I wrote about Little Wars briefly in my last post, and thanks to a family get-together on Christmas Eve, I was able to play a small game for the very first time. I present to you the First Battle of Adam’s Ridge.
On the western edge of the field, my men, the blue army (French models).
Infantry in staggered ranks to make them a harder artillery target, with cavalry concentrated on my left.
On the eastern edge of the field, my brother, with the red (British) army:
He decided to concentrate his forces in the center, perhaps to respond more quickly to any moves I made to the flanks.
And now, the field, looking from east to west:
The central feature of this battlefield is Butterfly Hill. To its northeast and southwest runs the eponymous Adam’s Ridge, with the warehouse (the eSun filament box) at the northeastern end and the factory (the Hatchbox filament box) at the southwest end.
Due north of Butterfly Hill, to the right of the photo, is the fairground, and due south is the toy shop.
My brother won the toss and deferred, so I went first, advancing my cavalry force toward the fairground and moving my infantry in the direction of shelter under Butterfly Hill. I kept my right gun back by the factory, where it would remain for the whole battle, while the left gun moved forward with the cavalry.
Because the field was a bit small end-to-end, we decided to let the guns open fire after the first round, instead of after the second.
That brings us to about here, which is the end of the second round.
I’ve continued my advance toward the fairgrounds, and have reached cover from red’s guns, although they lost two of their number along the way. My men advancing on Butterfly Hill have lost several of their number to artillery fire, but my guns have done a respectable job in reply, dramatically thinning out the bunched forces in red’s center.
Bonus action shot, mid-round 2, as my brother aims a gun toward my artillery crew by the factory.
On to round 3!
I’m concentrating my cavalry at the fairgrounds, in the hopes of making a rush at red’s gun by the warehouse, and have moved my left gun up to Butterfly Hill, which is a dire threat to red’s center. Even long-range artillery can pretty quickly dismantle forces out of cover. This close, it’s easy.
To make it a little easier to move the gun to Butterfly Hill, my gun at the factory engaged the soldiers manning red’s gun opposite. If you look closely, you’ll notice it only has three men nearby, which means it’s out of action. I took that opportunity to send the infantry from Butterfly Hill on a march toward the warehouse: I don’t have enough cavalry there to charge the guns and win.
My guns did indeed exact a heavy toll on red’s center, but my force marching for the warehouse is now substantially smaller too. I think he had eleven men with his right gun (the one on my left), and I had eight cavalry behind the fairground at this point.
Red is attempting to get some cavalry around my right, behind the toy shop and the factory.
Notice also that red’s southern gun is out of action again. You only need four men near a gun, but having more seems to make artillery a lot more durable. Too, I think I probably failed to explain how guns work (four men within six inches, put two behind the wheels at the back of the trail after firing) to my brother, which led to his artillerymen being awfully exposed most of the time.
He has, however, moved his gun by the warehouse to the other side, where it can fire on my gun at Butterfly Hill.
Both of red’s guns are back in action again, and a fair number of my infantry made it to the warehouse alive—I have a slight edge in numbers there, but am handicapped by the fact that it’s a combined arms attack. The infantry are still two turns away, or at least most of them are. I think. Looking at the photo, I might have been able to drive home a successful, if costly, attack by looping the infantry around the south end of the warehouse, while the cavalry took the northern route.
In the south, the gun at the factory brought down two of the four attacking cavalry. The other two are slightly out of frame to the south.
I didn’t see the potential for a multi-pronged attack in the moment, however. My brother played it smart and moved his northern gun back a bit, so that it wouldn’t be put out of action in a melee around the factory, and would be in perfect situation to blast any cavalry who engaged.
At which point I looked at the field, felt relatively confident in my advantage, and decided to fall back, which may go down in history as a McClellan-esque bit of caution. We ended the battle by mutual agreement at this point: I didn’t feel like I had a sufficient force advantage to press an attack successfully, and he felt the same way.
Having both started with 68 points of troops, I finished with 50 to his 37.5, for a victory for me. By the objective we’d chosen, I think it would have been most appropriate for us to split the 100 victory points, which would have brought the tally to 100 to 87.5.
Now, on to reactions!
To start with, the rules seem to work very well. Wells obviously played a fair bit of this before he put his rules to paper, given how few the rough edges are and how well they generate something that looks like a real battle.
Notably, we didn’t get to try out the close combat rules: gunnery proved a bit too effective. We’ll probably play next game with one gun per side. Wells recommended one gun per 40 or 50 men. A slightly higher ridge probably would have helped too: it didn’t end up being an obstacle to artillery, whereas if we’d used a few more layers of magazines to build it, it might have, or at least provided some partial cover.
It may be a little too easy to silence guns, but that could also be my brother’s imperfect grasp of the artillery rules. The guns performed well, firing with plenty of power to bring down soldiers and cavalry alike. I think the best shell of the game took down four? I might experiment with a slightly thinner spring, even—I need to order a batch of boxes anyway, since the filament boxes don’t quite fit the taller sorts of soldier, and I could always add spring steel to a McMaster-Carr order. One downside is that the late prototype guns (the ones printed in white plastic) don’t have quite the right tolerances, so their wheels were frequently falling off. Less than ideal. Too, gray is a very bad color for the shells. The next batch I do will probably be in white or red—something to stand out against your average carpet.
In spite of some initial doubt, we ended up playing with the prescribed three-minute time limit. It did its job perfectly: we didn’t have a ton of time to sight in guns, and when we did to ensure we got hits we needed to, we were short on time to do other things. I had to skip moving men once or twice, and made some bad movement decisions a few times because of the clock. A brief aside: Wells wrote about having to find a big clock with a second hand, or wrangle a visitor with a stopwatch into refereeing, which speaks to a timekeeping problem ubiquitous cell phones have relegated to history.
Even though we didn’t get to exercise the close combat/isolation/surrender rules, I was thinking about them as the game was ongoing, and they made a lot of sense: most of the melees that might have happened involved unsupported forces, and would have yielded some prisoner-taking. Given the situations we encountered, it seems like they’d work substantially better than I would have guessed.
Finally, we forgot or misapplied a few rules, but I don’t think it had a serious effect on the outcome of the game. Neither of us were playing the tryhard, but if someone were to do so, I think insisting on rules-following would make it relatively resistant to munchkinry.
All told, an extremely successful first battle, and I suspect we’re going to have a second one today.
Are you familiar with Little Wars? In 1913, novelist H. G. Wells published it, the first set of rules for miniatures wargaming available to the public. Toy soldiers careen across carpeted (or cork-floored, in the original conception, but I don’t have a cork-floored playroom) countryside, under fire from spring-loaded toy cannon as they charge home for glory.
“Sounds great! Where do I start?” I said. Well, toy soldiers aren’t too hard to find, but I decided that I can print betterones, or perhaps eventually cast them in resin from silicone molds around 3D-printed masters.
The mighty artillery, however, is the sticking point. Nobody makes toy cannons of the right power anymore, and the early-20th-century originals from Britains Ltd. run about $50 a piece. Not exactly cheap, and especially not when a Little Wars game of moderate size might call for six or ten guns. I have in my possession, however, a 3D printer and a copy of FreeCAD, and armed with these tools, I set about fixing this availability problem, with the help of my Thanksgiving vacation.
That holiday at my in-laws being a pretty sedate affair—an awful lot of movies1 and television—I had ample time to Google my way to a minimum understanding of how to CAD, or at least how to use one of several alternative (or redundant, uncharitably) workflows in FreeCAD. Et voila!
I’m creeping toward the end of a game of Stellaris, and an incongruity hit me: why am I hiring more bureaucrats to make things in my large empire cheaper, against all reason and every historical example?
Let me explain. In Stellaris, there is a soft cap on the size of your empire: sprawl. Population, production buildings, and territory all generate sprawl. Bureaucrats increase your sprawl cap. If you go over your sprawl cap, things cost more. Ergo, bureaucrats make things cost less, which is facially absurd.
But how do you solve it? I think the answer is that maybe you don’t, or at least not entirely. You just need to measure two things: first, sprawl, which bureaucrats counteract, and second, administrative efficiency. Sprawl works like it does in Stellaris: the more empire there is, the more expensive things get, unless you have administrators to counteract the effect.
Administrative efficiency models the loss of efficiency from thicker red tape. The more administrators you have, the lower your efficiency gets, and the more things cost. Administration is less expensive than a vast kleptocracy, but still expensive compared to a smaller, leaner state.
Of course, that’s just a surface-level implementation. You might tune things so that size of empire and size of administrative state play off of each other, which would let you (imaginary game-designing reader) set a soft cap on effective empire size. Or, if you’re really into the concept that bureaucracy is at best a mixed bag, implement a kind of cost disease.
After a while, the goal of any large organization of humans becomes ‘justify this organization’s continued existence’. Bureaucracies almost never shrink over the long run, absent some outside cataclysm. They’re much more likely, instead, to grow. So, a given unit of bureaucracy is created to administer a given amount of stuff. The amount of stuff per unit bureaucracy never goes up, but the administrative cost of each unit of bureaucracy does.
Which brings us to the final form of the idea. When your empire expands, it needs bureaucrats. When you hire bureaucrats, you introduce a slowly-growing ossification into the structure of your empire. Eventually, your bureaucrats cut into your ability to do productive things, taking up more and more of your output until your empire is paralyzed by the cost of running itself, and eventually torn down by forces without.
This neatly mirrors some real-world trajectories. Depending on how you tune things (capping the penalty one bureaucrat imposes, tweaking the rate at which the penalty grows) it’s probably possible to set up an empire that can survive in a sort of semi-stasis, handicapped but not quite self-destructing. It opens the door to a wide variety of empire traits and events (moral, dutiful bureaucrats who aren’t as bad in the long run, bursts of patriotic fervor in e.g. a war temporarily reversing the downward trend, and so forth) to boot.
Anyway, I’m not working on anything in the 4X/empire-builder genre, so if you like it, take it. I’d love to play a game which leans into this idea.
A very busy August and a moderately busy first half of September are now behind us, so. Let’s see, where were we…
Ah, yes, it’s August 1940, and we’re crossing swords with the Austrians again. It sounds like the plan was, more or less, ‘crush Austria’, so that’s what we’ll do.
Bit of a bummer to have one of our three carriers under repair, I have to say. Happily, she’ll be back at the beginning of 1941, and shortly after, we’ll have some fresher light cruisers too.
