W A R G A M I N G

AN INTRODUCTION TO FLETCHER PRATT'S NAVAL WARGAME

By Clarke Walzer, Chicago, IL

Note: This is generally considered to be the first naval wargame for use with miniature warship models. Wargaming rules since then, such as Alnavco's SEAPOWER (See Warship Data section in this site.), have been greatly expanded and improved but owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Pratt for getting things started. Rules such as these achieve a high degree of historical realism in that they incorporate the actual capabilities of the real ships (and aircraft).

Developed in the 1930's and revised in the light of WWII experience, Fletcher Pratt's Naval War Game accurately reflects the problems and results of naval combat. Long before the historic naval engagement at the mouth of the River Plate for example, the game had predicted that three small British cruisers could defeat the vaunted German "pocket battleship" ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE.

The game was played with model warships on a floor, the larger the better. An interesting engagement can be fought by two players. Larger encounters have seen 60 and more players on a side. Model ships of 1:1200 or 1:2400 scales are the best to use for these games.

The Basis of the Game

Each ship is assigned a point value, calculated from her armament, armor, speed and displacement. Typically destroyers have values between 5,000 and 10,000 points, cruisers between 25,000 and 80,000 and battleships between 150,000 and 300,000.

Similarly, ships' guns are assigned damage-inflicting capabilities in rough proportion to the to the weight of the shell fired by the gun. Thus a light cruiser's six inch guns do 250 points damage per hit while the 16 inch rifles of battleship inflict 5,275 points per hit.

As the game progresses, the value of hits each ship has received is deducted from its point value. The speed and offensive power of the decrease in proportion to accumulated damage. Thus when a ship has received hits equaling half its point value, her speed is cut by 50 percent and by half its guns (of each caliber) are out of action.

The speed and offensive power remaining to a ship are determined by references to her ship card, on which is a pre-computed table of damage and effect. Below is an extract from a ship card for a British battleship of the KING GEORGE V class (Main battery: 10-14" guns, speed: 29 1/4 knots, point value: 230,196).

09,836 points: 28 knots
14,387 points: 1-5.25" gun out
16,442 points: 1-40mm mount out
17,795 points: 27 knots
23,019 points: 1-14" gun out
25,574 points: 26 knots

and so on until...

230,190 points: 10-14" guns out
230,192 points: 16-5.25" guns out
230,196 points: Sunk

If this ship were hit by one 16 inch shell (5,275 points damage), its speed and firepower would be affected. After a second 16 inch hit, however, damage would total 10,550 points. The ship's speed would drop to 28 knots (last entry on the card above 10,550 points). After three more 16 inch hits, damage would total 26,375 points, 1-40mm mount, a 5.25" gun and a 14 inch rifle would then be out of action. Damage would continue to accumulate with succeeding hits until the ship sank or the action ended.

At short range, hits may penetrate the target's armor. Such hits inflict twice the usual damage. Hits on ships broadside to the firing ship are assumed to strike the belt armor. Hits which strike ships from end-on, strike the usually thinner deck armor. A chart relating size of gun, thickness of armor and range is used to determine if armor has been penetrated.

How the Game is Played

Each player is given a ship cars, a speed scale, firing arrows and paper on which to record damage to his ship and, if he wishes, the results of his own shooting. The game is played in cycles called "moves" or "salvos. Each cycle has three parts: A moving phase, a shooting phase and a measuring phase.

Moving

Each ship is moved a distance determined by reference to a speed scale which can be a calibrated strip of cardboard. Each division of the scale represents one knot of speed. In rooms of normal size, 14 millimeters to the know is appropriate.

A ship may be moved any distance up to the number of knots remaining to it according to its ship card. However, it must move at least two knots so long as it is able. It may make a turn of up to 90 degrees (a right angle) on any move, The turn must be made in a natural arc using substantially all the length of the move. That is a ship may not make an abrupt 90 degree turn, then proceed farther in a straight line. A turn may be a compound or "S" shape providing that the sum of all angles remains less than 90 degrees.

