Few nations have produced as many great naval tacticians as the British. Drake, Nelson, that bloke out of Master & Commander, Captain Pugwash… our history is awash with them. No surprise then that the few that do under-perform are quickly forgotten. Show me a UK resident who knows who John Jellicoe was, and I’ll show you a bearded man in his fifties or sixties who spends far too much time sat at the back of the library reading Jane’s Fighting Ships. I’ll also show you a potential buyer of Storm Eagle Studios’ latest real-time wargame.
My landlubberly impressions of the Jutland demo after the cut.
If you played SES’s last dreadnought-em-up, Jutland’s peculiar UI won’t come as too rude a shock. Minimal screen furniture, an obtuse camera and unconventional order system mean only Indefatigable newcomers are likely to stick around long enough to discover how tense and interesting the game can be.
The demo includes all of the scenarios from the full game, but with scraps ending at the ten or twenty minute mark, a fair few are frustrating affairs. I recommend starting with ‘The Duel’, (BB Emperor of India vs. BB Konig Albert) then moving onto ‘Red Sky At Morning’ (an eight vessel skirmish) before climaxing with the full ‘Jutland at 15.48’ clash-o-thon. Larger engagements are impossible to marshal without regular use of the pause button and group orders (click a ship once to select it, twice to select its entire division/line, or three times to select the whole task force).
Tactically, the secret of success is ‘Crossing the T’ – manouevring your lines of heavy hitters across the paths of enemy lines of heavy hitters. The more guns you can bring to bear on an approaching target the better. As Nelson famously put it ‘Broadsides are better than narrowsides’. Smaller torpedo-spewing destroyers can be used to sow confusion and break up large formations.
Realising that the sort of gamers who like to play slow, complicated historical simulations, are also the sort of gamers that like to thieve and freeload, SES have sensibly welded a seriously heavy-duty DRM mechanism to Jutland. The full version of the game refuses to function if kept away from the Internet for longer than a week. Even the demo requires an emailed password. Naturally, the game’s target audience are totally happy with this.