General Quarters 3 Play Aids
Here are some ideas and an accessories for new players of GQ3 which was released fall 2006. For example, ship log is enlarged 200% for easier reading. You can buy the GQ3 rules at ODGW. I have written the considerations I could think of and then followed it up with "what I decided".
Range Sticks: labelling a carpenter's folding ruler
Preferring not to use measuring tapes and doing math for ranges, I made a pdf labels for 3,000 yard range increments and Nautical Miles here. Hardware store doesn't have a folding ruler? Here's a link on Amazon for a Swiss 2-meter ruler that's about $12 or go direct to their US distributer for more options like black for night games:
Spray paint it blue! And the embossed centimeter numbers/markings may still be visible. If you want to be sure, stick small round labels over them and peel them off.
The labels can be printed on paper, cut out and affixed via oversize Scotch tape that wraps around the ruler. Note that there are cheaper Chinese rulers but be sure you don't accidentally buy a .5 or 1-meter long version. The Swiss one say
These labels can be cut apart in pairs rather than single ranges and also be placed on dowels and the reverse side of the dowel will show the other end of the ranges (36,000 yards backs up 3,000 yards, 33,000 on back of 6,000 etc.)
Here is a Torpedo & Rapid Fire Ruler.
Move & Turn Ruler
I couldn't figure out the GQ3 turn system so I consulted the General Quarters Yahoo list and OGDW's forum. They kindly straightened me out. Another thing I don't really like is using tape measures (especially for odd scales like I ended up using i.e. .5cm=100 yards)
New as of 27OCT14: Here is the link to .5cm=100 yards Ruler with the Compass Point move costs (which was revised from the original GQ3)... (4) 22.5° incements: 2, 4, 6 & 8 knots costs. You can use this ruler to make a 1 cm=100 yard version by printing @200% (on large 13x19" paper) or a .4 cm=100 yard version by printing @80% of size on letter sized paper. In any case, be sure to print actual size and not allow the program to "Fit" or otherwise reduce/enlarge randomly. I not made a teal colored version of this.
Below are rulers for the original Rulers with (5) 18° increments & higher-move costs: 1, 4, 6, 8 & 10 knots for turns from small 50 90°.
What I Decided: I have made a combination Move & Turn Indicator in Adobe Illustrator for the 3 scales of GQ3 (line #3 in the scale chart towards the top of this web page). It is the same as Turn Indicators that come with the game (9-up, in color, on a cardstock sheet, which are based on 1 CM/Knot) but here are the differences:
My understanding from the OGDW forum is that turn costs start at 36 degrees (the 2nd tick mark, which is 4 knots & 3rd is 6 knots etc.) and no cost for turns under 36 degrees (other than the 1st tick mark which is 1 knot--which is the actual distance covered and thus no turn cost per se). To get a PDF file, click on the scale and background color you want to print:
The PDF file should work for most people or if not, you may have to download the free program Adobe Reader.
Be careful to measure the 40 knots before cutting it out; if 1 cm = 1 knot (100 yards) then the 40 knots should be 40 cms long. Or if .5 cm per knot, the 40 knots will be 20 cms long, or if .4 cms/knot then 40 knots=8 cms. If the printed item doesn't measure the full distance, your Page Setup or Print settings may have an option checked that causes it it shrink pages. Be forewarned, the .4cm/100 yard version has fairly small print even when printed correctly.
The 1cm=100 yard version may not be printable by most people with smaller printers that have Legal or Tabloid size as their maximum; it's on 12x18" (or larger) stock because the actual ruler is just over 17". Why not make a ruler for the 1 inch per 100 yard scale (# 1 on the chart below)? It would be about 7.5" wide & 44" long and handling it would be about as convenient as a 2-handed sword!
I suggest you attach this ruler to cardboard or sheet styrene. Just be sure to use material that you can readily cut to make the rounded end.
