Back to the (Grim Darkness of the Far) Future

Over the Christmas break, my son Nick and I managed a nostalgic game of 40K. It was great fun to be back in the grim darkness of the far future. Between 1997 and about 2010, we played every Games Workshop game on the market, picking up each new edition and army as it came out. After a few years Nick’s younger brother Will joined in, becoming a very fine painter over time.
We drifted away from GW around the release of Age of Sigmar. I greatly regretted the destruction of the Warhammer world, which had been such a rich environment for campaign games and fiction. I just couldn’t get excited about the Age of Sigmar storyline or rules. But we didn’t consciously decide to stop playing GW: we just found ourselves playing fewer wargames and when we did, we played more historical rules.

We have played the odd game in recent years, particularly enjoying a multiplayer Epic 40k game in 2017. But this Christmas was our first return to GW since then. Although we do have every edition up to the sixth, we decided to play fifth edition, as we remembered this set best and our figure collection stopped growing at that time. I took Ultramarines and Nick chose Imperial Guard. We chose the Blitz scenario from the third edition rules, which required me to break through Nick’s line in an attack down the length of the table. We played this a few times in the old days and it was especially fun with Imperial Guard on the defensive.

We had 1,500 points apiece. I took a unit of terminators thinking they would deep strike, but in the 5th edition Space Marine codex this isn’t possible so instead of landing in the enemy’s rear, they had to shlep up from my base line (believe me, I searched the codex from cover to cover). I also took some scouts and scout bikers because I love the models, but the bikes in particular were a poor choice against a solid defence line. My vindicator was a more sensible selection, along with a razorback and a rhino. Nick meanwhile took a solid force with lots of lascannons, a Leman Rus and some Kasrkrin who could (of course) deep strike.
I sent my main force up the left, hoping to pin Nick’s left with the terminators. They sort of did their job and when they closed with the enemy line they were unstoppable. However, while they trundled forward, slowly losing men, Nick managed to rip my main assault apart. In particular he dropped his Kasrkrin at the right time and point to destroy my command squad with their fire. In the same turn he took out my vindicator with a lascannon-armed sentinel. I decided to debus my tactical squad to deal with the Kasrkrin and shot them up pretty effectively but at the cost of my only chance to get into the enemy rear area. The game ended after turn five with Nick’s centre dented but still in a coherent line and my objective categorically not achieved.
We really enjoyed our return to the grim darkness. We both love the back story of the Imperial Guard, pitting their unaugmented strength against supermen and aliens. This game showed how a good position, investment in heavy weapons and wisely used counterattack capability can spoil the Ultramarines’ day.

I am sure we will return to 40K from time to time but I don’t feel a need to upgrade to the latest rules. Although… it might be fun using an edition that allows terminators to deep strike.

Tales Wargame Shed

Airborne landings

Airborne operations are often associated with elite troops, carrying out daring missions. Eben-Emael, Crete, the D-Day landings, Arnhem, … all of them have become the stuff of legend.

A wargame scenario involving an airborne landing always poses some interesting challenges mechanics-wise. One of the aspects of an airborne deployment is the unpredictability of where the troops will land, and I think it deserves attention in a wargame as well.

Air Assault on Crete

The first game I played (back in the 80s) that involved airborne landings was Avalon Hill’s Air Assault on Crete. This is a classic hex-and-counter wargame, with a map depicting the northern coast of the island.

German airborne units were placed in a landing hex, after which a die was rolled and the counter was placed in its final landing hex using a drift diagram, as shown below.

Drift diagram for Air Assault on Crete (image from BoardGameGeek)

The die modifiers due to nearby Anti Aircraft guns always seemed very realistic to me. The non-symmetric drift diagram implied prevalent winds. And surely, given the reputation of Avalon Hill games, this whole procedure was what could be expected in a serious wargame.

Space Marine and Featherstone

I think it was in an issue of White Dwarf during the early 90s, when I read rules involving drop pods for the 6mm game Space Marine. To place the pods on the table, one had to drop paper chits from a certain height above the gaming surface, and wherever the paper chits landed, that was the location of the drop pod. The flimsy pieces of papers would “flutter” down, making the exact landing point quite unpredictable.

