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Rule the Waves 2: To January, 1923

Sorry for the delay. Mount and Blade 2 is out.

January 1921

Last week’s readership made three strong suggestions:

  1. Stick with new battleships, rather than big refreshes of old ships. (I may still do one now and again, as budget allows, just to start bringing the fleet speed up to 24 or 25 knots.)
  2. Build some airbases in northern France, given the proximity of that part of the country to two major potential foes.
  3. Build another seaplane carrier or two. The most important thing aviation can do for us right now is to provide fleet scouting, and seaplane carriers are a way to do that without spending aircraft carrier money.

To those suggestions, I add my own item:

  1. Start refreshing our old light cruisers with a new, cheap model for foreign service.

We’ll see how much we get done. I’ll start with two airbases, one at Cherbourg and one at Dunkerque.

February 1921

We have a shot at an alliance. I try Britain again, but they turn us down.

April 1921

A mild crisis (a cruiser of ours runs aground off of a neutral power’s shore while conducting wireless intercept operations) sees tensions up to about the midpoint with Germany, Austria, Italy, and Britain, but buys us some extra budget in exchange.

July 1921

Nieuport gets the nod for our next-generation flying boat. It’s quite a bit faster than our old one, and has a range in excess of 250 nautical miles—an excellent scout.

September 1921

001

The British aren’t messing around with their new dreadnought.

October 1921

The money’s on hand for a seaplane carrier now. This one is somewhat more capable than our previous two.

002

In particular, it has AA guns, and carries 10 seaplanes instead of 5. It should make a good fleet scout in the future.

February 1922

With the seaplane carrier well on its way, I can now turn my attention to a light cruiser.

003

I wanted to call the class Lavoisier, but forgot I still have some of those around. I settled for Condillac instead, and will call the first ship Lavoisier.

May 1922

The Germans are saber-rattling again; tensions continue to creep upwards with them.

June 1922

A peace conference in the midst of tensions with Germany produces no results, but does slightly lower tensions across the board.

July 1922

The Austrians catch a French spy. I elect to make him a national hero, but the Austrians barely respond to the provocation.

September 1922

The defense minister wants 15 new destroyers building. I don’t intend to have that many going at once, but I am willing to take his money and try a new design.

004

The Glaive class has six torpedo tubes, four turrets in a superfiring-fore-and-aft arrangement, mines, and a moderately heavy anti-aircraft armament.

October 1922

We’ve secured a new colony in Albania! The only problem is that it bumped tensions with Germany considerably above the halfway mark.

January 1923

All in all, a quiet two years, although war with Germany is looking increasingly likely.

Interlude: Fleet Exercise

I wanted to show some of the ups and downs of early carrier combat, and the fleet exercise is a natural way to handle that. Pay a bit of cash, get some fleet experience in return.

Money is a bit too tight for that, though, so I’m going to savescum it as an exercise in battle-writing. In-universe, we’ll say it’s junior staff officers messing around with chits and a mapboard.

005

1:20 p.m.

Amiral Charner, our lone CVL, cruises in company with two light cruisers, three destroyers, and a seaplane carrier. Altogether, they are Team Red. The enemy fleet, Team Blue, is Redoubtable, a mid-tier battleship, and an exact mirror of Team Red’s supporting force.

We’ve started at standard range, because this whole aircraft carrier thing is very new, and we’re not sure how it’s going to play out.

As a quick reminder, Amiral Charner‘s air group is eight fighters and fourteen torpedo bombers.

Given that Team Red knows Team Blue is in the area, Amiral Charner prepares a strike. She has room on deck to spot thirteen planes. I expect we’ll have the enemy in sight before crowding out our CAP becomes a problem.

006

1:33 p.m.

Our light cruisers, ten miles in Amiral Charner‘s van, spot the enemy. The carrier and her supporting seaplane carrier turn away, while the light cruisers prepare to run interference—and hopefully spot the enemy battleship.

007
The red specks are aircraft formations.

The wind is out of the east-northeast, problematic given the range and location of the enemy forces.

1:55 p.m.

The light cruisers spot an enemy ship sailing a) toward the battle and b) solo, which is probably the battleship.

2:30 p.m.

The light cruisers and scouts confirm that it is indeed the battleship.

A strike takes a little while to ready and spot, and in the meantime, reconnaissance aircraft and CAP planes are returning, clogging the deck.

3:45 p.m.

By the time that the deck is clear, and that your intrepid correspondent remembers that he has to check the boxes next to the aircraft rows to actually give them orders, not just highlight the rows, the opportunity is lost. The January sunset fades into a wintery night, and the scenario ends without combat.

008

We’ll try this again in the summer, provided we aren’t at war with someone by then.

Plans and Intentions

Research

We uncovered two major technological items: improved directors on the fire control front, and torpedo protection 3, which adds (still more) weight but protects better against torpedoes.

Our current research priorities are naval aviation, anti-submarine technology, and turrets and gun mountings. Should we leave it that way, or focus on other items (light forces, guns, amphibious operations, machinery and hull design, other things)?

Shipbuilding

Ocean is nearly complete—she’ll be ready in three months. Should we build a slightly improved version when she’s done, improving her fire control and torpedo protection?

Should we perhaps build a battleship with an eye toward survivability in the coming age of aircraft? That is, heavy deck armor, lots of room for anti-aircraft firepower, and battlecruiser speed? Should we hold off on more battleships altogether?