For those who want matching Turn Gauges (only without the rulers) or a different scale than those included with the GQ3 rules (1 cm/100 yards), here are some PDF's in 2 colors and 4 scales. To get a PDF file, click on the scale and background color you want to print:
I was thinking of labeling the little 3x6mm tabs on the back of 1:6000 ships and wanted to know what you thought of this:
Example: CA GS 26 = Graf Spee or CL Exe 32 = Exeter
My question is, when do the Ship Classes matter at a glance, if ever? If not important to see, is there any other bit of info I should add? If not, then I'll just spell out more of the name.
I assume the speed is the most important thing since every new player wants to know "how fast can I go?"
I'm still thinking of adding a little dot for nationality on the underline (leftmost German, center Japanese, rightmost Italian etc.)
What I Decided: responses from the GeneralQuarters Yahoo list is that the name and nationality are the only important details to try to cram in. Speed changes anyway and type (CA, CL etc.) isn't generally significant.
I plan to paste the full name on the bottom of the stands with the iron-impregnated paint for making kid's walls 'magnetic'. Page 10 of my Graf Spee Game Play Aid shows some counters with the ship names worked into the wake of the ship counters.
River Spee Scenario featuring Adm. Graf Spee
You can download a scenario (and see more at lower right) with oversize 3x5" ship logs: River Plate 12/13/39 featuring the Graf Spee. (Thumbnail picture above) Want to make your own? You can make the 3x5" cards 2 different ways:
Floor/Table Size Needed
Those new to fleet operations ought to consider their space requirements. This was a puzzle for me because I own ships in 3 common scales and have never played any naval games! Maybe this will help other new players consider their options before they've bought a lot of the wrong stuff.
GQ3 suggests 2 scales (shown on the chart as line 1 & 2 respectively): 1"=100 for 1:1200 scale ships and 1 cm = 100 yards for tinier ships (i.e. 1:2400, 1:3000, 1:4800 & 1:6000). On line 3, I have added another commonly used scale: "half centimeter", again per 100 yards.
Finally, the 4th line of the chart is for those wanting to use a common scale reduction from GQI & II days where they used centimeters instead of inches (which were then 250 yards and thus equivalent to line #2), that could be described as 4 mm per 100 yards (or more simply, 1 cm per 250 yards) and thus their seascape scale would be equivalent to 1:22,860. When used with 1:6000 ships, this is only a scale distortion of about 4 to 1. Typical land based wargames (like the excellent Command Decision: Test of Battle) use 1:5000 ground scale and 1:285 miniatures and thus a scale distortion of 18 to 1! A German ship's maximum fire distance of 45,000 yards would then be 5.86 feet.
Nautical miles being 2025 yards would be 20.25" in inch scale, 20.25 cms (or almost 8", 7.96" to be exact) in centimeter scale etc.
With the greatest firing/sighting distance being 45,000 yards, this sets how large a table (or room with 1:1200's inch scale) you might want to allow. However, weather conditions rolled for may indicate that the average battles take place at around half that level and the majority +/- 10,000 yards. So a table 72% of the sizes shown might be plenty big (especially since extreme range shots are not worth it). The other issue is to allow room for maneuver. See the Old Salt's advice at lower right for how to handle battles that "wander' off the table.
*This example is not to say that you couldn't use 1:2400 @ .5cm/100 yards or 1:6000 at 1cm/100 yards etc.
All of this can help you with making decisions about table/room size. Another consideration is the game's charts are expressed in "thousands of yards". Meaning with 100 yards per cm per inch or centimeter, you just drop 2 zeros. But with the scales on line 3, it's not that simple. You can find remade PDF's at the ODGW site that shows the number of centimeters for each range band. I have not yet seen a reworked PDF for the scale on line 4.
If you are going to make measurement sticks, my buddy, Ix, has made them from acrylic rods available from a plastic company called Tap. The clear rods come half round, fully round (least expensive and also available in blue), square. You can get 6' rods but they cost more to ship so I had them cut them in half (a normal request to avoid the non-standard shipping charge from UPS). You can see what Ix has done for his .4cm scale game by clicking here. Actually, the easiest range stick to get would be to buy some 3/8" (or whatever size you like) square dowels from the hardware store; they usually come in 36" lengths. See above for Move & Turn Indicators (rulers).
