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Subject: German Strategy rss

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Neil Whyman
United States
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I need more TIME
Unless noted explicitly, the contents of this article will assume that all optional rules are being used with the exception of the “Battlecruiser Breakout” rule (6.2).

Victory Point Review
Before launching into strategy we should first familiarize ourselves with how to score Victory Points. Points are awarded as follows:
Sinking British ships (ship value)
Raiding Stations
Capturing Merchant ships
Sinking Special Convoys (up to 15 each)
British Cowardice (ship value)
Preventing British capture of German colonies within the allotted time frames (25 max.)
Returning to Germany (3 x ship value)
Surviving at Sea to the end of the game (2 x ship value)
Surviving in the Rufiji delta (ship value)
Inducing the Boer rebellion to spread (15 VP)
British deciding to take free use of certain restricted ships (ship value)

And points are lost when:
German ship is sunk by enemy action (i.e. not by cordite explosion)

Ship values are:
1 VP: AMC, CL and PC
2 VP: C
3 VP: AC
4 VP: BB (these are only pre-dreadnoughts)
5 VP: BC

It is easy to feel overwhelmed at the size of the forces arrayed against you. Fortunately there are a multitude of opportunities for scoring, though each will have associated risks. The German player needs to keep the points rolling in for as long as possible before the inevitable happens. The art is to keep the British guessing, give him several things to worry about that will induce him to use his ships doing the wrong things. The successful German player will be a master of bluff and deception. He will also have familiarized himself with my article on British strategy!

As the German player, it is vital that you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your position, so lets start there before the first die is rolled.

German Strengths
Hidden movement
The British have to move before seeing what your moves will be. This is very very powerful indeed. This is what keeps you from being overwhelmed by that massive British fleet. Each turn you will have to decide which ships to move in each movement segment. This can be a delight in itself. If the ships chosen are all within one of some common zone then the Brits have to consider that you might be forming a powerful squadron. Perhaps they are close enough to hit one of the colony invasion forces, which could cost big points and get you some free coal (see below), or a Special Convoy. Will the British be willing to run the risk? As the German, you can tease the Brit with this possibility but then move the ships on completely independent missions.

If the British are in a position to form a 100SG (definition contained in my article on British strategy) in a zone then you can limit its effectiveness by moving the nearby cruisers in different segments. That way the 100SG has to decide which segment to make its move in. At best it can then only search for one of your ships, and at worst will not even be in the right zone.

All eight of your cruisers can perform all the actions that are rewarded with VPs.

You only have 8 cruisers and 5 AMC’s to think about. Things are not so simple for the British player. Since there are about a dozen ways to score points one of your strengths is to make sure that the British player has to think about all of them all of the time. If he has too much to think about he may make an error that allows you to grab a bucketful of points in a heart beat.

You have great speed. Several of your ships possess the top speed rating. These ships are very difficult to catch since they get a fair chance of running from even a ship of equal speed (of which the British have a scarcity).

Initial British Forces
The first few turns are going to be the “Happy Time” for the German cruisers. Things will never be as good for you as they are in the first few turns unless you can snag a Special Convoy at some stage. By turn 4 the density of British ships will have increased, and your opportunities will commensurately have decreased.

Scharnhorst and Gneisenau’s gunnery
The two German Armoured Cruisers (Scharnhorst and Gneisenau) are very good at sinking anything weaker than a Battlecruiser. Seeing them together is a scary sight for the British. Although they are not blindingly fast they are deadly. Nevertheless it would be a mistake to start the game with the intention of matching broadsides with the British. I ran a few simulations of a straight (no surprise and no running) combat between Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and HMAS Australia (a Battlecruiser similar to HMS New Zealand); about 60% of the combats ended with Australia sunk (though it usually took one of the Germans with it), about 20% ended with all three ships sunk (which would be a great result for the British), and only about 20% ended with Australia triumphant.

Surprise Searches
Every German cruiser can participate in one surprise search per game, so long as no two searches occur on the same turn. These searches are permitted after the British have tried but failed to discover one of your ships/squadrons. That ship/squadron can then just select any (there are limits) of the groups that searched for it and declare a surprise attack that will normally end with the destruction of the British ship. This is a great way to thin the ranks of the British, and you should try to use all eight of your surprise searches during the game.

