Monday 31 December 2018

Submarine Rules for Cruel Seas

There have been various chats about, and calls for, rules that covered dived submarines in Cruel Seas. I decided to take the old ASW rules from the Felix edition of "Action Stations" and modify them for CS. They will no doubt be appearing in "Narrow Seas" in the main rulebook or as a free supplement.


This is not intended to be a comprehensive set of submarine rules for CS as it is assumed that a diving submarine is attempting to escape rather than to engage its attackers.


A surfaced submarine may announce its intention to dive when it activates. Diving takes two turns to complete. On the first turn the crew clear the bridge and upper deck guns. The submarine moves as normal but no weapons may be fired.

On turn 2 when activated the submarine is diving below the surface. It may till be fired at and rammed.

On turn 3 when activated the submarine has dived below the surface but may still be rammed by Large or Huge vessels

On turn 4 when activated the boat is fully submerged. The model is replaced with a marker showing the point at which it was no longer visible. The marker remains in place for the next 3 turns during which it is vulnerable to attacks by depth charges
Depth Charge Attack

If an depth-charged equipped vessel or aircraft passes over the submarine marker it may make an ASW attack. Only one such attack from a surface ship or aircraft may be made on a single submarine marker per turn. Only one ship or aircraft may attack a marker in the same turn.

The player controlling the submarine secretly rolls two d6 of different colours (e.g. red and white). The following table shows the score required on the red d6 for the attack to have come close to the submarine:

Add 1 for Veteran crews, subtract 1 for Inexperienced crews.
Add 1 if the ship or boat has sonar

Advanced ASW Weapons

Ships with advanced ASW weapons such as Squid, Hedgehog or Mousetrap do not need to pass over the marker. Instead they may attack if the marker is within the forward 60 degree arc of the ship (i.e. within 30 degrees of dead ahead) and within 20cm. This is because they were ahead throwing weapons.

If the attack has come close use the score on the white d6 on the Depth Charge table for the effect of the blast (which may be no damage). Use the "Normal ASW" column for standard depth charges. Use the "Advanced ASW" Column for Hedgehog, Squid Mousetrap and acoustic homing torpedoes

Players are encouraged to add to the 'fog of war' by depositing suitable wreckage around the sub marker. Only the player controlling the submarine and the sub commander knows whether this is real wreckage, or only 'junk' dumped by the submarine.

Note that Hedgehog and Mousetrap were contact weapons. The firer is informed if the target has been damaged by these weapons, but not the extent of damage.


Destroyers using stern depth charge racks can make an attack each turn. Ships using only side depth charge launchers take 1 turn to reload. Advanced ASW weapons take 3 turns to reload.

Damage Whilst Submerged

If the submarine suffers damage that forces it to surface it does so at the end of the turn, regardless of the number of turns that have passed since it began to dive. If a marker is in use it is replaced by the model. The location of the model relative to the marker should be determined randomly -  use a wind die, spinner or other random method to determine the direction from the marker, roll 2d6 for the distance from the marker in centimetres.

Limitations on Submarine Offensive Actions

Submarines on the surface can fire torpedoes and deck guns as normal. No weapons may be fired once the intention to dive has been announced. If a submarine is forced to the surface it may not fire weapons until the turn after it has surfaced.

Which ships are armed with what?

All corvettes, frigates, sloops and destroyers in the rules are assumed to be armed with stern and side depth charges. Some US SC-497 Submarine Chaser may only have side depth charge launchers.

The following classes may carry Advanced ASW weapons

• Captain Class (Hedgehog)
• Buckley Class (Hedgehog) 

Wednesday 26 December 2018

House Rules for Cruel Seas

I've been musing on some house rules for "Cruel Seas" since they came out. The errata does a good job of clearing up mistakes in the rules, but there are some areas where I feel the rules lacked authenticity, and so could be "house ruled" for added realism without adding to the complexity of the game. Here's what I've come up with so far. I'd be keen to hear from anyone else who has thought about this.

1. Turning – The rule that only allows craft to turn after each 1/3 of maximum speed leads to some daft situations where  a tanker at full speed can outturn an MTB or S Boat at the same speed simply because the tanker is at Full Speed (so it gets 3 turns) and the small craft only one (because they are at Slow). To create a better turning model vessels can execute a turn after each 1/3 of their movement for the turn rather than their maximum movement. So, a Vosper travelling at Combat Speed (24) can turn after 8, 16 and 24. 

2. Large ship manoeuvrability - Large and Huge craft are still too manoeuvrable using this system, so only allow Large ships to turn twice (after each half of movement) and Huge craft once (after all movement is completed). In addition, consider changing warships in each group to Red rather than Yellow to give them enhanced manoeuvrability over merchant ships and more barge-like vessels (I've not had a chance to test this much but it feels right)

3. Turning on the spot - Large and Huge craft that are stationary have amazing turning ability, way beyond anything that is physically possible (medium and smaller craft would be able to make decent turns through applying full power for a few seconds to bring the boat’s head around – effectively a short forward movement and turn, but for the purposes of the game a turn on the spot is OK). But Large and Huge ships are only allowed one turn at the Red or Yellow angle as appropriate to the ship.

