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

I'm back from my trip to NAVCON (the nation’s only all-naval-gaming convention), so it's time for the last installment of my commentary on the scenarios in our latest Great War at Sea release: Great White Fleet, Second Edition.

Battle Scenario Seven
The Kaiser's Defenders
November 1908

Until the age of the dreadnoughts, Austria-Hungary built its battle fleet purely to defend the Adriatic Sea from interlopers. When the Great White Fleet entered the Mediterranean, the potential balance of power changed. But Austrian newspapers were among the few that did not greet the American arrival with bizarre fantasies of fighting them — probably because the Great White Fleet skipped over Austrian ports on the Mediterranean leg of its journey.

Note: This scenario uses pieces from Mediterranean and 1898.

Developer’s Commentary

Here a diverse (not to say motley) force of Austrian pre-dreadnought battleships, armored cruisers and coastal defense ships takes on the Fourth Division of the Great White Fleet. I gave the Austrians the initiative even though they’ve got faster ships, because several of their ships are relatively weak and vulnerable. I compensated for that by putting the burden of victory on them. The Austrian 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 Seventeen
Triple Alliance
November 1908

The Great White Fleet's official mission ended when it departed the Far East, and the port visits scheduled for the Mediterranean were to be strictly unofficial. But Gabriel Bie Ravnel, the American consul in Beirut, urged the fleet to make a demonstration in Turkish ports. With Austria-Hungary annexing Bosnia and Greece seizing Crete, Raynel believed a show of support for the Young Turks' new government would cement American influence in Turkey

Notes: This scenario uses ship pieces, both maps and the Central Powers fleet pieces from Mediterranean, ship and American fleet pieces from 1898, and ship pieces from U.S. Navy Plan Black.

Developer’s Commentary

Here the Great White Fleet takes on the unlikely job of defending the Sick Man of Europe’s Mediterranean possessions against a feeding frenzy of Italian, Austrian and Greek attackers. The invaders score victory points by unloading supply convoy transports in support of an invasion, and by bombarding Turkish ports. The Turks and Americans score VPs by sinking enemy transports and preventing ports from being bombarded. Given the large number of Turkish ports around the eastern Med in this time period, both sides will likely have to split their forces.

Operational Scenario Eighteen
Fashoda Avenged
November 1908

Britain and France settled their colonial differences in 1904 with a written agreement that became the basis for an informal alliance. The arrival of a traditional French ally's powerful fleet in the Mediterranean underscored to some editorialists, however, that France need not look to Britain for friends. With the aid of the Great White Fleet, the Marine National could claim its rightful spot in the Mediterranean.

Notes: This scenario uses ship pieces, fleet pieces and both maps from Mediterranean, and ship pieces from Jutland, U.S. Navy Plan Black and 1898. Note that the Allied player uses American fleet pieces from 1898 only, even though some of his ships are Turkish.

Developer’s Commentary

The original scenario design had the Americans starting play at Port Sa'id, but that made no sense since they are on the French side and fighting against Britain. I had them start at Algiers instead, and gave both sides Raid fleets so they could attack merchant shipping on the trade routes drawn on the GWAS Mediterranean map. Players score VPs for sinking enemy merchant ships on the Merchant Location Table and for bombarding enemy ports.

Operational Scenario Nineteen
Drago's War
February 1903

During the early years of the 20th century, Venezuela ran up large debts to foreign banks. When the country threatened to default on the loans European squadrons showed up to enforce collection. British, German and Italian warships bombarded Venezuelan forts and seized Venezuelan vessels. Argentine foreign minister Luis M. Drago condemned the action and called for resistance. War with Italy, homeland of many Argentine immigrants, would not have been terribly popular in Argentina. But a war against the European bankers seen as exploiting Latin America would have had great support.  

While U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt had little sympathy for the deadbeat Venezuelans, he did not want the European powers to assume they could grab military bases in the Western Hemisphere. The Germans worried him in particular, and letters written by him 14 years later speak of grave confrontations with German Ambassador Thedor von Holleben. The letters conclude that the Europeans only went home when TR told Holleben that Admiral George Dewey's battle fleet (on maneuvers near Puerto Rico at the time) had been ordered to sail for Venezuela. This assertion is not corroborated by other sources, but Latin American resistance would easily have sparked such a confrontation.

Note: This scenario uses the map from U.S. Navy Plan Gold, fleet and ship pieces from U.S. Navy Plan Black (the Allied player uses the American fleet pieces and the Central Powers player uses the German fleet pieces), and ship pieces from Jutland, Mediterranean, Cone of Fire and 1898.

