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Subject: Jutland: An Old Favorite rss

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Jeff S
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For my next review of games I like, I am choosing Avalon Hill's venerable Jutland.

Jutland as most of you know covers the 1916 clash between Germany's High Seas Fleet and Britain's Grand Fleet in the North Sea. It was the only occasion in which both fleets met in full array. I first had Jutland when I was 14 years old and played many a battle pitting battleships, battlecruisers, and light ships against each other for dominance of the seas. I wore out my first copy and had to pick up a new copy about 8 years ago. While out of print, Jutland can still be obtained on E-bay for a reasonable price on a regular basis.

Jutland is not your normal wargame. This is easily ascertained since there is no game board. It in fact plays much like a miniatures game. First, there is the search phase. Each side uses a small map to plot movement across the North Sea and search for the enemy by calling out coordinates. When ships are sighted in the same hex; then play shifts to the battle zone using the ship counters, maneuver gauge, and range finder. The latter two are really just fancy terms for rulers that are used to move ships, and determine the distance between ships.

The heart of the game is the tactical resolution of battles between forces. The tactical game consists of each side moving their ships using the aforementioned maneuver gauge, and then simultaneous combat with ships firing at their opponents. After six turns, a hour has passed in game terms and forces on the operational map can move further, and possibly intervene in the fight.

Movement is simple. Each ship (or group of ships for light cruisers and destroyers), has a movement factor, and may move up to that amount on the maneuver gauge. Ships are restricted in movement in terms of staying in formation. Ships normally have to be grouped in columns of at least 3 ships and move together either in column or line abreast. The maneuver gauge is rounded at one end to depict the minimal turning radius of capital ships as well. The Germans have one advantage in that they can conduct their battle turn away with all ships turning at the same time reversing course of a column. The British are limited in which they must turn in succession.

There are two types of combat in Jutland, gunnery, followed by torpedo combat. All ships have a record on the Hit Record Chart with the ships protection factor, gunnery boxes, and torpedoes (destroyers only). Gunnery combat consists of counting up the gunnery boxes that can fire on the appropriate arc (left/right broadside, bow and stern), and then rolling on the appropriate column of the gunnery table. The table will give the number of hits on the target or whether a critical hit has been inflicted. Hits on a target mark off boxes on the hit record (thus reducing the gunnery factors), or if no boxes are left inflict flotation hits.

Combat is affected by range. For battleships and battlecruisers, hits are normal from 10,000 yards to 16,000 yards. The number of hits is doubled from 3,000 yards to 9,999 yards, and tripled less than 3,000 yards. Over 16,000 yards, all hits are halved.

Critical Hits are special types of damage that affect the operations of a ship. They include gun director hits, steering hits, and even possible magazine explosions that sink the ship outright. These add a lot of flavor to the game.

Torpedo combat works in a similar way. A destroyer flotilla has a number of torpedo factors and then rolls on the torpedo combat table for a number of hits of a flotation critical hit. Torpedoes while dangerous, take place after gunnery combat so ships have a chance to sink the destroyers prior to launching. This is tough since torpedoes only have a max range of 6,000 yards. Also, if the range is above 3,000, then targeted ships can declare that they are turning to “comb” the torpedo attack and avoid it altogether. If they chose this option then they must forgo the next turn’s gunnery.

Ships can sink in two ways; by accumulating flotation hits over time equal to the protection factor, or by receiving gunnery hits equal to the protection factor in one turn. Flotation hits also slow down a targets movement.

The fleets in Jutland are roughly evenly matched, and each side has its own advantages as was historically the case. The British start with an advantage in numbers. They have more of every type of ship from battleship to destroyer. In particular, their destroyer flotillas have up to 15 ships and are hard to take out when on the attack. The British battlecruisers also enjoy a small speed advantage while the battleships generally have better gunnery (about a 2 factor advantage on average).

The Germans however enjoy a big advantage in protection factors, making them much harder to sink. On average, the German battleships (and BCs) have a 12 protection factor while the Brit BBs have only an 8. It gets worse on for the Brits with the battlecruisers. The Invincible class ships have a protection factor of only 4, making them far from invincible. This fact alone encourages the Germans to close range to under 10,000 yards with doubled hits making it very uncomfortable for the British. I would also say that it also ahistorically leads both sides to concentrate their fire so that ships are sunk outright.

Overall, the game plays well, and gives one the feel for commanding a large battlefleet. There are some options available adding things such as smoke, and more search options that are well worth using. For me, it hits the sweet spot of playability while giving enough detail for a good impression of the battles. I also like the fact that the game starts with a search, and is not just a replay of the historical battle. In this case, both sides are aiming to get into action with just a fraction of their opponent while using the full weight of their own battle line. Of course, this doesn’t work most times, and you end up with a big brawl anyway. But it is fun!

