Day of the Dreadnoughts - The Battle of Jutland (1916)
Fast and Easy Rules for Students

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By Matt Fritz

Historical Background: In the early 1900's Germany began to build a fleet of warships to challenge the mighty British navy. When World War I began both sides anticipated a decisive battle of dreadnoughts that would leave one side in control of the Atlantic. The two fleets met in 1916 at the Battle of Jutland. The conflict was marked by poor visibility and communications errors that created confusion on both sides. The battle was not decisive. Although Germany claimed victory her fleet was unable to defeat the British. Unable to beat the British on the surface, Germany resorted to unrestricted submarine warfare. This controversial decision would hasten the entry of the United States into the war. Jutland was the last major naval battle that was determined by the guns of the battleships. In World War II submarines and aircraft carriers would surpass the battleships as masters of the sea.

Battle 1: The German battle cruisers turned to fire broadside at the fleeing British 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron while the German dreadnoughts steamed ahead. The British ships turned to starboard, dueling the German battle cruisers at close range. The exchange left the British ships in ruins and the Germans lost one ship. The German survivors headed for a showdown with the approaching British 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron. As the German dreadnoughts passed they delivered the killing blows to the smoldering British Battle Cruisers. Morale on the German fleet soared. Their battle line turned to starboard and began firing on the approaching British Grand Fleet from long range. Their shots were wildly off target, and the British response was devastating. British shells pounded the leading German ships as the lead to British dreadnought squadrons returned fire. The third squadron steamed forward to close the range.

The battle cruiser skirmish continued to the North. The British commander on the Invincible, due to an apparent communications error, was unaware of the danger ahead and sailed straight at the German cruisers. The Germans turned broadside and clobbered the British, destroying them while suffering little damage. Then they turned South, determined to help the main fleet. The German High Seas Fleet was having a bad day and the situation was getting desperate. There was talk of running away, but just as they were losing heart their luck turned. Suddenly the German gunnery starting hitting their targets and the British starting losing ships. The Germans blasted the British but escaped with only three battleships, one of which was badly damaged. The British were confident that their untouched third squadron of battleships would finish the job.

The remaining British dreadnoughts were attacked by the German battlecruisers. They tried to ignore the pests, but the gunnery commander on board Lutzow was having a superb day and scored damaging hits on the lead British ship. At this point the British got confused, tried to engage the battle cruisers, and underestimated the speed of the approaching German dreadnoughts. As a result the Germans dreadnoughts were able to cross their T at close range! But amazingly the Germans blew this golden opportunity for victory with abysmal gunnery. The British were able to turn broadside and return fire with devastating results. The battle was a British victory. The German High Seas Fleet was destroyed, and the British lost nearly half of their dreadnoughts in the battle.

The Fleets: Right now there aren't any cheap plastic models available in a small enough scale for this battle. Here are some paper ships you can print and use.  Ships should be mounted on 2" x 1" bases.

The Board: The battle was fought on the open seas, so there is no need to model any terrain features. The battle needs a lot of room - play on the floor if this is possible. We used two 7.5' x 5' tables set up near each other - ships were allowed to move and fire off one table and onto the next.

Deployment: The fleets should begin as shown on the map. The arrows indicate the direction the ships are moving at the start of the battle. Each group of 2 - 4 ships should start in a single file column and should move together, although this is not mandatory. The British 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron is being chased by the German Fleet and should start 24" from their lead ships. The other British ships should start at least 36" from the German fleet.

Order of Battle: This is a simplified order of battle that does not include the cruisers, destroyers, and pre-dreadnought battleships. The battle is meant to represent the action that took place starting around 1700 Hrs. If you don't have enough space for all the ships reduce the OB in half: reduce the British battle cruiser squadrons to 2 ships each and the Germans BCS to three ships, eliminate half of the battle ship squadron on each side (this is how we played the battle).

British Grand Fleet

* = Flagship ** = Fleet Commander

3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron
3 Battle Cruisers (Indomitable, Inflexible, Invincible*)

1st Battle Cruiser Squadron
4 Battle Cruisers (Princess Royal, Lion*, Tiger, New Zealand)

Main Fleet
4 Battleships (Ajax, Centurion, Erin, King George V*)
4 Battleships (Conqueror, Monarch, Orion*, Thunderer)
4 Battleships (Iron Duke**, Canada, Royal Oak, Superb*)
4 Battleships (Bellerophon, Benbow*, Temeraire, Vanguard)
4 Battleships (Agincourt, Hercules, Marlborough*, Revenge)
4 Battleships (Collingwood, Colossus*, Neptune, St. Vincent)

German High Seas Fleet

* = Flagship ** = Fleet Commander

5 Battle Cruisers (Derfflinger, Lutzow*, Moltke, Seydlitz, Von der Tann)
4 Battleships (Grosser Kerfurst, Konig*, Kronprinz, Markgraf)
4 Battleships (Kaiser*, Kaiserin, Prinz-Regent Leopold, Thuringen)
4 Battleships (Friedrich der Grobe**, Helgoland, Oldenburg, Ostfriesland*)
4 Battleships (Nassau, Posen*, Rheinland, Westfalen)


Reduce both fleets by 50% if you don't have enough space


Sequence of Play:
1. Germans Move
2. Germans Shoot
3. British Move
4. British Shoot

Movement: Battleships can move 6" per turn, Battle Cruisers can move 8" per turn. Each ship can make one turn of 90-degrees or less during its move.

Shooting: Each ship may fire at one enemy ship . Battleships and Battle Cruisers have a range of 36." The broadside of a ship is the area to the side of the ship defined by 45-degree lines from each corner of the base. When firing a broadside Battleships roll 5 dice, Battle Cruisers roll 4 dice. When firing ahead or behind Battleships roll 2 dice, Battle Cruisers froll 1 die. Ships score hits on the target for every roll of 5 or 6 at close range (less than 18"), or rolls of 6 at long range (up to 36"). Ships do block line of sight for purposes of firing, so you can't fire over a ship to hit a more distant ship.

Firing at Same Ships: It was more difficult to score hits on a target if more than one ship was firing at it. Each ship that fires at a target after the first rolls one less die. For example the first ship to fire at a target rolls the normal number of dice. If a second ship fires at it on the same turn it rolls one less die. If a third ship fires at the same target it rolls two less dice than normal.

Hits: Battleships are eliminated if they receive five hits, Battle Cruisers are eliminated with three hits. Hits can be recorded on the base with markers or small counters. We used small cotton balls. When a ship is eliminated roll one die. If the roll is 1 - 3 it sinks, remove it from the table. If the roll is 4 - 6 it is still afloat (but abandoned and on fire) so it stays on the table and is an obstacle for movement and shooting.

Optional Rules (suggested by John Palomino)

Time Limit: The battle began late in the day. Poor visibility and darkness were important factors in the battle. End the battle after 16 turns.

Victory Conditions: To determine the winner after the battle total up the number of hits inflicted by each side. The side that inflicted the most damage on the opposing fleet is the victor.

Movement and Shooting
Ship Type


# Firing Dice

Hits to Eliminate


Ahead / Rear
Battleship 6"




Battle Cruiser




Gunnery Table


18" - 36"
Miss 1 - 4

1 - 5
Hit 5 - 6

Eliminated Ships:
1 - 3 Sinks (remove)
4 - 6 Burning (leave on table)

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