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USN Tactical Plotting prior to CIC


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#1 W. Clark

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 09:56 AM

It seems to me from our many past discussions that a USN commander (Admiral or what not) is asumed in the rules at night to only keep track of those ships he can see within 3,000 yards and that any ship or ships that appears from outside that distance is considered a new and unknown contact. Am I understanding that correctly?

I know that our navy was running some kind of tactical plot prior to putting a CIC in place. We got the idea during WWI from Jellicoe who used a map plot to try and control the Grand Fleet as he could never see all of it even before deployment. It would seem to me that radar would make this much easier. As you know with radar you get a bearing and a distance to surface contacts. So, unless we invented the idea of keeping track of friendly ship's relationship to the flagship out of whole cloth along with the CIC; it only makes sense that we were doing it prior and the CIC was a way of improving what we were already doing. Of course in Jellicoe's case this was a daytime exercise which he found difficult at best and we are talking night here (much harder).

I'm not aware of the steps the USN went through to get from Jellicoe's rough map plot to a CIC, but there must have been some kind of history. Jellicoe also tried to plot enemy locations from scouting reports but was hindered by inaccurate reporting and lack of reporting. The USN would in all likelyhood have similar problems. But radar should have solved keeping track of friendly ships if the operator was keeping continous track of the changing posistion of friendly ships in relationship to the flagship. I guess the real question is when did the USN make it a practice to continuously track their own ships on radar so they could differ between them and enemy contacts? I suspect that some Admiral got the idea (from staff ?) and implemented it prior to CIC. The success of the idea then led to the formal adoption of the CIC. But my main point is that none of this exsisted in a vacum and that the USN had been playing with keeping some kind of tactical plot since their exposure to it during WWI.

As usual this is a quest to understand why the rules do what they do and I fully expect that I've missed the boat here somewhere. I also know that the USN engaged in fratricide repeatedly during TSC so obviously they had not perfected their tactical plot. That fact more than anything is probably the main reason USN Admirals resorted to a single line ahead tactic that when sailed into close contact with the IJN lead to so many defeats. Defeats that I would like to avoid if permitted by history and the rules.

#2 simanton

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 05:39 PM

One development which made a huge difference was the introduction of the Plan Position Indication scope which came in with the SC radar. The PPI is the familiar circular scope with rotating sweep which we all take for granted. Before that, radars used the "A" Scope, which just showed a horizontal line at the bottom of the screen with contacts (friendly, enemy or unknown, land or rain squall) showing up as vertical spikes as the beam passed them. The "origin" (own ship) was at the far left, and you could move a cursor "bug" to the right to measure the range. I believe there was a mechanical readout showing the RELATIVE bearing of the antenna as it rotated which was your only way to determine the bearing of the contact. Of course, your own maneuvers affected the bearing! Establishing and maintaining a plot in the heat of battle was a real challenge! Prior to installation of a gyro interface, the PPI was also a relative picture, but it was still a quantum improvement!

#3 simanton

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 06:39 PM

OOPS! BRAIN FART! It was SG Sugar George radar that introduced the PPI. SC was an A scope systtem.

#4 Cpt M

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 11:09 PM

It seems to me from our many past discussions that a USN commander (Admiral or what not) is asumed in the rules at night to only keep track of those ships he can see within 3,000 yards and that any ship or ships that appears from outside that distance is considered a new and unknown contact. Am I understanding that correctly?


That is the intention.


I know that our navy was running some kind of tactical plot prior to putting a CIC in place. We got the idea during WWI from Jellicoe who used a map plot to try and control the Grand Fleet as he could never see all of it even before deployment. It would seem to me that radar would make this much easier. As you know with radar you get a bearing and a distance to surface contacts. So, unless we invented the idea of keeping track of friendly ship's relationship to the flagship out of whole cloth along with the CIC; it only makes sense that we were doing it prior and the CIC was a way of improving what we were already doing. Of course in Jellicoe's case this was a daytime exercise which he found difficult at best and we are talking night here (much harder).