Shooting

A player fires his ship's guns by laying a firing arrow (or arrows if there are more than one target) near his ship and sighting it at his target. On a card beside the arrow, he writes the number and caliber of the guns being fired and his estimate of the range (in inches) to the target. Accuracy in range estimation is the key to success.

Normally, the first round of his salvo will be assumed to fall at the range he has written. Remaining shells will fall in succession, each one inch nearer the firing ship. A player may however specify any interval he wishes between shells or ask that all be assumed to fall in the same spot. (He will usually miss but if he hit, it hurts!)

Torpedoes are fired during the moving phase before the firing ship has moved. A strip of Scotch "Magic" tape is laid near the firing ship. It is marked with an arrow to indicate the course of the torpedo(es). Torpedoes have a life of four moves and move at 38 knots. A ship is hit if, at the end of any move, its hull is touched by the path of the torpedo traveled on that move. Torpedoes cause heavy damage but as in actual combat, it is difficult to hit an alert enemy.

Measuring

In large games, the players leave the room during the measuring phase and then the referees measure shots and determine hits. When there are few players, they measure each other's shots.

To measure a salvo, the referee first sights through the firing arrow noting where the line of sight intersects the target. Using a tape measure, he measures along that line from the back of the arrow to the range written on the card. Shots which fall on the target or more than one inch beyond it, are hits. Those shots that fall short or more than one inch over, are misses. Fall of shots are marked by upside-down golf tees, red for hits, white for misses.

The referees compute the damage done to each ship and report it to the scorekeeper. Measuring done, the players return to the room and each is informed of the damaged sustained by his ship. By reference to the golf tees, each player can observe the results of his shooting. Then the game resumes, beginning with a new cycle with a moving phase. The game ends when all the ships on one side are sunk.

Purposely, this outline has omitted many details of the game. For instance, submarines and aircraft may also take part but the rules for their use are as complex as the rules for surface ships. By reading this, however, you will get a clear basic concept of the game and should be able to play and enjoy playing. (Reprinted from the June, 1967 Alnavco LOG)

THE BATTLE OF THE GULF OF SIAM 1941 - Royal British Forces

A Wargame Report by Douglas Knowlton, Albuquerque, NM

Time: 1930 hrs 9 December, 1941

Situation: At Churchill’s insistence, VAdm “Tom Thumb” Phillips was ordered to take PRINCE OF WALES and INDOMITABLE to join the REPULSE to form the Far Eastern Fleet. This force would be known as Force “Z”. INDOMITABLE was accidentally grounded, so PRINCE OF WALES with destroyer escort proceeded and arrived at Singapore on 2 December.

On 6 December Japanese troop convoys were sighted in the Gulf of Siam and on 8 December it was reported that Japanese Army forces were landing at Kota Bharu and Singora. Japanese transports are still in the area and offloading. Force “Z” departed Singapore at 1735, 8 December.

Mission: Force “Z” must leave Singapore and proceed to Kota Bharu and Singora to disrupt landings and destroy enemy Naval units and shipping. This will leave Japanese ground forces without logistical support stranded ashore enabling Royal Army forces to push them back into the sea..

Mission Forces: FORCE Z Command: VAdm T. Phillips

  • BB PRINCE OF WALES (ff) (R) Cpt Leach
  • CB REPULSE (R) Cpt. Tennant
  • DD ELECTRA
  • DD EXPRESS
  • DD VAMPIRE (RAN)
  • DD TENEDOS

Submarines on patrol.

