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

Maybe you can be provocative enough to get another war with Germany going sooner rather than later and rid yourself of this inconvenient treaty.

Maybe not the most responsible course but it would probably be more fun.

With social distancing in full swing and last week’s break, I had plenty of time for a two-year update, and it’s an eventful one.

January 1917

Four ships go into the yards for a rebuild: Tourville and Dunkerque, the two remaining Duquesnes, along with Redoubtable and Marengo, our second-generation dreadnought battleships. Per a reader note, we have the time and budget. The Duquesnes, for whatever reason, will be in for a year—perhaps being overhauled because of their age?

February 1917

Or do we?

I’ll issue the ultimatum to Italy; they’re nearby, and we can totally take them.

Tensions are high, but not to the breaking point yet. I order the rebuilding of our battleships accelerated.

March 1917

French naval engineers have managed to come up with a quality 9" gun, which means it’s time for a heavy cruiser.

Thoroughly modern-looking! We’ll have to get a few into production.

July 1917

No change on the tension situation, but with design studies now complete on the Montcalm class, the first one enters production, with the next to start in August.

August 1917

Just in time for a new ship class to enter service and most of our battleships to finish a rebuild cycle, we develop anti-aircraft guns.

October 1917

The Italians couldn’t stand our repeated provocations. War begins.

The first battle of the war: a raid on enemy coastal installations. It’s just after midday. One notable new thing is the presence of aviation elements: floatplanes from our airbase on Corsica, zeppelins from the base at Tunis (which could stand to have an airfield, I think).

Our forces are the fast battleships (ex-battlecruisers) Lyon and Marseilles, each armed with 6 15" guns and capable of 24 knots, escorted by five destroyers.

Happening upon two old armored cruisers, the Lyons, unblooded in the last war, prove their worth quickly. Seven hits on one of the Italian cruisers and eight on the other prove sufficient to sink the two old ships.

Either French gunnery or French technology has improved sufficiently to score hits dealing critical damage to the enemy at something like 20,000 yards.

The enemy fleet was out in force, however, and when the fog of war lifts at the end of the battle, we find them not too far behind us.

November 1917

The Italians decline a fleet battle—probably the right move, in view of our overwhelming superiority.

December 1917

And again, they decline a cruiser battle.

January 1918

The French fleet sorties in response to an Italian coastal raid. It’s a beautiful morning, and the enemy is in sight.

The Battle of Nice

On the field today are eight French battleships (four of which were originally battlecruisers, reclassified after their last rebuild), one battlecruiser in the scouting force, a bevy of light cruisers and destroyers, and a number of aircraft. The weather is partly cloudy with a gentle breeze out of the southwest.

10:08 a.m.

The situation is already favorable: the Italian fleet is divided, with the battlecruisers to the east of our fleet and the battleships to the south. As I recall, the Italian battleship line is slower than our own, so that’s where my focus will be at first.

… the aftermath (or is it?)

In the final reckoning, it goes down as a boring battle. The Italians are faster than we are all around. Their battle line escapes. We sink an old pre-dreadnought, exchange a lot of shells to no great effect, and turn away as the Italian fleet does the same, both battered, none reduced.

Except that’s not what happens. Overnight, on the 12-knot journey back home, we come across one of the Italian Francisco Ferruccios, which blows up in a flash fire.

Then, shooting between our scouting force and our main force comes the entire Italian battlecruiser squadron.

At 4,000 yards. At night. Into our swarm of 20-some destroyers.

The carnage is incredible. At the end of the day, all four Italian battlecruisers lie on the bottom of the Mediterranean, against zero French warships lost. Merest happenstance made it happen—the Italians, pushed to the southwest, made a high-speed run toward the coast to attempt to evade us in the night, and chanced to run right into us, at the range where our superior number of destroyers gave them no chance to escape.

February 1918

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Italy makes a historical blunder.

The month’s battle is a coastal raid; the lone French battlecruiser Rouen takes a little jaunt in toward Italy, supported by a division of three battleships, blows up a bombardment target, and returns to Nice. Another thousand victory points, nice and easy-like.

Italy being close to France, we’re actually within invasion range. We’ll target Sardinia, which would be a wonderful feather in our cap and a second unsinkable aircraft carrier in close proximity to the Italian coast.

