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

It’s not uncommon in the computer wargame space, at least in my experience, which is a way of saying the same thing you did. “How many victory points do I have at Date X?” is an old classic.

Hm, I didn’t realize this. I like it, though. Reminds me of, I think, STAVKA-OKH, where you play a general and have to manage the tension of wanting your side to win the war, but also not doing too much less you be tried as a war criminal or purged as a threat to Stalin.

Before diving into the month-by-month update structure to which Rule the Waves 2 lends itself, I realized based on some comments last week that I haven’t explained what Rule the Waves 2 is.

Rule the Waves 2 is a strategy wargame which covers, in roughly equal parts, the design and development of warships between 1900 and 1955, and battles using those ships. The two most important parts of the game are the ship design screen (which you’ve seen a few times already in the first entry in this series, and which you will see twice more today) and the battle interface (which has not yet come up). The strategic layer which glues the two together is primarily there to create reasons to design ships and to start wars in which the ships get used.

That’s pretty much the long and short of it. The game advances in one-month turns; battles play out in one-minute real-time simulation steps.

June 1900

Back to the game. Two fresh destroyers come down the ways, and our spies uncover details on a new class of Italian armored cruiser. Not much to worry about.

Much slower and much lighter than ours.

August 1900

Unlike historical France, this is not a democracy, but the weight of public opinion nevertheless leans toward bullying the Mediterranean. Another fellow is doing a Rule the Waves France playthrough right now, and is also bullying the Mediterranean. It seems to be working, but I also hate to be a copycat. I think we’ll keep our eye mainly on the Mediterranean, but we won’t disdain the chance to expand in Southeast Asia if it falls before us. (At the behest of a blog commenter—I’m running this in three places with three relatively active audiences, if I hadn’t mentioned that already.)

With an eye toward Mediterranean domination, the bulk of the navy moves to Marseilles. A squadron of destroyers stays on the northern coast.

October 1900

October sees a handy event. The Prime Minister makes a gaffe, so we exploit it for more money. This has the side effect of bringing war with Italy nearer, but with the increased budget, I order another Tage-class and push our research spending to the maximum permissible 12%. Worth it.

December 1900

A new government decides to raise expenditures on armaments. That’s good news for us. We lay down a new La République, to be named Suffren.

January 1901

The Gueydon-class cruiser Bruix enters service. Replacing her on the build list is one light cruiser and three destroyers.

Light cruisers are particularly important elements of the fleet. They serve as our eyes in fleet battles, typically deployed in an umbrella ahead of the battle line. Given the speed of our battleships and the size of their guns, holding our preferred range is important, and a robust scouting force of fast light cruisers will let us do that.

February 1901

Parliament votes to cut naval spending, upending our carefully-planned budget. We have enough of a cushion to run a deficit until some ships finish building, however, so that’s what we’ll do.

March 1901


A breakthrough in ship design! We can now build semi-dreadnoughts, ships with secondary batteries not dramatically smaller than their primary batteries.

That brings us into approximately the semi-dreadnought era. Pre-dreadnought battleships, with a small battery of heavy guns and a larger battery of quick-firing medium ones ones, were predicated on the idea that naval gunnery at long ranges was not possible. You had your big guns to punch through heavy armor, and a good number of smaller guns to wreck your target’s upper works and superstructure as the range closed, keeping up a high rate of fire.

Early on in the 20th century, advancements in rangefinding and fire control proved that this was not the case. Since your big guns could hit targets at long range, it made less and less sense to carry a lot of middleweight guns when you could instead spend that weight on your heavy ones, and deliver knockout blows from further away from your enemies. This update to the received wisdom on shipbuilding ultimately produced the dreadnought battleship.

The technological capability to build ships with, say, three centerline turrets with 12" guns existed in 1900, but doctrine had not yet caught up. While most of the technologies we’ll develop in Rule the Waves are actually technological advancements, some (in particular, in the Ship Design tree) represent the development of new ways of thinking. We, as players with some historical knowledge, know that the dreadnought battleship is the way of the future, but our 1901-era French have not yet hit upon that idea, so the game sticks some limits on us to force us to stay in character.

April 1901

Spies report that the Italians have also figured out the heavy secondary battery. We’re keeping an eye on their shipbuilding, but they haven’t laid down any new battleships just yet. It appears they’re focusing on their wimpy armored cruisers.

