Cruel Seas – Strike Fast, Strike Hard! starter box

With Cruel Seas Warlord Games expands the world war 2 brand of Bolt Action, after Blood Red Skies and areal combat, into naval wargaming. We will look into the Strike Fast, Strike Hard! starter set for Cruel Seas today, that gets you started with the 1:300 scale naval combat game.

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The Strike Fast, Strike Hard! boxed set is one of two ways to get into Cruel Seas. You can either buy the 50 GBP boxed set, or go for the stand alone rulebook at 20 GBP. Similar to what we know from the Bolt Action range, you receive a special miniature when you order either the boxed set or rulebook directly from Warlord Games. In this case, a very fitting "Das Boot" miniature, the top part of the iconic U96, the german Type VII C submarine.

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The boxed set contains all you need to play your first rounds of Cruel Seas, with a small flotilla of the Royal Navy and Kriegsmarine. For a starter kit is quite generously filled, as you can see below.

  • A4 softback rulebook
  • A4 quick start guide with painting guides and flags
  • 6 x Plastic Vosper Motor Torpedo Boats
  • 4 x plastic E-boats
  • 1 x set of plastic torpedo markers
  • 1 x set of plastic plume markers
  • 1 x A0 double-sided battle mat
  • 3x die-cut punchboards - double sided and full colour (islands, sandbars, rulers, mine markers, game tokens, lighthouse, aircraft, etc)
  • Ship data-cards for Vosper MTBs, E-boats and a merchant ship
  • Wake markers
  • Fleet order chits (Axis and Allies)
  • Set of game dice (D10 & D6)

When you buy further expansions or supplements, like the Flotillas or resin ships, additional material like wake markers or data-cards are part of those boxes and blisters.

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Each of the 4 different boat classes included comes with a data card, as well as for the merchant card board marker. The two fleets have a sheet of flags each. Among the die-cut token are wake markers and markers, that will keep track of the hull points of the boats, as you can see below. Unfortunately the die-cut isn't that well done and might need some additional work with a cutter. That is quite easy with the wake markers, but rather difficult for the moving indicators.

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The wake marker come in three different sizes, S, M and L, and are used to keep track of the speed of the boat. They are double sided and come in lighter and darker blue. They cover a 45° and 30° angle to cover the pivoting motion of the vessels.

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The Cruel Seas starter kit covers a large A0 gaming poster, that's 84 by 119 cm or roughly 33,5" by 47,5", and is printed on both sides. A darker sea and more blue-ish sea variant of the same motive. They do come with a central wind rose and a couple of lines parting the gaming area into sectors.

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The Quick Start sheet is quite compact, covering a brief painting tutorial for both sides and explanation of the contents of the sprue. No quick start rules or easy entry on the game itself. Just an overview on the parts and some recommendations on how to paint them.

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As for the rulebook it self, Warlord has access to Peter Dennis and his marvelous illustration. Add a couple of technical drawings, further illustrations from Osprey booklets and battle scenes with miniatures and you have a proper vision of what to expect from the book. The 108 pages cover the rules, basic scenarios, advanced rules and scenarios, as well as some background and the profiles for six major nationalities, British Royal Navy, German Kriegsmarine, the US, Imperial Japanese and Soviet Navy, as well as the Italian Regia Marina. More on the rules and how Cruel Seas plays further below.

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As mentioned further above, Warlord Games has you covered. You get semi-transluscent plume markers, those are the same as the regular pin markers, just tinted to better fit the scenario of naval combat. Along with that you get command dice, regular dice and some smoke / damage markers.

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The game is heavy on the card board as well. You get a ton of tokens.

Warlord Games - Cruel Seas

These separate in regular game token, to keep track of different condictions or equipment, as well as stand-ins for models and terrain. You get a cut-out of flyers and a merchant ship, as well as mines, maritime distress and lost cargo. The terrain is double sided and covers corners of islands that can be combined along with a light house and some smaller riffs.

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An interesting part is the rather long ruler (60 cm, yes cm not inches, as this game uses the smaller metric scale for measurement and movement) that consists out of three segments and has a reference sheet on back of the first part.

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And now for the miniatures themself. There are three different kind of grey plastic sprues included. One for the Royal Navy with the two Vospers boats, the Kriegsmarine with two different kind of E-Boats and a generic torpedo sprue. Casting is good, the details are properly covered, but mould lines are an issue and you have rather small details, are more time consuming to clean.

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The assembly instructions are rather poor. Some have argued, why would you even need them for that few parts. Well, if you're new to naval wargaming and never got in touch with maritime vessels before, it is a bit difficult to alocate the bits towards the ship. They assembly instruction doesn't even really cover the assembly itself, it is a simply explanation of which part is which inside the sprue. If you don't know where to put the vickers, then you will still don't know after you recognised it as a vickers. The 20mm gun on the front deck of the MTB Type 1 is simply glued on the deck, no pin or socket.

The data cards themself are not much of a help as the assembled models aren't shown in close ups and you can use the backside with the stats as some kind of orientation. For that reason I took the close ups of the bits and where I put them (and I hope I that correctly).

