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A Clash in the DFA, off Iceland, 1976


The (Third) Cod War, There’s Something Wrong with our Bloody Fish Today!,1/200-scale

This really was a game with a difference. I wasn’t in the army, but I did serve on HMS Falmouth, which plays a key role in this game. Thirty years ago, the Icelanders arbitrarily extended their fishing limits to 200 miles – a move which the British fishing industry refused to recognise. For the third time since World War 2 Icelandic gunboats sallied forth to cut the trawls of British fishing boats, and so the Royal Navy stepped in to protect the fishermen. What followed was essentially a very expensive game of dodgems (bumper cars), as the gunboats tried to cut trawl nets, while British frigates put themselves between the trawlers and the Icelanders. I saw these rules (available free  here – external link) a few years ago, and was captivated. I was only a teenager at the time, but I remember the Cod War, and was perplexed why we didn’t just blow the little cod-stealing buggers out of the water. I now realise that this wasn’t diplomatically acceptable behaviour – hence the need to play dodgems with expensive frigates! The models are from various sources (the ICGVs are converted), and the rules were written by David Manley. Sorry for the picture quality – my camerawork wasn’t helped by the club’s new sea mat, which is very reflective of light, which confuses the heck out of the autofocus…img_3334The game began with three trawlers in the DFA (Defended Fishing Area), escorted by the frigates Scylla and Falmouth.  The ICGVs Aegir and Tyr appeared through the mist at high speed, and charged in. On its first pass the Aegir raced up astern of the trawler Port Vale and tried but failed to cut her nets. Undeterred she swung round, pursued by the Scylla, and made another run. The gunboat failed again, and almost rolled a “Withdrawal” result. After each attempt or collision, the gunboat rolls a D6, with +1 modifiers for each collision or failed net cut. On a “7” it heads for home. Actually, we changed this to a “9”, as we wanted a longer game. Big mistake! By then the Tyr had swooped in and cut the nets of the Port Vale as she tried to get out of the way, and the whole table now resembled a dogfight with ships turning all over the place. In the picture above you’ll notice the orange markers – showing that the trawler still had nets down. Oh, and every time someone altered course to port or starboard, they had to tell their opponents by giving blasts on the ship’s horn. All very polite… conforming to maritime “rules of the road” – and it made for a very unusual but entertaining game!img_3325The British got a point each turn they had nets down and remained in the DFA (the 6×4 foot tabletop), but sidewinder trawlers can only do 8 knots with their nets deployed, so it made them easy targets. Still, to recover nets takes 10 turns (of a 20 turn game), and during the process their speed is limited to 2 knots. We decided that would be suicide, so we kept fishing. Another mistake! Next fiction was my own William Wilberforce. She had the Tyr scream up astern past her port side, and cut her nets. Seconds later the Aegir rammed her stern, but both ships were damaged in the collision. That left us with just one trawler – the St. Giles. Each successful net gut gains the Icelanders 10 points, which meant we had very few points left. We needed to send both gunboats home or lose the game. Of course, a trawler skipper who’s just had his nets cut has nothing to lose, and so the two trawlers began trying to ram their tormenters. The next collision came between the Aegir and the Falmouth, and both ships were slightly damaged – although the Icelander came off worse. Next up was my William Wilberforce, which deliberately rammed the Aegir. this was enough to force a morale test on her, and she “Withdrew”. We got 10 points back for that.img_3333That left just one ICGV – the Tyr – which was heading towards the St. Giles. Both frigates raced off in pursuit, but when it looked like another clash was inevitable Bart (commanding the gunboat) veered off, heading towards the table edge. He’s just worked out that even if the St. Giles kept fishing until Turn 20, we would only garner 24 points – and we needed 30 to win. So, by leaving the table, Bart won the game! I never really expected much of this game – but in fact it was a real gem. It looked great, the rules worked well, and everyone had a blast. Everyone said they’d play it again. It was certainly different. Nobody fired a gun, and it was all about manoeuvring, tactics … and cod.img_3330

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