WWI Tactical Naval Combat Comparisons
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This list is my effort to show how various tactical naval combat systems compare to each other. This is not a scientific approach but rather my practical "gamers" view of each system.

I am playing this "experiment" partially because I often have derided the Avalanche Press GREAT WAR AT SEA series tactical combat rules as being too simplistic. I admit I am a true Clash of Arms Admiralty Trilogy fan and prefer that type of combat resolution model. That said, there are times that simple is better.

Basics - The Basic Scenario used is drawn from GREAT WAR AT SEA - Mediterranean (1st Edition) Battle Scenario 7. This hypothetical scenario pits Goeben and Breslau against the British battlecruisers Indomitable and Indefatigable and light cruiser Dublin. The player with the most victory points wins.

Each game will include:
Prep Time - Time necesary to prepare for play.
Play Time - Time necessary to play out the battle (this includes time needed for me to keep notes which will admittedly add time...but not too much).
Battle Narrative - A synopsis of the battle.
Comments- My perspective on the game as it depicted the battle.

For my miniatures battles, I use the counters from Avalanche Press. These are great overhead views and colorful. For fog of war, they have generic backsides to assist you.

I will be adding different games of the this same scenario as I can.
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1. Board Game: Great War at Sea: The Mediterranean [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:5338]
Board Game: Great War at Sea: The Mediterranean
Used the Advanced Combat System (7.0) and Damage (8.0) found in Y2000 Series Rules.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Play Time: 20 minutes

Battle Narrative: Initiative went to the Central Powers player. Allies set up in center hex (used horizontal hex grain). Central Powers rolled a random set-up at edge 3 (SW edge) and hex 4 making initial range of 40kyds. CP moved NE to close range while Allies moved due east. Result was opening engagement at range 3 (24kyds) in a due east-west arrangement. Goeben engaged Dublin but missed. British BCs engaged Breslau and got two hits. Allies continued eastward movement while Central Powers went northeast. Range 3 combat continued with same fire assignments. Goeben scored one hit where the BCs got two. Battle continued run to the east with fire again at range 3. Goeben got three hits and reduced Dublin to Speed 1 (greater than 50% hull destroyed). The British BCs in return scored three hits on Breslau and sunk her (8VP). Round 2 commenced with Goeben again engaging Dublin at Range 3; scorig one hit and sinking her (9VP). The BCs shifted fire to Goeben and scored two hits. The battle continued to run to the east and again fire was at range 3. Goeben shifted fire to Indomitable and scored one hit (Critical) but Indomitable escaped with only hull damage. The BCs continued to pound Goeben as she fled to the east while taking three hits. Goeben finally fled off the east edge of the map ending the battle scenario.

Comments: Nothing but a battle to manuever for range since facing is not a factor. Battle stayed at Long Range (3 hexes) for every combat round. In terms of Victory Points the Central Powers won with 9VP vs the Allies 8VP. However, Goeben had lost all her secondary and tertiary armament with one hull hit. Indomitable had lost 25% of her hull but was still in the fight. Had the battle continued, Goeben would have been hard-pressed to win, needing to sink both British battlecruisers while not sinking herself.

Fidelity of simulation is VERY COARSE. Maneuvering is for RANGE only. Only real difference in combat is in terms of PRIMARY/SECONDARY/TERTIARY weapons.

Interesting Factoid: 80 shots - 18 hits (22.5%) - 1 Critical Hit (1.25%)
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2. Board Game: Great War at Sea: Dreadnoughts [Average Rating:7.16 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.16 Unranked]
Board Game: Great War at Sea: Dreadnoughts
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Play Time: 20 minutes

