Item #1 on the priority list, according to the readership, is a fast battleship. I cancel Magenta (she hasn’t been building for that long) and redesign her for 30-knot speed and 14″ guns. I cut half an inch from her belt armor to add half an inch to her deck armor, but in all other respects, she’s a copy of Marengo.
Breguet brings us a better medium bomber, which I buy, even though we just bought a Morane-Saulnier type—this one has better range and speed with the same bomb load.
The new, fast Magenta hits the ways, and I decide to throw in a new light cruiser, too: Surcouf, with 12 6″ guns, 32-knot speed, a seaplane, and dual-purpose secondary and tertiary guns.
9,000 tons is pretty beefy compared to our oldest light cruisers, the three 24-knot Chateaurenaults still puttering around sleepy Asiatic ports.
I’m trying to provoke Austria-Hungary into a war, but they’re resolutely opposed to the idea.
Our big buy of Epee-class destroyers are all in service now. Given that Austria’s destroyers are better than ours, I go for a new class: the Arquebuse, which helps close the gap somewhat. 6 main guns (against our previous best of 4), without compromising on other capabilities, and with an extra two knots of speed over the Epees.
As Marengo enters service, an opportunity presents itself to cheese off the Austro-Hungarians, exposing a spy of theirs discovered in French territory. It pushes us to the brink of war.
Our fighters are looking a little long in the tooth, so I request some new prototypes.
I have the option to negotiate an alliance or push tensions. I choose to push tensions; unfortunately, Germany goes up and Austria-Hungary doesn’t, putting us on the brink of war with two powers.
No real news, except for this!
I set it to high priority for now. Radar’s super-cool.
Liore et Olivier gets the nod for the new fighter, out of three choices with almost nothing to separate them. (Liore et Olivier’s entry is just as fast, tough, maneuverable, and punchy as the other entries, but has an extra few miles of range.)
Tensions with Germany go down slightly.
The war with Austria is so close I can taste it, but not quite there yet.
Plans and Intentions
There are fourteen ships in the yards right now:
Magenta, our 30-knot battleship. (Done in 14 months.)
Surcouf and Forbin, two new light cruisers. (Done in 3 months and 14 months.)
Commandant Teste, our seaplane carrier, in for a rebuild to bring her up to the 30-knot air group standard. (Done in 12 months.)
10 new destroyers of the 2000-ton Arquebuse class, done in 4 months.
So, in four months, we’ll have money in hand for another capital ship, and again 10 months thereafter. Should we build battleships, carriers, or one of each? If battleship(s), 30-knot/14″ guns or 27-knot/16″ guns? (We could easily build a 30-knot, 16″-gun ship if we weren’t tonnage-limited, but alas, that is not the world we live in.)
To help guide your decision, a quick rundown of the European standings: * In dreadnought ships, we have 279,700 tons in service or under construction, putting us behind Britain (613,000) and Germany (533,200) but ahead of Austria-Hungary (237,600) and Italy (189,100). Britain is actually behind Germany if you only count ships in service, but is currently building six dreadnoughts. * In aircraft carriers, our 87,500 tons puts us behind Britain (165,000), but ahead of Italy (84,100), Germany (38,800), and Austria-Hungary (8,900). Joffre is still the champion on the ‘most planes on a single carrier’ leaderboard. Notably, we still haven’t developed dive bombers, and this technology chart suggests that it’s possible we won’t until 1938. Until then, we’ll just have to struggle along with torpedo bombers and licensed dive bombers.
Otherwise, the plan is to continue to badger Austria-Hungary, with an eye toward stealing Morocco from them. Anything else that ought to be on the docket?
At the end of the last update, I asked four questions. Here they are again, with (the answers):
Big guns or high speed for the next battleship? (Majority favors big guns.)
Rebuild or scrap Marengo? (Approximately a tie, so I’ll break it: scrap her.)
Destroyer-cruiser mix, or destroyers? (Destroyers win by a country mile.)
Montcalms to light carriers? (Approximately a tie, so I’ll scrap one and carrier-ize the other.)
Time to get some ship designs… designed.
In honor of the dear, departed Marengo, I name this new class of ships Marengo. 16″ guns, AA directors, level 4 torpedo protection, and a seaplane hangar and catapult. Still only 27 knots against our ~30-knot carrier fleet, but she’s not so much slower that she’ll be entirely left behind.
Montcalm goes to the scrappers, while her counterpart Bruix becomes a 29-knot, 24-plane light carrier.
Our new destroyers will be called the Epee class. Because we haven’t figured out dual-purpose main guns or dual turret mounts on destroyers yet, they’re still notably inferior to their Austrian counterparts, but nevertheless a good followon to our existing Glaives. They are a bit spendy, though—two at once, for the moment.
Catastrophe! Tensions are low, and Parliament votes to reduce naval spending. I think we’ll still be able to fit Marengo in, but it might scupper our plans for a fleet exercise this summer.
Ah, what timing, after we just designed a new class.
Honestly, though, I’m not inclined to redesign it until we have dual-purpose guns and twin mounts for destroyers.
French scientists also work out +1 quality 14″ guns. Regunning Ocean, Suffren, and Courbet will make them much better ships at very little cost—4 months at 718 funds per month, plus a litle extra for Ocean and Suffren to retrofit better fire control.
Blueprints for an Austrian cruiser suggest that our sole remaining cruiser is still superior.
In fleet tactics, we’ve figured out reliable voice radio, which will further reduce the likelihood of signaling errors during battle. We also develop improved arrestor wires, and buy a slightly longer-legged torpedo bomber from Dewoitine.
The Navy League mobilizes against a new government attempting to cut naval spending, at the cost of very mildly increased tensions with Germany.
Bruix finishes her rebuild and ten new submarines are launched this month, freeing up the budget for rebuilds of Ocean and Suffren to use the most advanced 14″ guns and fire control available. (Suffren packs on some more AA, too.) In addition, there’s money for another pair of Epee-class destroyers.
With money in the bank and no wars on the horizon, it’s time for a quick exercise.
Fleet Exercise 1932
The goal: see how well our heavily-armored and AA-gunned battleships can do against determined air attack. Ocean, Suffren, and Marseilles (the latter as a control) face off against Bearn, Bruix, and Arromanches, each side with small supporting forces.
It’s a nice day, and over the course of the first hour, recon planes take off and head for the horizon.
Answering a reader question, they are in fact biplanes.
Something I didn’t realize when I bought the Gloster Goblin license was that it’s relatively short-legged compared to our torpedo bombers. (The yellow circle against the purple one.)
Also of note in the preceding image: the enemy force has been spotted. The course and composition in the scouting report look good, so I’m going to gamble a bit on the whole report being high-quality and throw a Sunday punch at it.
That’s… 53 planes. Not our whole force (we can’t launch every plane without leaving some below deck and spotting them after the first wave launches), but not bad for 1932. They’ll be on target at around 2 p.m., against 12:55 right now.
Or sooner, maybe.
At 1:06, the screening light cruisers come across enemy light forces, then turn tail and run toward the carriers.
By 1:23, a number of planes are already in the air. (They’re going piecemeal, since I didn’t hit the ‘coordinate strike’ button, but I think that’s okay given that they aren’t facing any CAP. Also, we haven’t developed coordinated multi-carrier strikes yet anyway.)
At 1:36, a formation of 8 torpedo bombers and 9 dive bombers approach enemy ships. Four minutes later, I get the first results in the combat log.
A few dive bomber hits on a destroyer, but withering AA fire from the dual-purpose guns on the battleships seem to blunt the torpedo strike pretty effectively.
By 1:46, the first wave seems to have wrapped up, with the AA guns the clear victors. The total score is three bomb hits, two on a destroyer and one on what the log reported as a battlecruiser—perhaps Marseilles?
At 2:15, aircraft begin returning. I ready them for a second strike.
It, and indeed the wargame as a whole, are the definition of inconclusive. The strike comes across what seems to be a dispersed enemy force, focusing more on the seaplane tender (Commandant Teste) accompanying the battleship force than any of the heavy units.
The final tally after two large strikes is one torpedo hit and two bomb hits, spread across Marseilles and Commandant Teste. (The reported hits on a destroyer must have been fog of war.) Teste took heavy damage, Marseilles took light damage.
Very few of the torpedo bombers made accurate launches, and the dive bombers didn’t obtain a great measure of glory, either. In Rule the Waves, light and medium AA are much more important for causing inaccuracy in attacking aircraft, rather than actually destroying them. That seems to be borne out by today’s results, and suggests that a retreat in carrier building over the next few years might be wise.
The traditional upheaval in an African colony results in a budget bump and a rise in tensions. Austria might be the next war.
Joffre enters service. Her air wing is 26 each of fighters, torpedo bombers, and dive bombers.
Her completion, along with an increase in budget from the rising tensions with Austria, permit me to lay down a second Marengo-class battleship—the first time we’ve had two battleships under construction at the same time in almost two decades.