  • RNN K-XII (east coast of Malayan Peninsula)
  • RNN O-16 (east coast of Malayan Peninsula)

Malaysian RAF Command: Air Vice-Marshall C.W.H. Pulford

  • Squadrons at Singapore(158 aircraft available of 246)
  • (Only about 55 aircraft left operable after first day. Most engaged in invasion.)
  • 36, 100 Sdrnd (19) Vildebeestes torpedo bomber
  • 34 Sdrn (17) Blenheim light bomber/ recon
  • 243, 453, 488 Sdrns (50) Brewster Buffalo fighter ( only 11 avail during actual battle)
  • 8 RAAF Sdrn (4) Hudson light bombers
  • 205 Sdrn (5) PBY Catalina Recon
  • 4AACU (6) Swordfish, (6) Sharks torpedo bombers

Enemy Forces: Intelligence estimates 30-50 transports off the Malayan coast with a covering screen of 1 KONGO class battlecruiser, 3 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers and 20 destroyers. There are Japanese air assists at Saigon. Japanese bombers raided Singapore on 8 December but torpedo bombers and fighters are expected to have a range of about 200 miles and should not be a factor. Enemy air groups have been operating in the area, so task force must reach air forces protection as soon as possible after action. Enemy aircraft have spotted our force at 1800, so we can expect them to be ready.

Weather: Night visibility is good, for about 8,000 yds. There are some small rain squalls in the area.

Tactics: Proceed north towards Singora at 17.5 kts. Increase speed to 24 knots when engaged

Overwhelm any screening forces with gunfire and torpedoes, then proceed to Kota Bharu and Singora and sink Japanese transports. Speed is of the essence to avoid Japanese bombers, all ships must retire to the eastward to clear of land based aircraft.

TENEDOS will retire towards Singapore at 1800 to refuel.

(Actual) Signal from Commander to REPLUSE and Destroyers at 1530 9 December:

“WE HAVE MADE A WIDE CIRCUIT TO AVOID AIR RECONNAISSANCE AND HOPE TO SURPRISE THE ENEMY SHORTLY AFTER SUNRISE TOMORROW, WEDNESDAY, WE MAY HAVE THE LUCK TO TRY OUR METAL AGAINST SOME JAPANESE CRUISERS OR SOME DESTROYERS IN THE GULF OF SIAM. WE ARE SURE TO GET SOME USEFUL PRACTICE WITH HIGH-ANGLE ARMAMENT, BUT WHATEVER WE MEET I WANT TO FINISH QUICKLY AND GET WELL CLEAR TO THE EASTWARD BEFORE THE JAPANESE CAN MASS TOO FORMIDABLE A SCALE OF AIR ATTACK AGAINST US. SO, SHOOT TO SINK.”

Special Notes: If two players available, have one command REPULSE with overall Commander handling PRINCE OF WALES and the rest.

PRINCE OF WALES equipped with type 271 surface search warning RADAR (range 25 miles) and type 285 air defense RADAR detect A/C at 60-110 miles for 5.25” guns.

REPULSE has type 79 RADAR detect A/C at 53 miles or BB at 10 miles.

Radar is forward looking only, and capable of surface detection @ 20,000 yds large ship or 10,000 yds small ship.

Variations:

RNN SS on station: K-X1, K-XIII, K-XIV, K-XV, K-XVII, O-19, O-20 at Karimata St and Kuching

DD SCOUT, THANET at Singapore

IDOMITABLE with 12 Fulmar VF, 9 Sea Hurricanes VF and 24 Albacore VT arrived with Force Z

HERMES with 12 Swordfish VT replaced INDOMITABLE off South Africa.

DesDiv 57 WHIPPLE, ALDEN, EDSALL, JOHN D. EDWARDS join force Z.

EXETER, JAVA, join on 11 December

Shipment of Hurricane fighters due in is readied at Singapore airfields

Ships refitting at Singapore:

  • CL: DANAE, DRAGON, DURBAN, MAURITIUS.
  • DD: ENCOUNTER, JUPITER, VENDETTA, ISIS, STRONGHOLD

Imperial Japanese Forces

Time: 1930 hrs 9 December, 1941

Situation: On 4 December the Japanese 25th Army Centrifugal Offensive for the conquest of Malaya and Singapore was underway. VAdm Jisaburo Ozawa was given command of the Southern Squadron in support of these operation, with RAdm Kurita’s 7th Cruiser squadron and 11th DesDiv as covering force. Commander in Chief of the 2nd Scouting Fleet, VAdm Nobutake Kondo would provide the Distant Escort Force for the Malaya and Luzon operations. Japanese Army ground forces landed on 8 December on the Malayan Peninsula. There were 3 transports covered by SENDAI and Desdiv 19 at Kota Bharu, 11 transports with Desdiv 20 at Singora and 5 transports covered by part of Desdiv 12 at Patani. Seven other transports are assigned other landing areas. At 1315, 9 December submarine I-65 sighted a British force off Poulo Condore with a result that at Vadm Kondo ordered a withdrawal of the transports to the north and their escorts to form up.