Battle Narrative: Allies set up on northern mandatory hexes facing SE, CP set up on edge 3 facing NW. Allies won the initiative. CP moved NW and turned to face NE. Allies moved SE and turned to face E. Range was 3. First gunnery firing resulted in only Dublin making a successful ranging roll. She targeted Breslau and scored a Fire Control hit. CP returned fire, with Goeben ranging Dublin and immeditely scored two hits: Fire Control and one CRITICAL (Helm). CP then turned to the east and continued to move. Allies kept an easterly course (due to Dublin's damaged helm) and second gunnery continued at range 3. Indomitable and Indefatigable both made ranging rolls but because Breslau is a light ship they both missed, as did Dublin. The CP player was much luckier as Goeben, now with the range to Dublin, scored two additional hits, both which were Hull with Fire. The battle continued to move towards the east, and in the third gunnery phase (range 3 again) there were no hits made. In the Damage Control phase, Breslau successfully repaired her Fire Control but Dublin lost her battle against her two fires, losing her third and final Hull box and sinking. In the next battle round, Goeben wins the initiative and successfully flees off the east edge of the board, ending the scenario.

Comment: Germans win this scenario 9VP vs 0VP for the Allies. In this rule set, the lack of "referred pain" definately saved Breslau, as at least 4 "hits" became misses due to no Primary guns. As a result, the use of the same firing discipline as was applied in the GWAS Advanced Combat rules game had an opposite result - Breslau was virtually unscathed.

Fidelity of simulation is COARSE. Basic arcs of fire are used, but weapons remain PRIMARY/SECONDARY/TERTIARY.

A point that I didn't realize until after play was the impact of rules 4.4 PLACEMENT and 5.3 DIVISION INTEGRITY. 4.43 makes the British place the battlecruisers and Dublin together in the same start hex. 5.3 is seemingly contradictory, stating "Ships...must stay together as a division and not move more than two hexes away from another division member. Likewise, ships that begin stacked together in the same hex must move so as to remain stacked together." Keeping together makes sense for Ships of the Line, but Dublin should (logically) been allowed to move up to 2 hexes away from the battlecruisers. As it was, in this playing Dublin stayed together with the battlecruisers and paid the price.

Gunnery Factoid: 36 "shots" - 8 "hits" (22.2%) - 1 Critical Hit (2.77%)
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3. Board Game: Shipbase III [Average Rating:7.03 Unranked]
Board Game: Shipbase III
Prep Time: 15 minutes (Breslau in the Book of Ships is the refitted 1916 version. Needed to modify the ship to reflect 12x4.1"/45 vice 7x5.9").
Play Time: 70 minutes

Battle Narrative: Setup was at 23.4kyds. Allies were from the north on course 120T. Germans were about 120 relative from the British on course 300T. Both closed but Dublin fell behind due to slower speed. By turn 4 both fleets turned parallel (Brits 090T, Germans 270T) and were exchanging fire. Indomitable and Goeben traded inconclusive blows at around 17kyds. After closing up a bit more even Breslau was able to get an extreme range hit on Indomitable although DC parties quickly repaired the damage. By turn 5 Goeben had a clear line of fire to Dublin and started hitting her while the battlecruisers shifted fire to Breslau. Turns 6-11 saw both Breslau and Dublin hit and both turning to withdraw while being pursued. Dublin was sunk by turn 12, but Breslau had 70% damage.

Comment: The relatively higher fidelity simulation led to dramatic differences in how this battle was fought. The simulation much more realistically depicts gunnery ranges. The final Damage Ratio was 1.14:1 (German:British) making this a very narrow German victory, though had the scenario continued the damaged Breslau could have easily been run down by the faster battlecruisers.

Frankly, I was surprised at the time required to play.

Interesting Factoid: This battle lasted a total of 12 turns, or 24 minutes. This is similar to the single combat turn in Dreadnoughts (30 minutes) though seemingly shorter than the combat in the GWAS Advanced Combat Rules.
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4. Board Game: Line of Battle (Second Edition) [Average Rating:6.21 Unranked]
Board Game: Line of Battle (Second Edition)
[Note: This scenario was played with the 2006 Omega Games edition of Line of Battle]