German weaknesses
Battle Fatigue
The German ships get steadily less and less combat-effective as they participate in more engagements. Think of it as being wear-and-tear that could easily be fixed in peacetime, but for which spare parts can’t be gotten outside of Germany in the present circumstances. So the German player has to gauge rather carefully when it is worth while to enter battle and when it is not, even when victory in said battle is assured.

The black stuff is your greatest weakness. German ships lacking coal have to move before the British, not just log their move, but actually visibly move. This tends to be a terminal handicap, and is the Achilles Heal of the German player. The Coaling rules only apply to German ships. To summarize them: each German cruiser (not AMC’s since these always move first regardless) has coal at the start of the game, and is accompanied by sufficient German colliers (not represented physically) to provide coal for any other three turns of the German player’s choosing. The German ships get coal if they are in a sea zone where they have an unconquered colony provided that there are insufficient British ships attacking the colony to seal off the port. They also get coal whenever they capture merchant ships, but each point of merchants captured will only fuel one cruiser/squadron. The sea zones have merchant ship densities ranging from zero to 3. Coal is also available in those sea zones bordering pro-German neutrals (specifically zones 2, 11 and 23; Norway, Argentina and Chile?).

So this weakness for coal provides the British with clues to predict your plotted movements: you must have coal or you will become extremely vulnerable. The battle for coal is a major element in the game, neither side can ignore it. Any cruiser that fails to get at least five coalings during game will have to make at least one move without the benefit of the hidden movement.

Damage Points
Most of your cruisers only have two damage points. None of your ships can be complacent about taking damage. A single hit is not a problem since you can always remove one point of new damage after each engagement. But two hits will sink 5 of your 8 cruisers. You should thus weigh very carefully the benefits of voluntarily entering combat. If the gains are not sufficient then they might be out-weighed by the extra battle fatigue.

It is important to realize that your cruisers’ combined moves can work like one huge choreographed dance. This is one of the ways that the game fails as a simulation. There was no way that Von Spee could have known what the Karlsruhe was up to, nor what was going on with the Konigsburg etc., much less actually control them. Yet you have that complete knowledge. Use it to keep the Brit’s head spinning. This is the reason why this game is not much fun solo, the quality of the opposition is just not the same as playing against a real player.

There are times when it is best to be well spread. This helps dilute the British effort. It also means that if the Brits have a particularly deadly search group active in one part of the globe, then they’ll have to waste time repositioning if/when they catch their prey. But there are also times when concentration of force is beneficial. Such times are when you want to threaten a Special Convoy, or a Colony reduction force etc. Sometimes just the threat is enough to open up safer opportunities elsewhere. If you can achieve both concentration of your own forces and dilution of the British forces at the same time then you have done well.

Let’s look at coal. At almost any cost you should try to avoid running out of coal. The three free coalings permitted to each cruiser are precious. Try not to use them all up by turn 6.

The easiest places to get coal are zones 11 and 23 - you just have to end the turn there and you’ll have coal. Zone 2 is another place where coal is free, but zone 2 is a very sensitive place and any move that looks like it might end there is likely to result in a powerful British search attempt. If you are discovered by such a search you will normally have to run, thus you won’t end up in zone 2 and won’t get the free coal. These three zones (2, 11 and 23) provide coal all the way through the game and there is nothing the British can do about it.

Another source of coal is your four colonies (zones 18, 21, 22 and 32). These generally are only good for the first turn or two unless you can disrupt the British attempts to conquer one of them.

A bold British player might attempt to start the reduction of Tsingtao (zone 18) in turn 1 with the two Russian ships that start there. This invites a visit from your cruisers, but will not change the inevitable fate of Tsingtao. There are so many Japanese ships placed in zone 18 in turn 2 that there is effectively no prospect of saving the colony in the long run, so there will be no free coal in zone 18 after turn 1, and perhaps none even in turn 1.

