Jutland Second Edition:
Publisher’s Preview

By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
April 2023

After nearly three decades, we’ve finally given the Great War at Sea series rules a new edition. And that means that the older games within the series need updating to match.

Great War at Sea: Jutland is the series flagship. It’s our best-selling game ever (even topping Third Reich) and it’s likely one of the best-selling wargames of the 21st Century.

Jutland, the game, is centered on Jutland, the battle: the May 1916 clash of the British Grand Fleet and German High Seas Fleet in the North Sea. It’s said that more works of history have been devoted to this battle than to any other (I don’t actually know if that’s true, but I did hear someone say that and it makes for good ad copy).

There’s a lot more to this game than just the one battle: Jutland, the game, covers naval action in both the North Sea and the Baltic, from the start of the war in August 1914 through its end in November 1918. There are 51 scenarios: seven battle scenarios (taking place just on the tactical map) and 44 operational scenarios (like it says, on the operational map, with a chance of moving to the tactical map when battle ensues).

I designed Great War at Sea (which is the name of the series, not the individual game) to make sure that all the other aspects of First World War-era naval operations would be present (cruiser raids, minefields, submarines) but the real purpose was to bring fleets of battleships together so they could fight.

The game plays pretty simply: the operational map covers the area where the campaign took place, and is divided into an offset pattern of square zones. You move fleets across this area, having written down their course beforehand (how far before depends on their mission; some missions are planned totally in advance, others give more leeway to react to the enemy). It’s not much of a bookkeeping burden, since you only have a few fleets in play.

Those fleets are comprised of ships. When fleets collide, play moves to the tactical map. There, your ships maneuver and fire at the enemy with guns and torpedoes. You do this by rolling dice, a 6 equals a hit. But that hit may not do any damage, depending on the type of weapon firing and the armor of the target ship. Or it could do a great deal; there are damage tables to be consulted.

Jutland, the game, is the centerpiece of Great War at Sea. It’s really two complete games in one package: the campaign in the North Sea, and that in the Baltic. The map stretches from Ireland to St. Petersburg, covering both the North Sea and the Baltic and the waters around the British Isles. All of the major ports, and most of the minor ones, are there. The key choke point comes in the Danish Straits, known as the Great Belt and the Little Belt. In most scenarios the Danes have laid thick minefields that, together with Danish neutrality, render the route between the seas impassable to warring fleets (the Germans, via the Kiel Canal, can avoid this problem). The North Sea and the Baltic are distinctive theaters and could easily have been packaged as two separate games.

The new Second Edition Great War at Sea series rules retain the same core concepts: Plot the movement of fleets beforehand, try to make contact with the enemy. Move to the tactical map once you find the enemy. Roll a six, get a hit.

You can read a preview of the Second Edition rules here.

Over time, we added new concepts in the special rules for each game or expansion. Now most of those have been moved into the series rules, either as core rules or options. Along with the new series rules come new charts cards and color fleet organization cards.

We’ve retained the map and pieces from the prior edition of Jutland; we still have a supply of them. We stuffed Jutland with playing pieces: five sheets’ worth of them, with 490 “long” ones and 420 square ones. All of the ships that took part in the historical scenarios are here and plenty more: ships begun but never completed, and some planned but not built. The British, Germans and Russians are fully represented, but so are the minor powers located around the North Sea and Baltic: the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Denmark.

France (armored cruisers that served in the English Channel) is represented, and the United States (one squadron of battleships joined the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow, another went to Ireland to intercept German battle cruisers that might try breaking out into the Atlantic). Australia’s contribution – one battle cruiser and four light cruisers – appears in its own color scheme.

We also managed to include some of the less glamorous vessels that took part in the Great War at Sea: the British monitors that shelled the Flanders coast and the German torpedo boats that tried to break through British defenses to sink them. Everyone has the ancient ships mobilized and sent to sea, like the old German coast-defense ships and obsolete British armored cruisers.

Jutland already has a fat scenario book, with its fifty-one scenarios, though it’s an unbalanced set: the design pre-dates my conversion to the beauty and wisdom of the battle scenario, both as a fun instrument of play and as a story-telling device. I remedied that, partially, with the Jutland Battle Analysis 1914 and Jutland: Dogger Bank books, which add dozens more scenarios and revise many of the existing ones. And we’ll continue with more books in that vein, through the end of the war, in the North Sea and the Baltic.

For Jutland’s Second Edition, I applied the revisions to all of the existing scenarios, and replaced a few of them with scenarios from the two analysis books. Those two are also getting revised to match the new series rules, with more brand-new scenarios (since we have more space without the first edition special rules).

The Jutland expansion High Seas Fleet is getting a new set of pieces (with new artwork), revised scenarios and an additional chapter to fill the space formerly taken up by the special rules. Jutland 1919 is getting the same treatment except for the new pieces. These new Second Editions won’t be compatible with the old First Edition.

Jutland: Second Edition comes in Playbook format, which helps us ship it to overseas customers and lets us print it locally. There’s no box and no dice, but everything else you need to play comes right there with the book.

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You can order Jutland (Second Edition) right here.
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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 Iron Dog, Leopold.

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