Prep Time: 10 minutes (Note: Since lighter ships are depicted on counters that supposedly represent three ships, a degree of "fudge" was introduced. DUBLIN was a 1911 British Light Cruiser, so I elected to use counter 506 - a 1912 CL - to depict this ship. Breslau was a 1913 German CL so I elected to use counter 406 to depict that ship. Counter 406 is supposedly a 1906 CL but the gunnery range was greater than counter 506 which I decided reflected the longer-range guns mounted by Breslau as compared to Dublin.)
Play Time: 40 minutes

Battle Narrative: The battle started at maximum visiblity range (34 hexes). The British moved to the SE while the Germans swung around and moved NE. Gunnery started on turn 3 with Ranging attempts by both sides but all were unsuccessful. On turn 4, Indefatigable straddled Breslau and scored a Gunnery Hit and Movement hit that also resulted in a Mauled result on the Explosion Table. On turn 5, Breslau turned away to the SE and started her escape attempt. On this turn, Indomitable also straddled Breslau and the damage started piling on. On turn 6, with the British now gaining on the Germans, Goeben kept her speed up and left the hapless Breslau behind. Goeben was also able to finally straddle Dublin and scored two Gunnery Hits. Breslau was further mauled this turn, being reduced to near-nothingness. Turn 7 saw additional hits on Dublin and Breslau, and by turn 8 Breslau was sunk, although Dublin was not much better off.

Comment: Simulated game time was 48 minutes, making this a bit longer than Dreadnoughts and Shipbase III in terms of time of simulated battle. Once the ships were able to straddle their targets, the damage quickly racked up.

The fidelity of the simulation is higher than the GWAS Advanced Rules or Dradnoughts, but the emphasis in Line of Battle is clearly on the big ships.

There is no explicit rules for formations in Line of Battle, though the use of PLOTTED MOVEMENT and FLAGSHPS in will simulate formations for you. Light ships always use Independent Movement.

Interesting Factoid: Game time was 40 minutes, nearly identical to the simulated game time.
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5. Board Game: Battlewagon [Average Rating:6.36 Overall Rank:9691]
Board Game: Battlewagon
Prep Time: 15 minutes (5 SSDs to be prepared).
Play Time: 30 minutes

Battle Narrative: Set up was at maximum sighting range (22 hexes) with the British arriving from the North steaming southeast and the Germans arriving from the southeast steaming towards the Northwest. The battle drifted to the east, but Dublin fell behind the two battlecruisers that were in formation. Gunnery opened on impulse 6 of turn 2. On turn 3, the Germans reveresed course to keep Dublin at risk (she was falling farther behind the battlecruisers). On turn 3 impulse 2 Goeben scored a lucky hit on Indomitable and disabled turret A. By impulse 3, Goeben shifted fire against Dublin but Breslau was being ranged by the battlecruisers. This continued for two more impulses as Breslau (not in formation) was able to sideslip out of range. On impulse 5 Dublin suffered a FL (Flotation) hit from a single HE hit from Goeben. This quickly sealed her fate as her speed was reduced to "2." The first impulse of turn 4 was the decisive one as the British attempted to turn and follow Goeben (but due to being in formation they were not as maneuverable) and the range extended while Goeben achieved another hit and scored a second FL, sinking Dublin.

Comment: The formation rules here hurt the British, who although they matched the speed of Goeben were outmanuevered by the single ship. The use of HE by Goeben against Dublin alsoquickly shredded the ship and sunk her.
If this battle had continued, Optional Rule D12 RUNNING BATTLES would have been most helpful. This rule uses actual ship speeds to determine speed over the course of several turns, creating a more realistic comparison of ships speeds.

Fidelity of simulation was MODERATE. The differences between various big guns is explicit and can make a difference in the fight.

