- Gun Placement -
The relative power of offensive battle units in our hobby is immensely integral to the overall combat effectiveness of a ship. The relative power of a gun is influenced by the rules of the hobby which were created to try to maintain a degree of balance across multiple ship types, the theoretical play style of a certain ship or captain, the design of the actual ship which is being modeled, and the way the guns are placed/aimed regarding the relative power of various gun placement positions as it relates to ease of scoring successful hits. This article will serve to explain relative advantages and disadvantages of various gun setups.
Firstly, a basic grasp of the rules and the theoretical gameplay balance which is trying to be created should be considered. Our rules are maintained and voted upon by the members of the IRCWCC - Rules. The basic concept is that the ships are roughly scaled in terms of the relative power of the actual ship which existed in real life, and allocated a number of battle units. Battle units can be a pump (defensive unit) or a gun (offensive unit). One of the really unique aspects of our hobby is that offensive and defensive unit allocation and placement it is dependent on captain preference, however there are numerous rules dictating where guns can be placed on a ship. Ships (with only a handful of exceptions) are allowed to arm the ship’s main armaments only. For the purposes of defining where a gun can be positioned/aimed, our ships are divided in to four uneven quadrants consisting of 30 degree sectors off both the bow and stern (15 degrees to each side of midline) and the remaining 150 degree arc between those sectors to both the port and starboard sides of the ship (diagram 1). Other than a few exceptions, ships are not allowed to cover all 4 of these quadrants at once, that is to say that at least 1 quadrant must be left unarmed and vulnerable to being attacked. Smaller ships class 3 and below (cruisers, destroyers, etc) are not allowed to have cannons to either side quadrant, with the larger class 3 pre-dreadnaughts as the notable exception. The thought is that a narrow beam of small ships leads to instability and the potentially dangerous upward firing of projectiles. Additionally, for ships class 4 and higher which are allowed to have side firing guns, the general rule is that only 2 side firing guns are allowed, with a few notable exceptions for larger ships. There are no limits to number of guns firing to stern or bow quadrants.
Secondly, the theoretical play style of a certain ship or the play style of a particular captain should be considered. Ship selection, what guns to arm in the ship, and where and how to point them are all heavily dependent on what a captain is going to try to accomplish in battle. Longer range run and gun styles will feature stern guns and ranged out sidemounts in an attempt to keep the enemies at relatively longer ranges as to protect your own ship by virtue of physical distance. Hug and slug styles will feature guns aimed point blank range, sacrificing a degree of self-preservation for easier to hit shots. Part of the variability will be based on what types of ships other people you battle with are using, individual skill, as well as other larger trends in the hobby as things naturally shift and evolve over time.
Design of the ship
Our ships are modeled after actual war ships that existed 1906-1946. Some ships due to a variety of factors are better than others. The shape of the hull and the location and number of the main armaments are hugely important. See the article: Best Ships
Relative Gun Power
Finally, the relative power of an individual gun is actually quite complicated. There exists a balance between relative ease of hitting the intended target, the amount of damage/points one can score per successful hit or per trigger pull, and the degree you must put your own ship in harm’s way to score a hit. A basic understanding of a few principles of physics and how they apply within our rules is important. Some primary principles are:
1. Each hole in an enemy ship not only brings it closer to sinking, but also scores points. As of 2017 above the water line hits are 10 points, on the water line hits are 20 points, and below the water line hits are 30 points. Previously values were 10-25-50. This is scaled to reflect both the ease of accomplishing hits to these 3 areas, the relative danger you have to put your ship in to score hits, and the relative value that the damage constitutes in terms of ship sinking ability.
2. For reference, averaged over may years, it has been found to take on average 81 total holes to sink a ship: see the article Damage at Nats. Additionally, on average it is estimated that only 15-30% of all shots fired make a hole.
3. By rule each ship has a minimum of 1 inch below the water line of targetable hull, and all of the hull above the water line is targetable hull except for a 1/4 or 3/8 inch deck rim.
4. The angle at which a BB impacts a target or the water matters significantly. Depending on the speed of the BB, shots that hit the water at any less than 8-10 degrees will not go into the water but rather skip (Diagram 2). Similarly, shots that hit an enemy ship are prone to glance off the side at high impact angles rather than flush angles (Diagram 3).
5. The maximum amount of depression on any gun is 20 degrees.
Relative Gun Power: Discussion of Guns
The conceptually easiest place to start is with the stern gun. Stern guns are designed to be fired into the stern 30 degree (15 degrees to either side of centerline) quadrant of the ship. These are relatively low risk, low reward shots. The most mobile part of your ship is pointed away from the enemy so you can run away if need be. The ship you are targeting is not able to effectively return fire. A single stern gun’s efficacy can be multiplied by shooting in groupings (double stern guns that a typical cruiser will carry vs triple stern guns on a North Carolina or Scharnhorst, vs quad stern guns of the King George V). When a 3 shot salvo is made to hit in a tight group it still only scores for 3 holes but often times the balsa between the shots will be blown out, making for a higher degree of effective damage which will make the ship sink faster. Another advantage of most stern guns is that they have a larger effective range than other guns. When set up properly, the shots will skim just above the water able to inflict damage any where from point blank to several feet off the stern of the ship. The most effective “traditional” stern gun sits very low to the water and is aimed very parallel to the water.
