U.S. Navy Plan Red:
Scenario Preview, Part One
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
It was never part of our branding strategy – if you can say that Avalanche Press has ever had a coherent branding strategy – but somehow we became known in some corners of the game industry as “the company that makes those ‘Plan’ games.” So once we had the means to bring our old titles back into print without making a 10-year supply of them, it seemed like a good idea to get those Plans back into circulation.
U.S. Navy Plan Red looks at British and American plans to fight one another in the years just after the First World War. The first edition had 13 scenarios, but this low number offended series developer Jim Stear and he expanded it to 34. Here’s a look at some of them:
Battle Scenario One
Old vs. New
While the Americans concentrated on building up a battle fleet second to none, the British, through the war years of 1914-1918, designed and laid down updated version of most ship classes including the cruiser types initially neglected by the U.S. Navy. If the former Allies had come to blows soon after the Great War, the initial contests would likely have been ones of old vs. new.
It’s a small action, with each side bringing four cruisers to the fray, two big ones and two smaller ones apiece. The twist is the British ships are much newer and faster, but the Americans have bigger guns.
Battle Scenario Two
The United States struggled through the war years with the concept of the battle cruiser, examining and discarding various designs until settling on the Lexington class (two of which would become famous carrier conversions post-Washington Treaty, with the remaining incomplete sisters were cut up for scrap). Early versions of this ship had the very fast but lightly armored vessel armed with ten 14” guns. How these would fare against the later British near-fast battleship G3 design would pose an interesting question.
The newest and biggest cruisers fight it out: two of the gigantic British G3 type battle cruisers aided by two F-class light cruisers take on a force of American Lexington-class battle cruisers and Omaha-class light cruisers. The British ships are bigger and have greater firepower, but the torpedo batteries on the American light cruisers might be the equalizer.
Battle Scenario Three
In 1912, the Dominion of Canada approved construction of three dreadnought battleships, to be built in local yards, as part of their overall contribution to the defense of the Empire. However, objections from British shipbuilders managed to scuttle the plan. If work on these ships had gone ahead, they might have formed the first line of defense or offense in any Imperial conflict involving the neighbor to the south.
We included three Canadian fast battleships in the game, so we of course have to let you fight with them. Here they take on some older American battleships backed by those big flush-deck destroyers with their awesome torpedo batteries.
Battle Scenario Four
Clash of Titans
Over 1918-1919, both the U.S. Navy and the Royal Navy made plans for huge battleships with 18-inch guns. The governments of both nations paled at the price tags, and in subsequent years agreed to limitations on naval armaments. But had these ships been built, they would have been the ultimate big-gun weapon systems.
Now it’s heavy metal time: both sides send out their giant battleships to fight to the end. And given the victory conditions requiring both sides to sink several enemy behemoths, it’s going to get pretty nasty as the eggshells fight each other with hammers.
Battle Scenario Five
Immediately after the conclusion of the Great War, both the United States and Great Britain harbored deep suspicions as to how their erstwhile allies would view the question of naval supremacy in a world without the High Seas Fleet. A common theme was that trade rivalry could lead to armed conflict between the two English-speaking peoples. Should that come to pass, the fast armored cruisers considered by the U.S. Navy would be handy for commerce raiding, however given the British war experience with raiders, the provision of heavy escorts to block such moves might not be long in coming.
This is a convoy action, with a pair of fast American armored cruisers trying to work their way around a much slower but far more powerful British escort to get at the transports it’s escorting.
Operational Scenario One
Free Trade and Sailors’ Rights
Besides a common language, Britain and the United States shared a dependence on international commerce. The Atlantic sea lanes carried the wealth of both nations, and each would be vulnerable to the disruption of this trade. Both navies built warships with commerce raiding or protection in mind, and planning staffs from each nation saw an attack on enemy trade as an integral part of a future war between them.
The British are trying to bring a mighty convoy across the map; the Americans are desperate to stop them. Both the convoy’s close and distant escorts are the equal of the one American battleship squadron on the map; but the Americans have some heavy raiders lurking in the Atlantic that can do great damage should they slip past.
Operational Scenario Two
Both the British and US plans for future conflict assumed that American land and sea forces would attempt to seize Canada. As had been the case in the Anglo-French wars of the 18th century, Nova Scotia would hold a key position. American troops would have to seize the province and deny it to the enemy.
There’s not a whole lot of subtlety going on here: the Americans are coming for Nova Scotia with a whole bunch of troop transports backed by battleships. The British and Canadians have their own squadrons of battleships to try to keep them away.
Operational Scenario Three
American planners realized very quickly that Canadian geography worked in their favor. Halifax stood vulnerable to invasion, while the Canadian ports of the St. Lawrence Valley opened to the Atlantic through a pair of narrow straits. Keeping those closed would be critical to finishing the conquest of Canada.
This one’s a minelaying mission: American cruisers are trying to lay minefields deep in Canadian waters. British cruisers have to find them and stop them.
Operational Scenario Four
Positioned astride the sea lanes connecting major American ports with the rest of the world, Bermuda could prove a great annoyance to US war plans. Fast cruisers based in the islands could strike freely at American commerce, a situation that could not be tolerated.
The Americans are tired of British raiders basing at Bermuda, and are off to conquer the little island. The British, of course, must stop them. We had a version of this scenario in the first edition, but that was published before Great War at Sea games came with rules for ground combat so this one’s a bit different.
Operational Scenario Five
While the Pearl Harbor attack is usually remembered as the first great success of carrier warfare, few recall that the Royal Navy pioneered the tactic. During the First World War, British aeroplane carriers attacked German zeppelin sheds, with mixed results. Royal Navy planners hoped to use carrier-borne torpedo planes against the High Seas Fleet at anchor, but the war ended before the operation took place. In the event of war with the United States, British leaders would no doubt resurrect the idea and attempt to apply it to their hostile Atlantic cousins.
A British sneak attack, with aircraft carriers bearing torpedo planes, and airships! Will the Americans come to their senses in time?
Operational Scenario Six
American innovators developed the first aircraft, and conducted the first take-offs and landings on ships with the new machines. The US Navy had a great interest in an aircraft carrier from the earliest days of their experiments. Many such plans involved converting a large liner to carry aircraft. American doctrine looked to the carrier as a scouting platform, to help overcome the Navy’s lack of fast cruisers.
The British are trying to reinforce Bermuda, and the Americans aim to stop them with the aircraft carrier Wilson, a big converted liner carrying many aircraft. Failing that, they do have some very fast battle cruisers they can try to slip past the enemy battleships.
Operational Scenario Seven
Plan Red acknowledged that the American economy demanded continued overseas trade. It also admitted that individual merchant ships would be easy prey for enemy cruisers within a few weeks of the opening of hostilities. US Navy planners intended to convoy merchant ships past the Royal Navy, ensuring American goods would make it to foreign markets.
The U.S. Navy is out to save the world for American capitalism, escorting a huge convoy past the slavering jaws of prize-crazed British cruiser captains. Even the U.S. Coast Guard is out to help (and provide victory points for any British cruiser that should stumble upon them).
And there’s the first dozen. We’ll look at more of them soon.
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