What I Decided: my ships will be 1:6000 and .5cm/100 yards. But first I bought (4) 1:3000 ships to learn GQ3. They are for the Battle of River Plate. I'll admit that using ships big enough to see is really nice.
Dice both D12 & D6 are needed for GQ3
The rules suggest a half dozen D12 & several D6 of different colors. Don't forget some tiny damage markers (D6): blue 5mm Dice. They cost $.15 or $.12 each for 100! Here's a nice source of dice: Gamestation.net. Lots of blue tones (& mottled combinations for the D6).
What I Decided: I bought a bunch!
Mini-Naval Sites of Interest
Litko Plywood/Magnetic/Flex Steel (and soon clear acrylic) Bases, Ship Names, More Scenarios, Ix's GQ site , Manley's Play Aids, Accurate Colors for Ships, Ship Flags (I think 1:1200 scale & WWI but at this size most will work for bases of smaller scales instead). Sources of miniatures follow... those offering on line ordering are shown first before those requiring fax, call or email:
I was a founding partner of Judges Guild and made a modest contribution to our effort to make Dungeons & Dragons more accessible and popular. My main gaming interests involve CD: TOB, Great Battles of World War II, GQ3, Volley & Bayonet a few boardgames, designing full color maps and accessories using mostly Illustrator & InDesign.
The biggest example is a set of 10 D-Day era Normandy maps, each 23x35". This was a 7-year-long project that ended up with a 6x15 foot map of the beaches & the Cotentin Peninsula. You can see the now 4 different scales (1 mile per hex, 1 kilometer per hex, 600 yards per hex & now 300 yards/hex) at www.cafepress.com/judgesguild.
I helped out the GQ3 folks by remaking their turn gauge with Gyro Angle on the back.
Immediately below is the anchor of the Graf Spee with a picture of our ship, Celebrity Millennium, in the background. From our stop at Montevideo February 2005. We moved to Uruguay in October 2013.
I visited Uruguay in 2005 and bought a 21" long wooden
Terrain is much easier with naval wargames than the land equivalent! But still worth taking a moment to think about. Typically people buy a blue bed sheet or piece of felt because they are big and relatively cheap. So be it.
Another idea is to paint or carpet your table (or floor) blue. Felt just doesn't seem right to me (you don't need the fuzzy texture that's great for land games' ground turf and contour flexibility) and subject to Coca Cola spills etc. Painted or carpeted surfaces are easier to clean. Depending on your ship's bases, fabric surfaces could be snagged by metal basing.
You can buy a specially made SeaScape 6x8' [see below] for 82.38 British Pounds (or about $150 US per 12/06 conversion) + Postage. It looks pretty nice and they will quote for non-standard sizes... it would seem that a ping pong table's 5x9' size might be priced similarly (45 square feet vs. 48 square feet).
I was considering a big piece of Navy-colored vinyl [below], called Tonneau:
for making pickup truck bed covers; comes in 78" wide rolls; most are only 54". Narrow material can be seamed together and my preference is to avoid seams. But first, see at right see the reaction of one reader who feels felt feels best for various practical reasons...
At $19.99/yard I will need 3 yards long for a Tonneau 78x108" modified ping pong table (I'm thinking of an 18" x 9' extension that could be added... or rolling up the extra 18" for a lateral stern chase as noted at right). This is based on the scale of 1cm = 200 yards. Add about $29 shipping, the stuff will cost about $89 but last for a long time. If you must enough for 2 tables' worth then it's getting a bit expensive. At least that was the plan... but the experienced players, at right, don't go for this. So I kept looking around.
If interested in Tonneau, the website says it is "dimensionally stable and easily cleaned. It has exceptional tear strength, is marine treated as well as UV stable." I was thinking it's a bit dark but my friend pointed out: "The texture looks neat and it is a little dark, but it may work wellI’m thinking it will be good that the ships, being so small, stand out so they can be seen easily. No matter what shade of grey the ships are, they would still stand out well on the dark."