March 1918

Evidently, the invasion planning process is faster than I had hitherto realized. It’s the early afternoon of March 29th, and we’re approaching the western coast of Sardinia with an invasion force in tow.

The Invasion of Sardinia (1:37 p.m., March 29)

I’m going to have to mark this one up a bit.

Update: I forgot to mark it up before uploading it. I’ll just have to be better at describing things.

  1. Selected: the scouting force. The battlecruiser Rouen is joined by a pair of modern light cruisers and five destroyers.

  2. West-southwest of the scouting force: the main fleet. Our three most modern battleships (Requin, sole member of her class, plus Marseilles and Marengo), along with supporting light cruisers and destroyers.

  3. South of the scouting force: the support force. Three older ships (Devastation, Tourville, and Dunkerque) serve as distant escort to six transports.

  4. Southwest of the scouting force: the invasion force. Six transports, of which four have to reach the Sardinian coast for this mission to count as a success.

  5. On the Sardinian coast: our objective marker, along with submarines assigned in support of the fleet.

New things to worry about: aerial scouting! Ordinarily, the defaults are good enough, but in this case, with the enemy’s likely approach routes well-defined, I’ll tweak things a bit to see that we catch them.

2:00 p.m.

The two forces under my direct command (the main force and the scouting force) split off to the north and east of the northeastward line of advance the transports will have. They’ll form a sort of search line, keeping the sea between them in visual range while positioning themselves to make a quick dash to the flanks if need be.

2:47 p.m.

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Aerial reconnaissance being, in 1918, rather a slow affair, our ships spot the enemy first.

3:00 p.m.

A second light cruiser appears. A search line, perhaps?

At this stage, the goal is to find and engage the enemy before dusk, after which he’ll have a much easier time of getting in among my transports. Rouen leaps forward, turbines whirring up to speed as she accelerates to her maximum 27 knots.

3:22 p.m.

What passes for the Italian battle line comes into view.

3:39 p.m.

Rouen opens fire, aiming to pass to the east of the enemy battleships, where she can keep tabs on them into the evening.

The main force closes toward gun range.

3:42 p.m.

Requin scores with her first volley.

These Italian dreadnoughts are of the Andrea Doria class, rough contemporaries with our Duquesnes. They’re armed with ten 13" guns, and can fire a maximum of eight of them broadside. Our Requin, though it only has 12" guns, mounts twelve, and can fire all twelve at a broadside target.

Armor, however, is where we really look smart. Requin has a 14" belt. The Andrea Dorias have 9.5". Even Rouen, our notional battlecruiser, is more heavily armored.

3:52 p.m.

The fleet is nearly perfectly placed for this battle, running on either side of the Italian ships at long range. Although Marengo can only make 22 knots, the rest of our fleet can keep up with or surpass the Italian dreadnoughts in speed.

4:52 p.m.

The Italian light cruisers, off to the northwest, try an attack on the battle line. We’ll see if they manage to get through the screen.

The Andrea Dorias are both down to around 10 knots now.

5:46 p.m.

One of the Andrea Dorias goes up in a flash fire. At 5:53, the other follows in the same manner.

19:22 p.m. (and overnight)

Night sees the remains of the Italian fleet scatter. We manage to find the transports, taking up station on either side to cover them through the night.

Aftermath

The invasion is in progress. Soon, hopefully, Sardinia will fall.

April 1918

The invasion doesn’t take long to bear fruit. Sardinia is ours.

May 1918

Stubbornly refusing to surrender, the Italians lose a pair of light cruisers to Rouen, who proceeds otherwise unopposed on a coastal raid.

June 1918

Well now, what’s all this about?

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And, in news concerning the unluckiest name in the French Navy…

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This is the third Lavoisier lost in combat. Who wants to skipper the next one?

July 1918

Now that CVLs are on the table, our last Gueydon class (Amiral Charner) gets a rebuild as a light aircraft carrier. Replacement machinery increases her speed to 26 knots, and she has room for an air wing of 22. She’ll be ready in a year.

Tensions are on the rise with Germany, but the sympathy of the world is with us.

August 1918

A quiet month; the Italians don’t even bother stopping a raid on their coast by a pair of light cruisers.

September 1918

The Italians move to raid the French coast, at which time the French fleet comes out to play.

In particular, Rouen comes out to play; the battlecruiser is as fast as the Italian light forces, and easily sends them to the bottom with accurate fire from her 12" guns.

