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Rule the Waves 2: To March, 1938

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.

July 1937

… 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.

August 1937

001-army

With the budget they so rudely stole from us (granted, with our consent), the army does its part in the land war.

002-radar

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.

003-joffre

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.)

September 1937

… 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.

4:18 p.m.

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.)

004-battle
Note the blue dot well out to sea to the west.

3:37 a.m.

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.

October 1937

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.

November 1937

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.

December 1937

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.

January 1938

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.

7:53 p.m.

Nancy, equipped with a radar set, announces an unknown contact at a range of five miles. Cautiously, the fleet turns that way.

7:58 p.m.

It turns out to be a French merchant plying the coastal trade.

8:52 p.m.

Continuing what has thus far been a tense night, the destroyer Arc reports sinking a submarine.

10:40 p.m.

Guns echo off the coast near La Rochelle, and Bearn‘s radar set reports a ghostly contact.

12:27 a.m.

Requin reports the radar contact this time, 30 miles southwest from La Rochelle.

12:46 a.m.

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.

1:09 a.m.

The fleet reports radar contacts to the northeast, at least three or four.

1:15 a.m.

006

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.

1:36 a.m.

The answer is, as far as I can tell, a lot.

3:00 a.m.

I was inclined to leave the Germans alone, until they started driving hard for one of my precious carriers. A knife fight ensues.

007

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.

5:08 a.m.

That brief knife fight leads into another one, nearer the end of the night.

008

7:03 a.m.

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.

010

10:16 a.m.

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.

011-loss

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.)

February 1938

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.

012-battle

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.

7:28 a.m.

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.

7:51 a.m.

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.

7:59 a.m.

013-spotting

It does. This one says there are some light carriers at sea. That’s where Bearn‘s planes will go.

8:28 a.m.

The strikers are airborne and en route. Here’s hoping they shoot straight today.

8:51 a.m.

A little concerningly, the enemy is closer than I expected, only about 40 miles away.

8:56 a.m.

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.

9:02 a.m.

Bearn‘s strike arrives, hitting a destroyer with two 1000lb bombs and a battleship with three, and getting some torpedoes off to boot.

9:04 a.m.

Five torpedoes find their mark, along with another bomb.

9:24 a.m.

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.

9:46 a.m.

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.

9:59 a.m.

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.

014

They’ve come from a long way off.

10:22 a.m.

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.

10:33 a.m.

015

Level bombing rarely works against ships, but some flying boats out of Brest make it happen.

10:48 a.m.

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.

016

When our Liberté-class carriers enter service, hopefully we’ll see more of this sort of thing.

10:52 a.m.

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.

11:23 a.m.

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.

11:55 a.m.

The dive bombers, a bit tardy, now arrive on the scene, planting four bombs onto cruisers and one on a carrier.

11:59 a.m.

017

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.

12:25 p.m.

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.

12:34 p.m.

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.

1:14 p.m.

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.

1:54 p.m.

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.

2:23 p.m.

018

It might even pay off. The last wave spots enemies a mere 27 miles from our battle line, and goes in for the attack.

2:32 p.m.

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.

2:36 p.m.

As the strike aircraft head back to their carriers, the light cruiser Voltaire, playing scout for the battleship line, spots an unidentified enemy ship.

019

2:46 p.m.

020

The greatest of prizes: a carrier, soon to be in range of battleship guns.

3:09 p.m.

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.

3:20 p.m

Still, there are targets worth shooting at.

021

The gun action begins. Suffren lands a blow on one of two German battlecruisers at a range of more than 28,000 yards.

3:26 p.m.

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.

3:38 p.m.

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.

4:04 p.m.

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.

4:26 p.m.

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.

5:01 p.m.

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.

5:48 p.m.

Nightfall. French destroyers circle the stricken Derfflinger, pouring torpedoes into her battered hull until she rolls over and sinks.

10:22 p.m.

I had intended that to be the end of this battle report, but radar yields an unexpected coda.

022

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.

12:39 a.m.

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.

023

It is a deeply unfair fight.

Results

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.

024-win

025-map
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?