Some captains prefer to swing stern guns to the maximum of 15 degrees off center line to try to either create a “poor man’s sidemount” while adding as much gun depression as possible, or to improve angles of fire able to cover the weaker side of the ship, typically angled away from the stern sidemount. Pitfalls of this approach are that the gun’s effective range is significantly decreased, as are the effective angles of fire if the goal is to have a low risk low reward easy to use gun. However, though it is less flexible, some captains are able to score relatively effective shots at very close range typically into the bow of the enemy due to the natural angling of the bow of any ship, but in practice don’t really consistently score below the water line hits and as previously discussed is less effective at other angles due to a tendency to deflect (Diagram 4).
First a word about side mounts in general. Due to physics and trigonometry, there are various important factors regarding gun angles and placement. The consensus goal of a sidemount is to shoot holes below the water line of your opponent, making for higher scoring and more effectively damaging shots that can sink their ship. It should be noted that shooting below the ship is an obvious miss, while shooting aboves into the hull are still a hit, just less valuable than the intended purpose of the gun. The theory of the ship setup is the key: is the intention to score shots at very close range which are easier to hit but risk your ship more, or to keep the enemy at longer range where target hitting is trickier but risk your ship less. Physical attributes of the ship such as height of the barbette off the deck and height of the deck off the water in that section of the ship are also clearly at play. The higher the depression angle, the lower the effective range, and the lower the depression angle the wider the effective range. At the maximum allowable 20 degrees depression, a splash within 2.74 inches of the side of the ship will score a hit, further away will go under the penetrable area. These guns are most effective when touching or nearly touching the enemy ship with your own. At 10 degrees depression, roughly the minimum effective water penetration angle, a splash within 5.67 inches of the side of the ship will score a hit. (Diagram 5)
Furthermore, the distance of the tip of the barrel above the waterline changes effective range significantly, even with identical depression angles, which in turn effects the ease/difficulty of targeting. This really becomes important when play style is considered. For close range setups, the end of the barrel should be as close to the water as possible. The limitation is that though you can hang barrels off the side of the ship, it is sometimes disadvantageous to do so as other ships can “grab on” to the barrel and control your movement. (Diagram 6: the black lines represent guns and are drawn at the same angle, the elevation in the bottom example is exaggerated for effect)
Similarly, the angle of the sidemount in relation to the centerline of the ship plays a role in flexibility of effective fire angles. I prefer more flush to the edge of the deck at the location of the sidemount. The trade off is usually that barrel length has to be shortened, decreasing projectile velocity. Diagrams 7, 8, 9 below are examples of how this angle can yield a wider range of effective fire, and thus more versatility.
Another important factor when placing sidemounts is longitudinal turret placement. Side mounted guns placed further to the bow or stern of the ship allow less of the ship to be exposed when shooting, and turrets more toward the center of the ship make you risk a greater amount of the ship. The Tiger as in Diagram 10 below makes for a good example of this with a very centrally located turret.
With the aforementioned principles in consideration, it becomes increasingly obvious why stern sidemounts are the most dangerous and effective single gun in the hobby. The perfect location is such that they can be mounted with the tip of the barel close to the water (ships sit lower in the stern), with appropriate depression angles (most captains prefer closer range and 20 degree depression), with appropriate angles off the side of the ship, and as far to the stern as possible. Additionally to being esier to target, you risk your ship less as compared to bow sidemounts in that you always have the ability to disengage and drive away from the enemy if your stern rather than the bow is engaging the target.
Conversely, as bow sidemounts naturually sit higher off the water and are located in a less manuverable portion of the ship, bow sidemoutns are a the prototypical high risk high reward gun. A good example of tactical play is how I attempted to use my Derfflinger, it sits low to the water and has a well positioned stern sidemount. As such, I would try to engage my stern sidemount in exchange for the bow sidemount of a larger ship like a North Carolina, often times I was sable to get completely under the effective range of a bow sidemount and take no damage to the side of my ship in return. Bow sidemounts must be battled cautiously if the enemy stern guns or stern sidemounts have remaining shots. They are however highly effective and probably more effective than stern sidemoutns for chasing down ships that have no shots left in the stern or are otherwise wounded. Also, it is considered more acceptable to keep them ranged out if that is congruent with the play style of the ship/captain, for instance with a standard North Carolina setup.
Traditionally, bow guns have been considered the weakest gun in the hobby. They require you to position the most vulnerable part of your ship directly at the enemy such that the only means of escape is to back out by using the least manuverable movement of your ship. However, in certain situations they can be advantageous as a high risk, high reward gun. An off angled depressed bow gun can be made to hit right at or below the water line off your bow. If the ship is manuverable enough and the captain is careful enough, the enemy ship can be held in place while shooting below the water line hits (Diagram 11). It is very easy to accidentally cause ram damage when doing this and will often get your ship trapped, so this gun/tactic must be used with caution or when other ships are trying to pin you in as a form of defense rather than offense, but in some scenarios can be higly effective.
I’m not going to claim that any of the information or opinions here are completely origional or definitive, but rather wanted to explain the principles of how I tend to think about setting up offensive units in my ships. These are guidelines that may not apply universally and there are certainly other theories to justify setting ships up differently.