Austria-Hungary has seized a colony, and not just any colony, Morocco. This cannot stand! That’s our northwest-African slice of the pie!
In less affronting news, we can now build destroyers with twin turrets.
Status: Image Dump Style
I’m a bit behind already this week, so it’s going to be light on analysis and heavy on information.
Finance and Diplomacy
Plans and Intentions
I think it’s obvious that we should go to war with Austria and take Morocco from them—it’s an affront that they have it in the first place.
Beyond that, it seems like the question is, should we go all-in on air power, or wait until the 1935 update (or later)? We have two brand-new battleships coming, one in early 1934 and one in mid-1935, Magenta and Marengo. As they leave the yards, should we replace them with Joffre-style fleet carriers? Or should we continue the battleship-building program into the late 1930s?
And, since that’s a fairly specific question, do you have any thoughts about our strategic direction? Anything I’m neglecting to consider? Anyone else I should be picking fights with? Feedback generally?
Collating all the feedback as usual, I have four recommendations:
Rebuild an old battleship or two. I’m going to rebuild Marseilles, on the basis that our battlecruisers were always heavily armored and can be brought up to the speed of our new battle line much more readily. I may do one of the Redoubtables, or I may put them on the scrap heap. Devastation will probably go soon too.
Update our light forces some, as I’m able. A Glaive-alike won’t be too too spendy, and will help us move away from the obsolete Harpons.
Build to treaty limits for the next battleship. It’ll be expensive, but intentionally building a second-rate battleship is risky.
Build the next aircraft carrier bigger, to get a proper 1930-ish air wing of 70 to 80 planes.
And we’re off!
We now have advanced gun directors for our ships, making them yet more accurate, and meaning we have to install them on yet more ships. I think I might pop them onto the Rouen-class battlecruisers first, since they’re now marked obsolete.
Bearn enters service. Because we still, evidently, haven’t unlocked the secret to building our own dive bombers, I buy a license to build the British Gloster Goblin. Bearn‘s air wing is nine torpedo bombers, 18 dive bombers, and 19 fighters. Not bad. Maybe we’ll try another exercise this summer, or in summer 1930.
Having asked for a new fighter a few months back to match our new torpedo bombers, I pick a new one which can match our torpedo bombers and dive bombers for range.
In the last two months, I traded a bit of prestige for a bit of budget, and a bit of tension for a bit of prestige. Worthwhile, in the end, although we are also tweaking Britain slightly.
We make an important advance in fleet tactics: in large battles, aircraft carriers will operate in their own force, meaning that a) I can control them directly even if they’re out of sight of the battleship force’s flagship, and b) they’ll start well out of the way of the enemy, generally.
A colonial crisis with Great Britain leads to increased tensions, but also massively increased budget.
I use it on Joffre, a new aircraft carrier.
She’s not the fastest of carriers, but with a 78-plane air wing, she is quite a capable one.
We’ll lay down the first ship in five months.
Or perhaps a bit later than that. A new liberal government takes over, slashing naval budgets. (Happily, not slashing naval budgets too much.)
I can just fit the rebuilds of Rouen and Nancy (to use advanced director fire control) in before Courbet and Marseille leave the yards, which I elect to do.
That way, it’ll be October, and I’ll be able to reserve some money the use of which we can discuss prior to the next update.
Since we have a pile of money sitting around, I upgrade some of our strategically-important airbases to 60-plane capacity. That group includes the one at Dunkerque, which is well-sited for wars with potential North Sea foes Britain and Germany, and the ones framing Italy and Austria-Hungary in the Mediterranean.
If you scratch the politicians’ backs, they’ll scratch yours.
Some of the money goes toward equipping some new squadrons on our new airbases. I’m reserving the rest until next month.
Another uneventful update passes.
Plans and Intentions
Tensions are highest with Britain and Austria-Hungary, at 4 and 5 (of 12 before war), respectively.
Our annual budget, 358,300 funds, is on par with Germany’s and only 20,000 less than Britain’s—our wars have been successful, between reparations and worthwhile colonies, at enhancing our monetary capacity to wage further wars.
We spend 8,863 funds per month on ship maintenance, 4,639 on aircraft maintenance (the French naval air service is the largest in the world), and 5,653 on other items, leaving a budget of 10,703 funds per month for construction.
At the moment, we’re building ten submarines and our new fleet carrier Joffre.
We didn’t get a new battleship laid down this update, instead electing to rebuild three ships (Marseilles and the two Rouen-class battlecruisers) and lay down Joffre.
Obviously, that would be a good thing to remedy over the next two years. So, what manner of battleship will we be building? A 30-knot ship with 14″ guns, or a 27-knot ship with 16″ guns? (At present, our battle line is good for 25 knots, or 26 knots if we leave Requin behind.) That’ll account for around 4,000 funds per month.
Of our obsolete battleships, Marengo is the only one left. We could rebuild her to 26-knot speed, given 14 months at 2,300 funds per month, or we could scrap her. Scrap her or rebuild her? Note we have eight other battleships to Germany’s nine (although Germany also has eight battlecruisers to our zero, and we’re far superior to Germany in naval aviation).
Whatever we do with Marengo, we’ll have ten months or so at the end of the update during which to build some new ships. A thoroughly modern light cruiser, with triple turrets, anti-air armament, and room for a scout plane will cost us around 1,850 funds per month, while a modern destroyer with 5″ guns, anti-air armament, and a huge pile of torpedo tubes will cost us around 450 funds per month. So, after Marengo‘s rebuild (or in place of it), we could build five new destroyers at once, or one new destroyer and one new light cruiser. How should we update our light forces: more destroyers, or a destroyer-cruiser mix?
Finally, we have two 27-knot heavy cruisers on hand which date back to 1919 and 1920. They’re too slow to play heavy cruiser in the modern era. We could scrap them, or we could convert them to light carriers. In the latter case, they’d be able to carry 24 aircraft a pop, and we could bump their speed to 29 knots, for a 12-month/2,180-funds rebuild—effectively, two light carriers for the price of one purpose-built new hull. What should we do with the Montcalms?
So, based on voting and my own intuition, here’s what we’ll be doing construction-wise this update.
Bearn, our first full-size aircraft carrier.
The next Ocean–Suffren-type battleship.
A 30-knot battlecruiser or heavy cruiser, to provide some punch against enemy ships of the same time and ensure our aircraft carriers have protection against heavy surface forces.
New airbases in Bizerte, Tunisia, and Kalamata, Greece, along with re-equipping our flying boat squadrons with medium bombers.
Of the designs I can come up with, the heavy cruiser seems to make the most sense—I can get a capable 32-knot ship for a reasonable price.
The Latouche-Treville class mounts nine 9″ guns as its main armament, along with dual-purpose 4″ secondaries in twin turrets (a new innovation). Her armament will stop 7″ guns, so she’s an overmatch for any light cruisers she can catch, and she carries a pair of seaplanes with seaplane catapults, allowing her to serve as a fleet scout when the carrier becomes a primary tool in our toolbox.
Why is this good for us? Well, on the surface, because our battleship designs have featured an all-forward main armament already. A bit deeper, because mounting all your heavy guns forward allows you to make your armored citadel shorter, which saves weight on armor. The next battleship design’s scheduled for summer. We’ll see what it buys us then.
More opportunities to tweak the Austrians! I’ll take it.
Our new medium bomber enters service, which means I’ll have to slowly and laboriously change a bunch of air groups around. I haven’t done a game with a lot of land-based air before. I wonder if I’m missing some feature in the UI that makes this easier.
With an awful lot of money free, I start on another of our projects, rebuilding the Lyon-class battleships to slightly more modern standards.
The second Voltaire-class light cruiser enters service. They’re capable ships. It’s a shame there’s only room in the budget right now for the two we have.
If war breaks out, we’ll have a chance to build a few more, I suspect.
All-forward main armament buys us a few features: more secondary guns, more rounds per main gun, and crucially, another knot of speed. In the grand tradition of naming these after our old pre-dreadnoughts, meet Courbet.
The fleet sails for the Mediterranean to counter aggressive exercises by Austria.
Blueprints for an under-construction Austrian battleship—the most precious of spy data. It’s strictly inferior to our own modern ships.
Suffren enters service, and will be joining the fleet in the Mediterranean soon.
The Prime Minister wants more battleships. I take the deal, on the theory that we’ll be at war with Austria soon enough that there won’t be time for the fact that I’m not going to hold up my end to come back to haunt me.
Who called it? War is declared, after Austro-Hungarian saboteurs blow up a French destroyer in Brest.
The first battle of the war is a destroyer raid; a number of our corvette-destroyers are in action, because I haven’t had time to set them to trade protection yet. The plan is more or less to run toward port and leave the field to the Austrians, unless there are fewer of them than I expect.