May 1901

More intelligence reports from Italy: they’ll be commissioning a new light cruiser just after the New Year, and their current light cruiser class has a speed of 21 knots and belt armor of two inches. Their armor is heavier than our light cruisers’, but they can barely outrun our battleships, and our armored cruisers could easily run them down and have a massive firepower advantage.

Our Gueydons slot into the hierarchy of naval warfare right around where battlecruisers do a decade later. Battlecruisers made armored cruisers obsolete, by dint of their higher speed and heavy main armament—a battlecruiser could easily catch and outshoot an armored cruiser, and could easily outrun a battleship (whose armor tilts the fight in favor of itself).

The Gueydons to light cruisers are like battlecruisers will be to armored cruisers, in that they’re excellent light cruiser hunters—faster than other armored cruisers with heavier guns, faster than most light cruisers, and much more heavily armed. Too, as someone pointed out, they’ll make great experimental aircraft carriers someday.

One year in, the Italians have nearly caught up to us in naval budget. We’re closing the battleship gap, but won’t have our sixth ship until 1903. They’re building more armored cruisers, but ours are heavier.

June 1901

We may not get the chance to catch up, though. Italy looks to be making waves in Greece.


The Italians back down, but tensions rise.

July 1901

With tensions between France and Italy running high, we skip hosting an international regatta in favor of keeping the budget focused on shipbuilding.

The Italians raise their naval budget again.

August 1901

We catch a German spy. I briefly debate using the occasion to push for a higher budget, but decide instead to sweep it under the rug. Tangling with Germany would be unpleasant.

September 1901

A disarmament conference in the Hague ends with no concrete results, to my satisfaction.

October 1901

One light cruiser and three destroyers enter service.

We send a force to quell an uprising in China, which increases tension, but also raises the prestige of the French Navy.

One concrete suggestion from a reader was a cheaper (that is, expendable) class of light cruiser for commerce raiding. Enter the Chateaurenault class:

At 2800 tons, it’s a little more than half the displacement of our Tages. It doesn’t sacrifice much speed—at 23 knots, it’s still one of the faster light cruisers in current production, at least that I’m aware of—but has lighter armament and armor. It’s much cheaper than the Tages, too, so we can bulk out our fleet of light cruisers more quickly.

December 1901


Thanks to the newspapers, we get a little budget bump. Design studies on the Chateaurenault class are finished, so we order two with some of our current excess.

January 1902

Spies recently dispatched to America to see what one of the big-spender naval powers is up to bore their first fruit this month, giving us a blueprint for an American armored cruiser of the San Diego class. It isn’t much to write home about. The Gueydons remain clearly superior in weaponry, speed, and armor, as you might expect from ships with an extra 5,000 tons displacement or so.

It’s a good month for the French intelligence services generally. We hear that the Americans are building a Raleigh-class light cruiser with 3" main guns, outmatched by even our cheap light cruisers. Austria-Hungary has commissioned two armored cruisers this month, and Italy has improved its armor-piercing shells.

February 1902

Spies recently dispatched to America now bear negative fruit. One of them gets caught.

As a consolation prize, we invent a number of new technologies this month, reducing the weight of our ship’s hulls and machinery and allowing us to build ships with secondary batteries in double turrets. Ocean, a La République, is coming off the ways in three months. I smell a new battleship design to take her place.

March 1902

The Japanese wish to buy a technology from us. I decide to sell it, given that we’ll shortly be paying the design expenses on a new battleship design.

Well, since we are paying the design expenses on a new battleship design.

The Trident-class battleship features the same four-gun 13" main battery as the older Les Républiques, backed by a pair of two-gun 12" wing turrets in the secondary battery. 12 4" guns in turrets provide defense against small craft. Their armor protects them against their own guns between at least 5,000 and 9,000 yards, and possibly further out or in.

Finally, they have a 22-knot speed, practically unheard-of in this era. Even the real-world HMS Dreadnought, still four years off, only managed 21, and that was with turbines rather than the triple-expansion engines we’re rocking.

Anyway, the upshot is that sufficiently fast heavy ships render armored cruisers obsolete, so there’s no real reason to build more Gueydons.

