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Rule the Waves 2: To February, 1913

March 1912

A good start to our campaign of trade warfare: our raiders sank six German merchants and one submarine.

A British light cruiser, the Phaeton, an obsolete 21-knot light cruiser, joins Lavoisier and Isly for a cruiser battle off of Bergen. It’s 11:37 a.m., and the weather is good but windy.

Unfortunately, the German cruisers show up and the French battlecruisers do not, so the French admiral bravely turns his ship to starboard and runs for the safety of Scapa Flow. Phaeton gives it her best, but the two 24-knot German cruisers are on hand, and she isn’t fast enough to escape.

April 1912

Here it is. The big one.

001-battle

The Battle of Texel

002-set-the-stage

Today’s forces include the full French fleet: three battlecruisers, one battleship, our entire predreadnought force, and a smattering of light cruisers and destroyers. Joining us are one British dreadnought, the Mars, and Anson, an 18-knot predreadnought, along with their escorting destroyers.

This is the first battle in which our scouting force (the battlecruisers and the three Isly-class light cruisers) are operating separately.

The weather is good, and it’s just after dawn. Let’s see what comes of the day.

5:37 a.m.

Linois, the sole light cruiser scouting for the main fleet today, spots a light cruiser to the north. It immediately turns northwest, which puts it on a collision course with the battlecruiser force.

6:03 a.m.

The enemy light cruiser turns due east.

6:21 a.m.

003

Linois spots another ship, as the battlecruisers race east.

6:53 a.m.

The enemy’s battle line comes into slight.

004

7:08 a.m.

As the lines converge, our Courbet is the first to take a hit—a harmless one to the superstructure.

The lead divisions are now engaged—Devastation firing eight-gun broadsides at the German Ostfriesland, the super-pre-dreadnought from last time, leading the way.

7:23 a.m.

005

The battlecruisers slot into the battle line just ahead of the lead battle division. The Ostfrieslands leading the German line turn away, although it may just be to open the range. (Their guns reach further than ours do.)

7:44 a.m.

For once, the gunnery duel in the early going is favoring the good guys—four hits to one.

8:00 a.m.

006

The front of the German line has turned north-northeast, so in the hopes of catching the back of the German line unawares, I order a near-180-degree turn, so that while the Germans are heading north, we’ll be heading south.

8:20 a.m.

I am content to call that a smart move. The German super-pre-dreadnoughts have disappeared off to the northeast, and the Allied line is in good order while the German battleships are entirely out of sorts.

8:59 a.m.

007

The Germans are attempting to retire from the field. Several of their predreadnoughts are heavily damaged. I expect we’ll be able to finish them off. After all, we still have… nine hours and fifty minutes before dusk.

9:26 a.m.

Duquesne takes a torpedo hit and falls out of line.

10:01 a.m.

Duquesne‘s torpedo hit proves fatal, but we get revenge for her with a torpedo to one of the Elsass-class pre-dreadnoughts still engaged.

11:00 a.m.

A glorious victory is in progress. While the German fleet ran, we managed to peel off six predreadnoughts, which we are currently hammering with a superior force.

Results

Seven predreadnoughts down, for the price of one battlecruiser (to be replaced next month; Lyon was delayed again) and two destroyers (cheap and easy to rebuild, although the question of when is a harder one).

Torpedoes proved critical on both sides, sinking Duquesne and contributing heavily to the sinkings of a number of German battleships.

009
010

011

In the after-action map, you can see the critical elements of the battle: the turn to the north to parallel the German battle line, the reversal south which permitted the German super-pre-dreadnoughts to escape but allowed us to finish off a large number of the pre-dreadnoughts, and the long mop-up to the east-northeast.

The game calls it a minor French victory, on the basis that we lost a battlecruiser. I say it’s better than a mere minor victory.

May 1912

Lyon, designed as a 25-knot battlecruiser, has difficulty making her design speed in trials. She’ll go into the books as a 24-knot battlecruiser instead. I should have liked her to be a bit faster.

To replace her on the ways, the new Requin class goes into development. On the (admittedly German) theory that the first duty of a warship is to stay afloat, she retains a 12″ armament (our quality-0 12″ guns served us in good stead in the last fleet battle, and twelve of them helps with the smaller shell). Her 22-knot speed suffices for our current battle line (lacking oil, high speed is hard for us right now), and her 14″ belt is more than enough to stop shells from the guns we’re likely to face.

013-requin

French raiders have a successful month, sinking eleven German merchants.

June 1912

On the 23rd, coastwatchers detect a German raid approaching Calais. Nine battleships and two battlecruisers put to sea in response: Devastation (our sole dreadnought, currently); Courbet (one of our two Trident semi-dreadnoughts); Ocean, Solferino, La République, Magenta (four predreadnoughts); Tourville and Dunkerque (the surviving Duquesne-class ships); and a surprise appearance from Mars, Jupiter, and Majestic, three British dreadnoughts.

The weather is breezy and overcast, but patrol boats and coastal lookouts indicate that a) the German force is quite small, and b) it’s headed directly for the narrowest part of the Channel.

014
The dot in the northeast portion of the map is an old sighting report. The line is the freshest report, along with an indication of where the enemy is, provided the sighting report’s course and speed were correct.

It’s relatively early in the morning, and being so close to the solstice means we’ll have ample time to defeat the Germans if we can trap them.

At 10:44 a.m., leading elemnents of the Scouting Force sight German ships.

By 11, it’s clear that a decent porton of the German fleet is out to play, but crucially, not all of it. I don’t think we’re going to catch the modern German ships (Ostfriesland and Rhineland, two of the super-pre-dreadnoughts), but we might end the careers of a few more German predreadnoughts if we’re lucky.

In the final reckoning, the French Navy bags all three of the predreadnoughts on the field.

015

A glorious victory. As an added bonus, it breaks the German blockade.

July 1912

In technological news, we’ve unlocked destroyers of up to 1100 tons. Perhaps a new design to replace some of those we’ve lost?

The battle this month is another fleet battle, a few dozen miles west-southwest of Brest.

Devastation is in the yards, undergoing repairs from so facing the German forces in the area are our two Duquesne-class battlecruisers (regrettably, Lyon has not finished her working up), our eight pre-dreadnought battleships, and two British dreadnoughts (Jupiter, an obsolete 6-gun/18-knot model, and Mars, a 10-gun/22-knot model which has played a starring role in multiple battles so far.)

Facing us are (probably) the two German super-pre-dreadnoughts, the remaining nine standard pre-dreadnoughts, and some light units. I’d say we have slightly better than even strength, and we’re notably well-positioned this time. We have the shorter path back to the Channel, where the German fleet would probably prefer to run, we’re downwind of them (so our smoke will blow away and theirs will get in their way), and our battlecruisers are to the north of the Germans.

016
With the scouting force in advance of the main fleet and light cruisers spread out in a search line, La Royale occupies quite a lot of ocean.

12:45 p.m.

That’s the only downside—we’re into the afternoon. Seven hours until dusk isn’t a ton, but hopefully it’ll be enough.

12:55 p.m.

The scouting force catches sight of the enemy battle line. We should be able to cut them off with time to spare.

017

14:04 p.m.

A near-textbook approach completed, the fleet closes to range and prepares to turn in line with the enemy.

018

15:45 p.m.

The German heavy units make it away, but it’s entirely possible we’ll sink most of the German Navy’s remaining pre-dreadnought fleet today.

019

Results

Night falls on another dramatic French victory. At the cost of one pre-dreadnought and a few destroyers, we sank seven German pre-dreadnoughts.

020

Tourville and Dunkerque, gunnery champions in the preceding battle by a country mile, are joined by Lyon in the aftermath, whose 15″ guns will give the battlecruiser squadron unprecedented reach and striking power.

July 1912, cont’d.

On the basis that the German fleet is now, in large part, at the bottom of the Atlantic, I’m planning on sending the battlecruisers to the Mediterranean once they’ve been patched up, where they can begin to whittle down the German cruiser force, which is largely deployed there. Britain’s contributions to the war effort have been most satisfactory in Northern Europe, so between our battleships and theirs I suspect we can keep the Germans bottled up.

In terms of war goals, I don’t have designs on many of the German colonies, which are all outside of our invasion range anyway. My primary objective is to impose debilitating reparations (which has never backfired for France re: Germany), with which I can continue to modernize the fleet even on a low-tension, peacetime budget.

August 1912

021-crush
I feel justified in picking this option.

Of course, just after delivering that ultimatum, we lose the Lavoisier (second of her name) to a magazine explosion in a light cruiser action off of St. Nazaire. This calls for a new class.

022-lavoisier

September 1912

A cruiser action in the Bay of Biscay sees Dunkerque, left behind in Northern Europe to finish repairs while her sisters sailed for Marseilles, send two German light cruisers to the bottom, a fitting revenge for Lavoisier.

December 1912

A few boring months end with an extraordinary victory.

023-victory-again

I feel a little bad about not taking screenshots during the battle, but really, it wasn’t very exciting. The British indicated that a German convoy was on its way from Norway to Germany proper, carrying iron ore. The French fleet sortied, joined by a pair of British dreadnoughts, and, crucially, a flotilla of British destroyers. Rather than flee and let the convoy be destroyed utterly without a fight, the three German super-pre-dreadnoughts turned to close the range and bring their large secondary batteries to bear, at which point accurate torpedo work by the British destroyers slowed them to the point where we could overwhelm them with volume of fire.

There were some interesting bits of cruiser action off to the north of the main battle, where French ships darted in toward the convoy while Germans shuffled east and west to fend them off.

The game keeps track of your glorious victories, and proposes names. In terms of strategic decisiveness, I feel like this fits, even if it was a) a little smaller than the historical one, and b) much more tactically decisive.

024

January 1913

025

Intel has some juicy news. The German ships must be very fast indeed, because our battlecruisers are just about even with theirs, and substantially lighter.

Wrap-Up

After one year of war, the combined might of the Allied navies has utterly swept the Germans from command of the sea. They have no dreadnoughts, battlecruisers, or battleships of any kind afloat. The German heavy cruiser force has been a non-factor in the war so far; much of it is currently in the Mediterranean, cut off from its bases.

French naval superiority is about to get even bigger—in two months, Redoubtable will be in service, followed five months later by Marengo. Four new destroyers will join the fleet around the same time to fill in for losses; two new light cruisers are under construction and due in about a year and a half.