I still remember being surprised by such a procedure. Surely the sophisticated wargamer would not use such a “stupid” rule? This seemed so different compared to the almost precise analysis of the drift diagram in Air Assault on Crete, that I didn’t realize this procedure was just another randomizer, albeit an analogue one instead of one involving hexes and dice. I could have settled for a mechanic involving a D12 clockface direction for deviation and a 2D6 for distance, as was used in some other GW scattering procedures of the time. But dropping pieces of paper?

It was only much later when I learned that this mechanic had a long history in miniature wargaming, and was described in Donald’s Featherstone book Wargaming Airborne Operations (published in 1977, and reprinted by the History of Wargaming project. My version is the American version printed in 1979).

In the book, a few suggestions for airborne deployment are listed:

  • Dropping paper chits, but some chits can be heavier, simulating a more accurate drop (e.g. pathfinders that have to lay out the drop zone for the subsequent lifts). Featherstone even suggests dropping the markers with the lights out for night operations!
  • A number of adjacent virtual tables to the real wargaming table, on which the troops land. The move towards the central table on subsequent turns.
  • Moving a model airplane attached to strings across the table, while the paper chits fall out – although it is suggested it is far simpler simply to drop the paper chits from a box.
  • The chits can be color-coded or bear an ID to see what troops have landed where.
  • Various dice rolls are suggested for troops being wounded upon landing, or what to do when troops land in difficult terrain. Chance cards are mentioned as well to determine the height of the drop, deviation by winds, etc. 

Dropping paper chits above the table is great fun, and I have used it in various games set in various periods (WW2 to Scifi). Chits that don’t land on the table mean the corresponding figures enter the tabel a few turns later, representing troops that were dropped outside of their designated landing zone and needed some time to get back to the main area of operations.

Dropping paper chits from a model airplane (attached to a string for the photograph). From Wargaming Airborne Operations – Don Featherstone
Dropping paper chits from a box. From Wargaming Airborne Operations – Don Featherstone

Scattering

An alternative is to use a scattering die roll, that indicates deviation from a chosen landing point. One can use a D12 die for direction, and 2D6 for distance, or something similar.

On my gaming table, I often use Kallistra hexes. The designated landing point is a hex, and then a D8 is used for devaiation. A die roll of 1-2 means that troops land in the hex, 3-8 indicate the 6 adjacent hexes. When using a D20, one can include a 2nd concentric circle of hexes as well.

 Depending on circumstances (wind, anti-aircraft, height of drop), modifiers to the die roll can be used to make the drop more accurate.

Off-table Landing Zones

The problem with dropping paper chits is that they land all over the table, and that the resulting combat becomes very chaotic, especially on a small table combined with long weapon ranges. The whole idea of regrouping your troops before engaging the enemy is very difficult to play out under such conditions.

Therefore, my preferential airborne mechanic is to use off-table landing zones. The sketch shown below, (taken from my notebook, listing all the games played in my wargaming room), illustrates the basic idea.

Various landing zones are drawn around the table, in two concentric circles. If you look at the right-hand side, zones A, B, C, D and E are adjacent to the table, and zones  I and II are one step further.
Each squad that landed in this scenario was allocated to a single landing zone. A die roll of 1, 2 or 3 indicated the unit landd in the designated zone, otherwise it landed in an adjacent random zone (possibly on the table, and then troops would be placed along the table-edge). For determing a random adjacent zone, simply roll a D6, and start counting from a designated starting point. If there are less than 6 adjacent zones and the die indicates a non-existing one, roll again.

Once the game has started, movement from zone to zone (or onto the table) takes 1 turn. Troops that are on the table can never return to any of the landing zones.

The specific diagram was drawn based on the map for the main table, with a railroad and road delineating various sectors, and a river splitting the table in half. If a different lay-out is used, the zones and connection between them should of course be redrawn.