Interesting Factoid: Simulated battle time was 32 minutes; very similar to Shipbase III, and Dreadnoughts. Also, like Line of Battle the simulated time and game time were nearly identical.
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6. Board Game: Fear God and Dread Nought [Average Rating:7.40 Overall Rank:7061]
Board Game: Fear God and Dread Nought
Prep Time: 30 minutes (Need to prepare 5x FG&DN Form 1)
Play Time: 90 minutes

Battle Narrative: Play started at maximum sighting range: 20kyds. British were on course 120T@25kts. Germans were on course 315T@25kts. Of particular note, Dublin did not start in line astern but rather 1000yds off the port side of the British line to be in a position to relay signals. On Turn 1, Germans turned to 045T and started ranging shots against Indomitable which lead the British line. On Turn 2, the British swung to 090T. German fire continued to be ineffective. On Turn 3, the British swung to course 045T and started near-parallel to the Germans (note: the courses were not perfect, the Germans were really doing about 040T as they tried to "shave" the range and get to where their guns were better). On Turn 4 Goeben scored a non-penetrating hit on Indomitable. By Turn 5, even Breslau was able to range Indomitable and both Goeben and she hit Indomitable, starting at least one fire. Turns 6 and 7 saw continued ineffective fire, but on Turn 8 Goeben hit Indomitable while on Turn 9 Indefatigable was able to heavily hit Breslau. By Turn 10, Indomitable was down to 19kts speed and Breslau was down to 20kts. Indomitable sheered out of line to let Indefatigable continue the pursuit while Breslau turned by herself to make a run to the east. Turn 11 was one of manuever as Goeben shifted fire to Indefatigable and Breslau raced to open the range and escape any further hits. Turn 12 saw the spectacular happen, as Goeben scored a lucky Turret Hit on Indefatigable that was able to reach the magazine and cause a catastrophic explosion that sunk the battlecruiser.

Comments: A very different game given the abilty for Dublin to remain unengaged behind the battlecruisers. It also appears that the miniatures-based games take roughly twice as long to play as the board-based. Could this be the movement and range that constantly need to be measured?

Interesting Factoid: Simulated time was 36 minutes; again much like Battlewagon (32min), Line of Battle (48min), Shipbase III (24min), and Dreadnoughts (30min).
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7. Board Game: Seekrieg (Fourth Edition) [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:11420]
Board Game: Seekrieg (Fourth Edition)
Prep Time: 40 minutes (Ship's Log Sheet does not have arcs for batteries. Needed to consult Jane's Fighting Ships of World War I to get better idea.)

Play Time: 80 minutes
Rules Used:
Hit Probability [Basic Method]
Armor Penetration [Advanced Method]
Computing Damage [Advanced Method]
Naval Ordnance Pentetration (Average)

Battle Narrative: Game opened at 33kyds sighting range. British were on course 120T/26kts while Germans were 315T/26kts. Both sides closed head-on for first four turns. On turn 5 the Germans turned to course 045T. Gunnery opened on Turn 6 with Goeben opening fire against Indomitable at a range of 17.5kyds. On Turn 7, the British turned to 090T and continued to be sniped at by Goeben. Both sides continued to close for Turn 8 when Goeben got a non-penetrating CONN hit in Indomitable. On Turn 9 the British turned parallel the Germans at a range of about 13.125kyds. Gunnery exchanges continued on Turn 10 when Indomitable was hit by Breslau. However, Indefatigable was able to score a hit on Breslau, to include damaging her steering. Turn 11 saw Goeben punish Indomitable (3 hits!) while Breslau turned away. On Turns 12 and 13 the British battlecruisers tried last shots against Breslau as she pulled away, but to no effect. On Turn 14, Goeben turned to 000T to try and close the range while the British shifted fire to Goeben. Indomitable took another hit from Goeben, this one critically damaging her engine room and further reducing her speed. In return, Indefatigable was able to get a lucky hit against Goeben which scored a critical hit against her portside secondary magazine, rendering the portside 5.9" guns useless. On Turn 15, at a range of 12,125yds, Goeben scored two turret hits against Indomitable, one of which was a lucky critical MAGAZINE EXPLOSION.

Comments: Like Fear God & Dread Nought, the fact Dublin stayed to the portside of the formation left her unable to be engaged, making this a slugfest of the battlecruisers. Like FG&DN, the British battlecruisers proved unable to withstand the punishment, although Goeben took a serious amount of damage (216DP, or 28.9% of her original). I was plesantly surprised by the play time needed since Seekrieg requires combat rolls for every battery. The system moved along fast enough that it was comparable to FG&DN which uses combined rolls for multiple batteries.

