Vive la France: Let's Play Rule the Waves 2

The nights are long, it’s cold outside, and I’m almost done with my Christmas choir obligations, so it’s time for some winter wargaming.

This year’s selection is Rule the Waves 2. We’ll be playing France, for its interesting position astride the border between Europe (where Germany and Britain vie for naval supremacy) and the Mediterranean (where there are a bunch of second-rate powers to beat up on), and the chip on its shoulder in re: Britain and naval matters.

I like to do some audience participation in these, so I’ll bold occasional decision points throughout posts.

My plan is to post one update a week, each covering about two years of game time, which means a full game (from 1900 to 1955) will take us into summer. I’ll aim to have the updates posted on Thursday, so I can play a little over the weekend and write in the evenings thereafter.

In Rule the Waves 2, France has neither serious perks nor serious drawbacks. We do get two bonus techs (Hardened AP penetrator, which just finished researching, and Quadruple Turrets, which is a decade or two down the road—bonus tech just means we have a good chance of getting it early). Our budget ranks third or fourth, after Britain, Germany, and sometimes the US. We have a moderate budgetary edge over the Italians (but more overseas colonies where we’ll have to station creaking, dilapidated armored cruisers years past their best-by date), and a serious edge over the creaking, dilapidated Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Looking north, we come to the Germans, among our historical foes, and the English, also among our historical foes. In the real-world timeline, England began making overtures to France not long after the present game date, as a way to counterbalance Germany. An alliance north of France, one way or another, might keep us safe from the other party, but might also drag us into wars we don’t really want.

I guess Russia is also up there, but in a game about naval warfare, European Russia might as well be on the moon. (In the real-world timeline, France and Russia are allied, so they aren’t among the six opponents the game chooses to simulate for us.)

Looking west, we have the United States. We don’t have any reason to mess with them, and the only place where we have the bases to plausibly do so is Southeast Asia.

Speaking of which, looking east, we have Southeast Asia, where we’re a major player. Japan is an obvious threat out that way, given that Southeast Asia is their backyard. The Americans, who hold the Philippines, also have interests out there.

Time for the first decision. Where do we focus our strategic interests? In the Mediterranean is my preference, but I could also see convincing arguments for expanding our presence in Africa or the Far East. Relatedly, how hawkish should we be? In Rule the Waves as in real life, it’s much easier to get money appropriated for the Navy when using it is in the cards, but actually having to use it means we might lose parts of it, and if the part of the

Before I get too far ahead of myself, though, let’s take a look at our starting fleet, custom-built according to the theory that France has historically produced some unusual warships.

If you don’t want to zoom in on that, it’s four battleships of the La République class, four armored cruisers of the Gueydon class, five light cruisers of the Tage class, and 16(ish?) destroyers of the Fauconneau class in active service. Under construction, we have another La République, another Gueydon, three Tages, and two Fauconneaus.

Because our ships are built nearly to the limits of our dockyards’ capabilities, we have fewer of them than other nations. We have four battleships, while Italy has seven, Britain has nine, and the Germans have 10 with another four under construction. Our four armored cruisers put us ahead of the Italians, but we lag them in light cruisers and destroyers, although the Tages under construction will change that.

The Austro-Hungarians have less than half the battleship tonnage we do.

The La Républiques (Les Républiques?) are fast by the standard of pre-dreadnoughts, at a design speed of 20 knots, and well-armed with 13-inch guns. That’s enough to outrun and outshoot their historical British counterparts in the Duncan class, although they give up a bit in terms of armor.

The Gueydons are oddball ships. They’re relatively fast at 23 knots, and their range and internal accommodations support colonial operations. They have about the armor you would expect for the class and era. The strange part is the gun layout. Rather than the usual four 9" or 10" guns and broadside casemate 5" or 6" guns, they have an all-medium-gun layout: twelve 7" guns in six double turrets, with a broadside of 8 guns and a fore or aft throw of 6. They also feature three torpedo tubes underwater.

Time will tell if the unusual armament layout is a success or a failure.

The Tages are also strange, with turreted 5" guns fore and aft, and broadside 4" guns in casemates, along with torpedo tubes. They’re lightly armored, and only slightly faster than the Gueydons at 24 knots. (That’s still faster than contemporary light cruisers, though.) Their armament is a bit lighter than their peers’, but their armor is heavier.

The first and only one of our starting ship classes which is notably slower than its contemporaries, the Fauconneaus make up for it with a few extra torpedo launchers.

Decision point #2: where do we focus our shipbuilding efforts? Is France to build a mighty battleship fleet to crush the Italians and the Austro-Hungarians? Should we focus on cruisers to scour the trade lanes in the event of war? Are submarines, destroyers, and torpedoes worth our time? Is there anything in particular we ought to build right now, or should be build a nest egg for when research begins to pay off? Bear in mind, building a battleship is about a two-year endeavor.

That decision also influences our research priorities. Should we change any of them for now?

Finally, finances and diplomacy. Tensions are low right now, and our budget is in near-perfect balance. At 6%, our research spending is a little low. It might be wise to increase that, as ships come off the ways and money becomes available.


That’s all for this first update. This being Christmas week, I’ll plan to do the next update the first Thursday in 2020.