I'm not aware of the steps the USN went through to get from Jellicoe's rough map plot to a CIC, but there must have been some kind of history. Jellicoe also tried to plot enemy locations from scouting reports but was hindered by inaccurate reporting and lack of reporting. The USN would in all likelyhood have similar problems. But radar should have solved keeping track of friendly ships if the operator was keeping continous track of the changing posistion of friendly ships in relationship to the flagship. I guess the real question is when did the USN make it a practice to continuously track their own ships on radar so they could differ between them and enemy contacts? I suspect that some Admiral got the idea (from staff ?) and implemented it prior to CIC. The success of the idea then led to the formal adoption of the CIC. But my main point is that none of this exsisted in a vacum and that the USN had been playing with keeping some kind of tactical plot since their exposure to it during WWI.


Actually, there was very little doctrine in place pre-war other than an extension of the methods used in WWI. Given the close engagement range and the idea that daylight action would prevail, the system developed during WWI was seen to be adequate. It was not until the advent of long ranged air operations and radar (especially SG radar) that a better method became necessary. Most of the better commanders developed their own ad-hoc prototype CICs and much was learned from these early experiments. Later, these lessons would be incorporated in the design of the first test CIC (which, BTW, was installed on a old 'flush decker' DD). One thing to keep in mind is that early experiments were heavily handicapped by the lack of space. On most ships, there just wasn't the spare room to mount a proper plotting room. Most were mounted in 'found space', often at the expense of other functions. It wasn't until post-war rebuildings that a proper CIC could be installed.

As usual this is a quest to understand why the rules do what they do and I fully expect that I've missed the boat here somewhere. I also know that the USN engaged in fratricide repeatedly during TSC so obviously they had not perfected their tactical plot. That fact more than anything is probably the main reason USN Admirals resorted to a single line ahead tactic that when sailed into close contact with the IJN lead to so many defeats. Defeats that I would like to avoid if permitted by history and the rules.


Unfortunately, you're stuck with the doctrine that existed at the time. The USN was NOT ready for a full up night battle. And the rules must reflect this.

#5 Frank

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 09:28 AM

Case in point. Willis Lee is considered one of the masters of radar at the time in question. The Second Battle of Guadalcanal is considered a masterpiece brought about by radar fire control.

Let's look at the reality. The Washington fired on one of it's destroyer (Probably crossed into the path between the Washington and it's target, outside of the fire control range gate, just a guess). The Washington's radar had a blind spot astern. When the South Dakota lost power and drifted out of formation, certainty of which pip was which was lost. The two Japanese heavy cruisers got away. Both US battleships could have easily been lost or crippled by Japanese torpedoes.

Skillful use or radar did win the battle. But a lot of blind luck was involved. And five out of six US ships ended up sunk or heavily damaged.

#6 W. Clark

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 10:48 AM

Thank you for your responses. All of them are helping to make the picture clearer as to why the rules do what they do. As usual I figure the rules have it right but I need an explanation so I can explain why they have it right. I now more fully understand why I like this period and area of the WWII naval so much better than later on or in european waters. The Allies are still developing their tech advantage and more to the point how to use that advantage fully. At this point Japanese optics, torpedoes and training even the playing field but the Allies are learning and Japan's edge is waning.

My problem is that I'm trying to use radar and a tactical plot in a way that the USN had yet to develope and its distorting the game in that I'm able to cancel most of the Japanese advantages because of it. I guess I'll just have to rein myself in; but's hard not to tailor what I do to take advantage of design strengths and weaknesses of some Allied ships over Japanese ships.

I still don't see anything in the rules that precludes me from using radar (provided we keep rolling 4 or less) and starshell to turn our night actions into a gunnery fight at 15,000 yards plus that the IJN is unlikely to do well in. It did not used to be that way in GQ I & II; but when the rules changed a ship's defense from resting solely on her displacement and belt armor the Japanese design flaws were revealed. At over 15,000 yards the USN versus IJN CRT totally favors the USN unless critical hits are rolled. Of course you have to preserve your Astorias as they and Wichita are the only CAs that can exploit their amor advantage. But the fact is that even if you are closer, if the IJN has fired and missed with its torpedoes then the gunnery fight is in the USN favor.