Lastly, I would just like to mention that while many talk of gymnasium floors and such to play this game, that’s just not true. Using the game scale, any table or flat surface of 5 ft by 5 ft is more than enough for a great fleet battle.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Good review of a good game. I'm selling my copy because I don't see myself playing this game very often and I'd rather someone else have a game that they can enjoy.
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Garry Harless
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Played this game when I was a teen. It an all the old 60's Avalon Hill games were great. Can't see it now though, I'm to old to play on the floor but, if I had a copy I might teach my grandson.
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Nathan James
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Jeff Schulte wrote:
I would also say that it also ahistorically leads both sides to concentrate their fire so that ships are sunk outright.


I don't too much about naval combat, but it seems that it would naturally be the best strategy to try to eliminate one ship's ability to return fire rather than spread your fire across the entire enemy fleet.

Does anyone know why this would not be good tactics in the historical battle? Or simply why it didn't happen?
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Jeff S
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The problem with concentration of fire in this time period is that ships relied on spotting their own splashes to adjust their fire onto the target. When you have more than one ship firing on the same target, it makes it much more difficult for the fire directors to correctly spot their own fire and make those necessary adjustments to keep fire on the target.
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James Lowry
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True. Hmm. An interesting bit of chrome for a WWI naval game would be for penalties to hit if more than one ship is firing on a target....
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David Seddon
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Well, the Germans get a massive advantage if you allow several ships to fire at one target. The British ships will blow up on a certain number of hits - esp BCs.

Actually the diff between some of the classes was not as much as the game suggests, and with others it was bigger. I did a personalised hit sheet to reflect this.

It's a great game though! One of my top 10.
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Leo Zappa
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Jeff Schulte wrote:
The problem with concentration of fire in this time period is that ships relied on spotting their own splashes to adjust their fire onto the target. When you have more than one ship firing on the same target, it makes it much more difficult for the fire directors to correctly spot their own fire and make those necessary adjustments to keep fire on the target.


This is very true. Additionally, the other tactical problem that arises when multiple ships concentrate their fire on one enemy vessel instead of each ship firing at its opposite number is that you end up with one or more enemy ships that are allowed to fire unmolested at their opposite number! A ship that is not under fire could fire more effectively (spotters not disturbed by hits or splashes from near misses, ship maintaining a steady course, ...etc.) This is not really represented in the game per se, but I'd still rather have my ships fire at their opposite numbers than to fire at one ship, unless my ships are tactically inferior on a one-to-one basis with those of the enemy. In that case, I'm trying to disengage anyways!
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Dave Townsend
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Quote:
Overall, the game plays well, and gives one the feel for commanding a large battlefleet.


Nice review, and it's nice to see the old gal getting some attention, but I disagree with the second half of the above sentence.

Historically, Beatty couldn't get his BCs to fire on the proper targets; either his signalling was poor and/or 5BS interpreted them wrong with the result that the best British squadron headed alone towards the Germans as the BCs retreated; Jellicoe spent most of the battle not quite knowing exactly where the Germans were or what was going on.

The game presents the strategic situation reasonably well, but you won't see any of the above in the game.
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Chris Montgomery
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desertfox2004 wrote:
Jeff Schulte wrote:
The problem with concentration of fire in this time period is that ships relied on spotting their own splashes to adjust their fire onto the target. When you have more than one ship firing on the same target, it makes it much more difficult for the fire directors to correctly spot their own fire and make those necessary adjustments to keep fire on the target.


This is very true. Additionally, the other tactical problem that arises when multiple ships concentrate their fire on one enemy vessel instead of each ship firing at its opposite number is that you end up with one or more enemy ships that are allowed to fire unmolested at their opposite number! A ship that is not under fire could fire more effectively (spotters not disturbed by hits or splashes from near misses, ship maintaining a steady course, ...etc.) This is not really represented in the game per se, but I'd still rather have my ships fire at their opposite numbers than to fire at one ship, unless my ships are tactically inferior on a one-to-one basis with those of the enemy. In that case, I'm trying to disengage anyways!


It think it should also be noted here, that this was the true beginning of the age when ships were firing at each other from MILES away. In this particular era, it was the first true test of modern navies (if you discount the Russo-Japanese conflict (around the turn of the century?).

At any rate, hundreds of rounds had to be fired over (usually) hours in order to get just a very small percentage of hits.

That's why subs were so nasty. They could disengage easier, sink a ship (by hitting below the water line) faster, for a lot cheaper in both shells and boats, with less exposure (though the rules of engagement did require submarines to surface and signal their nationality and intent to fire ).

Nice review, Jeff!

Sorry about the rambling post. I love WWI.

Chris
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George Robertson
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Rindis wrote:
True. Hmm. An interesting bit of chrome for a WWI naval game would be for penalties to hit if more than one ship is firing on a target....


Something like this appears in Avalanche Press's Second World War at Sea series rules (1st ship fires with 100% gunnery factors, other ships firing at same target with 50% factors); I don't think it's in the original rules for their Great War at Sea series, but it's included among the advanced tactical rules published separately in their scenario book Great War at Sea: Dreadnoughts, where the second ship firing at the same target gets a 25% reduction in gunnery factors, the third gets 50%, etc.
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