An "Old School" Naval War Game

We played this game at Covenant Presbyterian Church in North Jackson on October 16, 2010. The 1/1200 WWII ships are owned by Jay stribling and Robert Whitfield and are true veterans. Most of them were purchased in the late 1970s or early 1980s. The sea was represented by a blue sheet formerly on Jay's waterbed.

The rules were "old school." We used Surface Warship 1939-1943 by Arnold J. Hendricks as the base rules but Jay Stribling, as the game-master, simplified them ruthlessly. Robert Whitfield and Jay Stribling played many games on the carpeted floor of Whit's apartment with these rules when we were 35 years younger. Some of the ships still bear the marks of being trodden on!

Scan of Jay Stribling's rules set.

Jay Stribling was the Game-Master for the game, but also played in the game. Five of the Jackson Gamers assembled for this WWII Japanese vs US naval game. Bill Hamilton, Ed Sansing and Sean Pitts were the US Navy in the first game. Then we broke for lunch.

After hearty sandwiches at the local Quiznos franchise we resumed play with Bill Hamilton and Sean Pitts as the Japanese fleet and Jim Pitts, Ed Sansing and Jay Stribling as the Americans.

This game was played on tables as several of the Jackson Gamers would have problems getting down to the floor level and then up again. The Game-Master is thinking of himself as he writes this!

Photo by Jim Pitts

In the first game, the Japanese cruiser Chokai - captained by Jim Pitts - launches a spread of four torpedoes. These are the original torpedo markers supplied with the Surface Warship game.

In about 1975 I had glued them to a cardboard backing, but in the 35 years since then, the glue failed. They are now just small rectangular pieces of paper. If we play this game again, I will spring for some small Litko torpedo markers.

Photo by Jim Pitts

The American cruiser Brooklyn is hit by Japanese fire. The little black "puff" of smoke is one of Jim Pitts' markers. He placed one on each ship that was hit.

The upright white and yellow "splash" markers (Golf tees are SO useful) indicate the fall of shot for the two Japanese Cruisers. White marked the location of the Nachi's shells and yellow the site of the fire from the Chokai.

Photo by Jim Pitts

In the first battle, the Japanese cruiser Nachi is hit! Jay Stribling was the captain of this ship. The red horizontal arrow marker (Golf Tees glued to washers) shows the direction that the Nachi is firing.

In this game each player has one ship. He is the captain, moving the ship, and he is also the gunner officer who aims the marker showing the direction of the ship's fire, and writing down the range at which the shells will hit.

All of this has to be done within 45 seconds. Then a tape measure is streched out to the indicated distance along the direction that the "fire arrow" is pointing. The opponent keeps a VERY careful eye on this proceedure.

Photo by Jim Pitts

His Imperial Japanese Majesty's Cruiser Chokai is hit again. We rolled each time that a ship was hit, using a D10. Jim rolled a "0" this time his ship was hit and after rolling again for the type of hit the result was a "Fire Control Hit." The Chokai could not fire for the next turn.


- 1 - Main gun turret/mount out of action. Use half broadside weight from now on.
- 2 - All engine power lost, no movement till roll 1 on D10 at start of turn.
- 3 - Ready ammunition explosion, take damage equal to own Broadside weight.
- 4,5 Fire control damage. Cannot shoot this turn.
- 6 - Ammunition supply chain interrupted. Use half broadside weight this turn only.
- 7 - Fuel supply contaminated, no movement this turn only
- 8 - Bridge hit, must reverse direction and go back in direction came from, this turn only.
- 9 - On fire. Lose 10% of displacement each turn till fire extinguished by rolling 2 on D10 at start turn.
- 10 - Engine hit. Half speed from now on.

Photo by Jim Pitts

The Chokai is hit yet again, suffering more damage. The displacement of the ship was it's ability to take damage. The US ships had displacements of around 10,000 tons. The Japanese cruisers were heavier at around 13,000 tons.

Each ship had a "throw weight" which the gamemaster set at 1000 points, The Japanese cruisers each had ten 8" guns. They also had a quadruple 24" torpedo tube mount on each side. The American heavy cruiser had nine 8" guns and the American light cruisers each had 12or 15 6" guns.

When a ship's base was hit, or when an enemy ship missed but still landed within 1" of the target ship's base, then the enemy ship's displacement was reduced equal to the "throw weight" of the firing ship. As the ships took damage, their speed and their "throw weight" and the number of usable torpedo tubes were reduced.

When the ship's displacement was reduced to zero, the crew had to start swimming!

Photo by Jim Pitts

The American cruiser Minneapolis is hit by shellfire from the Chokai and torpedoes from the Nachi. The combination of the damages causes her to sink. BANZAI!! is heard from His Imperial Japanese Majesty's ships.

Note the two of the torpedo markers have missed astern of the Minneapolis but two have impacted directly on the side. We gave a 50% chance of a hit to a torpedo that passed within 1" of the base of a ship, and 100% chance to hit for a torpedo that intersected the ship's base.

Photo by Jim Pitts

In the second game the Japanese cruiser Nachi (captain: Bill Hamilton) launches a spread of torpedoes. The American cruiser Minneapolis (Captain Ed Sansing) is in the foreground. Note more torpedoes in water launched on a previous turn by cruiser Chokai (captain: Sean Pitts).

The torpedo markers were "launched" at the start of the turn, before the 45 secnd timed gunner movement and gunnery aiming period began. Then, each turn, after gunnery, the torpedoes "swam" at 40 knots in the exact direction that they were pointed. The torpedoes were dangerous till they swam off the edge of the table!

Photo by Jim Pitts

Again in the second game, the American cruiser Minneapolis is being hit by Japanese shellfire and torpedoes which sink her. BANZAI!!

The Minneapolis was an unlucky ship in both games. She was the only American Heavy cruiser in the game, the Brooklyn and the Cleveland being 6" gun light cruisers. As such, with her longer range, the Japanese targeted her first.

None of the American ships had torpedoes. This probably was decisive in the first game, but not the second.


Japanese 24" TorpedoesAmerican 21" Torpedoes
- 1,2,33,000 pts damage - 1,2 - 2,000 pts damage
- 4,5 -2,000 pts damage - 3,4 - 1,500 pts damage
- 6,7 -1,500 pts damg + half speed rest/game - 5,6, - 1000 pts damage
- 8,9 -1000 pts damage + immobile rest/game - 7,8, - 1000 pts damage + half speed rest/game
- 10 -No explosion/ran underneath. - 9, 10 No explosion/ran underneath

So, Who won these two games?

The Japanese - Jay Stribling and Jim Pitts - won the first game. The Japanese torpedoes were a great equalizer, and more!

The Americans - Jim Pitts, Ed Sansing and Jay Stribling won the second game. Although Captain Ed Sansing had his cruiser Minneapolis sunk under him, the superior weight of American shellfire carried the day.

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