That brings us to a decision point. The Tridents are the largest ships we can build in our current docks. Should we focus on building a shipyard expansion or two over the next two years, building one Trident at a time, or build out the fleet more quickly by building two Tridents at once? A shipyard expansion costs 2,000 per month, I believe, so at this point in our game history, it’s just about equivalent to one battleship.

April 1902

Just as we prepare to render the armored cruiser obsolete, the monthly intelligence report indicates that Austria-Hungary, Great Britain, Japan, and Italy have either laid down or commissioned armored cruisers this month. Our spies in America steal the blueprints for another San Diego-class, which is of limited use to us given that we saw the same blueprint in January.

May 1902

The La République-class battleship Ocean is commissioned. One year from today, the last La République, Suffren, will join the fleet. Next month, the design studies on the Trident type will finish, and we can start producing one of those.

French researchers have developed reliable bursting charges, which will enhance the damage of penetrating hits. A trade mission to Great Britain yields important results: we developed the technology to build coastal submarines. Finally, we learned how to make 600-ton destroyers. A new design there will be in the offing early in the next entry. Speaking of, should we spend our small-ships budget on new destroyers or on some submarines? The coastal submarine design will work well for us, given our focus on the Mediterranean; each submarine costs a little more than half as much per month as the Fauconneau destroyers do (although the Fauconneaus are cheaper in absolute terms, taking fewer months to build).

The intelligence report is very busy this month: Germany commissions a pair of destroyers and a pair of battleships, Great Britain is concerned about its naval superiority and has increased its spending. (That’s their national special ability. Ours? Our government frequently changes its mind on fleet priorities. C’est la vie…) Italy has laid down a pair of light cruisers, but between what we have in service and what we have under construction, we still have a better light cruiser fleet.

Japan has at least two classes of armored cruiser in progress right now, one with 10" main guns and another with a 20-knot speed and a 5" armor belt, both of which are entirely outclassed by even our existing battleships, to say nothing of our future designs.

Two-Year Report: Diplomacy


Tensions continue to run high with Italy, our most likely foe in the next few years. Despite our efforts, the Austro-Hungarians continue to view us as friends.

Britain and Germany, the two do-not-touch powers, aren’t our biggest fans, but also don’t seem to have much motivation to come after us.

Two-Year Report: The Fleet

Here are the Mediterranean Current Naval Tonnage and Planned Naval Tonnage Rankings. Italy has about a battleship’s lead over us presently in the latter category, with the situation flipped in the former.


  1. FR 190,700
  2. IT 179,600
  3. AH 128,600


  1. IT 238,300
  2. FR 222,100
  3. AH 164,100

Italy still holds a lead in battleship tonnage, and will continue to do so until at least one Trident enters service (which is two years and five months out from when we lay the first one down).

Their lead in the Planned Naval Tonnage category stems from a heavy investment in armored cruisers, to match the Austro-Hungarian plan. Should we could consider a class of inexpensive armored cruisers to match them? Compared to a Trident (which takes 29 months to build and costs about 2100 funds per month), a hypothetical 22-knot cruiser with 9" main guns, a 5.5" belt, and a turreted 5" secondary battery would take 22 months to build and cost about 1,500 funds per month. That’s a little more than our current class of large light cruisers per month, and five months longer. These cruisers would be armed slightly below the standard of their peers, but armored similarly, and would have a speed advantage of a knot or two. I lean against the idea, myself, given that we have a fast class of battleship and a light cruiser class suitable for commerce raiding, but I figured I’d put it on the table.

Under construction right now, we have one La République, which will be finished in 11 months, a pair of Tages, which will finish between one and four months from now, and a pair of Chateaurenaults, which are about a year away, in addition to a single Fauconneau.

Our current budget surplus is 2,120 funds per month, which will be put into a Trident as soon as the design study finishes next month. Out of our total budget of 15,100 per month, maintenance on the fleet costs us 4,652 and construction costs us 6,315.

Don’t forget, when answering, that shipyard expansions are also on the table as options for spending our money.

Great to see this again, thanks!

Another game question: you’re focusing on the Italians, your rival in the Mediterranean, but of course they were French allies in 1914. How historically does the game play out? On a related note, is there a possibility of being defeated on land, regardless of the navy (eg 1940)?

I have no idea what the right strategy is, so probably don’t listen to me, but since you asked: my vote is for more battleships! As many as you can afford! More guns! Bigger guns! Vive la France!