Soon, we’ll be able to convert ships to full-size carriers. The 24-knot Duquesnes seem like perfect candidates—their machinery is very old, so giving them reasonable speed should be easy, and they have the displacement to support an air wing of decent size.

Other ships on the ways include Commandant Teste, our large seaplane carrier, three light cruisers to take over some colonial duties, and three Glaive-class destroyers (with minelaying technology!). Should I build another seaplane carrier, or lean harder on the light forces?

In more general terms, at present, our destroyers are about 35 knots, our light cruisers and battlecruisers go 27 to 29 knots, and our battle line goes 22. Is it worth rebuilding the slower ships in the battle line (the Redoubtables, Requin) to get their speeds up to, say, 24 knots? Should I push for faster light forces?

Diplomacy

France is again a middle-tier naval power:

009

Germany has an edge on us if you count dreadnought ships in total. The US and the UK are both far ahead. Austria-Hungary, Italy, and Japan are clearly inferior.

010

Tensions are middling. Germany is rattling sabers again.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Apr. 1, 2020)

Full isolation continues. Food and ammunition stocks holding out well.

No April Fool’s jokes here. We’re all business.

Wuhan Coronavirus: Maps and Data

Wuhan Coronavirus: Other

Defense

History

The Final Frontier (it’s Space)

Grab Bag

  • The crude oil market is broken – Worldwide oil demand is down by 25%. Wyoming Asphalt Sour, was bid at -$0.19—they’ll pay you to take it. Also, apparently, there are only about 700 oil refineries worldwide1.

  1. Unrelated, but I found out this last week that there are 700,000 active ham radio licenses in the US. I would have never guessed that community is some 20 times larger than the USPSA community. 

Rule the Waves 2: To January, 1921

Quarantine continues, as does the war.

February 1919

Our modern light cruiser Linois, patrolling the Mediterranean for Italian raiders, happens upon one of Italy’s ancient (1900-era) Nino Bixio light cruisers, and quickly sends it to the bottom.

March 1919

001

Not only does this choice give us prestige, it might keep Italy in the war long enough for our current shipyard efforts to come to fruition.

002

Research has now advanced to give us the full benefit of something I’ve been doing all along (leaving off the belt end and deck end armor for weight reasons).

April 1919

003

Loire has a clear winner as far as torpedo bombers go: 90-knot speed, range of 77 nautical miles with a torpedo and 141 when serving as a scout. As soon as it enters service, I’ll start setting up our airbases with slightly fewer flying boats and fighters, so we can start covering the Mediterranean better.

It’s time for a new fighter prototype, too; speed and range seemed like the most broadly popular priorities.

Italian submarines sink a pair of French destroyers; we’ll have to build a few more (now with depth charges and AA guns!) when our near-term projects (a light cruiser, the Amiral Charner CVL conversion) finish.

May 1919

In a strong gale in the central Red Sea, Tourville and a trio of old light cruisers, supporting the invasion of Eritrea, attack an Italian convoy with supplies for the defending troops. The only ships the Italians have here are armed merchant cruisers; though Tourville is no longer quite the ship she once was, she’s still more than capable of sending 13 merchants to the bottom in the space of about 20 minutes.

Our torpedo bomber enters service. I start pushing it out to our various airbases. It appears that we’ve developed dive bombers as well; once the current fighter procurement process winds down, I’ll start on one of those.

June 1919

Regrettably, the war ends before the shipyards can quite clear their backlogs.

To save a bit on new destroyers, I embark rebuilding my ancient ones. The Francisques and Fauconneaus were valuable parts of my trade protection strategy; if I’m going to keep them around, I might as well spruce them up a bit.

On the matter of new ship classes, I’m going to hold off until January 1920, when oil trade becomes widespread enough for me to build oil-fired ships despite not having any oil locally.

September 1919

004

Loire wins again on fighters. Time to get a dive bomber design under production.

Correction: nobody’s actually figured out dive bombers yet—the aircraft types dialog lets you filter by types you can’t build, presumably so you can see other countries’ attempts at same—so that’ll have to wait.

October 1919

The very brief period of French dreadnought superiority is quickly coming to an end, since the war ended the naval treaty and the British and Germans (and Americans, for that matter) are free to kick their battleship programs back into high gear.

005

For example, this German ship is tremendously scary.

Light on AA, though.

March 1920

Two major inventions this month: director-controlled firing for secondary batteries and light cruisers, and dual-purpose mounts for 3″ and 4″ guns. The next battleship is going to be brilliant.

006-ocean

Named after one of our predreadnoughts, the Ocean class has 8 14″ guns in two quad turrets forward (a French specialty!), better armor than her German opponents, and 26-knot speed. Her secondary guns are director-fired, dual-purpose mounts, and she mounts a number of light AA guns around her superstructure as well.

Why eight guns instead of twelve? It saves about 500 funds per month, and given that we’re very limited in our battleship construction for budgetary reasons, it makes sense to reserve a bit extra for light forces.

April 1920

The Flamberge-class, a new destroyer type, will be entering service soon, with three 4″ guns, six torpedo tubes, 35-knot speed, and extra depth charge stowage.