In a current fight that we will play out this Sunday the Japanese CAs Chokai, Furutaka and Kinugasa are within 10,000 yards of three Astoria CAs while the Aoba and Kaku are almost 18,000 yards away. The Chokai, Furutaka and Kinugasa have fired and missed with their port torpedoes. The Chokai has lost 2 turrets reducing IJN 8" within 15,000 yards to 18 guns. The Astorias have taken some hull damage reducing their speed to 26 knots but theit main armaent is untouched giving them 27 guns to reply with. The Astorias can ignor the Aoba and Kaku as their 8" will not penetrate the Astoria's CA armor at that range (over 15,000 yards) while they each target 1 IJN CA. This gives each Astoria 4 D12 and 1 D24 versus 3 D12 per IJN CA. But starshell brings the chance to hit down to 8,000 yards where the USN 8" are hitting on 1, 2 and 10 while IJN 8" are hitting on 1 & 10. This is a refight of Savo and right now it appears to favor the USN over the Japanese because we rolled a combined 3 with our radar DR. We are even making the USN roll its green morale before it can do anything but follow the ship in front of it but that has not helped enough.

I'm going to advocate that we incorporate limited flashless powder for the USN and some other optional rules hat I believe favor the IJN but none of that revokes the USN gunnery CRT and Astoria ship design advantage. I guess we can consign our radar DR to the dumb luck portion but I still do not see other than that what in the rules keeps the USN from going for a gunnery duel at a range the IJN is likely to lose at.

In other words the rules do not IMHO make me fight in the same manner that cost the USN so much in the real event. I'm probably missing something here (just as I was missing on the flashless powder before) and I hope you are going to point it out to me. As it is I see it this as hopelessly imbalanced in the USN favor if the player commanding the USN is not required to commit tactical suicide by closing into a range where he can see the IJN without starshell. The IJN can see some 18,000 yards to our 6,000 yards but radar and starshell have totally canceled that out. So please, critique me here and show me what I'm missing because its presently no fun being Japanese IMHO.

#7 simanton

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 06:57 PM

Really looking forward to gaining experience with the GQIII system. That being said, a couple of historical observations. First, as I said in the FAI submerged torpedo tube discussion, surprise is the vital element in torpedo work. Without it, the torpedo is mostly effective in finishing off a cripple. (Yes, there were exceptions). Second, I only know of three occasions when the Japanese CAs used their torpedoes effectively. The first was at Java Sea sinking Java and De Ruyter - under conditions of surprise. The second was 24 hours later finishing off the crippled Houston and Perth. The third was, of course, Savo Island which was almost extreme surprise.

#8 simanton

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 07:08 PM

An element which could be incorporated into scenarios - perhaps through morale rolls? - would reflect that at Savo the Allied forces, especially US, were very fatigued and that most of the other Guadalcanal night fights involved "pick up" forces unused to working together. It sounds like the rules are just about right for US forces that have been trained and worked up.

#9 W. Clark

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 01:19 AM

Oh, we were surprised. We had rolled 2 D12 with a total of 3 as a result. That supposedly gave us a 16,000 yard radar cushion. But, a DR by the Ref placed us within 10,000 yards and we were forced to sail straight at them for a turn before we could even try to turn away. We got lucky, made our DR and were able to turn together and that gave us a chance to avoid their torpedoes which resulted in their missing.

I agree, no sleep plan, no coodination, left hand-right hand and so on with arguably the worst historical showing by the USN as a result. Think of it, all those float planes on those cruisers and none were sent north during the late afternoon to recon for any approaching enemy force. But, like Custer the ship captains were dead and the guys of flag rank involved were covered for. And just as Custer's debacle led to the Army rediscovering the need to fire more than 10 rounds a year for marksmenship training so the loss of some 1,700 sailors caused the Navy to reexamine its night fighting and to improve its performance.

I proposed and we went with forcing the Allies to make their green morale before they could do anything they wanted to except follow the ship ahead in a formation and shoot at visually identified enemy ships; to try and insert some of that into the fight. Unfortunely for the Japanese, we made most of our morale DR and it has not helped them much.