Rule the Waves 2: To July, 1937

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.

February 1937

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.

March 1937

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.

April 1937

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.

001
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…

12:16

002

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.

12:27

Forbin, getting a bit closer, realizes that her target is not a light cruiser but a destroyer.

12:37

Forbin finds the range, hitting the German destroyer twice in the last three minutes.

12:56

Still running south, the destroyer’s taken enough damage now to slow it down.

13:06

003

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.

13:12

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.

13:18

Six minutes after that, eight floatplanes approach Nancy, coming from the west. They look to be approaching for an attack.

13:23

No bombs hit, and AA machine guns on the battleship and her escorting destroyers wing one of the scouts.

13:26

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.

13:32

An enterprising destroyer captain closes a bit with the enemy light cruiser, marking it as a Medusa-class, very slightly outclassed by our Forbin.

14:00

004-battle

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:

005
006

And flipping through the almanac, I find that it looks like a 1915-era Goeben-class.

007

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.

14:13

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.

14:24

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.

14:33

008

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.

15:32

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.

16:27

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.

16:34

009

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.

17:27

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.

Aftermath

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.

May 1937

010

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.

011

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.)

June 1937

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.

July 1937

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.

12-battle

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.

3:25 a.m.

013-twilight

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.

3:30 a.m.

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.

3:48 a.m.

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.

3:49 a.m.

German scouts spot the carrier force. Happily, I set CAP to ‘heavy’ with just that eventuality in mind.

3:51 a.m.

Bearn‘s strikers begin to take off.

A minute later, scouting reports confirm what we already knew about the German ships’ course and location.

014

4:09 a.m.

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.

4:41 a.m.

015

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.

4:45 a.m.

016

Those pilots do themselves proud, radioing the current location of a German battlecruiser squadron as they begin their attack runs.

4:46 a.m.

017

They do themselves even more proud, hitting two ships with torpedoes, and strikes from Joffre and Bruix are coming up right behind them.

5:05 a.m.

018

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.

5:10 a.m.

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?

5:13 a.m.

020

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.

5:14 a.m.

The good news continues to roll in. Our machines score another two torpedo hits, then two bomb hits on a heavy cruiser.

5:17 a.m.

We score three more torpedo hits. At least some of these are probably on battleships and battlecruisers.

5:30 a.m.

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.

6:21 a.m.

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.

6:27 a.m.

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.

6:47 a.m.

021

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.

6:58 a.m.

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.

7:05 a.m.

It looks like they’ve all landed, so time to get them back in the air.

7:15 a.m.

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.

7:31 a.m.

The second wave is getting in the air, due to arrive on target in the next hour to hour and a half.

7:51 a.m.

022

Strikes are on the way.

8:25 a.m.

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.

8:38 a.m.

It looks like Joffre‘s strike is going to take a crack at things next.

8:51 a.m.

As the smoke clears, Joffre‘s tally is three bomb hits and two torpedoes, all on dreadnought-type ships.

9:01 a.m.

Bruix joins the fun with three bomb hits on a light cruiser and one on a destroyer.

9:05 a.m.

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.

9:07 a.m.

023

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?

9:27 a.m.

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.

10:52 a.m.

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.

11:29 a.m.

Dixmude and Arromanches get their planes aloft first. Others follow shortly thereafter.

1:12 p.m.

After a quiet flight out skirting the Dutch coast, the first strike planes spot enemy ships.

1:16 p.m.

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.

1:26 p.m.

Joffre joins in the fun. Her torpedo bombers nail a battlecruiser twice.

1:29 p.m.

German medium bombers tangle with the French task force’s CAP, much to their own detriment.

024

The decision to go with a heavier CAP seems to be paying dividends—German air attacks have been largely ineffective today.

1:33 p.m.

Joffre‘s bombers score six hits, a brilliant display of piloting prowess.

1:47 p.m.

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.

Aftermath

It is a glorious day for France, mes amis.

025

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.

Rule the Waves 2: To January, 1937

February 1935

001-treaty

Well, so much for that plan about attacking Austria, unless maybe we can rope Britain in on our side.