I decide it’s about time to scrap the old Trident-class predreadnoughts; now that there are new battleships in the offing, our next few targets for conversion will be Tourville and Dunkerque.

August 1920

The first Ocean enters production, and will arrive in 32 months. Given peacetime budget constraints, we’re likely to be on a one-ship-per-class diet for some time to come.

December 1920

All quiet this year. We host an international regatta, reducing tensions, and join an international squadron sent to contain violence from a revolution in Africa, bumping our budget up somewhat.

There are seven of our new Flamberge-class destroyers in the shipyards now, along with Ocean, and we just worked out how to do purpose-built aircraft carriers. I’m going to see what I can do for a CVL design.

January 1921

Our CVLs can carry at most 34 planes, which we can do, plus anti-air guns but sans armor, for 1,800 funds a month over 20 months. That’s more aircraft at a lower cost than our Gueydon conversion.

Status

All’s well. Our budget, at 20,158 per month, is about a battleship per year below its wartime peak, and we’re 218 funds per month in the black (with seven destroyers and one battleship under construction).

Our prestige is 48, a new peak for us. Tensions are low across the board.

The fleet is in good shape. We have eight ships classified as battleships and two as battlecruisers, although I would hedge that by saying that only five of those are first-line ships now (the two Redoubtables, Requin, and the two Rouen-class battlecruisers), and the Redoubtables will be obsolescent soon. Our dreadnought ships are, however, either new or recently rebuilt, so we should have them on hand for a good little while.

We have a pair of heavy cruisers of reasonable efficiency for the first time in a while, the 27-knot, 8″-armor, 9″-gun Montcalm class.

In light cruisers, we have nine obsolete ships, largely on foreign stations, but they’re small and still relatively cheap to maintain. We have ten new-model light cruisers, with more centerline turrets and 27- or 28-knot speed. They do, however, predate anti-air armament, so we’ll have to fix that eventually.

We have one aircraft carrier at present, the converted Amiral Charner, and two seaplane carriers, Seine-et-Marne and Savigny-et-Temple. In terms of air power generally, we’re on top of the world leaderboard, with 272 fixed-wing aircaft and 24 zeppelins. We have a good network of air bases across the Mediterranean, including on Corsica and Sardinia to threaten Italy, and in Greece and Libya to contain Austria-Hungary.

Finally, we have 41 destroyers in service and 7 more coming soon. Somewhat more than half of them are modern, with speeds in excess of 33 knots, lots of torpedo tubes, and three or more guns. The remainder are recently-rebuilt old ships, which will play the corvette role in future wars.

Plans and Intentions

There are a few things we might want to consider doing as we roll into the 1920s.

  1. Expand air bases in northern France, to support the fleet in the event of a war against Britain or Germany. This plan is not likely to pay off immediately.
  2. Build a new class of gunboat-style light cruisers (or even large corvettes) to replace our obsolete foreign service cruisers. We can really pack the armament in on the centerline now, and give them dual-purpose guns so they aren’t totally helpless. Our war strategy to date has involved decisive battles in home waters, so whatever we send overseas is largely for the purpose of keeping merchants happy that we have something overseas.
  3. Rebuild our older battleships to use oil fuel, which will let us eke out a few more knots, throw in some anti-air firepower, and perhaps upgrade to better guns in some cases. Each rebuild will cost a little less than a new battleship month over month, and finish in about one-third the time. The downside is that we’ll end up with a fleet with smaller guns. The upside is that it’ll be more advanced in other ways.
  4. Continue to build new battleships. At present, our budget allows us to build one at a time, alongside some other smaller ships. It would be surprising if we get to the point where we could build two at a time without getting very close to another war.
  5. Build a CVL or two. They take about 20 months to build, cost about 1,800 funds per month (half of what a battleship does), and carry 34 planes, as mentioned above. On the downside, they’re vulnerable to air attack themselves, and the Mediterranean is full of unsinkable aircraft carriers (i.e., islands).

So, what should we make our priority for the next few years? Something from the list above? Something else entirely?

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Mar. 25, 2020)

Up to full isolation here at the world headquarters.

Wuhan Bat Soup Death Plague

Defense

Self-Defense (also Guns)

Grab Bag


  1. Chloroquine is often delivered in tablet form as chloroquine phosphate (which is also sold as a fish tank algaecide). Hydroxychloroquine has fewer side effects and is less toxic, so it can be given in larger doses. 

Rule the Waves 2: To January, 1919

With social distancing in full swing and last week’s break, I had plenty of time for a two-year update, and it’s an eventful one.

January 1917

Four ships go into the yards for a rebuild: Tourville and Dunkerque, the two remaining Duquesnes, along with Redoubtable and Marengo, our second-generation dreadnought battleships. Per a reader note, we have the time and budget. The Duquesnes, for whatever reason, will be in for a year—perhaps being overhauled because of their age?

February 1917

001-italy

Or do we?

I’ll issue the ultimatum to Italy; they’re nearby, and we can totally take them.

Tensions are high, but not to the breaking point yet. I order the rebuilding of our battleships accelerated.

March 1917

French naval engineers have managed to come up with a quality 9″ gun, which means it’s time for a heavy cruiser.

002-montcalm

Thoroughly modern-looking! We’ll have to get a few into production.

July 1917

No change on the tension situation, but with design studies now complete on the Montcalm class, the first one enters production, with the next to start in August.

