Prizes of War:
Taking the other guy’s stuff and adding it to your own – it’s a primal human drive, and it’s the basis of Jutland: Prizes of War, an expansion book for Great War at Sea: Jutland . Russian and French ships appear in German and British colors, as well as a pair of Turkish ships and a Greek battleship under the German flag.
We usually prefer to make the scenario set the centerpiece of our games and expansions; after all, we expect you’ll want to play these things. Prizes of War is a little different; while it has a fine set of 23 scenarios (11 operational scenarios, 12 battle scenarios), they were crafted to use the set of pieces, rather than the pieces having been set by the scenarios’ needs.
Prizes of War originally appeared as a download-only product, during the darkest days of Avalanche Press. We brought it out later in a comb-bound edition with laser-cut pieces. We don’t make either one of those any more (outside of some odd downloads exclusively for our Gold Club), and now that we’re back at full capability we’ve re-issued Prizes of War in book form, with our fine die-cut and silky-smooth playing pieces.
Our new printing process (new compared to the old ways; we’ve been using these pieces for a few years now) provides much sharper reproduction than we used to get. So just like our other new games and books, all of the artwork is new, and it’s really nice.
For this new edition, doubtlessly the final edition, we made some substantial changes. The old version had experimental “long” destroyer pieces we tried in some of the downloads, but never in the “real” printed games or supplements. The experiment never really took off, so I tossed those out and put the destroyers on the same square pieces as seen in Jutland and other games. While I was at it, I did away with the British-flagged destroyers, as those just aren’t as useful to the Grand Fleet as they are to the Germans.
That change gave us a lot of cardboard real estate to play with: 18 additional pieces as we switched from 70 “long” pieces to 60 “long” plus 20 square ones for 80 total. Now there are even more battleships – you can never have too many battleships.
The Germans get nineteen new battleships. Twelve of them are formerly French dreadnoughts: four of the Courbet class, three Bretagne class and five Normandie class. Some of these are more useful than others; none of them is a game changer (except for the sheer numbers they add to the High Seas Fleet). Likewise, the four dreadnoughts of the Gangut class aren’t very good fighting ships, but there are four of them. And like the French dreadnoughts, they aren’t much worse than the crapulent ships the Germans built for themselves in their first two classes of dreadnoughts.
The lone ex-Greek ship is slightly better; she appears in Jutland but with the wrong drawing, so we fixed that here. The two formerly Turkish battleships, built in Britain, are much better fighting ships than the French or Russian battleships or the early German dreadnoughts. They appeared in German colors in the long-out-of-print Dreadnoughts book, with different names than they bear here.
The Germans, but not the British, pick up an octet of formerly Russian cruisers. The big armored cruiser Rurik and the three smaller protected cruisers (sometime described as armored cruisers) of the Bayan class were fine examples of their types, but their types had become obsolete even before the ships had been completed. They would not have added a great deal to German combat strength, but the Germans get them anyway.
The four light cruisers of the Svetlana class would have been much more useful to the High Seas Fleet: big, fast and well-armed, they would have helped fill a very serious shortage in the German order of battle. None of the actual German light cruisers, and few British ships, are as potent fighting vessels.
The four battle cruisers of the Borodino class represent a much greater accession of power. Big, fast and carrying a dozen 14-inch guns, they have much greater firepower than any German battle cruiser, at least until you get to the planned-but-never-built ships found in Jutland 1919. With the addition of these ships, the German First Scouting Group (the official name of the High Seas Fleet’s battle cruiser squadron) finally becomes a match for its British counterpart.
The Royal Navy receives many of the same vessels in British colors, starting with the dozen French dreadnoughts. Even more than the Germans, the British have plenty of older dreadnoughts armed with 12-inch guns, which would have made the older French ships a low priority for addition to the Grand Fleet. Likewise, the second- and third-generation French dreadnoughts with 13.4-inch guns do little for British fighting power, as they have three full classes of much better ships armed with much more effective 13.5-inch guns.
However, during the course of the First World War, the French attempted to sell the incomplete hulls of the Normandie-class battleships to the British. That initiative went nowhere, as the modifications needed to bring the French ships up to British standards (and to alter their armament from a dozen 13.4-inch guns to nine 15-inch guns) added up to a greater cost than simply building new and more effective battleships from the keel up in British shipyards.
That little snippet of forgotten history – that the French really did try to sell off some of their battleships – was the genesis of the whole Prizes of War concept. But since we simply re-used existing artwork in the old download edition, we didn’t include the ships as modified. They’re included in the new edition, armed with the reliable British Mark I 15-inch naval rifle. The guns are mounted in a triple turret sketched by the Vickers arms conglomerate for a proposed enlarged version of the British battleship Queen Elizabeth.
Similarly, the four Russian Gangut-class battleships aren’t a great addition to British strength. We have them in their original form in British colors, but also re-armed with eight 15-inch guns in the place of their dozen 12-inch guns. That would have been a very expensive modification, but it would have helped meet Sir John Jellicoe’s demand that the Grand Fleet he commanded receive as many ships armed with this fine weapon as possible, as quickly as possible.
As with the German additions, the four Russian battle cruisers of the Borodino class are a much different story. The British Battle Cruiser Fleet usually has a significant edge over the German First Scouting Group; that becomes decisive with the addition of these big and powerful ships.
And so that’s the latest addition to the Great War at Sea series: a toy box for Jutland, with a whole fleet of new ships (two of them, actually) and some new scenarios so you can play with them.
Click right here to order Prizes of War right now.
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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold. Leopold enjoys being vacuumed.