Red-Orange Naval War
A First Look

By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
August 2022

At the end of the First World War, the United States Navy identified two potential opponents: Great Britain and Japan. Allied since 1902, they together threatened the United States from both coasts; in the event of war, the Americans had the unpalatable choice of splitting their fleet between the Atlantic and the Pacific or allowing an enemy free reign on one coast and nearby interests.

With our venerable Great War at Sea system receiving a Second Edition series rulebook – the first such major upgrade in over 25 years – we’ll also be launching a new alternative-history story arc for Great War at Sea. We have two of them for its sister series, Second World War at Sea (The Second Great War, and The Long War) so it seems appropriate to bring a similar concept to our original game series.

The War

Red-Orange Naval War sees the United States drawn first into conflict with Japan, intervening in the naval struggle between Japan and Imperial China. The uneasy truce that ends the fighting quickly breaks down with the long-agreed transfer of eight older dreadnought-type ships from the Royal Navy to the Imperial Japanese Navy. This reinforcement – instantly making good all Japanese losses and then some – enrages the American administration and Congress. The newly-inaugurated President Thomas R. Marshall retaliates by authorizing secret military aid to the Irish Republic. The discovery of American warships off-loading arms and volunteers is treated as a casus belli in London, followed in less than 24 hours in Tokyo. On 7 December 1919 Americans awaken to news that their country is at war.

It’s a world-wide naval war, with the three leading naval powers of the early 1920’s at one another’s throats. More countries, and their fleets, will be drawn in as the story progresses: Spain on the side of Britain and Japan, France and Russia in open support of the Americans with Germany and Austria remaining neutral (at least initially). But it’s Britain, Japan and the United States who are the focus of the war and its story.

The story sort of dovetails with our Second Great War alternative history. In the Second Great War story, this war almost breaks out, but only a few skirmishes result. The is the story of an all-out naval war resulting from those same provocations.

The Ships

The end of the First World War, coupled with the Washington naval limitations agreements of 1922, brought an end to a whole plethora of proposed warship projects around the globe. That left a whole lot of battleships, battle cruisers and smaller craft stranded on the slipways or the drawing boards.

These warships-that-never-were are the heart of all of our naval game alternative histories – we give you these planned ships in cardboard form, and a naval war so you can use them. Most of them are Japanese and American projected warships, since we covered many of Britain’s paper projects in Jutland 1919. But not all of them.

In the Second Great War story, since this war does not become hot, all of the ships built for it can appear a generation later in modernized form (none of them were war losses).

The Expansions

Much like the Second Great War and Long War story arcs for Great War at Sea, we’re going to tell the story of the Red-Orange Naval War in a series of expansions for Great War at Sea games, and a couple of stand-alone games, too.

The story will include:

● South Seas Mandate
Golden Annual No. 3: South Seas Mandate is a Gold Club exclusive, and it tells the story of the U.S. Navy’s attempts to relieve the American garrisons in the Philippines and Guam, using a brand-new set of 60 pieces and a dozen new scenarios, and the map from the old Great War at Sea: Pacific Crossroads. It’s a complete, stand-alone game.

● U.S. Navy Plan Emerald
This is a new expansion, using the pieces from the old U.S. Navy Plan Red to tell the story of the Red-Orange Naval War in Irish waters. It has 30 new scenarios and 210 pieces, and draws on Jutland (Second Edition), High Seas Fleet and Jutland 1919 for maps and pieces.

● Red-Orange Naval War
A storybook, much like The Second Great War, laying out the background alternative history of this war that never happened.

● U.S. Navy Plan Olive
By popular demand (well, it was just one guy, but he’s a really popular guy) we’ve decided to re-cast the planned second and third installments of our Gold Club Premium Content Caribbean Empires into a new chapter of the Red-Orange Naval War, with British and Spanish forces challenging the Americans in the Caribbean Sea. The book will have 180 brand-new die-cut and silky-smooth pieces, 30 new scenarios, and draw on Remember the Maine for its map.

● U.S. Navy Plan Orange
We return to the theme of one of the most popular games of Avalanche Press’ first years, as the Japanese make their move on the Philippines. It’s a stand-alone game, with a completely new set of die-cut and silky-smooth pieces featuring the U.S. and Japanese navies of 1919.

● Rise of the Dragon (Second Edition)
This expansion looks at the Chinese naval building program of 1908, and a Chinese-Japanese naval war resulting a few years later (with American intervention). The second edition updates those scenarios to match the Second Edition series rules, with their background story modified to become the opening act of the Red-Orange Naval War.

● War on the Lakes
The Second Edition of our unusual U.S. Navy Plan Crimson (a naval war on the Great Lakes) is a stand-alone game; its scenarios weren’t designed as part of a world-wide story line. War on the Lakes is a Campaign Study, with new scenarios and story that are part of the Red-Orange Naval War.

Remember the Fun?

This setting is going to be enormous fun. You’ll get scads of drawing-board battleships, battle cruisers and early aircraft carriers – and you’ll get to play with them!

Right now, for a very limited time, the Gold Club can get hold of just the new books for U.S. Navy Plan Emerald and Rise of the Dragon (Second Edition), can order South Seas Mandate (a Gold Club exclusive!), and claim sweet discounts on upcoming stuff. You need to be a member!

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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 and three children. He misses his Iron Dog, Leopold.

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Caribbean Empires
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Jutland 2nd Edition

Remember the Maine
2nd Edition

Cruiser Warfare. 2nd Edition

Dogger Bank

Russo-Japanese War