There is, regrettably, little fighting to be done. This is where the Austrians are better than we are. It still comes out as a marginal victory because they elect not to get stuck in, abandoning the bombardment target which was their objective.
This month’s battle is a convoy defense. The convoy is well to the west, but the Austrians have caught us in an interesting position. North of the sighted ship is our carrier force—Amiral Charner and Arromanches. South is a trio of screening light cruisers. West are Ocean and Suffren, our new modern battleships.
Our medium bombers are in range of the enemy. It’s 1:36 p.m. on a blustery day; sighting range is limited, but air operations are possible, and when the carriers turn into the wind, they’ll be heading away from the enemy. They immediately begin to prepare a torpedo bomber strike.
Dusk comes in three hours.
Another ship appears to the north of the carriers; they’re sandwiched. Both ships, however, are destroyers.
Although our new light cruiser d’Alembert takes a torpedo hit, she has (unusually for a light cruiser) substantial torpedo protection, and weathers it like a champ. Our light forces may not be quite up to Austrian standards, but three light cruisers and six or eight destroyers are perfectly sufficient to force the Austrians back.
The carriers get some reconnaissance aircraft in the sky, following the destroyers as they run north, and turn south, to hide behind the battleships.
The recon planes fan out from the carriers to the north, passing the Austrian destroyers (fleeing north) and turning back as dusk approaches. They don’t spot anything else.
So, imagine my surprise when the scenario ends and I see an Austrian force not twenty miles from my own.
The Austrians were just north of my searching planes (which had gone a little ways past the dots representing the destroyer sightings) when they turned back, shortly before 4:00 p.m. If the Austrians had been twenty minutes faster, we probably would have spotted them, and therefore known they were out there.
This one’s a wash. I decline battle with the Austrian destroyer fleet in the Adriatic, the Austrians decline to attack a convoy in the Atlantic protected by Montcalm.
Austrian submarines sink a French destroyer and one of our older seaplane tenders. A battle between an Austrian heavy cruiser and a French light cruiser ends inconclusively. The Austrians break off the fight as night approaches.
We get some back, sinking a submarine, thwarting several patrolling Austrian raiders, and intercepting a raiding light cruiser.
The light cruiser Surcouf, of the Lavoisier class, approaches a target steaming about midway between Mers El Kebir and Murcia, Spain.
It’s the sole Austrian Jupiter-class light cruiser, their largest and best example of the type. She has more guns than Surcouf, but Surcouf‘s guns are high-quality 6″ numbers against the Austrian 5″, and Surcouf has better armor to boot. We’ll see if we can ring Jupiter‘s bell enough times to slow her down to Surcouf‘s speed.
Over the course of the battle, Jupiter gets very lucky. Although she scores only 8 hits to Surcouf‘s 14, Jupiter‘s last hit disables Surcouf‘s electric generators, slowing her down and giving Jupiter time to escape.
Not, however, for very long. One of our submarines, lurking nearby, torpedoes Jupiter and sinks her as she flees the scene. It goes into the books as a major French victory.
Well, that wasn’t quite the ending I expected. It was such a quick war that we didn’t even get any serious reparations out of it. Bit of a waste, truthfully, and now we have to deal with the postwar budget malaise.
I make the tough decision to scrap Amiral Charner. She’s slower and less capable than our two purpose-built light carriers, and aircraft aren’t quite the deciding factor yet they will be in the future.
Dewoitine comes up with an improved version of their medium bomber, which adds 15 knots of speed and 30 miles of range. It doesn’t take me long to decide that yes, I want to buy that.
I wasn’t for it, but France signs another naval treaty. The limitations on this one are a bit less restrictive—35,000 tons, 16″ guns—but the concomitant budget hit means I’m going to have to delay or cancel some projects.
An improved torpedo bomber enters service, nearly identical to our current model but with slightly longer range and slightly better speed.
In technology news, we’ve unlocked AA directors (which improve the accuracy of anti-air guns, and should be refit onto our ships as we have time) and triple turrets for light cruisers, which should make for some designs with better weight efficiency.
We come to the end of another update, tragically much shorter than I had hoped it might be, given the joys of wartime budgets.
Fleet Report 1929
I haven’t provided a full picture of the fleet in some time, so I thought I’d do so in this update.
Devastation, built in 1910 and rebuilt in 1916. 22 knots, 8 12″ guns in four double turrets, including wing turrets with cross-deck fire. Mothballed. Candidate for retirement.
Lyon, built in 1912 and rebuilt in 1927. 26 knots, 6 15″ guns in three non-superfiring centerline turrets. In reserve.
Marseilles, a Lyon-class battleship built in 1912 and rebuilt in 1916. 24 knots, 6 15″ guns. Mothballed. Candidate for rebuild to 1927 spec (12 months, ~2300 funds per month) or retirement.
Redoubtable and Marengo, Redoubtable-class battleships built in 1913 and rebuilt in 1917. 22 knots, 10 12″ guns in four non-superfiring centerline turrets. In mothballs.
Requin, built in 1915 and rebuilt in 1923. Our first fast battleship. 25 knots, 12 12″ guns in four superfiring turrets. Active.
Ocean, built in 1923. First in our line of modern battleships. 26 knots, 8 14″ guns. Active.
Suffren, built in 1927. 26 knots, 8 14″ guns. Active.
Rouen and _Nancy, Rouen-class battlecruisers built 1915 and 1920. 27 knots, 9 12″ guns. Candidates for rebuild (would push speed to 29 knots, add AA armament). Active.
Montcalm and Bruix, Montcalm-class cruisers built 1919 and 1920. Slow for their role. 27 knots, 12 9″ guns. Candidates for retirement? One active, one in reserve.
Three Chateaurenault-class cruisers, built 1903-1905. Designed for cheap foreign service. Badly obsolete, but cheap to maintain, and they fill tonnage requirements overseas where most of our preferred opponents have no presence. 24 knots. 10 4″ guns. Active.
Two Pascal-class cruisers, built 1910. Also obsolete, but also filling tonnage requirements. 24 knots, 8 5″ guns. Active.
Two Lavoisier-class cruisers, built 1916-1917. 27 knots, 8 6″ guns with a 6-gun broadside. Might benefit in terms of maintenance costs from a rebuild, but a bit too old-school in design terms. In mothballs.
Five Troude-class light cruisers, built 1917-1919. 28 knots, 8 6″ guns with a 6-gun broadside. Similar situation to the Lavoisiers. One in mothballs, four active.
Four Condillac-class light cruisers, built 1924-1926. Exclusively for foreign service. 28 knots, 6 4″ guns, 6-gun broadside. Active.
Two Voltaire-class light cruisers, built 1927. Some of the best in the world, with mines, torpedo tubes, an all-centerline armament, and a dual-purpose secondary battery. 31 knots, 8 6″ guns. Active.
Arromanches and Dixmude, light carrier, built 1925-1927. A bit slow, but still capable enough to keep on the books for years to come. 28 knots, 24 aircraft. Active.
Destroyers and Corvettes
Five miscellaneous obsolete destroyers, rebuilt 1919-1921 to serve as corvettes. In mothballs.
16 Harpon-class destroyers, built 1915-1919. Obsolete by the game’s reckoning, but still reasonably efficient by the standards—speed and torpedoes—by which I judge destroyers. 33 knots, 3 3″ guns, 4 torpedo tubes. Active.
Four Glaive-class destroyers, built 1923-1925. 34 knots, 4 4″ guns, 6 torpedo tubes, 16 mines, anti-aircraft guns. Active.
Fifteen Carabinier-class destroyers, built 1926-1927. Built to serve as corvettes, in place of a similar number of obsolete 500-ton destroyers from the turn of the century. 26 knots, 2 3″ guns, 4 torpedo tubes, 6 mines. In reserve.
Seven Diamant-class corvettes, built 1918-1919. 20 knots, 2 4″ guns. In mothballs.
Here’s the national-comparison almanac page, so you can see how we stack up.
Plans and Intentions
In out-of-character news, the game’s been updated to version 1.18, which has a number of changes of various impact. It also has an improved and updated manual, and a change to the order of events in a turn so that I can adjust ship statuses before the first battle in a war. Put another way, the first battle in a war (except for surprise attacks when Japan’s involved) happens on the month following the outbreak of the war.
This is where things get tough. With some extremely aggressive mothballing and reserve-fleeting, here’s how our budget looks right now.
That is, we have about 6,500 funds per month. What does that buy? Some combination of the following.
4,000-4,200: an advanced battleship (see below, under Ship Design). ~36 months.
3,500: a standard battleship (like our existing series). ~36 months.
2,700: a heavy cruiser. ~24 months.
2,550: an aircraft carrier a la Bearn. Future carriers will carry more aircraft, because they’ll be free of the requirement to have cruiser-style guns. ~24 months.
