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Ludi1867

Inelegant Inshore Naval System

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The title of this thread is obviously related to the one regarding the elegant naval warfare system in SC. The contents of that thread are reasonable – SC is certainly the best strategic level naval warfare system available at present, despite a lamentably slow pace of naval and maritime movement – but there are serious problems with the inshore aspects of the naval combat system. In fact, non historical techniques are not only possible but far too easily used in SC WW 1/Breakthrough. The reason that this is such an egregious problem is that SC really should try to cause players to at least consider issues from the perspective of leaders of the period, not engage in flights of gamey fantasy.

First, why is this a problem, and why now? It has ALWAYS been a problem with the SC games, but it has become particularly acute with the WW I games because the counter tactics available in the World War Two engine (Particularly the use of the much more numerous aircraft of World War II in a maritime attack role) are less available now, and the number of naval assets is significantly larger.

What is the problem? Historically, naval units were reluctant to operate close to enemy shores for the very good reason that there were too many ways that significant losses could occur. In particular, and completely absent from SC, mines were prolific in coastal waters and comparatively low cost. There have been a number of suggestions that mines be included in the SC engine, but this has never happened. Further, submarine attacks on ports remain all too possible. They have become less easy over the years, but veteran players – that would be Catacol Highlander to my, woefully, certain knowledge – have become adept at employing submarines in attacks on ports. The problem is that the SC system, which does not allow stacking and which only allows naval units in strength 10 ports to re-build to full strength, actually makes submarine attacks on ports far too easy.

Now, submarine attacks on defended ports did occur – U-47 famously sank HMS ROYAL OAK in 1939. I have been unable to find any other examples of a submarine attack on a defended port, but they MIGHT have occurred. It is just VERY unlikely. Why? Submariners are reluctant to operate submarines in shallow water – and anything inside the 50 fathom line is considered shallow. The reason for this reluctance is extremely practical – ANY damage to a submarine can render that vessel incapable of diving (and we are discussing, to be precise, submersibles more than submarines in World War One and most of World War Two), and this would leave them highly vulnerable to destruction.

This is not to say that submarine attacks on UNDEFENDED ports were completely unknown. Some did occur, including two on the anchorage at Wabana in Newfoundland, but against naval ports they were extremely unusual and even against undefended harbours they were, to say the least, uncommon.

So coastal squares were usually defended by mines and naval ports were generally well-defended. But this is NOT the case in SC. The Royal Navy can lay siege to the exit of the Kiel Canal and, if too much of the Kriegsmarine is in the Baltic, this can be done with little cost. The Royal Navy can stay in these shallow, coastal waters with little that the German player can do in SC WW1, but in reality this would have been a very hazardous operation, one that would quite likely have resulted in serious casualties to the Royal Navy. A player in SC would not know this, however, and would probably think that Admiral Jellicoe was simply too cautious an individual. Of course, if the only obstacles Jellicoe had faced were the same as those of a SC player, then concluding he was a coward seems inevitable. But Jellicoe was neither a coward nor a fool. He understood very well the challenges of operating his forces inshore, and CHOSE not to place his forces there. SC really should have some mechanism to make the possibility of serious losses in enemy coastal waters a, well, possibility.

Submarine attacks on ports are also a very real problem with the SC engine. Submarines DID make at least ONE attack like this, but such attacks were highly risky and very, very rare. Specialized forces could be developed and used, and a Decision Event already allows for such a possibility in SC WW 1 – highly commendable. But it is probably more reasonable to make ALL submarine attacks on naval ports impossible – or at least extremely hard (leave a 1% chance of success?)

So what else can be done? The easiest thing would be to make the squares adjacent to enemy occupied coasts impassable to friendly naval forces. This would emulate the existence of all the coastal defences that DID exist without requiring any 'work' by either player.

A more complicated, but possible, alternative would be to require the defending player to buy and deploy coastal defences. This option might cost 10 MPP to deploy a 'mine' counter (of which there should be an almost infinite number in the Order of Battle, usable only in friendly coastal waters) in a 'friendly' (adjacent to a controlled square) coastal waters. This mine would attack each and every turn, having a high probability of causing one to ten points of damage each time a unit is in that square (whether it is simply traveling through or ends the turn in the square). Such attacks each and every turn would soon make players rather cautious about placing their naval units in such waters – a caution that is NOT required now, but should be as it most certainly was during the actual war.

The worst option would be to leave things the way they are, with a growing tendency toward ever more gamey (and ahistorical) tactics being the inevitable result.

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Somewhere in the past is suggested to use the well known "bad weather" effect in a second, and slightly different way:

if a unit moves next to enemy controlled tiles, or harbors, or cities (or better: tiles the game designer has chosen) it could have a % chance to suffer a random mine damage.