Zone 32 (Kamarun) is rather out of the way, but it can be valuable to save it. Diagonal moves are permitted in this game, so there are two zones adjacent to zone 32. This still isn’t many, so being in zone 32 is like allowing yourself to be backed into a corner. However, if you start a turn with cruisers in those two zones (10 and 12) then you should at least check to see if the stack of ships on Kamarun (your colony in zone 32) has only got 7 ships in it, and if any are very weak. If so then a quick raid might enable you to sink one ship and then run away (works best if there are no more than two British ships stacked on the colony that are as fast as yours). Take the trouble to look further afield when making this call; a raid on the colony can cost you a ship or two since you will be fired at by at least seven enemy ships. But if you reduce the enemy to six ships (remembering that any British ship that has suffered 50% damage, after the permitted one damage repair, is forced out of the game) and he doesn’t have a ship close enough to re-establish the seven ship minimum, ask yourself if that will prevent him taking Kamarun by the end of turn nine. If so then the loss of a cruiser or two might be worth it to get the 10 VPs for Kamarun.

This can be a real head-ache for the British because any cruisers in zones 10, 12 or 32 can also raid Capetown and try to spread the Boer Rebellion. So even if you just go to zone 32 to pick off the one merchant point there you will still be in striking distance of Capetown next turn.

The two small colonies of Samoa (zone 22) and new Guinea (zone 21) are both easy for the British to capture because both need to be attacked for only one turn. If you keep an Armoured Cruiser or two close by then you will have the option to intervene – or at least to threaten to intervene. Here though there is less value in saving the colonies because they are so easy to capture that the British will probably still capture them even after losing the 5VP that each is worth just to prevent you getting coal. That said, you should probably not risk taking damage to save New Guinea because, coal or no coal, there are no points to be had in zone 21 apart from the 5 VP for failing to take New Guinea by the end of turn 4.

So finally to the most abundant source of coal available to you: Merchant ships. These are represented by the merchant density number that appears close to the zone number. Each zone has a merchant ship density of from zero to three. Any ship or squadron that makes a merchant capture will be coaled for the following turn. This is very important: if there is only one merchant point available for several cruisers then you can form a squadron and make the merchant capture with a squadron; this one point will then provide coal to all ships in the squadron. Another important strategy relates to moving a cruiser into a zone that has a merchant shipping density of 2 or 3: if there are other cruisers close by that might need to get a merchant capture from that zone then don’t take all the merchant points with the first cruiser to enter the zone. Even if you are certain that you will not move more cruisers into that zone you can give the British player the false idea that you will by leaving a point of merchant shipping unclaimed! You must be a master of deception after all.

Scoring Points
First you must recognize that you have thirteen ships, all of which you must expect will get sunk! This means that you are sitting on a liability of –17 points. Since 50 is a reasonable target you really have to aim to score 67 or so points. Fortunately there are some ways to mitigate this 17 point liability, so let’s look at those first.

Internment: This is only available to your AMC’s. Genuine cruisers cannot be interned. Internment will not earn you points, it just prevents you losing them; so this is a possible way to offset up to 5 of those –17 points. Internment is only available from zones 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 19, 20, and 24. That is a quarter of the zones on the map, though. Make sure you are aware of which zones they are, they all touch North or South America. The beauty of the internment rule is that you can move your AMC to one of these zones, and wait for the Brits to move. Only then, before they search for you, do you need to decide if you will declare internment! So by accepting the restriction of operating in only a quarter of the map you can ensure that you don’t lose that –1 VP per AMC. Of course, if you remain in those 8 zones then you are not achieving the objective of keeping the British ships well-spread. But you still have your regular eight cruisers for that. Unfortunately the British can render your AMCs ineffective simply by doing convoy duty in those 8 zones until such time as they have caught you or forced you into internment (and in fact they’d only need to put up eight ships for convoy duty because that is the total value of merchant shipping densities in those eight zones). Personally I tend to use the two faster AMC’s (Kronprinz Wilhelm has speed 4 and Kaiser Wilhelm der Gross has a speed of 4-) in a more aggressive way since the early British ships are not well blessed with speed. Both of these and one of the slower AMCs start in the Atlantic, from where internment is easy. It can be useful to sit in zone 6 (Gulf of Mexico) and force the Brits to come and get you. This is annoying for them because, although there is no merchant shipping there for the AMC to score points from, it is a dead end zone and will cost the British ships that enter it 2 or 3 turns to redeploy to somewhere useful once they have forced you into internment. The other two AMCs start in the Pacific, from where internment is a bit more difficult. It can be quite a maddening tease to move an AMC to zone 19, then 20, then through the Panama canal to zone 7. If you time it right this can force the Brits to turn back valuable ships to hunt you in zone 7 or 8 when they would have preferred to move them into the Indian Ocean. The threat here is that you might try to either Return to Germany or to Remain at Sea.