2,500: a rebuild of an existing battleship to use up-to-date machinery and add anti-aircraft capability. ~12 months.
1,550: a light cruiser a la Voltaire. ~18 months.
350: a destroyer a la Glaive. ~12 months.
There are four ships in the dockyards right now: Courbet, a standard battleship, Latouche-Treville, a heavy cruiser, Diderot, a light cruser, and Bearn, an aircraft carrier. Courbet and Latouche-Treville are paused for money reasons—we don’t have enough surplus to resume construction on either one right now.
Diderot and Bearn will be complete in six months, which will free up just enough budget to finish Courbet and Latouche-Treville. Assuming that’s what we do, Latouche-Treville will enter service in mid-1930, and Courbet will arrive right around the next update in early 1931.
The new treaty is the limiting factor on battleships again. We could make either a 27-knot, 16″ battleship within the treaty limits (~4000 funds per month), or a 30-knot, 14″ battleship (~4200 funds per month).
Or, we could continue to build existing budget battleships, like the ones we have now, and focus on other ships. Our destroyer force is weighted toward old ships right now, and it always seems like we need more light cruisers than we have.
I didn’t ask any direct questions above, on the theory that there’s enough information that some ideas might be coming to you already. Are they? If so, what do you think we ought to do? How should we prioritize ships over these next two years, given our budget constraints? What should we do with the ~2,000 funds per month we have on hand now?
The votes are in, and it looks like we’re building, in about this order:
A fleet service light cruiser, once money is available (i.e., after Arromanches finishes building.)
Another aircraft carrier, if it’s still within the scope of this update.
It’s a star-studded cast of names. Our Condillac is named Descartes, and our four submarines are Foucault, Volta, Bernouilli, and Ampere.
Italy’s newest heavy cruiser is an overmatch for our own. Granted, we only built ours because of that brief naval treaty before Italy decided it was time to get punchy.
French engineers invent the transverse arrestor wire, and duly simplify the installations on our existing aircraft carrier.
I believe this is a few years in advance of history. The earliest arresting cables ran, if I’m reading these histories correctly, fore and aft along the deck, spaced about 9 inches apart and suspended a foot or so above the deck on leaf springs (like modern, transverse arresting gear). The purpose was less to slow planes down—they were generally small and light enough that speed wasn’t a problem—and more to keep them from being blown over the side by gusts of wind. When the plane landed, hooks on its landing gear would engage the wires and guide it in a straight line to a stop.
USS Langley originally had both longitudinal and transverse wires, but got rid of the former in 1927. USS Lexington and USS Saratoga, both commissioned as aircraft carriers in 1927, were built from the outset. The French, on their sole historical aircraft carrier Béarn, also commissioned in 1927, used a modern transverse system as well.
Good news, everyone! A minor crisis with Great Britain, which doesn’t even push our tension with them from green to olive, means we’re swimming in cash. Time for that new light cruiser design, I think.
The Voltaire class of light cruisers hit 30 knots, and feature light armor, a large torpedo armament, eight six-inch guns in four double turrets, a selection of mines and anti-air guns, and eight dual-purpose secondary guns.
I’d hoped to get them up to the same speed as Italy’s forthcoming heavy cruisers, but it wasn’t in the cards.
Two Voltaires go into production: Voltaire and d’Alembert.
Also, it’s June, and war still looks pretty far off, so let’s try a fleet exercise! We’ll even let this one stand without savescumming, unlike the last one.
On the Red Team (us), we have Amiral Charner and Commandant Teste, two light cruisers, and three destroyers. On the Blue Team are Ocean and Requin, along with a mirrored supporting force.
The mission starts at 4:24 p.m., which is not an ideal timeframe for our aircraft carrier.
Floatplanes launch from Commandant Teste, while Amiral Charner prepares a strike. If we spot the enemy soon enough, we’ll try one.
Two scouting reports put the enemy in approximately the same place. Time to launch!
I end up launching Commandant Teste‘s extra floatplanes loaded down with bombs, too. Can’t hurt!
Here in the Air Formations window, you can see our various aircraft preparing to fly—Amiral Charner‘s torpedo bombers will be spotted to the deck in 12 minutes (they were readied in the hangar but not lined up for takeoff, to avoid crowding the deck).
The fleet turns to the northeast to keep distance between themselves and the enemy fleet.
Thirteen torpedo bombers are in the air. Commandant Teste‘s launch operations are a bit more complicated, involving cranes, stopping to put planes into the water, and the like, so that element of the strike will be a bit later.
Teste launches her seaplanes. Since it’s summer in the Bay of Biscay, dusk isn’t until 8:20 or so. We’ll still have daylight for aircraft recovery, an important factor.
The aircraft we launched at the floatplane scouting report reach the scouting report’s location, circle for a bit, and set off on something of a search pattern.
Those are the floatplanes, but the torpedo bombers are, according to my map, in the same area. (I’m not sure if fog of war applies to the reported position of friendly aircraft, but it would be just like this game if it did.)
The torpedo bombers find the enemy, and all thirteen start their attack run.
Two torpedoes hit one of the enemy ships. A few more aircraft remain to take their shots. A third hits a minute later.
Returning strike aircraft report one battleship heading south, instead of the two the enemy started with. We won’t know until after the exercise how well we did, but we might have got one.
I don’t think there’ll be time for a morning strike, but I’ll be staying in the area just in case I can get aircraft off the deck before the end of the scenario.
Twilight arrives, just as the last of the day’s CAP lands on Amiral Charner.
Let’s see. 344 minutes of 800 in the scenario elapsed, dawn in… 330 minutes. Looks like meat’s back on the menu, boys!
Twilight’s right around the corner. Soon, scouts will be in the air, so I’d better work out my plan.
The enemy is, I think, thataway. If they ran for the coast (that is, a port, although none are technically available in this exercise), I don’t care. I don’t think they got around behind me into the Celtic Sea, so I’m not spending aircraft on scouts in that direction.
I don’t remember quite what the rules are for ‘planes in the air’, so we’ll see when it cuts me off.
Evidently, it’s ‘planes in the air with the enemy in sight’ as the cutoff rule. Oops.
Anyway, it also turns out that your floatplane carriers won’t launch scouting missions if their air wing’s mission has been set to something other than Recon, like it was when I used them for an air attack.
In the final reckoning, we get Ocean with one torpedo and Requin with two, causing light damage to the one and medium damage to the other. Not bad, for 1920s technology, but not a reason to cancel the battleship program altogether, either.
On the plus side, Ocean, Requin, Amiral Charner, and Commandant Teste are all now Elite-skill ships, and the exercise made Austria-Hungary a little touchy.
Holy long delay, Batman! The second half of last year was boring, though, so you didn’t miss much.
Arromanches entered service, and her successor is now under construction.
I took a 15-destroyers deal, on the theory that I can build a modern, cheaper replacement for the old Fauconneaus I rebuilt as pseudo-corvettes with improved features—in particular, minelaying. The new Carabinier class is slow at only 26 knots, and unlikely to see any duty beyond trade protection, but advanced technology and extra depth charges make them better sub-chasers, and the aforementioned minelaying ability will give us an edge in tight seas (such as the Mediterranean and North, where we spend most of our time.)
Holy long delay again, Batman! The first half of this year was more boring than the last. The only happening of note was our development of motor torpedo boats.
We learned how to make medium bombers a while ago, and Dewoitine has a doozy of a prototype for us:
Longer range than our flying boats by a long shot. They’ll make good land-based scouts going forward. I start a new request for torpedo bomber prototypes. Ours are looking a little long in the tooth.
I must have missed our development of full-size CV conversions (or we skipped that technology; see research note below), because we just developed full-size CVs. The first aircraft carrier you build has to have substantial gun armament, because naval design bureaus are unimaginative. To get that out of the way, I’m building a one-off.
Named after France’s historical interwar carrier, Bearn (well, Béarn, but I don’t know if the game can do accented characters) carries a 46-plane air wing and no catapults. (The ones pictured I added before hitting the ‘check design’ button; we haven’t worked out aircraft catapults on carriers yet.) 30-knot speed should keep her out of trouble. Along with her 6″ main guns, she has a large battery of dual-purpose 3″ secondary guns in double turrets (another new research item), and passable AA machine gun armament.
Her flight deck and hangar sides are armored, an important consideration in tight seas. TODO: discuss.
Research note: some technologies in Rule the Waves 2 are marked as skippable—your scientists may simply move on to the next technology. Taking a quick look at the wiki, CV conversions are indeed in that category.
Reports, Plans, and Intentions
Finances (and Shipbuilding)
Nine months from today, we’ll have a free construction budget of 8,538 funds per month. 2,500 or so of those will go toward building Bearn. 3,500 or so are probably earmarked for the next battleship in the Ocean–Suffren series (which will be another incremental improvement of very similar design).
So, it’s time for another priorities question! What do you think is important as we careen toward the 1930s?
