Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Firepower - Protection - Speed....Part 2

An oldie but a goodie and with a good use of a gridded playing surface.
Work on the WW2 naval rules continues apace. I have the theory mapped out so now it is merely a case of putting this into practice. In a nutshell the key elements I am working to can be described as follows.

Firepower – Protection – Speed.  


The Firepower category includes main guns, secondaries, torpedoes and AA. The normal rating for this is based on 4 with weapons deemed superior or inferior to the norm adding or subtracting 1 respectively. Ships will have a rating for each type of weapon they carry - this will be based on the nominal category of weapons carried so, for example, Bismarck would have capital guns 4 (that is the norm for her type) and cruiser guns 3 (not quite up to cruiser norm). I was tempted to lump everything together but some naval wargame habits die hard! The resultant number is the amount of d6 rolled when engaging the enemy so, for example, the Bismarck, rated as normal for her 8 x 15” guns would roll 4d6 when firing. The target type adjusts the number of d6 being rolled with the types being Capital ships, Cruisers and Destroyers. Note that carriers could be classed as either Capital or Cruiser types depending on the class being represented. Using the example above should the Bismarck be firing her main guns at a destroyer she would roll an additional 2d6. There will be situational modifiers that will also adjust the number of d6 rolled. A roll of a 6 is 2 potential successes (and a reroll) whilst 4 and 5 equal 1. Gun ranges have yet to be decided but my thinking at this stage is for Capital ship guns to have a range of 4, Cruiser level guns 3 and Destroyers 2 (bear in mind this is a grid based rule set). Again these can be adjusted to allow for superior or inferior weapons. I have been deliberately vague with these as superior or inferior types represent greater or lesser numbers of barrels or larger or smaller calibres or indeed any permutation thereof. 


This is based on the ship type and represents a composite rating based on armour, tonnage and structural integrity or, as I like to put it, what feels right. For example using the Bismarck again (and why not, she was a famous ship) I would happily rate her as a 5 where the norm is 4. This is not so much for her armour but reflects her overall structural integrity – she was very strongly built after all. The number 5 is important in this example because in order to cause a potential change to the damage level of a ship the firing player must score 5 or more successes. Essentially for every 5 successes against the Bismarck she will take one potential level of damage. I say potential because I am including a mechanism for damage control whereby a hit could be nullified by the correct roll of the d6. Assuming the hit ‘sticks’ and is not negated then the damage level penalties start kicking in. Remember all ships have four overall damage levels before they are sunk. At the moment I am weighing up the GQ 1 and 2 Hull and Guns damage approach against the gradual ‘death of a thousand cuts’ route.


I have frequently tied myself up in knots (no pun intended although with second thoughts….) over the thorny subject of ship speeds and do you know what? I cannot be bothered anymore as many quoted speeds were usually taken from the ship trials and so are artificially high. I realise this will offend the purist but I am not going to stress about it. The base number for speed will be 4 with the usual superior and inferior adjustments. Our friend Bismarck sits happily at 4 whilst HMS Nelson would be a 3. I have a number of ideas around how ships move on a square grid and I shall be using diagonals. I have this clear in my mind but translating it into the written word is proving a little challenging at the moment! 

These are the basic parameters I am working to and for sure there are a lot of gaps at present. Once I can get the core system down on paper and a few games under my belt it should make a lot more sense. Some of the numbers quoted  may need revising – I  am torn in respect of the speed norm – but only testing will determine if this is necessary. 

The rules are being designed to be used on a grid measuring 12 by 8 so I want to keep movement distances and ranges down so that there is a reasonable amount of sea room for manoeuvring outside combat distances. With the models I shall be using I am looking at a grid size of 3” so the fighting area will be 3ft by 2ft. This can of course be expanded to suit and in fact Barry Carter in his book on naval wargaming does exactly that with his geomorphic boards.

All in all then it is a fairly positive start to this project so I need to get a move on in terms of painting some models for some playtesting. Actually I can make use of some counters for this if needs be so that may well be the route I follow in the short term.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

War at Sea and 1500 Not Out

As part of my WW2 naval project I thought it would be a good idea to revisit some old friends in the library for the all important inspiration. With this in mind I ascended into the man cave and pulled out three titles, the first of which you see below.