Using such a diagram provides the player with some interesting tactical decisions. Landing zones for various units have to be decided, and at the same time, the mechanic also provides for deviations during the landing using an easy die rolling procedure. Once all landing points have been determined, various regrouping moves (on or off-table) can be spent before the assault on the actual objectives is started.

Paper airplanes

I once considered paper airplanes that would glide elegantly onto the table, but the dimensions of the typical wargaming table do not make this very practical. However, for a wargame in the outdoors, this might be a fun alternative.

Addenda

  1. Featherstone’s book Wargaming Airborne Operations wasn’t the first to mention the idea of dropping paper chits. His book Air Wargaming (1966) describes the same idea, and the idea has been mentioned in WRG’s rules  Armour and Infantry 1925-1950 (1973) as well. I will delve a little bit deeper in my wargaming library to look for older references, but if anyone can find any, please let me know!
  2. The boardgame Memoir 44 has a mechanism to drop plastic figures onto the hex-gridded gaming board.
  3. When dropping paper chits, you can also line them up on a wooden ruler, and then flip the ruler over, recreating all paratroopers jumping in sequence along the flight path of the carrier aircraft.
    The same idea can be used when using scattering diagrams on a hexgrid, by plotting the flight path along a series of hexes, and having troops jump out in subsequent hexes along the path, each jump followed by a scattering procedure. The game Starship Troopers (Avalon Hill, 1976) used this mechanic, as is shown in the diagram below.
Scatter and flight pah diagram (Starship Troopers rulebook, 1976)

Wargaming Mechanics Blog

Game Design #77: The Dice Mechanics Aren’t Important

I’m more and more convinced that the dice rolling mechanics are relatively unimportant as to whether a game is good or not.  Whether you use d6 or d10, whether you add or subtract modifiers, whether you use contested rolls or a fixed target number….     …it’s actually not vital to make your game good. There are other (more important) elements to consider.

The mechanics merely need to be simple, consistent, and (if possible) familiar.

I’m not trying to controversial, just trying to be helpful. I think many game designers overly focus on kewl tricksy dice mechanics where their time could be more usefully spent elsewhere. In fact, when making home rules, the dice rolling mechanics are the last things I consider; in quite a few, I’ve swapped dice types and mechanics after playtesting, usually to “speed things up” when I realise I could do it simpler, with zero end effect on gameplay.

Why Dice Mechanics Aren’t Important
Dice mechanics do not define the style of game. They do not help make tactics more historical.  They do not make players play a particular way, or define the meta.  It’s the percentages that matter (lethality) and the activation (who goes first); whether you are using a single d20 or buckets of d6, you can get similar end effects. Dice mechanics don’t necessarily make players play a particular way.

Move:Shoot Ratios >>> Dice
Changing the ratio of movement distance to shoot distance can change your game vastly. The “normal” wargame has units move 4-6″and shoot 24-36″. The ratio of move:shoot is usually 1:4 or so, favouring shooting. This is mostly (I believe) due to tradition and commonsense impacts of a normal 4×6 game table and small amounts of terrain. However, imagine a game where units moved 1″ and fired 20″(sounds like a modern naval wargame).  Now imagine a game where units moved 20″and fired 1″(ancient skirmish/melee?).  The two games would play vastly differently.

Modifiers >>> Dice
The modifiers for your dice rolls are more influential than the dice mechanics and dice types used.
Let’s say a game has 3+ (67%) to hit enemies. But if they are in -1 if in cover: they are only hit on a 4+ (50%).  But what if we changed the modifier to -3? They are only hit on a ‘6’ (17%) which means that cover is so massively beneficial that I predict units would seldom move.

Table Setup >>> Dice
Even something as simple as table setup – making your game table devoid of cover vs buildings every 4″with no long sight lines will impact your game experience more than whether you are using a d6 or a d8. A game dev who agonises over which dice size to use but does not consider table setup or deployment rules has made poor use of his time. Even victory conditions (increasingly wargames have ways to win without “kill em all” or “scrum in the middle” can have a bigger impact.