This is a game (game series now I guess) I’ve been interested in but never got around to buying. I’ll look forward to following along.

Speaking as someone with no experience with this game, I’d lean to focusing on the Mediterranean, bullying Italy and Austria-Hungary a bit to establish dominance. Africa is interesting too. I think I’d try to lock down the Mediterranean while making smaller excursions to Africa and shift toward it as the Mediterranean stabilizes to contain British presence there. My concern with focusing on East Asia and the Pacific is the distance. It seems suboptimal to have large fleets on opposite sides of the world. If/when war with Britain or Germany breaks out, I’d rather have the bulk of my forces close so as not to be caught spread thin, especially since their navies are more powerful.

I’ll leave decision point #2 to people with more experience with the game. That said, it stings a bit that Italy has more battleships.

Ooh, following.

The Italians should know of the French Elan! I would say belligerence towards Austria as well, except I don’t know how much that profits. Nominally Italy has colonial possessions with which to take or prevent them from acquiring. Austria only exists to justify more budget.

Being conciliatory towards England and Germany at this point seems wise.

As for ship focus, the cruisers are intriguing. Focusing on strength, and giving us more colonial capable forces. I guess it depends on the opportunity cost, how many cruisers is a battleship worth, in time and resources. I’d imagine there is more good from a greater number of fast cruisers than a few battleships, especially with the lag.

Build them up once better models become available.

A Gueydon is slightly more expensive than a La République, as it happens, presumably on the basis of the larger powerplant and the larger number of turrets. An armored cruiser costs us around 2300 per month and a battleship about 2000.


Since some of you seem to have played this extensively, how is it?!

Wargamers are less sensitive to lack of fancy graphics & etc, but wow this really looks like you’re playing a Windows spreadsheet with an occasional side of encyclopedia illustrations. Much more so than Command, which can sometimes be similar.

This review has me somewhat concerned as well:

Any thoughts or recommendations?

Thanks as always,

The original Rule the Waves was awesome. Yes, the strategic layer looks like a Windows 3.1 shareware business app. But the interface does what it needs to, the tactical layer is solid, and there’s really no other games like it. Highly recommended if you can deal with wargame jank at all.

Don’t know much about RTW2, but guess we’re about to find out in this thread!

That’s a great recommendation, thanks!

Also considering getting RTW (original) for now instead because it’s (a) cheaper (b) feature / patch complete after a few years of development © DOESN’T have the dumb activation and single-computer lock-in that RTW2 seems to have.


The only thing you gain from RTW2 is an extension of the endgame from 1925 to 1955. If you’re in it for the battleships, there’s not really much reason to spring for 2, especially if the DRM bothers you more than you like the idea of aircraft carriers.

I’d say focus on the Med and beating up weaker powers if you can. I wouldn’t build more battleships with current tech as they go obsolete so quickly at the start. Maybe some cruisers or destroyers as they can efficiently be shuffled off to colonial service.

Also try to build a nest egg to build dreadnaughts or possibly semi-dreads as they become available. You can’t save too much though or they start to question why you budget is so high.

Thanks for doing this! If you don’t mind, could you sprinkle in here and there some points about where the simulation is rougher vs more detailed, and any decisions that result from it? I know next to nothing about the game but I’m curious.

Also, someone refresh my memory–the Dreadnought was when, 1905?

Does it handle that well? The progress from 1900-era ships to WWII-era ships seems significant enough that I kind of doubt the same system could do an adequate job managing both. Considering that this game looks fairly deep rather than abstract.

Got it in one!

I’ll attempt to keep your request in mind, but I am massively forgetful. Fair warning.

It seems to. Surface combatants did change an awful lot between 1900 and 1955, but the changes were, at the level Rule the Waves simulates, evolutionary. (Radar shows up in the early 1940s, but is essentially just longer-range spotting with some caveats. Missiles show up at the very end of the game, but they weren’t patched in the last time I played to the end of the game.)

Otherwise, it’s a matter of engines getting smaller and lighter for the same horsepower, fire control improving, guns and turret designs getting better, and so on. The ships I design even 20 years in are going to be almost unrecognizable compared to the ones we have now.

No worries! Anything you can throw in about basics of the game would be appreciated. On the other hand, lots of folks here seem to be familiar with the game so maybe it would just be a distraction for most.

I’m in the same boat here.

Same boat! Haha!

This is probably a dumb question, but:

Can one actually win a game of rtw 1 / 2, or is it a matter of not losing until time runs out?

I’ve read the manual for rtw but only really saw mention of ways to directly lose. The game vs a particular war I mean,


Technically speaking, the goal of the game is to collect prestige. The more prestige you have at the end of the game, the grander a ship will be named after you once after retirement.

That’s kind of the core tension of the game. You’re playing an individual, whose goal is glory. You’re not playing the nation. So your interests don’t necessarily align with that of the country, since a) your goal is to leech off as big part of the national budget as you can, whether the country needs a big fleet or not, b) you need to steer the country into some wars, since there’s only so much glory to be had from competently running a peacetime navy.

That sounds


Interesting, but at the same time seems more like a board-game convention vs. a typical computer game design.

Maybe that’s the charm, though?

Thanks again,