Thursday, April 13, 2017

Naval Gaming w' Admiral Winkie

Somewhere in the S. Pacific, 
the fighting's been real terrific!

An opportunity that more resilient models - often plastics but some metal figs and ships also - provide is to permit us to play with children who are still working on their fine motor skills. It often seems that they practice them by dropping small, valuable objects and then picking them up, only to drop them again! This is not to be confused by ham-handed, sausage-fingered gamers who squash things because they've too much mass in their extremities. That often sounds like this, "oh wow look at that...oops, sorry" as flag / mast / sword breaks off...*Sigh*. 

In any event, when my 7yo son found the resin 1/2400 Panzerschiffe WWII ships I was sorting, he immediately asked if he could play with them. I thought - why not? The painted ones have been through the miracle dip, and are very resilient. The unpainted ones are either primed in shades of gray or still in the raw resin color. Unless he physically smashed them against each other and breaks a smokestack, they probably can't be damaged. So we had a quick talk about respecting the models, and I took them downstairs to the formal dining table we only occasionally use. It's about 3'x4.5', and plenty smooth.

As I considered what to do, I decided this was a great opportunity to start developing a "One-Hour Wargames" naval game. I'd never tried one this simple - the rules had to be easily perceived to someone who knows nothing about naval gaming, yet at least generally respect realities of naval warfare. I also wanted to begin teaching ADM Winkie basic naval tactics and give him an opportunity to use some math - at school he's just going into multiplication and division. All that being said, here's what I came up with in the ten minutes I took to bring everything downstairs:

  1. Ships. There are three types: BB=Big, CA=Medium, DD=Small.
  2. Speeds. Big, Medium and support ships=3"a turn, Small 6"a turn.
  3. Turns. Up to 90, rotating on the center.
  4. Gun dice. Each uses relatively sized dice: Big [d20], Medium [d10] and Small [d6].
  5. Hits. Guns hit at 50%, or 11+, 6+ and 4+ respectively, inflict one damage point.
  6. Fire Arcs. All ships shoot with 2 dice, one Fore and one Aft, both to Port / Starboard side. Arcs are roughly 45 degrees off the four sides.
  7. Range. Big guns shoot out to 36" at -2 [so 13+], Big and Medium out to 24" at -1 [so 12+ or 7+], Big, Medium and Small guns shoot at 12" with no modifiers.
  8. Torpedoes. Only DD carry, range is 6", hit on 4+, damage is two Points.
  9. Damage. A warship can take two points of damage, a support ship one point. At two points they sink. At one point, they're marked with a red "Fire" marker; at the beginning of the turn, they can "put out the Fire" by rolling 50%. So it pays to keep at a ship until it takes its two Damage and sinks.
  10. Turn Order. Damage Control [both], Move - US then IJN, Simultaneous Gunnery.

The Fleets assembled. One BB, four CA, 3 or 4 DD a side, with their dice next to them.

Below, Japanese fleet. Kongo BB, four CA, three DD.

Below US fleet: BB Washington, four CA, four DD.

Admiral Winkie, the first CinCPACFLT with a retainer, showing his positive attitude. 

Gun ranges: 36" for BB, 24" for CA, 12" for DD. ADM Winkie has lunch.

Table & Mission. Japanese have fleet oiler, cargo ship and transport at harbor. US will enter top left and attempt to destroy more IJN ships than loses. The IJN wants to cross the table with support ships [towards the outlet] and use its screen and reinforcements to hold off the USN and / or inflict more damage than received.

Close-up of IJN anchorage. Panzerschiffe IJN Fleet Oiler [top], US LST [middle] and IJN Maru transport / cargo ship at bottom. On left, three DD and two CA also at anchor, but planning to weigh anchor turn 1 with support ships. At far left, entering at the table corner as shown on turn 5, the BB and two CA [delayed entry as part of LtWW plan].

US fleet set-up and Turn 1. I just had them set up at table edge, preceded by the DDs. ADM Winkie is moving his big ships up 3" each. The DDs darted ahead a full 6".

Turns 2-4. IJN fleet exits harbor and advances on USN. This does slow the USN a bit as they turn the DD and BB to starboard to unmask their full broadsides. This still has them angling towards the IJN support ships exit point, however and the transports [far left] are slow. The CA are heading straight on, however, to close the gap. The DD accordingly suffer plenty of casualties, with all IJN and half the USN DD sunk, one USN DD on Fire. The IJN have also lost a CA to the BB's 36" gunnery. So far, typical naval game results except that it's only taken about 10-15 minutes and we're having fun - especially ADM Winkie!

ADM Winkie, confident of victory, gives the "V" sign.

Turn 5. IJN reinforcements enter, IJN CA steaming past sinking CA. Note top USN DD with red Fire marker - this is the ship of the game! The closer USN DD with Fire has sunk after taking more hits from the surviving IJN CA. Support ships plod along.

Turn 6. US CA sinks nearer IJN CA. US BB sinks IJN support ship. USN DD still has fire going, but IJN BB totally missed, the shells landing in another lattitude [the dice didn't even add up to 13]. The white puff just shows a near-miss. This made ADM Winkie feel better.