The first battle of this new update is a destroyer action in the Adriatic: nine French ships against a yet-unknown number of Austrians. We’re very near our air support, but it’s also twilight-soon-to-be-night, so we may not get the advantage of being within forty miles of around 120 friendly aircraft.
Just after night falls, we pick up some radar contacts 16,000 yards toward land. I guess we’ll try some blind torpedo launching.
Several in-game hours of frenetic micromanagement later, it turns into one of the most lopsided French victories in history: in exchange for the loss of one destroyer, the unlucky recipient of a brace of Austrian torpedoes early in the battle, we sink thirteen Austrian ships.
Not all of it is do to with my adroit tactics. Part of it comes to shipbuilding. Our recent Espignole-class destroyers are superb ships, fast and heavily armed, and for once we outmatch the Austrian hardware.
I decline two battles to start the month, but the third catches my eye: a cruiser action off Brest. I don’t have any cruisers in the North Atlantic, but I do have the 27-knot battleship Rouen and an awful lot of aircraft. We’ll see how it plays out.
It plays out by them saying ‘no thanks’, and we get another destroyer action in the Adriatic. This time, it’s 11:00 a.m., so our tremendous quantities of air power should factor in.
Six French ships on seven Austrians, and we sank their modern destroyer fleet last time out. (They only have nine in service at present, so a big win here would basically eliminate the Austrian destroyer force.) Hopefully, this is a straightforward victory.
Since I don’t want to get any more of my ships torpedoed, I’m playing this one a little more cautiously than has historically been my style, staying at near-maximum gun range.
A long history of gunnery practice has made the French fleet a fearsome force in long-range gun duels, and by 12:51 p.m., the balance of hits is already substantially in our favor.
The afternoon sees some trading of blows by air strikes, though the French bombers come out looking better. It seems like a relatively dreary destroyer battle, wherein the vastly superior French ships sink a bunch of obsolete Austrian ones, when at 4:19 p.m., I see this report…
Surely there’s not a carrier out to play in a destroyer action? Then again, it’s awfully hard for even the greenest of land-based dive bomber pilots to mistake a destroyer for a carrier.
The next bombers in line ID it as a light cruiser, which means that whoever was in charge of the radio report from the first attack should probably be sacked.
A bit later in the afternoon, another few waves of aircraft find the target previously identified as a carrier and a light cruiser, and proceed to identify it as a battleship and a destroyer, which more or less runs the gamut of possibility.
In the end, it turns out to have been a destroyer.
Maddeningly, the Austrians sue for peace before we’ve crushed them sufficiently to gain Morocco, either by treaty or by invasion. I guess we’ll just have to cheese them off again and try to win more slowly next time.
The peace dividend is a little easier to deal with this time; I mothball a few battleships and most of our old destroyers, and we’re sufficiently set so that the money will be there in a few months, as shipyard jobs finish.
Speaking of which, it’s still four months until Bearn finishes her refit.
Evidently, I had a medium bomber prototype request in progress. This time, I pick the shortest-range option, because it can carry an aerial torpedo 565 nautical miles. This is a massive force multiplier for our land-based air. No longer will they have to ineffectually attempt to hit moving ships from moving planes!
A bit of saber-rattling toward Japan brings our budget back into the black, even though we’re spending almost 13,000 funds per month on ship construction.
A new light cruiser design appears, similar to our existing Friants but with one fewer turret and a pair of floatplane scouts.
A fascist coup takes place in Germany, and their flag changes once more to something a bit more historically familiar.
Given that we lost a destroyer or two in the preceding war, I update the Espignole class into the Carqouis class, and plan to start one or two building in the next month. Once our cruiser Sfax finishes in two months, I’ll start another light cruiser.
New aircraft types enter operational service; most of our combat planes are of 1941 vintage. The only thing left to upgrade is the floatplane scout, so I do that.
Eh, cancel the starting another light cruiser. Maintenance and new aircraft construction are eating into our funds a bit, so we only have a 933-funds surplus of the 1,663 it’ll cost.
We’re able to build 80-plane airbases now, so I start to expand some of our most strategic ones—in particular, those suited to strike at Austria-Hungary and Italy, the one at Brest, and those closest to Germany.
It’s a little confusing to be deep in the war years, and yet not have any wars on.
We do figure out the forward-firing ASW mortar, which is a delightfully useful tool. I prepare an upgrade of our escort-style Arc-class destroyer with one mounted.
We have now developed airborne radar sets! I guess that’ll make our future search planes even better? Or maybe just better at hunting submarines.
I’m going to pause here, not because I’m out of stamina for the game, but because the carrier Egalité just entered service, and her final sibling Terreur will be arriving in a few months. That means we’re going to have money hors du wazoo, which means interesting decisions.
Plans and Intentions
The first issue is one of strategy. It would be nice to snipe Morocco off of Austria-Hungary, but Austria keeps on wimping out of wars. Is there someone else we should go after? If so, who?
The next is one of shipbuilding. How do we stack up against the world?
We’re extremely light on dreadnoughts compared to the world leaders, and on par with to slightly light on them compared to other countries in the Mediterranean. We’re middle of the pack on carriers, but our French Revolution-themed class, at 35,000 tons, are the largest carriers in service in the world, and carry 90 aircraft to the next best carrier’s 60. (The Americans are catching up here.) We have one carrier under construction, due to be finished in six months.
As ever, we have almost no heavy cruisers. We do, on the other hand, have a ton of light cruisers, but only seven of them are on hand in Europe or the Mediterranean, with the rest scattered around the globe to fulfill our colonial service obligations. Only four of our European ships are truly modern. We have one light cruiser under construction, due to be finished in 10 months.
We’re in decent shape on destroyers, especially compared to our fellow Mediterranean countries, although it should be noted that twelve of them, soon to be 15, are multi-purpose corvette-ish ships, and many of them are obsolescent. The other four destroyers we have under construction are modern, fleet service ships, of the kind that so adroitly slaughtered the Austrian destroyer force.
We’re behind on submarines, but between our airbases and our carriers, we have the most naval aircraft in the world, a lead we’ll only expand on as our airbases in strategic areas grow and our carrier force gets larger.
So, with those facts in mind, what do we build? We have a surplus of 3,410 funds right now (a pretty good carrier, a bad battleship, a cruiser and a half, two light cruisers, six to ten destroyers). In the next 11 months, we’ll have an additional 8,000 or so funds to allocate. We could afford a battleship or two, but that era is more or less behind us. We could spend it on more carriers, a newer destroyer force, the start of a modern cruiser force… really, the world is our oyster.
It has been several weeks, but the end of summer has proven to be busy. Unfortunately, it’s likely to be several more weeks before the next one. Happily, parvusimperator seems to have briefly regained his muse; with a little luck, he’ll cover me for a while.
Also, this update turned out to be all text, so we’ll see how closely you’re paying attention. There’ll be a quiz next week.
Scrapping the three light carriers, the bevy of obsolete corvettes, and our five oldest submarines, mothballing three battleships and Latouche-Treville, and pausing one of our carriers under construction saves us enough money to move forward. We’re still shedding about 2,700 funds per month, but before we run out of money, we’ll finish building enough things to get back in the black.
Objectives remain as they’ve always been: crush Austria-Hungary, take Morocco, complete our domination of Africa (at least the parts not occupied by the Royal Navy).
It occurs to me that a fun ‘boss fight’ might be v. the UK, provided we can keep the US (or perhaps a resurgent Communist Germany?) on our side.
A rebellion breaks out in New Calendonia, halfway around the globe. Evidently a lack of naval force there made it possible. Well, this month, our redeployments should bring our forces around the globe back into accordance with the requirements.
We also unlocked 6″ dual-purpose guns (not a sure bet; the chance to get that tech is relatively low), a perfect thing with which to equip our next light cruiser.
Finally, naval intelligence provides us with a brief on how we shot down enemy aircraft in the most recent war. We shot down 27 in total; here’s the breakdown.
Heavy AA: 8
Light AA: 3
Other aircraft (i.e., defensive armament): 1
So, the clear lesson here is that fighters are the answer, and heavy AA failing that. We didn’t quite face enough air attacks to draw further conclusions, which I suspect accounts for light AA being more effective than medium AA.
The government wants to further cut the naval budget, in response to which we put our foot down, throw a tantrum, and manage to head off such wooly-headed talk with only minor concessions.
Thanks to the press fearmongering about Italy, we get a nice bump in budget, nearly clearing out our deficit. Since tensions with Italy are already in the high yellow, I’m also going to start moving the fleet into the Mediterranean.
French engineers develop an improved surface search radar, which we’ll start mounting to ships as soon as possible.
Only 11 ships in the entirety of the French Navy are not radar-equipped at present—an advantage we may be able to press in a hypothetical war with Italy.
Tweaking Austria-Hungary again leads to increased budget. We’re already in the black.
Between that increased budget and some global economic expansion, we have enough money for me to bring our three mothballed battleships up to reserve fleet status—wise, considering the rising tensions with Italy and Austria—and to re-activate Latouche-Treville.
New Caledonia has thrown off the yoke of its French colonialist oppressors! Which is not great for us, except in that it doesn’t seem to affect our score and also reduces our overseas force requirements enough to bring a Troude home. So actually, it’s pretty great for us.
We also bring a new torpedo bomber into service. It can sling a torpedo as a medium bomb load, which means it has a combat radius of some 380 miles.
We go from a slight budget deficit to a surplus of 5,200 funds per month, on the back of a few events and the completion of 12 destroyers. I put the money into a new carrier design (Egalité, except with a deck park and deck-edge lifts for improved aircraft capacity and ease of handling) and another of the Friant-type light cruisers. (I may see about a smaller 6″-gun option to help build out our numbers again.)
Several more money-boosting events free up enough moeny for a few more of our corvette-destroyers.
I try a few things to build a better cruiser than the Friant, but the Friant seems to have a pretty good balance of just about everything. Another one goes into the yards.
Three submarines and the new Egalité begin construction. I also decide to spend a bit of money rebuilding Bearn, our original carrier. She gains a much heavier AA fit and capacity for six more planes.
Morane-Saulnier gets the nod for our next model of dive bomber, with a 1000lb-bomb range of 225 miles and a 250lb-bomb range similar to that of our torpedo bombers.
Quite a short break between wars, it looks like. We accuse Austria of torpedoing our old battleship Rouen, driving tensions nearly to the limit.