August 1917

Just in time for a new ship class to enter service and most of our battleships to finish a rebuild cycle, we develop anti-aircraft guns.

October 1917

The Italians couldn’t stand our repeated provocations. War begins.

The first battle of the war: a raid on enemy coastal installations. It’s just after midday. One notable new thing is the presence of aviation elements: floatplanes from our airbase on Corsica, zeppelins from the base at Tunis (which could stand to have an airfield, I think).

003-battle

Our forces are the fast battleships (ex-battlecruisers) Lyon and Marseilles, each armed with 6 15″ guns and capable of 24 knots, escorted by five destroyers.

Happening upon two old armored cruisers, the Lyons, unblooded in the last war, prove their worth quickly. Seven hits on one of the Italian cruisers and eight on the other prove sufficient to sink the two old ships.

Either French gunnery or French technology has improved sufficiently to score hits dealing critical damage to the enemy at something like 20,000 yards.

The enemy fleet was out in force, however, and when the fog of war lifts at the end of the battle, we find them not too far behind us.

004

November 1917

The Italians decline a fleet battle—probably the right move, in view of our overwhelming superiority.

December 1917

And again, they decline a cruiser battle.

January 1918

The French fleet sorties in response to an Italian coastal raid. It’s a beautiful morning, and the enemy is in sight.

005-battle start

The Battle of Nice

On the field today are eight French battleships (four of which were originally battlecruisers, reclassified after their last rebuild), one battlecruiser in the scouting force, a bevy of light cruisers and destroyers, and a number of aircraft. The weather is partly cloudy with a gentle breeze out of the southwest.

10:08 a.m.

1008

The situation is already favorable: the Italian fleet is divided, with the battlecruisers to the east of our fleet and the battleships to the south. As I recall, the Italian battleship line is slower than our own, so that’s where my focus will be at first.

… the aftermath (or is it?)

In the final reckoning, it goes down as a boring battle. The Italians are faster than we are all around. Their battle line escapes. We sink an old pre-dreadnought, exchange a lot of shells to no great effect, and turn away as the Italian fleet does the same, both battered, none reduced.

Except that’s not what happens. Overnight, on the 12-knot journey back home, we come across one of the Italian Francisco Ferruccios, which blows up in a flash fire.

Then, shooting between our scouting force and our main force comes the entire Italian battlecruiser squadron.

2213

At 4,000 yards. At night. Into our swarm of 20-some destroyers.

The carnage is incredible. At the end of the day, all four Italian battlecruisers lie on the bottom of the Mediterranean, against zero French warships lost. Merest happenstance made it happen—the Italians, pushed to the southwest, made a high-speed run toward the coast to attempt to evade us in the night, and chanced to run right into us, at the range where our superior number of destroyers gave them no chance to escape.

February 1918

009

Italy makes a historical blunder.

The month’s battle is a coastal raid; the lone French battlecruiser Rouen takes a little jaunt in toward Italy, supported by a division of three battleships, blows up a bombardment target, and returns to Nice. Another thousand victory points, nice and easy-like.

Italy being close to France, we’re actually within invasion range. We’ll target Sardinia, which would be a wonderful feather in our cap and a second unsinkable aircraft carrier in close proximity to the Italian coast.

March 1918

Evidently, the invasion planning process is faster than I had hitherto realized. It’s the early afternoon of March 29th, and we’re approaching the western coast of Sardinia with an invasion force in tow.

The Invasion of Sardinia (1:37 p.m., March 29)

I’m going to have to mark this one up a bit.

010

Update: I forgot to mark it up before uploading it. I’ll just have to be better at describing things.

  1. Selected: the scouting force. The battlecruiser Rouen is joined by a pair of modern light cruisers and five destroyers.
  2. West-southwest of the scouting force: the main fleet. Our three most modern battleships (Requin, sole member of her class, plus Marseilles and Marengo), along with supporting light cruisers and destroyers.
  3. South of the scouting force: the support force. Three older ships (Devastation, Tourville, and Dunkerque) serve as distant escort to six transports.
  4. Southwest of the scouting force: the invasion force. Six transports, of which four have to reach the Sardinian coast for this mission to count as a success.
  5. On the Sardinian coast: our objective marker, along with submarines assigned in support of the fleet.

011

New things to worry about: aerial scouting! Ordinarily, the defaults are good enough, but in this case, with the enemy’s likely approach routes well-defined, I’ll tweak things a bit to see that we catch them.

2:00 p.m.

The two forces under my direct command (the main force and the scouting force) split off to the north and east of the northeastward line of advance the transports will have. They’ll form a sort of search line, keeping the sea between them in visual range while positioning themselves to make a quick dash to the flanks if need be.

2:47 p.m.

012

Aerial reconnaissance being, in 1918, rather a slow affair, our ships spot the enemy first.

3:00 p.m.

A second light cruiser appears. A search line, perhaps?

At this stage, the goal is to find and engage the enemy before dusk, after which he’ll have a much easier time of getting in among my transports. Rouen leaps forward, turbines whirring up to speed as she accelerates to her maximum 27 knots.

3:22 p.m.

013

What passes for the Italian battle line comes into view.

3:39 p.m.

014

Rouen opens fire, aiming to pass to the east of the enemy battleships, where she can keep tabs on them into the evening.