The victory point totals are extremely favorable to us: 40,340 to 14,843. We have, understandably, gained somewhat in prestige as well: up to 29, our peak so far. When the war ends, I’m not much inclined to push for colonies. Germany doesn’t have very many good ones, having started the race when the leaders were already halfway through, and reparations will help us keep building ships when the postwar budget crunch comes.

To replace the two new dreadnoughts coming soon, I have it in mind to start another next-generation Requin-class dreadnought, and to design a cost-controlled battlecruiser—something with 9 12″ guns, 12″ armor, and 27-knot speed is well within reason.

I’m going to cut this update short here—covering two years of war in great detail, especially if it’s this eventful, is tricky.

Your thoughts on strategy, planning, and shipbuilding welcome.

Rule the Waves 2: To February, 1912

July 1910

Tensions still run about as high as they can possibly run with Germany without a war, when an unwelcome event pops up.

001

We can ignore the Navy Minister, but that’ll ding our prestige and budget badly. We can commit to building half as many destroyers, but that commits us to a potentially-silly course of action without any funding to make up for it.

So, I take the deal. I’ll build a few destroyers as a tip of the hat to the naval minister, and will take the ding in prestige when he gets mad about my lack of 15 destroyers at once—unless we go to war with Germany first, which resets the clock altogether.

August 1910

002

A discount Lyon? How can I say no, even if the conning tower armor is missing? The Lille-class will be there if I want one later.

003

The naval minister changes his mind.

004
The yards are humming, but not with eight cruisers.

At least we’re putting the money to better use.

September 1910

I don’t recall if this event raises tensions with other nations, but we’re about to find out. The chance to beat up on Austria-Hungary is too sweet to ignore.

005

It doesn’t raise tensions with Germany, but also doesn’t get us near a war with Austria-Hungary, either. Since Germany is looking like our most likely dance partner, let’s take a look at their Jane’s Fighting Ships page.

006

… interesting. Unless I miss my guess…

007

… Germany’s ‘dreadnoughts’ aren’t, or at least, they aren’t on the grounds of armament. That’s an absurd amount of belt armor, though.

Their other heavy units are pretty ordinary. Their 23-knot armored cruisers are a little faster than the Mediterranean average, but they would still be easy prey for our original Duquesne-class battlecruisers (24-knot speed, 11″ guns, armor against same). The size of their pre-dreadnought battle line is a bit concerning, though.

December 1910

008

No, we can’t guarantee a victory. It hurts our prestige, but increases the budget. With the extra cash, I lay down another Redoubtable-class dreadnought, this one to be called Marengo.

009

French engineers have developed a 16″ naval gun, which we won’t really be able to mount in anything for a little while yet.

January 1911

I’ve never been at such a high-tension fever pitch for so long without a war starting. The money is nice. The brinksmanship is tense.

Italy has a 27,000-ton battlecruiser under construction, which is worryingly large. Our heaviest ship to date is 23,600 tons.

One of the nice things about playing Rule the Waves 2 in AAR fashion is that there’s less of a tendency to rush. Because I have to write things down, I have more of an incentive to take my time.

February 1911

I take the expected prestige hit from failing to build eight cruisers at once, leaving me… exactly where I was before the request, except with a bigger budget.

March 1911

We develop oil-fired boilers, which is all well and good, except we don’t have access to oil.

April 1911

Our steadfast allies the British want to buy some shell technology off of us. I happily sign off on it; it’ll buy us another month or two at our fever pitch of shipbuilding. There are currently two battleships and two battlecruisers in the yard, two each of the Redoubtables and Lyons, along with a light cruiser and three destroyers.

May 1911

Wonder of wonders, tensions with Germany are slightly reduced.

French naval architects have hit upon the idea of superfiring forward turrets as well, which is apt to yield a very traditional-looking 10- or 12-gun dreadnought (two turrets forward, one superfiring; two turrets aft, one superfiring) when the money is there, in ten or twelve months.

June 1911

010

Italy’s new light cruiser is now the Mediterranean’s fastest. I believe our ships are a match for it, though, given that our fleet-service cruisers have quality-1 6″ guns—more or less equivalent to standard 7″ guns.

011

Word of German experiments with airships has reached France, and not to be outdone, we begin to look into the idea.

July 1911

Continued problems in the shipyards have delayed a number of our vessels—in particular, the two Lyons have not been trouble-free ships, each delayed by a month. (Since costs in Rule the Waves are per month rather than overall, delayed ships end up costing us more.)

October 1911

012

Rising tensions between Germany and Great Britain rattle an otherwise calm autumn. War has not yet been declared, but it’s very close.

February 1912

013

Well, it was a good run of peace, but now it’s time to turn the dogs of war loose once again.

The first month’s battle is an inconclusive destroyer action just north of the English Channel. Outnumbered, the French force manages to stay at the edge of the German ships’ range until dark, at which point it retreats into port at Dunkerque. Two old Fauconneau-class destroyers take damage, but neither sinks.

War Planning

What with it being Trademarked Football Game Sunday this week and a beer-brewing day Saturday, I don’t expect to have the time to get too deep into this war before I would have to write the update, so I think the thing to do here is to cut this entry short and sound out the naval staff (i.e., you, the readers) on how this war should be prosecuted.

20,000 Yards: Forces and Shipyard Plans

At present, we have five units of note building:

  • Redoubtable and Marengo, 23-knot, 23,600-ton battleships with 12.5″ belts, 10 12″ guns, and 10 6″ secondary guns, arriving in 12 and 17 months, respectively.
  • Lyon and Marseilles, 25-knot, 22,000-ton battlecruisers with 12″ belts, 6 15″ guns, and 12 4″ secondaries, arriving in 2 and 10 months, respectively.
  • Cassard, a Pascal-class light cruiser, also due in 2 months.

In addition to those, there are eight trawlers in the yards being armed, to run down submarines and serve as cheap trade protection.

Compared to the Germans, we have more full-on dreadnoughts (one), but they have three of what I’d call super-pre-dreadnoughts, with 16″ belt armor and 4 13″ guns, and one presumably more modern dreadnought under construction, due 1914. Our battlecruiser force is superior to theirs. We’ll have five battlecruisers, two of them armed with 15″ guns, before they have a single one (theirs are due 1914 and 1915).

In sum, our dreadnought force is superior (one battleship plus two building, three battlecruisers plus two building), even though we only have second-line ships in service at present. Our first-line ships (by the standard of 1912) will be ready before theirs.

In predreadnoughts, the Germans have a massive edge in numbers (19 to our 8), but even our old La Républiques are superior to all but their latest ships.

The German armored cruiser force is quite large (13 ships to our 5), and their two most recent ones (built 1908 and 1909) feature 10″ guns and 24-knot speed (but very light armor). Otherwise, nothing to write home about. Our Gueydons, though old, can outrun everything but the two recent ships.

In light cruisers, we have the edge in numbers (18 to 12) and in modernity. The best German light cruisers are likely better than our best ships, however, and many of our light cruisers are overseas fulfilling colonial requirements. Further, the Germans are engaged in building a number of light cruisers at present.

In destroyers, the Germans have an edge in numbers (42 to 30). Quality is a toss-up. In submarines, the Germans have an edge.

In general, we’re a bit behind on quantity, and even or ahead on quality. The question here is, what should we focus on? Large ships, and try to nibble away at the Germans where possible? Fast ships, and destroy their commerce and their raiders while avoiding risky fleet actions? Submarines and destroyers, and try to torpedo them into submission?

10,000 Yards: Deployments and Roles

At present, even with the larger part of our fleet stationed in the Northern Europe zone, the German fleet has us blockaded, which will sap our victory points over time. Given how little Great Britain contributed to the last war, I don’t think we can count on them all that much to pitch in.

I’ve taken the liberty of engaging in a a relatively robust raiding campaign out of the gate. Two of the reactivated Gueydons, one Tage, and all four Chateaurenaults have been dispatched to the far corners of the German colonial empire, where they will snatch up merchants left unprotected by the German fleet. Raiders and submarines will earn us easy victory points, which may help make up for the fleet battles we may be avoiding.

Should we focus further on raiding, or keep the fleet closer to home and hope for some even battles?

Should we turn the battlecruisers loose as raiders and raider-hunters, or keep the battlecruisers with the fleet?

Broadside-to-Broadside: Battles and Tactics

As was the case with Italy, our ships are generally faster than their German equivalents. Technology has come far enough now, though, that our older light cruisers and predreadnoughts are slower than some of the ships they might run across in battle.

Given that conditional superiority, the clear choice is to fight this war much like the last ones, engaging only when success is reasonably assured and running from the other fights (or avoiding them altogether). If you have any other ideas, however, I’m all ears.

Status

The above more or less suffices, but for a quick budget report:

The monthly wartime budget is 24,908, of which 11,569 goes to maintenance and 12,828 goes to construction.

Research and intelligence bring us to a monthly deficit of 1,732, with 4,022 in the bank. Two ships coming out of the yards in the next few months will put us back in the black before we run out of money.

Rule the Waves 2: To May, 1910

June 1908

We have the chance to establish a protectorate in Iceland, but it doesn’t go well, and a local warlord takes over.

(That’s the fun thing about random events, the randomness.)

The two Mediterranean Gueydons go into the reserve fleet, along with the older Tages and Fauconneaus. Our starting ships are beginning to get the (O) next to their name which indicates that they are obsolete and, more to the point, old—I don’t recall, but that may have reliability-in-battle implications.

July 1908

Tourville and Dunkerque, the other two Duquesne-class battlecruisers, finish their working up and make their way to the Mediterranean.

September 1908

Expanding private shipbuilding and industry yields efficiencies for the Navy, which means another Pascal laid down to replace another Gueydon.

October 1908

Spies get a hold of the blueprints for Italy’s dreadnought.

001

It’s at least on par with our Devastation class. Similar broadside—the Devastation can bring all eight guns to bear on one target, while the Andrea Doria can’t, and has slightly heavier armor, but the Andrea Doria is a little faster.

November 1908

Tensions are rising steadily with Germany. (It isn’t even my doing—tensions can go up without events.)

On the plus side, our next class of battleship will look almost conventional.

002-4-turrets

I lay down another two submarines. We’re falling behind somewhat in that realm, but because our interests are mainly close to home, the cheap coastal boats will suffice for as long as we care to invest in submarines.

March 1909

Germany is clearly pushing for a war with us, which doesn’t bode well. It’s apt to be a strongly commerce-raid-y war on our part. Big fleet actions won’t go well.