4. Minimum ranges. In addition to the minimum ranges listed set the minimum range for S Boat bow 20mm guns to 10cm. These guns were noted for having a very limited ability to depress to engage close targets, whereas the S Boat’s other guns were generally on open deck mounts and could.

5. Torpedo management - Treat all torpedoes as “orphaned” but give all torpedoes an activation die of their own. When its drawn - all torpedoes move. This removes the need to remember who launched what, but keeps the random factor of exactly when they move in the game. Also give them unlimited range. They keep going until they exit the table. Torpedo running distances were way beyond the fighting area covered in a typical game using these rules.

6. Damage table – The majority of guns listed in the table are “automatic” so delete the “semi automatic” modifier. Instead, increase 6pdr damage to 6D6, and use the 5D6 6pdr line for manual guns (e.g. the aft gun with the shield on the Fairmile D model). Similarly, reduce damage from single shot versions of 37mm and 40mm guns (e.g. 2pdr anti tank guns used on Partisan ships in the Adriatic) by 1D6

7. Splashes - Ignore rules for splashes. The rule doesn’t have any basis in fact, as incoming fire might draw attention of other ships onto a target, but isn’t going to help them aim.

8. Damage table – delete line for quad guns, replace with “Triple or quad Guns +2D6”. Quads were used because the effective ROF of the 20mm was quite low; the sustained ROF of the flakvierling was similar to the twin 20mm Oerlikon)

9. Critical Damage Table - The table as it is works fine for small craft but not for larger ships (is all fire from a destroyer or monitor going to stop because a 20mm gun scores a critical?). To better apply the results of the table ignore critical hits 1, 3, 4, 6 in Large or Huge steel ships unless caused by 4” guns or larger.

10. Armour – The S-100 armoured bridge (and other armoured locations in other craft) was only effective against LMG and HMG, with a chance of deflecting 20mm HE rounds. So allow full effect against HMG fore, a 50% chance of deflecting 20mm (roll a D6, penetrates on a 4+), and no effect vs. 37mm or larger.

11. Strike the flag – This rule is pretty meaningless as it stands. It was also quite rare for ships and boats to strike their colours and cases where boats were captured invariably occurred when the craft had been crippled. So instead I’d suggest that, where a craft reaches 0 points or lower the craft has become wrecked. Rather than sinking it remains on the table but cannot move or fire. Note any excess damage caused, this becomes a 2D6 roll at the start of each turn to see if the craft sinks (for example, a craft suffers enough damage to put it on -5, so each turn roll 2D6 and if the score is 5 or less the craft sinks). Survivors can be rescued from the craft until it sinks. Conversely an enemy may attempt to board and capture the craft, which is achieved by stopping adjacent to the wreck and, on the next activation, rolling ABOVE the excess damage (so in the example the craft would be boarded and captured on a 2D6 roll of 6 or more. Again, roll in the boarding craft’s activation. The crew of the wrecked vessel may attempt to scuttle the craft each turn when activated, before the sinking test is made; roll a D6 and add the score to the excess damage.

12. Visibility – a better representation of visibility at night is needed to capture the feel of a coastal forces battle. To keep things simple for night actions set maximum visibility unaided at 100cm, at 50-75cm if you want to fight in very dark or gloomy conditions. Add 10cm to spotting distances for craft that are travelling at greater than 20 knots / cm, 20cm for craft at greater than 30 knots/cm. Replace the models with markers for craft that are out of visibility. Craft are placed on the table when they move into visibility range. Illuminated craft (e.g. craft targeted by or using searchlights, craft on fire, craft illuminated by starshells) can be seen and engaged at any range – unless you have decided that the playing area is affected by mist or fog, in which case the maximum visibility is just that, and nobody can see or engage a target at greater distances whether they are illuminated or not.

13. Searchlights – The rules as currently written completely fail to capture the way searchlights work and the way they were used in WW2 navies. As in the rules they can illuminate a target out to 100cm that has been spotted by the craft using the searchlight or detected by that craft using radar. Both the target AND the vessel using the searchlight are Illuminated. Any fire at the illuminating craft or the target it is illuminating gain the +1 modifier to incoming fire

14. Mines – There are some issues in the mine rules. The errata adds the mine table that was missing. But the way that pressure mines work runs counter to their actual effects (a craft’s pressure signature being smaller at low speed rather than high). In this case change the Skill Test so that it applies to Small craft, Medium craft and Shallow Draft vessels at 10 knots or less.

15. Exotic Weapons - The list of “exotic weapons” has a very German feel about it. To even things up a bit allow RN MTBs and MGBs to use the Holman Projector (this was an anti aircraft grenade thrower that was fitted to most RN coastal forces craft). Treat the Holman Projector as the PAC / Drahtseilrakete but it has no risk of causing damage to the craft that uses it.