I've proposed (and the Ref has accepted) that we retroactively apply the flashless powder optional rule to the USN cruisers and any other optional rule that I feel favors the IJN. But I still think that radar (when coupled with low DR), starshell and the USN gunnery CRT allow the USN player to compell the IJN into a gunnery duel that favors the USN. The only answer I can see to that is to some how compell the USN to close to visual range without the use of starshell and I rebell at going that far.

I'm not saying the Japanese do not have other choices and I have several ideas about what I would do diiferently if I was playing the Japanese but most of them involve getting closer and torpedoes.

#10 Cpt M

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 07:45 PM

An additional mod you might try (especially for the early Solomons actions) is to use a D20 instead of a D12 for the USN detection rolls to reflect the general lack of expertise with night sighting and radar use. This is actually suggested in the The Solomons Campaign.

#11 W. Clark

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 03:34 AM

Thanks, I'll bring that up.

#12 simanton

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 06:22 PM

For me, when it comes to torpedo work, "surprise" means the other guy becomes aware of you by your torpedoes hitting him!

#13 W. Clark

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 10:24 PM

For the Allies that meant they thought they had run into mines as they had no idea that any torpedo had half the range that the type 93 had. And given the USN troubles with its torpedoes any torpedo going off must have been a surprise courtesy of Rear Admiral Blandy and company.

#14 Cpt M

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 10:45 PM

For the Allies that meant they thought they had run into mines as they had no idea that any torpedo had half the range that the type 93 had. And given the USN troubles with its torpedoes any torpedo going off must have been a surprise courtesy of Rear Admiral Blandy and company.

That (among other things) is the problem with replicating the Japanese successes in any early battle. Between grossly underestimating the IJN's night fighting abilities, the capabilities of the Type 93 torpedo, and their own lack of night fighting ability and mishandling/misunderstanding radar, the USN was severely handicapped. And paid dearly for such. Given the advantage of hindsight, no gamer playing the USN commander would rationally make the the same decisions. Consequently, short of introducing limitations and restrictions (such as the requirement to remain in sight to avoid friendly fire incidents and using a D20 as opposed to a D12 for sighting), there is no way that a gamer running the IJN can ever reproduce the historical results (no matter what set of rules they use).

#15 W. Clark

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 03:42 PM

Coastal, I agree completely. The Ref and I are using every optional rule we can find that favors the Japanese. I brought up the idea that the Allied players have to roll their green morale to do anything but follow the ship ahead of them in a formation or shoot at an identified enemy ship and we've done that. But it still gets down to DR and if the Allies makes theirs and the Japanese don't its going to be a short engagement for the Japanese with bad results.

On the other hand the fact that I as the main Allied player can tailor each task force or group without reguard to formal ship units (divisions & squadrons) except for DDs gives me a tremendous ability to put the IJN up against what ever ships I have that match up well with them in a gunnery duel. I then assign the lessor cruisers to escort carriers or such. That leaves the Japanese without any weak sisters to prey upon and coupled with my number 2's ability to roll low for radar has consistently left the Japanese with a fight that starts out in the third or fourth range band of their torpedoes where USN gunnery rules given average dice.

This has left the Japanese players feeling unhappy about their situation (enough to question using these rules). I have to admit that based on my experiences with GQ I & II that I fully expected the IJN cruisers to be real bugbears. But upon reading these rules and realizing that you guys had ceased to configure a ship's defense solely by its belt armor and displacement and coupling that with a CRT that reflected each nationalities differences I realized there was real chance that the USN could dominate. That is, if the USN player(s) select and run their ships with a long range (for night shooting) gunnery duel preliminary to damage the IJN enough that closer range rapid fire by Brooklyns and DDs can finish the job.

Radar, starshell, USN CRT and the Astorias give the USN that long range advantage. Once the Japanese are beat down then the Brooklyns, DDs and rapid fire can finish what the Astorias started. If the Japanese throw a monkey wrench into it some how then make smoke and retire to fight another day (night).

#16 simanton

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 06:05 PM

Early war USN analyses of actions against the Japanese repeatedly credit them with submarines present, as they couldn't account for the torpedoings any other way.