Per a reader suggestion, I put the finishing touches on a battlecruiser to mount those new 15″ guns.

003-lyon
Trying something new as far as drawing ship designs goes.

Later note: I just realized I forgot conning tower armor on the Lyon. I guess that’ll be a one-off. Costly mistake.

July 1909

The keel of the first Lyon is laid. Devastation is looking like a one-off, especially since we just developed improved 12″ guns. Perhaps a 10-gun ship will follow.

September 1909

Don’t look now, but tensions with Austria-Hungary are rising. Fingers altogether crossed.

January 1910

Catching flak for not deploying enough in Northern Europe to counter German aggression (tensions ahve been rising again), I begrudgingly move the battlecruisers up that way.

April 1910

We’re on the brink of war with Germany, but a new dreadnought design is on the way:

004-redoubtable
Note the 10-guns-in-4-turrets arrangement. These are quality-0 12″ guns, with a range of about 17,000 yards—better than the 15″ -1 guns on the Lyon/Lille-class, if also less punchy.

I redid the Lyon class with conning tower armor; future ships will be part of the Lille class.

Two-Year Reports

Not much has changed since last time, with the exception of budget (we can just about afford a Redoubtable, a Lille, and the Lyon currently under construction, along with a light ship or two), and high tensions with Germany.

tension

We are still allied with Great Britain, on the one hand; on the other hand, Britain was worth a whopping 100 victory points in the last war. Maybe they’ll be more useful against Germany.

Rule the Waves 2: To May, 1908

By shirking other responsibilities, I managed to fit a full two years in.

June 1906

We uncover an Italian spy, pushing the issue for some extra budget.

July 1906

Britain is working hard to win the new dreadnought race. In addition to their one completed dreadnought, they have four more under construction, along with two battlecruisers.

August 1906

Tensiosn with Germany continue to decrease. I think we might have turned the corner on that crisis.

September 1906

001-cross-deck-fire

A new technology allows us to plausibly design eight- or ten-gun battleships even with our current three-centerline-turret limitation.

002-pistolet

Improved engine technology and doctrinal allowances for 700-ton destroyers let us design our best class yet, with two guns, four torpedo tubes, and 31-knot speed.

October 1906

003-alliance

A historical friend of ours comes calling. We say ‘oui’, and I think this calls for pushing for another war with Italy.

November 1906

Speaking of which…

004-ultimatum

War breaks out. The first battle is a cruiser action where darkness and poor weather guarantee the fleets pass one another in the night.

In addition to the three Duquesne battlecruisers, one Isly light cruiser, and five Pistolet destroyers on the ways, I queue up six corvettes and two armed merchant cruisers equipped with mines, to help take the pressure off of the fleet.

December 1906

Two days before Christmas, three French light cruisers (an Isly and two Tages) supported by a destroyer flotilla embark on a raid on coastal shipping. They’ll arrive south of La Spezia near dusk, doglegging a bit south to hopefully avoid any patrolling Italian ships.

At 2 p.m., the French squadron sights the northern end of Corsica and turns east.

005-north

Just after 4 p.m., the squadron sights one ship moving west-northwest at warship speeds, and turns northwest in pursuit. Another appears on the horizon to the northeast.

At 4:30 p.m., Isly‘s crew spots a line of three ships due north of the squadron, probably armored cruisers. The enemy line turns toward the French squadron just as the sun dips below the horizon, and the French ships elect to make a daring run toward the Italian coast, hoping to search out and sink a coastal merchant or two during the night.

The decision pays off, as the French squadron runs across two transports in quick succession, sinking them both. Isly and Lalande combine to take down the first one, while a torpedo from Isly sinks the second, as its crew flees in small boats.

The job done, the French squadron rings up flank speed and dashes for the Riviera. A major victory for France nets us 968 victory points.

January 1907

On the 28th, two Italian cruisers come across a French Atlantic convoy, facing off against Linois (a Tage-class light cruiser) and a pair of Fauconneaus. The weather is clear, but it’s 4:41 p.m., so the Italian squadron has a limited time during which it can press its attack without attracting torpedo fire in reply.

Confused night fighting sees the loss of both destroyers, but Linois survives and drives off the armored cruisers before they can sink very many freighters. In ship losses, the Italians are the clear victors, but because so much of the convoy survived, it goes in the books as a minor French victory.

February 1907

The Italians put out peace feelers, amusingly. I instruct the government to put the screws to them, and negotiations stall.

After a quiet first few months, French raiders come through in a big way, sinking eleven merchants to the Italians’ 2.

On the 25th, two French light cruisers and a squadron of the newer Francisque destroyers chance upon an Italian convoy southeast of Malta, and sink four transports before fleeing in the face of a superior Italian escort. The objective being six transports, it goes down as a French loss. I disagree, but what are you going to do?

March 1907

This month, it’s a convoy defense. Isly and a pair of Tage-class light cruisers drive off an attack from a similar Italian force. They probably could have defeated the Italians outright, but crews aboard our destroyers misidentified one of their light cruisers as an armored cruiser.

April 1907

Troude, a Tage-class cruiser, rather embarrassingly fails to destroy a bombardment target in Eritrea despite emptying her entire magazine into it.

May 1907

On the 11th, the Italians launch a raid on our coastal facilities. The fleet sorties.

The Battle of Nice

Visibility is good, the weather is pleasant, and we’re in that part of the year where the days are the longest. It’s looking good for something decisive.

007-set-scene

5:21 a.m.

The French fleet sights the Italian fleet to the west, and turns to engage.

6:00 a.m.

Together, the Italian fleet turns away from the French. We give chase.

6:44 a.m.

Sighting the Italian armored cruisers to the north, we ditch the battleships for now, on the theory that a stern chase is a long chase, and we have the speed to catch the cruisers against the French coast.

008

4:57 p.m.

It works. Although the Italian battle line escapes more or less unscathed, three Italian armored cruisers now dot the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. The only French loss is the light cruiser Lalande, torpedoed by an enemy submarine as we steam back to port.

009

010-aar

I’m going to recommend zooming in a bit on this one. It’s a busy picture. I’ve put some numbers on it to guide you through the battle.

At 1), the French fleet spots the Italian, and turns to go broadside to broadside. The sharp turn indicates when the Italians began to run.

At 2), the French fleet turns north after the enemy armored cruisers, and at 3), we drive them up against the coast.

West of 3), the Italian cruisers scatter. We pursue a pair of them up to 4), heavily damaging two of them. One, an Amalfi-class, is dead in the water, and destroyers torpedo it until it sinks. Another, also an Amalfi-class, slinks away up the coast, harangued by light forces until I recall them to screen the battle line.

They get recalled because the fleet spots one more Italian cruiser at 5), this one a slower Carlo Alberto type. One or two heavy hits slow it further, so that the battle line can fully catch up. Eventually, the vastly heavier weight of gunfire tells, and it slips beneath the waves at around 13:00.

From that point to 6), the fleet stands to the northwest, in pursuit of the Amalfi which escaped back at 4), coming across it and engaging it further. The brief French turn southwest, near 6), corresponds to the brief Italian sally at 7). After they lose heart, we resume our chase of the Amalfi, ultimately sinking it just before the minefields at Genoa.

It counts as a major victory, which earns us +1 prestige.

June 1907

The Italian navy declines battle over a large French convoy in the Mediterranean, and has no forces in the Indian Ocean to defend against a coastal raid conducted by a French cruiser squadron.

July 1907

An Italian submarine torpedoes the light cruiser Lavosier, a Chateaurenault. Two Italian light cruisers attack a French convoy, opposed by a pair of Tages and five destroyers. Though the French squadron took heavier damage than the Italian one did, the convoy escapes unscathed.

The first Duquesne-class battlecruiser enters service. It’ll need a month or two to finish working up before we can send it to the Mediterranean.

Design studies on the first French dreadnought battleship are finished now. In thirty months, Devastation will come down the ways.

011

August 1907

Getting vengeance for Lavosier is our submarine Euler, which torpedoes and sinks the Italian light cruiser Nino Bixio.

On the morning of the 27th, three Tage-class cruisers and a screen of six destroyers set out for the Italian coast, in search of coastal shipping. The weather is breezy and overcast, but visibility is good.

They sink a pair of ships merchants, managing to evade a pair of patrolling Italian armored cruisers by a daring run nearer the coast.

September 1907

012

The Austrians are building a very obsolete armored cruiser.

013

The French and Italian fleets collide near Nice, very briefly, before twilight intervenes. During the attempted pursuit, Fronde, a Francisque-class destroyer, strikes a mine and sinks. The fleet quickly abandons the chase, and the Italians notch a very marginal victory.

October 1907

014

The Italians have an interesting semi-dreadnought in the works, approximately similar to our Tridents, if a bit slower and much more heavily armed.

Duquesne and Jean Bart (the latter another Isly light cruiser) finish working up, and will be heading to the Mediterranean for a November arrival. Or, as I think about it, they will instead stay in northern Europe on trade protection duty, where they might run across some of the Italian armored cruisers raiding our shipping in that region.

Three Tage-class cruisers raid the Italian coast, this time destroying two merchantmen while fleeing from an Italian fleet headed by one of their 22-knot Amalfi-class armored cruisers. (Sure am glad our ships are fast!)

November 1907

At around 2 p.m. on the 8th, under cloudy skies and a moderate breeze out of the southwest, scouting units of la Marine Nationale spot an unknown vessel sailing toward Nice. The fleet turns that direction.

3:28 p.m.

The Italian fleet, predictably, is running to the west. This time, we have a few hours of daylight, so the battle line pours on some speed and tries to get downwind of the Italians, so as to avoid having to shoot with smoke in our eyes.

4:36 p.m.

015

The Italian battle line comes into view, twelve miles to the east-northeast, heading northwest. We’ll see if we can’t bag a few of these cruisers again; it doesn’t look like the battleships are going to stick around to play.

4:57 p.m.

016

This Carlo Alberto may be a decent armored cruiser. It is not, however, a match for three battleships.

017

At this range, even our inept gunners can hardly miss.

5:29 p.m.

018

The Italian battle line returns as twilight settles in. Soon it’ll be dark; perhaps we’ll be able to run down the Amalfi-class cruiser in front of us.

5:57 p.m.

Night falls. The French fleet takes a northward turn, with an eye toward catching some of the enemies in close and setting the destroyers on them.

