This is for battle reports on the multiplayer game that finished up just recently. I will reply with a post by both Kotori and I, covering both the British and German perspectives on Blind Man's Bluff: Fleet Action.
A quick review of the starting positions. The British have 7 BCs followed by 29 BBs, and are supposed to destroy the German fleet. The Germans have 14 BBs followed by 3 BBs and 2 BCs and are supposed to escape.
Kotori: ANav assigned me to command the BCF, with 7 battlecruisers, and two battleship divisions in the Grand Fleet. When the battle began, the major units were already on our intended course, so no major moves were required there. A number of the Grand Fleet destroyers were ordered forward to reinforce the BCF, but a signaling error caused chaos in the GF requiring most of the battleships to stop their engines while the destroyers steered clear.
Gascan: I was given command of the back half of the High Seas Fleet: 7 older dreadnoughts and their escorts. Since I was in the back of the line, I had very few movement orders to make, so I was able to spend much of the time looking around, taking a few screenshots and videos. Paladin had the front half of the HSF and the scouts (he later handed these off to rgreat). Rgreat and Von der Tann split up the Scouting Force in back.
Gascan: The first thing we did was turn west to bring the two forces together. The SF sailed northeast to catch some of the Brit scouts, and the HSF turned north to fall in with the SF.
Kotori: On first contact with the enemy, our cruiser and destroyer forces immediately began aggressive "investigating" of the German fleet. Tanyrhiew took shameless advantage of the British numerical cruiser superiority to simultaneously bar the enemy scouts from our own positions and investigate their main forces. Since our primary objective was to cut off the German retreat, ANav and I continued moving both the BCF and GF towards the Point, in the hopes of forcing a decisive action while we outnumbered their battleships by over 2-to-1. Scouting elements from the Grand Fleet in the south and west soon came into contact with German capital ships. Brynpinzgauer, Tanyrhiew
Gascan: Rather than fall in with the battle line, the SF charged ahead to attack some ACs directly to the north. This also involved a torpedo attack by the escorting destroyers.
Kotori: Brynpinzgauer, commanding the AC detachment from the GF, soon came under attack from a swarm of torpedo-boats. At first this seemed absurd, as Bryn's ACs chewed through the torpedo-boats like me through a bowl of M&Ms, but we soon found out the truth. It must have been a clever German plan to lure Bryn in with the Torpedo-boats, because he had barely finished his delicious snack when shells from the German capital ships began falling around him.
Gascan: The torpedo attack was easily fended off by the ACs. The HSF turned NNE while the SF moved to engage the ACs.
Kotori: By this point in time, we knew from our forward scouts that the HSF was almost in position for us to spring our own trap. The GF was almost in position for its role in the trap, so ANav issued the order to assume battle formation. It wouldn't be a grand fleet battle without some confusion and problems, so one of the battleships in the middle of the formation decided to "guide on" the lead ship in the line, and attempted to sail right past the rest of the fleet to assume its place in line. It was right about then that ANav's computer decided it had had enough of war, and gave him the dreaded Blue Screen of DEATH.
Gascan: We noticed the Brit scouts separating and began to get suspicious that they were clearing the firing range.
Kotori: With ANav out of the game, overall command of the fleet fell to me. After some quick re-organizing (there were only three British players left), I figured out how to overcome ANav's line-of-battle problem. By forming the last ship of the main battle line into its own independently guiding division, I convinced the second half of the battle fleet to form into line behind it. The battle line had united into one solid force, and the back half was just straightening out and returning to 21 knots when my own computer turned a scary shade of blue and died a horrible death. Yep, BSOD crash.
Gascan: Assuming that the GF was N or NE of us on a roughly SE course, we turned E to close the range and engage. During this time the SF engaged and destroyed the Brit ACs. At this point Paladin was having difficulty issuing orders, and everyone reported lag trouble while Kotori was syncing after rejoining the game.
Kotori: Knowing how overwhelming the battle was with three players on the British side, I resolved to help my teammates by re-joining the battle. To my surprise, it worked; but then came time to pay the piper, and the massive download required to re-sync my computer with the rest of the battle took nearly 45 minutes, causing massive lag and command/control problems for many of the other players. Moral of the story: if you're dropped from a MP game, don't rejoin. The lag issues you cause outweigh practically any benefit you can provide.
Gascan: We spotted the GF broken up into small groups of BBs in a rough line and concentrated our fire on the two nearest. Shortly before Kotori finished syncing, Paladin had to quit due to the lag making the game unplayable for him.
Kotori: I'm not sure what happened between when I BSOD'd and when I finished re-synching, but the GF was scattered into a number of small groups, and the BCF ended up almost 20 kilometers behind the main battle. When these widely dispersed forces came into range of the HSF, the result was, predictably, pretty bad.
rgreat took control of the front of the HSF and ordered us to turn around to engage the R class ships at the back of the Brit "line". Just before the turn and during the beginning we sank two British BBs, inflicted medium damage on at least two others, and moderate damage on a several more. At this point we called off the battle because it was down to Kotori vs rgreat and I.