16. Air attacks – It is curious that the rules don’t allow aircraft to make strafing attacks when this style of attack was the primary mode of damage to PTs, MTBs and S Boats from aircraft. The rules as written actually seem to suggest that a strafing rule was there in an early draft but was deleted for reasons unknown. To give aircraft more purpose and threat in the game allow them to conduct strafing attacks against one vessel that they pass over during movement. These are treat as normal machine gun or cannon attack, ignore the -2 modifier for speed of shooter and the +2 for point blank range (they just cancel each other out). Apply the damage bonus for the number of guns firing up to a maximum of +3D6 (for example, a Spitfire shooting eight .303 machine guns hits and rolls a basic 1D6 plus 3D6 for 4 or more barrels firing). Unlike shots from sea level, LMG hits from aircraft CAN cause criticals.

16a. For added complexity allow turret and pivot machine guns on aircraft to engage targets within 30cm of their line of flight. If the aircraft does NOT pass over the target the -2 modifier for aircraft speed plus the relevant range modifier are applied.

17. Torpedo reloads. Several craft are listed as having torpedo reloads, but there are no rules on how long or in what circumstances they can be reloaded. The "book" time for an S Boat reload was 45 seconds, but this was in ideal circumstances. Wartime reports indicate that 5 minutes was more common, but that some boat commanders preferred not to carry reloads because the opportunity to reload the tubes was rare and the evolution was a long one. To reflect this one torpedo can be reloaded at the end of a turn if the following criteria are met:

  • The boat is at Slow speed
  • The boat does not make any turns during its movement
  • The boat does not fire any weapons
  • The boat is not itself under fire
  • The boat crew make a successful skill test, with a +1 modifier (so Veteran crews succeed on a 3+)
18. Repairs. The rules for repairs seem a bit optimistic, especially as it is possible to repair a boat to its pristine condition. I would suggest the following additional aspects to repairs. (1) the number of damage points that can be repaired is 50% of the damage caused. So a boat that has taken 10 points of damage can repair up to 5. (2) repairs require personnel to do the work, which is likely to need all hands (or at least extra hands) to effect. This will limit the number of weapon mounts that can be used whilst making repairs. Small and Medium craft are limited to one weapon, Large are limited to 2, Huge are limited to 3.

19. Opportunities to repair Tiny craft are limited, therefore these craft may not conduct repairs.

20. German and Italian Explosive Boats. As the text states these were piloted by a single crewman who jumped overboard once the craft was set on its attack run. This of course means that the crewmen, having jumped, will be swimming and awaiting rescue. Place a marker representing the swimmer at the starting point of the craft's movement in the turn where it impacts a target. Use the rules in Scenario 3 ("To The Rescue") to resolve attempts at rescue.

21. Shooter Speed Modifiers in Gunnery. Ships at "full speed" have a -2 modifier. Because of this a trawler plodding along at 12 knots presents a less stable gun platform than a torpedo boat at 24. Another feature of the division of speed into three brackets without really considering what those brackets mean for each type. There are a number of ways to approach this, here is my recommended one:

  • Shooting vessel is Fast AND shooter is Tiny, Small or Medium AND speed >20 : -2
  • Shooting vessel is Stopped AND is Tiny, Small or Medium : -1
The rationale for the "stopped" modifier is that small craft in articular when stopped wold be affected by any kind of wave action and so may "wallow", something that would not affect larger craft except in higher sea states.

22. Torpedo Damage - there is a LOT wrong with the way torpedo damage is modelled if you were looking for some kind of authentic solution, the system in the rules as written being very much "game" orientated. For my thoughts on this see my later blog entry here 

Monday 24 December 2018

The Plan for 2018 in Review

As 2018 draws to a close it is time to review “the plan”. My review is a bit earlier than usual as Christmas and New Year plans may well prevent me from posting in the closing days and hours as I have in the past. But anyway, how did we do this year?

1. Iron and Fire – I will sort out all my remaining 1/1200 and 1/600 models, in particular my Chilean and Peruvian collection (most of which are just about done in the new year's time off painting frenzy). I’ll also develop a campaign system for the War of the Pacific, and I’ll create pre-made ship cards for that war and some of the more common American Civil War ships.

This went pretty well. I did indeed finish off all the models I had at the start of the year, then found a few more in a box which I also sorted out. The Chileans and Peruvians came out rather nicely I thought. What I didn’t get around to doing was to base all the 1/1200 models so that’s a target for 2019. I also missed getting the ship cards for “Iron and Fire” sorted out.

2. Coastal Forces – I will review and repair my 1/600 collection, and also look to do some development work on my quick play rules. I will also create some pre-made ship cards for more common types for Action Stations

I had a big push on this in the Summer, with all my collection painted and based. Again, I found a few old unmade models in boxes which were also assembled and painted up. Contagion set in and I also painted up all of the 1/700 modern coastal models that I’d had sitting around for years. The fast play WW2 rules developed very well and are in line for publication in 2019. More playtesting needed though. As with “Iron and Fire” I didn’t get the ship cards sorted.

3. WW2 Skirmish. 20mm (Burma/Pacific) and 15mm (Eastern Front/Ardennes). I will finish all the models I have for these, and decide on what rules I’m going to use.

Models just about done, no progress on the rules. That said I’m leaning towards a modification of “Bolt Action” because its pretty easy to play and also easy to add the changes that make it more like real WW2 small unit tactics.