Hardly historically at all, except in the narrow dimension of plausible warship designs.

Yes, although land war is largely abstracted out. In particular, I don’t think a France/Germany war would play out like it has historically, where naval combat was a sideshow
—Rule the Waves (2) is a game about the navy, so the navy is in the spotlight. You can lose a war if it drags on too long, but absent your contributions wars are generally pretty balanced.

Makes sense given the focus of the game–would be silly if you spent all this time working on a sweet BB fleet and the game was like “sorry, there was this blitzkrieg thing, game over”.

What is the likelihood that you will be at war with Italy, and how soon? Is it pretty random?

More or less random, yeah, but relatively likely in the next two to four years. As time goes on, we’ll get events which add more tension (and typically more budget), and nations with whom you have high tension already are prime candidates for such events.

A brief addendum, since tensions are running high with Italy: what should our diplomatic strategy be? And, if it comes to that, what should our war strategy be?

On diplomacy: are we ready for a war with Italy? If so, should we aim for starting one soon? We have an advantage in naval tonnage right now, but some of ours is tied up waving the flag in overseas possessions, and the Italians are building more. In another two years, we’ll be much closer on battleship tonnage, but the Italians likely will have launched a bunch more armored cruisers. (Granted, armored cruisers that aren’t appreciably faster than our battleships, and apt to get wrecked if they show up to a fight with the battleships.)

If we decide to avoid war, should we accept budget cuts to do so, or aim to limit tensions only insofar as it doesn’t hurt our future plans?

On war: should war break out, how should we approach it? We’ll probably have some submarines at some point. Should we push commerce raiding? We have a lot of fast cruisers and, for that matter, fast battleships. Commerce raiding leads to more single-ship and small-group actions, where our superior individual designs will weigh more heavily, as well as providing victory points in its own right. Or, should we aim for a fleet battle? Our ships are fast, and since our battle line has heavy secondary batteries, we can control the range and fight from outside the enemy’s effective secondary battery range while our own can still be brought to bear.

Let’s get right to it.

June 1902

Lalande, a Tage, joins the navy, scientists invent the six-foot rangefinder, and naval engineers work out that double bottoms are a good plan (stolen from the Americans).

Strikes delay the construction of Suffren by one month.

Jeers from the naval engineering community lead the Ministère de la Marine to hastily release a slightly more traditional design, with 12" main guns and six 10" secondaries. It loses 200 tons and gains a bit of extra armor in the bargain.

Designers play around with some armored cruiser designs, but the naval community eventually rejects the idea.

July 1902


An opportunity arises to hack off our other Mediterranean neighbors. With the budget increase, I lay down another pair of Chateaurenaults, for a total of four under construction.

Italy commissions one of the armored cruisers our spies stole the details of, and invents the early coastal submarine.

August 1902

In response to our hacking off, Austria-Hungary increases its naval spending.

Italy is building more coastal batteries in the Mediterranean, a 6" and an 11". The latter might someday cause us trouble.

Coastal batteries might be worth investing in at some point—not for the guns themselves, but because, I believe, the amount of coastal fortification you have increases the extent and density of your defensive minefields.

September 1902

We lay down Trident, first of her class. Linois (a light cruiser) and Epieu (a destroyer) enter service.

October 1902

Tensions with Italy are at the breaking point. War is likely, if any events go in such a fashion as to push us any further.

Italy’s naval budget goes up, and they lay down another armored cruiser.

Our budget, annoyingly, goes slightly down.

November 1902


January 1903

We completed research into improved face-hardening, which will improve our future ships’ armor.

March 1903

The new naval minister wants 15 destroyers under construction, and is willing to bump the budget a bit to achieve that, so I take the deal.

April 1904


April 1904: Battle of Crete

The first sea action of la Marine nationale opens on a calm April morning in overcast weather, as the Italians happen upon a French cruiser squadron steaming west-southwest Crete. Visibility should be excellent.

On our side are the two Gueydons based in the Mediterranean, Bruix and Montcalm, six Tages, and seven Fauconneaus. Italy has more cruisers than that in this region, but it remains to be seen how many will come out to play. The sun is rising behind us, which gives our ships a bit of an edge if a battle happens early.

In the event that it looks bad, our squadron, with a speed of 23 knots, should be able to outrun the Italians, the only difficulty being the relative lack of sea room here in the Middle Sea.


