Sunday 23 June 2013

Reinventing a set of Naval Wargame Rules....Part 1

Regular readers of this blog will no doubt be familiar with my continuing and protracted attempts to design a set of naval wargames rules for what can essentially be described as the dreadnought era. I have tried many different combinations of ideas and permutations of existing mechanics but have, hopefully at long last, finally settled on what I think is the best way forward for me. It is not startlingly original but represents a combination of two ideas that have been at the the forefront of my naval wargames consciousness for nigh on thirty odd years.

I am of course referring to the old Avalon Hill table top game of Jutland and also Sea Battles in Miniature by Paul Hague.

The former, designed by Jim Dunnigan in the early 1960s, has at its heart an outstanding plotted map system for operational level movement. This I am happy to use as written - it needs absolutely no work from me to improve it. It is simple to use, tense and exciting and has that all-important 'feel'. I have played this game countless times and the experience is hugely rewarding. It may lack the sophistication of more modern systems but works exceedingly well - trying to either find or avoid being found by the enemy in the North Sea was a challenging experience in the days before radar or effective aerial reconnaissance and the system captures this very nicely and in a simple to use fashion. The tactical system however, lacks sufficient weight to appeal to the hardcore naval wargamer. It is not a bad system but as it was obviously designed as a quick resolution to the actions generated by the map moves - I have no problem with this but it does mean that the game will suffer when used as on purely one off tactical action.

Sea Battles in Miniature by Paul Hague on the other hand, has a very good tactical system but, in my opinion, is on less surer footing from the strategic perspective. The tactical rules capture that one thing that is really dear to any naval wargamer - the ability to translate the specifications of their chosen ships into a game format. Using these rules a player will recognise the abilities of his ships - how many and what calibre of guns are carried, the ship's speed and armour levels.

I got to thinking then, that between the two sets there was a very happy medium - a good strategic set and a good tactical set. The only problem I could see was that the tactical rules seemed a little out of step with the level of complexity I wanted for the overall feel. Although Paul Hague used them very successfully in his Battle of the Texel, 1916 (the game demonstrating the rules in action) I felt that they were better suited to a tactical game as they seemed to encourage, by virtue of their detail, that perennial problem of the naval wargamer - am I a captain or an admiral?

In a nutshell, what I set out to achieve was to take the best elements of both sets and fuse them (or batter them into submission!) into a set of rules that could best be described as 'Advanced Jutland' or 'Sea Battles in Miniature Lite'. The result is a strategic system that generates credible tactical battles and that the latter could also be used to fight one off tactical games that have a sufficient level of detail and 'feel' to make the game worthwhile.

It was easy in theory but challenging in practise but I think that I may have just about cracked it.

At a summary level this is what I have taken from which set of rules with J being Jutland and SBiM being Sea Battles in Miniature.

  • Map moves - J
  • Ships speeds and Movement - J
  • Ship protection - J (but with my own spin on this!)
  • Gun rates - J
  • Gun rates carried - SBiM
  • Gunnery - J/SBiM
  • Damage - J/SBiM
  • Torpedoes - J/SBiM
Gunnery, Damage and Torpedoes have had the most 'tweaking' from me.

In the second part of this post I will describe exactly how I got to where I am in respect of the rules and I also hope to be looking at trying out a small test game.


Michael said...

There was a strategic system published perhaps 10 (poss longer) years ago in "Miniature Wargames" that covered missions etc. Dictating sweeps of areas and other missions. May be of help?

David Crook said...

Hi Michael,

Many thanks for the heads up - I know a man that has copies of Miniature Wargames going back ages and so I will be asking the question of him - I am sure he will be able to point me in the right direction.

All the best,


Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

David you are just plain old "encouragable" (and I don't know if that's even a real word)

Good stuff :)

David Crook said...

Hi Geordie,

I think it is my eternally restless spirit that has something to do with it!

All the best,