4. Form Line of Battle – Review and repair my 1/450 ships, come up with a handy, not entirely serious but fun campaign to provide context for some games at Berkeley Vale

The 1/450 models got a spruce up, a couple of unmade ships got made, I even got a couple of games in (most notably Rory McCreadie’s memorial game at Entoyment on Trafalgar Day). No progress on the campaign.

5. “Project X” – yes, there is another Project X. Its all a bit secret just now but if it comes off it’ll be great, so I have a pile of groundwork to do on this. Target to complete this initial bit – end of May.

Everything on my side of the project completed on schedule. Alas the model side of the project stalled so this is on hold just now.

The bulk of my wargaming in 2018 was wrapped up in those parts of the plan. For various reasons I’ve not been to the Berkeley Vale club that often in recent months, but I’m hoping o turn that around next year. Some events of note:

Our Jutland refight in May went very well, proving that you can fight “Jutland in a Day”

Rory McCreadie’s memorial game was a bittersweet moment.  Lovely day, Rory would have enjoyed the game and would have been pleased that his friends had sucha  good time.

The Naval Wargames Weekend was a quiet affair as it moved to Yeovilton. For my part the new coastal rules went down well. With luck the event (in October) next year will be bigger.

Battlestar Galactica made its debut at the club. Alas it didn’t seem to tick the right boxes for my chums so we probably won’t see that at BV for a while. Maybe this will kick off a bit when there is a wider selection of models (and hence scenario ideas) available

I got to take part in another Jutland game at the National Maritime Museum, staged by the US Naval War College. Not really a Jutland game per se, it was a great opportunity to have fun with some famous names from the hobby (and from the world of professional wargaming)

Speaking of which I presented at the Connections wargaming conference at KCL – as well as running the MOD (and giving the Minister the impression she was) in Jim Wallman’s megagame

It was a year for finishing off old projects, as my Medieval Swiss DBA army, bought over 20 years ago, was finally completed. These guys had a narrow escape, I almost sold them off at the Reveille tabletop sale. But nostalgia got the better of me and I’m glad it did

And finally I got to visit Waterloo, courtesy of Laura who bought us tickets to the Belgian Grand Prix – Waterloo was on the way back from Spa so of course we had to visit, and see the most famous farmhouse in the world

In all, 2018 has been a good year from a wargaming perspective. I certainly managed to stay more focussed than in previous years, although the actual number of games I’ve played is probably somewhat down on previous. 2019 has some interesting projects beckoning – but more of that in my first blog post of 2019!

So all that remains I for me to wish all my readers a merry Christmas and a very happy New Year!

Saturday 22 December 2018

A Review of Cruel Seas

Cruel Seas is the new coastal forces game from Warlord, the makers of “Bolt Action”, a set with which it shares a few features. CS brings together a set of fast playing rules and background with a range of 1/300 plastic, resin and white metal models to form a complete game in a box, supported by a number of fleet and ship packs. I was sent a starter set for review.

Nice dramatic box art to set the scene. Not sure what the guy with the grenade is doing though

Opening the box you find it pleasingly packed with “stuff” – the 100+ page rule book is beautifully produced and filled with glossy illustrations of the new models and with pictures from a variety of Osprey publications. The box is reassuringly heavy. You get five sprues of boat – three Vosper “Type 1”, three Vosper “Type 2”, two S-38 and two S-100 schnellboot. Another sprue contains 16 running torpedo markers, and yet another sprue has a host of transparent blue splash markers. There is also a fold out paper play seascape, high quality heavy card counter sheets that include damage markers, top down views of some terrain and a coastal tanker ship, data cards for the ten supplied boats and the tanker. There is also a bag of dice, and “plume” markers that are used to show the speed of craft on the table. All supplied in a decent box, it creates a very good impression of a well presented, self-contained game.

An overview of the card components of the game. All of stout quality. Also shown is the model tanker that is available separately (there is a 2D large counter representing the ship in the starter set)

The rules themselves are quick and simple. The basic rules for movement, gunnery and torpedo attacks are 8 pages long, advanced rules take up another 16 pages. A further 15 pages add terrain, “tiny” vessels, aviation, additional weapons and submarines. The density of information and the profuse illustrations mean that is nowhere near as daunting as it sounds. The rules themselves are simple and straightforward, written to appeal to newcomers to the hobby, and are described early o as “guidelines” – an interesting point that I’ll return to.  The book is “perfect bound”, looks great but even after a week of use the binding is starting to fail and the pages are coming loose. Not good.

The basics of game play are simple. A die is put in a pot for each boat that each side has. Draw a die at random, that indicates which side can activate a boat. Choose a boat, move it, fire and launch torpedoes. In this regard it uses the random draw mechanism that Warlord used in “Bolt Action”, and it works well. Gunnery takes place during movement, torpedo launch when a boat’s movement has completed. Boats sit on “wake” templates that show how fast they are travelling, which is a nice touch, and crossing a boat’s wake can catch out inexperienced crews. Another nice touch. Gunnery involves rolling to hit with each weapon mount, modifying depending on things like crew skill, range, boat and target speed etc. If a hit is scored roll a number of d6 equal to the value of the weapon and inflict that number of damage points. Reroll sixes and in the advanced rules apply critical hits that affect crew, weapons engines and other bits of kit. Craft are sunk when they lose their last damage point. Torpedoes drive across the table at the same time as their launching vessel (or at the start of a turn if “orphaned” when their boat is sunk or leaves the table. If they cross a model then roll to see if they have hit, roll to see if they are a dud and then roll a very large number of d6 for damage. Very quick, straightforward and fun.

