Battleships. Decades after they ceased to be a meaningful weapon of war (despite a few expensive re-activations), they still fascinate. A few years ago, I tried to ditch the exciting world of wargame publishing for a battleship of my own, and become a museum director. That job went to someone with actual museum-directing experience, though my prestigious and expensive doctorate at least got me to the interview stage.
While I still mourn the loss of my battleship (it came with health benefits, and retirement, and a set of keys so you could wander the ship late at night making kaboom sounds . . . maybe there's a reason I didn't get that job), at least I can make them out of cardboard.
Jutland 1919 is my chance to make lots of cardboard battleships, and make explosion sounds while I play with them. You're very welcome to join in.
It’s an expansion book for Great War at Sea: Jutland (only requiring Jutland and the High Seas Fleet expansion book), focused on the projected plans of both Imperial Germany and Great Britain to build more battleships in the years after the 1916 Battle of Jutland. Neither nation really had the financial or industrial capacity to build such ships, at least not in the numbers the admirals desired, but the plans went forward anyway.
And there are lots of battleships: 17 German ones (plus eight battle cruisers) and eleven British ones (no British battle cruisers). All of them are based on actual plans either approved for construction or nearly so; we’ve been detailing these in a whole series of Daily Content pieces.
The “play with them” part comes from the scenario set: forty of them, dedicated to battleship action (well, sometimes armored cruiser action, too). It follows a very similar approach to High Seas Fleet, in that it’s not truly an “alternative history” like some of the other stuff we publish (Second Great War at Sea and such), but more like a study of historical alternatives. If the First World War had begun a few years later (and given the unusual circumstances of its outbreak, that’s by no means an unlikely event), then these are the fleets that would have gone to war.
That premise does stretch reality a little, as many of these designs reflected lessons learned in combat that would not have been known (or widely believed, anyway) during peacetime paper exercises. The British probably had a much better chance of building more combat-capable ships, as thanks to forward-looking gunners like F.C. Dreyer they had a faction that appreciated the important of long-range gunnery and pushed for ships maximized to deliver it (via the 15-inch gun and its even larger cousins) and protection against it (thicker deck armor in anticipation of plunging fire).
At least some of the German admirals still clung to shorter-range, higher-volume fire as the decisive factor in combat. Even after the Battle of Jutland, a minority faction wished to study designs for a Baden-like battleship with quadruple turrets for 12-inch guns that could lay down maximum firepower with her 16 barrels (or even 20, were a midships turret added to the design). The concepts of long-range fire and heavier deck protection won out within the Imperial Navy as well, and the Germans even contemplated retiring all of their battleships armed with 11-inch and 12-inch guns.
We included a number of ships in Jutland that were proposed but never completed or in a few cases even started, like the Russian Borodino-class battle cruisers or the super-battleships with 16-inch guns designed by V.P. Kostenko in 1917, or the three subsequent battle cruisers of the British Hood class. Those were included in the Jutland set to fill out the sheets of pieces, and never saw action in the scenario set. No toy should be unloved, and so I wanted to make sure these got some play in Jutland 1919 as well.
Just like High Seas Fleet, the scenarios are grouped by the type of ship or the situation that plays a major role in them; they don’t follow a story line throughout the set. The purpose here is to show how these ships might have seen action, had they actually been built. Each set has one or more operational scenarios, and then plenty of battle scenarios to get the battleships right into action.
This time we enter the Baltic, so those Russian ships that never were can see some action against the new German battleships, along with some of those that actually were failed to fight anyone. Most of the action takes place in the North Sea so you can try out the British and German theories on long-range gunnery duels, and see if the Germans really would have been better off scrapping the older ships and going to see with a smaller fleet of larger, more capable ships.
High Seas Fleet added 17 German dreadnoughts and three battle cruisers to the Jutland mix, along with six British dreadnoughts and three battle cruisers. Seven of the German ships and six of the British ones probably would not have been worth manning in a 1917 or 1918 fleet including the huge new ships of Jutland 1919. That still gives the High Seas Fleet a huge roster of powerful ships, and the scenario set lets you fight with them – since the design mandate here is to look at how the ships would have been used, they’re going to see action and not rust away in Wilhelmshaven as a fleet-in-being.
The North Sea is a bathtub-sized battlefield, and the fleets are going to have a hard time executing any mission that requires them to slip past the enemy. In addition to battleships, the expansion book adds fast armored cruisers (twelve of them for the Germans; four of them for the British) and additional light cruisers (eight of them, all German) to give a substantial boost to the scouting forces. When they do meet, the battles can be titanic; the largest of them sees 120 dreadnoughts and battle cruisers steaming out to meet one another, compared to 55 total in the actual Battle of Jutland.
You won’t get to wander through an actual battleship, but you will get to make lots of explosion sounds while you play. And that’s a lot of fun, too.
Don’t wait to put Jutland 1919 on your game table! Join the Gold Club and find out how to get it firstest!
Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.