Sunday 19 November 2017

Jutland Part 1: The Blooding of the Guns

The damage record sheets from Avalon Hill’s Jutland

I  mentioned in my last post that I have moved on from trying to adapt the tactical rules from Jutland into something more ‘wargamey’ to instead making use of some of the ideas and mechanics contained therein  in a self designed set of rules. Surprisingly enough I had made a fair amount of progress with this for my ill-fated Jutland project so the work of making sense and adding some coherency to the whole thing in theory should not be too difficult.

The first thing I want to outline (or rather, think out loud) is the firing mechanism. As it stands I am using many elements from the Jutland system but with a few of my own twists. I shall outline how the Jutland system works and will then describe my ‘take’ on it.

Jutland the board game uses a system of gunnery factors for the ship in question which is cross-referenced on the appropriate column of the gunnery table and a single d6 is rolled to determine the number of hit points scored. Gunnery factors are also key to the damage system as they are the hits first scored against a target ship (more of which later) reduce the target ship’s own gunnery factor. The number of hits scored is modified by the range at which the firing ship engages the enemy. This means that long range fire typically reduces the number of hits scored whilst the closer you get the more damage is caused. Gun types have maximum ranges and are defined by typical ship types rather than calibre. For example, anything from 11” upwards is rated as either PB or BB. There are also sizes for CA, CL and DD. There are also restrictions on which gun types can Fore at what category of target, for example DD rated guns may not fire at ships classed as PB or BB. There is also a critical hit option so if a ships rolls a 6 to hit then there is a further roll to see what the critical hit is. I should also point out that a single game turn represents 10 minutes. Capital ships do not have any secondary weapons although the optional rules appearing in the AH General magazine allow for this.

Straightaway there are a number of issues arising. Try as I might I have been unable to work out how the ships gunnery factors were calculated - even to the point that I had an email exchange with the game’s designer, James Dunnigan, a few years back. Sadly he could not remember how he worked it out but given it was around 1966 he designed the game it is perhaps understandable! Most of the capital ships have 1 gunnery factor per barrel and the factors are grouped into turrets on the ship damage record. there are some crucial differences though. Take the Queen Elizabeth class armed with 8 x 15” guns. They have a gunnery factor of 12. I took this as being the base of 1 factor per barrel times 1.5 which works out fine. Hurrah you might think (at least I did), bu Jove he’s got it! Sadly not as if you look closely the numbers do not quite add up.

The factors for the Royal Navy ships follow a largely consistent approach in that the 15” gunned QE and R class all come out at 12 factors for their 8 x 15” with 4 x 3 factor turrets on the damage sheet. The 10 x 13.5” also come out at 12 factors meaning, for arguments sake, the number of barrels has been multiplied by 1.2. If you take the 8 x 13.5” gunned ‘splendid cats’ - Lion and Tiger etc, this comes out at 9.6 or 10 factors when rounded up. You can see what I mean by looking at the picture above.

Then comes the High Seas Fleet.

For reasons lost in the mists of time the only ships in the High Seas Fleet that seem to follow the RN lead of 1 factor per barrel for 12” or 11” armed ships are the Westfalen class battleships and the pre-dreadnoughts. Given that all the Germans capital ships at the battle were armed with 12 or 11” weapons it would be logical to assume that for the most part the gunnery factors would match the number of guns carried. Why then is there the discrepancy?

There are lots of theories as to why this may be. Is it allowing for the advantage that the Germans had when ranging in? Is it because some of the later ships had a superior version of the 12” gun to the bulk of the 12” armed RN battleships? This could be the case but does not allow for the 11” armed battlecruisers. I have no objection to adjusting the capabilities of a ship to reflect a specific combat situation where it is a known quantity but when the rationale for doing so is absent we have a problem.

The solution I have decided upon for this is quite simple. For the rules I am devising I will be using the standard of one factor per gun barrel and any differences due to the calibre of the weapon being employed will be factored in as modifiers to the damage effect. Taking the ships mentioned as an example I would give the 15” ships a +2 to their damage rolls whilst the 13.5 (and 14”) types would get a +1. Those battleships with a main gun of 9.4 or 10” would get a minus 1. The pluses and minuses will be explained further so don’t worry about the specifics for the time being.

I intend using the existing Jutland firing table to determine if a hit or hits are scored (based on the number of guns firing) and then to roll a d6 per hit to see what the effect is. I will also be using the Jutland based range effects on the number of hits scored - the to hit roll is made as normal but depending on the range can be tripled, doubled or halved. I prefer to roll a number of dice rather than just the one as I think it adds to the fun. The ‘roll to hit and then roll for effect’ adds a degree of uncertainty to the proceedings as it may be quite possible to score a number of potential hits that translate into no damage. Looking at the damage suffered by a number of the ships at Jutland it appears that damage effects could be variable depending on where was hit and what calibre was doing the hitting. 

The rolls for effect are very simple to implement. Essentially for each potential hit a d6 is rolled. 1, 2 or 3 means no effect, a 4 or 5 is one hit and a 6 is two hits. Aside from the modifiers to the damage inflicted due to the calibre of shell hitting the target there will also be a modifier adjusting for the armour type of the target. This is intended to ensure that armoured cruisers have their historic vulnerability to battleship calibre artillery. 

As an example (and I appreciate that you will have to take a lot of this on trust) take a look at the following to see what I mean.

H.M.S. Warspite, a Queen Elizabeth class dreadnought armed with 8 x 15” guns opens fire at the German battle cruiser S.M.S. Seydlitz at a range of 12,000 yards. There are no modifiers for range so the player commanding the Warspite looks at the column on the headed 8 to 9 and rolls a d6. The player scores 1, the best result (I may change these around as I prefer a 6 to be the best score and 1 the worst), meaning that Warspite has scored 2 potential hits. The player then rolls a further two d6 scoring a 1 and a 4. Sadly the 1 is a no effect (although the imaginary mast-high column of water would have given the bridge crew of the Seydlitz a deep sense of foreboding....) but the 4, plus the modifier of +2 for the 15” guns makes 6 which gives 2 damage points. 

How this damage is applied will be detailed later but for the time being these damage points would be taken from the main guns of the Seydlitz meaning that she has, in effect, lost two guns from the 10, or a turret has been knocked out.

The action continues.

S.M.S Seydlitz, down to 8 guns but at a range of 9,000 yards after some canny manoeuvring, opens fire on H.M.S. Warspite (no doubt circling furiously with her steering stuck....). At this range potential hits are doubled so with some good fortune things could potentially get very uncomfortable for the hapless Warspite. Rolling on the same column as the Warspite the Seydlitz again rolls a 1! This means 2 hits doubled to 4! The resulting rolls for effect come up as 2, 4, 6 and 4 meaning a total of 4 points of damage - 1 for each 4 and 2 for the 6. That would be a turret lost for sure and other damage as well. 

As I am writing this I am aware of a couple of things that will need to be nailed down - particularly as far as where damage is taken and that will form the follow up to this rather lengthy post.

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