March 1935

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.

May 1935

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.

002-lalande

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.

July 1935

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).

October 1935

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.

November 1935

003-rebels

Germany, having gotten on our bad side with this Austro-Hungarian alliance, now gets to see the error of its ways.

January 1936

I confess, I was a little concerned it wasn’t going to happen at all, but at long last—

004-dive-bombers

Dive bombers!

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.

005-liberte
Regrettably, the art does not live up to the name, but drawing carriers is hard.

February 1936

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.

May 1936

Those German rebels we supported won their fight for independence.

July 1936

006-treaty

Some historical friends of France come knocking with an extremely compelling offer. Budget impact notwithstanding, I’m happy to say ‘yes’.

August 1936

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.

December 1936

The perfidious Austrians have attempted to torpedo a French ship in peacetime!

007

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.

008-aircover
The air range map is unreadable nowadays. I wonder if there’s a way to toggle friendly/enemy bases.

009-field
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.

8:10 a.m.

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.

8:30 a.m.

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.

010

The destroyer force turns north toward Durazzo, until we have a better idea of the size of the Austrian group.

8:43 a.m.

011

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.

8:50 a.m.

Unhelpfully, Airbase Durazzo radios us to say that a light cruiser was spotted at 7:28 a.m.

012

Thanks, guys. Better news:

013

Airbase Valona, instead of sending untimely spotting reports, is preparing a naval strike.

9:00 a.m.

That naval strike is still probably 45 minutes away, however, and the destroyers’ guns are beginning to tell.

014

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.

9:13 a.m.

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.

9:48 a.m.

The Austrians have gotten a little bit more dialed in in the past half-hour, narrowing the gap slightly.

015

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.

10:17 a.m.

I originally said that the aim wasn’t to sink the enemy with gunfire, but so far, that’s going pretty well.

016

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.

10:43 a.m.

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.

11:11 a.m.

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.

11:51 a.m.

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.

017

12:25 p.m.

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?)

12:38 p.m.

It happens again! Espignole is hit by two torpedoes, and heads for the bottom.

018

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.

15:04 p.m.

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.

019

15:31 p.m.

Fanion, another obsolete destroyer, sinks due to accumulated battle damage.

16:04 p.m.

As dusk approaches, the French flotilla catches up to the damaged Austrian destroyer.

020

Shortly after, it goes under.

Aftermath

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.

Europe

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’.

The Mediterranean

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″.

Strategy

Broadly speaking, what’s our goal for this war? I see two. Say so if you think there are others.

  1. Survive without losing territory or large numbers of warships. Fighting Germany and Austria-Hungary together is a big ask for France.
  2. Gain Morocco.

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.

Rule the Waves 2: To January, 1935

After a brief intermission, we return.

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.

February 1933

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.

May 1933

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.

001-surcouf

9,000 tons is pretty beefy compared to our oldest light cruisers, the three 24-knot Chateaurenaults still puttering around sleepy Asiatic ports.

July 1933

I’m trying to provoke Austria-Hungary into a war, but they’re resolutely opposed to the idea.

November 1933

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.

002-arquebuse

March 1934

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.

April 1934

Our fighters are looking a little long in the tooth, so I request some new prototypes.

June 1934

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.

September 1934

No real news, except for this!

003-radar

I set it to high priority for now. Radar’s super-cool.

November 1934

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.

January 1935

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?

Rule the Waves 2: To January, 1933

At the end of the last update, I asked four questions. Here they are again, with (the answers):

  1. Big guns or high speed for the next battleship? (Majority favors big guns.)
  2. Rebuild or scrap Marengo? (Approximately a tie, so I’ll break it: scrap her.)
  3. Destroyer-cruiser mix, or destroyers? (Destroyers win by a country mile.)
  4. Montcalms to light carriers? (Approximately a tie, so I’ll scrap one and carrier-ize the other.)

January 1931

Time to get some ship designs… designed.

001-marengo

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.

002-epee

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.

April 1931

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.

May 1931

003-bigger-dd

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.