GQ3 doesn't require hexes but if you want a hex grid on your vinyl mat, I found listed: Megamats - Lt Blue with 1inch Hexes (34 inch x 48 inch) $26.38 at the rpgshop.com. MKP (see at right) also has a hex-gridded blue sea felt. Or Eric Hotz makes a great one.
Reaction from an Old Salt who has a million times as much experience as I do:
I like the idea of using vinyl for sea scape, too. Long ago I found a piece of vinyl that was a *perfect* dark blue-green color, but unfortunately I ruined it while trying to put a grid on it. I've never found that color again. One further suggestion: keep around at least 2 large pieces of seascape. Naval battles are forever wandering toward the edge of the table, and it's easiest to move the whole mat without touching the miniatures and just lay another one down on the now-bare part of the table surface. Using this technique, you can keep a fleet-level stern chase going across multiple table lengths.
My own seacloths are felt. I agree about the disadvantages of fuzz, but the color was okay and the price was better. Felt is thick and heavy enough to smooth over some of the bumps in the underlying table surfaces. Compared to vinyl, felt has a few other advantages: it's lighter, folds can be smoothed out with a lot less effort, it's easier to acquire, and it's easier to cut. It turns out that the tendency of felt to "grab" things is sometimes an advantage: islands and shorelines stay put, metal-bottomed miniatures don't accidently slide around as easily, and other felt items sorta "stick" in place.
Here are some more fabric idea excerpts from
Monday Knight Productions makes a felt seascape [pictured below] in mottled blues that is quite nice and should fold any way you'd prefer. I just sent off for a Terrain Mat Seascape for home but I've had great use out of my MKP felt and it will probably remain my travelling mat of choice..."
MKP warns ironically (for a naval game) on their website: "mats are very durable EXCEPT to water! If you spill something on your mat, just dab it up with a paper towel (or towels). DO NOT LET IT SIT!" They look nice and a 4x6' mat is about $37.50. You could buy 3 or 4 and be able to accomplish the stern-chase "seascape swap" my buddy, the old salt, describes above.
Here's an interesting section on making photo back drops made from Muslin. This could be helpful since photo backdrops need to big and inexpensive also. You can buy Muslin backdrops already made and died blue 10x12' which is enough for (2) 6x10' cloths for about $165. But it's a lot less to do it yourself ($3-5 per yard depending on width like 45-80" or more but how far in the table width can you reach?!). Click here for Rose Brand a theatrical supplyhouse source. And a description of how to DIY.
What I Decided: I found a 59" wide piece of blue cloth at Wal Mart for $1/yard and at this price I could afford to experiment with spray paint etc. Big spender that I am, I bought 10 yards, the equivalent of 3 ping pong tables (plus some for the self-adhesive floor tiles that Ix suggests you use for bringing off-board formations on to the board). I have only used one 12' cloth with a lot hanging over dining room tables to "shift the sea". I have never yet needd another piece. Since it was fraying, I paid someone a few bucks to hem the cloth. Here's a picture of a 1:6000 scale Graf Spee on the cloth:
When it came to time to play the game, I decided that 1:6000 was just too small so I got 4 ships for Río de la Plata in 1:3000 from Navwar. We played on a 36x54" table and only had to "shift the sea" cloth a couple of times to allow for ships that wanted to sail off the edge of the world.
I made a several page "trainer wheels" play aid (see link below) for the Battle of River Plate that I tested in April 2013. The Graf Spee open up at long range as British collumn turned quickly to close the range. At long distance Graf Spee got lucky hits on engineering and fire (see picture) on HMS Achilles. She could not repair the engineering but did put out the fire. She lost about half her speed and the division slowed down tremendously.
Exeter sailed ahead and Graf Spee headed to the edge of the 'world' and so I had to pull the blue tablecloth down to make more room for maneuver (the big wave is actually a fold from the edge of the table).
Both Graf Spee and Exeter launched torpedos which missed. Eventually everything on Graf Spee most hit and out of action. Exeter was relatively undamaged and the slow division was otherwise unhit.