More Voltaires. I have another eight names lined up for ships in that series, and they’re currently the only non-destroyer ships in French service that can keep up with our newer carriers.
More battleships. We can probably swing two of the next class in line, or perhaps one of those and one 30-knot battlecruiser as a heavy escort for the carriers.
Heavy cruisers. As always, we’re behind in this race. The difference this time is that we don’t have a large fleet of battlecruisers capable of running them down and defeating them.
Battleship updates. The money’s there to make that 25-knot battle line I keep talking about.
More airbases on land. Our shiny new medium bomber is coming soon. It would be good to have some of them to throw around, especially given rising tensions with Austria-Hungary, who we can nearly bottle up by building more bases in Greece.
One thing to note: our fleet is no longer the fastest on the seas. We’re not the slowest, but we’re definitely middle of the pack nowadays. On the other hand, our two early-20s cruisers are much, much more heavily armored than enemy heavy cruisers, an edge we may be able to press in a war.
Speaking of rising tensions with Austria-Hungary, we could finally be getting the war we wanted from the start. Tensions with the Austrians are twice as high as everyone else, and on the border of yellow and orange. If we push them, we can get them into a fight, I bet, starting with cranking up spying to high.
Between Easter and an evening-hours project I’ve been working on, I didn’t have time to compile the What We’re Reading post this week. I’ll roll our selections from this week into next week’s.
The new-model German light cruiser Thetis is broadly equivalent to our recent light cruisers, though granted with added anti-air firepower and minelaying capability. (Our next European-service light cruiser will have those issues corrected.)
This will let us build a better seaplane tender, one which doesn’t have to stop to launch a seaplane, as well as build cruisers (potentially even light cruisers) with the ability to conduct seaplane scouting.
Currently, our doctrinal preference is to use seaplanes for scouting over torpedo bombers or dive bombers. This will save us ten or fifteen planes for strikes, when the time comes for that, but float planes are slower and less reliable than wheel-equipped carrier aircraft. Something to consider in the future.
Loire loses its place as the provider of fleet torpedo bombers.
Because we got dinged for not building enough destroyers, I elect to rebuild Requin (the last and best of our 12″ gun ships) instead of starting a new Ocean-class. This will bring her up to 25 knots, fast enough to hang with Ocean. Hopefully, when the rebuild’s done, we’ll have the budget in hand for a new Ocean follow-up.
After a long, long wait, we’ve finally worked out how to do double gun mounts on a light cruiser. That might call for a new class—superfiring double turrets will give us a broadside advantage on known enemy light cruiser designs.
Commandant Teste‘s replacement in the build order will be a light aircraft carrier. Why that, instead of a seaplane carrier? Well, this carries 24 aircraft to Teste‘s ten, mainly. Split evenly between fighters and torpedo bombers, it’ll be a better scout and be able to provide a CAP over the fleet.
No catapults, but it’s just large enough so that we won’t lose the ability to operate planes with heavy load from it. (That cutoff is, I believe, 10,000 tons.)
On the plus side, at least for interesting gameplay notes, another naval treaty is signed, limiting us to 30,000 tons displacement and 15″ main guns for 8 years. On the minus side, it really tanks our budget.
For comparison, Ocean is a 30,800-ton ship with 14″ main guns.
The new budget is a real kick in the teeth, doubled in intensity by our invention of quality-0 16″ guns so soon after the naval treaty. The building program will, alas, be somewhat reduced.
Somewhat delayed by the treaty budget, the first Arromanches-class carrier hits the shipyards. In four months or so, we’ll be in position to try an Ocean-class follow-on, budget-wise.
Suffren, our next in the Ocean series of battleships, goes into the design studios. She’s almost identical to the Ocean class, but drops a half-inch of belt armor and a few secondary guns in exchange for torpedo protection 3 and fitting in under the weight limit.
Project ‘annoy Austria-Hungary into a war they can’t win’ proceeds without a great deal of success.
It does make us enough money to pay for Suffren and a destroyer, at least.
Britain’s working on an interesting cruiser. High speed, light armor, light weight.
The middle way in an African crisis puts us in a good position financially. Rather than decide what to spend it on myself, since we’re right at the end of an update, I’ll put it to a vote. Read on.
Plans and Intentions
Tensions are low-ish across the board, with Austria-Hungary and Germany taking the lead at about halfway up the to-war meter.
Currently, we’re running a surplus of 1,352 funds per month, with three ships under construction: a Glaive-class destroyer, our first Arromanches-class light aircraft carrier, and Suffren.
That surplus is enough to do one of three many things, in combination with what we have in the rainy-day fund:
Rebuild the Redoubtables, our 1913-era battleships, with modern fire control, anti-aircraft guns, and 25-knot speed, one at a time. That would give us a decent 24-knot battle line,
Build another two of the new Condillac overseas-service cruisers. That would save us a little bit on maintenance as we pull older ships out of service.
Build some destroyers. We have a good number already (third-most in the world, and many more than our standard competitors Germany, Italy, and Austria; we don’t have many corvettes, though).
Potentially in concert with building destroyers or a Condillac, update the submarine fleet. We’re quite a bit behind in submarine count.
Build another aircraft carrier.
Build a new fleet-service light cruiser, with a burly dual-purpose secondary armament for maximum future-proofing.
Improve our air bases on the Channel Coast to help in future wars with Germany.
Last week’s readership made three strong suggestions:
Stick with new battleships, rather than big refreshes of old ships. (I may still do one now and again, as budget allows, just to start bringing the fleet speed up to 24 or 25 knots.)
Build some airbases in northern France, given the proximity of that part of the country to two major potential foes.
Build another seaplane carrier or two. The most important thing aviation can do for us right now is to provide fleet scouting, and seaplane carriers are a way to do that without spending aircraft carrier money.
To those suggestions, I add my own item:
Start refreshing our old light cruisers with a new, cheap model for foreign service.
We’ll see how much we get done. I’ll start with two airbases, one at Cherbourg and one at Dunkerque.
We have a shot at an alliance. I try Britain again, but they turn us down.
A mild crisis (a cruiser of ours runs aground off of a neutral power’s shore while conducting wireless intercept operations) sees tensions up to about the midpoint with Germany, Austria, Italy, and Britain, but buys us some extra budget in exchange.
Nieuport gets the nod for our next-generation flying boat. It’s quite a bit faster than our old one, and has a range in excess of 250 nautical miles—an excellent scout.
The British aren’t messing around with their new dreadnought.
The money’s on hand for a seaplane carrier now. This one is somewhat more capable than our previous two.
In particular, it has AA guns, and carries 10 seaplanes instead of 5. It should make a good fleet scout in the future.
With the seaplane carrier well on its way, I can now turn my attention to a light cruiser.
I wanted to call the class Lavoisier, but forgot I still have some of those around. I settled for Condillac instead, and will call the first ship Lavoisier.
The Germans are saber-rattling again; tensions continue to creep upwards with them.
A peace conference in the midst of tensions with Germany produces no results, but does slightly lower tensions across the board.
The Austrians catch a French spy. I elect to make him a national hero, but the Austrians barely respond to the provocation.
The defense minister wants 15 new destroyers building. I don’t intend to have that many going at once, but I am willing to take his money and try a new design.
The Glaive class has six torpedo tubes, four turrets in a superfiring-fore-and-aft arrangement, mines, and a moderately heavy anti-aircraft armament.
We’ve secured a new colony in Albania! The only problem is that it bumped tensions with Germany considerably above the halfway mark.
All in all, a quiet two years, although war with Germany is looking increasingly likely.
Interlude: Fleet Exercise
I wanted to show some of the ups and downs of early carrier combat, and the fleet exercise is a natural way to handle that. Pay a bit of cash, get some fleet experience in return.
Money is a bit too tight for that, though, so I’m going to savescum it as an exercise in battle-writing. In-universe, we’ll say it’s junior staff officers messing around with chits and a mapboard.
Amiral Charner, our lone CVL, cruises in company with two light cruisers, three destroyers, and a seaplane carrier. Altogether, they are Team Red. The enemy fleet, Team Blue, is Redoubtable, a mid-tier battleship, and an exact mirror of Team Red’s supporting force.
We’ve started at standard range, because this whole aircraft carrier thing is very new, and we’re not sure how it’s going to play out.
As a quick reminder, Amiral Charner‘s air group is eight fighters and fourteen torpedo bombers.
Given that Team Red knows Team Blue is in the area, Amiral Charner prepares a strike. She has room on deck to spot thirteen planes. I expect we’ll have the enemy in sight before crowding out our CAP becomes a problem.
Our light cruisers, ten miles in Amiral Charner‘s van, spot the enemy. The carrier and her supporting seaplane carrier turn away, while the light cruisers prepare to run interference—and hopefully spot the enemy battleship.
The red specks are aircraft formations.