The light cruisers assigned to scouting fan out for a better view.


The light cruiser Lalande spots a ship ahead. I order a turn to the north-northwest to avoid closing too quickly.


The light cruisers spot a half dozen ships. I increase the squadron’s speed to 20 knots and pull the scouting force in to screen the armored cruisers.

Two minutes later, Lalande identifies one of the light cruisers as a Salerno class. It bristles with small-caliber guns.


The light cruisers begin to identify the Italian battle line, which looks to comprise at least four armored cruisers. The squadron stays at 20 knots, pending identification, but we’re probably running.


Another Italian light cruiser is identified as part of the Nino Bixio class, which is a Salerno without dual-purpose guns.

One minute later, wireless signals from a light cruiser identify one of the enemy ships as a Carlo Alberto-class armored cruiser.

Because the Italians accepted a lower speed, their cruisers get more guns. Because we decided on a higher speed, we don’t need to face them, and Bruix leads Montcalm in a turn east, in pursuit of the better part of valor.


It’s the right move. Look at that swarm of slow, poorly-armored cruisers!


This, however, is quite a light cruiser. 6600 tons, 10 6" guns? Wild. At least it’s slow.


The Italian battle line cruises past our stern and turns away. The heavy cruisers come about to see if we can’t maybe dispose of a shadowing light cruiser before they come back.


The red circles represent the range of our cruisers’ main batteries. The larger gray circles represent the edge of their visual range.

I was wary of some manner of trap, but the only ships we can see are the two light cruisers ahead of us, which will shortly be in range. I’m still prepared to run if the rest of the Italian squadron makes an appearance, but it’s looking like we might draw first blood.


Lalande is the first to open fire.


The two Italian light cruisers are joined by a third.

Also, it takes us nearly an hour to score a hit: Lalande lands a blow from about 5500 yards.


The Italian cruiser turns away from its allies, and our fleet sets off in pursuit.


Regrettably, the Salerno-class target is still alive three hours after the first shot, though burning and badly damaged.


With the Italian cruiser dead in the water, our ships take one more run past it to ensure it goes under, and depart to the west.


The scenario ends, as our ships and the enemy’s are far apart. La Marine nationale acquitted itself relatively well in the face of a superior force, escaping serious damage and sinking an enemy ship.

Bruix won the gunnery medal for the day, with a 2.25% hit rate.

April 1903 (cont’d)

The war cancels the naval minister’s ambition for more destroyers, but a new class is in order anyway. These new Francisques don’t sacrifice anything from the preceding Fauconneaus, and have a two-knot speed advantage on them.

Time for wartime dispositions. The Gueydons in the Mediterranean are made commerce raiders. Because of their speed, they’re practically invincible unless caught entirely off guard.

A pair of Chateaurenaults are coming next month. They’ll go on trade protection for a few months, relieving two Tages currently filling that role, until some corvettes currently under construction can take over.

May 1903

A bevy of technologies arrive this month, but none of them are dramatic improvements—lots of slow-and-gradual stuff.

The Italians raid the Northern European coast with three armored cruisers. Three destroyers sally to meet them, but the two forces don’t meet.

Because we don’t have any armored cruisers, the Italians win a bunch of dominance-of-the-sea victories around the Mediterranean. (If the game thinks a battle should happen and one side can’t field appropriate forces, the other side wins by default, as though the under-equipped side had declined battle.) Our commerce raiders and evasion of their coastal raid earn us about the same number of victory points, and in this second month of the war, the tally is 751-623 for the home team.

On the upside, the Chauteaurenault class exceeds its design speed in trials, and hits the same 24-knot mark our existing light cruisers do.

June 1903


Well now. I can live with those odds.

June 1903: The Battle of Bordighera

A leisurely five-hour cruise from Toulon, we encounter the enemy fleet at 8:18 p.m., on a southwesterly course.

The enemy battleships almost immediately turn away.


After a half an hour of ineffective firing, darkness falls over the Mediterranean.

I’m of a mind to push onward toward the Italian fleet. We have a huge speed advantage, are evenly matched in guns, and have more destroyers (since we’re operating close to our bases). Night fights are bloody, but I think we can make something out of this one.