Moving on to the models, these are decently produced, well detailed with a minimum of parts that build into good representations of the Schnellboot and Vosper types they portray. A few liberties have been taken, for example the masts on the Vospers look like tree trunks rather than the fine structures that the real boats used – I suggest binning the masts and replacing with dressmakers’ pins with the points cut off – obviously the stocky masts provided are there for sturdiness and to reduce breakage in play but they do detract from an otherwise decent model. The “Type 1” Vosper has an option for a 20mm cannon on the foredeck, which you are going to want to take as the “early” Vosper armed only with twin HMGs is at a severe disadvantage in the game. 

Vosper "Type 2" (actually a 73' Type 1)

Warlord's display S-38 and S-100 models 

Closeup of one of Warlord's S-38s

The S boats have no options, the S38 has a 37mm gun aft, the S100 a flakvierling, despite the 37mm or 40mm being the more common weapon and the data card supplied being for a 37mm armed boat. Its easy enough to play with whatever you would like to assume the aft gun is, but there is plenty of space on the sprue for an additional gun or two (a 37mm and single 20mm would have made a whole range of options available). The introduction to the rules says that 1/300 was chosen in part because it allows crew figures to be added and boats don’t look right without them – but none are supplied. Some “figures” are moulded in with their weapons but these are just blobs that look more like seats than people. No doubt accessory packs will be available to upgrade models in the future. One omission though – no assembly instructions included, which makes fitting the “crew” difficult, and the arrangement of some weapons not obvious. And beware looking at some of the “official” photos of assembled models online as they have weapons in the wrong places (37mm guns mounted in the 20mm “pulpit” on the S38/100 for instance, and the 6pdr guns on the Fairmile D - part of the Royal Navy fleet pack - reversed, the shielded manual gun at the bow, the automatic gun at the stern). Despite these issues the models do look good, they are quick and easy to assemble and will get the newbie playing very quickly.

A close up of the tanker model, available separately

Ship data card for the S-100 Schnellboot

So, all looks good, but when you get into the rules themselves a few cracks start to appear. The biggest one, and the area that has caused most controversy in the first few days of release is in movement, something that should be easy. 

Movement is simple, but the way that turning is resolved means that a large merchant tanker moving at its full speed (say 12 knots) is considerably more manoeuvrable than a schnellboot at the same speed. The rule itself is ambiguous, it is supported by an illustration that doesn’t match the text – but the clarification that confirms this odd situation appears in the gunnery section several pages on. And stationary ships can turn 90 degrees on the spot, regardless of type. This allows an interesting counter-torpedo strategy where a ship stops and simply pivots on its stern to avoid all but the best-aimed fish.

There are many other examples of “oddness”, things that are missing, inconsistent or just wrong”. In no particular order:

Warlord have introduced their own descriptions of the Vosper MTBs with the 70’ type described as a “Type 1”, the 73’ as a Type 2” (the “Type 2 actually being a 73’ Type 1, the Type 2 having 2 torpedo tubes and an automatic 6pdr). 

The rules on minefields are missing a critical table with hit probabilities. Magnetic mines hit every time of craft on a “1”, despite separate lines in the text for tint, degaussed and other ships – obviously each should have a different number. Pressure mines can be avoided by travelling fast – in fact the opposite was true.

Russian ships are not allowed gunnery directors (or fire directors as they are referred to here). But Tashkent (included in the data tables) and other Rusian destroyers were equipped with directors. And radar.

S Boats carry reloads, but no guidance on how long to reload.  

Fighting in darkness was a key feature of coastal forces actions, yet the rules covering this are extremely limited and don’t reflect reality. The searchlight rules for example suggest the rule writer doesn’t understand how they work, nor the tactics that governed their employment. 

There is an interesting selection of additional weapons, including a German AA flamethrower which the text said aircraft flew through with impunity, but which as a 10% chance of downing an aircraft. The selection of additional odd weapons is predominantly German though – no Blacker Bombards or Holman projectors, which would have been a nice touch.

The Fubuki destroyer is described as large but was bigger than several of the ships listed as Huge.

There a re a host of errors in the ship data tables. For example, Flower class corvettes are listed as having 3" guns rather than 4", Marinefahrpram and MZ ZMotozaterra should be Shallow draught, Italian MT explosive boats are referred to in the data tables as Linse, and they don't even get  mention in the rules on "Tiny boats", despite the MT explosive boat being the most well known - and successful - craft of its type.