#17 W. Clark

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Posted 05 May 2013 - 02:51 AM

Actually, Captain Albert Rooks of the Huston tried to inform our Navy that there was something up with the power and range of the Japanese torpedoes but he was killed when the Houston went down the day after Java Sea and nothing came of it. As was par for course at that point our leadership was consistently underestimating the Japanese in almost every way and almost every day. But, unlike on land, ships sink and Savo forced them admit that just maybe we were not up to par after all.

#18 Aman

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Posted 08 December 2013 - 08:32 PM

Having read a number of memoirs and detailed history books, and run about a dozen night actions between the IJN and USN in the Solomons [with a mix of very experienced and novice gamers] I can assure you that it isn't very difficult to stage an action that is both historically plausible as well as a real nail biter. The most important thing is to carefully construct the entire dynamic of the opening encounter, which is the most critical phase of the game. My scenarios are entirely geared to present the GAME, not imitate the supposed details of an historic encounter. That's probably why they guys have so much fun. I manufacture all the details for suspense and playability. I never let historical guessing ruin a game.

First, is the table the right size for the game? Does it have terrain like a coastline and rain squalls to block radar and act as "woods"?

Then I construct all the divisions and give each side a fake marker. I also have a dice-off and if one side doubles the other they get an additional fake marker [but they only know their own roll, not the other side]. So from the get-go, both sides are wondering about the markers that are moving around the table - real or fake? The cunning use of 1-2 fake markers can have a significant impact on player decisions, which is what matters the most. The easiest thing to do is to not tell either side exactly what forces / divisions the other side has and how many markers there are in the game. Throw in that a marker could be a division of DDs or CAs or even BBs, and you've got some major suspense right there.

Our encounters usually begin with the markers moving on their pre-plots. Hopefully one side is using the game's "terrain" to at least some advantage. For example, on Saturday, the IJN had a land mass behind them, which effectively halved all USN D/A rolls to the odd ones. Meanwhile, the IJN had the USN with their back to an open gulf [Kula, actually].

But even in the open ocean, the game orients around some simple events. Yes, the USN often Detects the IJN with radar first [altho I personally would drastically reduce the effectiveness of Detection until fall / winter of '43] which allows them to deviate from their pre-plot. But it's usually only a turn at best if they pull it off. However the IJN usually acquires first, so we usually have the IJN firing first in the game.

Then the rest depends on player choices.

My personal opinion is that GQ3 is the only good set of rules out there. However, they are demanding on the GM's abilities and time. One needs to run a number of games and carefully monitor them for play balance, fairness, historicism, etc. I'd say my first 6 Solomons night games were rubbish, but fun rubbish. Now I'm just getting to the point of mastering the rules, the scenario and the recklessness of my players that almost every battle achieves my main goals - historical feel bringing about a result based upon player choices. And it's fast becoming one of the most consistently attended games. My main problem is the wild swing in crowds - I've had 8-10 show up for a game, and 4-5 show up. Try playing the game with each player having exactly one ship!

That'll solve your predictability problems!

I don't have the ability to use attachments here I think, but I can email you the basic scenarios I've been using. Alex

#19 Aman

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Posted 08 December 2013 - 08:35 PM

Oh, and I would also put forward that a good naval game of GQ3.3 doesn't really revolve around technology - it revolves around the player / commander decisions, just like they often did in real life. If your games are repetitive or the result depends on dice rolls, the problem is the scenario.
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#20 Cpt M

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Posted 09 December 2013 - 08:54 PM

Good points all, Aman. Your analysis would make an excellent blueprint for any scenario designer.

I can only say that for IJN/USN night actions (and all night actions, for that matter), the key element is actually the game before the game; ie, the battle for detection and acquisition. I've seen games where, thanks to the dice Gods, the USN cleans out the IJN before the IJN force can lift a finger. And others where the IJN manages to launch a full multi-division torpedo attack before the USN even detects the IJN (their first inkling that the IJN was there in force was the impact of multiple Type 93s on their battleline. Not a good feeling, that!). So good scenario planning and a good GM can rectify many of the obstacles to gaming this most interesting period.




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