Italy’s rattling sabers, too. Might we get the chance to take on both of our Mediterranean rivals at once?
Austria-Hungary declares war.
The first battle is a convoy defense, our destroyers against theirs in the fading moments of dusk. Radar suggests it’s nine of ours against eight of theirs.
It turns out to be exactly so. The French destroyer forces, with the massive advantage of radar—we were able to torpedo the Austrian line from beyond visual range—sink four of the attacking ships in exchange for one loss.
Capabilities, Plans, and Intentions
We are, of course, well-suited to war against Austria-Hungary. They’re a weak power, with a small budget of around 60% of France’s. our six battleships are, on average, newer than theirs, although most of their battleships outgun ours—only the two Austrian 8×13″ ships are inferior. Where French ships beat them handily is speed. Suffren is, at 26 knots, the slowest ship we have in service. The fastest Austrian battleship makes 25 knots. We have five battleships in the Mediterranean. Rouen, recently in mothballs, is operating on trade protection duty in the North Atlantic while her crew comes up to speed. (As I’m sure they will. Rouen holds the current record for battle stars in the French fleet, with seven.)
In aircraft, we’re again superior, with more than twice as many as the Austrians, and the ability to bring nearly as many as the Austrians have to their own home waters. One of our carriers, Bearn, is currently under refit, and will be back in service in seven months. Until then, we just have Liberté and Fraternité, representing a combined aircraft strength of 180 planes.
Trade warfare is where we’re inferior, somewhat. The Austrians have thirty submarines to our eight, and six cruisers to our one. We’re also a bit light on light cruisers right now: we have fourteen of them, but most are tied up overseas on foreign service. There are five in home waters, and two of those are our new Friant class, which are still working up in Europe. (I’ll let them get up to speed before sending them into battle.) The other three are obsolescent Voltaire-class ships, built in the late 1920s.
We’ve flipped things around somewhat on destroyers. Our most recent ships are faster, heavier, and better-equipped than their Austrian equivalents.
Things get a little spicier if Italy decides to join in. They’re quite close to us in overall strength, and adding them to Austria would put us on the back foot. Happily, we’re more or less immune to blockades from Austria and Italy—they have no bases in our build zone, so they can’t sustain a large fleet there. Since we have more bases in the Mediterranean than we do even in Northern Europe, we’re perfectly capable of blockading Austria forever. (Not Italy, though. They’re too strong.)
Besides the aforementioned Bearn, still in refit, we have seven ships in the yards. We’ll start with three new Arc-class destroyers, which are approximately equal to the most recent Austrian ships but inferior to both sides’ top-line options.
Next are two 90-plane Liberté-class carriers, Egalité (to round out the revolutionary trio) and Terreur (I ran out of positive-sounding French Revolutionary names). At 35,000 tons, they’re the envy of the world, nearly twice as large as most other powers’ largest ships. (Of couse, that does mean it’s a disaster if one of them gets sunk by, say, an Austrian submarine. Knock on wood.)
Finally, we have two more Friant-class light cruisers, 9,400-ton ships with large batteries of dual-purpose guns: 12 5″ and 20 3″. They also carry mines and torpedoes, but no aircraft. (Nowhere to put them, with all the guns.) Given that our carriers are large, losing the scout planes is no great drawback, especially since most of our battleships carry them now.
Pretty straightforward here. Our goals are as before: take Morocco as soon as possible, so that the plot of Casablanca can take place on schedule. An invasion is already being planned.
As far as battles go, we can outmuscle the Austrians in most fights. Battleship actions are a bit iffy, however, given the ship-for-ship Austrian superiority, as are cruiser actions, where we’re badly outnumbered.
On the other hand, I’m absolutely going to take a chance on any battle where there are carriers involved, provided it doesn’t take place in the depths of the Adriatic. Anywhere else in the Mediterranean, we have a massive advantage in our land-based aircraft.
If there’s anything I ought to do differently, now’s the time to mention it.
My lovely wife is running an online D&D 5e campaign, which involves the use of Discord and a bot called Avrae. I’m led to believe the documentation for Avrae leaves something to be desired, and on those grounds, she wrote up a cheat sheet.
The field agrees on more carriers, but is split on what to do with the rest of the budget. So, here’s my plan:
When the battleship Solferino completes, start a new carrier.
When the carrier Fraternité completes, start 2-3 light cruiser escorts.
When next the budget allows, build another battleship.
There is no battle this month—France declines to fight Germany near Jutland, France declines to fight Austria-Hungary in the Adriatic, Austria-Hungary declines to fight France everywhere else.
An enemy submarine torpedoes and sinks our light cruiser Friant, one of the three remaining Chateaurenaults puttering around on foreign service.
Otherwise, an uneventful turn.
The Germans decline battle twice, when it would take them within striking distance of French land-based air.
They accept a convoy attack (that is, we’re fighting a convoy defense) far enough from the French coast that the dive bombers are out of reach. On the French side we have two light cruisers and a destroyer screen, so I don’t expect much of a glorious victory unless the Germans are not out in force.
I commit to the fight, gambling on the chance to sink an old German battlecruiser, but German torpedo gunnery seems to be more accurate than my own. We lose a light cruiser (Forbin, one of our newest ships) and four destroyers for my trouble.
I decline a bunch of unfavorable battles. Our old battleship Lyon hits a mine and sinks; maybe it’s time to build a little minesweeper or two. There are also reports of food shortages in France thanks to merchant shipping losses. I crank up the number of destroyers under construction, and consider maybe combining a corvette-minesweeper into a slow destroyer.
In more positive news, I have a new AA picket light cruiser design:
A surprise battle occurs in the eastern Mediterranean: a German squadron of unknown composition encounters a combined French-American cruiser squadron.
Steaming south of Heraklion, the French squadron heads east. It includes three heavy cruisers: our modern Latoche-Treville, and the obsolete American Frederick and Pueblo. Together, we have 17 9″ guns and 8 10″ guns, along with ten destroyers and air support from French bases in Kalamata and Benghazi.
Additionally, we have our old seaplane tender, Commandant Teste, in attedance. She launches some search planes.
Altough the weather is cloudy, one of Teste‘s floatplanes nevertheless spots a German cruiser, steaming east at the far end of Crete. My mismatched squadron, with a top speed of 27 knots, nevertheless sets off in that direction.
The two American ships date to 1923 (Frederick) and 1916 (Pueblo). Pueblo, at 15,000 tons, has armor nearly as thick as Latouche-Treville, and the only 10″ guns in the squadron. She’s the slowest of the three ships at 27 knots.
Frederick has the same 31-knot speed as Latouche-Treville, but is very lightly armored, and ships one fewer 9″ gun. Being American ships, however, they’ve been upgraded to the gills. Both sport advanced gun directors and search radar.
By late morning, Kalamata has launched an air strike. Dive bombers approach the enemy cruiser, still 60 miles from our force, at about 11:00 a.m. They hit it two or three times. A group of medium bombers, following up, score no hits. (Oh, how I long for the days when we can put torpedoes on medium bombers…)
At 12:14 p.m., our light cruiser Linois spots the enemy ship. We turn to engage.
The target, a Roon-class heavy cruiser, has taken some damage from bomb hits already, and is slower than our ships are now. Latouche-Treville scores the first main battery hits at 12:40, with three in one salvo from her six forward guns.
She has very much found the range, with at least one hit per minute for the next twelve minutes.
By 1:06, the enemy cruiser is on fire and slowing to five knots. I believe it ships torpedo tubes, so I’m going to keep my distance, and perhaps send the destroyers in on a flotilla attack to deliver the death blow.
Before they can arrive, the German ship comes to a complete halt, and her bow settles beneath the waves.
Latouche-Treville hit with nearly 10% of her main battery fire. The German ship took 55 hits and delivered 2.
Strikes and anti-war demonstrations roil Austria-Hungary, and our spies indicate that France isn’t the only country experiencing food shortages. Perhaps we can knock one foe out of the war soon.
Another Mediterranean cruiser battle against Germany lies before us, this one off Rhodes rather than Crete. It’s cloudy and before dawn, and we’re too far from our airbases to expect much help. (Maybe we need a small airbase at Rhodes with a group of dive bombers?)
Still, we have three heavy cruisers in the area to zero enemy heavy cruisers, so maybe we’ll get lucky and happen across the German ships.
Before even that can happen, at 4:07 a.m., we pick up a radar contact at a distance of about ten and a half miles.
We survive the predawn encounter to discover a German light cruiser/destroyer squadron as dawn breaks. If we can avoid getting ships torpedoed, this is a good matchup.
We do avoid getting ships torpedoed, at least to the point where the torpedoing means they’re combat-ineffective, and in a chase up the Rhodian cost, sink two Austrian and one German light cruiser, along with a few destroyers.
We have some extra money, and I said originally I was going to build a battleship with it, but things have changed. I think instead I am going to make a class of 32-knot corvette-destroyers, only 1500 tons and much cheaper than our top-line ships. I can get a good ten of them building immediately, which may help with anti-submarine work should this war continue for that long.
The month’s battle is a destroyer action in the Adriatic. Surprisingly, we emerge the victors—the Austrians had a seaplane tender deployed, and we happened upon it while running from the main force of Austrian destroyers.
France’s unrest score is now 5, which is a worrying upward trend. Solferino, our newest battleship, is in the dockyards for five months after eating a torpedo.
The UI now has ‘Fuel Shortage’ across the status pane in big bold letters. Consulting the manual, I see that can happen when a nation doesn’t have native access to oil, and is blockaded for a long time. What it means is that large ships may not be able to participate in battles, and strategic moves may be canceled. (Well, that part isn’t too bad.)
After another month of declining unfavorable battles, High Command recommends that we not do that anymore or suffer losses in prestige. I’d much rather lose prestige than lose ships, at this point, especially given that we’re well ahead in victory points.
The battle is an unexpected fleet battle. Weather limits air operations, which is good, because we’re in the Heligoland Bight and that’s a bit close to Germany’s heartland.
It’s a fleet battle, which is bad, because there are a lot more German ships than French ones. The goal here is going to be straight preservation of forces. If we can launch an airstrike or two, that’s great, but otherwise, fleeing to the northwest is the order of the day.
A Battle at Jutland
Radar contacts at 7:19 a.m. open things up. Hopefully it’s just scouts.
Regardless, the fleet turns north and opens the throttles.