This is not my copy as I have the hardback version
Sea War: Great Naval Battles of World War 2 is one of those primer type books that are always good to refresh one's memory with. By no stretch of the imagination can this be described as a definitive account of the actions described but it does have much in the way of useful information - particularly log extracts and eye witness accounts. In short it provides the reader with plenty of flavour but for more fuller analysis of the actions contained therein one would need to research further. It is a good read to get 'back in the groove' though. The chapters are as follows:
The Loss of the Courageous
The Pocket Battleship Graf Spee
HMS Glowworm: The Supreme Sacrifice
The Defence of the Aircraft Carrier Glorious
The Taranto Raid
The Battle of Cape Matapan
The Battle for Crete
The Evacuation of Crete
The Mighty Bismarck
Singapore - The Loss of Repulse and the Prince of Wales
The Soviet Convoys
The Ship that Torpedoed Herself
The Story of HMS Edinburgh
Onslow's Valiant Defence
The Destruction of the Scharnhorst
The Allies take the Offensive
The Battle of Leyte Gulf
The Eclipse of Japan
All in all it is not a bad read and in conjunction with the other two volumes (which will appear in the next post) gives me a nice foundation to work from as far as inspiration is concerned - especially now that the appropriate volume of Conway's Fighting Ships (1922 to 1946) is back in the library.
1500 not out....
This is post number 1500 since I started the blog way back in 2009 whilst I was between jobs. I am pleased with much of the content (although there are some quite embarrassing wargames 'blind alleys and contradictions' in the post list!) and I certainly have enjoyed the resultant commentary from readers. I looked back over some of the material and from where I was then to where I am now has been an eventful journey - but it is one that I have enjoyed making and I hope to continue to do so.
Many thanks to all for helping me to get this far and I hope to have you onboard for the next 1500!

Monday, 19 February 2018

The Circle is Now Complete....

I know, I know - I need to get out more....
One of the things that seems to be happening with increasing frequency in my man cave is not only finding ‘stuff’ that has been hidden for an age but also of things mysteriously disappearing…. 

The third volume of Conway's epic warship reference series.

So it was that some time ago – summer of last year in fact - I realised that my copies of both the 1906 to 1921 and the 1922 to 1946 volumes of Conway’s Fighting Ships had disappeared. Vanished, Shuffled off this mortal coil – in fact were EX copies of Conway’s Fighting Ships. I searched high and low and in every nook and cranny of Chez Crook but to no avail. I had not lent these out at any point so can only assume that they have gone or are still waiting for me to rediscover them. Oddly enough though the 1860 version remained safe and sound. In fairness there has been a reasonable amount of moving around in the house and with the kitchen refurb much of the residence was in chaos for a while. Whether these two books were victims of this domestic upheaval will never be known but I cannot lay my hands on either of them. 

Anyway, to cut a long story short I resolved to reacquire both volumes (which will doubtless mean the missing pair will now turn up….) as they are extremely valuable reference works – if a little dry – and essential reading for the naval wargamer. The 1906 to 1921 volume arrived a few weeks back and the 1922 to 1946 edition turned up this morning. The timing could not be better as I grapple with my WW2 rules. 

As both of these are out of print it was a case of haunting eBay until suitably priced editions turned up – I have seen some eyewatering prices quoted for them, especially the 1860 volume – and even then they were not available at the same time. I am delighted to have all three volumes together once again though – they actually read better if you have them all as there is a lot of overlap between volumes.
Needless to say I will now be keeping these books very close by....

Firepower - Protection - Speed....Part 1

I am not sure about the rules in use or the location of this game - perhaps someone could volunteer an answer? - but I was rather tickled to see a grid in use. Fred T. Jane's game perhaps?

I mentioned in passing in a previous post that one of the key elements of the set of 'Portable style' naval wargames rules would be that ships are rated as per the three categories in the title above. In its simplest form within each category there is a norm, a superior and an inferior rating, depending on the class of ship being modelled. It is early days yet but I am currently working on the base value for each category being 3 so, for example, an inferior battleship (say an unmodernised WW1 vintage type) would have a rating of 2 for each category whilst something like the Iowa might well be 4 in each case. It is entirely possible for a ship to have varying capabilities so again, for example the Bismarck might be rated 3 for her artillery (i.e. the norm), 4 for her protection (not so much for her armour but she was pretty well put together) and 3 for her speed, again the 'norm'. I am still tinkering with this but am so far resisting the urge to add too much in the way of additional complexity.