Activation/Initiative >>> Dice
Longtime readers would know how much importance I place on activation and initiative; I was hating on IGOUGO long before it was fashionable. Activation determines the “flow” of the game; the “when” of your movement is just as important as the “where.” Simply changing from IGOUGO to alternate activation will make vast changes to your gameplay flow, let alone reaction mechanics, action points/pools. I spend a lot of time on these in other game design posts so I will not rehash their importance here, though I recommend #68 and #69 on momentum and breaking up the turn.

It’s the final result that matters: Lethality
At the core, it is the end percentage of success created by the die/dice rolled, rather than how you got there. I tend to look at lethality in combination with modifiers. If your percentages are simple it’s actually quite easy to predict how your game will “pan out” before you even playtest.

 Now I’m not saying that the topics above are the only ones to consider; nor am saying what dice resolution you use is completely irrelevant. I’m just saying it should be a long way down your list of priorities.  

Best Practice: Lowering the Barrier to EntryBasically, dice mechanics should keep the skill floor low (i.e. the knowledge you need to be able to play) with very little knowledge needed. You should be able to pick up dice and chug them without much thought. Simplicity, consistency, familiarity are all good.

Simple (KISS)
Basically, as this means rolls are uncomplicated as you can get.  After all, dice rolling detracts from the actual “meat” of gameplay – the decision making. Unless you are using a dice pool or some sort of system where you “game” the dice, every minute spent on dice is a minute not spent on decision making or tactics. Computers can do this instantly, under the hood so to speak. But wargamers manually rolling dice take up a lot of game time.  If you are spending more time rolling dice than moving minis, then something has gone awry.

Ideally, I should be able to absent-mindedly chug the dice while thinking about my next move, just noting the results at the end. 

As an example of what not to do: I remember Silent Death had a dice system using d4s, d6s, d8s and d10s (even d12s and d20s). Each weapon had a different rule and even different combinations of dice.  I.e. “for a blaster, roll 2d6 + 1d8 and use the highest two dice for the “to hit”; then use the middle dice for damage.” But a phaser might roll 2d10 + a d12, use the lowest two dice “to hit”and the highest two dice for damage.  They were so proud how they managed to combine the “to hit”and “to damage”into a single roll…  …but didn’t notice they’d actually made it more frickin complicated!
This is a classic example of how trying to be overly clever with dice mechanics actually made the game worse.


Consistency
I’ve used the example of Bag the Hun (and almost any TFL ruleset) vs say Warmachine. In BtH, the game uses seven completely different mechanics to resolve actions. That’s incredibly messy and you need to remember both how (and when) you need to use a particular method. In Warmachine, you pretty much use 2d6 vs a target number in every situation.  Consistency means you only need to learn one set of dice mechanics.

Familiarity
There’s a reason games like Bolt Action and Flames of War merely uses a thinly disguised version of WH40K’s dice rolling mechanics. Or why 40K hasn’t changed much over decades. Familiarity with a system lowers the barrier for entry – a player instantly can grasp the “feel” of the game and there is little new knowledge needed. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, and in most cases it doesn’t benefit your players anyway.

 But…. what about Dice Pools and Probability Curves?  : Interesting but Messy
Obviously a single d10 and 2d6 are not the same. Adding dice together (or using buckets of dice) can “smooth” the rolls, making them more predictable.  The buckets of dice method (throwing handfuls of dice with say a 4+ or 5+ as a success) does something similar.  But for a budding game designer, they can be a pain to balance.  A +1 modifier on a single d10 is 10%. On a d6 is is a flat 17%.  But modifiers on 2d6, for example, are not equal depending on your target number. Changing a +1 from a 7+ to an 8+ on 2d6 changes it from 58% to 42%.  A +1 changing 11+ to 12 on a 2d6 is 8% to 3%.
The +1 modifier does not have the same “value.”   If this is confusing, then it’s a good reason why these methods are not ideal for the amateur game designer.  Whilst I like managed probability, unless you have a compelling reason to use these methods (or love math), they make game balancing/tweaking far more difficult. I do like dice pools (which can add depth to gameplay through resource management aspects) but they do add to the game’s complexity/play time and “mental cost.”

