Limited intelligence PBEM naval action

Starting point: Two players, small fleets (perhaps even single ship actions) and an umpire. Players controlling the fleets are stepping into the shoes of the admirals, commanders or captains, but unlike normal tabletop miniature game, only view players have over the surrounding sea is what they observe from the deck of the flagship (or position elevated very slightly).

This is how ship of the line would look approximately one nautical mile away.

This is how ship of the line would look approximately one nautical mile away.

Each admiral, commander or captain is equipped with a signal book, list of available tasks, wind/speed chart and their starting fleet order in relation to each other. Umpired ships (those without player controlling them) will take the best shots available, with preset restrictions. Crews will perform tasks that are mandatory within the constraints of the admirals orders, but no ship will put themselves into suicidal position, nor intentionally distort the line unless explicitly told to do so by the admiral

Headings and sail states of vessels are given (but opponents will not possess information of wether ships are coppered or foul and hence speed is not given exactly). Rest of the information, such as damage is obscured, unless visually evident. Admirals control their own vessel, but has no direct control of the rest of the fleet. Any orders need to be conveyed by signals to other vessels in the fleet. There will be no direct interaction between players – no more than one would be able to have during the times. Despatch or two can be exchanged between the captains, admirals and commanders to describe the overall plan before the battle commences. Any exchange is controlled by umpire.

PBEM Layout

Artificial sample of the information one has for decision making.

To make things more interesting and realistic, view is shot from the position of the admirals flagship (or if each ship is controlled by individual, then from each ship separately) at the beginning of each turn. Based solely on visual information about positions, headings etc. Fleet admirals, captains and commanders issue the orders and fly signals to the fleet.

Of course this is an experiment, and I cannot say in advance wether it will work or not, but I’d expect that if it does, it would make interesting – albeit somewhat confusing command and control experience.

So, if you are captain in a half pay, and would like to participate to this (unique?) naval game experiment, then comment below and make your interest known. After action report will be published for everyones amusement after experimental game is over. If it proves to be success, then other games will follow.

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4 Responses to Limited intelligence PBEM naval action

  1. Juha H. says:

    Idea sounds intriguing. I toyed with a friend on similar idea for napoleonic land battles. This might work as play over the net version too, if action is spread over longer period?

    • Tichy says:

      Yes, intention would be to play the game in PBEM format (and only). It would probably, and realistically take few months in leisure pace. Which system were you thinking for the napoleonic land battles? It would be really interesting is CinC would need to make decisions based on visual information and some delayed reports.

  2. Mazikainen says:

    Count me in! Should at least give us some experience on how to run a “naval kriegspiel” and learn the limitations. I think it would be beneficial for the players to have a graphic with the hull of their ship and it’s attitude to the wind and compass to make it a bit easier to orient the player. The graphic could also be used to convey useful information like broadside states, damage etc. Also having a lieutenant and some midshipmen handy to make rough assessments on the headings of enemy vessels might help.

    As for land warfare, I think it would be nice to start an experiment such as this with a say.. general de brigade game where the player sees a lot of the action taking place but not all of it. Another option would be to go grand tactical and play a volley and bayonet game, but I think getting realistic LOS in that game by using photos might be hard as the camera will definitely see more than the player would.

    • Tichy says:

      Thanks for the suggestion about assessment and other improvements. They will all be included. I will integrate narrative to the game (as you already know) and it should make up decent battle report. For anyone else interested, we are now running trail game, and there will be full story at later time when we know how it evolves.

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