The wind is out of the east-northeast, problematic given the range and location of the enemy forces.
The light cruisers spot an enemy ship sailing a) toward the battle and b) solo, which is probably the battleship.
The light cruisers and scouts confirm that it is indeed the battleship.
A strike takes a little while to ready and spot, and in the meantime, reconnaissance aircraft and CAP planes are returning, clogging the deck.
By the time that the deck is clear, and that your intrepid correspondent remembers that he has to check the boxes next to the aircraft rows to actually give them orders, not just highlight the rows, the opportunity is lost. The January sunset fades into a wintery night, and the scenario ends without combat.
We’ll try this again in the summer, provided we aren’t at war with someone by then.
Plans and Intentions
We uncovered two major technological items: improved directors on the fire control front, and torpedo protection 3, which adds (still more) weight but protects better against torpedoes.
Our current research priorities are naval aviation, anti-submarine technology, and turrets and gun mountings. Should we leave it that way, or focus on other items (light forces, guns, amphibious operations, machinery and hull design, other things)?
Ocean is nearly complete—she’ll be ready in three months. Should we build a slightly improved version when she’s done, improving her fire control and torpedo protection?
Should we perhaps build a battleship with an eye toward survivability in the coming age of aircraft? That is, heavy deck armor, lots of room for anti-aircraft firepower, and battlecruiser speed? Should we hold off on more battleships altogether?
Soon, we’ll be able to convert ships to full-size carriers. The 24-knot Duquesnes seem like perfect candidates—their machinery is very old, so giving them reasonable speed should be easy, and they have the displacement to support an air wing of decent size.
Other ships on the ways include Commandant Teste, our large seaplane carrier, three light cruisers to take over some colonial duties, and three Glaive-class destroyers (with minelaying technology!). Should I build another seaplane carrier, or lean harder on the light forces?
In more general terms, at present, our destroyers are about 35 knots, our light cruisers and battlecruisers go 27 to 29 knots, and our battle line goes 22. Is it worth rebuilding the slower ships in the battle line (the Redoubtables, Requin) to get their speeds up to, say, 24 knots? Should I push for faster light forces?
France is again a middle-tier naval power:
Germany has an edge on us if you count dreadnought ships in total. The US and the UK are both far ahead. Austria-Hungary, Italy, and Japan are clearly inferior.
Tensions are middling. Germany is rattling sabers again.
With social distancing in full swing and last week’s break, I had plenty of time for a two-year update, and it’s an eventful one.
Four ships go into the yards for a rebuild: Tourville and Dunkerque, the two remaining Duquesnes, along with Redoubtable and Marengo, our second-generation dreadnought battleships. Per a reader note, we have the time and budget. The Duquesnes, for whatever reason, will be in for a year—perhaps being overhauled because of their age?
Or do we?
I’ll issue the ultimatum to Italy; they’re nearby, and we can totally take them.
Tensions are high, but not to the breaking point yet. I order the rebuilding of our battleships accelerated.
French naval engineers have managed to come up with a quality 9″ gun, which means it’s time for a heavy cruiser.
Thoroughly modern-looking! We’ll have to get a few into production.
No change on the tension situation, but with design studies now complete on the Montcalm class, the first one enters production, with the next to start in August.
Just in time for a new ship class to enter service and most of our battleships to finish a rebuild cycle, we develop anti-aircraft guns.
The Italians couldn’t stand our repeated provocations. War begins.
The first battle of the war: a raid on enemy coastal installations. It’s just after midday. One notable new thing is the presence of aviation elements: floatplanes from our airbase on Corsica, zeppelins from the base at Tunis (which could stand to have an airfield, I think).
Our forces are the fast battleships (ex-battlecruisers) Lyon and Marseilles, each armed with 6 15″ guns and capable of 24 knots, escorted by five destroyers.
Happening upon two old armored cruisers, the Lyons, unblooded in the last war, prove their worth quickly. Seven hits on one of the Italian cruisers and eight on the other prove sufficient to sink the two old ships.
Either French gunnery or French technology has improved sufficiently to score hits dealing critical damage to the enemy at something like 20,000 yards.
The enemy fleet was out in force, however, and when the fog of war lifts at the end of the battle, we find them not too far behind us.
The Italians decline a fleet battle—probably the right move, in view of our overwhelming superiority.
And again, they decline a cruiser battle.
The French fleet sorties in response to an Italian coastal raid. It’s a beautiful morning, and the enemy is in sight.
The Battle of Nice
On the field today are eight French battleships (four of which were originally battlecruisers, reclassified after their last rebuild), one battlecruiser in the scouting force, a bevy of light cruisers and destroyers, and a number of aircraft. The weather is partly cloudy with a gentle breeze out of the southwest.
The situation is already favorable: the Italian fleet is divided, with the battlecruisers to the east of our fleet and the battleships to the south. As I recall, the Italian battleship line is slower than our own, so that’s where my focus will be at first.
… the aftermath (or is it?)
In the final reckoning, it goes down as a boring battle. The Italians are faster than we are all around. Their battle line escapes. We sink an old pre-dreadnought, exchange a lot of shells to no great effect, and turn away as the Italian fleet does the same, both battered, none reduced.
Except that’s not what happens. Overnight, on the 12-knot journey back home, we come across one of the Italian Francisco Ferruccios, which blows up in a flash fire.
Then, shooting between our scouting force and our main force comes the entire Italian battlecruiser squadron.
At 4,000 yards. At night. Into our swarm of 20-some destroyers.
The carnage is incredible. At the end of the day, all four Italian battlecruisers lie on the bottom of the Mediterranean, against zero French warships lost. Merest happenstance made it happen—the Italians, pushed to the southwest, made a high-speed run toward the coast to attempt to evade us in the night, and chanced to run right into us, at the range where our superior number of destroyers gave them no chance to escape.
Italy makes a historical blunder.
The month’s battle is a coastal raid; the lone French battlecruiser Rouen takes a little jaunt in toward Italy, supported by a division of three battleships, blows up a bombardment target, and returns to Nice. Another thousand victory points, nice and easy-like.
Italy being close to France, we’re actually within invasion range. We’ll target Sardinia, which would be a wonderful feather in our cap and a second unsinkable aircraft carrier in close proximity to the Italian coast.
Evidently, the invasion planning process is faster than I had hitherto realized. It’s the early afternoon of March 29th, and we’re approaching the western coast of Sardinia with an invasion force in tow.
The Invasion of Sardinia (1:37 p.m., March 29)
I’m going to have to mark this one up a bit.
Update: I forgot to mark it up before uploading it. I’ll just have to be better at describing things.
Selected: the scouting force. The battlecruiser Rouen is joined by a pair of modern light cruisers and five destroyers.
West-southwest of the scouting force: the main fleet. Our three most modern battleships (Requin, sole member of her class, plus Marseilles and Marengo), along with supporting light cruisers and destroyers.
South of the scouting force: the support force. Three older ships (Devastation, Tourville, and Dunkerque) serve as distant escort to six transports.
Southwest of the scouting force: the invasion force. Six transports, of which four have to reach the Sardinian coast for this mission to count as a success.
On the Sardinian coast: our objective marker, along with submarines assigned in support of the fleet.
New things to worry about: aerial scouting! Ordinarily, the defaults are good enough, but in this case, with the enemy’s likely approach routes well-defined, I’ll tweak things a bit to see that we catch them.
The two forces under my direct command (the main force and the scouting force) split off to the north and east of the northeastward line of advance the transports will have. They’ll form a sort of search line, keeping the sea between them in visual range while positioning themselves to make a quick dash to the flanks if need be.
Aerial reconnaissance being, in 1918, rather a slow affair, our ships spot the enemy first.
A second light cruiser appears. A search line, perhaps?
At this stage, the goal is to find and engage the enemy before dusk, after which he’ll have a much easier time of getting in among my transports. Rouen leaps forward, turbines whirring up to speed as she accelerates to her maximum 27 knots.
What passes for the Italian battle line comes into view.
Rouen opens fire, aiming to pass to the east of the enemy battleships, where she can keep tabs on them into the evening.
The main force closes toward gun range.
Requin scores with her first volley.
These Italian dreadnoughts are of the Andrea Doria class, rough contemporaries with our Duquesnes. They’re armed with ten 13″ guns, and can fire a maximum of eight of them broadside. Our Requin, though it only has 12″ guns, mounts twelve, and can fire all twelve at a broadside target.
Armor, however, is where we really look smart. Requin has a 14″ belt. The Andrea Dorias have 9.5″. Even Rouen, our notional battlecruiser, is more heavily armored.
The fleet is nearly perfectly placed for this battle, running on either side of the Italian ships at long range. Although Marengo can only make 22 knots, the rest of our fleet can keep up with or surpass the Italian dreadnoughts in speed.
The Italian light cruisers, off to the northwest, try an attack on the battle line. We’ll see if they manage to get through the screen.