Developer’s Commentary

The original scenario design gave the Central Powers side VPs for capturing Venezuelan ports, but they don’t have enough transports to capture any port without making several trips. However, if the Venezuelan government had collapsed with the army fighting insurgents, then there would be nothing to stop the Central Powers from entering ports and pillaging them to recoup the unpaid Venezuelan debt. So that’s how I structured the scenario. I added rules for open Venezuelan ports, which both sides can enter and exit freely but neither can refuel at because the coal has been appropriated by the locals. I also added rules for the Americans entering the war, with the probability increasing as the Europeans sink more Venezuelan ships.

Operational Scenario Twenty
War Plan Green
July 1903

American war planners tried to come up with scenarios pitting the U.S. Navy against the growing naval power of Italy. Like 21st century game designers, they had a hard time creating believable scenarios for such a clash. The two nations had few competing interests, even though their sailors showed a marked dislike for one another. Had the Venezuelan crisis somehow resulted in a foreign takeover, the powers involved would likely have assigned such rule to Italy, then desperately seeking colonies all over the globe. U.S President Theodore Roosevelt had made clear in his offer to mediate the crisis that the Americans would not tolerate European colonialism's return to Latin America. TR would no doubt have made good on this threat.

Notes: This scenario uses the map from U.S. Navy Plan Gold, ship and fleet pieces from 1898 (the Allied player uses the American fleet pieces and the Central Powers player uses the Spanish fleet pieces), and ship pieces from Mediterranean.

Developer’s Commentary

I had to lengthen the game to 150 turns so the relatively small number of American transports has a chance to reload and bring in more troops. Due to the likely under-resourcing of the Italian effort I also said that players must use the fleet markers from 1898 (which are relatively few in number) and that the Venezuelan ports have no garrisons. The American player scores 80 VPs for capturing Venezuelan ports, while the Central Powers player scores VPs for sinking American transports and bombarding American ports.

Operational Scenario Twenty-One
Assuming the Burden
July 1898

Throughout the months leading up to the Spanish-American War, negotiators from several nations tried to entice Spain into selling the Philippines. Germany made a strong effort to acquire the islands, and Japan announced itself ready to "take up the burden." Flush with confidence after their victory over China, many Japanese viewed Spain as another decaying empire ripe for defeat. In the end another rising power, the United States, beat the Japanese to the spoils.

Note: This scenario uses the maps from U.S. Navy Plan Orange (also included in South China Sea) and 1904, Japanese ship pieces and fleet markers from 1904, Spanish ship pieces from 1898, and German ship pieces and Central Powers fleet markers from Jutland.

Developer’s Commentary

The Japanese Bs and CDs have heavy armor and are therefore all but invulnerable to the Spanish forces that were included in the original scenario design, so I added Admiral Camara’s squadron to the mix. To compensate, I let the Japanese Bs start in Yahoku so the transports there have escorts that can stand up to Camara. Then I let the Spanish-German side form a Raid fleet and go after Japanese merchant shipping to force the Japanese to disperse their forces somewhat. I also lengthened the game to 120 turns to let the Japanese do multiple invasion runs and to let the merchant raiders score more points over time.

Operational Scenario Twenty-Two
All Your Base Are Belong To Us
September 1898

Japanese ships and soldiers probably would have had no more trouble with the defenders of Manila than the Americans experienced. But with no war in the Caribbean to distract them, Spain's Armada would have felt as honor-bound as the Russian fleet six years later to sail around the world and reinforce what few ships survived the Japanese invasion. With far superior leadership and somewhat better allied relations than Russia enjoyed, though far less firepower, the Spanish fleet could reasonably expect to arrive in fighting trim. Yet smashing their way into the archipelago would not have been easy.

Notes: This scenario uses the map from U.S. Navy Plan Orange (which also comes with the South China Sea supplement), Japanese fleet and ship pieces from 1904 and Spanish fleet and ship pieces from 1898.

Developer’s Commentary

I had to rearrange the Japanese starting locations that were in the original design to make the scenario work. I started a Japanese cruiser squadron in now Japanese port of Cavite, and then started the Japanese troop reinforcement convoy that was to start in Yahoku in Sasebo instead. That gives the Spanish a reason to split their forces and send some after the Japanese transports while the rest escort their own counter-invasion troop convoy to the Philippines and play hide and seek with the Cavite squadron. I gave Cavite a small garrison but said the Spanish win immediately if they recapture Cavite. That gives the Japanese cruiser squadron a reason to attack the Spanish before the more powerful forces from Sasebo get there. If the Spanish don’t recapture Cavite, players score VPs for enemy transports sunk and for friendly transports that successfully unload on the island of Luzon.

Operational Scenario Twenty-Three
You Pay Now!
April 1902

As the U.S. Army continued its efforts to subdue Filipino rebels, Navy planners looked to future far Eastern conflicts. With the Russian Empire placing ever-greater pressure on China for trade and territorial concessions, American leaders saw a threat to their "Open Door" policy. Special treaty rights of other nations limited American trade opportunities in China, seen as the great prize for exports — the staggering potential of 500 million consumers. U.S. Navy staffers saw that they might be called upon to keep the Chinese door open by force. In the initial stages of such a war the outnumbered U.S. Navy would have its hands full, and American merchants (fearing financial ruin if the China trade were cut off) would be ready to cut deals with any foreign buyers on the Chinese mainland.

