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Premise Behind the Game (continued)

On May 31st, the battlecruiser forces met. Rear Admiral David Beatty’s battlecruiser force of nine battlecruisers met Hipper’s force of five battlecruisers. While this looked like a pretty big mismatch the gunnery of the Germans was much better early on. In addition, the much stronger construction of the German battlecruisers allowed them to take punishment the British ships couldn’t withstand. Poor British ammunition handling also played into the German’s favor.

Within 30 minutes two Royal Navy battlecruisers were sunk and a third was seriously damaged. It was only saved by flooding of one of the magazines. The force turned north to drag the German forces into an engagement with the main force of British battleships not far behind. In what would be the largest and only major surface action between dreadnoughts in WWI Admiral Jellicoe’s and Sheer’s major forces met and engaged.

Hipper was at a big disadvantage and realized it when he saw the main body of the Grand Fleet. Although he had sunk two British battlecruisers and would sink another one soon, he knew that his forces were getting hammered by the larger and better armed British force. His fleet’s “T” was being crossed and there was a larger risk of him losing his entire force. He tried several different maneuvers but his erratic movements both confused the British and at other times brought the High Seas Fleet right back toward the British. His ships continued to be hammered as nightfall approached.

In desperation, Hipper ordered Sheer’s battlecruisers and destroyers to execute what should have been a suicidal mission in attacking the enemy main body while the rest of the fleet turned away in an attempt to flee to the south. If the German Navy could somehow disengage and make its way south without being re-detected it might be able to escape.

The slip worked. Although the four remaining German battlecruisers were hammered again (one battlecruiser had already been sunk) but it allowed the rest of the High Seas Fleet to escape. Through mistakes and the fog of war, the two fleets failed to meet in any significant numbers through the rest of the night. By the next morning the opportunity for Jellicoe to finish the job was pretty much gone. Even when the Germans were sighted, the British either failed to fire due to fear of giving their position away or because they didn’t have orders to engage. This meant that the vast majority of the High Seas Fleet was able to get back to port. Many of the ships were heavily damaged and barely able to make it back, but once in port they were safe.

If you look at the numbers the battle was considered a German victory. The Royal Navy lost three battlecruisers, three armored cruisers (comparable to the more modern heavy cruiser), and eight destroyers. The High Seas Fleet lost one battlecruiser, one obsolete pre-dreadnought, four light cruisers and five destroyers. The British had 6097 sailors killed, the Germans, 2551.

In the long run though the Royal Navy won the battle. The High Seas Fleet never sortied in force again and never was a threat to British superiority. In the end, the High Seas Fleet remained a fleet in existence, but a fleet unable to overcome enemy forces around it.

Into this timeframe Jim Rose and Norm Koger developed the game of Jutland. If you think you can do better than Hipper or Jellicoe, then you will have your chance.

Dead in the Water

Dead in the Water

Installation, Setup and Copy Protection

Jutland is a game you cannot purchase in a store. Storm Eagle Studios (SES) decided early on with Distant Guns to not pursue the publisher and distributor route for their games, and as such the only way to purchase the game is to buy it online and download it. This is probably not a problem for gamers these days since most of our readers probably have high speed connections, but it does tend to limit many potential customers for the game. There is no real advertising for the game outside of wargaming and simulation circles. That means people who frequent the local Best Buy or Wal-Mart and not Wargamer.com or SimHQ.com may know much about the game.

Download was pretty easy but takes some time. At 605MB it is a large download so it can take a while. The SES web site has the download of the demo which is also the full game should you choose to purchase it. Downloading the game demo will give you two scenarios (a duel between an RN and German BB, and Red Sky in the Morning, a four ships per side duel) to give you a feel for the game. In addition you are able to play the other scenarios for 10 minutes and one large scenario —1548, for 20 minutes.

You have two purchase options for the game. The first option, the standard game, is $39.95 USD. Included are all the historical scenarios, multiplayer support, and the ability to play the May 1916 Jutland campaign. The professional edition allows those items plus the ability to play a full January to December 1916 campaign, a full mission editor to create new scenarios, and the ability to play user created missions. This version weighs in at $54.95 USD. Go for the professional edition. While the standard game is fine, the full campaign makes the game for me. More on that later.

Once installed and purchased, you get an activation key sent to you which will activate the game. Keep this key handy. You will need it for what is right now the most controversial part of this game — the license check portion.

SES has asked me to put a link in to their Frequently Asked Page on their web site since there is confusion concerning the game. There are some legitimate questions addressed that have been raised on the FAQ page.

The game undergoes a check every time you start it. What it does is contact the server at SES and checks to ensure that the copy you are using is legitimately installed and certified for use on the computer you are using. If you don’t have an active Internet connection, it will not automatically kill the game, but if a week goes by and the game doesn’t connect to the SES server, then the game will play only in demo mode until you are able to log online and reset the system. Likewise if your computer crashes and has to have extensive rebuilding done, then the game may not work since it will recognize the computer as being one different than the one registered on SES’s server. This means that you will have to revalidate the game using your password. The problem is that you will have to wait a week (from the last validation check) until you can activate the game. You can send the license back to SES for storage before upgrading and immediately re-activate the game once you upgrade. There are unlimited send backs of the license but you can only use the license on one computer at one time. So pretty much the rule is, if you are upgrading make sure that you send the license back or you will have to wait a week before you can revalidate.

While I understand the need for security and the desire to prevent piracy of the game, I personally think this is a case of going overboard. The biggest problem I have with the game involves the one week issue. While a majority of the time people will have no problem getting online to perform the validity check, there may be times when you can’t do it. Not all hotels and motels have high speed Internet access, and this means that you may not be able to actually check your laptop in when traveling. What this does is discourage possibly the biggest potential customer base the game could have. I also find it irritating that a game that is bought and paid for has to be certified again if I go on vacation and don’t turn the computer on for a week. It is a minor irritation but it gives a potential buyer the feeling that the developers are looking at all buyers as potential poachers and not as customers.

Setting up the game is fairly easy. The minimum specs for the game are fairly mild. A 1.7 GHz processor, 1 GB RAM, a GeForce based card. These days this is a fairly easy set of specifications and most people can handle the minimum requirements. I will give one word of warning — my medium-powered box was well above these specs and large engagements would cause hang-ups at significant times. There are a lot of calculations involved in the game, and the largest scenarios are very computer intensive, so if you really want to play this game and the full battles, then you may want to look at running it on a more powerful computer.

Settings wise, almost everything is adjustable. You can adjust the game’s graphics, sound and even the likelihood of hits. The poor British ammunition handling problems and brittle armored piercing shell problems can be turned off and on as well. This is a boon for those folks with lower end machines since you can turn down some of the more graphically intensive features. There are few games, even today, that allow you the flexibility in adjusting details like this game does.

Overall the game setup works well and runs well on most mid- and high-end systems, and is easy to configure. The biggest sticking point will be the game checking software, and there are plenty of arguments over that. It isn’t a deal killer for me but it does mean that I probably won’t order an extra copy for my infrequently-used laptop.

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