The Andrea Dorias are both down to around 10 knots now.
One of the Andrea Dorias goes up in a flash fire. At 5:53, the other follows in the same manner.
19:22 p.m. (and overnight)
Night sees the remains of the Italian fleet scatter. We manage to find the transports, taking up station on either side to cover them through the night.
The invasion is in progress. Soon, hopefully, Sardinia will fall.
The invasion doesn’t take long to bear fruit. Sardinia is ours.
Stubbornly refusing to surrender, the Italians lose a pair of light cruisers to Rouen, who proceeds otherwise unopposed on a coastal raid.
Well now, what’s all this about?
And, in news concerning the unluckiest name in the French Navy…
This is the third Lavoisier lost in combat. Who wants to skipper the next one?
Now that CVLs are on the table, our last Gueydon class (Amiral Charner) gets a rebuild as a light aircraft carrier. Replacement machinery increases her speed to 26 knots, and she has room for an air wing of 22. She’ll be ready in a year.
Tensions are on the rise with Germany, but the sympathy of the world is with us.
A quiet month; the Italians don’t even bother stopping a raid on their coast by a pair of light cruisers.
The Italians move to raid the French coast, at which time the French fleet comes out to play.
In particular, Rouen comes out to play; the battlecruiser is as fast as the Italian light forces, and easily sends them to the bottom with accurate fire from her 12″ guns.
Rouen and escorts attack an Italian convoy, which is defended by a single destroyer. Thirteen merchants sink.
Two light cruisers raid the boot of Italy, coming within about twenty miles of Taranto, sinking two corvettes and returning to Greece (also a French possession, if you’d forgotten).
There are rumors of falling morale in the Italian fleet.
We begin construction of air bases in Benghazi, Libya and Patra, Greece, which will provide coverage of the west coast of Italy.
I put in a request to France’s aircraft manufacturers for a torpedo bomber, something to give the air fleet some teeth. After that, we’ll update the fighters. See the end of this post for some questions on aircraft design priorities.
The month’s battle is a raid on the Italian coast. Rouen takes a torpedo, but since she’s a modern warship with good torpedo protection, she’s fine. We sink the destroyer that launched it, too.
Spies deliver blueprints of one of the Italian heavy cruisers under construction: slightly superior to our own in armament, but one knot slower.
In this last month of the update, I start planning an invasion of Eritrea, which is, I believe, the last Italian territory small enough to invade. The battle is a convoy attack, in which we sink almost the whole convoy again.
Two-Year Report: Status
Money is a bit tight, with the invasion of Eritrea costing about as much as a low-end heavy cruiser would, but I’m not especially concerned. The fleet is in tip-top shape. Under construction is Rouen‘s sister ship, a trio of Montcalm-class heavy cruisers, one more Troude-class light cruiser, Amiral Charner‘s reconstruction, and the last of a class of corvettes designed to supplement the remaining Francisques.
Our prestige is at an all-time high.
Two-Year Report: Diplomacy
Tensions with Germany are high, but when the war with Italy ends (provided Germany doesn’t jump in), they’ll reset.
Plans and Intentions
There are a few things on my list:
Continue to try to find an ally. I’m not sure if there’s anything I can do on that front beyond just being nice to people.
Build out our aircraft carrier capabilities.
Build a new, 14″ dreadnought battleship, possibly retiring the old Duquesnes or converting them to aircraft carriers, as time and budget allows.
Build a new class of destroyer, mounting the recently-invented depth charge.
Begin refitting older ships with anti-aircraft guns.
How should those tasks be prioritized? Should any of them be dropped? Should others be added?
I mentioned something about aircraft priorities earlier. When soliciting aircraft designs, we can pick among a number of priorities: speed, maneuverability, range, toughness, firepower, and reliability. We can further pick two to focus on. Which two should we focus on?
On the advice of the readership, I’m doing two things with an eye toward saving money and modernizing our forces:
Bringing home the last of the Tages on overseas service and scrapping them. Being obsolete, they cost more to maintain—a substantial fraction of a new dreadnought’s maintenance. In their place, I’m going to send the remaining Chateaurenaults overseas, since that was their original purpose.
Scrapping two more Gueydons. They were never very combat-effective, and the Tridents will make better aircraft carrier conversions anyway.
I’ll likely aim to build more light cruisers and destroyers in this update, although I also intend to keep one or two dreadnought-type ships on the ways to avoid falling behind in the arms race. A two-Mediterranean-power standard is probably not quite within our grasp, but I want to at least give it a try.
Blueprints for the Austrian Tegetthof-class, under construction, hit our desk. One thing to note is the relatively light armor. I’ve adopted the (real-world) German philosophy that a ship’s first business is to stay afloat, and so far that’s worked out.
Our two French naval engineers at the Parisian cafe have had the bright idea of a ship dedicated entirely to floatplane scouting. That option is open to us now, but I think I might be more inclined to request proposals for a floatplane scout, and then equip the next class of battleships with one.
It has been an exceptionally quiet few months. A few ships enter service, including the first batch of four of the new Harpon destroyers. Another six are on the way, along with three more of the new(ish) Lavoisier light cruisers.
Both designs are a little long in the tooth now, so the next batch of destroyers and light cruisers will be to a newer one.
Rising tensions in the Balkans (Germany again…) yield the budget to develop a newer class of 5900-ton light cruisers. The Troude is not armored as well as the Lavoisier, but has more torpedo tubes, more guns, and one knot more speed, necessary for her to keep ahead of some upcoming battlecruiser types.
Germany asks us to reduce the size of our shipbuilding program. I choose the more polite of the two ‘shove it’ options.
It, uh, backfires a bit. An arms treaty goes into effect, limiting all powers to ships of 15,000 tons or less and main guns of 10″ or less.
While this isn’t ideal, it does mean we’re in third place behind Britain and the United States in the dreadnought race, and we’re going to be until 1935. On the downside, our medium gun research is not great. Our 8″, 9″, and 10″ guns are all -1 quality, and I don’t think it would be wise to build a new pocket battlecruiser around those calibers yet.
Scrapping the illegal ships under construction makes us a ton of money, and with it, I embark upon quiet a large modernization program. We have five new light cruisers building, and twelve new destroyers, along with ten new submarines. It also seems like a decent opportunity to build a seaplane carrier or two. After all, we aren’t spending it on very much else.
At last, something to upgrade our battleships with.
A program of airbase construction yields two: one on the south end of Corsica, to cover the west-central Mediterranean and French home waters, and one in Brest to cover the Atlantic coast. At present, each one houses a squadron of 10 fighters and a squadron of 10 flying boats.
Along with the air wings for the two seaplane carriers under construction, that gives us 50 naval aircraft, a world-leading total.
Funds are a bit tight as our battleships go through the rebuild process, but we’re staying ahead of the game.
Now seems like a good time to spring for enhanced gunnery training. We have a large and powerful battleship fleet we can’t replace for another 231 months, and the last thing we want to do is lose it because of poor shooting.
An exceptionally boring two years (with the exception, perhaps, of the naval treaty) comes to a close.
Here’s our list of non-destroyer ships in current service. Of note, the two Redoubtables are missing because they’re being updated to director firing. Also, Lyon and Marseilles, originally constructed as battlecruisers, are now counted as battleships—24 knots is no longer battlecruiser speed.
That means that Tourville and Dunkerque will end up counting as battleships, too, when we rebuild them, unless I take the opportunity to upgrade their machinery for better speed. (If we want to do that, we should probably wait until 1920—we’ll be able to turn them into oil-burners, which will make them faster.) So, should I let them turn into battleships, upgrade their fire control and machinery now, or defer an update until 1920?
Also noteworthy: our original Tage-class light cruisers have all been retired, leaving the still-elderly Chateaurenaults as our primary source of overseas influence. New Lavoisiers and Trondes are on the way. It may eventually make sense to build another overseas-service light cruiser with extended range and colonial service equipment, especially given the lesser demands on the naval budget.
Finally, as for destroyers, we have 16 modern Harpon-class ships in service now. The older Pistolets and Balistes join them in active service, while the remaining Fauconneaus and Francisques are mothballed, ready for activation in case of war to take on trade protection duties. (Destroyers cost so little to maintain that there’s no reason not to hang onto them for this use.)
Under construction, we have the two Redoutables, as mentioned earlier, along with five new light cruisers and two seaplane carriers.
Future construction plans are a little up in the air. The naval treaty means we can’t build any new dreadnoughts. The 15,000-ton limit is pretty restrictive, and suggests that a new heavy cruiser program might be in order. A top-of-the-line, 28-knot, 9×10″-gun cruiser (the latter characteristic being the largest caliber armament allowed, the former being faster than the pre-treaty battlecruisers still prowling the seas) costs about 2,200 funds per month, but our 10″ guns are still -1 quality. That makes them quite a bit less attractive. Should we forge ahead with heavy cruisers anyway, wait for research, or ignore the type altogether?