October 1918

Rouen and escorts attack an Italian convoy, which is defended by a single destroyer. Thirteen merchants sink.

November 1918

Two light cruisers raid the boot of Italy, coming within about twenty miles of Taranto, sinking two corvettes and returning to Greece (also a French possession, if you’d forgotten).

There are rumors of falling morale in the Italian fleet.

We begin construction of air bases in Benghazi, Libya and Patra, Greece, which will provide coverage of the west coast of Italy.

December 1918

I put in a request to France’s aircraft manufacturers for a torpedo bomber, something to give the air fleet some teeth. After that, we’ll update the fighters. See the end of this post for some questions on aircraft design priorities.

The month’s battle is a raid on the Italian coast. Rouen takes a torpedo, but since she’s a modern warship with good torpedo protection, she’s fine. We sink the destroyer that launched it, too.

Spies deliver blueprints of one of the Italian heavy cruisers under construction: slightly superior to our own in armament, but one knot slower.

January 1919

In this last month of the update, I start planning an invasion of Eritrea, which is, I believe, the last Italian territory small enough to invade. The battle is a convoy attack, in which we sink almost the whole convoy again.

Two-Year Report: Status

21

Money is a bit tight, with the invasion of Eritrea costing about as much as a low-end heavy cruiser would, but I’m not especially concerned. The fleet is in tip-top shape. Under construction is Rouen’s sister ship, a trio of Montcalm-class heavy cruisers, one more Troude-class light cruiser, Amiral Charner’s reconstruction, and the last of a class of corvettes designed to supplement the remaining Francisques.

Our prestige is at an all-time high.

Two-Year Report: Diplomacy

Tensions with Germany are high, but when the war with Italy ends (provided Germany doesn’t jump in), they’ll reset.

Plans and Intentions

There are a few things on my list:

  1. Continue to try to find an ally. I’m not sure if there’s anything I can do on that front beyond just being nice to people.

  2. Build out our aircraft carrier capabilities.

  3. Build a new, 14" dreadnought battleship, possibly retiring the old Duquesnes or converting them to aircraft carriers, as time and budget allows.

  4. Build a new class of destroyer, mounting the recently-invented depth charge.

  5. Begin refitting older ships with anti-aircraft guns.

How should those tasks be prioritized? Should any of them be dropped? Should others be added?

I mentioned something about aircraft priorities earlier. When soliciting aircraft designs, we can pick among a number of priorities: speed, maneuverability, range, toughness, firepower, and reliability. We can further pick two to focus on. Which two should we focus on?

Thank you so much for these updates. This is the type of game I would never have the patience to learn how to play, but I love reading about them. Vive la France! I look forward to La Guerre avec L’Etats-Unis…around 1950?

Well that treaty didn’t last long! I favour a 14 inch BB since I just like the big guns. How is the range on your ships? Who is the “end boss” here? The UK or the USA?

Quarantine continues, as does the war.

February 1919

Our modern light cruiser Linois, patrolling the Mediterranean for Italian raiders, happens upon one of Italy’s ancient (1900-era) Nino Bixio light cruisers, and quickly sends it to the bottom.

March 1919

Not only does this choice give us prestige, it might keep Italy in the war long enough for our current shipyard efforts to come to fruition.

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Research has now advanced to give us the full benefit of something I’ve been doing all along (leaving off the belt end and deck end armor for weight reasons).

April 1919

Loire has a clear winner as far as torpedo bombers go: 90-knot speed, range of 77 nautical miles with a torpedo and 141 when serving as a scout. As soon as it enters service, I’ll start setting up our airbases with slightly fewer flying boats and fighters, so we can start covering the Mediterranean better.

It’s time for a new fighter prototype, too; speed and range seemed like the most broadly popular priorities.

Italian submarines sink a pair of French destroyers; we’ll have to build a few more (now with depth charges and AA guns!) when our near-term projects (a light cruiser, the Amiral Charner CVL conversion) finish.

May 1919

In a strong gale in the central Red Sea, Tourville and a trio of old light cruisers, supporting the invasion of Eritrea, attack an Italian convoy with supplies for the defending troops. The only ships the Italians have here are armed merchant cruisers; though Tourville is no longer quite the ship she once was, she’s still more than capable of sending 13 merchants to the bottom in the space of about 20 minutes.