Running side-by-side with a trio of perhaps-cruisers-perhaps-battleships at 4,000 yard, Solferino, La République, and Magenta score hit after hit on one of them.


The Italians bug out toward La Spezia, having dealt some damage to our battleships, and taken some in return. All told, not a bad little battle. La République had a bit of a scare losing electric power and then catching fire, but got both problems under control by 11:30 p.m.

The damage tally calls it a marginal Italian victory. I believe it’s on the strength of Italian gunnery—we scored a lot of hits, but most of them were with the secondary and tertiary batteries on the battleships. The Italians did better with their heavy guns.

July 1903

The government is asking whether to seek peace. I figure we’ll let it go a while longer—they aren’t that far ahead, and we’ll have some submarines joining the fight soon.

July’s battle is a convoy fight. We have a three-ship battle division, three light cruisers, and a bevy of destroyers. Conditions are good, with a moderate breeze, and the sun is high overhead.

Italy brings a similar force: three battleships, a pair of armored cruisers, and some destroyers.

As before, the red circle is the selected squadron’s gun range, and the gray circle is what it can see. Battle Division 5, the lead squadron in the battle line, is selected. Because Light Cruiser Division 10 is out in front of the fleet a little ways, I can still see the transports making their way east by south.

As you probably can’t make out, it’s a tense situation. Let’s break it down a bit.

First, as I mentioned, it’s a daylight battle, so I can’t rely on sunset to mask my convoy from the depredations of the Italian squadron. Second, and of equal importance, the Italians have two squadrons which could seriously threaten the convoy: the battleship squadron, center-left in the picture above, and a cruiser squadron, to their battleships’ southeast.

At the moment of this screenshot, the two battleship squadrons are having an ineffectual gunnery duel—at that range, around 6,000 yards, nobody really expects to hit much. That fight is happening about 30,000 yards west of the transports; I let the Italians pull me off of the convoy, since their cruisers were shadowing their battleships. Eventually, the cruisers peeled off and headed back for the convoy, at which point the speed of the French battle line paid off—we could make it back to the convoy quickly enough to prevent the Italians from doing very much damage to it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take many pictures of what was by far the most exciting battle to date. The Italians did heavy damage to one of our destroyers, but we did more damage to their ships generally than they did to ours, and they’ll likely be in the dockyards for a month or two.

Rumors of war-weariness and protests reach our spies in Rome.

August 1903

Another fleet battle off the south of France. This time, the Italians bring six battleships to our four (two are in for maintenance). OUt fleet exchanges desultory fire with the Italian van, then falls back on the minefields at Toulon.

September 1903

The French fleet launches a raid on Italian coastal shipping. Unfortunately, before the sixty-mile seach line comes upon any merchants, it comes upon an Italian cruiser squadron, quickly reverses course, and makes it back to the French coast with no losses, briefly stopping to bombard a shore battery.

October 1903

We decline a cruiser action in the northwestern Mediterranean, and accept a battleship brawl in the early morning of the 17th.

This one looks more favorable than most: the ships involved are four French battleships against, by all appearances, two Italian battleships and three armored cruisers.

On closer inspection, it appears the ratio is flipped: two armored cruisers and three battleships. Still not bad odds, and the Italians have turned to run for it.

Not all of the Italians make it. The most reliable weapons on our Les Républiques (the 5" tertiary guns) slow down one light cruiser enough for our ships to fall on it. A second Italian light cruiser appears to the south of our force as we’re leaving the battlefield. Quick thinking by your admiral, who detaches a light cruiser squadron to run down this second target, wins the day.

After seven months of war, the tally stands at 2,774-2,732, just barely in favor of the home team.

With some of our cash cushion, French shipyards work on kitting out a pair of armed merchant cruisers to raid Italian shipping.

November 1903

The Italian fleet sorties on the 5th, and at 10:46 a.m., the French fleet is there to meet it. It’s the whole French fleet this time, too, all six battleships.

Although the Italians have five battleships and two armored cruisers to our six battleships, they nevertheless turn tail after a brief exchange of fire, during which their gunnery proves more accurate than ours (as has been the case for this entire war).

Sinking a destroyer unlucky enough to take a hit from a 13" shell, the French fleet turns northward to bombard a shore battery on the coast near Imperia—the battleship guns should make short work of that, at least—and then perhaps eastward to see if any Italian shipping is at sea.

It isn’t, so we go home.