During bad weather all naval units can suffer from storm and waves, at a random chance. So the game already nows a way how to damage units at a random chance.

This could be used to check if you have a unit in a "dangerous" tile (sea mines). If you are unlucky (chance to be defined by the designer) you get a mine hit (just like bad weather might hit you).

This would make constant naval bombardements and "easy" bottleneck blockades (Gibraltar, Kiel Canal, Suez etc.) much more dangerous for the enemy units.

In my opinion this would be an easy way to bring mines into the game. Maybe the tiles could get symbols like the blockade tile, as a little help to understand where dangerous waters are or where not. Decision events could bring in more / reduce the amount of tiles, reduce or strengthen the effect of tiles, reduce or strengthen the chances of a tile etc.

Just a note to your sub attack points.

I would like to count in attacks from divers etc. too, who often were brought into position via submarine (divers or one man torpedos or little ships entered the harbor while the sub stayed in front of the harbor.

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I am in the "honeymoon period" with this sim. That is when you are impressed with the game system, but have not learned how to break the system or the AI. So, you may be outlining an issue--attacking a port--which I never considered, because, as you say IRL, would be a major problem.

Fortunately, I think I will get much, much, for my money until the above occurs.

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Hi Rankorian and XWormwood

I am glad you are enjoying your 'honeymoon' period with this game Rankorian, and there is certainly a whole lot of things that the game does right. It is certainly the best game of its type for naval warfare in general. However, having said that, there is still room for improvement. I have more or less given up on the speed of naval movement, which now more closely approximates elephants mating than the reality which occurred at sea, but I really am concerned about the problems that exist in the inshore areas. Naval ports should be very difficult to attack by submarines – it really did not happen very often (once, as I say, and the commander of the boat became the first one in the Kriegsmarine to receive the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross – a pretty exceptional performance). Similarly, naval units should not be able to loiter in the coastal waters of an enemy so easily. It really is too easy now.

As for Xworm's points about diver or 'special' attacks, there is actually a lot to discuss there, and SC has made some effort to address the topic of special attacks with their Decision Events (DE). In the First World War there are DE that allow attacks on enemy harbours by Austrian or Italian 'special' units. In the Second World War there is a DE that allows the Allied player to undertake the CAMPBELLTOWN attack on St Nazaire. Now, there are a number of other events that might be considered – the X-Craft attack on the TIRPITZ, the Italian 'special' attacks on the ports of Alexandria and Gibraltar – but these are not necessarily critical to the game (although they were fascinating operations). In particular, inshore operations in the Second World War game are significantly constrained by the possibility that tactical aircraft might inflict serious losses on an attacker. By the time that an attacker has such air superiority (or command of the air) that the concern about an attack by enemy tactical aircraft is minor, the player defending the shore usually has bigger things to worry about. In any event, a major aerial offensive is now very important in the Second World War setting before operating naval forces close to the enemy shore, or else the offensive player is taking a significant risk.

The situation is rather different in the First World War. Tactical aircraft are much less common and considerably less effective against naval units. This is entirely consistent with the historical record. However, the historical record also indicates quite clearly that operating naval forces close to enemy shores was risky, and often resulted in significant casualties. THAT does NOT happen in SC WWI or Breakthrough, and that is unfortunate. If certain chokepoints, such as the exit to the Kiel Canal, are fortuitously seized by an aggressive Entente commander then the naval war can be VERY different than historically because there is NO direct cost to placing naval forces near an enemy coast. There is also very little that can be done to divert enemy forces loitering in your coastal area for prolonged periods … and this is very wrong.

I think Xworm may have a good idea with using a variation of the weather check to inflict damage on naval units operating along a foreign coastline. It would not require much change to the existing engine, and although perhaps random, if it works and causes commanders to start being concerned about placing units in enemy coastal squares than, hey, why not?

So although SC gets the major naval aspects more or less right, it has unfortunately left some loopholes that are completely wrong. And once your honeymoon is over, perhaps you will agree that SC would be even better if it did not encourage completely ahistorical moves by players.

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Just to add some data to the weight of the argument, of 30 Battleships lost in WW1, 9 were lost to mines, other 9 to submarine, 4 to torpedo boats and the remaining 8 to accidentes/sabotage. Not a single one was lost to enemy gunfire.

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Good points as always and there is of course always room for improvement and I thank you all for taking the time out to share your thoughts :)

I think the suggestions for recreating the effect of mines above would fix the main realism problem with this fantastic game, and I would like to see it implemented.

In my first game, the Entente AI destroyed the almost the entire AH fleet, when it was in port or on the Adriatic coast, using a multinational fleet.

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