Anyway, I hope I’ve shown how agonizing over which dice to use is fairly unimportant in the big scheme of things.  Focus on other stuff – starting with a mission statement/rationale aka success criteria, consider how all the elements (move/shoot, activation/initiative, table setup, deployment, lethality, etc) will combine to make players play the game using tactics you envision.  Ruthlessly keep to your original goals – e.g. if your aim is a fast play game, consider hard before you add ANY complication that does not promote your core philosophy.  Sometimes a cool mechanic is actually not the best for the specific game. This is especially true of dice mechanics.  Think about the big picture, and keep the dice rolling simple, consistent, and “under the hood.”

Deltavector

Aerial Rules Revisited – Part 3 Detection & Distance

I’ve covered maneuver in the last post – it is a very simple system, far more “gamey” than realistic. The aim was to keep the “feel” of air combat (tradeoffs between speed/position/height) without strict scale besides “it looks OK on the table.”

I toyed with “limited fuel” i.e. after say 3 game turns all planes using supersonic must make a crew check or be bingo fuel.” However this would mean tracking another token on the table, so instead I made supersonic less attractive by making supersonic planes unable to climb. Technically this is wrong, but it forces the tradeoff between speed/height, and makes supersonic less attractive, so players don’t use it so often.  The end effect is the same. (i.e. supersonic not overused)

The player is a flight leader/squadron leader controlling 4-12 aircraft, and the aim is to make the game play no slower than a skirmish game like Mordheim or Infinity.  As a result, we don’t need to micromanage each plane, measuring precise airspeed, doing 5 degree turns etc. Instead we are giving pilots general instructions.

I do have a more traditional style of movement (has similar effect to CY6 but without the recording and charts, uses 3 colours of d6 to track 3 height and 6 speed bands) but this slows the game.

Some FA/18s and Tornados. I enjoy painting 1:600s – they are simple, satisfying, and “pop”well at tabletop ranges. 
Detection
Besides maneuver trinity of positioning/speed/altitude, detection is the vital element of air combat. Most planes are shot down without seeing their attacker, and nowdays planes carry complex electronics for detection, stealth, countermeasures etc.

I’m going to use the same 180d hemispheres as the movement rules; enemies are either “in front” or “behind” and can be “above” “below” or “same altitude.” I like 180d as you can simply eyeball things without measuring – or if needed, hold your ruler in front of the model’s base to check. No fancy charts or measurement aids needed.

Radar Detection
To limit the amount of die rolls, players may attempt to spot using radar OR Mk1 eyeball, not both (unless a 2-seater like F14).

I may allow hidden movement – i.e. counters which are only revealed when enemies detect them, with dummy counters etc – but at the moment I’ll focus on the ability to engage enemy targets.

Radar range will vary depending on the plane
Radar arcs – the front 180d arc, + targets above or below must be at 4″ range or longer
Radar lock is a roll based on the quality of the radar, say 3+ for a good one

There will be penalties if targets are lower, and/or on the deck, and if a target is stealth (F-22, F-117).

A single roll is made and ALL planes in the correct arcs/range who pass the roll will be spotted/locked.

As an example, a plane might need a 3+ on a d6 to lock.  Target A is at the same altitude so needs the usual 3+, but Target B is below, so needs a 4+.  A single roll is made for all targets, so a 4,5 or 6 would mean both planes are detected but a 3 would mean only Target A was detected.

Visual Detection
Visual range – enemies are hard to see, if they are: above and sunward, behind or below or in clouds. Each condition halves the visual range. E.g. if behind AND below, 1/4 usual visual range.
Visual “lock” – the lock/detect number is based on crew skill i.e. say 2+ elite, 3+ veteran, 4+ rookie?  Perhaps add a -1 penalty if to the rear with a bad-visibility cockpit like a MiG-25.

