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Great White Fleet, Second Edition
Developer’s Commentary, Part One
By Doug McNair
October 2009

I recently began the long, laborious process of writing the Second Edition rulebook for Great War at Sea and Second World War at Sea. It involves combing through years of e-mailed questions and my responses to same, plus helpful suggestions from several longtime players about how to improve the system. And most satisfying of all, it allows me to fix rules I had issues with back in the day when I was but a volunteer GWAS/SWWAS scenario playtester. Now as series developer, I don’t have to get approval from anybody to make the system better.

So, what better way to get into the mood for such a grand revision than by revising one of the oldest products I ever worked on for 119694_avalanche Press: Great White Fleet. The scenarios in the original Great White Fleet were the last things I worked on before the first of many nervous breakdowns on my old day job forced me to leave 119694_avalanche for a while. That makes Great White Fleet, Second Edition a somewhat uneasy exercise in nostalgia for me. But it’s a fine product that will allow many longtime fans to get greater enjoyment out of our GWAS boxed games, both old and new.

What follows is a preview of the first ten scenarios in Great White Fleet, Second Edition with developer’s commentary by me. We hope you enjoy them!

Battle Scenario One
Virginia Capes
December 1907

Germany often appeared among the potential enemies posited by American naval officers and writers, as the newly-united empire's economy surged and its military strength grew. The two fleets appeared nearly equal in strength, and some thought a test of wills inevitable.

Note: This scenario uses pieces from Jutland, U.S. Navy Plan Black and 1898.

Developer’s Commentary

This is a decent match up because the Americans outgun the Germans, but the Germans have greater numbers and several battleships which are faster than the Americans. I gave Germans the initiative on the first round since they’ll need to protect their weaker Bs from quick destruction.

Operational Scenario One
Big Stick
December 1907

New York City represented the main target in both German and American planning for a future naval war. Beyond the city's economic and political importance, the large harbor boasted two exits separated by Long Island, making it difficult to blockade. Seizing it would be no simple task, so a German invader would have to choose between the greatest prize or an easier target.

Notes: This scenario uses the map and ship pieces from U.S. Navy Plan Red, fleet and ship pieces from U.S. Navy Plan Black, and ship pieces from Jutland and 1898.

Developer’s Commentary

Mike’s original design had the Germans entering on the east edge of the East Coast map from Navy Plan Red, and required them to capture New York City to win. I felt that having the Germans enter on the east edge made no sense because the closest neutral port from that direction would be so far away that they would be out of fuel or nearly so by the time they entered. So I changed German entry to the south edge on the assumption that they’d re-coal at the neutral ports of Caracas or Willemstad, and then enter the map having only burned four fuel boxes.

Time is a huge enemy for the Germans here since they have no coaling ports on the map, and the longer the game goes the more likely it is that their ships will run out of fuel. So I cut the game to 90 turns, got rid of some of the lower-fuel-capacity German ships and also let German ships exit the south edge to avoid running out of fuel. The German player wins by capturing at least one American port (any one, not just NYC) and scoring more VPs than the American player. Any other result is an American victory.

Operational Scenario Two
Drums Along the Seaboard
December 1907

American overseas trade surged in the first decade of the new century, as manufactured goods joined the stream of agricultural exports pouring out of American ports. While those riches made the United States powerful, they also were vulnerable to enemy attack. A German invasion of the United States — though planned by the German naval staff and feared by the Americans — would have been very difficult to accomplish. Destruction of American ship-borne commerce was a very different story.

Notes: This scenario uses the map and ship pieces from U.S. Navy Plan Red, fleet and ship pieces from U.S. Navy Plan Black, and ship pieces from Jutland and 1898.

Developer’s Commentary

I renamed this scenario because it’s a good representation of what a World War I version of Operation Paukenschlag would look like. German commerce raiders so far from a friendly or neutral port would have the same fuel problems as the invaders did in the previous scenario. So, I cut the game to 60 turns to keep the Americans from just waiting for the Germans to run out of fuel before going after them. Mike’s original scenario design gave the raiders VPs for bombarding American ports, but I decided to keep the focus on commerce raiding per the introduction. I therefore gave the Americans fast transports at New York that must seek to exit the east edge to score VPs, and also added rules for inbound random convoys that must try to unload at American ports. That will keep the action wide-ranging and force both sides to split their forces.

