There is nothing like being on the end of a good beating in a wargame, to make you question the rules to which you are playing. In the refight of Calabria at Mortimer (September 1997), an incident occurred which called some aspects of the General Quarters (GQ) gunnery system into question. The event was the almost total trashing of the Italian cruiser Trento by long range fire from one of the British battleships in an single turn. Now, whilst the pasting in short order of a cruiser at close range was to have a historical precedent at Matapan a few months later in the war, such events simply did not happen with longer ranged fire. At the time of the game I was not complaining (I was after all commanding one of the British forces), but a comment by Andy Jose, who was one of the Italian commanders, got me thinking back to a Jutland refight where I was on the receiving end of a similar pasting.
The problem with GQ is this. Apart from the very short range fire (within minimum range), whilst the probability of scoring a straddling hit varies with range, the range of damage effects does not. At minimum range the expected amount of damage increases, but does not decrease at longer ranges. Now this variation should be expected; as range increases the spread of a salvo will tend tend to increase, and rates of fire are likely to be reduced as increased time of flight and the need to spot the fall of shot bring longer intervals between salvoes. Things are not perfect at close range either. As the the rules stand, damage to hull and armament increases by the same proportion once Minimum Range has been reached. Yet there are many instances of ships being pounded at close range surviving for far longer than would be expected (Bismark is a classic example, Wiesbaden at Jutland another). Some can be explained by reasoning that ships were often engaged far past the stage where enough damage had been inflicted to cause them to sink (ships take a finite to go down), but remember also that at close range the trajectory of a shell will be near horizontal. In this case, shell hits will be far more likely to damage upper works of the ship (knocking down the superstructure, disabling guns, etc.), rather than hitting low in the hull and letting in water(i.e. actually sinking the ship). This sort of fire will be very effective at scrubbing weapons and control systems off the hull, but after a while it becomes an exercise in moving debris from one part of the deck to another, and does not do a lot to break up the watertight integrity of thre ship. What is really needed to cater for both these situations is a revised Gunnery damage Table which reduces overall damage at long range, whilst distributing a higher proportion of armament and "system" hits at close range.
The solution presented here is to replace the single Gunnery Damage Table with three tables. Table 1 is used at Long ranges (where unmodified score for a hit is 0 to 3). Table 2 covers medium range gunnery (score 4 - 6), whilst Table 3 deals with Minimum range gunnery (score 7 - 9).
Table 1 reduces the overall amount of damage inflicted. It is still possible to inflict a punishing hit, but the near nuclear effect of a full salvo has been reduced. Mid-range gunnery is the same as under the current system, whilst at short ranges the number of Armament hits is increased, with a corresponding decrease in Hull hits.
NOTE: The number of hull and armament boxes crossed off at Long and Medium ranges are the same (e.g. a 2:1 hit at long range rolling a double 2 would eliminate 1 hull and 1 armament box - plus a critical hit). At Minimum range the amount of damage varies - the same die roll in the same circumstances but at Minimum Range would eliminate 1 hull and 2 armament boxes.
GQ follows a broadly linear relationship as far as speed reduction and damage are concerned. GQ isn't alone in that - most naval rules include somethin along the lines of "50% damage or 50% loss of power (1/2 of the boiler rooms lost) gives a 50% reduction in speed". The relationship between speed and power isn't like that in real life, as a look at the accompanying frigate power/speed curve will show. Speed reduction should be gradual at first, with a sharper dropping off to immobility as damage increases. Certainly an examination of warship damage assesments and after action reports will show this to be the case without having to resort to Naval Architectural Analysis! Anyway the upshot of all this is that more realistic representation of speed loss from hull damage could be as shown in the Speed reduction Table below. The multipliers in the first row are values by which the original speed (i.e the GQ speed in the left most hull box) is multiplied. However, the table gives the full range of values for speeds from 5 to 16, which should cover most vessels in the rules.