Don't get me wrong, it was fun to build something so far away from the regular infantry or vehicle kit, but an exploded view diagram would have made it so much more convenient.

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Warlord Games - Cruel Seas Warlord Games - Cruel Seas Warlord Games - Cruel Seas

Similar problems with the german Kriegsmarine. The assembly instructions are not that clear, especially as the torpedos are just added to the deck, that was not that much of a help either. The S-38 has a production problem of its own, the antenna in the rear tends to break of, as that was the case in the starter set as well as the flotilla kit on multiple sprues. I repaired that condition with spare bits, still an error in production planning of the sprue. Adding the connection of the sprue not to the rim of the boat would help to not damage details while cleaning the bits.

I looked up pictures of the E-boats and saw how the torpedos were loaded and shot, for that reason I varied the position of the torpedos on the back. Placing some as if they were just in the process of being loaded.

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That's what you get, 4 Kriegsmarine E-Boats and 6 Vospers MTB of the Royal Navy, along with a set of torpedos. Those are easy to get into action, simply clip them from the sprue, no further assembly needed.

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And of course, the assembled E-Boats of the S-38 and S-100 classes, as well as the Vosper Motor Torpedo Boats Type I and II.

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Warlord Games - Cruel Seas Warlord Games - Cruel Seas
Warlord Games - Cruel Seas Warlord Games - Cruel Seas
Warlord Games - Cruel Seas Warlord Games - Cruel Seas

I never really came around to play naval wargames often. The only time I did was Dystopian Wars, and that game outscaled itself by adding to large models to the game. As risk that Cruel Seas bears to a certain degree. If you stay with the small torpedo boats and coastal forces, you will be fine with a regular 4' by 4' table, but even here the ships move between 36 and 42 cm (14 to 16 Inch) at full speed, making it quite fast across the table compared to your regular skirmish or mass combat system on land. And then there is the special aspect of movement with naval wargames, as you don't do sharp turns but vast, voluptuous movements. An aspect that is dedicated a chapter of its own in the Tabletop Wargamers Designers' & Writers' Handbook, due to its individual needs and uniqueness.

Cruel Seas borrows some basics from Bolt Action. Activation is done with the same method. You draw a dice from an opague container and alocate it to the unit of the same faction. The units have different skill levels as in Bolt Action and derive their success from those stats. But as we are talking about small forces, even for a skirmish, somethings have been modified or gain new rules. The vessels have more wounds, thus talking more damage and are unlikely to be destroyed within a single activation, unless you concentrate your fire or have lucky dice. Shooting is done on a D10 with a couple of modifiers. Movement is a topic of its own. You can only vary your speed by one level, so if you're going fast, you will need to keep in mind, that you will have to continue that for a bit. Taking turns to left and right takes up more space on the battlefield than you might be used to, as your vessel might only be able to turn 30° or 45° and that only after it has moved at least 12 cm. So beside the enemy, terrain and not crashing into it, is another thing to keep an eye on.

As for torpedos. They will not matter for most units in this game, as your goal will have to have a certain class size to be targeted. That is above medium vessel, and all the ships in the starter kit are not affected by torpedos. But when a torpedo hits a target, it creates 16D6 damage, with critical hits on top (you get additional dice for every natural 6). Still an interesting aspect of the game. I assume that it might become a bit messy to keep track of those on the table, as they stay on it until they either sink or hit something.

The advanced rules add a lot of further depths to the game, as you have more differenciation between critical damage, you get veteran crews, repairs and new equipment. The scenarios are interesting and vary a lot by objective and play style, so get a lot of play time already out of this single box.

This game was developed with a lot of love. The rulebook is nicely layouted and you can read the enthusiasm from the texts and the way the game is presented. Yes, some things like the instructions or the not completely cut thin cardboard was a bit annoying. But they tried to put as much into this box and into this game as they could with the budget they have. That creates certain compromises, for example that the range is filled with 1:350 kits, that don't have a waterline (you'll have to put some additional work into the kit, to make it "playable"), or that only the core elements are available on a plastic sprue and the remaining products are resin.

But I like the aspect, that they went for a risk with this game, out of the regular comfort zone of producing "just" another supplement for 28mm. And that you can combine it with Blood Red Skies and Bolt Action, for a very rich kind of campaign weekend. Of course you could do that with any other naval and aerial combat system, but with the support of Warlord Games and their trade network, this creates a much higher and easier availability compared to other systems.

I am looking forward to see Black Seas, the Black Powder spin-off of this game within the next weeks, as I enjoyed the idea of Trafalgar for a long time but didn't followed up on it due to miniatures and the high prices of Sails of Glory (compared to Wings of War or X-Wing).

If you want to know more about the duel between E-Boats and MTB or the vessels in general, I would point out a couple of osprey books. Duel 34 E-Boat vs. MTB, as well as several New Vanguard issues, #59 German E-Boats 1939 to 1945, #74 British Motor Torpedo Boats 1939 to 1945, #155 Kriegsmarine Coastal Forces and #166 British Motor Gun Boat 1939 to 1945.

Cruel Seas is a brand of Warlord Games.

The reviewed product item was provided by the manufacturer.

Posted by Dennis B.

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