Our torpedo bomber enters service. I start pushing it out to our various airbases. It appears that we’ve developed dive bombers as well; once the current fighter procurement process winds down, I’ll start on one of those.

June 1919

Regrettably, the war ends before the shipyards can quite clear their backlogs.

To save a bit on new destroyers, I embark rebuilding my ancient ones. The Francisques and Fauconneaus were valuable parts of my trade protection strategy; if I’m going to keep them around, I might as well spruce them up a bit.

On the matter of new ship classes, I’m going to hold off until January 1920, when oil trade becomes widespread enough for me to build oil-fired ships despite not having any oil locally.

September 1919

Loire wins again on fighters. Time to get a dive bomber design under production.

Correction: nobody’s actually figured out dive bombers yet—the aircraft types dialog lets you filter by types you can’t build, presumably so you can see other countries’ attempts at same—so that’ll have to wait.

October 1919

The very brief period of French dreadnought superiority is quickly coming to an end, since the war ended the naval treaty and the British and Germans (and Americans, for that matter) are free to kick their battleship programs back into high gear.

For example, this German ship is tremendously scary.

Light on AA, though.

March 1920

Two major inventions this month: director-controlled firing for secondary batteries and light cruisers, and dual-purpose mounts for 3" and 4" guns. The next battleship is going to be brilliant.

Named after one of our predreadnoughts, the Ocean class has 8 14" guns in two quad turrets forward (a French specialty!), better armor than her German opponents, and 26-knot speed. Her secondary guns are director-fired, dual-purpose mounts, and she mounts a number of light AA guns around her superstructure as well.

Why eight guns instead of twelve? It saves about 500 funds per month, and given that we’re very limited in our battleship construction for budgetary reasons, it makes sense to reserve a bit extra for light forces.

April 1920

The Flamberge-class, a new destroyer type, will be entering service soon, with three 4" guns, six torpedo tubes, 35-knot speed, and extra depth charge stowage.

I decide it’s about time to scrap the old Trident-class predreadnoughts; now that there are new battleships in the offing, our next few targets for conversion will be Tourville and Dunkerque.

August 1920

The first Ocean enters production, and will arrive in 32 months. Given peacetime budget constraints, we’re likely to be on a one-ship-per-class diet for some time to come.

December 1920

All quiet this year. We host an international regatta, reducing tensions, and join an international squadron sent to contain violence from a revolution in Africa, bumping our budget up somewhat.

There are seven of our new Flamberge-class destroyers in the shipyards now, along with Ocean, and we just worked out how to do purpose-built aircraft carriers. I’m going to see what I can do for a CVL design.

January 1921

Our CVLs can carry at most 34 planes, which we can do, plus anti-air guns but sans armor, for 1,800 funds a month over 20 months. That’s more aircraft at a lower cost than our Gueydon conversion.

Status

All’s well. Our budget, at 20,158 per month, is about a battleship per year below its wartime peak, and we’re 218 funds per month in the black (with seven destroyers and one battleship under construction).

Our prestige is 48, a new peak for us. Tensions are low across the board.

The fleet is in good shape. We have eight ships classified as battleships and two as battlecruisers, although I would hedge that by saying that only five of those are first-line ships now (the two Redoubtables, Requin, and the two Rouen-class battlecruisers), and the Redoubtables will be obsolescent soon. Our dreadnought ships are, however, either new or recently rebuilt, so we should have them on hand for a good little while.

We have a pair of heavy cruisers of reasonable efficiency for the first time in a while, the 27-knot, 8"-armor, 9"-gun Montcalm class.

In light cruisers, we have nine obsolete ships, largely on foreign stations, but they’re small and still relatively cheap to maintain. We have ten new-model light cruisers, with more centerline turrets and 27- or 28-knot speed. They do, however, predate anti-air armament, so we’ll have to fix that eventually.

We have one aircraft carrier at present, the converted Amiral Charner, and two seaplane carriers, Seine-et-Marne and Savigny-et-Temple. In terms of air power generally, we’re on top of the world leaderboard, with 272 fixed-wing aircaft and 24 zeppelins. We have a good network of air bases across the Mediterranean, including on Corsica and Sardinia to threaten Italy, and in Greece and Libya to contain Austria-Hungary.

Finally, we have 41 destroyers in service and 7 more coming soon. Somewhat more than half of them are modern, with speeds in excess of 33 knots, lots of torpedo tubes, and three or more guns. The remainder are recently-rebuilt old ships, which will play the corvette role in future wars.