Notes: This scenario uses the maps from U.S. Navy Plan Orange (also included in South China Sea) and 1904, Japanese ship pieces and fleet markers from 1904 and American ship pieces and fleet markers from 1898.

Developer’s Commentary

The original scenario design gave the Americans several options for scoring VPs, but I decided to simplify it by letting the Great White Fleet focus on its main job of keeping the door open by force. I made this happen by giving the American merchants some help from merchants in non-belligerent ports. I gave the Americans with 18 transports at Cavite, and said that they score VPs by unloading them in Chinese, British or German ports (in descending order of VP value). That gives them multiple options and forces the Russians to spread their fleets more thinly.

Operational Scenario Twenty-Four
The Russians Are Coming! So Are The Japanese!!
May 1902

Examining possible future conflicts, American naval planners saw Russia's rapid expansion in the Far East continuing beyond Manchuria and Korea. The newly acquired Philippines, only just pacified after a bloody three-year war, seemed a prime Tsarist target. In reality, Russian stategists took little notice of the Americans, but Japanese expansionists certainly did. Had both turned south at the same time, the Americans would find themselves badly outgunned. On the positive side, such threats gave the War Department reasons to ask for more funding to defend America's newest colony.

Note: This scenario uses the maps from U.S. Navy Plan Orange (also included in South China Sea) and 1904, Japanese and Russian ship pieces and fleet markers from 1904, and American ship pieces and fleet markers from 1898.

Developer’s Commentary

This is a three-player scenario that I largely designed myself for Great White Fleet, First Edition, so for Second Edition it mainly needed cleanup and some additional rules. I decided to lower the VP score for sinking transports to prevent suicidal behavior by the Americans. There are lots of transports coming to them, and they can rack up VPs fast by just waiting for the invaders to land and then pouncing on the transports before they can unload. I had to make sure that the Americans can’t win by sacrificing their whole fleet in exchange for transports sunk.

Operational Scenario Twenty-Five
A Place in the Sun
July 1902

Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II saw the destruction of Spain's overseas empire as an opportunity to acquire new territories for his own growing imperial interests. German diplomats pressed the Spanish to sell them a number of colonies, including the Philippines. In the end, the Germans only succeeded in acquiring those of the Mariana Islands not annexed by the Americans. Had the Kaiser been successful, and aggressive German presence in the Far East would soon have clashed with Japan's growing imperialism.

Note: This scenario uses the maps from U.S. Navy Plan Orange (also included in South China Sea) and 1904, Japanese ship pieces and fleet markers from 1904, and German ship pieces and Central Powers fleet markers from Jutland.

Developer’s Commentary

In this scenario the Germans have bought the Philippines and are defending them from a Japanese invasion. Structurally it is much like The Russians are Coming, except that I allow the Japanese transports to unload and reload, thus letting them come back to hit more coastal zones and force the Germans to disperse their fleets. I also increased game length to 120 turns so they’d have more time for more landings, and added a German Merchant Densities table and gave the Russians a Raid fleet.

And one more scenario I forgot to mention back in Part One:

Operational Scenario Three
Frenemies
December 1907

By the time the Great White Fleet entered the Caribbean, the Royal Navy had essentially abandoned the West Indies Station. But the new HMS Dreadnought had visited earlier in the year, and the large, well-placed harbor Port of Spain had been chosen as the place where the Home Fleet would deploy if called on to serve in these waters.

Note: This scenario uses the map from U.S. Navy Plan Gold, the fleet markers 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

Here the Great White Fleet tries to help a large American merchant convoy get past hostile Japanese naval forces so that they can unload their cargo in Korean ports. I cut the game to 100 turns, which still gives the American transports time to take the long way around through the Tsuguru Strait if desired and make it to Gensan. Given the maritime geography on the way to Korea it will be tough for the Americans to get their convoy past the Japanese, so I skewed the VP schedule toward the U.S.

I lengthened the game to 120 turns to give the Americans enough time to reach Trinidad and unload there (with a likely re-coaling stop on the way). Given the slowness of the opposing fleets and the distance between Miami and Port of Spain, I had to start the British battle-line in Port of Spain and their cruisers in Kingston. Otherwise there would be no hope of contacting the enemy with any forces that could do damage until late in the game. I then let the Brits score VPs by bombarding Florida and added the Political Meddling rule to force the Americans to split their forces rather than just sending everything to Port of Spain in one fleet.

That covers everything for Great White Fleet, Second Edition. Stay tuned for our next Great War at Sea book: Black Waters!

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