate on the most vulnerable targets in order to gain a quick win. I have considered this and think that perhaps applying a degree of weighting to the required victory total would be a good idea – almost like using the points system from HOTT.

The answer came about in an unusual way. In the War at Sea rules damage is applied in terms of hull hits. The number of hull hits varies by ship type from 1 to 5 or 6. Typically, destroyers have 2 hull points, most cruisers 3 and battleships etc 4 upwards. Using this as a guide then a typical fleet might consist of half a dozen destroyers (each of 2 hull points), a pair of cruisers (of 2 or 3 hull points) and a couple of battleships (of 4 or 5 points). Totalling the hull points would come out at, for example, 28 points using the maximum scores quoted. Taking this as an example then 28 divided by 3 comes out at 9.33, call it 9 for arguments sake. This means that when the fleet has lost more than 9 hull points it has in effect lost the game.

The weighting aspect refers to the relative importance attached to the types of ships making up the fleet. Using the fleet above as an example then the priority would typically be to sink the largest enemy vessels present so the escorts would be relatively unimportant – unless of course they were attacking the key units.

My suggestion then would be to that no single ship type can contribute more than 50 percent to the total hull points required for victory UNLESS the entire type can, by being hit/sunk, exceed the notional 33 percent limit. In other words (and still using the example above) if the fleet lost, for example 4 of its 6 destroyers then that would be 8 hull points in total. Using the 50 percent rule only 4.5 (or 4 rounded down) would count towards the 33 percent (9 in the example) score required for victory unless another destroyer was damaged/sunk which would then make the score 10 hull points which would be enough for the win.

So what is the point of this exercise then? Well, for one I would like to see players having to think about the fact that fighting to the last ship should not be the acme of naval command. Even in a non scenario based game (the dreaded ‘one off’) tabletop admirals need to be mindful of the forces they have at their disposal and that they are not for indiscriminate use, representing as they do a nations substantial investment in men and material.

A further consideration I have is to dispense with the use of the ship cards currently used – particularly the special abilities. The reason for this is that all the ship data could be easily added to a spreadsheet which would be more user friendly (and less likely to get lost!) and gives the game a more 'wargames like' feel. Many of the special abilities should be automatically assigned to types rather than individual ships e.g. chasing the salvoes (this gives destroyers a saving throw when under heavy gunfire), laying a smokescreen, torpedo defence etc.

I would like to trial the 33% rule at out next club session due on Wednesday 03/09. For this game we are using the ‘off the grid’ version as we now have available at the club an additional room with a turquoise speckled floor covering, ideal for the Mediterranean. The community centre the club uses has knocked through a dividing wall between our room with the one adjacent and replaced the wall with some sliding partitions. This gives us not only more space (almost double) but it means that we can have more games on the go (each with fewer participants) as well as a great space for naval games.

It also means that we can fight 20th century naval games at more sensible looking ranges and at long last I may even be able to get some decent pictures of the action!

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