Interesting Factoid: The 15 turns equals 30 minutes of battle, once again making this similar to most all other games.
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8. Board Game: General Quarters [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:7941]
Board Game: General Quarters
(I originally did not add this one to the group because it needs a much larger area (at a scale of 4"=1,000yds) and I therefore was unable to play it on my 3'x5' game table.)

Prep Time: 10 minutes (Copy 5 SDS)
Play Time: 70 minutes

LOCATION: Somewhere in the Mediterranean - August 1914

SMS Goeben and SMS Breslau are steaming on course 330T when they sight three ships. The lookouts call out HMS Indomitable and HMS Indefatigable with a light cruiser on a course of 000T.
1300-1306L
Breslau opens fire on the lead ship at extreme range (21,000 yds). A lucky hit! Indomitable suffers a single firepower hit and two hull hits, along with a Fire Control critical hit. This will force the British line to slow to a speed 16 kts.
1306-1312L
Both sides continue to close the range (the British steer 045T) but all shots miss.
1312-1318L
Goeben shifts fire to Dublin and scores a hit that reduces the hull by FOUR! With a speed of a mere 4kts, Dublin will turn away to try to move out of danger before whe is wrecked further.
1318-1324L
The British return to course 000T while Dublin moves to the east by herself. Goeben continues to rain fire on Dublin but misses. The British battlecruisers engage Goeben but can only score a lone armament hit.
1324-1330L
Range continues to gradually decrease but the fire of both sides is ineffective.
1330-1336L
Getting a bit too far ahead, the German line conducts a Battle Turn Away that now places Breslau in the lead. Goeben continues to fire on Dublin, and suceeds in wrecking the light cruiser. It will sink this turn. Meanwhile, the British battlecruisers continue to fire, and continue to miss.
1336-1342L
The Germans and British both turn to course 090T. Goeben shifts fire to Indomitable and scores a single hull hit, further reducing her speed.
1342-1348L
Indomitable sheers out of line to port and allows Indefatigable to pass and continue the pursuit. The Germans, seeing they are getting more hits, turn to course 180T and attempt to 'cross the T' of the British. The move immediatly pays off with Goeben wrecking the last of Indomitable's armament. The British shift fire to Breslau and immediately get results, wrecking half her armament.
1348-1354L
The British stay on course 090T while the Germans move to 090T and Breslau kicks up to full speed.
1354-1400L
The Germans continue to flee while the British pursue. With only her stern turret, Goeben scores a lucky hit on Indomitable that penetrates her turret and causes an unlucky explosion! In the meantime, Indefatigable continues to pound Breslau, scoring hull and armament hits.
1400-1406L
Goeben turns to course 000T in an attempt to screen Breslau from further damage. This allows her to bring her full firepower against Indefatigable. Range is down to 8250 yards! Fire is traded, and Indefatigable takes 1/2 armament and 2 hull hits agaisnt no damage to Goeben.
1406-1412L
Indefatigable swings to 180T in an attempt to bring firepower to bear. She shifts fire to Breslau but misses. Goeben in the meantime continues to punish Indefatigable, and scores a boiler hit that reduces the British battlecruiser to a mere 4 kts.
1412-1418L
Sensing blood, Goeben continues to fire but scores only a half hull hit. Indefatigable continues to try and sink Breslau but misses.
1418-1424L
Goeben, moving away from the battle, reverses course to keep the range to Indefatigable. At a range of 8,250 yards this is now a simple slugfest, but the weaker armor of Indefatigable and her slow speed due to damage makes the outcome a foregone conclusion.
1424-1430L
At a range of only 7,500 yards, Goeben and Indefatigable trade hammer blows. But this is a losing battle for Indefatigable...and she finally sinks.