Five hours later, and I’ve forgotten to take screenshots, but in my defense, not much has happened. The light cruisers Surcouf and Coetlogon, serving as scouts, were trapped between the German main force and scouting force. By turning east while the main body fled northwest, they distracted the German fleet while our own ran for the open waters north of Britain.
Surcouf and Coetlogon are lost, but at least two of their escorting destroyers look likely to escape, and all three might. Before Surcouf and Coetlogon sank, they and their destroyers launched two effective salvoes of torpedoes. Perhaps we’ll see some German losses in the after-battle tally.
In the end, it actually goes into the books as a French victory—a submarine sank a German light cruiser as it was returning to port, and the torpedo barrage orchestrated by Surcouf and Coetlogon heavily damaged several German dreadnoughts.
November 1938 continued
And, in the aftermath of that loss…
(The game even has a Communist German flag, and it isn’t even the real Communist German flag!)
In the peace agreement, we take Pommern, a 30-knot, 16″-gun battleship, as well as all of Germany’s possessions in Africa, and we still have a bit of headroom left for reparations.
Annoyingly, the collapse of Germany means the collapse of Austria as well, and we don’t get a chance to take territory from Austria-Hungary. Morocco remains in the hands of our enemies.
Now that the war is done, however, it’s time for us to take off our dashing admiral’s peaked hats and put on our boring bean-counter’s green visors.
Slashing the Budget
We have a monthly deficit of (drumroll) 9,312 funds, and a current balance of 26,500 funds.
There are a few things we can either mothball or scrap right off the bat:
1300 funds: 13 Carabinier-class corvettes. We have 10 new Arc-class minesweeping destroyers in the dockyards, 11 months away, and they’re more capable than the Carabiniers in every way. At 32 knots, they could actually serve in a fleet battle in a pinch.
105 funds: 5 Diamant-class corvettes. They’re basically useless, and if we want another class of corvettes, it’s not hard to build them down the road.
Those are the obvious candidates, and get us up to 1,405 of savings. Unless there are any objections, I’m going to do those two things.
For the rest, read on.
State of the Fleet
We have six battleships left after the war: Rouen (395 funds per month, an ex-battlecruiser with 9 12″ guns), Suffren and Courbet (two of our late-20s 8×14″-gun battleships, well armored; Suffren is the slowest one left at 26 knots; 500 funds each), Marengo (611 funds, a 27-knot, 16″-gun battleship), Solferino (~650 funds, a 30-knot, 14″-gun battleship), and Terrible (656 funds). Terrible is the ex-Pommern, a 30-knot, 8×16″-gun battleship. Her armor isn’t quite up to the standard of our mainline ships, but she mounts a heavier secondary battery and carries two floatplanes. Solferino is still being repaired from a torpedo hit. Once she’s back in fighting trim, we’ll save another 600 funds per month.
We still have the heavy cruiser Latoche-Treville; she proved her worth in combat in the Mediterranean toward the end of the war. She is, however, all alone, and all of our possible enemies have cruiser squadrons of moderate size. She costs 365 funds per month, and might be one to mothball or reserve.
Our light cruiser force comprises 13 ships, but 10 of them are on overseas service or most likely earmarked for it. We need more light cruisers.
We have five aircraft carriers of various types: the stout and dependable Bearn, the new 90-plane Liberté, and the light carriers Bruix (a converted cruiser), Arromanches, and Dixmude.
The latter three have speeds below 30 knots and only carry 24 planes each. Together, they account for 597 funds per month in maintenance (plus a bit more for their air wings, I suspect). Compared to a Liberté-type carrier, they cost 130% as much to maintain while carrying 80% as many aircraft, and it’s harder for them to coordinate air operations to boot. Potential candidates for mothballing.
For destroyers, we no longer have any really, truly obsolete ships. Our eldest ships, four each of the early-20s 1500-ton Flamberge and Glaive classes, are still in the 34-35-knot range, and each carry plenty of torpedoes. We also have eight 1500-ton Epees from 1933, four 2000-ton Arquebuses from 1935, and four wartime 2000-ton Espignoles from 1938. The Espignoles carry torpedo reloads. The 1500-ton ships each cost 32 funds per month to maintain, while the 2000-tonners cost about 44 funds per month each.
We have thirteen submarines as well, about a third of which date to 1915, a third to 1926, and a third to 1932.
In the Yards
Under construction, we have two ‘light’ cruisers, Friant and Jean Bart, each of 9,400 tons. They’re primarily anti-air pickets, fitting 12 5″ dual-purpose guns in their main battery, 20 3″ dual-purpose guns as a secondary battery, and eight anti-air machine guns of various calibers. They cost 1,675 funds per month each, and are 19 months from completion. We need light cruisers.
Next up are Fraternité and Egalité. They’re weighing us down to the tune of 3,560 funds per month a piece. One will be ready in 13 months, the other in 22. Big carriers are nice to have, and if we’re ditching the light carriers, we should probably keep both. We can pause Fraternité while other ships build, if it makes sense to do so.
We also have two Espignole-class destroyers 11 months away, at 532 funds each. They’re our most modern, most powerful destroyer design, with dual-purpose main guns, torpedo reloads, extra depth charges, K-guns… all the bells and whistles.
Also under construction are ten 1,200 Arc-class destroyers, built for second-line/auxiliary service. They’ll be our first minesweeping ships, which might be handy in future wars. We’ve lost a number of ships to mines. Each costs 360 funds per month; they’ll all be done in 11 months.
Back to Budget-Slashing
So, to recap, here’s where we are:
1,405 funds: scrapping old, useless destroyers.
700 funds: ships currently under repair (another 4 months or so).
That puts us at a deficit of 7,260 funds. Ships in reserve cost 50% of their ordinary maintenance, which means that reserving the entire fleet still would leave us about 3,000 funds short of break-even.
Ships in mothballs cost 20% of their usual maintenance, but obviously we wouldn’t want to mothball all that many ships. Mothballing Rouen, Latoche-Treville, and the three light carriers would only save us about 1,000 funds per month.
Pausing one carrier and one light cruiser saves us 5,250 funds per month, and in combination with some relatively broad reserve-fleeting or some targeted mothballing would get us there. It also delays entry into service of critically-needed fleet units.
Finally, pausing both carriers would get us over the hump without any other measures. That would delay their entry into service by about a year.
Re-Deploying the Fleet
We also have a deficit of ships overseas. We need another 2,250 tons in West Africa, another 4,250 tons in the Indian Ocean, and another 2,500 tons in the South Pacific. We can deploy our aging Troude-class cruisers and one or two old destroyers for the moment. Should we build another class of foreign service cruisers, or just continue our habit of shuttling obsolete ships overseas?
Before we dive in, some Soapbox news: we’ll have a double-length What We’re Reading next week.
It’s been a little while since the last one, but wars take a lot of time to write up.
Still aglow with national pride over the last victory, the fleet swings south out of Brest for the Mediterranean coast.
Or would, except I can’t move ships out of Europe because of the blockade.
… starts by generating three battles in the Baltic Sea, within range of German land-based air and without anywhere to run. No thank you.
1850 surrendered victory points later, I come across a battle I’m willing to take a chance on: a cruiser action in the Bay of Biscay.
On the plus side, our ‘cruiser force’ is a pair of 12″, 27-knot battleships, Rouen and Nancy. Their armor is much better than that of the German cruiser force, so we may be able to sink some ships.
Also joining us are the carriers Joffre and Bearn, but the weather is cloudy, and the day begins at 5:30 p.m. It being summer, there’s enough time for one strike, once we’ve spotted the enemy.
Or there would be, if the fleets found each other. The Germans, steaming in for the west, were outside scouting range.
With the budget they so rudely stole from us (granted, with our consent), the army does its part in the land war.
We now have radar! We’ll get a certain number of sets each month, which will be installed on ships in approximate order of size.
That good news is somewhat tempered (by which I mean obliterated) by the greatest disaster of the war so far.
With the money the army returned after their successful offensive, I lay down Fratnernité, the second in the Liberté class of fleet carriers, as a replacement. (I suppose Egalité ought to have come next. Oops.)
… starts with a carrier battle against the Germans, a fight we should probably win.
The weather is overcast, however, and we only have five and a half hours until dusk. We’ll see what comes of it.
Scouts from Brest report a pair of German light cruisers 250 miles to the west. It’s much too far to get planes there before dusk, however, so the play here is to hover around Brest overnight, then see if we can’t tag them in the morning. (This is a carrier battle, so we get 1800 minutes—more than a full day—to get our strikes in the air.)
Note the blue dot well out to sea to the west.
It was a good thought, but gale-force winds and drizzle will prevent us from getting planes airborne this morning. There’s still time for the weather to change, though.
September 1937, continued
The carrier battle was a draw, but news reaches French ears of strikes and anti-war demonstrations in Germany, which can only be good news for us.
The Americans contribute some, sinking the German cruiser Cöln in a battle we aren’t a party to.
Our battleships Lyon, Suffren, and Marengo now have radar, along with the carrier Bearn and a random destroyer.
The light cruiser Linois embarks on a raid of Austrian coastal shipping, with a screen of four destroyers.
It’s a hectic day. Thanks to air reconnaissance, we know where the Austrian patrols are, and are able to dart in and knock out a pair of merchants before the patrols can react. They do, however, catch up to us on the way back, sinking the 1920-vintage destroyer Oriflamme.
A relatively quiet month. Land-based aircraft from Brest have a chance at getting stuck in against a German cruiser squadron, but fail to find a target in the shortened day.
We might have a chance at taking down a German cruiser. In the Mediterranean, we have rough parity in forces with the Germans—us, because we can’t move ships out of Europe, them because their ships don’t have the range. We’re twenty miles from fifty strike planes at our airbases in Durazzo and Valona, and our lone heavy cruiser Latoche-Treville is approximately a match for the German cruisers.
Unfortunately, the German cruiser escapes despite a number of successful air attacks by our land-based forces (for once). We do bag the accompanying German light cruiser, which is enough to make it a victory.
The Austrians invade Tunisia, of all the indignities, and there’s nothing we can do about it because the whole fleet is bottled up in Europe.
The battle of the month is a large enemy coastal raid. Opposiing it are two older French battleships, Rouen and Nancy, our 30-knot ship Magenta, and one of our 26-knot 14″ battleships Ocean. The carriers are also on the field, but the battle kicks off just as twilight is approaching, so they won’t be much use to begin with. For the moment, they anchor behind the minefields at La Rochelle.