Turn 7. Fleets continue to close. USN BB sinks another support ship. Off-camera at top is the last USN DD, on fire, still closing at full speed.

Turn 8. ADM Winkie puts out the Fire on his last DD [rolls a 4, pictured at top]. IJN gunnery at said DD continues to be pathetic - perhaps the burning oil is obscuring splashes? Third support ship steams on. IJN do manage to sink one USN CA and Damage another.

Turn 8. Fearless USN DD takes on two CA and a BB! It misses with guns and torpedoes, causing ADM Winkie to get pretty upset [a conversation about the random nature of dice is in order - I think he feels he just didn't roll it "right", a topic for older gamers, also]. 

Turn 9. US DD continues to close, torpedoes IJN CA sinking it. USN gunnery sinks CA but the maru transport steams on against the blocking DD. IJN gunnery is all misses. 

Turn 10. USN DD turns about, torpedoes IJN BB and sinks it! USN gunnery sinks maru transport. IJN gunnery continues its streak of misses.

Final results! IJN lose all 11 ships, USN loses three DD and one CA. Hero of the day is the pictured USN DD, an old Benson sporting Measure 12 modified paint scheme [for '42].

A tear-free ADM Winkie. We had fun and we used some math.

Analysis. I'm pleased that one of the old Benson DDs with its veteran crew was the hero of the hour. The general run of the game typifies most naval games, IMHO, with it being largely a gunnery contest, and the smaller ships being picked off early. This was also caused by the range bands. The ships sometimes had no other targets than the DDs. The CA fire hit especially hard.

The use of different sized dice was mostly due to a desire to have penetration rolls next time out. My general thought is to have Penetration be related to dice / ship size. Here, the only effect was to make CA shooting a 7/12 at 24" while the BBs had a 12/20, a 10% advantage.

This reminds me how important it is to have additional factors present in a game. Certainly Armor / Penetration is very important. The speeds are certainly off - big ships don't move half as fast as DDs! Actual speed ratios for WWII warships are more like:
DDs, CLs, and CAs = 30-35 knots
BBs and CVs = 25-30 knots.
Giving a spread of 25, 30 and 35 knots or ratios of 5 / 6 / 7.

Gunnery ranges are pretty good for the table we used [3'x4.5', with eaves pushing it to 7.5' long if needed]. In my copy of GQ3, Big guns are about 18K yards, medium about 12K, and small about 9K. Big and medium guns can go out to about 24K with marginal hit chances. So ranges should perhaps be more like:
24" = BBs and CAs with 1.3 normal hit chance [about 19-20].
18" = BBs with normal hit chance [CA at about 9-10]
12" = CAs with normal hit chance [DD at about 6]
  9" = DDs with normal hit chance.

This use of scale at 1" = 1,000 yards gives table speeds of 2.5", 3" and 3.5" for the ships. Bit of a crawl, really. However, I believe the gunnery fire is figured in 6 minute blocks of time, while movement is in a 3 minute block of time - at least that is what it is in Fleet Action Imminent. If so, I could double speed distances to 5", 6" and 7", all heading into a total 6 minute turn for both gunnery and movement. A check of the GQ3 rules still has a 3 minute / 6 minute design paradigm, but it's not clear that the 2-1 gunnery / movement ratio is present. I'll have to inquire.

Fire Arcs in GQ3 are almost at 45 anyway - they have them at 40 degrees, giving a 100 degree broadside instead of 90. I'm not sure this is worth changing.

Ship damage. It occurs to me that the hull blocks of GQ3 are in numbers of 6-8 for all ships. This is adjusted by using the equivalent Hits table which multiplies hits by 1, 1.5/2, 3, 4, and 5 depending on the size / armor of the target [in 5 categories] v. the weight of the gun. So a BB big gun that scores one Hit on a DD gets 4-5 Hits, each hit being a roll on the Damage Table. Pretty lethal. This is somewhat ameliorated by the fact that lots of big gun shells just went through the unarmored DDs anyway, not to mention their small size and high speed.

Small Targets -2 for big guns firing at DDs.

Future developments.
One-Hour Wargames is excellent not so much at the simplicity of the rules, but that the 30 scenarios provide tremendous, nuanced play that is carefully derived and set to relate to the measurements of the rules themselves. In other words, 

  • the turn limit, 
  • victory conditions
  • table size
  • terrain type, size and placement
are all closely linked together.

For starters, terrain needs to be approached - some initial thoughts...


  1. Land - blocks Line of Sight and movement.
  2. Fog - blocks Line of Sight.
  3. Smoke and Mist - obscure Line of Sight.
  4. Shallows - restricts movement.
  5. Minefields & Submarines - affects movement by attacking ships.
Well, that's my initial foray into a One-Hour Naval game. I hope it encourages you to play with your youth as well as consider what you can do for an hour in your spare time instead of watch the 'tube, You or TV, or otherwise!

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