Jutland Second Edition:
A Radical Reconstruction
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
Great War at Sea: Jutland is the best-selling wargame in the history of Avalanche Press, the true centerpiece of the game series that gave us our identity. When we issued a new Second Edition of the series rules, I knew that we would have to revise the game scenarios to match. Which opened an opportunity to make some wider changes.
And at first, that’s what I did. I added some scenarios, dropped a few others, revised all the rest. Organized them into chapters. It looked good. And then I set all that aside and designed a new game.
Jutland Second Edition is a new game. It uses the maps and pieces from the old game, and everything else is new.
It’s the game I wanted to design. It’s probably not the game I should have designed. Jutland’s first edition was by no means a bad game (if it had been, we wouldn’t have sold so many of them). But I’ve changed, since I designed the first edition. I don’t know how many games I’ll design in the future, only that it’s a finite number, and I’m no longer content to waste those limited chances on projects I don’t really want to do.
I made Jutland Second Edition into a game about the Battle of Jutland. The old edition had three scenarios; one of them covered the entire operation on the North Sea map. The other two were battle scenarios, one based on the action between the opposing battle squadrons that kicked off the main event, the other on the main event itself. All three of them had serious flaws in terms of both history and game-play introduced during development, that I should have caught and overturned. None of that matters now, since I didn’t re-use any of them.
In recent years, I’ve become more interested in using games to tell a story, about a historical battle or campaign or war. Great War at Sea, like most of our series, suits that very well since the games are composed of sets of scenarios. Coming up as a writer, I was taught to “Show, Don’t Tell.” Adding game scenarios to the story arc takes the “Show” part to an extreme, and that’s what I want to do with our games. You can read the narrative, and then play out the key parts of the story using the game.
That’s how I built Jutland Second Edition. It has seven chapters, each with a historical narrative followed by a varying number of scenarios. They begin with German and British planning for what became the Battle of Jutland, carry on through the meeting engagement between the battle cruiser squadrons through the clash of dreadnoughts to the confused night action that followed, and winding up with the battle’s aftermath. The chapters are highlighted by a total of 20 scenarios (eight operational and twelve battle scenarios).
That’s considerably fewer than in the first edition (which had 51: 44 operational scenarios and seven battle scenarios). We presented those without any historical context; each of them stood alone, just the scenario with its brief introduction and few of the operational scenarios had even one battle scenario.
In the story-arc format, the battle scenarios are a crucial adjunct to the operational scenarios – they show what might have happened had the fleets met at certain points, or if one side or the other (or sometimes both) had carried out their operation as planned. And players seem to like them – these are the scenarios that you can complete easily in an hour or two.
The campaign itself takes place on the North Sea, with Britain on the western (left) side of the map and Germany down in the lower right (east) corner. The same geographic factors that hemmed in the German High Seas Fleet also neatly frame the game map as covering the North and Baltic Seas. The map actually extends a little to the west to allow you to sail around Ireland and to bring the French Channel ports onto the map, but the real play areas are the two nearly-landlocked seas. That makes the scenarios very nicely contained: there’s no meaningful “edge of the world” where fleets can sail off into oblivion (they can steam off the northern edge, but there’s almost never any reason to go there). Geography keeps everyone in the field of play without any special rules.
It’s a data-supported fact that most role-playing games sold are never played, but almost all of them are read. I’m quite sure that’s true of wargames, too, even if we’re not supposed to type that out loud. While I hope that every game we sell gets played, because that’s their purpose, I also want to make them enjoyable for people who’ll only ever read them. Jutland Second Edition achieves that purpose; the scenario book is substantial enough to be worth reading all on its own.
Jutland is a big game, with a full-sized operational map showing the North Sea and the Baltic, and 910 playing pieces – 490 double-sized ship pieces, and 420 normal-sized square ones (most of those are smaller warships, but they’re also used for fleet markers, airplanes and transports). With the new scenario set, a great many of those won’t be used. The game includes the fleets that fought over the Baltic (the Russians and the Swedes), fleets that could have fought in the North Sea, but did not (the Dutch, the Danes and the Norwegians), the American squadrons that joined the war in late 1917, and the French ships that played a role in the early months of the war. Plus, a great many British and German ships that weren’t part of the Jutland campaign. This is a splendid toy box for writing many more such stories.
The first such book, Jutland: North Sea 1914, is a new edition of the old Jutland Battle Analysis. It has the scenarios from that book, brought up to Second Edition standard, and the scenarios from the old edition of Jutland that took place in the North Sea in 1914. They’ve also been re-made, and slotted into the story-arc format just like the others in the North Sea 1914 book. I dropped a couple of them that weren’t much fun to play and did nothing to advance the story. There are 30 scenarios in the book (no playing pieces); we’ll release North Sea 1914 right alongside Jutland Second Edition.
Jutland: Dogger Bank picks up the story from North Sea 1914 and carries it into 1915, with the Battle of Dogger Bank (the January 1915 clash between the German and British battle cruiser squadrons) of course the centerpiece. That gives you 28 more scenarios, presented just like Jutland Second Edition. And those two are just the start of what will be a comprehensive look at naval warfare in the North Sea and Baltic, 1914-1918, told through the medium of a wargame, Jutland Second Edition.
I’ve designed a lot of games, and Jutland Second Edition is my best work. At least that’s what I think; it most definitely is the closest to what I desired to create when I designed it. It’s carefully crafted to be a very different sort of game, a historical study in the guise of a wargame, centered on a single topic and exploring that topic thoroughly.
Once again, we’re swimming against the tide. It’s a very satisfying feeling.
The Jutland Experience
Jutland Second Edition (full game)
Jutland: North Sea 1914
Jutland: Dogger Bank
Journal No. 46: Iron Dogs
Retail Price: $179.96
Package Price: $150.00
Gold Club Price: $120.00
You can order the Jutland Experience right here.
Please allow an extra two weeks for delivery.
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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and NASA Journalist in Space finalist, he has published a great many books, games and articles on historical subjects; people are saying that some of them are actually good.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children, and his new puppy. His Iron Dog, Leopold, could swim very well.
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