December 1903

A raid on the Italian west coast produces no results and a few hundred victory points for the Italians. Owing to the relatively successful battles over the last few months, and the Italians declining battle a few times, the war score stands at 3,794-3,198.

January 1904

A new year sees an Italian armored cruiser fail to prosecute a night attack on a convoy, driven off by a pair of Tages and a plucky destroyer flotilla. There are reports of widespread civil disturbance in Italy. If we stay the course a bit longer, I think we’ll be in good shape.

February 1904

A large Italian convoy escapes an attack by French light cruisers. Italy regains a small lead in the victory point rankings.

Our submarines make their first major contribution, torpedoing an Italian armored cruiser (but, alas, not sinking it).

March 1904

One year into the war, the Italians put out peace feelers, and the civilian government agrees. The Navy acquitted itself relatively well, sinking three enemy light cruisers and three destroyers in exchange for the loss of one destroyer of its own.

It’s only entering construction as the war ends, but to combat the new Italian 24-knot light cruisers, the Ministry of the Navy solicits designs for a 25-knot light cruiser, the Isly class. They’ll begin to replace the Tages over time.

Lessons from the War

In no particular order…

  1. I probably shouldn’t have ignored armed merchant cruisers and small corvettes in my previous RTW2 games. Since they’re converted civilian ships (liners and trawlers, respectively), they only take four months to build, and they’re a good way to quickly bulk up a navy so you can use your warships for war, rather than trade protection.
  2. Our lack of powerful armored cruisers is a bit of a problem at the moment.
  3. French gunnery was atrocious—the main batteries on our La Républiques were only good for about one hit every 150 rounds in good conditions. The Italian battleships shot better with their heavy guns.
  4. The Italian 12" guns outrange our 13" -2-quality guns, which makes the redesign of the Tridents to use 12" guns look even better.
  5. French commerce raiders served admirably, sinking merchants at about a 2-1 rate over their Italian counterparts.
  6. The Gueydons, with their high speed but small guns, are extremely useful for hunting light cruisers, but not much good at fighting armored cruisers themselves.
  7. The Italians fought this war with extreme cowardice. One-to-one, I think their 1900-era battleships are superior to ours, and they often ran away when they had numerical superiority.

May 1904

Something marvelous happens. French naval thinkers take a drag on their cigarettes, sip their red wine, and ponder: what if we built ships with three centerline turrets?

The way to a dreadnought battleship is open. The money isn’t there just yet, but a Trident finishes in eight months, and I think that’s the time to get one going in the yards.

Two-Year Report: Diplomacy


The war with Italy has drawn to a close, and tensions are low. Intelligence remains focused on the Italians and, to a lesser degree, the Austrians.

Two-Year Report: The Fleet


At present, we have a world-class fleet of light cruisers and destroyers, to the point that we can consider putting some into the reserve fleet, or mothballing or retiring them altogether. We’re a bit over-budget at the moment, but I haven’t canceled any wartime shipbuilds yet, either.

Our battleship fleet is solidly middle of the road. We can’t challenge the three largest powers, but we can meet any of the other three on equal terms.

As for shipbuilding priorities, I have two thoughts. One: join the British in the dreadnought era (or perhaps the jupiter era, as they’ve begun work on the world’s first new-style battleship, HMS Jupiter) with a dreadnought battleship of our own. Two: instead, start by building a dreadnought cruiser (a battle-cruiser, if you will), to help counter everyone else’s massive advantage in armored cruiser count.

If we start with a battlecruiser, the question is, what do we sacrifice? Battleships try to balance speed, protection, and firepower. Battlecruisers sacrifice one of those three to gain an edge in the other two. Historically, the Royal Navy went with firepower and speed over protection, while the Germans went with speed and protection. (You could presumably sacrifice speed for firepower and protection, but I think you’d just end up with a slightly slower battleship in that case.)

Two-Year Report: Meta

I realize that this entry is a bit hard to follow, jumping around from battle to battle in several different styles. I was so pumped about getting to a war that I kind of forgot to walk through a battle from a gameplay perspective. I’ll try to rectify that next time a war comes up, making heavier use of the after-action report map mode, and perhaps taking a bit more time to explain how the game handles battles.

So the war was basically a draw? Was there any net effect at the end?

