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This is a reference to another Avalon Hill Board game, this time the chase of the German superbattleship Bismarck.

The British put out "hunter groups" of two surface capital ships, for instance, the battleship Prince of Wales and the battle cruiser Hood, the battleship King George V and the battle cruiser Repulse (supported by fleet aircraft carrier Victorious), the battleship Rodney and the battle cruiser Renown (supported by aircraft carrier Ark Royal), etc. This reflected their "real life" strategy.

The dynamics of the game were such that the British could win if they sank the Bismarck at the cost of one ship, but would lose if it cost them two or more.

Was this an adequate strategy that would give the British a chance to win? Or should they have used a different strategy (groups of three battleships instead of two, etc.)?

(I played one indecisive game, and therefore have the experience of playing, but not winning.)

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I'm not clear. Are you asking about the British strategy in real life, or in the board game? –  ire_and_curses Aug 31 '12 at 18:20
    
@ire_and_curses: Board game. But references to "real life" would be helpful. One is supposed to reflect the other. –  Tom Au Aug 31 '12 at 21:22
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Given the assumptions they were working under, yes. Those assumptions proved incorrect, but in real life you don't get to check the rulebook and the numbers on the counters before you decide on a strategy. The assumptions, roughly speaking, were:

Crippling the Bismarck was as good as sinking it. This is roughly the equivalent of the victory conditions; losing a battleship was acceptable provided that the German ship was damaged enough to be finished off by reserve forces, aircraft, or submarines, and the British remained in contact so those forces could reach her. One battleship obviously could not guarantee this, but two or more probably could, assuming that

One battleship is much like another. That's obviously the heart of the strategy; how many ships are necessary in a group? To be completely safe, you would need all your ships in one group, which would mean you would never actually have a battle. The assumption that any two battleships would be enough to destroy any one was not unreasonable, given that a series of treaties in the 1930s had ensured that every battleship should be on the same displacement, and so should be of roughly equal ability. Actually, the Germans had built a heavier ship than allowed, and lied about it; but that isn't something you can ask an Admiral to decide, and in any case the final showdown, between a Bismarck with steering damage but unimpaired fighting ability and two normal British battleships, ended in success. The unexamined, and flawed, assumption here was that

One British capital ship is much like another. The Prince of Wales was admittedly not the best-trained ship in the fleet, (she went to sea with dockyard workers still working on the turrets), so the Admiralty teamed her with the 'Mighty Hood', heaviest and most prestigious ship in the Navy. A good plan, except that Hood wasn't a battleship at all. There was a clear distinction when Hood was built between 'Dreadnought battleships' and 'battlecruisers'; the latter, the same size as the former, had better engines but less armour, in order to support friendly cruisers and catch raiders. 'Jane's Fighting Ships' (1908 edition I think) welcomed the idea, but warned of the danger that battlecruisers would be treated as battleships and asked to face enemy battleships, which they would not be able to do. Sadly, this proved prophetic.

If you're asking purely in game terms, the obvious answer is that each hunting group needs to be strong enough to sink or cripple the Bismarck while losing no more than one capital ship, but no stronger (since you need as many groups as possible). How many ships is that?; you're the player, you tell me.

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Excellent analysis; even better written than I could have done myself. +1. –  Pieter Geerkens Apr 13 '13 at 23:51
    
I WAS the player. About 45 years ago. –  Tom Au Apr 14 '13 at 14:25
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