Plans and Intentions

There are a few things we might want to consider doing as we roll into the 1920s.

  1. Expand air bases in northern France, to support the fleet in the event of a war against Britain or Germany. This plan is not likely to pay off immediately.

  2. Build a new class of gunboat-style light cruisers (or even large corvettes) to replace our obsolete foreign service cruisers. We can really pack the armament in on the centerline now, and give them dual-purpose guns so they aren’t totally helpless. Our war strategy to date has involved decisive battles in home waters, so whatever we send overseas is largely for the purpose of keeping merchants happy that we have something overseas.

  3. Rebuild our older battleships to use oil fuel, which will let us eke out a few more knots, throw in some anti-air firepower, and perhaps upgrade to better guns in some cases. Each rebuild will cost a little less than a new battleship month over month, and finish in about one-third the time. The downside is that we’ll end up with a fleet with smaller guns. The upside is that it’ll be more advanced in other ways.

  4. Continue to build new battleships. At present, our budget allows us to build one at a time, alongside some other smaller ships. It would be surprising if we get to the point where we could build two at a time without getting very close to another war.

  5. Build a CVL or two. They take about 20 months to build, cost about 1,800 funds per month (half of what a battleship does), and carry 34 planes, as mentioned above. On the downside, they’re vulnerable to air attack themselves, and the Mediterranean is full of unsinkable aircraft carriers (i.e., islands).

So, what should we make our priority for the next few years? Something from the list above? Something else entirely?

  1. Medium, generally.
  2. The UK is a traditional foe, but I’d settle for continental domination.

Very I teresting. How hard would it be to push for armored aircraft carriers and air superiority? Just push for an end to the dreadnought era.

There are two obstacles to ending the dreadnought era that I don’t think we’ve quite surmounted yet.

First, aircraft hauling torpedoes and heavy bombs (heavy in this case being maybe 500lb if we’re lucky) only have two or three times as much range as naval guns right now. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for error in carrier captaining.

Second, tactics aren’t quite there yet. Carriers won’t operate as part of an independent force until we unlock that technology, so even if they have high speed, they’ll be tied down to our battle line.

Yeah range is worth a lot in a carrier aircraft. I’d sacrifice both combat power and speed for it. It’s a large part of what made the zero so great, and was about the only redeeming quality the Fairey Fulmar had.

Guess we’ll still be needing the battlewagons for a bit then ;-)

Patiently fidgeting over here for more updates.

Thanks so much for this, it has been a great read so far!

Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad people are enjoying it.

Even since my last long-running, text-and-pictures Let’s Play two years ago, the format seems to have almost completely died out. The Bay12 Games forum was my go-to for a long time, and there would be ten or twenty going at once. Now, in the midst of a quarantine, there are maybe four. Bit of a shame. Especially for games like Rule the Waves, where it’s entirely possible that nothing happens for two or three hours at a stretch, streaming doesn’t make much sense to me.

Yeah I am much, much happier to read a nice AAR (like yours!) than watch someone play, but it seems like it’s becoming a lost art.

Right, after pay day, I’ve splashed out on this. How long does it take for the key to come through once you send the email?

(At least it’s better than the activation system Norm Kroger’s Jutland and the Russo-Japanese War one used)

I got mine two days after I sent the email.

It’s not as awful an activation system as some, but it’s still pretty awful. RTW1 worked fine on my Linux laptop with Wine. RTW2 is a no-go there, and I’m pretty much sure the copy protection is the only reason why.

Just echoing the same: naval warfare is not my personal grognardy cup of tea, but I’m hugely enjoying this AAR - especially the strategic thinking behind the longer term decisions and the weighing of alternatives.

Thanks for the efforts!

I am also enjoying this. I haven’t been posting as much with the more recent updates, but my main “advice” remains the same: moar battleships!

Mine is Flight of the Valkyries!

Aka push for air superiority over air targets.

i got my key in less than 24 hours about a month ago.

I have been enjoying this AAR also, thanks!

an we (have we) built floatplane carriers? Having some eyes in the sky is pretty nice.

Two previously. I think they’ve shown up in a battle or two. One, I believe, in the forthcoming Thursday update.

It was a quiet two years, so I think I might try a fleet exercise as a wrapup—pit our aircraft carrier against an older battleship, see what happens.