The main force closes toward gun range.

3:42 p.m.

Requin scores with her first volley.

These Italian dreadnoughts are of the Andrea Doria class, rough contemporaries with our Duquesnes. They’re armed with ten 13″ guns, and can fire a maximum of eight of them broadside. Our Requin, though it only has 12″ guns, mounts twelve, and can fire all twelve at a broadside target.

Armor, however, is where we really look smart. Requin has a 14″ belt. The Andrea Dorias have 9.5″. Even Rouen, our notional battlecruiser, is more heavily armored.

3:52 p.m.

015

The fleet is nearly perfectly placed for this battle, running on either side of the Italian ships at long range. Although Marengo can only make 22 knots, the rest of our fleet can keep up with or surpass the Italian dreadnoughts in speed.

4:52 p.m.

016

The Italian light cruisers, off to the northwest, try an attack on the battle line. We’ll see if they manage to get through the screen.

The Andrea Dorias are both down to around 10 knots now.

5:46 p.m.

One of the Andrea Dorias goes up in a flash fire. At 5:53, the other follows in the same manner.

19:22 p.m. (and overnight)

Night sees the remains of the Italian fleet scatter. We manage to find the transports, taking up station on either side to cover them through the night.

017

Aftermath

The invasion is in progress. Soon, hopefully, Sardinia will fall.

April 1918

The invasion doesn’t take long to bear fruit. Sardinia is ours.

May 1918

Stubbornly refusing to surrender, the Italians lose a pair of light cruisers to Rouen, who proceeds otherwise unopposed on a coastal raid.

June 1918

Well now, what’s all this about?

018

And, in news concerning the unluckiest name in the French Navy…

019

This is the third Lavoisier lost in combat. Who wants to skipper the next one?

July 1918

Now that CVLs are on the table, our last Gueydon class (Amiral Charner) gets a rebuild as a light aircraft carrier. Replacement machinery increases her speed to 26 knots, and she has room for an air wing of 22. She’ll be ready in a year.

Tensions are on the rise with Germany, but the sympathy of the world is with us.

August 1918

A quiet month; the Italians don’t even bother stopping a raid on their coast by a pair of light cruisers.

September 1918

The Italians move to raid the French coast, at which time the French fleet comes out to play.

In particular, Rouen comes out to play; the battlecruiser is as fast as the Italian light forces, and easily sends them to the bottom with accurate fire from her 12″ guns.

October 1918

Rouen and escorts attack an Italian convoy, which is defended by a single destroyer. Thirteen merchants sink.

November 1918

Two light cruisers raid the boot of Italy, coming within about twenty miles of Taranto, sinking two corvettes and returning to Greece (also a French possession, if you’d forgotten).

There are rumors of falling morale in the Italian fleet.

We begin construction of air bases in Benghazi, Libya and Patra, Greece, which will provide coverage of the west coast of Italy.

December 1918

I put in a request to France’s aircraft manufacturers for a torpedo bomber, something to give the air fleet some teeth. After that, we’ll update the fighters. See the end of this post for some questions on aircraft design priorities.

The month’s battle is a raid on the Italian coast. Rouen takes a torpedo, but since she’s a modern warship with good torpedo protection, she’s fine. We sink the destroyer that launched it, too.

Spies deliver blueprints of one of the Italian heavy cruisers under construction: slightly superior to our own in armament, but one knot slower.

020

January 1919

In this last month of the update, I start planning an invasion of Eritrea, which is, I believe, the last Italian territory small enough to invade. The battle is a convoy attack, in which we sink almost the whole convoy again.

Two-Year Report: Status

21

Money is a bit tight, with the invasion of Eritrea costing about as much as a low-end heavy cruiser would, but I’m not especially concerned. The fleet is in tip-top shape. Under construction is Rouen‘s sister ship, a trio of Montcalm-class heavy cruisers, one more Troude-class light cruiser, Amiral Charner‘s reconstruction, and the last of a class of corvettes designed to supplement the remaining Francisques.

Our prestige is at an all-time high.

Two-Year Report: Diplomacy

22

Tensions with Germany are high, but when the war with Italy ends (provided Germany doesn’t jump in), they’ll reset.

Plans and Intentions

There are a few things on my list:

  1. Continue to try to find an ally. I’m not sure if there’s anything I can do on that front beyond just being nice to people.
  2. Build out our aircraft carrier capabilities.
  3. Build a new, 14″ dreadnought battleship, possibly retiring the old Duquesnes or converting them to aircraft carriers, as time and budget allows.
  4. Build a new class of destroyer, mounting the recently-invented depth charge.
  5. Begin refitting older ships with anti-aircraft guns.

How should those tasks be prioritized? Should any of them be dropped? Should others be added?

I mentioned something about aircraft priorities earlier. When soliciting aircraft designs, we can pick among a number of priorities: speed, maneuverability, range, toughness, firepower, and reliability. We can further pick two to focus on. Which two should we focus on?

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Mar. 19, 2020)

We’re going into Day 4 of partial isolation here at Soapbox World HQ, and the news is all coronavirus-related.

Late-breaking: parvusimperator, back from vacation, has provided a few non-coronavirus links.