Comments: The British shifted fire too much and never were able to bring effective firepower against a German ship until it was too late. They really should have kept the range to between 17,750 to 21,000 yards to snipe away at Goeben. Between 17,750 and 15,500 yds their 12" guns are unable to penetrate Goeben's armor. But going to a shorter range means better hit chance, but also greater punishment.

Interesting Factoid: This is the only system that played out real-time in less than simulated time.
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9. Board Game: Battleship Captain [Average Rating:7.84 Unranked]
Board Game: Battleship Captain
Goeben Drubs Dublin

Using Battleship Captain Dreadnought Era rules.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Play Time: 50 minutes

Battle Narrative:
Initial Sighting was at 27,000yds. Goeben was leading Breslau on course of 315T at speed 5. Indefatigable was leading Invincible with Dublin to the port side of the formation to relay signals. British were on course 120T at speed 5.

Turn 1
Goeben turns to 045T at speed 5. British continue on 120T at speed 7. Goeben opens fire against Indomitable (R=19/Long; 7:6/1:1 odds; MISS).

Turn 2
Both sides accelerate to speed 7. Goeben continues on course 045T although Breslau is shading a bit more to the west. British turn to 045T to engage Goeben. Goeben fires on Indefatigable again (R=17/Long; 7:6/1:1 odds; HIT-Roll Again-MISS). The British finally get into the action and use both battlecruuisers to engage Goeben (R=19/Long; 10:11/1:2 odds; MISS).

Turn 3
Goeben and Breslau accelerate to maximun speed (9) while the British go to speed 8 because of Dublin. Both sides continue on parallel courses while steering 045T. The British fire again on Goeben and score a lucky hit (R=19/Long; 1:2 odds; Special-Magazine-2T reducing firepower to 7-10-5 from an original 10-14-8). Goeben meanwhile has shifted fire against Dublin, but misses (R=20/Long; 7:1; MISS).

Turn 4
Both formations stay at their previous speeds, but Goeben moves to course 030T to close the distance a bit. The gunnery duel continues this turn, but both sides miss.

Turn 5
Course and speed remain as before for both sides. The range has closed to 15,000yds (Med-Long range). The British guns miss but Goeben score a T and S hit on Dublin, reducing its gunnery factor to 0-1-0 (R=15/Med-Long/resolve at Medium; 10:1; HIT-Roll Again-T/S).

Turn 6
Course and speed remain as before with the exception of Dublin which now steers 030T in an effort to open the range slightly. British miss with their shots, but Dublin continues to be pounded by Goeben (R=16/Long; 5:1 odds; HITx2-Roll Again- D@ and Special-Flotation-Damage Control Damage-2F plus double all future F hits).

Turn 7
Dublin, severely slowed due to flotation damage, attempts to turn away and escape while the battlecruisers provide covering fire. Once again, the British miss (R=16/Long; 10:11 odds; MISS). Goeben on the other hands gets one last shot at Dublin and makes the most of it by sinking the luckless light cruiser (R=18/Long; 5:1 odds; HIT*-Special-Flotation 2F doubled to 4F for a total of 6F which doubles the Dublins 3F it has).

Turn 8
Goeben turns to the east and escapes.

Comment:
The British have won by sinking a British ship but the 2T damage will in the long run (i.e. outside the scope of this scenario) be difficult to repair.

The simulated time (8 turns = 56 minutes) and the play time (50 minutes) were nearly identical. This is also a much shorter time than other miniatures measure-and-move games.

The greatest issue that became apparent is the use of Firepower-vs-Armor for hit determination. In my view, the chance of a hit is range dependent and NOT a factor of how much throw-weight or armor penetration a gun has. This is why Goeben was able to punish Dublin even at Long range with firepower cut in half. Although the odds-based combat speeds play (making this game play out in near-realtime as compared to other miniatures-based rules) the sacrifice appears to be a realistic hit resolution model.

BOTTOM LINE: Battleship Captain is a good game for quick combat resolution. The volume of ships provided make it an ideal tactical combat resolution system for the Great War at Sea series of games. However, the apparent emphasis on playability comes at the price of a realistic to-hit combat model.
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