I have made so many changes to the basic rules I've had to make my own quick reference sheet.
Here's a summary of the changes:
  • The turn sequence has been abbreviated and altered to reflect the way I actually play the game. The basic outline of the original game is still there, I mostly just added explicit steps or clarifications to the text to forestall questions about which actions occur in which step (e.g., smoke actions, sinking vessels, etc.).
  • I removed the range table, because I moved all that information to my rangefinding sticks. It was the slowest and most confusing table anyway.
  • The list of straddle modifiers is longer, partly to accommodate the change to using rangefinding sticks, partly because I added a few house rules about smoke.
  • Both edge columns of the Gunnery Damage table are the same now, because I found it was less confusing to use a DRM for minimum range. The damage results
  • The Mine and Torpedo Damage table is virtually the same as the original rule, except it's color coded and clarified.
  • The Critical Hits table is unmodified.
I also have a complete 4-page combined PDF with the QRS, my house rules, and the SDS explanation. If you print this double-sided, the QRS and diagrams are on the outside pages, the long section of dry, boring text are on the inside pages.

House Rules

Many of the house rules are incorporated into the SDSes, markers, props, and documents, and are not mentioned in the house rules document. Here's a synopsis of the changes I've made:
  • Movement Speeds. I adjusted movement speeds back to the "real" speeds of the ships represented. In the standard GQ rules, ships' speeds are reduced by half, presumably because at a ground scale of 8" per mile, ships steam out of a 10' x 10' playing area too easily and battles end too quickly as a result. With 1:6000 scale miniatures at "centimeter scale" (one inch in the rules is one centimeter on the table), it is easy to have sweeping battles covering vast expanses of sea and scrolling terrain on a reasonably sized table (8' x 4' or 8' x 5'), making "real" speeds useful again.
  • Evasive Action. All ships capable of moving 9", regardless of class or size, can perform evasive action. It seems that faster cruisers also used "straddle chasing" as a technique for avoiding damage during WWI, and it only makes sense that light cruisers acting as destroyer leaders should be able to evade along with their flotillas.
  • Formations. Naval gamers control each individual ships with a precision that real admirals only dream of. I introduced rules to require movement by divisions and limit the formation changes allowed. This section actually needs more work, to deal with pickets and spread-out destroyer screens.
  • Steam Engines. In the era of coal-fired steam engines, ships' boilers were slow to bring up to peak operation and highly labor intensive, and many accounts mention critical aspects of actions related to these characteristics. I some rules from General Quarters 3 to give boiler-equipped ships of the Great War some character, such as a delay in getting under way with cold boilers and a penalty for going flat out for too long. These rules are intended for campaign play, and have little or no bearing on typical encounter battles.
  • Coal Smoke. The GQ rules have some rules about measuring angles and distances from ships to determine what is obscured by the coal smoke from each ship's stacks. I ignore these rules. At the scale of my games (about 3" per mile on the table), my 1/2" wide and 1 to 1-3/4" long bases cover plenty of sea to represent smoke obscuration. So instead, any shot which crosses any part of an intervening ship's base suffers a +1 straddle modifier for each such ship base it crosses.
  • Non-linear speed reduction. I saw these optional rules about speed reduction on David Manley's General Quarters web site, and incorporated my interpretation of it into my own SDSes. Basically, ships do not lose speed in a linear fashion when receiving damage (this is supported by historical accounts and numerous laws of physics). Assuming each hull box crossed off represents about a 20% reduction of the ship's effective horsepower (which could be lost boilers, lost engines, increased draught from flooding, etc.), then the speed reduction should follow a curve that starts shallow and gets steeper with mounting damage.
  • Torpedoes. I completely rewrote the torpedo rules. First, I wanted torpedo resolution to be much faster. Second, the decision cycle for firing torpedoes was completely out of step with the level of abstraction for the game - gunnery uses dice to determine the success of the gun laying process, so I decided torpedo fire should as well.
  • Gunnery Dice. I always found the rate of damage accrual to be a bit too fast in GQ - after the first battle of a campaign game there was rarely enough left afloat to fight a second battle! I switched to using 2d10 for gunnery instead of 2d6 (the straddle die remains 1d10), which slows down damage enough to allow time to maneuver in and out of range several times or even escape, they way the battle accounts read.
    Later I switched to using 2d6 to calculate damage for rapid fire. Now the players don't have to do any extra calculations, just grab the appropriate dice and roll them. Much faster.
  • Large Caliber Secondary Artillery. I got this idea from this web page by Paul French, and extended it (in modified form) to all pre-dreadnought ship designs with liberally mixed calibers of guns aboard. Basically, ships with small main and secondary batteries of very similar calibers are allowed to combine the attack factors for these two batteries, as long as they use the straddle values for the smaller gun. I feel this is a nice, abstract way of representing the sort of "hail of fire" ships of the pre-dreadnought period expected to generate. If anything, this isn't enough of a penalty for using both sets of guns on the same target (period artillery spotters complained that they couldn't differentiate the shell splashes of heavy and semi-heavy artillery fire, making range adjustments difficult), but I figure old ships already labor under enough disadvantages against "modern" WWI ships that it doesn't matter too much.
  • Tertiary Batteries. I liked the idea on this web page about incorporating tertiary batteries into the GQ SDSes, so I incorporated it into my own SDSes.
  • Small Guns. Many small patrol ships serving in the Great War were built and armed in previous eras when "quick fire" guns were smaller than 75mm (3"). Since the GQ rules only include these in the "aa" factor and I removed that, I incorporated a rule to allow use of small caliber batteries by measuring ranges with the 3" rangefinder sticks but counting armor penetration as one step worse.
  • Limited ranges of minor batteries. I haven't tried this rule out yet, but I'm considering it: only main batteries and semi-heavy secondary batteries may fire out to the blue range bands (ranges 0, 1 and 2) on my range finders. This is to represent the limited elevation of most secondary and tertiary battery guns until after WWI, especially armaments mounted in casemates. In general, ships before the dreadnought were designed with a small battery of big guns to "soften up" an enemy at long range, and large batteries of smaller QF guns to produce a "hail of fire" at decisive engagement ranges. After Tsushima, when it was realized that modern heavy artillery firing at long ranges could be decisive (and small QF guns couldn't), main batteries increased in size, elevation, and long range accuracy, but smaller batteries remained optimized for close-range because their intended targets were fast and maneuverable light torpedo craft.
  • Plunging Fire. I think David Manley made a very good point about range effects, but I didn't want to complicate the game further with extra tables, so I settled on a modifier to achieve a simpler-though-less-accurate effect along similar lines: all shots at maximum range (range bands 0, 1 and 2, the blue range bands on my gunnery range finders) give a -1 to the blue (hull) die. This helps represent increased damage to the watertight integrity of a ship from plunging fire, due to increased penetration of the thin deck armor.
  • Overhead Fire. The standard GQ2 rules do deal with the subject of shooting over intervening ships in long-range gunnery duels, but I decided to leverage my rangefinder sticks to simultaneously increase the level of detail and speed up play. Rather than a standard measurement for all overhead fire, I require each gun to fire at targets beyond minimum range in order to fire over the heads of an intervening ship.
  • Night Rules. When playing night actions with GQ2, I found searchlights to be under-regulated and oddly randomized. I also didn't like that there were effectively no penalties for night movement, and ships continued steaming at full speed in individualized chaos without any particular problems. I added a long section of rules to attempt to fix these problems.
I. Craig Nichols,
Jan 21, 2016, 1:04 PM
I. Craig Nichols,
Jan 21, 2016, 1:06 PM