Wuhan Bat Soup Death Plague: Scare Pieces

WBSDP: Maps and Data

WBSDP: Other Useful Information

Books We’re Reading

  • Me: Masterpieces of Mystery – The Golden Age – Part II, selected by Ellery Queen.
  • John: Churchill, by Andrew Roberts, and then Chassepot to Famas by Gun Jesus, in the lovely preorder blue (bleu?).

Defense

Guns

Space

Lighter Notes

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Mar. 11, 2020)

Parvusimperator is on vacation this week, both from our day job and from the Soapbox, so with the exception of one or two items from the end of last week, this one’s all me.

Wuhan Bat Soup Death Plague

Defense

Science and Technology

Grab Bag


  1. Well, it’s not the coronavirus. It feels like a cold, so it might be a coronavirus. 
  2. If I weren’t sick, I’d be coming up with an amusing Latin plural here. 

Rule the Waves 2: To January, 1917

January 1915

On the advice of the readership, I’m doing two things with an eye toward saving money and modernizing our forces:

  1. Bringing home the last of the Tages on overseas service and scrapping them. Being obsolete, they cost more to maintain—a substantial fraction of a new dreadnought’s maintenance. In their place, I’m going to send the remaining Chateaurenaults overseas, since that was their original purpose.

  2. Scrapping two more Gueydons. They were never very combat-effective, and the Tridents will make better aircraft carrier conversions anyway.

I’ll likely aim to build more light cruisers and destroyers in this update, although I also intend to keep one or two dreadnought-type ships on the ways to avoid falling behind in the arms race. A two-Mediterranean-power standard is probably not quite within our grasp, but I want to at least give it a try.

February 1915

001-tegetthof

Blueprints for the Austrian Tegetthof-class, under construction, hit our desk. One thing to note is the relatively light armor. I’ve adopted the (real-world) German philosophy that a ship’s first business is to stay afloat, and so far that’s worked out.

Our two French naval engineers at the Parisian cafe have had the bright idea of a ship dedicated entirely to floatplane scouting. That option is open to us now, but I think I might be more inclined to request proposals for a floatplane scout, and then equip the next class of battleships with one.

August 1915

It has been an exceptionally quiet few months. A few ships enter service, including the first batch of four of the new Harpon destroyers. Another six are on the way, along with three more of the new(ish) Lavoisier light cruisers.

Both designs are a little long in the tooth now, so the next batch of destroyers and light cruisers will be to a newer one.

October 1915

Rising tensions in the Balkans (Germany again…) yield the budget to develop a newer class of 5900-ton light cruisers. The Troude is not armored as well as the Lavoisier, but has more torpedo tubes, more guns, and one knot more speed, necessary for her to keep ahead of some upcoming battlecruiser types.

November 1915

Germany asks us to reduce the size of our shipbuilding program. I choose the more polite of the two ‘shove it’ options.

002

It, uh, backfires a bit. An arms treaty goes into effect, limiting all powers to ships of 15,000 tons or less and main guns of 10″ or less.

While this isn’t ideal, it does mean we’re in third place behind Britain and the United States in the dreadnought race, and we’re going to be until 1935. On the downside, our medium gun research is not great. Our 8″, 9″, and 10″ guns are all -1 quality, and I don’t think it would be wise to build a new pocket battlecruiser around those calibers yet.

December 1915

Scrapping the illegal ships under construction makes us a ton of money, and with it, I embark upon quiet a large modernization program. We have five new light cruisers building, and twelve new destroyers, along with ten new submarines. It also seems like a decent opportunity to build a seaplane carrier or two. After all, we aren’t spending it on very much else.

February 1916

At last, something to upgrade our battleships with.

003-director

A program of airbase construction yields two: one on the south end of Corsica, to cover the west-central Mediterranean and French home waters, and one in Brest to cover the Atlantic coast. At present, each one houses a squadron of 10 fighters and a squadron of 10 flying boats.

Along with the air wings for the two seaplane carriers under construction, that gives us 50 naval aircraft, a world-leading total.

August 1916

Funds are a bit tight as our battleships go through the rebuild process, but we’re staying ahead of the game.

Now seems like a good time to spring for enhanced gunnery training. We have a large and powerful battleship fleet we can’t replace for another 231 months, and the last thing we want to do is lose it because of poor shooting.

January 1917

An exceptionally boring two years (with the exception, perhaps, of the naval treaty) comes to a close.

Fleet Summary

004

Here’s our list of non-destroyer ships in current service. Of note, the two Redoubtables are missing because they’re being updated to director firing. Also, Lyon and Marseilles, originally constructed as battlecruisers, are now counted as battleships—24 knots is no longer battlecruiser speed.

That means that Tourville and Dunkerque will end up counting as battleships, too, when we rebuild them, unless I take the opportunity to upgrade their machinery for better speed. (If we want to do that, we should probably wait until 1920—we’ll be able to turn them into oil-burners, which will make them faster.) So, should I let them turn into battleships, upgrade their fire control and machinery now, or defer an update until 1920?

Also noteworthy: our original Tage-class light cruisers have all been retired, leaving the still-elderly Chateaurenaults as our primary source of overseas influence. New Lavoisiers and Trondes are on the way. It may eventually make sense to build another overseas-service light cruiser with extended range and colonial service equipment, especially given the lesser demands on the naval budget.

