(This article originally appeared in Volume 21, Issue 4 of the NWS Journal, "Battlefleet")
Like most people who use General Quarters (GQ) , I took to them because their bias matched my own i.e. they were simple, quick and allowed actions with sizeable forces. As time went on however, and I used the rules with other players with different perspectives, we found that they were in fact if anything too quick and impaired tactical use of smaller ships to such a point that in some cases they were unable to operate. We also found that the wargamers habit of playing the rules was having a detrimental effect on the games. Therefore, in making the rule modifications we hoped to :
i. Slow down some aspects of gunnery damage.
ii. Encourage 'realistic' tactical use of ship types.
iii. Reduce the time spent in resolving less important aspects.
The modifications made have been evolutionary and we have found that different aspects have been used at different times and for different situations. Suffice to say in six months we shall undoubtedly have changed some of them again.
1.1 Evasive/Straddle Chasing
Any ship capable of movement of at least 6". Numerous examples are available of large ships straddle chasing, to impede incoming fire. Clearly, such manoeuvring effects the ships own gunnery.
Usually banned, the number of surface ships rammed deliberately in WWI/WWII were very few, many wargamers in desperation use it. We still allow accidental collisions, but more as a penalty for poor manoeuvring!
Allow these to fire their main armament and heavy secondary armament together but count them all as the smaller gun. e.g. Lord Nelson combines the attack factor of the 12" and 9.2" guns at the discretion of the commander but the attack is resolved as if all are 9.2.
2.2 Unusual WWII Calibre's
British 7.5" Use GQ Part II attack values with Pt I 6" penetration values and straddle chart.
Italian 12.6" Use 8" range and straddle bands with 11"-12" armour penetration.
French13.4" Use 8" range and straddle bands with 11"- 12" armour penetration
2.3 Old Weapons
When ships have not been modernised use the tables from GQ Part II for straddle and penetration factors. e.g. US 12" gun Battleships should use the 12"G table.
Non-Standard Straddle table
Further work is required on these modifications the ranges are approximately
correct (according to Naval Weapons of WWII), but armour penetration needs
3.1 Night Illumination to Aid Gunnery (vs Surface Ships)
While this was theoretically possible by a number of navies in WWII, it was actually very rarely successfully carried out and according to the FAA museum rarely, if ever carried out by ship based aircraft of the FAA in WWII.
3.2 Gunnery Spotting
I have a series of notes taken from an article in Proceedings (?) discussing gunnery spotting just before WWII and the following conclusions were drawn :
Spotter aircraft made no appreciable difference to gunnery under 20,000 yards, where they caused significant improvement was beyond this distance and within visibility of the firing ship. If the target was out of sight of the firing ship, there were problems in indicating the line and recommended methods were to fly directly over the target or drop parachute flares over them either way was a bit haphazard.
4.1 Long Lance Torpedoes
Due to the heavy warhead count damage on ships one column to the left.
4.2 Long Range Course Estimation
Make only one course estimation instead of two required by the rules. Even using this modification we rarely hit at long range.
Ships with automatic reloading facilities may have one set of tubes reloaded in 3 bounds instead of 5 with the usual conditions.
4.4 Torpedo Danger Zone
a. Using the original rules convention, if an attack is made against ship 2 and the course estimation is 'maintain' the attack will completely miss, even though for part of the time at least ship 3 is in the danger zone. Therefore it is suggested that any ship within the danger zone and within 9" of the target ships original position should have an attack resolved against it. Always reduce the number of torpedoes by 2 any attacks that fall off the table cannot hit.
b. A torpedo firing marker is placed at the launch position. The marker should have the number of torpedoes and the zone into which they have been fired following movement the profile is placed at the launch site, and every ship within the arc resolves a torpedo attack.
In this case a torpedo attack is resolved on targets 1 and 2 if the course estimation is B, on target 3 if the estimation is C, and none at all if the estimation is A. Allow a reduction of -2 to the number of torpedoes and ignore any attacks that fall off the table!
4.5 Radar Guided Torpedo Attacks
By mid 1943, radar directed torpedo attacks were possible although never very common. To make a radar guided attack the target must be in radar contact for two full bounds prior to launch. Attacks will be made as usual with an additional -2 to the number of torpedoes.
5. Ship Damage
Instead of reducing speed by ¼ for each hull box, the third box and fourth box have the same speed (50%) and the final box the last speed 2" or 3", the WWI convention is used to sink vessels. Critical hit damage 6-7 will reduce speed to the next slowest box ie not necessarily the next box.