As I recall from Jutland, reducing armor didn’t go so well, so maybe go the German route with battle cruisers?

Yes and no, respectively, unless you count the small degree by which Italian losses exceeded French losses as a net effect.

I really enjoyed it as is, though if the next war has any really decisive battles it would be good to see them in more detail.

From a strategic perspective, you seemed to be in full control in that war in terms of risk to your ships: they’re all so fast they can generally flee when overmatched.

As far as even battles go, battleship combat was a bit of a wash, and I guess this is where the decisive victories can be won. Your accuracy seems to be the big problem here. Is this just a function of technology, or is there more crew training you can institute to remedy it?

Smaller actions you seem to have a big advantage thanks to speed and quality of ships, and that extends to chasing down enemy stragglers and scouts at the end of larger battles.

Similarly, uneven battles in your favour are a very good prospect as the enemy can’t hope to flee.

On the question of battleships versus battlecruisers, I’m in favour of the cruisers. A dreadnaught battleship doesn’t really address your accuracy concerns (unless it does in some way, not as if I know the game), and other than that you seem to be in a good spot for battleships compared to Italy and Austria.

A battlecruiser that can shrug off a pummelling from enemy battleships while driving off any cruisers the enemy fields sounds like a great utility to have available. And it has a secondary use as a commerce raider when needed too.

I am not that familiar with the era, but are torpedo destroyers not a thing yet?

While i think a dreadnought would show proper Elan, BC’s might be better for us (assuming we dont face Britain). Could we go fast lighter ships (CL and below) and firepower & protection for BC and up.

Also, how badly does our -2 quality 13" guns hurt us?

IRL, torpedo boats were expected to be a real threat from the 1890s, and the French had led the charge, so to speak (the Jeune Ecole and all that) - it was to combat them that the [torpedo boat] destroyer and battleships started sprouting so much QF armament in addition to the few very big and very slow to load hitters that had dominated battleship design up to then…

The problem was that, in reality, when put to the test in the Russo-Japanese War they achieved surprisingly uninspiring results, even against an unprepared Russian fleet attacked at harbour) - torpedos were too slow and had too short a range until surprisingly late and therefore in practice it needed the sub to get the full results of the theoretical advantages.

(This Let’s Play is making me consider getting this game, BTW.)

So right now the fleet strength is speed. It allows you to choose your battles. The weakness is gunnery. Focusing on firepower would be, I feel, a mistake until French gunnery improves enough to make advantage of it.

La vie a la vitesse speed before all else.

If you have a means of improving accuracy, then firepower next, as better range control can take advantage. However if your guns are to perform so poorly, then armor for now.

Given your enemies, I think BCs over dreads makes sense. If you get into it with the Brits, you won’t be able to stand anyhow. No sense trying to compete therefor now. Commerce raiding and colonial ops are the key.

A little bit of both—technology development will increase gun accuracy, and there’s an advanced training option in the game’s doctrine screen which adds 10% accuracy in exchange for 30% more maintenance. (The other two options are night fighting, which adds 10% night accuracy and some spotting bonuses for 20% more maintenance, and torpedo tactics, which makes your destroyers fight better, also for 20% more maintenance.)

Badly, I think it’s fair to say—the Italian 12" battleships had a range advantage on our 13" ships.

To expand a bit here, one of the reasons why this wasn’t obvious is that, for much of the predreadnought era, nobody really expected gunnery to be accurate at ranges beyond a few thousand yards. Early torpedoes had ranges on the order of a thousand yards—not dramatically less than the range at which battles were expected to happen. When a torpedo boat could dash out from behind the enemy battle line and be in firing position in a minute or two, the calculus bent toward high-power secondary batteries.

By the time 1904-1905 rolled around, British exercises suggested that long-range, high-speed gunnery was entirely feasible, and the Russo-Japanese War bore out that line of thinking.

A new national motto?

Yes - it’s fascinatingly circular! The RN was obsessed with the danger of the grazing shot (i.e. a spray of torpedos fired into a tight line of ships) which led to them dispersing the line, which led to the need for a greater rate of fire and range finding more sophisticated than judging by eye, so…

(Norman Friedman has a few good but exhaustive books on the period )

Does this game have any land/infantry/troop action? In this case of this war, I’d assume French and Italian armies would clash on their border. Or does this game assume that these wars are strictly naval affairs?