Kotori: I don't think I need to make any comment here. I was still trying to find where half my battleships were at this point. Worrying about what to do with them was a long way in the future.
In the end, it was a Humiliating Defeat for the British, who had lost a number of ACs and a couple of BBs to sink some DD flotillas and inflict some minor damage on HSF BBs before the battle was ended early. I highly suggest that everyone who participated submit your game logs to SES, especially ANav, who suffered a Blue Screen of Death, and Kotori, who also suffered a BSOD but was able to rejoin and resync and play to the end.
Game was progressing nicely on my end, untill Kotori dropped out and tried to reconnect.
At this point weird things start to happend, like ships teleporting back and forth, And game start getting severe and increasing FPS drop (from 30+ to 5 and less at the end, for me), most of our players was affected by it, more or less.
Situation became worse as kotori was closer to complete his synchronization.
Just before kotori was able to complete resync it was nearly unbearable for all, and people start leaving.
Lag and stutters more or less dissapear as soon kotori finished his load... maybe dropped out players helped the case too.
But still, cases of teleporting around battleships and ships ignoring large caliber hits continue. After few minutes of that we decide to call it a day.
Another bug noticed: Seems like 10 players limit in MP game still standing.
Whlie extra people are able to join the game, fleet commanders are not able to assign forces to these players.
P.S. SES, please REWRITE your rejoin sequence. Why you need to reload all events what happened from the game start?
Just send only current situation to the joined player. That must not be that hard, and it will be much faster to do.
P.P.S I support Kotori idea: do not try to reconnect if you get dropped out. It will compromise MP battle.
Well, at least as long as game runs with players who get there from the start it runs fine.
About battle itself:
DD's are fine torp riders as long as you do not try to attack with them without coverering fire of capitals.
Again noticed total uselessnes of old german CL's. These are slow, weak armored, weak armed, and cant hit the barm door from close range.
Only somewhat usefel as expendable slow scouts noone want to shoot.
Modern CL's are moderately useful as scouts and weak anti-DD screen. Can fire torp or two too if situation arise.
AC's are great at killing DD's and CL's.
BB/BC are great at killing anything.
While writing up this AAR, Gascan and I put our combined tactical heads together, and have decided to write an analysis of the fighting, discussing the tactics and strategies used in this game. I will discuss the important points topic-by-topic.
1) The Turn to the West:
At the very beginning of the mission, the HSF turned west, in an attempt to reunite with the 1SG. This was a very risky maneuver, considering that their mission was to escape, not destroy. While it threw the British players off-balance for a little bit, the British soon realized that they could force an engagement between the HSF and the GF, with nearly 2-to-1 odds, and still have the entire BCF left over to catch any survivors. Most importantly, the intent of the maneuver was not followed through in the rest of the battle, as the 1SG scattered and acted independently throughout the rest of the battle.
2) The Importance of Scouting:
Scouting is one of the most important roles at the beginning of a battle. If you ever want to play a decisive role in a battle, but can't stick around much after the start, be a scout. The purpose of a scout is twofold: 1) locate the enemy capital ships, and 2) prevent the enemy from locating your capital ships. This battle was an excellent demonstration of the benefits of good scouting. Tanyrhiew and the other British scout commanders (apologies for not remembering your names) did an excellent job locating the German capital ships, and also blocked any possible attempt by the German scouts at doing the same to them. As a result, the British players knew exactly where the entire German fleet was for most of the battle, while the Germans had to resort to guessing, until the lead battleship opened fire. This was certainly made easier by the British numerical superiority, but I have also seen some excellent scouting by German fleets in the past, as well.
3) The Charge of the Light Brigade:
Attacking a line of ACs with a group of torpedo-boats can be a good idea. At night, in heavy fog, in a head-to-head pass, or while they're distracted with bigger opponents are great examples of this. It's even perfectly acceptable (though undesirable) to sacrifice your torpedo-boats if you need to delay the ACs for some reason, such as allowing other forces to escape. But charging straight into their broadside during a clear day, and with no life-threatening need to do so, is not such a good idea. The 1SG was faster than the ACs and would have caught them soon anyway, so there was no need to send them in.
4) Concentration of Capital Ships:
The purpose of a line of battle is to concentrate the maximum number of battleships into the smallest functional area possible, with the goal of concentrating more firepower on your enemy than he can on you. Letting your battleships get spread out into several groups is a very bad thing, for two reasons. First, you give up your own dense concentration of firepower. Second, it allows the enemy to engage and defeat your battleships in detail. I don't know what happened after I dropped out, but the Grand Fleet was scattered by the time I rejoined. This one mistake made up for all the mistakes the Germans made, and ultimately allowed the Germans to win.
Before I go, I have one last thought to share.
Player Assignments for Large Battles:
In a large battle with hundreds of ships, keeping track of and controlling each ship can be a daunting task, especially in real-time without the pause button available. That's why, in multiplayer games, a good distribution of forces among your players is important. Gascan and I have come up with what we believe to be the optimum 5-player assignments for large fleet engagements like the one we played today.