Nancy, equipped with a radar set, announces an unknown contact at a range of five miles. Cautiously, the fleet turns that way.
It turns out to be a French merchant plying the coastal trade.
Continuing what has thus far been a tense night, the destroyer Arc reports sinking a submarine.
Guns echo off the coast near La Rochelle, and Bearn‘s radar set reports a ghostly contact.
Requin reports the radar contact this time, 30 miles southwest from La Rochelle.
It’s an enemy destroyer. It gets off a spread of torpedoes, one of which sinks the old light cruiser Cosmao. Another hits Ocean, but her torpedo protection system absorbs the blow.
The fleet reports radar contacts to the northeast, at least three or four.
Make that five. I don’t think the Germans have radar yet, so I’m going to poke my nose in a bit and see what they have at sea.
The answer is, as far as I can tell, a lot.
I was inclined to leave the Germans alone, until they started driving hard for one of my precious carriers. A knife fight ensues.
It ends with the fleets turning away from each other, avoiding torpedoes. Each of the fleets takes a torpedo hit or two. The French battle line drops to about 20 knots.
That brief knife fight leads into another one, nearer the end of the night.
Eager to perhaps pounce on any German stragglers, I keep the French battleships close at hand.
As dawn sweeps across the sea, it appears the Germans had the same idea: six dreadnought-type ships to our four, at close ranges where French gunnery and the French preference for heavy deck armor are rendered irrelevant by the sheer weight of broadside from the German ships.
It goes poorly.
A brief moment of hope in late morning, as sixty strike planes launch from various airbases along the Channel coast, gives way to final despair. Clouds roll in low over the sea, and though the boom of German guns still echoes along the coast near La Rochelle, the pilots can’t spot their targets to make attacks.
I probably ought to have run for it earlier, but got a bit too greedy in trying to press what I perceived as an advantage. Turned out that it was not an advantage at all.
Sadly, this more or less erases our victory against Germany earlier in the war—we’re back to a deficit in dreadnought ships, and the war score is just about even. (We’re a few thousand points in the lead.)
Austria attacks a convoy trying to resupply Tunisia. Despite a huge inferiority in forces, I think I want to play this one out—we have a large superiority in land-based air in this part of the theater, which might work out this time, and I want to do everything I can to support the ground forces in Tunisia.
And, thanks to a change made in a recent patch whereby the AI considers local air superiority in deciding whether to accept battle, Austria declines battle.
The next option: a fleet battle against Germany near Jutland, which I think I am going to decline. I’m a bit gun-shy, for one. For another, it’s much too close to Germany’s land-based air and a bit further from mine than I’d like.
The next one is a German coastal raid, similar to the one I just lost. I think I will play this one out, although I’m going to be extremely careful with the fleet. If the weather’s not fit for air attacks, I’ll just steam away from the coast.
This one starts at twilight in the same region as the last one, and suggests I need an airbase at either St. Nazaire or La Rochelle. The plan is to steam south overnight, and find the Germans in the morning.
There’s a stiff breeze, but the weather is otherwise clear, which bodes well for getting some carrier-striking action in. The wind is out of the north, however, which will make it difficult for my carriers to make headway to the south when there are air operations going. They have to turn into the wind to launch and recover planes.
Oops. It’s the dawn twilight, not the dusk twilight. Well, I’ll get the strike planes loaded up, and hopefully we’ll have some bombs on some German battleships to take revenge for our losses in the previous raid.
Enemy floatplanes buzz overhead. At about the same time, spotting reports come in, putting the enemy about 90 miles to the northwest. This spotting report is only for a few battlecruisers and cruisers, likely a scouting force ahead of the main body. Not that I’m going to complain about sinking battlecruisers instead of battleships, if it comes to that.
I launch strikes from all three light carriers, a total of 42 planes. I’m reserving Bearn‘s Sunday punch, the largest of the bunch, for a few minutes, in case a better spotting report comes in.
It does. This one says there are some light carriers at sea. That’s where Bearn‘s planes will go.
The strikers are airborne and en route. Here’s hoping they shoot straight today.
A little concerningly, the enemy is closer than I expected, only about 40 miles away.
The bombs start to fall: a German cruiser takes two hits from our dive bombers’ 1000lb numbers, and a ship of unknown type takes three torpedo hits.
Bearn‘s strike arrives, hitting a destroyer with two 1000lb bombs and a battleship with three, and getting some torpedoes off to boot.
Five torpedoes find their mark, along with another bomb.
The first strike is on its way back. In the meantime, seven German torpedo bombers make it through the French CAP, but withering fire from the French battleships drives them off. Only Rouen comes close to taking hits.
The first wave starts to land. It may only be February, but there’s more than enough daylight to get a second wave up, and I think we have enough of a southward sprint to make it relatively safe even with the German fleet bearing down on us.
The last of the strike planes unspools the arrestor cables as it sets down on deck, while land-based strikes from Brest and Cherbourg approach the enemy ships.
They’ve come from a long way off.
While the carrier crews, having rearmed their planes with admirable alacrity, get the second wave of strikes spotted to the deck, land-based torpedo bombers take a crack at an enemy light carrier, hitting it once.
Level bombing rarely works against ships, but some flying boats out of Brest make it happen.
The second wave of strikes is on its way up.
Our new Bloch dive bombers have very long range for the era, which is why I got this popup for planes out of Cherbourg.
When our Liberté-class carriers enter service, hopefully we’ll see more of this sort of thing.
The bombers report six hits on cruisers and six on carriers. Out of 14 bombers, that’s either spectacular accuracy or awful bomb damage assessment.
The second strike from the carriers arrives, a bit less well-coordinated than the first wave. The torpedo bombers nevertheless acquit themselves well, scoring four hits on dreadnought-size ships and one on a cruiser.
The dive bombers, a bit tardy, now arrive on the scene, planting four bombs onto cruisers and one on a carrier.
Spotting reports are now placing the enemy within the minefields at La Rochelle. As soon as we have strike planes to launch at them, I’m going to launch a third wave, which should just fit in before dusk.
Dixmude and Arromanches, our elder light carriers, are a bit ahead of the game, and launch a strike a few minutes before Bruix and Bearn see their planes land.
Bombers from Brest attack a German carrier heading northwest, away from the action, and score a hit or two. Perhaps they managed to sink her.
At the same time, German dive bombers approach Bearn, which is currently busily striking planes below to rearm them. Or, perhaps not—her air wing has taken heavy losses, and is down to only six effective bombers, thanks to an afternoon recon launch. Perhaps it’s time to let her pilots take a breather.
After 45 minutes, I realize that the ‘Carrier Name has X aircraft torpedoes remaining!’ popup dialogs I saw when prepping the strikes were not advisories but exceptions. Correcting it by loading the torpedo bombers with standard bombs, I finally get the strikes moving. Because the enemy is so close, the strikes will still arrive in time to return before dusk.
40 minutes later, the last wave of planes is airborne.
The battleships head northward, in hopes of perhaps catching a German straggler or two before nightfall.
It might even pay off. The last wave spots enemies a mere 27 miles from our battle line, and goes in for the attack.
A trio of Arromanches‘ dive bombers pull off a picture-perfect attack, rolling over one after the other, pulling into steep approaches, and planting three bombs in a row on an enemy battlecruiser.
As the strike aircraft head back to their carriers, the light cruiser Voltaire, playing scout for the battleship line, spots an unidentified enemy ship.
The greatest of prizes: a carrier, soon to be in range of battleship guns.
Dive bombers from Brest attack a German light carrier, scoring a number of hits.
The carrier upon which our battleships are closing in begins to open the range. It makes sense that carrier would be faster.
Still, there are targets worth shooting at.
The gun action begins. Suffren lands a blow on one of two German battlecruisers at a range of more than 28,000 yards.
The destroyer Pique identifies both of the German ships: a Derfflinger type, from 1917, and one of the modern Lützows, which would be a great feather in our cap.
This is the first battle in which we truly see the benefit of the all-forward main armament. Our new-style battleships Marengo, Courbet, and Suffren are each bringing their full battery of eight guns to bear.
Marengo is going to get the lion’s share of the credit for the Lützow. A long-range hit from her 16″ guns hits the German battlecruiser’s engine room. Steam boils up from her hull in a vast cloud.
A flash fire in the Lützow‘s turret breaks her in two. Damage to the Derfflinger is beginning to tell, as well, as the hits from the French battle line, hungry for vengeance, begin to come faster.
As twilight sweeps over the field of battle, the Derfflinger is a burning pyre, rocking in the waves, engines dead. The French fleet turns away from an incoming destroyer attack, but a moment too late—Marengo and Lyon take torpedo hits. Neither appear to be fatal, and with a victory assured, I can take the luxury of slowing down to limit flooding and turning for home.
Nightfall. French destroyers circle the stricken Derfflinger, pouring torpedoes into her battered hull until she rolls over and sinks.
I had intended that to be the end of this battle report, but radar yields an unexpected coda.
With the battle line a bit battered, I signal for the destroyers to have a go with torpedoes.
The Germans have the same idea, and in a wild nighttime battle, they get the better of us. Miraculously, even though Lyon and Rouen, older ships with poor torpedo protection already lightly damaged, take several hits each, both appear content to stay afloat.
There was a carrier with the Germans, but with our line slowed by damage, we don’t have much chance of catching it. We settle for beating the tar out of a destroyer.
I had intended that to be the end of this battle report, but once again, radar intervenes.
A contact just south of the fleet turns out to be the German light carrier from earlier, damaged by bomb attacks earlier in the day. With the most heavily damaged battleships already on the way back to port, I’m left with four ships fit for action and capable of 23 knots. The carrier is faster, until the battleship shells find their marks.
It is a deeply unfair fight.
And a deeply unfair result, but in our favor, so I’m not going to complain. Three German dreadnoughts are on the bottom of the Bay of Biscay now: the battleship Hannover, and the battlecruisers Hindenburg and Graf Spee. Alongside them are the heavy cruser Prinz Heinrich and the light carriers Weser and Jade, plus a pair of destroyers. French losses amount to one patrol boat and four merchants, along with varying degrees of damage to the battleship fleet.
The map is a bit confused, but you can see the battlecruiser battle at the little spur in my main force’s line, where the blue line ends.
Further rumors of mutinies and strikes in Germany and Austria reach our ears.
