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Great War at Sea: Jutland
Variant Rules, Counters and a Scenario
By Ernie Wheeler
November 2014

The Great War at Sea: Zeppelins counter sheet includes seven airships (six German: SL3, L10, L31, L32, PL25 and M.IV; and 1 Russian: the Gigant) which do not appear in any GWAS scenario. When I suggested that providing scenarios to use those airships would make a good Daily Content feature, they replied that this was indeed a good idea; I should go ahead and do it.

So, here we have a variant scenario that gets two more of them into action. Obviously, you need the Zeppelins booklet and you also need the Jutland game; none of the other GWAS games are required to play the new scenario.

The variant scenario is a modification of Jutland scenario 32, the Sunderland Raid. L31 and L32 actually took part in this raid, as did the 10 airships given to the German player in the standard scenario. The variant places the 12 airships into the three waves they made up historically. I should note that finding an historical scenario for L32 is not easy; she was shot down on her fourth mission. L31 was shot down on her ninth. Both were used mainly as bombers. There were no survivors of either ship’s last mission.

With all that said, I hope you enjoy the following scenario.

Variant Rules

#1: Zeppelins Rule 26.1 Modification: Combat between airships and airplanes is not simultaneous. Instead, the airship fires first at the airplane, any results are applied to the airplane, and then the airplane attacks the airship. For each “hit” scored by an airship on an airplane, the airship player rolls two dice and applies the results from the table below:

Die-roll Result      Effects

2–8 ..................... No Effect

9–11 ................... The aircraft suffers a -1 penalty to each die rolled when it returns fire at the airship (so aircraft that would only hit on a 6 cannot hit the airship).

12 ........................ The aircraft counter loses 1 step and cannot fire at the airship.

Note: This rule is well-justified historically. During the Great War, the German Naval Airship Division had 12 airships destroyed in the air by airplanes. German naval airships shot down at most one airplane. On April 12, 1918, L62 may have shot down a British FE2b fighter, which was forced to land because something hit the pilot in the head (he survived) and also damaged the airplane’s propeller. The pilot believed he had been shot down by the Zeppelin he was attacking. However, his commanding officer’s report pointed out that L62 was under anti-aircraft fire at the time and the pilot’s head injury was more consistent with being struck by a shell fragment. If that was correct, and the FE2b had been shot down by British anti-aircraft fire, then no German naval airship ever shot down a fighter aircraft. On the other hand, there is some anecdotal evidence that machinegun fire from airships occasionally forced intercepting aircraft to keep a more respectful distance. This is reflected in this variant rule.

Zeppelin L30 lands at Tondern.


#2: Zeppelins Rule 25.3 Additional Weather Effects: Players must make takeoff and landing dierolls for airships just as they do for other aircraft, per rule 20.3. On a modified result of  -1, the airship is damaged and flips to its damaged side. If already damaged, or if it does not have a damaged side, it is destroyed. This does not override the prohibition on airships taking off in weather condition 5 (storm) or 6 (gale) per Zeppelins Rule 25.3.

Note: Airships had great difficulty taking off or landing in a cross-wind. The revolving shed built by the Germans at Nordholz was intended to minimize this difficulty, but it did not completely solve the problem and, in any case, the shed could accommodate only two airships. Sudden down-drafts or up-drafts were also a problem. SL3, returning from escorting the minelayer Meteor, was damaged in a squall at Nordholz when she fell hard to the ground. SL3 was not kept in the revolving shed, but this accident would have occurred even had she been.

#3: Dummy Counters. Unless scenario rules state otherwise, the British player (only) may place all his fleet counters on the board even if some of his fleet boxes have no ships in them. Fleet counters representing empty boxes are dummy counters. The British player plots movement for all dummy counters as if they had Intercept missions (5.2). When a dummy counter is contacted in any way (by airship, submarine or surface forces), it is immediately removed from the board, and the British player gets no information about the Central Powers force which contacted it. A dummy counter may not conduct searches or perform any kind of operation. A dummy counter which is removed from the map may be replaced during the Orders phase of the next game turn or any turn thereafter; it is simply stacked with any Allied fleet counter on the map (real or dummy) and a fresh plot is written for it from that point. If the British player wishes to divide any of his fleets and needs to use a fleet box that is currently represented by a dummy counter, he removes the dummy counter from the board at the time the fleet divides and places it in the location of the newly divided fleet (5.24).

Zeppelin Base Counters


Birth of the flughafen: the zeppelin shed at Frankfurt am Main.


The German player should place the free downloadable zeppelin base counters on the board at the following locations:

Ahlhorn: AD 33
Fuhlsbuttel: AB 36
Hage: AB 30
Seddin-Jeseritz: Z 46
Tondern: X 35 

These bases are usable by all German airships. Zeppelin bases can take two AA shots at any Allied aircraft making a Ground Attack on the base, as opposed to the usual three AA shots which ports can take at attacking aircraft (21.5).

You can download the new counters here.

Operational Scenario 32A (Variant)
The Sunderland Raid
17-22 August, 1916

The Sunderland Raid was yet another attempt to bring the entire strength of the High Seas Fleet to bear on a portion of the Grand Fleet. To assist in reaching this goal, the Naval Airship Division made its first and last all-out effort to scout for the fleet. Twelve airships were employed, out of an available force of only 13. The question facing the Naval Airship Division was whether such a small force could maintain continuous coverage of the British bases and fleet. The solution adopted was to send the airship fleet out in three waves. The first wave (L22, L24, L30 and L32) was to patrol from Scotland to Norway, looking for the Grand Fleet. The airships of the second wave (L11, L13, L21 and L31) were sent, one each, to the Firth of Forth, the Humber, the Tyne and the Dutch coast to scout for other British forces. The third wave (L14, L16, L17 and L23) was to provide scouting as the High Seas Fleet returned to base.

Note: This scenario uses the map from Jutland and pieces from Zeppelins and Jutland.

Time Frame, Starting Weather, Allied and Central Powers Forces, Special Rules and Victory Conditions are the same as Jutland  Operational Scenario 32, except as noted below.

Delete the Central Powers Forces Airships and replace with the following:

First Wave (may leave base at any time)
At Tondern (X 35):

At Cuxhaven (AA 35):

Second Wave (released on the turn after all airships of the First Wave have left base)
At Hage (AB 30):

At Cuxhaven (AA 35):

At Ahlhorn (AD 33):

Third Wave (released 12 turns after all airships of the First Wave have left base)
At Hage (AB 30):

At Tondern (X 35):

At Cuxhaven (AA 35):

The Naval Airship Division did not cover itself with glory during this operation. The airships of the first wave saw nothing; this was critical, as it was their task to locate the Grand Fleet. Of the second wave, L13 saw the light cruisers of the Harwich force and misidentified them as a mixed force of cruisers, battlecruisers and battleships. In response, Scheer turned south to intercept a non-existent detachment of the Grand Fleet. Ironically, the wild goose chase saved the High Seas Fleet from falling into the clutches of the entire Grand Fleet, which was rapidly approaching from the north and had not been seen by the airships assigned to look for it. L31, patrolling off the Firth of Forth, made contact with Beatty’s battlecruiser squadron, correctly identified it and shadowed it until it turned north at high speed. L11 and L21 spotted British destroyers. Arguably, only L31 performed her role as planned. The errors and failures of the Naval Airship Division during this operation have been attributed to “lack of training, lack of experience (and) lack of doctrine,” but in any case, there were too few airships to maintain the kind of continuous, systematic reconnaissance provided by aircraft during the fleet actions in the latter part of the Second World War.

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