Battle Scenario Two
Fear God and Dread Nought
December 1907

British naval writers claimed that a single one of their new Dreadnought-type battleships could easily defeat entire enemy squadrons. The entire Great White Fleet became, by that reckoning, obsolete before it began its world-wide cruise. But while the big British ship would have a decided edge over any individual opponent, four against one are long odds in any encounter.

Note: This scenario uses pieces from Jutland and 1898.

Developer’s Commentary

This is a tough one for the Americans because all B-class ships of this time period suffer from the Short Range Primaries special rule (the range of their primary guns is two hexes rather than the usual three). But BB-class ships do not, and can therefore pound B-class ships at will with no danger to themselves as long as they stay at a three-hex range. And since all the battleships of the Great White Fleet are slower than HMS Dreadnought, I had to do some fancy development work to make this scenario playable. I changed the weather to Fog to bring visibility down to two hexes, but then gave the Brits the initiative to compensate for the obvious leg-up the fog gives to the Americans. I then put the burden of victory on the Brits to compensate for the aforementioned American disadvantages: The British player wins by sinking at least one American ship and scoring more VPs than the American player. Any other result is an American victory.

Operational Scenario Three
A Single Squadron
December 1907

When HMS Dreadnought joined the Royal Navy, blustering British naval writers claimed that a single squadron of such ships could sweep the seas of entire fleets of old-style battleships. The follow-on class of dreadnought-style battleships actually had to wait two more years to commission, as the lead ship had been rushed into completion. Would greater numbers have been enough to overcome speed, firepower and armor?

Notes: This scenario uses the map from U.S. Navy Plan Gold, the fleet counters and transport pieces from Sea of Troubles (originally published with U.S. Navy Plan Red), and warship pieces from Jutland, U.S. Navy Plan Black and 1898.

Developer’s Commentary

The only way the Americans can win against such superior British ships is to scatter their merchant trade all over the Caribbean in hopes that some will get through. I added an American escort force at Colon consisting of warships of the AC class and smaller that were still in commission in December 1907 (USS Newark had been loaned to the New York Naval Militia, but I presume the U.S. Navy could have gotten her back in time of war).

Battle Scenario Three
Counter Imperialism
January 1908

Two of the world's most powerful battleships were just fitting out in British shipyards when the Great White Fleet visited Brazil. If Britain's Dreadnought had been more than a match for a squadron of American battleships, the pair of new Brazilian ships would have been an even tougher (though slower) opponent.

Note: This scenario uses pieces from Cone of Fire, U.S. Navy Plan Black and 1898.

Developer’s Commentary

Here the American pre-dreadnoughts are up against a pair of enemy dreadnoughts, but in this case the Americans have far greater numbers and the enemy dreadnoughts do not have greater speed. So I kept the weather Clear, gave the Americans the initiative and let them set up three hexes away from the Brazilians (rather than the usual four). That means the Americans won’t have to wade through endless fire from the longer-range Brazilian BBs’ guns before being able to attack. I then went with balanced victory conditions since the Americans have a big numerical advantage: A player wins by sinking at least one enemy capital ship and scoring more VPs than the enemy player. Any other result is a draw.

Operational Scenario Four
Brazil Nuts
January 1908

Brazilian coffee found ready markets in the United States, and trade thrived between the two giants of the Western Hemisphere. But Brazil's naval ambitions caused a handful of American naval officers to question the purpose behind the acquisition of dreadnought-type battleships and other vessels. Had such suspicions led to war, Brazil’s hopes of resistance would lie in her ability to maintain the flow of cash and war materiel from trade with other nations. Given the distances involved and the lack of U.S.-friendly coaling ports on the South American coast, ships the U.S. Navy could commit to commerce raiding against Brazil would be limited to those with the highest fuel capacities.

Notes: This scenario uses the Rio de Janeiro 3 map and the Central Powers fleet counters from Cone of Fire, the American fleet counters from Sea of Troubles (originally published in U.S. Navy Plan Red) and ship pieces from Cone of Fire and 1898.