Mission: Imperial Japanese Naval forces are to prevent enemy interference with the invasion forces and to locate and destroy British naval units in conjunction with Imperial Japanese naval air forces.

Mission Forces: Second Scouting Fleet, VAdm N. Kondo

Southern Squadron (VAdm J. Ozawa) Distant Escort Force (VAdm N. Kondo)

CA CHOKAI (ff) 1Div, 4th CruRon

7th Cruiser Squadron (RAdm T. Kurita) CA ATAGO (ff)

  • CA KUMANO (f) CA TAKAO
  • CA MIKUMA 2Div, 3rd BatDiv
  • CA MOGAMI BB HARUNA
  • CA SUZUYA BB KONGO

3rd DesFlot 4th DesDiv

  • CL SENDAI (f) DD ARASHI

12TH DesDiv DD HAGIKAZE

  • DD MURAKUMO DD NOWAKI
  • DD SHINONOME DD MAIKAZE
  • DD SHIRAKUMO 2grp, 6th DesDiv
  • DD..USUGUMO DD IKAZUCHI

19th DesDiv DD INAZUMA

  • DD AYANAMI 8th DesDiv
  • DD ISONAMI DD ASASHIO
  • DD SHIKINAMI DD OSHIO
  • DD URANAMI DD MICHISHIO

20th DesDiv DD ARASHIO

  • DD ASAGIRI
  • DD AMAGIRI SubRon 4 (between Poulo Condore and CruRon 7)
  • DD YUGIRI CL KINU
  • DD SAGIRI SubDiv 18 (I-53, I-54, I-55)

SubDiv 19 (I-56, I-57, I-58)

DesDiv 11 (assigned to CruRon 7) SubRon 5

  • DD FUBUKI CL YURA
  • DD HATSUYUKI SubDiv 29 (I- 62, I-64
  • DD SHIRAYUKI SubDiv 30 (I-65, I-66)

Convoy Escorts 11th Air Fleet (VAdm N. Tsukahara)

  • CL KASHII 22nd Air Flotilla (RAdm S. Matsunaga) (Saigon)
  • PG SHIMUSHU Genzan Air Group 36 G3M (Nells)
  • ML HATSUTAKA Takao Air Group (det) 12 A5M (Claude)
  • AM W-1, W-2, W-3, W-4, W-5, W-6. Mihoru Air Group 36 G3M
  • 21st Air Flotilla (detached)

Seaplane Tender Group (Rong Sam Lem Bay) Kanoya Air Group 27 G4M (Betty)

  • CVS KIMIKAWA MARU (15 seaplanes) 23rd Air Flotilla (detached)
  • CVS SANYO MARU (8 seaplanes) Tanan Air Group 25 A6M (Zero)
  • CVS SAGARA MARU (8 seaplanes) 6 C5M (Babs)

Enemy Forces: Air reconnaissance reported that two British capital ships, the PRINCE OF WALES and possibly the KING GEORGE V were present in Singapore harbour in early December. At 1345 on 9 December submarine I-65, the easternmost sub of the nothern sub cordon line sighted at maximum range two ships near Proulo Condore Island. The message that it was a British Battleship and Battlecruiser with 4 escorting destroyers was finally received at Saigon at 1500. Immediately, the transports were ordered to stop unloading and to proceed from the landing sights and scatter.. The British capital ship are reported to possess the new RADAR weapon. Patrol aircraft have not reported any other forces. Expect infiltration attempts by submarines and small craft.

Weather: Night visibility is fair, for about 12,000 yds. There are some small rain squalls in the area.