You want one player in charge of each major group of capital ships. For example, in the scenario today, you would want one person in charge of the Battlecruiser Force, and one person in charge of the Grand Fleet battleships. Don't split one group of capital ships between two players, because this invites both command mistakes and lag-rams. It's also really boring to be the second player, because basically all you do is guide on division and pick your targets.
Next, you want two players dedicated to CL and DD operations. This includes both scouting and escorting. If the escorts don't need to do much at the beginning, then both players should concentrate on scouting. Once contact is made between larger forces, these two players can shift their focus to escorting the larger forces. Note that the changing emphasis on the CL/DD operations may require shifting command of forces around. This is important, but will be further explained with the role of the fleet commander, below.
Player 5 takes the role of both fleet commander and helping hand. His role is to survey the entire battlefield, come up with a strategy, and execute it, without getting distracted by direct control over a major squadron or unit. His secondary role, that of helping hand, is to take control of ships that the other players don't have time to worry about, and to act as a spare player in case someone drops out. The scouting players, once their scouting role is done, should also take on the role of helping hand, passing control of the escorts and remaining scouts (and any damaged capital ships that disengage) to assist the battleship players as best they can.
This player distribution is ideal for large fleet engagements, and may require adjusting based on number of players and ships available. Use common sense when assigning players.
Thanks for the AAR and the analysis guys. Last night was my first MP game and it was fantastic despite the hiccups (I was down to 2 fps during the lag phase and setting orders was almost impossible). I have my own reflections on the experience, some of which mirror your own.
I certainly agree that the primary command splits should be capital ships, the cruiser screen, the escorts and that if there are spare players then the cruiser screen and escorts might be shared. I also agree (and this was my big conclusion from yesterday) that there is a role for a "fleet admiral" who takes an overview of the action and directs the others without the hands-on ship control.
I will admit that I got so fixated on shooting up destroyers and CLs that I didn't really notice the heavy German ships approaching! Shades of Sir Robert Arbuthnot! As part of the GF's screen I focused on my patch of sea and it's only when I read the AAR that I knew, for example, where the BCF was during the battle. So, someone with a big picture view would be invaluable.
Where I might differ is the voluntary shifting of forces between players. You are right in that it probably is more efficient in the use of brain power, but you do get attached to your command and it's nice to see them through to the end (getting sunk in the case of my ACs).
The other point that it is worth making is that some scenarios could, perhaps, be made more MP friendly in terms of the allocation of ships into divisions. As an example, my 10 cruisers started the battle in 10 different divisions which, in the case of the ACs, also contained destroyers. Getting them in a state where I could control them easily took quite a lot of breaking and re-forming divisions. Leaving them in divisional units, even if geographically dispersed would make the management much easier.
Anyway, confusion and C+C problems are all part of the experience and I enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to the next time.
Division of labour is essential and the idea of a fleet admiral ready to step in when someone drops is an excellent idea. The scale of my responsabilities went from having 4 CL and a flotilla of DD's to having all the BCF to then having anything with a white ensign excepting whatever Bryn had. When someone drops I think a pause must be called for so as to allow time to sort the mess out. On a personal note I will make sure I dont close the main Jutland chat like I did last night - when I needed it I found I needed to grow an extra pair of arms just to re-open it.
In my case I'd just turned the BC's North while fighting a 'brisk' Cl action with the 4 old german CL's when I found (and to my great surprise) that I needed to sort out the mess that the GF's battle line was fast becoming. Guide on division is certainly your friend there. It would be nice that if GoD has been set by the previous player to command a division, for it to stay set, as currently it doesn't appear to be which I think resulted in the Great Neptune/Bellerophon Collision of '16.
When I tried to sort things out, KGV and friends (upto the iron duke which for some reason was lagging behind the rest of the van) were pulling away from the mess in the middle. I slowed the van to 14 kts while the rest were trying to catch up. The culprits (like naughty children) I made seperate divisions of and told them to follow the rearmost division. Why was Superb off on her own well to the south of the rest of the GF?
I should also apologise to Kotori for making a bad situation worse by increasing the speed of the 5BS - my intention before the 2fps issues that affected everyone else until I deliberately dropped (fps was fine for me) had been to engage the head of the german line with 5BS and the BC's supporting while the GF line of battle reformed. Best laid plans and all that. In summary I'm ok as long as I'm in charge of nothing bigger than a CL...
Gentle Folk - Jutland is a huge and complex simulation. Nothing short of dedicated clubs (RN & HSF) with members specializing in ship classes will produce a MP game that doesn't turn in to a Cluster. The Officers and Sailors we're trying to emulate were professionals and they spent years honing their skills.
To obtain a semblance of the skills required to fight a large fleet engagement there will have to be groups who train and fight together. I realized that this is going to be a large investment of time but sadly I see no other solution. Teams (five members max at present) within the two fleets will have to come together and commit to invest as much time as real life allows.
I don't have all the answers but being a retired Chief Petty Officer I know that training and shared skills are the basis for miltary cohesion.