7:15 p.m.

The opposite happens; Magenta and La République eat a torpedo a piece. Adroit damage control keeps them afloat, limping back to Nice for patching up.

019-aar

This battle was a bit simpler, and doesn’t need the explanatory numbering. You can se how the French fleet generally kept to the north of the Italian cruisers, and how, to my surprise, the Italian battleships were south of our ships for much of the action, only turning across our bow at about 3:00 p.m. When I first caught sight of them, it was toward the end of that maneuver.

November 1907, cont’d.

The victory point totals stand at 12,096 for the good guys to 4,438 for the Italians.

December 1907

On the 22nd, the Italians attack a French convoy. I had hoped that Duquesne, dispatched to the Mediterranean in pursuit of the Italian armored cruisers formerly of the North Atlantic, would play a role, but alas, she does not. Instead, three La Républiques take to the sea. It turns into a running gun battle that lasts until nightfall—three French battleships (then two, after Friedland took a hit which damaged her engines) against four Italian, plus two Italian armored cruisers.

Surprisingly, the French ships acquitted themselves well—all three battleships took light damage, inflicting light damage in return on two battleships, and medium damage on the two Italian cruisers.

Intelligence indicates that the next-generation German dreadnought has 16″ belt armor—impressive, and four inches thicker than our upcoming Devastation. A quick look at Britain’s dreadnoughts suggests that Germany is an outlier in the direction of heavier protection.

January 1908

The Italians put out peace feelers again. The Navy recommends that we squeeze them as hard as we can, and…

020-armistice
Unfortunately, the ‘considerable war reparations’ appear to be for flavor.

021-gains
Large territorial gains, though…

Unlike the last one, this war bears fruit. While Sardinia would have been a sweet apple to pluck, I decide instead to build a belt of bases around Italy (and, for that matter, Austria).

Finally, with an eye toward retiring some of the Gueydons and mothballing others until such time as naval aircraft are invented, I start on an overseas-service light cruiser design.

022-pascal

March 1908

Shipyards lay down the first Pascal, and our second battlecruiser enters service, with the third due next month.

April 1908

Germany’s aggressive naval program prompts an event which forces us to lose face or raise tensions. I elect for the former, dropping our prestige from 25 to 24.

May 1908

Another pair of Pistolets enters service, bringing the total to six. The shipyards enter their postwar slumber, building a pair of light cruisers (an Isly class, named Lavosier after one of the ships we lost in the war, and Pascal), and Devastation.

I don’t have time for the full update—it’s currently 9:44 p.m. on Wednesday, so I need to wrap up and get all the images ready.

Two-Year Report: Diplomacy

Mes amis, we bask in the glory of three new colonies, and a Mediterranean increasingly blanketed by the tricolor flag.

Two-Year Report: Finances

We’re at that point now where the fleet we have costs enough to maintain so that the fleet we want is hard to build. Our recently-peacetime monthly budget is 13,071 funds, of which 6,720 funds are eaten up by maintenance, 1,568 by research, and 200 by intelligence. That leaves us around 4,500 to spend on construction, which is not quite two dreadnoughts.

Some ships will probably have to be mothballed or retired going forward, and the Gueydons overseas are prime candidates. As soon as the new Pascals start to roll off the ways, the Gueydons deployed overseas will start coming home, to be stored away for later use or scrapped altogether.

Other candidates include some of our light cruisers—we still have the second-largest light cruiser fleet in the world, behind Britain, although (as I’ve mentioned before) our light cruisers pull some of the same duties that armored cruisers do in other navies.

Two-Year Report: The Fleet

We’re in good shape compared to our Mediterranean peers. We have three dreadnought-style ships in service (all Duquesne battlecruisers) and one dreadnought battleship under construction. Italy and Austria both have dreadnought battleships under construction, one a piece. Another option, one I haven’t used much in previous Rule the Waves games, is the reserve fleet option, which halves maintenance costs for ships without much long-term penalty.

Anyway, I have two questions for the gallery:

  1. Should we make use of the reserve fleet? If so, what should we reserve? One or two battleships? Older light cruisers? Old destroyers? Some combination?
  2. What should our shipyards focus on? Dreadnought battleships (i.e. 22-knot ships which don’t compromise on armor or guns, to the extent possible), or battlecruisers (i.e., 24+-knot ships with respectable armor and fewer or smaller guns, as needed to attain the above)?

Finally, some bonus material, courtesy of a reader at a different site: video of the 13″ guns firing on a predreadnought of the Royal Sovereign class.

Rule the Waves 2: To May, 1906

We return with another two-year stretch. (Or, at least, hopefully two years. I have company coming over on Saturday, which is my usual play-the-game day. We’ll see how far I get.)

Goals for this entry include designing a battlecruiser (circa early 1905), keeping the naval budget more or less balanced, rebuilding our older battleships to use better fire control, and pushing for moderate tensions with Italy and/or Austria-Hungary to permit us to build more ships.

June 1904

To start with, I place a few ships into reserve fleet status, which cuts their upkeep in half but reduces their maximum crew quality to ‘Fair’. (Ordinarily, the maximum is ‘Good’. I don’t recall offhand if specialized training increases the maximum to ‘Elite’.) Given that I don’t expect any wars in the immediate future, we can afford to.

Another Francisque-class destroyer comes off the ways, completing our initial buy of seven. I could scrap some of the Fauconneaus, but destroyer upkeep is so cheap that it’s hardly worth the effort.

Finally, I start the rebuild process for the La Républiques, updating them from central rangefinding to central firing. The history of battleship fire control is the history of centralizing more parts of the process. Central rangefinding moves the rangefinding away from the individual guns and to a central position, which can be elevated above the guns’ smoke and also made more delicate and (therefore) more precise.

006-smoke
Believe it or not, this photograph is of a ship firing using smokeless powder. Clearly ‘smoke less’, not ‘smokeless’.

Central firing moves the triggering of the guns to a central location, which helps eliminate errors in timing.

Finally, director firing lays the guns automatically—the turret crew no longer controls azimuth and elevation.

August 1904

001-gbr-intel

July passes quietly. The British are still building pre-dreadnoughts—and pre-dreadnoughts which will be a much greater liability in the future naval era than our Tridents.

Italy, too, is refitting its battleships with central firing.

October 1904

The first La République completes her refit.

At the same time, the first design studies on the Duquesne-class battlecruiser begin.

002-duquesne

Tallying the votes across all the places where this AAR is running, German-style battlecruisers won the day. This 24-knot ship mounts six 11″ guns, a secondary battery of 6″ guns (+1 quality), and a tertiary battery of 2″ guns (+1 quality). (A gun of +1 quality is approximately equivalent in range and penetration to a 0-quality gun with a caliber one inch larger.) She has a 10″ armored belt, and tips the scales at a hair over 18,000 tons.

In other news…

003-austrian-battleship

I was flipping through the almanac to see where we’re going to land in the dreadnought race (second to get one under construction, it looks like!), and found that the Austrians call this a battleship. We have to have a war with them.

January 1905

We elect to refit the Tridents with central firing before they even come down the ways, which saves us a rebuild cycle on them.

February 1905

The first Duquesne‘s keel is laid. She should be ready in early 1908.

The lack of any budget-increasing events has been a bit of a bummer. I’m considering mothballing some of the light cruiser force to free up some more money. As it is, we’re building one Trident, one Chauteaurenault, one of the new Isly light cruisers, and one Duquesne, and still losing money. Ideally, I’d be able to rebuild a La République with better fire control while still keeping up on the dreadnought program.

Advanced gunnery training is a stretch goal, but the budget is too tight to permit it right now.

March 1905

Given that our light cruiser fleet is still enormous compared to everyone except for Great Britain, I decide that putting a few in mothballs (it’ll take about a year to bring them back to combat strength) is acceptable to keep the battleships rolling. Especially now that we’re building replacement fleet light cruisers, keeping all the Tages at 100% operational capacity isn’t as important.

April 1905

A new government wants to cut arms expenditure. I protest loudly and receive a small bump in the naval budget. There are now three La Républiques rebuilding at the same time. (Also, it’s a little cheaper than it appears at first—you don’t pay regular maintenance on ships under rebuild.)

June 1905

004-balkans

Nothing bad can possibly come of this. We stand behind our ally and reap the budgetary rewards.

Upside: we can afford the refit on the rest of the La Républiques. Downside: tensions are up with Germany, who we really can’t fight on even terms.

September 1905

Thinking they’re being helpful, the government votes to increase naval spending given tensions with Germany, which… raises tensions with Germany.

October 1905

The French public raises 50 million francs for a battleship. We lay down one Duquesne because our last pre-dreadnought Trident completes, and one Duquesne with the funds the public so helpfully collected for us.

Six-gun ships are nice, but I’d like to push to eight soon.

November 1905

Thanks to our dreadnought-building program, Britain is forced to raise spending to keep its navy preeminent.

December 1905

005

The Americans sell us the rights to steam turbine technology, which we’ll take, thank you very much.

Propulsion is one place where Rule the Waves elides a little bit of detail. Steam turbines, in the game, represent a simple decrease in the weight of a ship’s machinery. This is a bit of a simplification.

Shipboard steam propulsion starts with evaporators. Salt, as you’re probably aware, is corrosive, and salt and steam are worse than either in isolation. Marine boilers and condensers demand fresh water, so steamships have to produce fresh water from the materials at hand—heat and seawater. Evaporators distill seawater to fresh water, which is then fed into the boilers.

Boilers do what they say on the tin, turning fuel (in this era, coal or oil) and fresh water into high-pressure steam. The volume of steam a ship’s boilers produce determines how fast it can turn its engines.

In our early-20th-century timeframe of interest, there were two types of engine of note. The first is the multiple-expansion engine, most frequently the triple-expansion type. Steam flows into three cylinders of increasing size, driving a piston in each cylinder. Increasing the size of the cylinder at each step means that each cylinder generates substantially similar force—as the steam flows through the engine, its pressure goes down, so giving it a larger area to act on counters that effect.

The second type is the steam turbine, demonstrated in dramatic fashion by the Turbinia, which showed up at the Navy Review during Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, and proceeded to outrun the fastest vessels the Royal Navy could send to chase it down. From this beginning, turbines eventually made it into most of the world’s warships by about 1910. (At the end of this tangent, I actually back up my assertion that the elision of detail is important.) Like all turbines, steam turbines are essentially pinwheels writ large—blow through it, or force high-pressure steam through it, and it rotates.