July 1931

Blueprints for an Austrian cruiser suggest that our sole remaining cruiser is still superior.

004-austrian-ca

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.

September 1931

The Navy League mobilizes against a new government attempting to cut naval spending, at the cost of very mildly increased tensions with Germany.

January 1932

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.

August 1932

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.

005-biplane
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.)

006-range

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.

007-strike

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.

008-spotted

At 1:06, the screening light cruisers come across enemy light forces, then turn tail and run toward the carriers.

009-strike

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.

010-results

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.

September 1932

The traditional upheaval in an African colony results in a budget bump and a rise in tensions. Austria might be the next war.

October 1932

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.

January 1933

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

012-status

011-tensions

Naval Comparison

016-almanac-1
017-almanac-2

The Fleet

014-fleet-1
015-fleet-2

Shipyards

013-construction

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?

Rule the Waves 2: To January, 1931

Collating all the feedback as usual, I have four recommendations:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Build to treaty limits for the next battleship. It’ll be expensive, but intentionally building a second-rate battleship is risky.
  4. Build the next aircraft carrier bigger, to get a proper 1930-ish air wing of 70 to 80 planes.

And we’re off!

February 1929

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.

April 1929

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.

October 1929

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.

December 1929

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.

March 1930

A colonial crisis with Great Britain leads to increased tensions, but also massively increased budget.

I use it on Joffre, a new aircraft carrier.

001-joffre

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.

May 1930

Or perhaps a bit later than that. A new liberal government takes over, slashing naval budgets. (Happily, not slashing naval budgets too much.)

June 1930

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.

August 1930

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.

December 1930

002-prime-minister

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.

January 1931

Another uneventful update passes.

Plans and Intentions

Tensions are highest with Britain and Austria-Hungary, at 4 and 5 (of 12 before war), respectively.

Budget

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.

Shipbuilding

At the moment, we’re building ten submarines and our new fleet carrier Joffre.

Ship Planning

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?

Rule the Waves 2: To January, 1929

January 1927

So, based on voting and my own intuition, here’s what we’ll be doing construction-wise this update.

  1. Bearn, our first full-size aircraft carrier.
  2. The next OceanSuffren-type battleship.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

001-latouche-treville

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.

February 1927

002-all-forward

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.

March 1927

003-war

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.

April 1927

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.

May 1927

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.

004-courbet

June 1927

The fleet sails for the Mediterranean to counter aggressive exercises by Austria.

July 1927

005-krain

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.

August 1927

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.

October 1927

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.

November 1927

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.

006-defense

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.

1:43 p.m.

Another ship appears to the north of the carriers; they’re sandwiched. Both ships, however, are destroyers.

2:40 p.m.

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.

4:40 p.m.

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.

1:56 a.m.

So, imagine my surprise when the scenario ends and I see an Austrian force not twenty miles from my own.

007-end

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.

December 1927

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.

January 1928

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.

February 1928

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.

March 1928

008-anticlimax

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.

April 1928

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.

July 1928

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.

October 1928

009-treaty

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.

November 1928

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.

January 1929

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.

Battleships

  • 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.

Battlecruisers

  • 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.

Heavy Cruisers

  • 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.

Light Cruisers

  • 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.

Aircraft Carriers and Seaplane Tenders

  • Commandant Teste, seaplane carrier, built 1923. 27 knots, 10 aircraft. 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.
  • Seven Flamberge-class destroyers, built 1921. 35 knots, 3 4″ guns, 6 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.

Comparison

Here’s the national-comparison almanac page, so you can see how we stack up.

010

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.

Budget

This is where things get tough. With some extremely aggressive mothballing and reserve-fleeting, here’s how our budget looks right now.

011

That is, we have about 6,500 funds per month. What does that buy? Some combination of the following.

  1. 4,000-4,200: an advanced battleship (see below, under Ship Design). ~36 months.
  2. 3,500: a standard battleship (like our existing series). ~36 months.
  3. 2,700: a heavy cruiser. ~24 months.
  4. 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.
  5. 2,500: a rebuild of an existing battleship to use up-to-date machinery and add anti-aircraft capability. ~12 months.
  6. 1,550: a light cruiser a la Voltaire. ~18 months.
  7. 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.

