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Subject: Are HE Rounds as powerful as they seem? rss

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Christopher Hill
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Wilmington
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We played this old school war game last night for our usual Monday night war games session. When we started out everyone was firing AP rounds with little to no damage.

Then someone switched to HE rounds and suddenly the damage piled up. When the HE rounds hit a damage dice is rolled three times for each hit. This seemed crazy to us. We thought we were doing something wrong, but could find nothing in the rules to counter what we were doing. The only thing we saw was that HE rounds can only penetrate 1" armor. The battleships we were using had much thicker armor than 1". Does this mean we couldn't or shouldn't have been using HE rounds when firing at anything with greater than 1" armor? There seemed to be no other reference in the rules regarding this other than the brief blurb in the HE section.

It just seemed the HE rounds were way more powerful than they should have been, so we can't help but think we were playing incorrectly...

Any help we could get from anyone who has some insight to the use of HE rounds would be appreciated.
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Barry Harvey
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I found this errata

http://grognard.com/errata/battwag.txt

[extract]
GUNFIRE DAMAGE ALLOCATION TABLE - No armor is listed for HE shell hits to
affect. HE shells should affect BL for "Point" and "Close" ranges and DK
for "Medium" or greater ranges. This is a simplification: HE shells are
required to effectively penetrate the average armor of a ship as represented
by BL and DK armor factors. This will properly make HE shells ineffective
against all targets with any real degree of armor protection. Any system
designated as hit by a penetrating HE shell is considered to be destroyed.


I have the pdf of the rules and it would have been nice if they'd collected any errata and included it in the bundle.
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Christopher Hill
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Thanks Barry! We knew something didn't make sense, but from the rules as written couldn't figure it out. Essentially, the HE rounds were pretty much useless in our game because we were using fleets of battleships all with heavy armor.
 
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Joe Czarnecki
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AP - Armor Piercing is a heavy shell designed to penetrate heavy armor. As a result there is relatively little room for "filler" (a.k.a. explosive) so it tends to go off with a less substantial "bang!" The problem is that bang is behind your armor amidst something that is very easily or badly damaged by that bang. The primitive form of AP was solid shot. More advanced AP shells included the notorious "diving" shells the Japanese attempted to master, but which proved largely ineffective and the "super-heavy" American shells which sported the greatest penetration and ironically dove better than the Japanese shells.

SAP - Semi-Armor Piercing is a shell designed to penetrate medium armor. This is a round suitable for shooting armored cruisers and battlecruisers or any platform with substantial armor that your AP rounds are starting to "pass through." I don't recall if Battlewagon in either addition dealt with pass-throughs, but Seekrieg does. A pass-through occurs when a round strikes armor, but not enough to detonate it before it passes out the other side of your ship. If you're starting to get pass-throughs on an armored target, it's a good idea to switch to SAP. However, some fleets didn't use SAP shells. An SAP round will generally penetrate 75% of the armor that an AP

COM - Common is a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none round often used by navies that don't employ SAP, and/or for smaller weapons less likely to be fired against significant armor. Common has some penetration capability, but less than SAP, so of course there is more space in the shell for filler and a bigger bang. Common is the sort of thing destroyer carry to shoot up light cruiser, or larger ships carry to shoot up destroyers. The primitive form of Common was early explosive shells. Common is best used against targets with relatively little armor or if your navy lacks HE. Penetration is about 50% of what AP would do.

HE - High Explosive is light case shell with maximum filler. It doesn't penetrate much in the way of armor, but when it does penetrate it goes off with a huge "BANG!" that can seriously rip up a ship. Typically it is contact fused, so any substantial armor will detonate it and if it is a substantial armored surface, most of that explosive effect is going to be wasted. If your target is unarmored, HE will play holy hell with it. HE is a lovely round to fire at destroyers and it is also used for Anti-Aircraft shells. Early in the battleship era, HE was not widely available. Early explosive fillers tended to be overly sensitive and shells with large amounts of unstable filler were a dangerous thing. Against a battleship it's not such a great round.

Now a simple game like Battlewagon sets HE penetration at 1" of armor, which isn't strictly true. How much armor a given HE shell would penetrate varies with size and there is a special chart for that in Seekrieg 5, but that's at the other end of the scale from Battlewagon.

So what rounds should you be using? If you're fighting battleships: AP. Why? Because the professionals did. When fighting another armored ship, they didn't screw around and get fancy firing HE to game some sort of damage point system. Players should not indulge in such "gamisms" and frankly a game should be well enough designed to prevent them from doing so. Many fleets only carried AP aboard battleships because they only anticipated using them to fight other battleships.

SAP rounds were more commonly found in cruisers and cruisers with gigantism (a.k.a. battlecruisers). These were ships likely to be called upon to fill a variety of roles ranging from blasting other cruisers, to fending off destroyers, to stepping into the line of battle and having to shoot at something tough like a battleship. European navies tended to employ SAP in capital ships, and the Japanese liked it for cruisers, but not capital ships or destroyers, while the British had a fondness for this round and even used it in destroyers. European capital ships seldom shipped more than a third of their rounds as SAP.

Common rounds are for light ships, secondary batteries and fleets that don't use SAP. Most destroyers fought other ships using Common even when HE became more available.

HE rounds are for AA, bombardment, and shooting up destroyers. They seldom constituted more than 10% of the main battery rounds of capital ships, assuming a navy shipped such rounds for capital ships. Many navies didn't really start using HE until WWI or after. In secondary batteries, particularly as the air threat grew, HE could constitute as much as 50% of the load-out. The Japanese only shipped HE in capital ships main batteries for special purposes like the bombardment runs to Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, or the infamous "beehive" AA rounds that probably caused Mutsu to blow up in harbor. The Americans were the biggest users of main battery HE as their older battleships were relegated to shore bombardment and the Americans eventually went a step beyond HE and created "HC" or "high capacity" rounds with even thinner cases and more filler. When such rounds were used in Vietnam, one commentator memorably remarked that one 16" HC shell dropped in dense jungle equaled an "instant helicopter landing zone." Uniquely the Japanese went to 100% HE in their destroyers, but employed a special HE round that had some characteristics of a Common round.

So:

AP - max penetration, min bang. Shoot at battleships.
SAP - 75% penetration, more bang. Shoot at cruisers.
COM - 50% penetration, even more bang. Shoot at everything else.
HE - min penetration, max bang. Shoot at unarmored ships.

Some people get a little panicky when they're told their ship only carries say, one third AP, but you have to realize most ships carry far more ammunition than they'll ever use in a single action and instances of ships actually running out of ammunition are vanishingly scarce.
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