Plans and Intentions
Germany is still blockading us, so there’s not much war planning to do beyond ‘hope for good carrier weather and sink more battleships’. Intelligence suggests we’re winning the battle of the home front. Unrest in France is low. Unrest in Germany and Austria is believed to be high. We’re ahead 63,603 to 41,969 in war score. An airbase is currently building at La Rochelle, to improve our land-based coverage of the central Bay of Biscay.
We do, however, have some construction choices to make soon. Currently in the shipyards are Solferino (finished in one month), a 30-knot, 14″-gun battleship; Liberté (five months) and Fraternité, 90-plane fleet carriers; and four modern 2000-ton destroyers (5-6 months).
That is to say, we’ll have two budget slots for capital ships in the near future. I plan on using one to build Egalité, completing the set. With the other slot, should we build another battleship, build another carrier, build heavy cruisers, build light forces, or build submarines?
Well, the votes are in (not that I pay especially close attention to the tallies): there is an overwhelming consensus toward a Germany-first strategy. It’s not the strategy I would have chosen, necessarily, but I can see some of the advantages.
In particular, it might break the German blockade (we can only be blockaded in Northern Europe). Should it do so, we’ll be giving up fewer victory points turn by turn. We’re also stronger in the air in the Mediterranean relative to our foes than we are in Europe, so added hulls helps.
I start off with planning an invasion of Morocco, given that this is one of our war goals. And, with that, we’re off to the races.
The first battle of the greater war is a cruiser action off Madagascar. The Germans have airplanes in East Africa, but they lack the range to hit us here. The balance of forces is one German cruiser against a pair of French light cruisers, one of the Lavoisier class (1912) and one of the Condillac class (1922). Sfax, our older cruiser, has a broadside of 6″ guns and a speed of 27 knots. Descartes has a 28-knot speed and a broadside of 4″ guns. I’m taking this one to the battle map, because Germany has a bunch of older heavy cruisers that we might be able to sink by way of lucky torpedoes.
The wind is a strong gale, and heavy seas limit our ships to 16 knots. This is not ideal if we happen upon the Germans, but the poor visibility means if we do, we’ll be in torpedo range almost immediately.
The weather does not improve. Rain and spray off the top of whitecaps reduce sighting ranges to, at times, less than 1000 yards.
At 5:50 p.m., approaching with the dusk behind her, a German cruiser sails in from the east. She’s a 1928 Vineta class, and probably worth running from—her armament is a bit too modern for our old cruisers to take for very long. Six 11″ guns, 12 6″ guns, and 6 4″ guns will hurt us in a hurry.
Sfax takes a hit to the engine room which slows her to 11 knots, but by then, the German cruiser’s turned south to avoid torpedoes, and the French ships have turned north to run into Diego Suarez.
It’s too late, though—the two 11″ shells which hit Sfax suffice to send the old girl to the bottom. Ships bearing the Lavoisier name account for an awful lot of the losses suffered by the French fleet.
After the battle, I am alerted by dialog box that invasion of Morocco will be impossible as long as we’re under blockade, so I guess Germany First is the right plan after all. In further news, our newest battleship Magenta strikes a mine in the Channel, and will be in the dockyards for six months. Poor timing.
The Americans, however, are coming through in a big way—they now have four dreadnoughts, three fleet carriers, and three light carriers in Europe alongside the French fleet.
In ‘battles I might have been better off declining’, two French light cruisers and a flotilla of modern destroyers encounter a squadron of new German cruisers.
The German cruiser forces do appear to be superior to our own. An attack by the destroyers gives the light cruisers enough sea room to run away, at least as a start, at the cost of only one of their number.
While the retreat is in progress, I check the air range rings. A little more readable here in the north, they tell me that French medium bombers from Dunkerque can reach the North Sea as far as the border betwen England and Scotland. Germany’s planes have much shorter range—they can’t even reach us as we sail down the middle of the Dogger Bank.
After the battle, the new torpedo bomber prototypes hit my desk for evaluation. The Loire 126 looks like the winner—its range with a torpedo is a full 100 nautical miles greater than our previous bomber, and it can haul a 500lb bomb 454 miles.
This month’s battle: a convoy defense in the outer Bay of Biscay, within range of medium bomber strikes. The French force centers on Nancy, one of our old Rouen-class battlecruisers rebuilt as a battleship. Her 27-knot speed makes her a valuable asset for this kind of work.
Also present is Forbin, one of our newer light cruisers, which proceeds to launch a scout floatplane.
Some time after launch, Forbin‘s scout reports a relatively heavy force: two battlecruisers, two light cruisers, and nine destroyers. We’re at par on destroyers, but behind on dreadnoughts and light cruisers, so I play this one a little more coy, hanging back near the convoy for now.
The enemy ships are heading northwest.
Shortly thereafter, it becomes clear that the report of Forbin‘s scout was a little misleading. Enemy aircraft pass overhead, and Forbin spots an enemy ship thirteen miles to port.
It’s a light cruiser, scouting us out. Forbin opens fire with her six forward 6″ guns, and this might be a big enough battle to get into timestamps, so…
The red dot in the bottom right of the screen is not Forbin’s scout, but a medium bomber flying recon out of Brest. Maybe we’ll get some land-based support.
Forbin, getting a bit closer, realizes that her target is not a light cruiser but a destroyer.
Forbin finds the range, hitting the German destroyer twice in the last three minutes.
Still running south, the destroyer’s taken enough damage now to slow it down.
15 miles southwest of the action, a scout from Brest reports two light cruisers heading our way. That’s a good ways north of our previous spotting report from Forbin‘s floatplane.
Six minutes later, Forbin spots another ship bearing north. The unidentified ship hits from around Forbin‘s maximum range, suggesting that it’s a light cruiser.
Six minutes after that, eight floatplanes approach Nancy, coming from the west. They look to be approaching for an attack.
No bombs hit, and AA machine guns on the battleship and her escorting destroyers wing one of the scouts.
Forbin reports large ships to the southwest, so we make an about-face until we can identify them. If they’re some of Germany’s ancient battlecruisers, we might make a fight of it. Otherwise, we’ll retire to the convoy.
An enterprising destroyer captain closes a bit with the enemy light cruiser, marking it as a Medusa-class, very slightly outclassed by our Forbin.
The enemy force is built around what we’ve identified as a Vineta-class cruiser. I do not fully buy that—the Vineta-class is an old-time armored cruiser design with six guns in two triple turrets, one fore, one aft. The target looks like an early battlecruiser, with guns in non-superfiring double turrets, one amidships. Compare and contrast:
And flipping through the almanac, I find that it looks like a 1915-era Goeben-class.
I only turned on the zoomed-in inset view at the start of this playthrough because I’d committed to drawing prettier ships for the purposes of the Let’s Play and wanted to see them, but wouldn’t you know it, it’s provided some valuable tactical information.
Two new unknown ships appear just southwest of the old battlecruiser. They’ve not been identified yet.
Some German level bombers had a go at me just now. I’m not sure if that’s misidentification or what—it’s an awfully long way from the German coast. Maybe there’s a seaplane carrier around.
The two German ships appear to be more modern battlecruisers, which means it’s time to beat a retreat. Given the rough weather, Nancy is nearly as fast as they are, and French gunnery is once again proving to be better than German.
Only one of the two pursuing battlecruisers is modern—Lützow, a rough contemporary of Nancy, and roughly her equal. The other one is the second of the two Goebens Germany built way back when.
It’s a tense situation. The Germans aren’t closing the range, because the lightly-damaged Nancy is still as fast as the enemy Goebens—if the Germans wanted to get closer, they’d have to send Lützow by her lonesome, and that’s too fair a fight. If Nancy gets slowed down by damage very much more, it could be a very sticky situation, with dusk still two hours away.
Nancy runs out of ammunition for her aft turret slightly before a shell from Lützow penetrates its roof. One hour to dusk. I send the destroyer flotillas on a quick attack. If the Germans turn away even for a few minutes, we get away easily.
Well done, boys! Might even hit something with a spread like that. (Update: they do not.)
Around this time, dive bombers approach our ships, which makes me wonder if the Germans have a carrier out here somewhere. If so, unfair. Where’s my carrier? With one of those, I bet I could have done some proper damage.
Dusk approaches, but our convoy is in sight ahead, and the Germans are still prowling. We’ll loom near the convoy and, perhaps, torpedo some unwary Germans.
It does not come to pass, but the convoy escapes unscathed into the night, for the first French victory of the war.
The rest of the month is quiet. I grant the Army some of our budget in an effort to gain some victory points on the ground. The war at sea has been tough so far.
This, now. This plays into our strengths. The Austrians, realizing this, decline battle.
The other option is a cruiser battle against Germany in the western Mediterranean, in the center of a bunch of our major air bases. I can live with that, too.
Latouche-Treville, our cruiser, is a solid ship—fast and reasonably armored, she also carries a pair of scout planes.
The battle turns out not to include our heavy cruiser, unfortunately, but with a little luck, maybe we’ll still bag something with air support.
Quite unfairly, it looks like the Germans get an armored cruiser while we don’t. (I guess Latouche-Treville is technically on raider duty.) Still, we have planes in the air, which will hopefully score some good hits for us.
Thanks to the comical ineptitude of our land-based air support, who utterly fail to attack an enemy formation despite passing within five miles of it (granted, it’s cloudy today, so air spotting is iffy), we lose Amiral Cecile and Durandal, a light cruiser and destroyer, and hand Germany another win.
Notably, despite our intelligence saying Germany had one cruiser and four light cruisers, we found ourselves facing off against four cruisers and one light cruiser. Good old naval intelligence.
I think I’m going to stick it out against Germany for one more month, in the hopes of getting a carrier battle, and if not, I’m going to retire to the Mediterranean, where we can beat up on the Austro-Hungarians a bit. (I expect the German fleet is largely short-ranged, which means it can’t move between map zones at war.)
Instead of winning a carrier battle, we lose a light cruiser battle—our Lalande, intercepted while attempting to break the blockade and go on a raiding cruise, loses to a German Gazelle class. Time to move the fleet to the Mediterranean.
Just before our ships leave, a patrol in the North Sea intercepts wireless signals suggesting the German fleet is sortieing. The forecast for the day is clear weather, light wind, and good visibility. The French carrier force is itching to get stuck in. This is their chance.
The Battle of Texel
It starts at 3:10 a.m. on June 29th, twenty minutes to sunrise. The French fleet is arrayed battleships forward, steaming northeast. The wind is out of the northeast, which might make for some tricky carrier maneuvering—the carriers will have to steam toward Norway to launch and recover planes, which means they’ll have to really sprint in between strikes and recoveries to make progress south or west.