The post-game feedback:
Our first game in Uruguay, 21OCT14, saw 4 guys who had never played wargames fearlessly, try out the River Plate scenario. Out of the chaos and consternation of my feebly trying to get this across, I could see that there are just too many things that wargamers take for granted. So with their suggestions, I made up a 24-screen "slide show" that covers the major issues starting with nautical and gamer jargon etc. See what you think by clicking GQ3 Beginners Intro (at 6mbs, it's a rather large file). Fortunately, they still had a good time so my suggestion is don't stew about it, just do about it! We used that to train newbies in our 2nd (November 30, 2014) and 3rd games (January 31, 2014). We have trained 10 people, all new to wargames and only 1 has dropped out due to lack of interest.
Produced a play aid for using Golf Tees as naturalistic markers for various conditions. Actually the golf tees were cut off to be shorter with some putty on top and glued to a blue-painted washer for stability.
One of our first GQ3 games, with Graf Spee May13, 2013 using the GQ3 GRC (updated 25OCT14) with "trainer wheels" to help learn GQ3 focused on just the River Plate scenario. This was a Naval Disaster for the British as all 3 of their ships were sunk. Albeit Graf Spee was very damaged. I would appreciate your feedback about this document. Eight of the pages in the play aid are background material for those unfamiliar with wargames or the River Plate battle. There are even overhead-view ship counters for those who haven't started collecting tiny ship models.
I am now of the opinion that the players just need this double-sided Gunnery letter page of info (includes Damage just for River Plate and guns on those ships) and only the judge gets the full reference (GQ3 GRC).
I have come to realize that the GRC is more of a Judge's referemce and new players (and old salts needing memory refreshment) will get more out viewing the first link "Beginners Intro" on a screen.
I made a Big Poster 32x38" version of the GQ3 GRC pdf play aid above. But I do not recommend spending the money to print out this giant collection of charts. For the damage page, you still have to get really close and maybe it's just TMI when displayed. So key bits of info cannot be seen at a distance. Be forewarned, it's a large 12Mb pdt so it may take awhile to download.
Every Turn Weather Roll chart(mashes together all the rolls into one giant 3D10 roll of 000-999! I found it kludgey to have to remember which turn is it, divisible by 3 or 5 etc. And actually all you have to do is roll 1D10 and if the roll is not 0 or 1, then you need not roll the next 2D10 (200-999 being no effect). Admittedly weather could change faster than the standard GQ3 rules but the math was figured that it will average out.
GQ3 Cards as reminders of various aspects of the game that you might forget (including steps or choices of actions) plus some River Plate specific cards. In all 18 double-sided cards. The Weather variant above is on one of the cards plus on its reverse the standard GQ3 approach.
What if you don't have 12-sided dice? 4 solutions, find a die-rolling program on the web via your computer like this one or this one; if you have an smart phone, there are free apps that roll dice, of varying number and side counts like this one; put cardboard chits in a cup numbered 1-12 and draw a chit out ...and the last way uses 6 sided dice but you must do a little mental "gymnastics!"
NOTE: all of the rules in the PDF play aids from GQ3 are excerpted and missing sections for other ships/types/scenarios. They are really only useful for this training game edition. If you want to play other scenarios, you are highly recommended to go and buy General Quarters 3 from OGDW.
Atmosphere Here is a You Tube posting of a 1956movie of the battle made by the British. It uses a then-modern 1947 USS Salem as the Graf Spee which doesn't look right but interesting to see herself. Two of the British ships were played themselves: the Achilles and Cumberland. And the movie gives some "atmosphere" in case you want to spend 2 hours getting a bit of the feel and can ignore some drama and inaccuracies. Or a 5-part BBC Timewatch series of 10-minute YouTube videos that use actual newreell footage with interviews of some of the participants. The latter serieshas a documentaryapproach whereas the first while entitled (on YouTube), The Battle of The River Plate - War Documentaryis more of pop story (movie was also titled Pursuit of the Graf Spee). However much of minutiae of how ships operated back then is accurate and remind us how "primitive" navigation was then without GPS! But the movie only from the perspective of the British ships and the captured merchant ship captains. The Timewatch does a better job of giving the German view. At 70 minutes in, the movie turns to the diplomatic struggle. The move does appear to have been filmed here in Montivideo (including the buildings of the embassies).