Rufiji: Only available to Konigsberg, Nuremberg, or Leipzig. If you have a ship (only one ship is permitted) in the Rufiji at the end of the game then you are rewarded with 1VP. This saves a loss of 1VP for being sunk. The three light cruisers that are eligible to enter the Rufiji are the three that have the slower speed (speed 4, the other three German light cruisers have speed 4+). This makes it a good option. However it will be difficult to time the best moment to enter the river because, once there, you can be trapped there. Effectively you should expect that ship to make no further contribution to your score. So if you think you can score at least 2 VP by remaining at large then it is better to do so.

At Sea at the end of the game: This gives you double the ship value and, unlike internment and the Rufiji, is available to all your ships. It is best not to have to rely on gaining these points simply because it is very difficult to achieve. If any of your cruisers, particularly the three fastest ones (Emden, Dresden and Karlsruhe), still have two of their free coalings available at the end of turn 6 then you are in with a chance. But again, a light cruiser earning a certain 3VP and getting sunk is almost as good as earning nothing and hoping to remain at sea. Tough call, by the start of turn nine you will have a much better idea of whether or not to try to go for it.

Return to Germany: This gets you triple the ship value. But just making the attempt carries a high risk of being sunk in the North Sea (zone 1). Getting a ship home is a major psychological boost, but it has a down side too, and that is that this ship is no longer out there stretching the British to the limit. By attempting to return a ship to Germany you are increasing the force ratio against your other ships. This effect can be mitigated. The first way is to only try to Return to Germany if you have some other ship in the Atlantic that will keep the British busy there after the returning ship is removed from the game. The next is to leave it late in the game, when the British ships that have been deployed to counter the subject German ship are too far from the other German ships to be able to have any affect on their operations before the game ends. Finally, if you are more-or-less certain that the subject ship is going to be sunk the next turn then you may as well try it anyway. If you can arrange to be in a squadron then your chances are that little bit better. But I look at it this way: the game cannot be won by attempting to get ships back to Germany, so don’t make this your aim, just use it as a possible tool on the road to victory.

Special Convoys
There are five of these, and they can be a gold mine, so try to keep a cruiser or two close to the routes. The routes cross the Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean. If a convoy is guarded by an escort that doesn’t include any ships with a speed of 4+ then it is fairly safe to attack it with a lone cruiser of speed 4+. You will get a straight 50% chance to grab 1-6 VP per cruiser without the risk of a combat (if your cruiser/squadron has speed 4 then it is only 33%; speed 4-: 17%). And if the escort does force you into combat you can elect to run after the first round of combat. That may not be a great play if the escort can sink you in one round though, so think about it. An unescorted convoy will be destroyed for a 15VP gain if you attack it with even a single cruiser. That is a terrific rate of return and the opportunity should never be passed up. However, any British searches in the zone containing the Special Convoy can prevent you from encountering the convoy at all, even if you are discovered, accept combat and defeat the British searchers. This provides the British with a way to protect Special Convoys without actually escorting them. Your counter to this is to have multiple cruisers close by so that you have the option of either attacking the escort with a powerful squadron (because defeating the escort results in winning all 15VP for the Convoy plus whatever you get for sinking escorts), or, if the Special Convoy is unescorted, drawing the search groups to react to the movement of one of your cruisers while leaving the actual attack to a cruiser in a later segment.