Tactics: Southern Squadron VAdm Ozawa is to form up with Close Escort (RAdm Mikawa) and proceed to search for British forces. KINU and YURA are to join up with Southern Squadron.

Aircraft from KINU, SUZUYA and KUMANO will conduct a search pattern. The main body of the Distant Escort Force is proceeding south from Saigon and will be in the battle area by 0500 10 December. The 126 available aircraft of the 11th Air Fleet will rearm with armour piercing bombs and torpedoes in anticipation for an order to attack. If the Southern Squadron detects the British force they are to conduct a night attack with torpedoes, in the hope of delaying the British forces long enough to be engaged by the Distant Escort force and aircraft of the 11th Air Fleet at dawn.

Special Notes. If two or more players available, they should command the Southern Squadron and Distant Escort and 11th Air Fleet. They may share control of transports.

Variations: The Southern Squadron can immediately join up with Distant Escort Force and encounter Force Z at dawn.

Historical Outcome

At about 1830, reconnaissance pilot Lieutenant H. Takeda spotted the foamy wakes of two large ships at a about 6* 40’ N by 105* 20’ E. As 53 bombers raced into position, Takeda dropped flares to reveal Ozawa’s flagship CHOKAI. Ozawa immediately radioed Saigon of his identity to avert the near disaster, veering NE to evade the flares.

About 8 miles south, destroyer ELECTRA spotted flares to the north. VAdm Phillips ordered a turn southwest to avoid the area.

VAdm Kondo, wishing to avoid further accidents and leery of British RADAR, recalled Ozawa’s Southern Squadron to join him and then return in force at dawn to search for the British ships. VAdm Phillips, with his destroyers running low on fuel and believing himself detected, decided to call off the attack on Kota Bharu, and proceeded southeast until about 2000, when he received a report of a landing at Kuantan. He then turned west and sailed to his demise.

Except for the flares, the two opposing forces would have blundered into each other in less than 15 minutes. These are the fates of war.

WARGAMING WITH WIG GRAVES ET AL

Following are some excellent photos of naval wargaming. The ship models show are 1:1200 scale by Superior. Wig Graves of Tucson, Arizona has sent in the following description:

Attached are photos from our latest game (reciprocal strikes on two separate tables). The rules we are playing are called the "Blue Sky" Series and they include "Red Sun": Early Pacific, "White Cross": B-17's over Europe, "Red Star": Russian Front and "Blue Sea": The Med. Also planned are "Black Cross": The Battle of Britain and another to cover late War Pacific.

The scale is 1 inch (or hex) = 100 feet (1:1200) and one turn = 1.7 seconds. Planes move from 3 to 7 inches a turn and have varying climbing/diving and turning abilities. The mechanics are very elegant and allow for a lot of planes on the table. The aircraft we use are 1:600 scale. We really like the look of the 1:600 planes and with the 1:1200 ships. The flight stands are of my own making. They consist of a big washer with a penny glued over the hole. The penny has hole drilled into which is glued a piece of .032 wire. On top of this is an altitude dial made from a wooden disc with a printed sticker attached. Next comes the poles cut from 1/16th tubing (in four lengths that combine with the six numbers on the dials to denote 24 elevation levels). Next comes the planes which have been drilled to accept a .032 wire, Whew!

SBD's attacking KAGA
The U.S. CV HORNET (CV-8
The Japanese CV KAGA
The Japanese CV HIRYU
A Japanese strike approaches
The Japanese Fleet underway
The Japanese CV KAGA
Japanese Vals attack HORNET
SBD's attacking Japanese CA MOGAMI
SBD's attacking KAGA
U.S. strike approaches
Japanese Vals attack HORNET

Ed. note: Just blasting away ship-to-ship until one is destroyed can get boring. Many wargamers set objectives that players must attain in order to win. For instance, one player(s) must take an island with the force assigned to him and another must prevent him from doing so with the force assigned to him, within a given time frame. It's fun and challenging to design such scenarios, the number of which are virtually endless, and equally fun and challenging to try and attain the objective assigned to you.