Ship Design

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.

What Next?

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?

Rule the Waves 2: To January, 1927

January 1925

The votes are in, and it looks like we’re building, in about this order:

  1. A Condillac.
  2. Some submarines.
  3. A fleet service light cruiser, once money is available (i.e., after Arromanches finishes building.)
  4. 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.

February 1925

001

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.

March 1925

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.

April 1925

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.

002

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.

June 1925

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.

4:35 p.m.

Floatplanes launch from Commandant Teste, while Amiral Charner prepares a strike. If we spot the enemy soon enough, we’ll try one.

5:10 p.m.

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!

003

5:22 p.m.

004

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.

5:41 p.m.

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.

6:00 p.m.

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.

6:30 p.m.

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.

6:37 p.m.

005-approaching

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.)

6:46 p.m.

The torpedo bombers find the enemy, and all thirteen start their attack run.

6:50 p.m.

006-torpedo

Two torpedoes hit one of the enemy ships. A few more aircraft remain to take their shots. A third hits a minute later.

7:13 p.m.

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.

8:20 p.m.

Twilight arrives, just as the last of the day’s CAP lands on Amiral Charner.

10:07 p.m.

Let’s see. 344 minutes of 800 in the scenario elapsed, dawn in… 330 minutes. Looks like meat’s back on the menu, boys!

3:38 a.m.

Twilight’s right around the corner. Soon, scouts will be in the air, so I’d better work out my plan.

007

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.

5:43 a.m.

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.

January 1926

Holy long delay, Batman! The second half of last year was boring, though, so you didn’t miss much.

  1. Arromanches entered service, and her successor is now under construction.
  2. 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.)

June 1926

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.

July 1926

We learned how to make medium bombers a while ago, and Dewoitine has a doozy of a prototype for us:

008

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.

January 1927

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.

009-bearn

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 OceanSuffren 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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Battleship updates. The money’s there to make that 25-knot battle line I keep talking about.
  5. 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.

Diplomacy

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.

Prestige

Sitting pretty at 48.

Rule the Waves 2: to January, 1925

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.

February 1923

001-thetis

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.)

March 1923

002-catapults

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.

April 1923

003-torpedo-bomber

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.

May 1923

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.

July 1923

004-arromanches

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.)

August 1923

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.

November 1923

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.

March 1924

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.

July 1924

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.

November 1924

Project ‘annoy Austria-Hungary into a war they can’t win’ proceeds without a great deal of success.

006

It does make us enough money to pay for Suffren and a destroyer, at least.

December 1924

007

Britain’s working on an interesting cruiser. High speed, light armor, light weight.

January 1925

008

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:

  1. 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,
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. Potentially in concert with building destroyers or a Condillac, update the submarine fleet. We’re quite a bit behind in submarine count.
  5. Build another aircraft carrier.
  6. Build a new fleet-service light cruiser, with a burly dual-purpose secondary armament for maximum future-proofing.
  7. Improve our air bases on the Channel Coast to help in future wars with Germany.
  8. Something I haven’t thought of at all.

What should it be?

Rule the Waves 2: To January, 1923

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

January 1921

Last week’s readership made three strong suggestions:

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

To those suggestions, I add my own item:

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

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

February 1921

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

April 1921

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

July 1921

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

September 1921

001

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

October 1921

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

002

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

February 1922

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

003

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

May 1922

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

June 1922

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

July 1922

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

September 1922

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

004

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

October 1922

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

January 1923

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

Interlude: Fleet Exercise

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

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

005

1:20 p.m.

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

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

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

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

006

1:33 p.m.

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

007
The red specks are aircraft formations.

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

1:55 p.m.

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

2:30 p.m.

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

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

3:45 p.m.

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

008

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

Plans and Intentions

Research

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

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

Shipbuilding

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

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

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

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

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

Diplomacy

France is again a middle-tier naval power:

009

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

010

Tensions are middling. Germany is rattling sabers again.