Several vessels that were armoured to some degree aren’t listed as such in the data tables – the “Type 2” Vosper for example featured an armoured bridge, as did the Russian river gunboats (as well as armoured turrets and machinery spaces). But the effect of armour, at least in the case of the S-100, seems overblown, able to resist 40mm HE shells. 

The critical hit table reads OK for hits on small craft but doesn’t work so well for bigger ships. Are all weapons on a destroyer going to cease fire for a turn because of a critical LMG burst? 

Torpedo critical hits cause significant damage but only cause a single torpedo tube to be lost – fine in an MTB, but in a destroyer or torpedo boat with triple or quad tubes the damage would cause the other tubes in the mount to be lost. A simple change, but it would have been good if it had been there from the start. 

Mines cause serious damage, yet no critical hits. And the German Navy is credited with the first use of magnetic mines (actually the RN in WW1, first use in WW2 was by the Luftwaffe).

37mm and larger guns that miss cause plumes around the target that obscure it (this wasn't really an issue in coastal forces actions, but anyway...). Three or more plumes gives a +1 to hit, making it easier to hit the target.

Surfaced submarines are listed as Small in the text, Medium in the data tables. Which means they are invulnerable to torpedoes using the rules as written (Medium and smaller craft, and shallow draught vessels cannot be hit by torpedoes, although modifiers are included to allow it). 

Aircraft are included but air attacks are limited to bomb and torpedo attacks. No strafing or rockets (the former a particular gap since strafing attacks were a significant cause of damage to coastal craft , especially when caught in daylight). Later text suggests that strafing attacks may have been included but were omitted. Aircraft can be attacked out of sequence by a vessel’s “flak” guns – but the rules and tables don’t define which guns they are. And can a weapon used previously in the turn for anti ship fire be used as an AA weapon in the same turn? Or having fired at an aircraft can a surface target be engaged? Instinctively the answer is no but the rules don’t say one way or the other. 

Players roll to determine whether a torpedo that hits a ship is a dud – the table in the quick play sheets at the back is different to the table in the rules. 

Semi automatic guns cause 2 extra damage points – what constitutes a “semi automatic” gun? Apart from the Molins 6pdr none are mentioned. So what about 40mm and 37mm guns? Are the ones listed in the rules automatics? Semi automatics? Assuming they are automatic what happens with a craft armed with a non-automatic version (such as the 37mm guns on the MO-4, US anti tank guns on PT boat foredecks, some early British 2pdr/40mm guns on MGBs and MLs?)

The selection of boats in the starter set is odd if you know the subject but understandable – MTBs vs S Boats. That’s OK I guess in that it “pings” the most popular types, except the RN built and operated MGBs to engage S boats, so the mix is historically wrong. Even worse, none of the short RN MGBs are included in the data tables (the only MGB is the Fairmile D in its MGB/MTB guise).  The other issue this causes is that, being way more heavily armed, the German boats eat the Vospers in the introductory scenarios. Mixing a 72’6” MTB with options and an early MGB with 40mm and 20mm fore and aft would have made for a more realistic and playable mix as well as providing a new different hull with a host of variant possibilities (several gunboat options, MA/SBs, cut down to make ASRLs etc.). 

The Soviet list doesn’t include MO and BMO type gunboats despite them being used extensively at sea and referred to extensively in the historical discussion. Yet the Soviet list includes four varieties of riverine gunboat – all with errors (57mm guns? Armour?). 

The British section of the data lists shows which Large craft are treated as shallow draft. But similar information is missing from craft of other nations. Meanwhile the monitor Abercrombie is listed as shallow draught (and so “immune to torpedoes”) whilst the Flower class corvette – with a shallower draught – is not. Here are other errors, simple enough to fix, but these examples set the tone. And there are oodles of errors. Many of the Osprey boat illustrations have incorrect captions, misprints abound.

This is a selection, there are others.

A selection of S-100 and S-38 class boats. One of the S-38s here (left) has been converted into an S-30, with the 20mm moved aft and the 37mm gun used on one of the S-100s in place of the flakvierling

The S-30 and S-100 conversions

A couple of Vosper “Type 1” MTBs. Both sport the optional 20mm on the foredeck. The model on the left also has a spare 20mm in place of the HMGs to make a late war model. Masts have been replaced with pins.

A half flotilla of Vosper “Type 2” MTBs. Again, masts replaced with pins.

Quality control has been an issue on early supplied sets, many coming with missing components. Fortunately, Warlord have a good rep for dealing with these issues so a quick email to the company should bring the missing bits. And later sets seem to be free of these issues.

The upshot of all this is that, to a seasoned campaigner, the game appears rushed, thin on playtesting, thin on proof reading and organisation, and lacking review by those with more than a passing interest in naval wargaming. And getting the detail right, removing ambiguities and soforth is essential in a game that is being presented in part as a starter set for newcomers to the hobby and the genre. 

Warlord have produced some excellent land games and the models and game components are well up to that standard, but in the rules they have attempted something out of their comfort zone with a lot of things that are just plain wrong – and which could have been made right before publication with just a little effort.  Cruel Seas is, I think, an excellent introduction to naval wargaming and judging by the interest on Facebook and elsewhere it is proving to be a popular seller, and as an ardent supporter and promoter of naval wargaming I really wanted this to be great. But those with some knowledge of the subject will be annoyed and put off by the errors (see the extensive Facebook discussion on the topics highlighted above and more), and newcomers run the risk of believing “that was the way it was” because the rules said so. Shades of Warhammer Trafalgar.

