Three small cruisers in line ahead formation steamed in the calm waters of a South Atlantic sunrise.
The air was clear, and as the brightness increased it became apparent that it would be day with limited
visibility. “Smoke! Smoke, bearing green-45!”. All binoculars on the bridge of the flagship swung about
to search the indicated bearing. “Can you make it out, Number One?” the Captain asked. “Sir, yes, I think
it is a Pocket Battleship!” “Very Well, Number One, call away” “ACTION STATIONS!”
ACTION STATIONS! is a tactical-level simulation of naval surface combat for the period 1922-1945.
ACTION STATIONS! began as a series of mathematical models designed to simulate individual aspects of naval
warfare. The author, an active duty naval officer at the time assigned to the Centre For Naval Analysis
(a Federally Funded Research Corporation “Think Tank”), was interested in using computer artificial
intelligence for tactical decision making.
A simulation was needed to provide substance to theories. The World War 2 period was selected because of
the wealth of unclassified data and combat experience. It was evidently early in the project that a very
fine-grain, detailed simulation was required. More than in land combat, battles at sea can be greatly
influenced by the smallest details. To simulate the command process a comprehensive model was developed
to encompass the myriad factors which influence sea battles.
An important research resource was the wargame rules used at the US Naval War College between 1922 to 1945.
In this period wargaming was a major component in the education and research conducted at the College.
By using comprehensive rules and “Fire Effect Tables”, the War College was able to simulate, with
considerable accuracy, the combat power of a warship under varied conditions. However, without computing
power the War College’s mathematical models had to be simple. Damage assessment was primitive and
deterministic. Even so, a single game would require teams of umpires, often over fifteen full-time
professionals. But in spite of its limitations “The Game” was used so extensively and successfully that
after World War 2 it was remarked that “only the kamikaze” was a surprise to the professional naval
officers of the era.
ACTION STATIONS! has taken the wargames of the 1930’s to their ultimate expression, incorporating modern
computer modelling techniques (similar to those taught at the Naval Postgraduate School) with an enormous
historical data base. Naval engagement can now be duplicated with outstanding fidelity.
ACTION STATIONS! is unique. Most commercial wargames have been written by programmers who concentrate on
graphics and flash, and hope that their simulation is creditable. In ACTION STATIONS!, mathematical models
of naval combat used by professional Operations Analysts were adapted for a commercial naval combat
simulation. To ensure state-of-the-art presentation, programmers and computer scientists (employed by such
companies as Compaq Computer and NASA) joined the project. As a result, ACTION STATIONS! is an unbeatable
blend of accuracy and playability.
ACTION STATIONS! is easy to play. It runs from clear, organized menus which prompt you for orders and
screens the response to prevent errors. Information is easily retrieved from “status boards” similar to
those used on warships. The Battle Plot display is easy to use and flexible, using symbolism similar to the
US Navy’s Tactical Data Systems (NTDS). The commander can choose to direct each ship individually or to
allow various “Automatic” computer options to help him fight his force.
Vast care has been taken to screen information - the “fog of war” is maintained by only showing information
that a commander would reasonably have in the given battle situation. Every effort was made to retain the
tension, look, and atmosphere of a warship’s combat information centre. The heart of the simulation is the
gunnery, torpedo and damage models. They are comprehensive and accurate, as you will see when reading
through this manual.
The test of a good simulation is that it reflects reality, that it rewards proper decisions and penalizes
mistakes in an accurate and realistic (rather than in an arbitrary) manner. There are few “fudge factors”
included in this simulation: they are not needed.
The simulation was extensively tested against combat experience. For example, the Battle of Denmark Straits
was re-enacted by duplicating the exact track of the ships, the weather, wind, environmental, and gunnery
factors. The program deterministically scored its first hit on the Hood within 120 yards of where the hit
actually occurred. Hit rates for the engagement were duplicated within 10%. ACTION STATIONS! is accurate.
The replayability in ACTION STATIONS! is enormous. 30 scenarios are included in the package, representing
the majority of World War 2 engagements and many hypothetical situations. The “Computer Warrior” opponent
is wily and unpredictable enough to allow satisfying play of each situation, either side, many, many times.
A Randomization routine allows you to mix up the initial placement of ships in a scenario for a new look,
and a Scenario Builder allows you to set up your own situations using a library of over 180 ship classes.
Additionally, the Scenario Generator can create an infinite number of computer battles based on your
desires. This is a game which you will play for YEARS.
For most people, there is a irresistible urge to break open the box and try to play without slogging
through a 160 page manual first. Do it! Follow the QUICKSTART guide and you will be blasting away in
minutes. However, eventually, come back to the manual and read it closely. It is the only way to get the
most appreciation from the simulation. Do not be intimidated by the size of the manual.
A comprehensive manual was written so that you could understand WHY as well as HOW, and so that you
could more thoroughly enjoy all the capabilities and features. Confusion to your enemies.
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