I've given up using the Blitzkrieg map for land gaming. That was a bit of a bust, and as I said, I now know how Abraham Lincoln felt.
So what am I doing to replace it? Pre-dreadnoughts!, but not necessarily the stately battleships blazing away at each otehr with a huge amount of ill--aimed artillery. No, I just read Neptune's Inferno, and wanted to get back to something I'd done a long time ago: small ship actions in confined waters. Or, in other words, battleships may show up, but don't count on it. Expect cruisers, destroyers, and torpedo boats battling away.
I've tried a lot of naval rules. For personal reasons, I did not care for Cordite & Steel (ships blew up too much). Battle Stations was fun, but you have to have the passion for it. Fletcher Pratt - no, I tried it and don't care for it. General Quarters? Fun, but a bit more generic than I wanted. Shipbase III? Same as Battle Line - you have to really want to do it, but good set other than that. Fear God and Dread Nought? Grand Fleet? Mini-Fleet Dreadnoughts? Again in all three cases, you have to be a dedicated naval gamer. Damn Battleships and CA suffered from being too generic. All of those rules have their strong points, and I've done all of them at one time or another.
Back in the 1980s I played Fire When Ready with Dan Weisman. This was a Metagaming product with not so hot physical components, and a really excellent game system. I found out that the person who wrote Shipbase III wrote a computer program to do FWR. I found it on the web (a free download). Even better, it allows you to do your own scenarios, and ffers suggestions for conversion to the gaming table.
A couple of years ago I'd been seized by this urge to do Russo-Japanese naval battles. I had cruisers and destroyers. Perfect. All it needed was a scenario.
The iland of Bingo Bango likes in the Gulf of Bango. It is claimed by two adjoining countries. A plebiscite is going to be held, supervised by Great Britain and Germany (neither of who wants the place). In preparation for this plebiscite, both sides are trying to influence the people. Of course they can't do it through open means, that would be no fun. So one side will ship in bagpipes to annoy the othe, while the second side will bring in small yappy dogs and let them run free, again to annoy people. Sounds like what politicians would do, doesn't it.
To test things out, I arranged a preliminary clash. Each side had two cruisers. The fight would be in the fot. That meant the range was point blank. How close was that? Maximum range in the fight was 1600 yards. One side was sunjk, and the other was converted to scrap because of too much damage when it got home. Excellent!
The Real First Battle -
Both sides sent a convoy out, for merchan ships. Escorts were a cruiser, two destroyers (more properly torpedo boat destroyers), and four destroyers. Gamers were recruited at a hobby shop. Both sides started in line ahead, and on Turn 2 decided that close action was better. The cruisers stayed back, the rest charged into a melee.
The exact details of the fight got confusing. Torpedo boats don't take much damage. Destroyers don't take much more. There were collisions, deck fires, and sinkings all over the place. The last torpedo boat, while sinking, fired its torpedo at maximum range at the last surviving enemy ship (a destroyer) at maximum range, 400 yards. And scored the only torpedo hit of the game, sinking the destroyer.
The cruisers had shelled each other at long range with little to show for it. After the debacle with the smaller ships they carefully steered their convoys away from each other to bring them in. The merchants did conduct rescue operations for a bit. Thus both sides succeeded and failed. They didn't stop the enemy convoy, but got their own through.
Everyone wanted to go again (time constraints said otherwise). But a good time was had by all. And people are talking about the next battle.