So in summary, a good start, plenty of issues, hoping the second edition will clear these up at tome point in the future. And at the time of writing Warlord have just released a ten page errata sheet where some of the issues above have been addressed, 13 days after release of the rules. You can download it here:

Sunday 9 December 2018

Cruel Seas - QLR

I've had a day to go over the rulebook for Warlord's new naval game "Cruel Seas"(in between sorting out various equestrian issues) and I thought I;d share my initial observations here before posting a fuller review later in the week. My first impressions are good - in general its an excellent set of introductory rules that is an ideal route in to naval wargaming, which is something I personally think is a great thing. It is wargaming very much in the "Boys Own" / "Commando Picture Library" vein, so its fun and fast but with some aspects that would have those more read in to the subject thinking were a bit "odd". And the potential for some truly odd counter-torpedo tactics (but I'll keep schtumm on that to see if anyone else spots it :) ) 

That said I have several pages of notes on various aspects which struck me as odd, unclear, quirky or just inaccurate. As a few tasters, the intro mentions 1/300 as being a good scale to use because the boats look wrong without crew - none of them come with anything recognisable as crew figures, and there has already been a lively debate over parking your S100 close in front of an MTB to force a collisions as being a valid game tactic in disposing of the smaller craft. 

I think the choice of craft is odd (sizewise I still think 1/300 is to big and it would look better in 1/600 but then again its Warlord, has Bolt Action for inspiration and I've always thought that BA looks better in 15mm than 28 so the precedent is there :D ) - but in the choice of craft for the starter set Warlord have gone for four types that didn't encounter each other that frequently (MGBs and S Boats sparred frequently - MTBs had better things to do with their time for the most part). And in the data tables the lack of RN MGBs and Russian gunboats (but 4 varieties of riverine craft) are the most outstanding aspects , but there are others. 

But, bottom line for me is that, as with Warhammer Trafalgar (with which it shares some hazy characteristics) if its popular and gets new blood into the genre then its a good thing in my book :)

Tuesday 27 November 2018

Berkeley Vale BSG

Ares' new Battlestar Galactica game made its debut at the Berkeley Vale club last night. A few pictures from the action (which featured an impressively statistics-breaking number of double 1s for gunnery rolls).

So, how did the game go? We played two games, swapping sides between the two. In game #1 the Colonials won 2-1, in the second it was 2-0 to the toasters.

Everyone agreed the models look lovely. We had the expected "what were they thinking??" comments when the graphics on the various cards were examined (orange text on a  brown background in small font? Realy?) And amongst my chums there was a distinct feeling that the game itself, whilst is a bit too fiddly (especially the rotating fighters), and so perhaps this isn't going the be reappearing at BV in the near future. That may change with more familiar and easier play - and when there is more variety in available craft, so I'll hang fore on this until I have a few raptors and heavy raiders. But for now its parked in the bay. Which is a pity as it is a beautiful looking game.

Sunday 25 November 2018

Reveille 2018

Today was the last day of the wargaming show season, at least as far as my involvement and visits are concerned, as I went to the Reveille show at Lincombe Barn in Bristol. Not the largest of shows by any means but one of the friendliest. I didn't have much tome to spend at the show due to family reasons but I did get to catch up with some good friends and played my first game of "What a Tanker", so I at last have had a chance to see what all the fuss has been about :) A fun game, I got to drive a Crusader II around and victimise a PanzerJager 1 for several turns before finally KOing it. A fun game, I'm not sure it has all that much to do with actual tank warfare but I guess a lot of the "oddness" that was apparent in the game can be put down to "friction" and the fog of war. And the main thing was that it was fun! Well, for everyone apart from the poor guy with the PanzerJager who found himself stuck on 1 activation dice for pretty much the whole game before I killed him.

Alas no photos from the show, as I said it was a flying visit and I only realised I'd not taken any snaps after I was on my way home.

I also picked up a couple of copies of the latest Wargames Illustrated with the freebie "Cruel Seas" MTBs and S Boats included.I got one set of each, so I now have a chance to give thema  closer examination. More on these next time.....

Monday 19 November 2018


Yesterday after the Reading show I posted the following on one of the many Facebook wargaming forums, prompted by the sight of racks upon racks of wargaming stuff being sold in transparent plastic packaging.....

This week I saw several news items and reports about supermarkets and single-use plastic packaging. Going around Warfare in Reading today I was suddenly struck by the massive use of single-use plastic packaging in wargaming. Not very environmentally conscious, are we?

The response was, to be honest, quite surprising . And some of it quite unpleasant, which TBH I found a bit of a shock. 

I do of course understand that some wargamers are adept at turning every bit of junk into something wonderful, and I myself do chop up clear plastic packs to use as windows, helicopter rotors etc. but I'm also sure that many do not. And it just struck me that whilst the retail industry in general is getting a bit of a bashing for excessive use of plastics in packaging the wargames industry doesn't have the same qualms (and some of the packing was quite ridiculous - three 28mm figures in a pack that would take a dozen or more).