As a variant to the usual rules, I made up a "Hit Assignment" chart so that players roll to determine which turret or torpedo tube is hit. It merely distributes chance evenly to determine which armament mount. It also shows some examples of how to order mounts.
Below, the first are the 5 model ships involved in the River Plate battle, foreground, Graf Spee (plus her supply ship Altmark), Uruguay that stopped the battle, Exeter, Achilles & Ajax.They are mounted on Litko clear bases with their names in the "wake" (stuck down and cut out from full-page self-adheive label stock--click here for a page of dozens of Ship Wave Wakes with names (mostly British, German & Italian); Axis ships have their names underlined.Here is a pdf on wave patterns by Donald C Simon. On deck, are the 4 main ships in the Denmark Stait battle (unmounted). 1:3000 scale, Navwar.
At the bottom: is the latest March 26, 2015 battle involving a what if scenario of Graf Spee caught alongside Altmark. Since GQ3 has no ship log for Altmark, I made one (download here) and welcome any constructive criticism of it or the hypothetical situation. You can see the clipped and inverted golf tees on steel washers to mark various conditions like multiple batteries causing difficulty identifying fall of shot, too sharp a turn, loss of director control tower or if a ship is not targeted.
The basis for the scenario was that a British floatplane had found the 2 German ships approaching each other far off Uruguay perhaps to resupply and move POWs. So the pilot called the British ships to intercept and they arrived from the NW as the German ships were already departing from the meeting point in opposite directions: Altmark to the NE and Graf Spee SW, towards the shipping lanes of Montevideo. The British player homed in on the operational importance of the Altmark by diverging Exeter to the left of Graf Spee to bombard Altmark at long range which managed to survive morale checks and hits until late in the surprisingly long game (30 turns!) when a bulkhead hit was just too much for the captain who headed for the lifeboats with half his crew and we adjudged that only 30 of 300 British POWs managed to survive and be picked up. The German player did not initially elect to have Altmark make a beeline out of the area thinking he made need her 150mm guns! So meanwhile the lighter ship division headed to starboard and attempted to close with Graf Spee. The captain of the Graf Spe, though new to the game, was surprisingly thoughtful about his tactics from turn to turn and elected to keep his distance after initially appearing to charge the foe (a popular course for new players even though I tell them about how she has greater range and their guns will start penetrating at closer ranges). A surprising number of turns was spent between 21,000 to 15,000 yards with little effect. Graf Spee accumulated damage to Exeter until it was slowed so much that she could not keep up and then he wrecked each British lighter cruiser in succession. With Achilles escaping along with Exeter, Ajax made a last ditch torpedo attack which missed Graf Spee and was sunk. With each side sinking a ship, could one say it was a tactical win for the Germans and strategic for the British? The blue cloth 'sea' had to be slid about a dozen times to accommodate the diverging battle! We figured that while Graf Spee was in very good condition still, she had spent a lot of ammo that could not now be replaced and if found again would quickly become a toothless tiger. She also became a passenger ship having picked up a lot of survivors from Ajax and Altmark. The British player was a bit overwhelmed with writing orders for two forces and did not realize how Exeter was crucial as the first to be able to penetrate Graf Spee. And I think he put too much attempt into moving the 6" cruisers into broadside position and that he took the message about multiple batteries degrading fire too strongly... when really firing 2 8" dice is more important than 16 6" dice.
Re: Altmark's willingness to surrender... If I were presented with the situation of being the sole* survivor, an unarmored ship being pursued by a faster, armored opponent with greater range or at least 8 times as many guns, yes, I would strike my colors! Indeed all those Allied merchant ships' captains did exactly that. But is this common-sense situation covered in the game's rules? I try to avoid injecting assumptions without rules or historical example that they model. *And that is the oddity of this "what if" situation, Altmark's commander knows that his goal is to resupply a still-afloat Graf Spee and so it seems he'd be unlikely to abandon ship while at long distance and Graf Spee is in the heat of battle, I could see trying to flee the area with the hope of returning to rejoin Graf Spee IF she survives. What do you think?