Finally, as for destroyers, we have 16 modern Harpon-class ships in service now. The older Pistolets and Balistes join them in active service, while the remaining Fauconneaus and Francisques are mothballed, ready for activation in case of war to take on trade protection duties. (Destroyers cost so little to maintain that there’s no reason not to hang onto them for this use.)

005

Under construction, we have the two Redoutables, as mentioned earlier, along with five new light cruisers and two seaplane carriers.

Future construction plans are a little up in the air. The naval treaty means we can’t build any new dreadnoughts. The 15,000-ton limit is pretty restrictive, and suggests that a new heavy cruiser program might be in order. A top-of-the-line, 28-knot, 9×10″-gun cruiser (the latter characteristic being the largest caliber armament allowed, the former being faster than the pre-treaty battlecruisers still prowling the seas) costs about 2,200 funds per month, but our 10″ guns are still -1 quality. That makes them quite a bit less attractive. Should we forge ahead with heavy cruisers anyway, wait for research, or ignore the type altogether?

I plan on upgrading our battleships to oil fuel one or two at a time when oil becomes generally available, which will save on machinery weight and allow me to increase their speed (or, alternately, add anti-aircraft guns when we figured that out).

006

One unexpected outcome of the naval treaty is that we’re comfortably third in dreadnought ships behind England and the US, and will be for some time to come. The timing worked out very well for us.

Diplomacy Summary

007

Tensions have been creeping higher with Germany again, which is both good (our battle line is better than theirs because the treaty halted their building program too) and bad (we don’t have England to help out this time).

Austria-Hungary remains resolutely immune to my many and varied provocations.

Progress has been limited on locating a new ally.

General Summary

008

As I mentioned, we’re spending money on gunnery training for the first time, and our naval aircraft budget line item is slowly beginning to grow.

Our prestige remains at an all-time high. I elected to skip dock expansions for the time being, given that we can’t use them.

Final Notes

It’s likely I’m going to miss next week—this weekend is a very busy one, and I don’t know if I’m going to have the time to get in two years of gameplay in the middle of it all.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Mar. 4, 2020)

Wuhan Bat Soup Death Plague

Defense

Science and Technology

American Sportsball

Grab Bag

  • Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai arrested – Staunchly anti-mainland. I wouldn’t call it entirely unexpected, but I am a little surprised China’s moving right now. Maybe they want to combine the flak they’re taking for anti-democratic moves with the flak they’re taking for coronavirus response?

Rule the Waves 2: To January, 1915

Sorry for the unannounced skip last week—I had a lot to do and a small amount of time to do it.

January 1913

With no serious objections to the idea, I come up with the (slightly) budget-minded Rouen-class battlecruiser.

001

27-knot speed will make her one of the fastest heavy ships afloat, and 9 12″ guns mean she won’t lack for punch.

February 1913

The battle of the month is a coastal raid in the North Sea. Combined French and British forces scour the seas for German merchants, sinking one along with an escorting corvette, but come across no other foes.

March 1913

In unfortunate news, our Redoubtable-class battleships have trouble hitting their design speed. Happily, that design speed was 23 knots instead of 22, so they’re still as fast as the rest of our battle line.

The battle of the month is an enemy raid on our shipping.

002-mines

The English Channel is a dangerous place to be if you aren’t English or French—heavy minefields protect the narrows. (The little red dots indicate mined areas. This is what the large blue circles around German ports, if I’ve taken a picture of them, would have looked like to a hypothetical German player.)

003-night

It turns into a knife-fight just after dusk, which is a bad situation for us. Our superiority is assured; there’s no reason to waste our big ships on fights where torpedoes can sink them too readily. (The big advantage of the upcoming R-class battleships and battlecruisers is that they ship torpedo protection, armor against the devilishly-powerful underwater weapons.)

Reluctantly, like Jellicoe at Jutland, we turn away. Perhaps we’ll be able to catch up to that damaged armored cruiser in the bottom left of the screenshot later.

004-boom

Or not! That neatly solves that problem.

Suffren eats a torpedo despite our evasion, but doesn’t seem critically damaged.

The French fleet pursues the fleeing Germans north through the night, but doesn’t find them in the morning, and so turns back to Dunkerque.

April 1913

005-army

Our brothers in arms do a thing!

006-shipboard-aircraft

Picture two French naval engineers at a Paris cafe, a bottle of wine between them, cigarettes propped on the ashtray, smoke twisting lazily toward the darkening sky: “I wonder if zis will ever catch on.”

The battle of the month is a convoy defense in the Bay of Biscay. Three Allied light cruisers face two Germans, sinking one of them.

May 1913

The Germans win a cruiser action, sinking the old Tage-class light cruiser Surcouf with a torpedo.

June 1913

The Germans win another light cruiser action, though this time without sinking anything.

July 1913

Another inconclusive North Sea battle, this one tipped very slightly in the direction of the French.

The vast German cruiser force is slowly shrinking as its ships, far from decent bases, succumb to lack of coal and mechanical issues and find themselves interned in neutral ports.

August 1913

The Germans attempt to raid the coast near Dunkerque. Today, we have Redoubtable with us, the first of our second-generation battleships.

The German forces amount to a trio of light cruisers, which escape, and six destroyers, three of which sink. Redoubtable‘s gunnery was… not great, but at least she’s been blooded now.

