Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Fletcher Pratt Naval Wargame - an organiser's guide

While putting together the most recent Fletcher Pratt scenario, it occurred to me that others may be tempted to undertake similar ventures, so what follows is my attempt to pass on the dubious benefit of my experience in this area.

What you'll need to run the game
A. The rules!  Various versions are around, but I can strongly recommend the recently published book edited by John Curry which includes not only the rules (and several variants) but a lot of commentary and useful background information.  See the History of Wargaming site for more details.
B. Ship cards - templates and some completed cards can be found on the aforementioned site.
C. Pens - players and umpires will need to mark off damage on the ship cards.
D. Rulers - players will need these to measure ship movement.  I use rulers marked out in knots and printed on thin card.  Ideally one per player.  I have made mine available from my new 'downloads' section (see top right on the blog page).
E. Measuring tapes - for the use of umpires only!  A 2-metre (6 foot) version should be adequate.
F. Golf tees.  Blue for misses, red for hits and white for torpedo hits.
G. Firing Arrows.  It is possible to use more elaborate devices, but I simply use triangles of thin card cut from kit and breakfast cereal boxes.  These need to be blank on one side so players can write on gun details and range estimates.
H. Admin tables for each side - the ship cards, pens and a stock of firing arrows should be placed on these, so umpires aren't always trying to find ship cards!
I. An umpire crib sheet.  This can be very useful - the information most commonly needed is found in the gunnery, torpedo and armour penetration tables.
J. Ship Models - it is worth pointing out that even with the (relatively) large 1/1200 models it is a challenge to pick out details at the distances in F-P games.  Given that I (and I know many others) apply the '3-foot rule' for tabletop toys, when played on a floor this becomes the '6-foot rule'.  In other words, if a scenario requires three Polish destroyers don't agonise over having the exact models - just ships of more or less the correct size!
K. Wreck markers - not essential but they add to the fun!  I made three for a F-P game in 2005 and have yet to produce any more...
L. Player briefing - especially useful for larger scenarios.
M. A clearly marked playing area - for floor games.
N. Umpires - a ratio of 1 umpire to 2 players seems to work well.  When resolving gunnery it is useful to have umpires work in pairs.
O. And of course - players!

What to say before the game
Having assembled all of this, it is useful to give a verbal briefing to all players - especially if some are new to the game.  My own pre-game briefing includes the following points:
1. The game relies players to exhibit honesty and behave in a gentlemanly manner.  If you have doubts over this you are gaming with the wrong people!
2. Players may enter the playing area to move ships.  The time allowed for this is 30 seconds.
3. A further minute is allowed for placing firing arrows.  It is essential that these contain the following information:  number of guns firing; calibre; estimated range.
5. When firing torpedoes use arrows marked with the number of tubes fired.  These will be moved by the umpire team.
6. After placing firing arrows players should leave the playing area so the umpire team can resolve gunnery.
7. Players may wander off to smoke, go to the bar etc, but unless buying drinks for the umpire the game will not wait for them.
8. Players should be discouraged pointless firing - this includes single torpedoes at extreme range, destroyer guns at pretty much anything at anything more than point blank range and so on.  This avoids unnecessary work for the umpire team.
9. Players should be aware that movement and gunnery will be affected by damage inflicted - it is their responsibility to ensure they are working from up to date information.


Robert (Bob) Cordery said...


A very, VERY useful guide as to how to run a wargame using these rules!

All the best,


Tim Gow said...

Bob Cordery
Hopefully it'll save a bit of time and head-scratching for anyone attempting a F-P game.

Martin Rapier said...

As an umpire one thing I found very useful indeed was to do a crib sheet beforehand with:

i) a small table of the ships armour and gun calibres
ii) damage inflicted by a 'standard' salvo (pairs of guns or triples for thos shisp who like to fire triples, like Scharnhorst
iii) most important, a matrix for each ship type vs each opposing ship type with the ranges at which their shells could actually penetrate the armour. Much easier and faster than squinting at the charts in the rules.

Tim Gow said...

Martin Rapier
The crib sheet made quite a difference. When I am designing scenarios in future I will continue to minimise the number of gun and turret permutations that we have to deal with!