Finally, after steam passes through the engine, it arrives at the condensers, which turn it back into fresh water for recycling through the system again. Reusing water means that the evaporators don’t have to work as hard (although ‘not as hard’ still translates to ‘tons per hour’, in this context). When condensers break, steam-powered ships are unable to generate as much steam (since they have to wait for the evaporators, rather than using water they already have), which slows them down.

Anyway, all that to say that the US Navy, in the early days of steam turbines, waffled between turbines and the older triple-expansion engines. Why? Because turbines are only very efficient near full power, and triple-expansion engines, though larger and bulkier, can run at cruise power much more effectively. As late as USS Oklahoma (laid down 1910, commissioned 1916), the Navy built ships with triple-expansion engines, because for they had better range for a given weight of fuel, and we Americans didn’t build fast battleships until the North Carolina-class in the late 30s. Other American ships (and other shipbuilding nations) experimented with a smaller cruise turbine, which would push the ship at cruise speed when running at full power.

In Rule the Waves 2, you don’t get the choice. You just pick a fuel type and an engine focus (from Speed, Reliability, or neither).

February 1906

An uprising in China presents us with the chance to reduce tensions with Germany, which we gratefully take.

May 1906

Germany takes advantage of our softness and sends a force to occupy Angola, which produces very little of note.

Two-Year Report: Diplomacy

007-diplomacy

Aside from the aforementioned tensions with Germany, things are quiet enough. Italy is making noise again, and building a few more battleships to boot.

Two-Year Report: The Fleet

008-status

009-navies

Speaking of which, the fleet report! We’re currently operating at a deficit of 1,553 kilofrancs, but the first batch of ships will finish before we run dry (a new light cruiser and the first Duquesne).

Right now, we look pretty good in the Mediterranean Throwdown Power Rankings. We have a small edge over Italy right now in battleships, and given that our battlecruisers are armored well enough to stand in the line of battle, we’ll maintain that edge even given the predreadnoughts they’re still building.

We’re behind in armored cruisers, as ever, but the battlecruisers are, in part, intended to fix that.

Our huge superiority in light cruisers gives us advantages in the commerce raiding game—we can detach a bunch of them to go sink merchants without much fear of losing them or falling behind our chosen opponents in attached-to-the-fleet strength. Ditto destroyers; they’re a great way to fill the trade protection quota while corvettes build. On the downside, we’re a little behind now on submarines. Should we think about building more?

That said, I think there might be room in the schedule and the budget for an updated Chateaurenault class. The Gueydons, which are filling the larger part of our foreign obligations, are expensive to maintain, especially away from home waters. A class of foreign station light cruisers, with medium or long range and equipped for colonial service (the latter makes a ship count for 150% its tonnage when determining how much you have vs. how much you need on a foreign station), would fill the gap nicely. We could mothball or even scrap a Gueydon or two, and put the savings into more shipbuilding.

Another option might be to put some money toward a class of coastal monitors—ships with, say, a pair of large-caliber turreted guns, low speed and short range, and a ton of armor. With some of those, we could limit the ability of foes to blockade our North Atlantic or Mediterranean coasts without diverting units from the main fleet.

Of course, there’s also room for a class of proper battleship-style dreadnoughts—something with 22-knot speed, a bit more armor, and 8 or 10 guns. (The only reason the Duquesnes are six-gun ships is because we don’t have the technology yet to put more than three turrets on a ship such that all of them can fire at a broadside enemy. There are two technologies that allow that: 4+ centerline turrets, and cross-deck firing for wing turrets.) These three Duquesnes will likely be the only three, as well, given that we have steam turbine technology now, and that leads to large weight savings at higher speeds.

Of course, if we wanted to stick with a six-gun ship, we also just developed 14″, quality -1 naval guns, which would go nicely on a dreadnought.

Meta

I won’t be able to do my usual weekend play-through, so next week’s update might slip a bit, or perhaps cover less time.

Rule the Waves 2: To May, 1904

Let’s get right to it.

June 1902

Lalande, a Tage, joins the navy, scientists invent the six-foot rangefinder, and naval engineers work out that double bottoms are a good plan (stolen from the Americans).

Strikes delay the construction of Suffren by one month.

001-trident

Jeers from the naval engineering community lead the Ministère de la Marine to hastily release a slightly more traditional design, with 12″ main guns and six 10″ secondaries. It loses 200 tons and gains a bit of extra armor in the bargain.

Designers play around with some armored cruiser designs, but the naval community eventually rejects the idea.

July 1902

002-austria

An opportunity arises to hack off our other Mediterranean neighbors. With the budget increase, I lay down another pair of Chateaurenaults, for a total of four under construction.

Italy commissions one of the armored cruisers our spies stole the details of, and invents the early coastal submarine.

August 1902

In response to our hacking off, Austria-Hungary increases its naval spending.

Italy is building more coastal batteries in the Mediterranean, a 6″ and an 11″. The latter might someday cause us trouble.

Coastal batteries might be worth investing in at some point—not for the guns themselves, but because, I believe, the amount of coastal fortification you have increases the extent and density of your defensive minefields.

September 1902

We lay down Trident, first of her class. Linois (a light cruiser) and Epieu (a destroyer) enter service.

October 1902

Tensions with Italy are at the breaking point. War is likely, if any events go in such a fashion as to push us any further.

Italy’s naval budget goes up, and they lay down another armored cruiser.

Our budget, annoyingly, goes slightly down.

November 1902

003-busy-italy
The Italians are busy this month.

January 1903

We completed research into improved face-hardening, which will improve our future ships’ armor.

March 1903

The new naval minister wants 15 destroyers under construction, and is willing to bump the budget a bit to achieve that, so I take the deal.

April 1904

004-war

April 1904: Battle of Crete

005-battle

The first sea action of la Marine nationale opens on a calm April morning in overcast weather, as the Italians happen upon a French cruiser squadron steaming west-southwest Crete. Visibility should be excellent.

On our side are the two Gueydons based in the Mediterranean, Bruix and Montcalm, six Tages, and seven Fauconneaus. Italy has more cruisers than that in this region, but it remains to be seen how many will come out to play. The sun is rising behind us, which gives our ships a bit of an edge if a battle happens early.

In the event that it looks bad, our squadron, with a speed of 23 knots, should be able to outrun the Italians, the only difficulty being the relative lack of sea room here in the Middle Sea.

5:00

The light cruisers assigned to scouting fan out for a better view.

5:21

006-spotted

The light cruiser Lalande spots a ship ahead. I order a turn to the north-northwest to avoid closing too quickly.

5:24

The light cruisers spot a half dozen ships. I increase the squadron’s speed to 20 knots and pull the scouting force in to screen the armored cruisers.

Two minutes later, Lalande identifies one of the light cruisers as a Salerno class. It bristles with small-caliber guns.

007-salerno

5:27

The light cruisers begin to identify the Italian battle line, which looks to comprise at least four armored cruisers. The squadron stays at 20 knots, pending identification, but we’re probably running.

5:31

Another Italian light cruiser is identified as part of the Nino Bixio class, which is a Salerno without dual-purpose guns.

One minute later, wireless signals from a light cruiser identify one of the enemy ships as a Carlo Alberto-class armored cruiser.

008-carlo-alberto

Because the Italians accepted a lower speed, their cruisers get more guns. Because we decided on a higher speed, we don’t need to face them, and Bruix leads Montcalm in a turn east, in pursuit of the better part of valor.

5:36

009

It’s the right move. Look at that swarm of slow, poorly-armored cruisers!

5:44

010

This, however, is quite a light cruiser. 6600 tons, 10 6″ guns? Wild. At least it’s slow.

6:06

The Italian battle line cruises past our stern and turns away. The heavy cruisers come about to see if we can’t maybe dispose of a shadowing light cruiser before they come back.

7:36

011
The red circles represent the range of our cruisers’ main batteries. The larger gray circles represent the edge of their visual range.

I was wary of some manner of trap, but the only ships we can see are the two light cruisers ahead of us, which will shortly be in range. I’m still prepared to run if the rest of the Italian squadron makes an appearance, but it’s looking like we might draw first blood.

7:39

Lalande is the first to open fire.

8:36

The two Italian light cruisers are joined by a third.

Also, it takes us nearly an hour to score a hit: Lalande lands a blow from about 5500 yards.

9:30

The Italian cruiser turns away from its allies, and our fleet sets off in pursuit.

10:29

Regrettably, the Salerno-class target is still alive three hours after the first shot, though burning and badly damaged.

11:17

With the Italian cruiser dead in the water, our ships take one more run past it to ensure it goes under, and depart to the west.

16:35

012-results

The scenario ends, as our ships and the enemy’s are far apart. La Marine nationale acquitted itself relatively well in the face of a superior force, escaping serious damage and sinking an enemy ship.

Bruix won the gunnery medal for the day, with a 2.25% hit rate.

April 1903 (cont’d)

013-new destroyer

The war cancels the naval minister’s ambition for more destroyers, but a new class is in order anyway. These new Francisques don’t sacrifice anything from the preceding Fauconneaus, and have a two-knot speed advantage on them.

Time for wartime dispositions. The Gueydons in the Mediterranean are made commerce raiders. Because of their speed, they’re practically invincible unless caught entirely off guard.

A pair of Chateaurenaults are coming next month. They’ll go on trade protection for a few months, relieving two Tages currently filling that role, until some corvettes currently under construction can take over.

May 1903

A bevy of technologies arrive this month, but none of them are dramatic improvements—lots of slow-and-gradual stuff.

The Italians raid the Northern European coast with three armored cruisers. Three destroyers sally to meet them, but the two forces don’t meet.

Because we don’t have any armored cruisers, the Italians win a bunch of dominance-of-the-sea victories around the Mediterranean. (If the game thinks a battle should happen and one side can’t field appropriate forces, the other side wins by default, as though the under-equipped side had declined battle.) Our commerce raiders and evasion of their coastal raid earn us about the same number of victory points, and in this second month of the war, the tally is 751-623 for the home team.

On the upside, the Chauteaurenault class exceeds its design speed in trials, and hits the same 24-knot mark our existing light cruisers do.

June 1903

014

Well now. I can live with those odds.

June 1903: The Battle of Bordighera

A leisurely five-hour cruise from Toulon, we encounter the enemy fleet at 8:18 p.m., on a southwesterly course.

015

The enemy battleships almost immediately turn away.