Some respondents on the site thought I was pushing some political agenda (rang-tans anyone?), or that I was "imposing my values" on people (what a ridiculous notion). Instead I was just trying to get people to think a bit. Some did. Some just ranted. And some were just downright offensive. It was an interesting exercise.....

Sunday 18 November 2018

Warfare 2018

I spent today at Warfare at the Rivermead Centre in Reading, helping out on the Sails of Glory game. As usual a good time was spent chatting with friends, many of whom I hadn't seen for a long time. I also got to take a look at the forthcoming "Cruel Seas" 1/300 coastal forces game from Warlord - an interesting game on which I will share my thoughts in due course.

I also took along the new BSG game to show to my Wings of Glory chums. VERY impressed they were.

Forget "Galactica 1980", we had "Galactica 1918" :)

A goodly selection of games on offer, I snapped a few (the playmobile Vikings game was clearly my favourite!)

Game of the day :)

An excellent participation game of the siege of Bristol

Our own "Sails of Glory" game, wherein we introduced a number of new players to the game

Shopping was a bit of a bust - there were a few specific things I was after but none of the traders that covered them were there. I did get a new blue hex mat from Magister Militum double sided with two hex sizes, and smaller hexes than my current mat), a dice bag from young Katie who always has her craft stall at the show - and that was about it.

Saturday 10 November 2018

So Say We All

Alan Paull picked up a copy of the new Ares "Battlestar Galactica - Starship battles" miniatures game at the Essen show the other week. I've just opened the box and wow, the models are lovely! The rules are rather good too. No playing tomorrow as its Armistice Day and I don't wargame on that day, so my proper run-out with them will have to wait. But it will be worth it.

Also picked up today from Alan - "The Cousin's War" by David Mortimer and "Northampton 1460" by Graham Evans.

Friday 9 November 2018

Americans at Jutland

I have just returned from a very enjoyable two days at the National Maritime Museum in London where I took part in an unusual "refight" of Jutland.

Not the 1916 battle we all know and love of course, this was a hypothetical "Second Battle" set in 1918 and featuring some of the US battleships that formed the 6th Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet. The occasion was a game staged by the staff of the US Naval War College and was using the NWC's rules from 1922 (astute readers will recall the NWC ran a refight using the rules on the centenary of the battle). The game formed the evening entertainment within the museum's "First World War at Sea - Conflict, Culture and Commemoration" conference and whilst the umpiring team were all seasoned wargamers form the US and the UK the players themselves (with one or two notable exceptions) were the learned ladies and gentlemen from the conference who had probably never experienced wargaming before.

We closed up on Wednesday evening for an umpires' training session during which we became intimately familiar with the rules. Deterministic by nature, there is no rolling of dice in this game. Which initially sounded a bit stale and not conducive to a good time, but we soon found out in the game itself that the injection of the "human factor" more than made up for any perceived issues on the "fun front". Between admirals with very definite plans and shades of micromanagement through poor handwriting leading to miscommunication of orders, signals going missing, smoke screens laid in the wrong place, confusion over which ship an admiral leaving his stricken battleship was going to set up his flag and captains "taking the initiative" (or as we saw it, disobeying orders) there was more than enough confusion and hilarity to keep us all going. Oh, and an endless supply of nibbles and drinks provided by the museum staff.

The rather large (and lovely) movement templates

The High Seas Fleet, arrayed for battle (numbers of ships were limited to the number of players)

Each player had a ship control sheet - and a badge to make it easy of us hard-working umpires to find our respective ship's captains

The nerve centre of the operation, where all record keeping was conducted

Rear Admiral Jeff Hardy, USN, 56th President of the Naval War College, opens the event

Peter Pellegrino takes centre stage....

The view from the gallery 

Jim Wallman receives vital operational updates (maybe...)

The German planning conference - Scheer lays out his complex plan

The result of his complex plan (chaos!)

The end of the evening - fewer ships on the floor, note the solid, disciplined Allied line....

As the night drew to a close so then did the battle. Who won? The Germans were definitely on the end of a hiding, their complex plan and dodgy use of smoke contrasting with the ruthless efficiency of Innes "Jellicoe" McCartny's handling of the Grand Fleet. Despite losing two battlecruisers early on the RN and their US allies coolly dished out retribution on a regular basis, with five German ships sunk at the end of turn 4 and others in a poor way.

German scoreboard....

And the Allies

But it wasn't about the winning, it was the taking part. This was a historic occasion, watched over by such maritime luminaries as Nick Jellicoe (grandson of the Admiral himself), Professor Andrew Lambert and Professor Geoffrey Till. And from the US Naval War College, Peter Pellegrino made an excellent senior umpire and an awesome Master of Ceremonies. a presentional and teaching style that was quite inspirational.

So, a lovely night, enjoyed by all. And it was great to be there with good friends Stuart Machin, Bob Cordery, Nick Bradbeer and Jim Wallman. We are all looking forward to the next one :)