The main body of the German fleet is significantly slower than the French fleet. Only the newest German battleships, at 26 knots, can keep up with the French line, which is limited to 25 knots by the rebuilt Requin. (If it comes to that, we’ll leave her behind.) If we engage with guns at all, we’ll be facing off primarily against the German battlecruisers. My plan, however, is to dive due south through the Channel and past Dunkerque. By doing so, we’ll get further from German land-based air and nearer our own, and depend on the striking power of 196 carrier aircraft.
If the positioning of the enemy fleet makes that maneuver implausible, we’ll instead head northwest along the English coast—a sight to behold, no doubt, for residents of Britain’s coasts.
Recon is set up, the carriers are readying strike planes, and the battleships are cleared for action. Time for the big one.
Twilight reveals the German fleet steaming in columns, much as is our own, its leading elements within gun range of the heaviest French ships. I order the turn south, and the fleet goes to maximum speed.
Arromanches and Dixmude, our two purpose-built light carriers, are the first to get aircraft spotted for launch, at 3:28 a.m. Two minutes later, a much heftier strike from the full-size carriers Bearn and Joffre is ready for launch.
An interesting difference between carrier warfare in the North Atlantic and carrier warfare in the Pacific is time. In the summer, we have a tremendous amount of daylight to work with, enough for three or four waves of strikes. In the winter, we have barely enough time for scouting and perhaps a strike or two, to say nothing of the poor odds on good carrier weather. In the Pacific, the fighting was largely in the tropics, where the day length isn’t nearly so variable, and the weather is more uniform through the year to boot.
In the meantime, a German battlecruiser tags our battleship Marengo with a heavy gun. Happily, our predilection for heavy armor means the shell fails to penetrate.
The German battlecruisers, despite their superior gunnery, seem not to be in the mood for a running gun battle with the full French battle line. They turn away to the east, and the battleships lose sight of them.
Back at the carriers, Arromanches and Dixmude launch their strike, a total of fourteen torpedo bombers between the two of them.
German scouts spot the carrier force. Happily, I set CAP to ‘heavy’ with just that eventuality in mind.
Bearn‘s strikers begin to take off.
A minute later, scouting reports confirm what we already knew about the German ships’ course and location.
Bruix, our ex-heavy-cruiser light carrier, launched her 14-plane strike. Joffre, our largest and most capable carrier, slings 39 planes toward the Germans.
The situation is developing. The Germans still appear to be heading northeast, away from our ships. Some of our heavier strikes might miss short, unless the pilots continue out along the heading they’re flying now..
Pilots from Dixmude and Arromanches seem to have taken the latter course, as seven torpedo bombers approach an enemy ship.
Those pilots do themselves proud, radioing the current location of a German battlecruiser squadron as they begin their attack runs.
They do themselves even more proud, hitting two ships with torpedoes, and strikes from Joffre and Bruix are coming up right behind them.
While the battle line doubles back toward the carriers to provide close-in support and share CAP, a scouting report comes in for 10 battleships, 4 battlecruisers, and 8 cruisers—the main body of the German fleet. We may be able to launch a follow-up strike at it later.
Joffre‘s strike closes in on the enemy. At the same time, enemy aircraft approach our battle divisions, eight dive bombers out of the east-southeast. Perhaps land-based planes?
The combat log is pretty busy this time around. Of particular note is the effectiveness of the extremely heavy AA fit on our new battleships—each of them carries 20 4″ dual-purpose guns with directors, except for Suffren, built 1927, which only carries 18, because of the naval treaty in effect at the time.
The good news continues to roll in. Our machines score another two torpedo hits, then two bomb hits on a heavy cruiser.
We score three more torpedo hits. At least some of these are probably on battleships and battlecruisers.
A few torpedo bombers approach the French battle line, but heavy AA fire prevents them from launching accurately. Marseilles has to put her rudder hard over, but manages to dodge, which is good. She predates torpedo protection.
The enemy fleet appears to be in more or less the same places, according to scouting reports.
Recovery of the morning strike is delayed somewhat by an air attack on our carriers. Bruix, a ship without an armored flight deck, takes the brunt of it, losing a bit of speed and catching fire.
Bruix‘s damage control parties very quickly put the fire out. Her planes prepare to land and patch the deck sufficiently for her to continue air operations.
Back out toward the German fleet, a bomber launch from an hour or so ago (Joffre had a few more planes left, so I decided to send them out), finds targets.
With the Germans evidently on the run, and German aircraft perhaps in the air headed for our fleet, I decide now is a good time to double back to the northwest. It’ll confuse their targeting, and make for a shorter trip for our second-wave strike.
Which is still going to be pretty substantial—Joffre and Bearn can scrape together 35 planes.
Were I the German admiral, knowing I have a vastly superior battleship force, I might have tried my luck at pushing hard toward the French fleet, powering past the battleships, and seeing if I could reach the carriers.
Bruix gets into the action too.
Dixmude and Arromanches ship some of our new Bloch MB.122 dive bombers, with their long range and heavy striking power. Those planes, owing to their high speed and long range, played scout earlier in the battle, and some of them are landing now. The two sibling light carriers will hold off on a second strike until they can include some 1000lb bombs from above.
It looks like they’ve all landed, so time to get them back in the air.
Some dive bombers off of Dixmude which I’d forgotten about locate an enemy battleship and plant a 1000lb bomb on it. Thus ends our first wave of strikes.
The second wave is getting in the air, due to arrive on target in the next hour to hour and a half.
Strikes are on the way.
The first of the second wave of strikes has spotted enemy ships. Unfortunately, we’re at the very edge of our old-time dive bombers’ range—the North American Dolphin can only carry a 300lb bomb 120 miles, so they won’t be doing much damage. Hopefully the torpedo bombers can repeat their superb performance from earlier in the day.
It looks like Joffre‘s strike is going to take a crack at things next.
As the smoke clears, Joffre‘s tally is three bomb hits and two torpedoes, all on dreadnought-type ships.
Bruix joins the fun with three bomb hits on a light cruiser and one on a destroyer.
Adding to her renown, a torpedo bomber from Bruix hits a battleship. Between the effectiveness of this last strike and her adroit damage control earlier in the day, Bruix might be second MVP beyond Joffre.
What an enterprising pilot! Give him a medal of some kind. I don’t know my French medals well enough to say what’s appropriate. Pour some kind of le mérite. Wait, that’s a German one. L’Ordre du mérite français, pas du mérite allemand?
That fighter pilot who decided to take a little strafing run appears to be the last action of the second wave.
It may be worth launching a third wave, even. The enemy may be heading for port, but the last few spotting reports have them heading southwest instead of southeast, and the worst that can happen is that there’s nothing to be found and the strikes just come home.
Big time jump! Nothing happened, except planes landed. Four of our five carriers prepare a third and final wave. We’re right on the edge of our effective range, about 150 nautical miles from the last sighting of the German fleet. In particular, that means the Dolphin dive bombers are of no use, so this will be a torpedoes-only strike.
Dixmude and Arromanches get their planes aloft first. Others follow shortly thereafter.
After a quiet flight out skirting the Dutch coast, the first strike planes spot enemy ships.
Bearn‘s planes torpedo a battleship three times. Shortly after, while the German AA gunners attempt to crank their turrets skyward, two 1000lb bombs hit home, and a third finds a heavy cruiser’s deck.
Joffre joins in the fun. Her torpedo bombers nail a battlecruiser twice.
German medium bombers tangle with the French task force’s CAP, much to their own detriment.
The decision to go with a heavier CAP seems to be paying dividends—German air attacks have been largely ineffective today.
Joffre‘s bombers score six hits, a brilliant display of piloting prowess.
Arromanches‘ dive bombers, the modern Bloch type, round out the day with three hits to a battlecruiser.
Spotting reports suggest the enemy is now entering the Ems delta, on the way to the port of Emden. There will be no fourth wave.
It is a glorious day for France, mes amis.
We sink Hessen and Schwaben, two modern German battleships of 35,000 and 38,000 tons, against a mere handful of aircraft losses. (The Germans lost more!)
Aircraft losses tell an interesting story. The Germans did better on AA than we did, but that seems to be because French naval aviation leans much more heavily on torpedo bombers than do their German counterparts. Not only are torpedo bombers inherently more vulnerable than dive bombers to AA, because they have to fly low and slow to deploy their weapons, our torpedo bombers were engaged three separate times with the larger part of the German battle line.
I suspect that the lone aircraft lost aboard a ship was one of Bruix‘s bombers, destroyed when she took the bomb hit early in the day.
Prior to this battle, we trailed in victory points 6,800 to 2,200. Now, we lead by…
21,080 to 8,071. What a turnaround! A big win like that gives us a lot more leeway to continue the war; losing little dink-and-dunk battles pales in comparison to the importance of sinking capital ships.
That said, we didn’t actually sink that many German ships. The fleet power comparison in Northern Europe is a bit less tilted in the Germans’ favor. We sank two battleships and put three more into the yards for repairs, and they’re down a battlecruiser, too. Their battleship, battlecruiser, and cruiser force still dramatically outnumbers our own.
Plans and Intentions
I didn’t make it that far into the two-year standard update this week, what with the war on, but this seems like a good place to stop for the moment, with a victory behind us.
The Battle of Texel proves that we can deal serious damage to the German fleet, provided conditions are right: fleet battles in good carrier weather. On the other hand, the Germans have been beating us across the board in smaller actions, and if the battle fleets come into direct contact, I would expect it to go badly for us.
I still think I plan to move the fleet to the Mediterranean. As I mentioned above, the German fleet is probably mostly short-ranged, which means that it punches above its weight for a given tonnage, but can’t move from its current deployment zone. The Austrian fleet is probably also short-ranged, come to think of it, but France has outclassed Austria on budget grounds for long enough that I think we can still take them in a much wider spectrum of battles than ‘pound them from 150 miles with carrier planes’.
I will, of course, listen to dissenting opinions, but that’s how I lean now. Because of the German blockade in Northern Europe, it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to take Morocco by invasion without winning at least a few more major battles.
Well, so much for that plan about attacking Austria, unless maybe we can rope Britain in on our side.
Solferino, the next in the Magenta line of 30-knot battleships, goes to the yards. She’s a slightly-modified version of Magenta, with a bit more armor and a bit more main gun ammunition.