20:48

After a half an hour of ineffective firing, darkness falls over the Mediterranean.

I’m of a mind to push onward toward the Italian fleet. We have a huge speed advantage, are evenly matched in guns, and have more destroyers (since we’re operating close to our bases). Night fights are bloody, but I think we can make something out of this one.

21:41

016

Running side-by-side with a trio of perhaps-cruisers-perhaps-battleships at 4,000 yard, Solferino, La République, and Magenta score hit after hit on one of them.

22:51

The Italians bug out toward La Spezia, having dealt some damage to our battleships, and taken some in return. All told, not a bad little battle. La République had a bit of a scare losing electric power and then catching fire, but got both problems under control by 11:30 p.m.

The damage tally calls it a marginal Italian victory. I believe it’s on the strength of Italian gunnery—we scored a lot of hits, but most of them were with the secondary and tertiary batteries on the battleships. The Italians did better with their heavy guns.

July 1903

The government is asking whether to seek peace. I figure we’ll let it go a while longer—they aren’t that far ahead, and we’ll have some submarines joining the fight soon.

July’s battle is a convoy fight. We have a three-ship battle division, three light cruisers, and a bevy of destroyers. Conditions are good, with a moderate breeze, and the sun is high overhead.

Italy brings a similar force: three battleships, a pair of armored cruisers, and some destroyers.

017
As before, the red circle is the selected squadron’s gun range, and the gray circle is what it can see. Battle Division 5, the lead squadron in the battle line, is selected. Because Light Cruiser Division 10 is out in front of the fleet a little ways, I can still see the transports making their way east by south.

As you probably can’t make out, it’s a tense situation. Let’s break it down a bit.

First, as I mentioned, it’s a daylight battle, so I can’t rely on sunset to mask my convoy from the depredations of the Italian squadron. Second, and of equal importance, the Italians have two squadrons which could seriously threaten the convoy: the battleship squadron, center-left in the picture above, and a cruiser squadron, to their battleships’ southeast.

At the moment of this screenshot, the two battleship squadrons are having an ineffectual gunnery duel—at that range, around 6,000 yards, nobody really expects to hit much. That fight is happening about 30,000 yards west of the transports; I let the Italians pull me off of the convoy, since their cruisers were shadowing their battleships. Eventually, the cruisers peeled off and headed back for the convoy, at which point the speed of the French battle line paid off—we could make it back to the convoy quickly enough to prevent the Italians from doing very much damage to it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take many pictures of what was by far the most exciting battle to date. The Italians did heavy damage to one of our destroyers, but we did more damage to their ships generally than they did to ours, and they’ll likely be in the dockyards for a month or two.

Rumors of war-weariness and protests reach our spies in Rome.

August 1903

Another fleet battle off the south of France. This time, the Italians bring six battleships to our four (two are in for maintenance). OUt fleet exchanges desultory fire with the Italian van, then falls back on the minefields at Toulon.

September 1903

The French fleet launches a raid on Italian coastal shipping. Unfortunately, before the sixty-mile seach line comes upon any merchants, it comes upon an Italian cruiser squadron, quickly reverses course, and makes it back to the French coast with no losses, briefly stopping to bombard a shore battery.

October 1903

We decline a cruiser action in the northwestern Mediterranean, and accept a battleship brawl in the early morning of the 17th.

This one looks more favorable than most: the ships involved are four French battleships against, by all appearances, two Italian battleships and three armored cruisers.

018

On closer inspection, it appears the ratio is flipped: two armored cruisers and three battleships. Still not bad odds, and the Italians have turned to run for it.

Not all of the Italians make it. The most reliable weapons on our Les Républiques (the 5″ tertiary guns) slow down one light cruiser enough for our ships to fall on it. A second Italian light cruiser appears to the south of our force as we’re leaving the battlefield. Quick thinking by your admiral, who detaches a light cruiser squadron to run down this second target, wins the day.

After seven months of war, the tally stands at 2,774-2,732, just barely in favor of the home team.

With some of our cash cushion, French shipyards work on kitting out a pair of armed merchant cruisers to raid Italian shipping.

November 1903

019

The Italian fleet sorties on the 5th, and at 10:46 a.m., the French fleet is there to meet it. It’s the whole French fleet this time, too, all six battleships.

Although the Italians have five battleships and two armored cruisers to our six battleships, they nevertheless turn tail after a brief exchange of fire, during which their gunnery proves more accurate than ours (as has been the case for this entire war).

Sinking a destroyer unlucky enough to take a hit from a 13″ shell, the French fleet turns northward to bombard a shore battery on the coast near Imperia—the battleship guns should make short work of that, at least—and then perhaps eastward to see if any Italian shipping is at sea.

It isn’t, so we go home.

December 1903

A raid on the Italian west coast produces no results and a few hundred victory points for the Italians. Owing to the relatively successful battles over the last few months, and the Italians declining battle a few times, the war score stands at 3,794-3,198.

January 1904

A new year sees an Italian armored cruiser fail to prosecute a night attack on a convoy, driven off by a pair of Tages and a plucky destroyer flotilla. There are reports of widespread civil disturbance in Italy. If we stay the course a bit longer, I think we’ll be in good shape.

February 1904

A large Italian convoy escapes an attack by French light cruisers. Italy regains a small lead in the victory point rankings.

Our submarines make their first major contribution, torpedoing an Italian armored cruiser (but, alas, not sinking it).

March 1904

One year into the war, the Italians put out peace feelers, and the civilian government agrees. The Navy acquitted itself relatively well, sinking three enemy light cruisers and three destroyers in exchange for the loss of one destroyer of its own.

020-isly

It’s only entering construction as the war ends, but to combat the new Italian 24-knot light cruisers, the Ministry of the Navy solicits designs for a 25-knot light cruiser, the Isly class. They’ll begin to replace the Tages over time.

Lessons from the War

In no particular order…

  1. I probably shouldn’t have ignored armed merchant cruisers and small corvettes in my previous RTW2 games. Since they’re converted civilian ships (liners and trawlers, respectively), they only take four months to build, and they’re a good way to quickly bulk up a navy so you can use your warships for war, rather than trade protection.
  2. Our lack of powerful armored cruisers is a bit of a problem at the moment.
  3. French gunnery was atrocious—the main batteries on our La Républiques were only good for about one hit every 150 rounds in good conditions. The Italian battleships shot better with their heavy guns.
  4. The Italian 12″ guns outrange our 13″ -2-quality guns, which makes the redesign of the Tridents to use 12″ guns look even better.
  5. French commerce raiders served admirably, sinking merchants at about a 2-1 rate over their Italian counterparts.
  6. The Gueydons, with their high speed but small guns, are extremely useful for hunting light cruisers, but not much good at fighting armored cruisers themselves.
  7. The Italians fought this war with extreme cowardice. One-to-one, I think their 1900-era battleships are superior to ours, and they often ran away when they had numerical superiority.

May 1904

Something marvelous happens. French naval thinkers take a drag on their cigarettes, sip their red wine, and ponder: what if we built ships with three centerline turrets?

The way to a dreadnought battleship is open. The money isn’t there just yet, but a Trident finishes in eight months, and I think that’s the time to get one going in the yards.

Two-Year Report: Diplomacy

021-diplomacy

The war with Italy has drawn to a close, and tensions are low. Intelligence remains focused on the Italians and, to a lesser degree, the Austrians.

Two-Year Report: The Fleet

022-fleet

023-status

At present, we have a world-class fleet of light cruisers and destroyers, to the point that we can consider putting some into the reserve fleet, or mothballing or retiring them altogether. We’re a bit over-budget at the moment, but I haven’t canceled any wartime shipbuilds yet, either.

Our battleship fleet is solidly middle of the road. We can’t challenge the three largest powers, but we can meet any of the other three on equal terms.

As for shipbuilding priorities, I have two thoughts. One: join the British in the dreadnought era (or perhaps the jupiter era, as they’ve begun work on the world’s first new-style battleship, HMS Jupiter) with a dreadnought battleship of our own. Two: instead, start by building a dreadnought cruiser (a battle-cruiser, if you will), to help counter everyone else’s massive advantage in armored cruiser count.

If we start with a battlecruiser, the question is, what do we sacrifice? Battleships try to balance speed, protection, and firepower. Battlecruisers sacrifice one of those three to gain an edge in the other two. Historically, the Royal Navy went with firepower and speed over protection, while the Germans went with speed and protection. (You could presumably sacrifice speed for firepower and protection, but I think you’d just end up with a slightly slower battleship in that case.)

Two-Year Report: Meta

I realize that this entry is a bit hard to follow, jumping around from battle to battle in several different styles. I was so pumped about getting to a war that I kind of forgot to walk through a battle from a gameplay perspective. I’ll try to rectify that next time a war comes up, making heavier use of the after-action report map mode, and perhaps taking a bit more time to explain how the game handles battles.

Rule the Waves 2: To May, 1902

Before diving into the month-by-month update structure to which Rule the Waves 2 lends itself, I realized based on some comments last week that I haven’t explained what Rule the Waves 2 is.

Rule the Waves 2 is a strategy wargame which covers, in roughly equal parts, the design and development of warships between 1900 and 1955, and battles using those ships. The two most important parts of the game are the ship design screen (which you’ve seen a few times already in the first entry in this series, and which you will see twice more today) and the battle interface (which has not yet come up). The strategic layer which glues the two together is primarily there to create reasons to design ships and to start wars in which the ships get used.

That’s pretty much the long and short of it. The game advances in one-month turns; battles play out in one-minute real-time simulation steps.

June 1900

Back to the game. Two fresh destroyers come down the ways, and our spies uncover details on a new class of Italian armored cruiser. Not much to worry about.

001: cruiser Francesco Ferruccio
Much slower and much lighter than ours.

August 1900

Unlike historical France, this is not a democracy, but the weight of public opinion nevertheless leans toward bullying the Mediterranean. Another fellow is doing a Rule the Waves France playthrough right now, and is also bullying the Mediterranean. It seems to be working, but I also hate to be a copycat. I think we’ll keep our eye mainly on the Mediterranean, but we won’t disdain the chance to expand in Southeast Asia if it falls before us. (At the behest of a blog commenter—I’m running this in three places with three relatively active audiences, if I hadn’t mentioned that already.)

With an eye toward Mediterranean domination, the bulk of the navy moves to Marseilles. A squadron of destroyers stays on the northern coast.