Developer’s Commentary

The Brazilians are far too weak to take on the whole Great White Fleet under any circumstances, so I reduced U.S. forces. The Great White Fleet starts at sea anywhere at least 15 zones from all Brazilian ports, and rather than giving the U.S. VPs for bombarding Brazilian ports (which the Brazilians would be unable to prevent) I gave the Brazilians a bunch of convoys which give them VPs for getting to port or off the board. That will force the U.S. to split its forces to chase down all the convoys, thus giving the Brazilians a chance at victory by avoiding combat or catching a small number of U.S. ships alone.

Operational Scenario Five
Hemispheric Cooperation
January 1908

As Brazil began to build up her battle fleet, American naval journals began to mention "hemispheric cooperation" as a future policy goal. In effect, Brazil would join the United States in enforcing the Monroe Doctrine and become a full strategic partner. That never came to pass — an economy built solely on commodity exports is a very fragile thing — but the thoughts crossed many American and Brazilian naval minds. Just how or why a European power would want to attack Brazil was not explained in these musings.

Notes: This scenario uses ship pieces, the Allied fleet counters and the Rio de Janeiro 3 map from Cone of Fire, the French fleet counters from U.S. Navy Plan Gold, and ship pieces from Mediterranean, U.S. Navy Plan Black and 1898.

Developer’s Commentary

The original scenario design gave the French little reason to do anything but just wait for the Allies to come to them at their previously captured port at Vittoria. Their ships are better than those of the Allies, so they won’t want to split their forces by trying to invade another port. From a geo-strategic perspective, they’d just be better off defending the port they’ve got. So, rather than weakening the Allies to give the French an incentive to expand their holdings, I redid the scenario as the initial French invasion of Brazil. The invasion force would have to come from French Guiana, meaning they’d be down on fuel even after re-coaling at sea. To ease up on them a bit I gave the Brazilians garrisons only at Rio and Santos, and made those garrisons small. To compensate for that a bit I upgraded the Brazilian BBs from the ’04 versions to the ’06 versions, meaning the U.S. won’t get to run the whole show. But fundamentally, the French gain nothing from this exercise if they don’t capture a port, so I put the main burden of victory on them. The French player wins by capturing at least one port and scoring more VPs than the Allied player. Any other result is an Allied victory.

Battle Scenario Four
ˇHaz Turismo Invadiendo un Pais!
February 1908

Argentina slowed her naval buildup after the 1902 treaty with Chile, but the visit of the Great White Fleet led both nations to abandon the agreement and seek modern warships on par with those in service anywhere else. In 1908, the Argentine fleet still had no warships to match those of the American battle fleet — though some had been considered. These would have been crucial to any Argentine attempt at stopping an American amphibious landing in the La Plata estuary.

Note: This scenario uses pieces from Cone of Fire, U.S. Navy Plan Black and 1898.

Developer’s Commentary

The Argentines were outgunned by a god-awful amount as-written. So I cut the number of U.S. battleships in half, added DDs and transports, changed the scenario from a meeting engagement to an American amphibious invasion of La Plata, and renamed it for a favorite song by Celtas Cortos. The American player scores VPs for each transport that runs the Argentine blockade and exits the northwest edge of the map, while the Argentine player scores VPs for each American transport that fails to exit the northwest edge of the map by the end of play.

Operational Scenario Six
Lost in Translation
February 1908

The Great White Fleet received a tumultuous welcome in Rio de Janeiro, and President Roosevelt sent a telegram of thanks, mentioning the "amity and helpfulness" the fleet had met in Brazil. Brazilian papers translated that as "mutua ayuda," or "mutual assistance," and speculated that a formal alliance was in the offing. That alarmed and enraged Argentine leaders, some of whom darkly wondered if the Great White Fleet would now attack them in concert with the dastardly Brazilians. Even with all her desired new ships, perhaps Argentina needed a foreign ally of her own.

Note: This scenario uses ship pieces, fleet counters and the La Plata 2 map from Cone of Fire, and ship pieces from Mediterranean, U.S. Navy Plan Black and 1898.

Developer’s Commentary

This situation has been done before with different participants, so I made it into a clone of Born Free from Cone of Fire. Examined it from all angles but couldn’t discern compelling reason to make it otherwise.

That covers the first 10 scenarios from Great White Fleet. Tune in next time for previews of more scenarios in which the Great White Fleet fights its way around the Horn and all the way to the Philippines!

Great White Fleet, Second Edition is available now! Click here to order it today!