I plan on upgrading our battleships to oil fuel one or two at a time when oil becomes generally available, which will save on machinery weight and allow me to increase their speed (or, alternately, add anti-aircraft guns when we figured that out).
One unexpected outcome of the naval treaty is that we’re comfortably third in dreadnought ships behind England and the US, and will be for some time to come. The timing worked out very well for us.
Tensions have been creeping higher with Germany again, which is both good (our battle line is better than theirs because the treaty halted their building program too) and bad (we don’t have England to help out this time).
Austria-Hungary remains resolutely immune to my many and varied provocations.
Progress has been limited on locating a new ally.
As I mentioned, we’re spending money on gunnery training for the first time, and our naval aircraft budget line item is slowly beginning to grow.
Our prestige remains at an all-time high. I elected to skip dock expansions for the time being, given that we can’t use them.
It’s likely I’m going to miss next week—this weekend is a very busy one, and I don’t know if I’m going to have the time to get in two years of gameplay in the middle of it all.
Sorry for the unannounced skip last week—I had a lot to do and a small amount of time to do it.
With no serious objections to the idea, I come up with the (slightly) budget-minded Rouen-class battlecruiser.
27-knot speed will make her one of the fastest heavy ships afloat, and 9 12″ guns mean she won’t lack for punch.
The battle of the month is a coastal raid in the North Sea. Combined French and British forces scour the seas for German merchants, sinking one along with an escorting corvette, but come across no other foes.
In unfortunate news, our Redoubtable-class battleships have trouble hitting their design speed. Happily, that design speed was 23 knots instead of 22, so they’re still as fast as the rest of our battle line.
The battle of the month is an enemy raid on our shipping.
The English Channel is a dangerous place to be if you aren’t English or French—heavy minefields protect the narrows. (The little red dots indicate mined areas. This is what the large blue circles around German ports, if I’ve taken a picture of them, would have looked like to a hypothetical German player.)
It turns into a knife-fight just after dusk, which is a bad situation for us. Our superiority is assured; there’s no reason to waste our big ships on fights where torpedoes can sink them too readily. (The big advantage of the upcoming R-class battleships and battlecruisers is that they ship torpedo protection, armor against the devilishly-powerful underwater weapons.)
Reluctantly, like Jellicoe at Jutland, we turn away. Perhaps we’ll be able to catch up to that damaged armored cruiser in the bottom left of the screenshot later.
Or not! That neatly solves that problem.
Suffren eats a torpedo despite our evasion, but doesn’t seem critically damaged.
The French fleet pursues the fleeing Germans north through the night, but doesn’t find them in the morning, and so turns back to Dunkerque.
Our brothers in arms do a thing!
Picture two French naval engineers at a Paris cafe, a bottle of wine between them, cigarettes propped on the ashtray, smoke twisting lazily toward the darkening sky: “I wonder if zis will ever catch on.”
The battle of the month is a convoy defense in the Bay of Biscay. Three Allied light cruisers face two Germans, sinking one of them.
The Germans win a cruiser action, sinking the old Tage-class light cruiser Surcouf with a torpedo.
The Germans win another light cruiser action, though this time without sinking anything.
Another inconclusive North Sea battle, this one tipped very slightly in the direction of the French.
The vast German cruiser force is slowly shrinking as its ships, far from decent bases, succumb to lack of coal and mechanical issues and find themselves interned in neutral ports.
The Germans attempt to raid the coast near Dunkerque. Today, we have Redoubtable with us, the first of our second-generation battleships.
The German forces amount to a trio of light cruisers, which escape, and six destroyers, three of which sink. Redoubtable‘s gunnery was… not great, but at least she’s been blooded now.
A raid into the Heligoland Bight nets a pair of merchants and one of three fleeing German light cruisers, struck by a shell from Redoubtable at almost 18,000 yards, which slowed her enough to bring her under the squadron’s guns.
Germany and Italy both seem to be investing heavily in submarines: Germany has 9 and is building 30, while Italy has 20 and is building another 29.
The Germans agree to a crushing peace deal. Good for us in the long run. Not so great in the short run—our budget is cut very nearly in half.
We get six points to spend on territory and/or reparations. I opt for two worthless (0-point) Pacific colonies, and leave the rest for more reparations.
Frantically scrapping the most obsolete of our pre-dreadnoughts (the 22-knot Tridents will make either good aircraft carrier prototypes or good battle line filler, given that a line faster than 22 knots is still some time into the future, but all of the La Républiques get the axe), mothballing other ships, and halting construction of one of our new dreadnoughts, I manage to get the budget vaguely under control. I’ll still have to toggle the other dreadnought on and off.
Sure thing (especially since the result is ‘more budget’).
French engineers have developed quality-0 14″ guns, so it may be in the cards to scrap our second Requin altogether and prepare a new class with 14-inchers as our standard going forward. Our 12″ guns are very good, but bigger, in this case, is always better.
The budget is finally balanced enough for my liking, so I start a third ship in the new class of Lavoisier light cruisers and scrap the in-progress Colbert (the second Requin). When Requin herself is done, I’ll likely start on a new battleship—although you’ll have a chance to weigh in before then.
The Naval Minister comes to me with the suggestion to build 15 new submarines. This time, I’m actually on board, and even better, the budget bump is enough to pay for 15 submarines and a quartet of new destroyers.
Our alliance with Great Britain comes to an end. It was good while it lasted.
In other news, while scrolling through the technology list, I discovered that quadruple turrets are on the table now—a classic French design feature.
September 1914-January 1915, Update Wrap-Up
I appear to have lost my notes for these few months, so I’ll take care of everything all at once.
The only really interesting development in technology is improved quadruple turrets, which eliminate the reliability penalty and open the door to all sorts of interesting forward-main-armament ships.
Italy has developed flying boats, the first of the major powers to deploy military heavier-than-air aircraft.
Tensions are low all around. We’re spying on the Austrians, the Italians, and the Americans (the latter only to see what the higher-tier powers are up to in terms of technology and design).
Here’s where things stand. According to the almanac, we’re in the middle: Germany, Britain, and the United States are ‘very advanced’; France is ‘average’, and Japan, Italy, and Austria-Hungary are ‘backward’. Our dock size, at 31,500, is a bit behind. When the submarines finish building in seven months, I think it’s time to invest in a few dock expansions in succession.
We have seven dreadnought-type ships: two of the early Duquesne-class battlecruisers, two Lyons (which ship the fleet’s heaviest guns), Devastation (our first dreadnought battleship), and two Redoubtables (our most recent dreadnought battleships).
We’ve retained two Tridents and three Gueydons, all of which will make fine aircraft carrier conversions when the time comes for that.
In addition to the pictured units, we have 27 destroyers of various types. The large majority are the obsolete Fauconneau class, which I’m tempted to retain as coastal protection ships—immediately putting them all into Trade Protection status when a war breaks out. They’re in mothballs currently.
As far as other destroyers go, we have three Francisques (also in mothballs, also something of a liability in wartime owing to their 28-knot speed), two Pistolets (31 knots), three Hallebards, and four Balistes. Some replacement destroyers are relatively high on the list. Our light cruiser force is also in the ‘large but obsolete’ category. (This was not unknown in the real world. Dreadnought construction sucks the air out of a great many other kinds of shipbuilding.)
Under construction, we have the Requin, a battleship with 12 12″ guns and a 14″ belt, the Rouen, a battlecruiser with 9 12″ guns, 12″ armor, and 27-knot speed, a pair of the new Lavoisier type of 27-knot, 6″ gun light cruisers, four new 1,000-ton, 33-knot Harpon-class destroyers, and 15 submarines.
Prestige and Finance
We are currently in the very good graces of the French government, with 35 prestige. Our monthly budget is 16,883 funds, of which a mere 4,878 goes to maintenance, while 10,593 goes to new construction. Research (12%, 2,026), naval aircraft maintenance (256 for 16 airships), and spying round out the budget.
The Requin-type battleship on the ways is already a little dated. Since we have quality-0 14″ guns now, my intention is to design a new 14″ gun ship to take its place.
I’m inclined to try to keep two dreadnought ships under construction at all times, one battleship and one battlecruiser, but that may make it difficult to update our light forces. Should I sacrifice our big-ship construction program to bring the little ships up to date, or should I forge ahead in creating the best battle line millions of francs can buy?
Too, aircraft are appearing on the horizon, an ominous development for any navy which, across its entire roster, deploys zero anti-aircraft guns. Should we invest in carrier warfare as soon as we can, or stick out the dreadnought era as long as possible? Note that the balance of power between battleships and aircraft carriers shifts gradually over time—in the 1920s and early 1930s, it may be that the battleship remains king of the seas.
Anyway, that’s that for this week. Hopefully next week will be at the regularly scheduled time.