October 1900

October sees a handy event. The Prime Minister makes a gaffe, so we exploit it for more money. This has the side effect of bringing war with Italy nearer, but with the increased budget, I order another Tage-class and push our research spending to the maximum permissible 12%. Worth it.

December 1900

A new government decides to raise expenditures on armaments. That’s good news for us. We lay down a new La République, to be named Suffren.

January 1901

The Gueydon-class cruiser Bruix enters service. Replacing her on the build list is one light cruiser and three destroyers.

Light cruisers are particularly important elements of the fleet. They serve as our eyes in fleet battles, typically deployed in an umbrella ahead of the battle line. Given the speed of our battleships and the size of their guns, holding our preferred range is important, and a robust scouting force of fast light cruisers will let us do that.

February 1901

Parliament votes to cut naval spending, upending our carefully-planned budget. We have enough of a cushion to run a deficit until some ships finish building, however, so that’s what we’ll do.

March 1901

003: heavy secondary guns

A breakthrough in ship design! We can now build semi-dreadnoughts, ships with secondary batteries not dramatically smaller than their primary batteries.

That brings us into approximately the semi-dreadnought era. Pre-dreadnought battleships, with a small battery of heavy guns and a larger battery of quick-firing medium ones ones, were predicated on the idea that naval gunnery at long ranges was not possible. You had your big guns to punch through heavy armor, and a good number of smaller guns to wreck your target’s upper works and superstructure as the range closed, keeping up a high rate of fire.

Early on in the 20th century, advancements in rangefinding and fire control proved that this was not the case. Since your big guns could hit targets at long range, it made less and less sense to carry a lot of middleweight guns when you could instead spend that weight on your heavy ones, and deliver knockout blows from further away from your enemies. This update to the received wisdom on shipbuilding ultimately produced the dreadnought battleship.

The technological capability to build ships with, say, three centerline turrets with 12″ guns existed in 1900, but doctrine had not yet caught up. While most of the technologies we’ll develop in Rule the Waves are actually technological advancements, some (in particular, in the Ship Design tree) represent the development of new ways of thinking. We, as players with some historical knowledge, know that the dreadnought battleship is the way of the future, but our 1901-era French have not yet hit upon that idea, so the game sticks some limits on us to force us to stay in character.

April 1901

Spies report that the Italians have also figured out the heavy secondary battery. We’re keeping an eye on their shipbuilding, but they haven’t laid down any new battleships just yet. It appears they’re focusing on their wimpy armored cruisers.

May 1901

More intelligence reports from Italy: they’ll be commissioning a new light cruiser just after the New Year, and their current light cruiser class has a speed of 21 knots and belt armor of two inches. Their armor is heavier than our light cruisers’, but they can barely outrun our battleships, and our armored cruisers could easily run them down and have a massive firepower advantage.

Our Gueydons slot into the hierarchy of naval warfare right around where battlecruisers do a decade later. Battlecruisers made armored cruisers obsolete, by dint of their higher speed and heavy main armament—a battlecruiser could easily catch and outshoot an armored cruiser, and could easily outrun a battleship (whose armor tilts the fight in favor of itself).

The Gueydons to light cruisers are like battlecruisers will be to armored cruisers, in that they’re excellent light cruiser hunters—faster than other armored cruisers with heavier guns, faster than most light cruisers, and much more heavily armed. Too, as someone pointed out, they’ll make great experimental aircraft carriers someday.

004: almanac
One year in, the Italians have nearly caught up to us in naval budget. We’re closing the battleship gap, but won’t have our sixth ship until 1903. They’re building more armored cruisers, but ours are heavier.

June 1901

We may not get the chance to catch up, though. Italy looks to be making waves in Greece.

005: italy ultimatum

The Italians back down, but tensions rise.

July 1901

With tensions between France and Italy running high, we skip hosting an international regatta in favor of keeping the budget focused on shipbuilding.

The Italians raise their naval budget again.

August 1901

We catch a German spy. I briefly debate using the occasion to push for a higher budget, but decide instead to sweep it under the rug. Tangling with Germany would be unpleasant.

September 1901

A disarmament conference in the Hague ends with no concrete results, to my satisfaction.

October 1901

One light cruiser and three destroyers enter service.

We send a force to quell an uprising in China, which increases tension, but also raises the prestige of the French Navy.

One concrete suggestion from a reader was a cheaper (that is, expendable) class of light cruiser for commerce raiding. Enter the Chateaurenault class:

006: chateaurenault design

At 2800 tons, it’s a little more than half the displacement of our Tages. It doesn’t sacrifice much speed—at 23 knots, it’s still one of the faster light cruisers in current production, at least that I’m aware of—but has lighter armament and armor. It’s much cheaper than the Tages, too, so we can bulk out our fleet of light cruisers more quickly.

December 1901

007: the joys of a free press

Thanks to the newspapers, we get a little budget bump. Design studies on the Chateaurenault class are finished, so we order two with some of our current excess.

January 1902

008: san diego class

Spies recently dispatched to America to see what one of the big-spender naval powers is up to bore their first fruit this month, giving us a blueprint for an American armored cruiser of the San Diego class. It isn’t much to write home about. The Gueydons remain clearly superior in weaponry, speed, and armor, as you might expect from ships with an extra 5,000 tons displacement or so.

It’s a good month for the French intelligence services generally. We hear that the Americans are building a Raleigh-class light cruiser with 3″ main guns, outmatched by even our cheap light cruisers. Austria-Hungary has commissioned two armored cruisers this month, and Italy has improved its armor-piercing shells.

February 1902

009: spies get caught

Spies recently dispatched to America now bear negative fruit. One of them gets caught.

As a consolation prize, we invent a number of new technologies this month, reducing the weight of our ship’s hulls and machinery and allowing us to build ships with secondary batteries in double turrets. Ocean, a La République, is coming off the ways in three months. I smell a new battleship design to take her place.

March 1902

The Japanese wish to buy a technology from us. I decide to sell it, given that we’ll shortly be paying the design expenses on a new battleship design.

Well, since we are paying the design expenses on a new battleship design.

010: trident design

The Trident-class battleship features the same four-gun 13″ main battery as the older Les Républiques, backed by a pair of two-gun 12″ wing turrets in the secondary battery. 12 4″ guns in turrets provide defense against small craft. Their armor protects them against their own guns between at least 5,000 and 9,000 yards, and possibly further out or in depending on gun data at those ranges.

Finally, they have a 22-knot speed, practically unheard-of in this era. Even the real-world HMS Dreadnought, still four years off, only managed 21, and that was with turbines rather than the triple-expansion engines we’re rocking.

Anyway, the upshot is that sufficiently fast heavy ships render armored cruisers obsolete, so there’s no real reason to build more Gueydons.

That brings us to a decision point. The Tridents are the largest ships we can build in our current docks. Should we focus on building a shipyard expansion or two over the next two years, building one Trident at a time, or build out the fleet more quickly by building two Tridents at once? A shipyard expansion costs 2,000 per month, I believe, so at this point in our game history, it’s just about equivalent to one battleship.

April 1902

Just as we prepare to render the armored cruiser obsolete, the monthly intelligence report indicates that Austria-Hungary, Great Britain, Japan, and Italy have either laid down or commissioned armored cruisers this month. Our spies in America steal the blueprints for another San Diego-class, which is of limited use to us given that we saw the same blueprint in January.

May 1902

The La République-class battleship Ocean is commissioned. One year from today, the last La République, Suffren, will join the fleet. Next month, the design studies on the Trident type will finish, and we can start producing one of those.

French researchers have developed reliable bursting charges, which will enhance the damage of penetrating hits. A trade mission to Great Britain yields important results: we developed the technology to build coastal submarines. Finally, we learned how to make 600-ton destroyers. A new design there will be in the offing early in the next entry. Speaking of, should we spend our small-ships budget on new destroyers or on some submarines? The coastal submarine design will work well for us, given our focus on the Mediterranean; each submarine costs a little more than half as much per month as the Fauconneau destroyers do (although the Fauconneaus are cheaper in absolute terms, taking fewer months to build).

The intelligence report is very busy this month: Germany commissions a pair of destroyers and a pair of battleships, Great Britain is concerned about its naval superiority and has increased its spending. (That’s their national special ability. Ours? Our government frequently changes its mind on fleet priorities. C’est la vie…) Italy has laid down a pair of light cruisers, but between what we have in service and what we have under construction, we still have a better light cruiser fleet.

Japan has at least two classes of armored cruiser in progress right now, one with 10″ main guns and another with a 20-knot speed and a 5″ armor belt, both of which are entirely outclassed by even our existing battleships, to say nothing of our future designs.

Two-Year Report: Diplomacy

011: diplomacy

Tensions continue to run high with Italy, our most likely foe in the next few years. Despite our efforts, the Austro-Hungarians continue to view us as friends.

Britain and Germany, the two do-not-touch powers, aren’t our biggest fans, but also don’t seem to have much motivation to come after us.

Two-Year Report: The Fleet

012: fleet comparison

Here are the Mediterranean Current Naval Tonnage and Planned Naval Tonnage Rankings. Italy has about a battleship’s lead over us presently in the latter category, with the situation flipped in the former.

  1. FR 190,700
  2. IT 179,600
  3. AH 128,600

  4. IT 238,300

  5. FR 222,100
  6. AH 164,100

Italy still holds a lead in battleship tonnage, and will continue to do so until at least one Trident enters service (which is two years and five months out from when we lay the first one down).

Their lead in the Planned Naval Tonnage category stems from a heavy investment in armored cruisers, to match the Austro-Hungarian plan. Should we could consider a class of inexpensive armored cruisers to match them? Compared to a Trident (which takes 29 months to build and costs about 2100 funds per month), a hypothetical 22-knot cruiser with 9″ main guns, a 5.5″ belt, and a turreted 5″ secondary battery would take 22 months to build and cost about 1,500 funds per month. That’s a little more than our current class of large light cruisers per month, and five months longer. These cruisers would be armed slightly below the standard of their peers, but armored similarly, and would have a speed advantage of a knot or two. I lean against the idea, myself, given that we have a fast class of battleship and a light cruiser class suitable for commerce raiding, but I figured I’d put it on the table.

Under construction right now, we have one La République, which will be finished in 11 months, a pair of Tages, which will finish between one and four months from now, and a pair of Chateaurenaults, which are about a year away, in addition to a single Fauconneau.