Combat will be quite simple in that d6 are used and the number rolled depends on the rating of the firing ship and whether or not it had suffered any damage. I am using the old Axis and Allies system whereby you 'roll a 6 for two hits and 4 or 5 for 1 hit'. Ships can only be potentially damaged if the firing vessel scores sufficient hits to equal or better the targets protection rating. The eagle eyed amongst you will note that high rolls and plenty of them are a must!

Love 'em or hate 'em there are some rather nice ideas in this set.

I say potentially damaged as I shall be incorporating damage control into the combat system. On the subject of damage well I have a simple solution for this. ALL ships can suffer 4 damage levels and are sunk on the fifth. The levels and subsequent effects are taken from Battlestation! Battlestations! and I think this is a really neat idea. Simply put level 1 damage is largely superficial with no effect on the ships capabilities. Level 2 reduces every category by one third and level three by two thirds. Level 4 is essentially dead in the water with zero combat capability. Level 5 is sunk. Simple but very effective in my opinion.

Movement will be simple enough, even using the planned square grid. Even the old diagonal dilemma will not be a problem simply because the movement distance are quite low so any distortion is minimal. I have factored in a nifty mechanic to solve this in any event - it also applies to the firing as well, both guns and torpedoes

Naturally I will be taking into consideration the full range of weaponry and protection levels as they vary between ship types and classes - there will also be restrictions in place as to what can engage what. This will allow for the effects of heavier or lighter weapons against heavier or lighter armour - either by adjustments to the dice being rolled or even the number of dice being rolled. Again, this is very much at the planning stage so this will let you know how this develops. I will also be allowing for WW2 'chrome' - you know, things like Radar Fire Control and similar. I will be featuring aerial operations and submarines in due course but for the moment my main priority is to get the basic surface rules sorted.

And paint some models of course....

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Underway at last: Clearing the Harbour

It has been a busy weekend on the domestic front but I was able to get some quality hobby time in today. In line with many other noted members of the blogging fraternity I have been tidying up the man cave, organising ‘stuff’ for disposal and looking at my project list with renewed vim and vigour. To begin with I decided to get some WW2 ships from the Axis and Allies board game onto the paint tray. In truth that was as far as I got but every journey starts with a single step.

Axis and Allies British and German ships - the cutting mat gives a good idea of the size of each type with the destroyers being rather large!

At this stage the Royal Navy have four R class battleships, 3 Illustrious class carriers, 4 County class cruisers and 6 S class destroyers. They will be receiving half a dozen Tribal class destroyers, 4 Queen Elizabeth class battleships, HMS Hood and possibly 4 KGV class battleships. GHQ they are not but I am rather taken with the basic level of detail - they are gaming pieces after all and not scale models.

The Germans start off with 2 Bismarck class battleships, the carrier Graf Zeppelin, 3 Hipper class cruisers and 8 Type 34a class destroyers. The only thing I envisage adding to the fleet will be some Graf Spee class - the ‘pocket battleships’.

For both sides I will also be adding submarines and air elements in due course. I have plenty of merchantmen that can be used to furnish a convoy or two (no oil tankers though which is a shame) and can also be used as AMCs or commerce raiders. I could also see them be used as supply ships, in any event there are quite a few of them so I will not be struggling for choice!

In addition to the above I have also made some progress with the rules I am working on for the period. It is early days with these as yet but the signed are encouraging. The difficulty this far has been in keeping in simple as most naval wargames can become fiendishly complex if one is not careful.

The early steps will feature in a blog post shortly, once I have tidied my notes and more importantly, my thoughts.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Dickens, Fleming, Roddenberry and a mini Grand Tour

"To the last, I will grapple with thee... from Hell's heart, I stab at thee! For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee!" Khan Noonien Singh, commander of the Botany Bay and first seen in the Star Trek (original series) episode Space Seed and of course the film, Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan

The other Botany Bay near Broadstairs in Kent - our destination to celebrate Laurel's birthday and our first wedding anniversary. We stood by the chalk cliffs you can see - luckily the tide was out....
A trip to Broadstairs can only mean one thing - Dickens and the original Bleak House. The weather was overcast, windy, cold and drizzle-laden so Bleak seemed an apt name....

