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Jutland Second Edition:
Designer/Publisher Preview

By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
January 2023

Great War at Sea is the series that built Avalanche Press, and Jutland is its centerpiece. When I decided to give Great War at Sea a Second Edition set of series rules, that meant that Jutland (and all the series games) would need a Second Edition of its own. That’s an opportunity I didn’t think I would have, to bring the core game closer to what I wanted it to be. What I really wanted, of course, was a game with 150 scenarios and a 200-page scenario book. In its absence, we’ll go with a merely large game and multiple expansions.

While Jutland wasn’t the first game in the Great War at Sea series, I designed the original series rules knowing that the Battle of Jutland – the most-studied naval battle in history, at least in terms of ink spilled and trees massacred – would be central. I didn’t know how central; we’ve expanded Jutland at least nine times (I’m not really sure myself) and we’ll keep doing so. There’s a lot of story to tell here.

Great War at Sea games, like those from the other series we maintain at Avalanche Press, aren’t just based on one battle. We like to show the full context of what happened, before and after the main event, and sometimes what could have happened, too. Jutland carries the name of the main event, but the 51 scenarios of the first edition stretched from possible actions before the outbreak of war in August 1914 through possible actions after its historical ending in November 1918.

Great War at Sea games feature two types of scenarios: battle scenarios and operational scenarios. Battle scenarios take place only on the tactical map, and let players get right into the action (that is, start shooting at each other). Operational scenarios start on the operational map, and fleets move across it in search of one another or to carry out their assigned missions (which may not always include seeking out the enemy). When opposing fleets collide, a battle scenario breaks out.

When I designed the first edition, I assumed that players prefer operational scenarios and weighted my own game designs in that direction. Eventually I came to see that this wasn’t true; that battle scenarios, which can be played relatively quickly, have an appeal for several different reasons. Not only are they quick to play, but they’re the scenarios where you reach out and move battleships and fight with them.

Jutland is weighted toward operational scenarios; the first edition had 44 operational and just seven battle scenarios. For the second edition, I didn’t want to totally replace that set, because we have two analysis books (Jutland: Battle Analysis 1914 and Jutland: Dogger Bank) that add scores of additional scenarios – every time the fleets went to sea, there was a chance that they could meet in battle (sometimes probably a better chance than in the sorties that actually did lead to shots fired). I wanted every sortie to have an operational scenario and at least one accompanying battle scenario.

That just won’t fit in the game; there’s only so much real estate within the covers, and at a certain point (between 40 and 50 scenarios) you not only cease to attract customers with all the fun you’re offering, you actually drive them away (since they think they’ll never play all of those scenarios). The analysis books gave me the means to have it both ways.

But the game’s scenarios are getting a total revision, beyond the changes necessary to match up with the Second Edition rules. The treatment’s similar to what some of them received in Battle Analysis 1914 and Dogger Bank, extended to all of them. Some scenarios received new replacements, and I just completely deleted a couple to replace them with brand-new ones.

Between the text shifted to the Jutland game (the scenario revisions) and the space taken up by special rules that are now part of the Second Edition rulebook, there’s extra space in Battle Analysis 1914 and Dogger Bank. We’ll cover that by shifting one chapter from Dogger Bank to Battle Analysis 1914 (which was originally written for that book anyway), and adding another, brand-new 1915 chapter with history and scenarios to fill out Dogger Bank.

All of those scenarios take place in the North Sea. But Jutland also covers naval action in the Baltic; I really should have split that off into its own game, but it’s too late for that now – the pieces are intermingled on the sheets too densely to cut them apart. I was probably 12 years old when I drew an extension map for the old Avalon Hill Jutland game, and Russian ships and hit records (I was, all too often, a very strange child).

Because of that early fascination, the Baltic gets as much attention as the North Sea, at least in proportion to the action that took place there. We’ve not addressed the Baltic theater as closely as we have the North Sea, and we’ll correct that lapse in the future with at least one analysis book, as well as the Jutland: The Baltic Sea expansion book which looks at Russian, Swedish and German shipbuilding plans.

I enjoy coming back to this topic. 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. The Baltic Sea is pretty narrow without a lot of room in which to hide; it can be surprisingly difficult to find your enemies in the North Sea, which is just large enough to allow sneaky maneuvers but small enough for comfortable play.

While there’s just one operational map, the North and Baltic Seas are distinct areas both on the map and in terms of play. The entire map is only in play in a small handful of scenarios; most of the time the action takes place in one sea or the other.

I’ve come to see game design as a vehicle for telling historical stories, and the first edition of Jutland didn’t really do that - the 51 scenarios are presented one after the next in chronological order, each standing alone. With the Second Edition, I have the wonderful opportunity to tie them together with a narrative, and a conclusion for each to bulk up the historical background and, where appropriate, lead into the next scenario.

Together, the game and the two analysis books make for a full package of history and game play. If that matters to you, you need all three – you’ll not be happy if you try to kludge together the first editions. Jutland is our top-selling game, and it needed a revision to put it in line with our best games. Now it has that.

Order Jutland second edition here.
Please allow an extra three 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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