Cruel Seas Battle Reports

Last week I had beginning with sunday the chance to play a couple of matches of Cruel Seas.

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The first game was on sunday with Dino, a face off using the content of the Strike Fast, Strike Hard! set, so 6 Vosper vs. 4 German S-Boats. As I have the Dreadfleet boxed set from 2011, I used the cloth seascape from that set. Yes, it covers a couple of sea monsters and such, but appealed to me a lot more than the poster and it is less glossy (for better for taking pictures).

We played a regular open sea battle, using the basic rules to get an easier start into the game. Activation and moving is pretty clear, the only thing that held us back, was keeping track of which boat on the table belonged to which data card on the tables edges. We started to use the small yellow dice to number the boats.

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We had a couple of high rolls, quite a lot of them. Which is a bad thing in Cruel Seas, as you have to roll below certain values to hit and so on. So especially with the modifiers for distance and moving fast, we didn't do any damage to each other fleets and the action only started when we were at point blank range. And we weren't able to finish the game as our time ran out. But it gave us a good chance to understand the rules.

The following monday we had gaming night at work, and I brought Cruel Seas along and we could use one of the meeting rooms to play. Very convenient and yes, we're a cool company. We even have LAN parties from time to time.

To get my colleagues into the game, we played scenario 1, where two Vospers try to escape through the opposite edge of the board and you only have a single S-boat to stop them. I'd say that is not that balanced, but enough to give you an idea of the basic rules, as you can simply put the pedal to the metal and ignore the S-boat, with them being tiny and at full speed, you're having a hard time as the captain of the S-Boat.

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Not very surprising the Royal Navy won and had some lucky rolls, doing some heavy damage to the Kriegsmarine.

For the second game of the evening we decided to go for a variation of the second scenario, Torpedo Run!, but with larger fleets (810 vs 815 pts) on both sides, to adjust for having three players. Having the merchant tanker on the board gave me the opportunity to finally put some torpedos to action.

The British had to escort a merchant ship to the other side of the board, and the Kriegsmarine wants to sink that ship. As in the other games, the small and nimble ships of the Royal Navy benefit from their agile movement and compact size. And here we had similar problems to keep track of which boat belonged to which data card. Definitely a reason to get them painted and named or numbered.

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The turns went quicker from turn to turn, and the action got more interesting as the modifiers made it more easier to hit eachother the closer we got to each other. With the Kriegsmarine focussing on the tanker, the Royal Navy had good chances on dealing damage to the S-boats, but oh boy do they hand it out once they get in range and the Vospers move slower. Keeping track of the torpedos is a bit of work as well and of all the eels I send on their way not one was a penetrating hit. Had two duds and the others missing the tanker by millimetres. As we ran out of time, and we had to catch the train (or in my case get the car out of the parking lot before it closes) we had a close tie on this game. I wasn't able to sink the tanker, but it didn't escape either. A turn or two more and I would have sunk the merchant vessel.

For my taste, these 800 points, even using the basic rules, were a good upper limit of what to play. The modifiers take a bit to get to know, it is helpful that they are printed on the ruler, but as you have to know the speeds of the enemy data cards as well, takes a bit of speed out of the game. You don't just compare you're speed class against the one of your aim, but have to check how fast their combat speed and such is.

The terrain is an interesting aspect, as we played rather open maps, with an island in the middle. The torpedo boats are quick and move more nimble than I would expect, making it quite easy for them to out maneuver larger ships, so firing arches and sand banks and such, will significantly change the outcome of the battle. I guess I'll try some 500 point games with the advanced rules, that cover repairs etc. to see how the whole game develops, but further than that less ships on the map is a bit easier to keep track.

About that, I received some good advice from the community. Beside the way how we did it with the dice, many players laminate their cards to make them more durable and simply number them with erasable board markers or coloured dots. I highly recommend laminating them and using paperclips to keep track of the hull points, as the paper chits are not a proper solution and will wear down quickly.

I am really interested to see how the rules adapt to Black Sea, as they did some changes to cover the ships and battles of that time. Broadsides and wind are a more important aspect of those battles.

Posted by Dennis B.

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