With the big destroyer order finished, I retired some of the increasingly-elderly Harpons and put the money toward a few foreign-service light cruisers. We still have three extremely-elderly Chateaurenaults (built 1903-1905) overseas, so I figure a few newer ships are probably in order.
Even if we don’t actually care about much beyond the Mediterranean, it’s nice to have cruisers that we can bring home to some actual effect. Too, these cruisers have about twice the tonnage for the same maintenance, so we’ll need fewer ships overseas and can therefore retire some of the older ones. As has been traditional with overseas cruisers, she has light guns. This one’s a bit faster than preceding iterations, however, and carries a seaplane so she’s not entirely useless in fleet combat.
Tensions with Germany are decreasing, which is good. I’m not quite sure how the alliance mechanic works between the AI countries, or whether we can knock Germany out of its alliance with Austria by diplomatic means (by which I mean the game’s random event system).
The British finally crush an ongoing rebellion in Zanzibar. Tensions with Austria are decreasing slightly, which is not, as I see it, necessarily a bad thing.
I take the opportunity to expand our airbases in the neighborhood of our potential foes—Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary.
Germany, having gotten on our bad side with this Austro-Hungarian alliance, now gets to see the error of its ways.
I confess, I was a little concerned it wasn’t going to happen at all, but at long last—
Time to get a native French design going. I put the word out to the aircraft manufacturers.
On the subject of French designs, Magenta will be entering service in two months, so I start on a design study for Liberté, our new 35,000-ton, 90-plane carrier.
Regrettably, the art does not live up to the name, but drawing carriers is hard.
Anti-naval protests in Britain coincide with a rebellion in Malta. It would be a tremendous feather in the French cap to snag that from the British—nearly as much as taking Gibraltar would.
Those German rebels we supported won their fight for independence.
Some historical friends of France come knocking with an extremely compelling offer. Budget impact notwithstanding, I’m happy to say ‘yes’.
We select Bloch’s dive bomber prototype, with 30 knots of speed and an extra 120 miles of range over our existing North American Dolphin, to say nothing of a vastly improved bomb load. To put it another way, the forthcoming Bloch MB.122 can carry a 1,000-lb bomb 50 miles further than the old plane could carry a 300-lb bomb.
While Bloch goes from ‘prototype’ to ‘production’, I ask the design bureaus for a new torpedo bomber—ours dates to 1932, and with wars seeming likely in the next few years, up-to-date aircraft will be a major advantage.
The perfidious Austrians have attempted to torpedo a French ship in peacetime!
Or at least, that’s what we’re saying.
And, at long last, we get a war. Not exactly the war we wanted, but it’ll do. Germany and Austria-Hungary face off against France and the United States.
Our existing corvettes and corvette-like destroyers are sufficient in number to cover our trade protection requirements, so the whole of the fleet is active. I really want to get a battle in this update if I can, so I’m going to run the war for a month, fight in January (if it’s wise), and then we’ll consult on strategy.
January 1937: The Battle of Durazzo
A destroyer action against the Austro-Hungarians. Their destroyers remain slightly more advanced than our own, but this time around, we have a huge amount of air cover—100 planes within 30 miles. I’m more inclined to hold the range and fight it out.
The air range map is unreadable nowadays. I wonder if there’s a way to toggle friendly/enemy bases.
The battle will be fought over French Albania. Did this need a caption? Maybe not, but ‘French Albania’ is a hilarious thing to be able to write.
It’s 7:56 a.m. Cloudy weather prevails, and sunset is in a hair over eight hours.
Recon planes take off around the Mediterranean. Hopefully we have a handle on where our enemy is soon, although the weather may make that problematic.
It does. Gabion, a 35-knot Flamberge built in 1920, spots the enemy to the south—shortly after a recon flight passed overhead from that direction.
The destroyer force turns north toward Durazzo, until we have a better idea of the size of the Austrian group.
The enemy flotilla is making smoke, which is causing some difficulty in identifying them and counting them, but it looks like there are about five of them, against our nine.
One of the ships is purportedly a light cruiser, but I suspect that identification might be incorrect. Even if it isn’t, the light cruiser class in question is less well-armed than our recent destroyers.
Unhelpfully, Airbase Durazzo radios us to say that a light cruiser was spotted at 7:28 a.m.
Thanks, guys. Better news:
Airbase Valona, instead of sending untimely spotting reports, is preparing a naval strike.
That naval strike is still probably 45 minutes away, however, and the destroyers’ guns are beginning to tell.
Perhaps ashamed of their poor performance the last time they faced off with their Austrian counterparts, the French destroyer gunners are keeping up an accurate fire while at a range of 9,000 yards and a speed of 34 knots.
The goal isn’t to sink the enemy with gunfire, however, so much as to keep them bottled up to the south until the air strikes arrive.
The Armee de l’air should be on its way in the next ten or fifteen minutes. The tally of hits is nine to one in our favor, even though the Austrian destroyers each mount eight main guns.
The Austrians have gotten a little bit more dialed in in the past half-hour, narrowing the gap slightly.
French gunnery remains superior, however, and the fact that our heaviest destroyers carry 5″ guns (against the Austrian preference for 4″) means that each of our hits counts for more.
I originally said that the aim wasn’t to sink the enemy with gunfire, but so far, that’s going pretty well.
The five-ship Austrian flotilla is now split into four groups, as damaged ships peel off to avoid the fight. I send the supporting flotilla—five vintage Flamberge-class ships, from the early 1920s—to hound the wimpy light cruiser, while taking the lead flotilla, with some modern Epee-class ships and a semi-modern Glaive, after the retreating destroyers.
Enemy aircraft appear on scene first, heading for the older destroyer flotilla. Notably, none of these ships have AA guns; perhaps we should rectify that oversight with some judicious refitting.
Flamberge takes a hit to the engine room, delivered by an enemy dive bomber. She drops out of line, but doesn’t seem to be in danger of sinking. I’m beginning to wonder where the French strikes are—perhaps they launched based on the bad scouting report from earlier.
Another wave of maddeningly-accurately-launched strike planes finds Epee, one of the modern ships in our lead group, but as a consolation, Epee hits an Austrian destroyer’s magazines and sends it to the bottom.
It seems like things are quieting down now. The only enemy ship in sight is a single destroyer, which is being chased by six French ships. (The other three French destroyers are in various states of disrepair, and are heading toward port in no immediate danger of sinking. One was hit by a torpedo launched by a torpedo bomber, which is surely grounds for a court martial—how do you fail to dodge an air-launched torpedo in a destroyer?)
It happens again! Espignole is hit by two torpedoes, and heads for the bottom.
Finally, some French aircraft show up on the scene—these medium bombers, and twenty torpedo bombers. One of the medium bombers scores a hit. A little later, a group of dive bombers joins in the fun, and before long, the enemy ship is slipping beneath the waves.
With six destroyers still in reasonably good shape, I turn the flotilla back east, toward a wounded Austro-Hungarian ship being herded toward the Albanian coast by a pair of similarly-wounded French destroyers.
Fanion, another obsolete destroyer, sinks due to accumulated battle damage.
As dusk approaches, the French flotilla catches up to the damaged Austrian destroyer.
Shortly after, it goes under.
Night falls, and the French force returns to port. It goes into the books as a minor victory… and then the points are lost altogether, as Germany officially enters the war.
Anyway, the only reason the game called it a minor victory is that we were playing for table stakes. I’d call it a convincing win. Although French air power was a bit disappointing, the destroyers’ gunnery was superb. The Austrian force had 36 4″ guns, against our 22 4″ and 8 5″, and despite the deficit in guns we scored more hits by a dramatic margin.
Plans and Intentions
Now, though, we’re playing with the big boys.
In Northern Europe, facing Germany, France has eight battleships, five light cruisers, two aircraft carriers, three light carriers, and 18 destroyers. The Americans have shown up with some reinforcements: a squadron comprising one battleship, four light cruisers, two light carriers, and five destroyers. Flying top cover from land bases are 220 aircraft. Another 20 from an in-progress expansion are coming soon.
The Germans have their whole fleet here, more or less: 10 battleships, six battlecruisers, nine cruisers, 21 light cruisers, four light carriers, three seaplane carriers, 49 destroyers, and 23 corvettes, along with 420 land-based aircraft.
Now, it’s not quite as awful as it seems for France. One reason why: we may get more reinforcements from the Americans, who have a fleet even larger than the Germans do. A second reason: in the areas where the war is likely to be fought—the Bay of Biscay, the Channel, and the western North Sea—France has more airbases in range and more aircraft carriers, in particularly counting the American flotilla here in support. A final reason: the French battle line is again faster than its counterparts, thanks to refits in the late 20s and early 30s. The ships facing Germany have a minimum speed of 26 knots, which is faster than all but the enemy’s newest classes. In fast battleships/battlecruisers, the French and German fleets are near parity—eight to seven to us, with heavier armor on our side and heavier guns on the Germans’.
In the Middle Sea, we are again inferior to our opponent on paper.
France deploys two battleships, our lone heavy cruiser, six light cruisers, one seaplane carrier, 22 destroyers, seven corvettes, and 460 land-based aircraft.
Austria-Hungary has six battleships, seven heavy and three light cruisers, one light carrier, one seaplane carrier, 13 destroyers, and 30 corvettes. Germany adds a light cruiser, two destroyers, and one corvette. The Austrians have 300 land-based aircraft.
Again, there are some confounding factors. France has a lot of aircraft in the Mediterranean, along with a lot of air bases, which means we’re nearly guaranteed top cover wherever we are. Austrian air power is only dangerous near the Austrian coast and near Casablanca, where large combats may or may not happen on the regular.
Austria has some serious battleships—37,000 tons, because dictatorships get to cheat arms limitation treaties, with 12 15″ guns. Relatively light armor, though, with only a 12″ belt. Even lightly armored French battleships start at 13″.
Broadly speaking, what’s our goal for this war? I see two. Say so if you think there are others.
Survive without losing territory or large numbers of warships. Fighting Germany and Austria-Hungary together is a big ask for France.
Right now, our forces are divided between the North Sea and the Mediterranean in a way which seems to me to be unhelpful. In short: we can’t win a pitched battle against either Germany or Austria right now. So, in that spirit:
Should we concentrate the fleet to beat up on one enemy first? If so, Austria-Hungary or Germany?
Note that we’re currently being blockaded by Germany, which will slowly tick up the enemy’s war score.