6. Gunnery Combat
6.1 Modified Straddle Adjustment
-1 Beyond 80" visible to ship
+0 Outside visibility of ship any range
|Flotilla Vessel||+1 To account for poor gun platform|
|Ship changes course by <= 2 points||+1|
|Ship changes course by > 3 points||X Cease Fire|
|Target Cruiser/DD||+2 At more than Minimum Range*|
|Changing Target without 1 bound pause||+1|
|Target in Evade||+1|
|Firing Vessel in Evade||+1|
|Firing through Smoke||+3 Never allow more than 2:1 A.F|
|Firing at Lead Vessel Making Smoke||+1 As Above|
6.2 Modified Gunnery Rules
i. All ships may take evasive action. Subject to a maximum speed of at least 6"
ii. Guns capable of rapid fire may do so at beyond minimum range providing the previous salvo straddled. [Only if ammunition expenditure is taken into account]
iii. Beyond minimum range cruisers (*) fired on by >9.2" and DD/TBD engaged with any calibre only resolve attacks of 2:1 irrespective of the ratio.
iv. No gun larger than 6" may fire at DD/TBD (WWI)
v. LOF is stopped by every ship larger than a DD/TBD (WWI)
TBD/DD may be fired over at all ranges with adjustment for smoke.
vi. No firing through gaps smaller than 4"
vii. Ships outside of Divisional Formation may not conduct attacks with their primary batteries.
viii. Ships with heavy secondary batteries e.g. 9.2"/10" may combine the attack factor of the both batteries using the smaller straddle and penetration chart.
ix. When ships make smoke to curtail the turn into its own smoke by the
leading vessel it may still be fired at with the modifier above and with
limited A.F i.e. 2: 1 at whatever range. Ships behind smoke maybe engaged
with a +3 to straddle roll and A.F limited to 2: 1 [Note : Torpedoes may
not be fired through smoke]
(*) Except Armoured Cruisers!
Most of the above are self explanatory, in most accounts light ships survived surprisingly well against heavy guns, hopefully the modifications above reflect this.
(vii.) Assumes that a ship falls out of formation for some reason, and that while it makes repairs, avoids torpedoes etc gunnery is so adversly effected it doesn't occur, this rule also encourages formal tactics.
7.1 Smoke Floats
Each DD/TB may carry a maximum of 2 smoke floats these must be allocated at the beginning of the game. On deploying them a puff of smoke is placed in the starting position of the ship a single cotton wool puff is put down.
On the second and subsequent move another is placed down wind in contact on the 4th the last is removed etc. During this period the float will also drift down wind 1" per wind force.
Future Trends :
These are a major problem in large games, they take a disproportionate time to resolve and generally contribute little if anything. In large games we are considering the following :
i. Stopping all secondary fire until minimum range is reached, OR
ii. Having two straddle bands effective and minimum with a flat D10 roll of 3,
at effective, and 6 at minimum without any modifiers.
To reduce the number of rolls for destroyers, consideration is being given to the following.
In each case the only modifiers to take effect will be RFC and evading.
These ideas are based upon RN Destroyer Battle Instructions 1938, which indicate that effective range for destroyers was 9,000 yards, and that between 9,000 and 5,000 yards fire would be directed by divisions. Only when the range had closed to within 5,000 yards would individual fire be opened.
The above are modifications we have applied at Deal Wargames Society and at the Naval Wargames Society games in Kent, some have had the desired effect others less so, we apply modifications as required for the game in question. This is probably due to the fact that we try to tailor the rules to fit everything from a light forces skirmish to a Fleet action involving up to 100 models.
We have found that the gunnery modifiers encourage rather more formal tactics, and have reduced the slightly unusual tactics employed in some games, the famous High Seas Fleet wagon train manoeuvre at Jutland 1915. (forget the battle turnaway, form a circle; chaps!), and the Hook Doughnut manoeuvre (where a destroyer division forms a high speed tight circle making smoke) to name but two.
By reducing the effect of heavy longer range fire on light forces, scouting can be more realistically achieved, and screening of heavy units needs to be done by cruisers and destroyers, although an unsupported thrust into close range is still heavily punished.
I hope that I have been able to explain some of our reasons and ideas for modifying the rules, and that some of you will find them of some use.