You can adjust the hitting ability of the ships to make the battles a more effective “slug fest”, but you also get some very unintended results. You will find your cruisers getting tons of hits on destroyers, literally blowing them out of the water quite easily. Destroyers tend to be dead meat anyway against anything larger than an enemy destroyer itself. Even packs of destroyers can sometimes be wiped-out by one or two cruisers, especially if the hit percentages are increased. This shouldn’t happen. I know cruisers are well armed but they can’t target 15 ships at once and it seems like they are laser pinging the DDs as they charge to torpedo range. Eventually you may get the cruiser but often it seems you are getting chewed up with no results.
This brings up probably my biggest problem with the game.
This game is based in the North Sea. The North Sea is, well, the North Sea and it is well known for its very poor weather. The month of May isn’t the best of weather there. Yet I haven’t found a single instance of really rough seas in the game. Since many of these ships — actually almost all of them — use casemate mounted weapons heavy seas should limit the actual effectiveness of such weapons. The game advertises that there are different levels of weather and that the weather will affect the ability of these weapons, but to be honest I haven’t seen much change.
Maybe I haven’t just found the right weather, but smooth as glass seas shouldn’t be there in every battle, and so far they have. It may be in the game but not visually present but I want to see some real waves coming over the bows. I want to see those ships bobbing on the ocean.
There is weather in the game, don’t get me wrong. Fog, rain and light levels do affect the ability of ships to both see and target each other. The worse the weather, the worse your ships do. Night battles often start with you running right into enemy ships. By the time you figure out what is going-on, the shell splashes start hitting. I wish there was a button to direct you right onto the ships being hit, but that is okay. I suppose you will find out soon enough.
The game includes some very nice features and some features that I think are missing. I like how smoke from stacks can interfere with gunnery and spotting. As I said previously, these ships were smoke belching monsters and when all boilers were working and the ship was gearing-up for high speed maneuvers, there was a lot of smoke. I do wish that smoke would be more present from ship board damage. Right now, I only see a fire graphic, but smoke effects are present and that means maybe some improvements over time.
Graphic damage to ships looks better in Jutland than in Distant Guns. At least to me it does. You can visually tell when the turrets are damaged. Open guns are manned when operative, not manned when damaged. In addition, on your ships you can bring up a ship damage screen that will inform you of the weapons damage, overall status, flooding, fires and the ability of your ships to continue the fight. Receive more flood damage than your pumps can control and your ship will sink. Ships will break-off and try to reach a friendly port, or land where they can beach themselves. If unsuccessful, they will be lost.
Another problems I have is the inability of destroyers to lay smoke to mask your ships when you try to disengage. This is exactly what Admiral Sheer had to do when he found his battleships were rapidly being outgunned by the Royal Navy.
Unfortunately, destroyers are unable to lay smoke screens and this hampers your ability to break-off when you are losing a battle. It has been explained that large smoke screens would bring the game crawling to a halt so any attempts have seriously limited the game. I understand this, but at the same time a game that claims the ultimate in realism needs the ability to use the tactic. Smoke screens have been laid by destroyers almost as long as destroyers have been around. Laying smoke is a must in this game and if there is a way to implement this feature then it should be added.
The damage model is complicated in this game as well. Damage is calculated based upon the weapon fired, where it hit, the armor it hit, the likelihood of penetration and what would be damaged when the ship was hit. Hits will destroy weapons, searchlights (they are targeted at night early on), cause engine damage, flood compartments, start lists, damage propulsion and steering components of the ship. This of course will affect the ability of the ships to fight, flight or prevent flooding.
In addition to the individual missions, there is a campaign mode for the game. The basic version has the May 1916 Jutland Campaign while the professional version includes the entire year of 1916 for those of us that are bold enough to try wearing down the Royal Navy.
The Grand Campaign actually is one of four campaigns in the pro edition. Two are the Jutland campaigns found in the basic edition and the other two are full 1916 campaigns. Each of these campaigns has the ability to utilize the intelligence found by Room 40, the organization responsible for cracking the German Code and tipping of the Royal Navy every time the German Fleet moved.
The campaign is the real meat of the game, especially the full 1916 campaign. Besides the ships you find in the single missions (as well as quite a few others that aren’t in the individual missions but were part of each countries order of battle) you have access to the subs that both sides used and the Zeppelins that the Germans used to spy on Royal Navy activities. The British get seaplane carriers which possibly increase the range of sight for the ships but right now they seem to be nothing more than targets. I suspect there were plans to get seaplanes into the game more concretely, maybe as spotters for the ships, but it didn’t get past the desired stage of production. Oh well, maybe in the next creation.
I have found that I suck at the tactics in getting the best of your fleet. The longest I have gone before getting something spanked is about two weeks. I then of course get frustrated and reset everything and start over. Part of this is simple impatience. This is not a campaign — or a game — for the impatient. It takes time, some practice… okay, a lot of practice… to become proficient in Jutland.
At the same time the challenge of this campaign will put any veteran wargamer to the test and if you love naval strategy, then you will love trying to match wits with the AI in this game. From what I have seen, the AI really does try to exploit whatever strengths it finds in the game, both in the campaign and in the single battles. Unlike myself, it doesn’t seem to order stupid ship movements and it seems to always know what it is doing. I always thought the AI in Distant Guns was pretty fair, but it is even better in Jutland.
It is maddening sometimes when your ships fail to do what you really want them to do, but this is something that happened a lot in real life. Real naval captains misread orders, failed to see signal flags, failed to get wireless messages and often thought they knew better than the Admirals.
The campaign setup is similar to Distant Guns in that you start with all your major warships in port. They are arranged in the configurations that each nation used at the start of the conflict. You can change your fleets around, add or remove ships as you feel necessary based on whatever mission you want.
You can order your different task forces to do various missions from patrolling areas to bombarding cities to sailing from point-to-point to intercepting enemy shipping to laying of mines (if your ships were able to lay mines). Setting ships to sail is often based upon their status when you give the order. If the ships are at rest there is a delay which represents crews being called back, ships being made ready and the arrangement of the fleets into the task forces that will sail. Ships that are at rest generally will repair and refit but may not immediately be available for operations.
The goal of the Germans is simply to inflict as much damage on the Royal Navy as humanly possible. If you can limit the Grand Fleet’s effectiveness then you will get more and more shipping through from the neutral countries that Germany relied upon while at the same time limiting the influence of the British Government. The Royal Navy’s job is actually much simpler, bottle-up the High Seas Fleet and keep the supply lines choked-off to Germany. While the mission is simpler, the execution isn’t. You have to factor in German subs, patrols and find the enemy cargo ships trying to sneak through and ensure that the High Seas Fleet is kept at bay while not running your ships into the ground. Room 40 certainly helps with the major German movements, but it isn’t infallible.