Our current budget surplus is 2,120 funds per month, which will be put into a Trident as soon as the design study finishes next month. Out of our total budget of 15,100 per month, maintenance on the fleet costs us 4,652 and construction costs us 6,315.

Don’t forget, when answering, that shipyard expansions are also on the table as options for spending our money.

Winter Wargaming 2019: Rule the Waves 2

The nights are long, it’s cold outside, and I’m almost done with my Christmas choir obligations, so it’s time for some winter wargaming.

This year’s selection is Rule the Waves 2. We’ll be playing France, for its interesting position astride the border between Europe (where Germany and Britain vie for naval supremacy) and the Mediterranean (where there are a bunch of second-rate powers to beat up on), and the chip on its shoulder in re: Britain and naval matters.

I like to do some audience participation in these, so I’ll bold occasional decision points throughout posts.

My plan is to post one update a week, each covering about two years of game time, which means a full game (from 1900 to 1955) will take us into summer. I’ll aim to have the updates posted on Thursday, so I can play a little over the weekend and write in the evenings thereafter.

intro
Vive la France!

In Rule the Waves 2, France has neither serious perks nor serious drawbacks. We do get two bonus techs (Hardened AP penetrator, which just finished researching, and Quadruple Turrets, which is a decade or two down the road—bonus tech just means we have a good chance of getting it early). Our budget ranks third or fourth, after Britain, Germany, and sometimes the US. We have a moderate budgetary edge over the Italians (but more overseas colonies where we’ll have to station creaking, dilapidated armored cruisers years past their best-by date), and a serious edge over the creaking, dilapidated Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Looking north, we come to the Germans, among our historical foes, and the English, also among our historical foes. In the real-world timeline, England began making overtures to France not long after the present game date, as a way to counterbalance Germany. An alliance north of France, one way or another, might keep us safe from the other party, but might also drag us into wars we don’t really want.

I guess Russia is also up there, but in a game about naval warfare, European Russia might as well be on the moon. (In the real-world timeline, France and Russia are allied, so they aren’t among the six opponents the game chooses to simulate for us.)

Looking west, we have the United States. We don’t have any reason to mess with them, and the only place where we have the bases to plausibly do so is Southeast Asia.

Speaking of which, looking east, we have Southeast Asia, where we’re a major player. Japan is an obvious threat out that way, given that Southeast Asia is their backyard. The Americans, who hold the Philippines, also have interests out there.

Time for the first decision. Where do we focus our strategic interests? In the Mediterranean is my preference, but I could also see convincing arguments for expanding our presence in Africa or the Far East. Relatedly, how hawkish should we be? In Rule the Waves as in real life, it’s much easier to get money appropriated for the Navy when using it is in the cards, but actually having to use it means we might lose parts of it, and if the part of the

Before I get too far ahead of myself, though, let’s take a look at our starting fleet, custom-built according to the theory that France has historically produced some unusual warships.

ships-in-service

under-construction

If you don’t want to zoom in on that, it’s four battleships of the La République class, four armored cruisers of the Gueydon class, five light cruisers of the Tage class, and 16(ish?) destroyers of the Fauconneau class in active service. Under construction, we have another La République, another Gueydon, three Tages, and two Fauconneaus.

Because our ships are built nearly to the limits of our dockyards’ capabilities, we have fewer of them than other nations. We have four battleships, while Italy has seven, Britain has nine, and the Germans have 10 with another four under construction. Our four armored cruisers put us ahead of the Italians, but we lag them in light cruisers and destroyers, although the Tages under construction will change that.

The Austro-Hungarians have less than half the battleship tonnage we do.

la-republique

The La Républiques (Les Républiques?) are fast by the standard of pre-dreadnoughts, at a design speed of 20 knots, and well-armed with 13-inch guns. That’s enough to outrun and outshoot their historical British counterparts in the Duncan class, although they give up a bit in terms of armor.

gueydon

The Gueydons are oddball ships. They’re relatively fast at 23 knots, and their range and internal accommodations support colonial operations. They have about the armor you would expect for the class and era. The strange part is the gun layout. Rather than the usual four 9″ or 10″ guns and broadside casemate 5″ or 6″ guns, they have an all-medium-gun layout: twelve 7″ guns in six double turrets, with a broadside of 8 guns and a fore or aft throw of 6. They also feature three torpedo tubes underwater.

Time will tell if the unusual armament layout is a success or a failure.

tage

The Tages are also strange, with turreted 5″ guns fore and aft, and broadside 4″ guns in casemates, along with torpedo tubes. They’re lightly armored, and only slightly faster than the Gueydons at 24 knots. (That’s still faster than contemporary light cruisers, though.) Their armament is a bit lighter than their peers’, but their armor is heavier.

fauconneau

The first and only one of our starting ship classes which is notably slower than its contemporaries, the Fauconneaus make up for it with a few extra torpedo launchers.

Decision point #2: where do we focus our shipbuilding efforts? Is France to build a mighty battleship fleet to crush the Italians and the Austro-Hungarians? Should we focus on cruisers to scour the trade lanes in the event of war? Are submarines, destroyers, and torpedoes worth our time? Is there anything in particular we ought to build right now, or should be build a nest egg for when research begins to pay off? Bear in mind, building a battleship is about a two-year endeavor.

That decision also influences our research priorities. Should we change any of them for now?

research

Finally, finances and diplomacy. Tensions are low right now, and our budget is in near-perfect balance. At 6%, our research spending is a little low. It might be wise to increase that, as ships come off the ways and money becomes available.

finances

That’s all for this first update. This being Christmas week, I’ll plan to do the next update the first Thursday in 2020.

Some brief thoughts on game design: make the player earn it

Among the many things parvusimperator and I chat about on our coffee breaks at work are video games, and in particular those we’re playing at any given moment. For me, for now, that’s BattleTech, the recent turn-based entry by BattleTech (the miniatures wargame) creator Jordan Weisman. For parvusimperator, it’s been Resident Evil 2 2, PS4 boogaloo. That is, the recent Resident Evil 2 remake1. The two are very different games, but in the end, they do make the player earn it.

BattleTech: mercenary life, paycheck-to-paycheck edition

In BattleTech-the-setting, mercenary companies are undisputably the coolest way to play. The meta-story around the battles writes itself—dragging damaged mechs back to the dropship, patching them up as best you can, sending them out again to pay the bills.

A lot of BattleTech-the-setting PC games have only partially delivered on this promise in the past. The majority of them have been mech-piloting games rather than mech-management games, which makes it more difficult to come up with an AI that properly challenges the players. Too, it takes a more serious masochist to pilot a degraded mech in first-person than it does to manage some other poor shmuck doing the driving.

BattleTech, on the other hand, leads hard into the mercenary-life-is-painful trope. Not quite as much as Battle Brothers, but not too far behind it, either. In particular, early in the game, you’ll find yourself barely getting by, scrabbling for easy money wherever you can come across it, and cursing the moments when your intel misses some key piece of information about the strength of the opposition.

Eventually, things get better. You hire a few more mech pilots, so that losing one to injury doesn’t put you so far behind the curve. You salvage a few more mechs2, so you can field more weapons or sub in a B lance if your A lance is in for repairs. I’m in the early midgame now, and have a few months of salary cushion and close to a second lance. Things are still tight, though, and unlikely to get very much less tight until I can bulldoze missions with maximum firepower. One or two bad drops, and I’ll be right back where I was, only getting along by the skin of my teeth.

What you get over time is resilience—the game itself doesn’t get any easier, but setbacks get smaller proportional to what you’ve attained.

Resident Evil 2: the cool toys are for closers

My thoughts on this one are less my own and more parvusimperator’s transcribed, but he’s working on defense commentary articles, and we all want him to keep working on those, so here we are.

I’d wager that many of the people playing the Resident Evil 2 remake have fond memories of Resident Evil 2 the original. The other side of the coin is that those same people remember how Resident Evil 2 went. So, in addition to the variations present in the original (that you can play from the perspective of both main characters), it adds a few more wrinkles, which I’ll leave parvusimperator to expand upon in a comment, if he wants3.

Eventually, after you’ve beaten the game with a given character in a given manner, you can go back and play with all the toys from the get-go, infinite ammo, and suchlike things. You know, how you would approach a zombie thing if you knew one was coming, rather than (like the characters) you’re surprised by it.

What you get over time is ease—the game gives you tools to beat it more readily.

Conclusion: winning easily is more fun if it was hard at first

In both games, the end result is positive feedback loops. Play well? The game makes it easier for you to win later. Put another way, the difficulty curve is a hill: it starts on an upslope and ends on a downslope.

“I should make my game easier just as people are getting better at it” sounds like a questionable design choice, but it makes a lot of sense in both cases. In BattleTech, the change in difficulty curve is subtler, but important nevertheless. If the game was so finely tuned that no matter how impressive a mercenary company you put together, you’re always just barely getting by, it wouldn’t feel at all rewarding.

In Resident Evil 2, the change is more obvious. “Here’s infinite ammo!” is not sneaky. At the same time, though, it makes sense. Why are you replaying the game? Because you enjoyed it the first time through, and want to see it again. Do you want to do things the survival horror way? Maybe you don’t. After you’ve seen it how you were supposed to, the game ceases to care if you want to play outside the boundaries.

So there you have it4. Make your game get harder at first, then sneakily (or not, depending on your goals) easier later on, so that your players can properly experience gaining mastery.


  1. I’m going to bury this tidbit to see how closely he reads my articles: Resident Evil 3 is reportedly getting the same treatment
  2. And that’s your only option. Nobody sells fully-functioning mechs—why would they? They’re difficult or impossible to make. If you have a working one, you keep it. If it breaks down and you can’t fix it, you sell the bits on and use the money to buy bits to repair your other mechs. 
  3. There’s a lot of creativity in how many New Game+ options you have. 
  4. It’s something I’ve been thinking about with respect to tabletop RPG design, too, and why perfect balance is not necessarily desirable. If you get more powerful, but your foes also do at exactly the same rate, what have you accomplished but for reskinning the fight against six rats at the very start of the campaign? 

Fishbreath Plays: Armored Brigade Review

As the annual treachery of daylight saving’s close casts its pall over Many Words HQ here in Western Pennsylvania, we turn our attention to another hilly part of the world of somewhat greater interest to wargamers and the broader defense affairs community: the Fulda Gap.

Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm is my current recommendation for the definitive Cold War armored combat command experience. Can Armored Brigade unseat it? Read on to find out!

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