Saturday, October 11, 2014

Naval Battles for the Tabletop

As I am going over the forces for my two Falkland’s battles Mark brought up a point I hear often in running naval games in general and submarine actions in particular. That is “that Submarine Battles are the most boring things ever.” OK Mark, we have you on record stating this. And looking at the big picture he is correct. Naval actions are quick and nasty engagements. Forces have little time to react once weapons are away. Crew training and luck are what allows a ship or submarine to return to port.

Looking at modern engagement we have:

1973 Yom Kippur
  • War Battle of Baltim 3 engagements lasting less than an hour and a half 
  • Battle of Latakia 4 engagements lasting less than two hours 

Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 
Two Type 14 (Blackwood-class) frigate of the Indian Navy against a Pakistani Daphne class submarine. (I do have a soft spot for the Blackwood Class). Indians had no knowledge of the presence of the submarine until the torpedo was fired. Unfortunately for the Pakistanis the torpedo failed to explode. A second was fired and the engagement was over in less than 30 minutes (possibly closer to 15 minutes).

Falkland War
Most of the fights were short, once both sides were engaged. This does not include time to set up the best possible solution.

So are these enjoyable to put on the table, I think so. Naval tactics in the Cold War era was based on finding, tracking and if necessary eliminating the target. Submarines trained in attack and counter measures. Even once a torpedo is in the water, the defending submarine can still launch what is called a “snap-shot” were they fire a torpedo down the path of the oncoming torpedo. This can disrupt the wire guidance of the attacker and if your luck is holding you may get a kill.

On the gaming table, modern naval actions will take longer to play out than it was to actually fight them. I am ok with that. I do not have a Fire Control Party to help me run my simulations. You learn why things were done historically.

Let me know what you think.

Royal Navy Toast for a Friday 
"A Willing Foe and Sea-Room"


  1. Naval games aren't interesting to some people and it sounds like Mark might be one of those people. I play a lot of naval games from galleys to modern and really like all sorts of naval games (my blog is primarily devoted to naval gaming). I don't think there is much of a problem with games taking longer to play than the action they represent took. There are a lot of games where that is the case, and not just naval games but land and (especially) air games and that doesn't seem to bother the players. Submarine actions are tough to play because they are best with double-blind situations, which is off-putting to some gamers, or they need players to not act on what they see on the tabletop. Overall, I think there are a lot of interesting Post-WWII naval situations out there, including stuff like Operation Preying Mantis where almost any U.S. Navy losses would be considered a defeat.

    1. Thank you Dave. Actually Operation Preying Mantis is in the queue to be done. I look at the Libyan conflicts in the 80s as a great way to tests players abilities to "try" to accomplish what the Jeune École school of tactics attempted.

  2. I don't know if you've tried Praying mantis yet Jon, but I've just replied to your thread on the Miniatures Page as I've been gaming that recently

    The games I've had have been pretty intense and very good fun.

    1. I have not played anything in the Gulf, I went more towards the Mediterranean or Falklands. Do you need any help with your playtesting?