Sunward – an edge of the board is designated as sunward.  Clouds can be seen into/out of (at half range) but not through.

Again, like radar a single roll is made and all targets that roll equal or above are spotted.

Well, this may seem quite detailed compared to my casual approach to maneuver rules, but that is because I think detection is so important to simulate air combat.

These F-14s remind me of Macross fighters. I may do an anime space spin off (eschewing height and adding zany heroic feats and swarms of missiles).

Move/Shoot Ratios
As I’ve said, scales are pretty loose – it’s more about how it looks on the table and the ‘feel’ rather than precise measurements like 1″ = 500m, 1 turn = 5 seconds etc like some rules specify. 

What I DO want is to keep firing ranges relatively low and movement high. A normal skirmish game has a move/shoot ratio of 1:4 (i.e. 6″ move, 24″ shoot); I’m aiming for 1:1 or better in favour of movement.  I want to encourage planes to move and maneuver, not snipe from long range.

Let’s do some examples:
F-14 subsonic move 6″; sprint 16″
= vs =
Cannon range = 4″
AIM-9 HS range = 2″min to 8″
AIM-7 RH range = 4″min to 16″

These are just ballpark figures, but you can see the firing ranges seldom exceed the movement ranges. In practice, this emphasizes maneuver.

Game Mechanics? Bah Humbug!
Well, it’s getting late so I’ll save game mechanics for another day. Spoiler: I’m actually going to use the Warhammer 40K roll to hit-save-roll to damage using simple d6s.

The older I get the less I care about mechanics. Move shoot ratios, activation, resource management, modifiers, maneuver, etc – all these things matter. The mechanics themselves don’t so much (I’ll do a game design post on this sometime soon) as long as they are simple and consistent. A bonus if they are familiar, to decrease the “buy in” for new players. I personally prefer d10s (10% increments make balancing the game easy) and d6s (everyone has them, familiar).Deltavector

Warlord slightly out of depth with Cruel Seas

A while ago Warlord Games released a game I had anticipated for a while: Cruel Seas. Instead of the numerous (well, if not numerous, at least present) existing modern naval warfare rulesets it would not deal with the Big Ships but with the small fast attack boats and their targets instead. 



A welcome change and a spectacular and favourite theme of mine, having read and re-read “De Engelandvaarders” by K. Norel in my youth; a chronicle of Dutch resistance fighters who fled to England in 1940 and enlisted in the Royal Navy to serve on MTBs among other missions.

Last week I played my first game. It turned out a typical Warlord product in both positive and negative aspects.
The Presentation
As we are customed to by now from Warlord the presentation of the game is splendid. The sturdy box contains all rules, dice, rulers, counters and even a largish paper playmat (both Mediterranean blue and Atlantic grey on separate sides) to play the game as well as 10 plastic ship models. There are even cardboard terrain pieces to represent coastline, a merchant ship (whole and wrecked) and a few German and British airplanes.

The rulebook is a durable A4 full-colour paperback containing the complete rules, complete fleetlists, some background, lovely full colour picture material to inspire your painting and a number of missions to play. As the game is supposed to cover all small ship actions of World War 2 the missions range from the English Channel to the Pacific, as do the fleet lists and background info. For the researchers amongst us an extensive reading list is presented. The box even has an index, which is a big plus as far as I am concerned.

The only thing missing here is a Quick Reference Sheet but that can be downloaded from the Warlord site.
The models

Warlord chose 1/300 scale to build the models in. The starter box comes with 6 Vosper MTBs and 4 S-Boats. Half of the ships are early war types, the other half the later war types like the S-100 Schnellboot and the Type 2 Vosper MTB. Later types tend to be faster, tougher and more heavily armed than earlier types.


The ships are plastic kits on sprue and are lovely. Assembly is easy and a breeze even with the rather sketchy instructions also included in the box. Warlord has announced several releases to expand on the game and the first Japanese, British, German, Italian,Soviet and US fleet packs will hit retail shortly (or have done so already). Fleet packs will also contain larger ships like gunboats, cutters, minesweepers and destroyers, all covered by the rules.