Sinking British ships
Don’t be tempted to think of this as the honourable way to earn your points. Damn the honour, you are out to win. Engage in surface combat only when you have to, or when it is lucrative. It is good to plan to utilize as many of your eight surprise searches as you can. They can be used to surprise ships that searched or went on station in the same segment as your cruiser moved.

Merchant Captures
This tends to be the backbone of any strategy for the steady accumulation of VPs. This is because merchant capture points are available all over the board, and because they also provide coal. The breakdown of zone values is:
0 points: 5 zones
1 point: 14 zones
2 points: 7 zones
3 points: 6 zones

Before leaving this topic, take a look at the distribution on the map. The Indian Ocean is almost all 3’s and 2’s. The Pacific is mostly zeros and 1’s. The North and Central Atlantic are also rich areas.

Station Raids
These are far more useful in the Basic game than when using the optional rules. There are a few stations that are worth 2VP, but most are worth only 1VP. When deciding whether or not to make a station raid bear in mind that you will definitely not receive coal for it (which I think is a bit odd since von Spee was heading for the Falklands explicitly to liberate its coal), but also that you are unlikely to have to battle any British ships protecting it. Remember though that ships placed on station will protect it for all subsequent movement segments, not just the one in which it was moved.

British Cowardice
What greater joy can there be than earning VP for British Cowardice? Sounds so delicious that you should take every opportunity to mock your opponent using suitably chosen period insults (even better if you can do this in German or with a German accent) whenever it seems that they are considering an act that this game defines as cowardly. Don’t over do it, the idea is to mock him just enough for him to think that you would prefer him to search for you so that he then does the opposite. Apart from this playful banter you get absolutely no say in the awarding of VP for British Cowardice, it is simply not in your power to contrive a situation in which you will score these points. But at least you need to be aware of what constitutes “British Cowardice” so that you will know when to claim the points. Cowardice is awarded only if one of the following conditions are met;
• The British Player declined to use an eligible RED ship in a search for a German ship; or,
• The British player declined to use an eligible squadron, at least half of whose ships are RED, to search for a German squadron having no more than one more ship than the complete British squadron.
If either of these are true then you can claim VPs equal to the value of all RED ships that declined to search. Note that the presence of more than one German ship/squadron in a search area will not get your points multiplied. This is because a British ship/squadron that declines to search is actually declining to search the zone as a whole (presumably for fear of finding one of your groups), as opposed to declining to search for one German entity in particular but willingly participating in searches for others.

Your four colonies are Samoa (zone 22), New Guinea (zone 21), Tsingtao (zone 18) and Kamarun (zone 32). Treat them as useless and you will not be disappointed. They are worth 5, 5, 5 and 10 VP respectively if the British fail to take them in time. This sounds like a lot, but my feeling is that you are doing just as well if you threaten to intervene in the Brit’s colony conquering operations if such a threat draws a reaction that exposes other sources of VP to your cruisers. But you should also be aware that occasionally the British player will slip up and fail to notice that the loss of just one ship will make it impossible to take the colony (deny you the VPs). If this situation arises then the Brit can be punished for his lapse, but be quite certain in your own mind just how much damage you are willing to sacrifice to save the colony.

Boer Rebellion (15 VP)
You can earn these points by conducting a station raid on either Capetown or Luderitz Bay (both in zone 12) (Luderitz Bay, by the way, is actually part of German SW Africa so doesn’t earn you any station raid points). As with the colonies, just the threat of action can draw a response and be just as valuable to you as actually trying for the points. If you raid Luderitz Bay then you only have a 1 in 6 chance of getting the 15VP, still worth the try. But the best chances come if you raid Capetown. A single ship will give you a 3 in 6 chance, and a squadron that contains at least one Armoured Cruiser gets a 4 in 6 chance. Hence the sight of Scharnhorst and/or Gneisenau adjacent to zone 12 tends to induce a pleasing level of panic in the British player that can cause him to lose focus elsewhere.

British Movement Restrictions
This is a source of income over which you have no control. But make yourself aware of the restrictions that apply (Rules Section 5) so that you know when to claim the points.

Well that’s about all the advice I have to offer. Remember your strengths and weaknesses. Good luck!

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