Ships of Plan Z:
Our massive Second World War at Sea: Plan Z expansion set wasn’t always supposed to be so massive, but it sort of grew and grew from a simple book-with-pieces to be a large box filled with toys – new ships and aircraft for use with the North Atlantic trio of games in the series, Bismarck, Arctic Convoy and Sea of Iron. It would have plenty of these, along with scenarios for their use and a story arc to link them together.
Eventually I had to stop the growing, finish the set and release it to eager gamers. And they have proven very eager for it. As a consolation for having stopped the growing, I promised myself that we could release an expansion for the expansion soon after Plan Z came out. And we’re calling it Ships of Plan Z.
Ships of Plan Z is one of our new type of smaller book supplements. It has a 32-page large-format book all about the ships included in the Plan Z expansion set, both German and British. It’s a background book, talking about the ships themselves, their design and their construction and service (for those that actually existed). There are no scenarios; this one’s all about the ships.
And then there are the new pieces: 95 of them, all German, mostly torpedo boats. They are all on “long” pieces, die-cut and silky-smooth just like the pieces in Plan Z. We issued some of these before in the special Torpedo Boats set available only to the Gold Club as a special sales incentive. Those were laser-cut, limited-edition pieces. We’re replaced the artwork on some; our current printing process is very sharp and exposes flaws that were invisible before.
Most of the pieces in Ships of Plan Z are still torpedo boats, the small destroyers fielded by the German Kriegsmarine during the Second World War. The early models are miniaturized destroyers, with smaller guns than real destroyers and fewer torpedoes.
Then the Kriesgmarine attempted to move on to a true torpedo boat, armed with torpedoes and little else beyond a handful of light anti-aircraft guns. That concept had been obsolete since before the First World War, let alone the Second. These boats saw a great deal of service anyway, because the German lacked effective surface combatants, but were a very poor design and like a great deal of German military production a waste of resources. The latter torpedo boats were true destroyers in all but name, with a size, armament and capability matching that of other navies’ fleet destroyers but a label implying small craft that allowed them to slip through the budget process without serious opposition. Few of these made it into action before the war ended.
We’ve added a few other torpedo boats as well: four former Norwegian boats captured in 1940 and incorporated into the Kriegsmarine under new names. And a pair of ancient torpedo boats left over from the Imperial Navy of World War One that were deployed as combat units in 1939.
Many, but not all, of these vessels appear in other Second World War at Sea games (and in the Plan Z expansion set) as “small” pieces – square ones half the size of the “long” ship pieces, which we use for minor warships. They’re perfectly serviceable in game-play. They’re just not as much fun. The new pieces have the “destroyer stripe” just like destroyers in the Second World War at Sea games, and are used exactly the same way. They’re not always very good destroyers, but they do look very good and the tactical map.
The torpedo boats do see a lot of action in Plan Z’s scenarios; the latter boats, especially, were used as destroyers and given the poor German design practices reflected in the gigantic destroyers of Plan Z, they would have been relied upon for destroyer missions in a setting where Plan Z had been completed. While none have the enormous (and superfluous) range of the Plan Z super-destroyers, the larger boats are perfectly capable of accompanying the fleet into the North Atlantic. So these pieces are going to see a good bit of use on the tactical map.
In addition to scads of torpedo boats, we have some other vessels upgraded to “long” playing piece status. There are the four K-type colonial gunboats, ordered as part of Plan Z to police Germany’s non-existent colonies thanks solely to the political influence of the shipyard that built them. They are slow and weakly armed as well as easy to sink, but at least they look good while they’re doing it.
Finally, we’ve included Germany’s seven anti-aircraft ships, among the most unusual vessels to appear in Second World War at Sea games. Some of these ships can’t even move, but they do help defend German warships in port from Allied air attacks.
Ships of Plan Z is built to add to the fun of your games; it isn’t actually necessary to play the scenarios of Plan Z. Except for hard-core players of Second World War at Sea; if you’re one of those, it is absolutely necessary.
Don’t wait to put Ships of Plan Z on your game table! Join the Gold Club and find out how to get it before anyone else!
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.