Saturday, October 11, 2014

Planning for DANG 2014

I started to prepare for my yearly naval game: DANG (Dave's Annual Naval Game) a little earlier this year than in previous years. There were a couple games on the ballot that would have required a lot of work, so I wanted to make sure I had time to complete everything.

We ran through the voting in September and this year’s game is “Cogs of War – The Hundred Years War at Sea.” While that might seem like a big topic, the game will only focus on actions in the English Channel around the summer of 1340. Here is a brief overview of the game situation:
The Battle of Sluys from Jean Froissart's 14th Century Chronicles(Wikipedia)
The Hundred Years War started off, as many of the wars, as a dispute over who is the rightful king of a country. Things basically kicked off in 1337 when Edward III of England refused to pay homage to Philip VI of France, leading the French King to confiscate Edward's lands in Aquitaine. This caused Edward to declare himself rightful King of France, starting the war.

During 1338 and 1339 the French, their allies, and hired mercenaries conducted numerous raids and attacks against English towns, shipping, and islands in the English Channel. These attacks not only damaged the towns, they disrupted English trade, and put a strain on the English treasury. While raids like this were not uncommon during this time, these attacks were different in that they were targeted major English towns with a deliberate strategic aim in mind. Toward the end of 1339, the English fleet was able drive off the French and mercenary fleet and stabilize the situation along the English Channel.

As the summer of 1340 approached, the stage was set for more naval action in the Channel.

As one DANG voter put it “Cry ‘Ahoy’, and let slip the Cogs of War!”

Historically, the English fleet devastated the French fleet at the Battle of Sluys, giving the English naval superiority in the Channel for the next several decades. 
Kevin's French Fleet from his 2011 Sluys game
For our game, we will use Kevin's scratch-built cogs and David Manley’s Medieval naval campaign rules for the operational movement and fleet action rules for the battles. Kevin built cogs for his Sluys game from Enfilade 2011. But I 'm looking at building a few galleys to round out the mix. I'll post information about building the smaller ships later.

This is DANG’s thirteenth year and here are links to recaps of games from before 2010, the 2010 Lepanto game, and the American Civil War river game from 2011, the 1812 Lake Ontario game from 2012, and last year’s Operation Landcrab game.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Book Review - On Seas Contested: The Seven Great Navies of the Second World War

On Seas Contested is a joint collaboration by seven different authors and three editors covering the major naval powers during World War 2. The book has chapters on the navies from the United States, Japan, United Kingdom and Commonwealth, Germany, Italy, France, and Soviet Union. While there are a lot of books on the navies and naval actions during World War 2, I can’t think of one other book that compares all the navies at this level.

The editors set up a chapter outline for each author to follow covering each navy’s: History, Mission, Organization (including personnel and intelligence), Doctrine (surface, air, submarine, anti-submarine, amphibious, trade protection, and communications), Material (ships, aircraft, weapons, and logistics), and an Assessment of the navy’s wartime operations. The authors all worked independently, so every now and then some information is repeated between the chapters. However, it is not repetitive but is used to illustrate the different views each navy had on the information. Each chapter has a lot for anyone interested in naval history.

I found the sections on Doctrine and Material particularly interesting, since not every navy planned to fight in the same manner and knowing those differences really shows why certain decisions were made when procuring ships, aircraft, and weapons. I also thought the section that provided the assessment of wartime operations was interesting. That section wasn’t just a rehash of winners and losers; but an evaluation of how a navy performed given its pre-war plans and wartime changes. I really though all the authors did a good job of assessing the performance of the navies. It was also interesting to see information on the French and Soviet navies. Those two are often neglected when talking about World War 2 naval operations.

Overall, I enjoyed On Sea Contested and thought the authors did a good job getting all the information into the pre-defined outline. However, because there really isn’t much on battles, this probably isn’t a good book for the casual naval historian (if there is such a person) and I certainly understand that not everyone is interested in how the Italians trained their sailors or Soviet’s anti-submarine warfare plans. But if you are interested in reading information on why navies did certain things during the war, this is a book for you.

For gamers, this book can provide ideas for setting up victory conditions and orders for naval actions. It can also give you some ideas for special rules for different navies should operate.

Finally, there is a website for the book that provides backgrounds on the authors and editors, along with some extra material and links to primary sources and other naval websites. Even if you don't get the book, the On Seas Contested website is worth a look.