The Isle of Thanet was of course the setting for Ian Fleming's James Bond novel of Moonraker as well as the early stages of Goldfinger . I chuckled inwardly as I remembered Fleming's description of the 'Bungaloid world' of Herne Bay, Whitstable and of course Reculver where Goldfinger had his smelting facility. We drove along that wonderful stretch of the A28 (again mentioned by Fleming) from Canterbury via Chilham up through Molash and Charing and on to Maidstone.
The 13th February was not only Laurel's birthday it was also our first wedding anniversary so we decided to have short break away. I made all the arrangements and so we spent the night at a small hotel overlooking Botany Bay. The hotel was fine and the food was outstanding. The only problem we experienced was the weather in that it was cold, windy and drizzling all day. The second day was much better and so we were able to take a short walk along the beach before departing.
I should mention that we took a rather circuitous route going on our outward journey - via Manston and the Spitfire Museum (sadly not this visit but earmarked for the future) and through Broadstairs - but the return home was through Margate, Birchington and then swinging south at Canterbury
 via Chilham, Molash, Charing and Maidstone.
Charity shop find (there was no shortage of these in Maidstone - we visited 5!). This is the hardback version of Tom Holland's acclaimed account of the last century of the Roman Republic. This is a favourite period of history for me as the Romans took on a wide variety of opponents as they drifted towards the Empire.


I was a little disappointed with Maidstone as it seemed quite ragged around the edges compared to when I lived there some years back. Perhaps I need to polish my rose-tinted spectacles a little! The book above is one I have been after for time as my paperback version has all but disintegrated. I must confess to enjoying the wars of the later republic rather than the more usual Imperial phase. I have a small section of the library devoted to this era and will certainly game something from it at some point.
The book was really a bonus on our whirlwind tour of Thanet and despite the weather we had a really good time. Laurel was happy and we have resolved to visit the area again at some point - preferably when the weather is around twenty degrees higher....
(I also want to go to the Spitfire Museum...)


Monday, 12 February 2018

WW2 Naval Rules - Portable Wargame Style

A curious set of rules for WW2 naval wargames. They have a number of rather nifty mechanics that can be readily used elsewhere....

I have settled on using the Portable Wargame for my WW2 gaming needs. The scale of action that I am planning means that a simpler set of rules will work better and besides, I am very familiar with them and can tweak them without breaking them! I shall be using a square grid rather than a hexed version - I already have a suitable playing area ready to use in this regard. It will also mean that I can use Sam Mustapha's Rommel readily enough.

The one thing I do not have though is a suitable set of naval rules (I can almost hear the groans of 'Oh no, not again!') for the war afloat. Actually, let me rephrase that, I have many sets of rules I could use but none of them tick the box as far as being Portable Wargame-like. This is an important consideration for me as ultimately I want a seamless set of rules that cover land, sea and air operations with a common origin. Bob Cordery has developed both ironclad and pre dreadnought Portable Wargame rules so there is a precedent for what I want to do.

I have a number of ideas as to how I can realise this set of rules and needless to say, there are several sets that will contribute ideas into the pot. These will be simple but not simplistic and significant differences between types will have a part to play. Ideally I want to do away with damage record cards and will instead use a system of shell splash/hit markers for combat results. The rules will also be gridded - to keep in with the PW 'flavour'.

Ships will be defined by type and rated as being superior or inferior to the norm based on their historical data. This will allow for a degree of personalisation to the ships within a players fleets - as a long standing naval wargamer this is an important consideration....I intend rating ships in three categories - protection, firepower and speed - and these will essentially drive the game mechanics.

There are a couple of sets of naval rules that have been at the forefront of my thoughts around this project - one of which is pictured above. I rather like the damage system from this set as it will fit in well with what I am trying to achieve. At this stage I will not go into details but suffice it to say there is certainly value in how the rules work this key element of naval wargaming.

The second set of rules that I am harvesting for ideas is Axis and Allies: War at sea, the collectible miniatures game. The rules for this are very straightforward and crucially there is an awful lot of additional material available from around the web that adds to them.

The main thing though is that the final set stay true to the Portable Wargame philosophy and I shall be delighted if I can achieve this.