The only objection one can have against these models is that they are too big. Destroyers are over half a foot/10-15 cms and merchant freighters are even larger. A convoy in 1/300 scale will take up a lot of table space,, perhaps too much for any maneuvers to be possible. For that reason only I will most likely play this game in 1/600. But not without some heartache….
The Rules: what is good?
Already mentioned above the layout and presentation are excellent. Rules are systematically explained and illuminated by explanatory illustrations that clarify rules excellently. So what about the structure?
Initiative is determined in the familiar Bolt Action method by randomly picking coloured counters or dice from a bag. If your colour turns up, you may activate a ship. So activation is alternate. Actvation consists of movement, shooting and some miscellaneous actions of which Repair is the most interesting one, executed by the ship or plane of choice. Torpedoes move in the same activation as the ship that fired them.
Movement comes in three speeds: Slow, Combat and Full. All ships have these three speed categories irrespective of size or type. However, movement distances per speed band differ per ship type, merchants being slower than MTBs for example. A ship may make one turn per speed band moved. Large ships must make wider turns than medium or small ones. A ship may slow down or speed up one range band per turn. Handy rulers with turn angles are supplied with the game.
After moving ships may shoot. All weapons on a ship may fire on different targets. Firing is done by rolling a d10, adding or subtracting modifiers for range, visibility, speed of target and shooter and coming up with a 5 or less. A hit does a number of D6s damage (scrap hull squares) where 6es will indicate Critical Hits that may destroy essential ship systems like a rudder or specific weapons. Torpedoes may be dropped into the water in the Shooting phase as well. In a stroke of brilliance one ruler has the most common modifierst printed on its back. Splashes around the target ship from previous misses in that turn enhance the chance of it being hit. The game provides plastic splash counters.
All this results in a fast and easy to play game. But not one that, in my opimion, emulates fast attack boat combat particularly well. I think there are a number of problems. 
The Rules: what could be better?
The random Initiative method is a matter of taste. It defintely results in dynamic and surprising games. However bad luck may ruin the most clever plan. I would prefer alternate activation without the random factor. But I admit this is a matter of taste.
Turning circles do not work right and are the same width no matter how fast or slow your boat moves. This more or less cancels any effects of speed on turning which in my opnion should have been essential in a fast attack boat combat game. Tighter turning circles for slow moving ships would have been much more interestiung and really would not have been hard to implement. Besides that, all ships may make a turn when stationary, which makes large ships incredibly maneuverable. Finally, as one acccustomed to boats I get hung up on the fact that in CS ships turn around their stern, while in reality ships with steering rudders will turn around their bows unless they have bow screws.
The effect of splashes is very pronunced as any splash of a larger calibre miss increases the chance of a subsequent hit with 10%. In reality this effect did indeed come into play between capital warships but had no effect at all amongst the agile and fast moving small attack boats that left splashes behind very fast and mostly engaged in flat-trajectory fire anyway.  
Airplanes may attack boats but strangely enough may not strafe them, which was the most common form of airplane-to-ship attack.
Purists may also want to alter the effects of certain weapons and weapon layouts. However CS is a fast flowing game and should perhaps not be cluttered by too much detailed ruling. But the problems with turning circles, splashes and strafing attacks  should have been solved. Some excellent houserules to complement (and/or complete) this game with can be found at this link.
The rules also already know an extensive Errata list, which could have been somewhat prevented by better proof reading. It can be found here.
Conclusion
Cruel Seas is a beautifully executed and promising game that is enjoyable to play straight from the box. But it would have been a much better game having benefited from rules that emulate fast boats better and some more proof reading.
The choice for 1/300 scale will produce some stunning naval modelling but will run into its own limitations in larger scenarios as soon as the recommended 3×4 table is stuffed with ships actually too big to fit on it.  

Pijlie’s Blog

WE ROCK. WE ROLL SIXES. WE WARGAME. WE NEVER LOSE.

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