September 1913

A raid into the Heligoland Bight nets a pair of merchants and one of three fleeing German light cruisers, struck by a shell from Redoubtable at almost 18,000 yards, which slowed her enough to bring her under the squadron’s guns.

Germany and Italy both seem to be investing heavily in submarines: Germany has 9 and is building 30, while Italy has 20 and is building another 29.

October 1913

The Germans agree to a crushing peace deal. Good for us in the long run. Not so great in the short run—our budget is cut very nearly in half.

007-peace

We get six points to spend on territory and/or reparations. I opt for two worthless (0-point) Pacific colonies, and leave the rest for more reparations.

November 1913

Frantically scrapping the most obsolete of our pre-dreadnoughts (the 22-knot Tridents will make either good aircraft carrier prototypes or good battle line filler, given that a line faster than 22 knots is still some time into the future, but all of the La Républiques get the axe), mothballing other ships, and halting construction of one of our new dreadnoughts, I manage to get the budget vaguely under control. I’ll still have to toggle the other dreadnought on and off.

December 1913

008-event

Sure thing (especially since the result is ‘more budget’).

French engineers have developed quality-0 14″ guns, so it may be in the cards to scrap our second Requin altogether and prepare a new class with 14-inchers as our standard going forward. Our 12″ guns are very good, but bigger, in this case, is always better.

March 1914

The budget is finally balanced enough for my liking, so I start a third ship in the new class of Lavoisier light cruisers and scrap the in-progress Colbert (the second Requin). When Requin herself is done, I’ll likely start on a new battleship—although you’ll have a chance to weigh in before then.

June 1914

The Naval Minister comes to me with the suggestion to build 15 new submarines. This time, I’m actually on board, and even better, the budget bump is enough to pay for 15 submarines and a quartet of new destroyers.

August 1914

Our alliance with Great Britain comes to an end. It was good while it lasted.

In other news, while scrolling through the technology list, I discovered that quadruple turrets are on the table now—a classic French design feature.

September 1914-January 1915, Update Wrap-Up

I appear to have lost my notes for these few months, so I’ll take care of everything all at once.

The only really interesting development in technology is improved quadruple turrets, which eliminate the reliability penalty and open the door to all sorts of interesting forward-main-armament ships.

Italy has developed flying boats, the first of the major powers to deploy military heavier-than-air aircraft.

Diplomacy

Tensions are low all around. We’re spying on the Austrians, the Italians, and the Americans (the latter only to see what the higher-tier powers are up to in terms of technology and design).

Technology

009

Here’s where things stand. According to the almanac, we’re in the middle: Germany, Britain, and the United States are ‘very advanced’; France is ‘average’, and Japan, Italy, and Austria-Hungary are ‘backward’. Our dock size, at 31,500, is a bit behind. When the submarines finish building in seven months, I think it’s time to invest in a few dock expansions in succession.

The Fleet

010

We have seven dreadnought-type ships: two of the early Duquesne-class battlecruisers, two Lyons (which ship the fleet’s heaviest guns), Devastation (our first dreadnought battleship), and two Redoubtables (our most recent dreadnought battleships).

We’ve retained two Tridents and three Gueydons, all of which will make fine aircraft carrier conversions when the time comes for that.

In addition to the pictured units, we have 27 destroyers of various types. The large majority are the obsolete Fauconneau class, which I’m tempted to retain as coastal protection ships—immediately putting them all into Trade Protection status when a war breaks out. They’re in mothballs currently.

As far as other destroyers go, we have three Francisques (also in mothballs, also something of a liability in wartime owing to their 28-knot speed), two Pistolets (31 knots), three Hallebards, and four Balistes. Some replacement destroyers are relatively high on the list. Our light cruiser force is also in the ‘large but obsolete’ category. (This was not unknown in the real world. Dreadnought construction sucks the air out of a great many other kinds of shipbuilding.)

Under construction, we have the Requin, a battleship with 12 12″ guns and a 14″ belt, the Rouen, a battlecruiser with 9 12″ guns, 12″ armor, and 27-knot speed, a pair of the new Lavoisier type of 27-knot, 6″ gun light cruisers, four new 1,000-ton, 33-knot Harpon-class destroyers, and 15 submarines.

Prestige and Finance

We are currently in the very good graces of the French government, with 35 prestige. Our monthly budget is 16,883 funds, of which a mere 4,878 goes to maintenance, while 10,593 goes to new construction. Research (12%, 2,026), naval aircraft maintenance (256 for 16 airships), and spying round out the budget.

Plans

The Requin-type battleship on the ways is already a little dated. Since we have quality-0 14″ guns now, my intention is to design a new 14″ gun ship to take its place.

I’m inclined to try to keep two dreadnought ships under construction at all times, one battleship and one battlecruiser, but that may make it difficult to update our light forces. Should I sacrifice our big-ship construction program to bring the little ships up to date, or should I forge ahead in creating the best battle line millions of francs can buy?

Too, aircraft are appearing on the horizon, an ominous development for any navy which, across its entire roster, deploys zero anti-aircraft guns. Should we invest in carrier warfare as soon as we can, or stick out the dreadnought era as long as possible? Note that the balance of power between battleships and aircraft carriers shifts gradually over time—in the 1920s and early 1930s, it may be that the battleship remains king of the seas.

Anyway, that’s that for this week. Hopefully next week will be at the regularly scheduled time.