WWII Coastal Forces, Narrow Seas, 1/600 scale
This week we went back to playtesting Narrow Seas, David Manley’s forthcoming Coastal Forces rules. This time we wanted to try out three new things – using ships, firing big guns and launching torpedoes. So, that’s exactly what we did. The scenario was an MTB attack on a German coastal convoy, somewhere off Cap Griz Nez in the Straits of Dover. We played the game out on a very tropical-looking vinyl sea mat, laid out on a 6×4 foot table.Campbell and Michael took charge of the German convoy – the munitions freighter SS Agatha, escorted by an armed fishing cutter, a flaklighter and an R-Boat. The Agatha was on her way from Rotterdam to Le Havre, and on a dark night in the Straits of Dover she was jumped by six boats of the 14th MTB Flotilla. The Brits were played by Alistair, Bart and Peter. Each of them took command of a pair of MTBs – a Vosper boat and a British Power Boat (BPB) one. thank’s to Alistair’s arrival I took a back seat, and umpired.The convoy was creeping along the French coast, a mile or so off the shore, which lay off their port side. The armed fishing cutter led the convoy, followed by the Agatha, with the flaklighter bringing up the rear. On the starboard side of the freighter was the R-boat. The action began when the MTBs roared out of the darkness, approaching the convoy from off its starboard bow. In Narrow Seas there are sighting rules, but we dispensed with them for the sake of the playtesting experience. In other words, we wanted to concentrate on the whizz-bang stuff! In fact David suggests this for the first few games, so players get used to the firing and moving.The first blood went to the Germans. Campbell was running the freighter, which had a 75mm gun mounted on her stern. It scored a direct hit on one of Bart’s MTB’s, which was turned into a floating wreck. So, the British were now down to five boats. That then turned to four when the quad 20mm on Michael’s fishing cutter sliced into Peter’s BPB MTB, and like Bart’s one it came to a crashing stop, with its guns knocked out and its crew taking to the Carley Floats.Not to be outdone Campbell’s flaklighter hit Bart’s remaining boat with an 88mm flak gun, but Bart got off lightly, and his Vosper stayed in the game, albeit with a bridge hit, and her skipper knocked unconscious. The upshot of that was that it stayed on the same course, heading directly towards the Agatha. Despite all this battering though, the British boats were closing in, and judging the right moment, three of them launched their 18″ torpedoes. This was going to be the moment of truth…Well, in Narrow Seas torpedoes run for 12″ before activating. That reflects the way the real things operated, and it means the launching skipper really has to plan ahead. This time round, Bart and Alistair and Peter all had one boat each launching its torpedoes, and somehow they produced what looked like the perfect spread. That’s them marked out above, in green dice, as I’d forgotten my proper torpedo markers. The Agatha had a turn of movement before they hit – and Campbell tried to turn her into the path of the oncoming torpedoes. However, it was clear that at least some of them were going to hit. In fact while Alistair’s two missed the freighter by a few yards, racing down her starboard side, three others were possible hits. We diced for them, and one detonated, hitting the bow of the freighter. Bart rolled for damage, and the result was the Agatha was wrecked – completely crippled. A secondary bonus was that her pesky 75mm gun was also silenced. So, the British boats had achieved their objective. Now the survivors had to get away. That though, wasn’t going to be as easy as it looked. Michael’s fishing cutter continued its run of luck, firing and wrecking Peter’s remaining boat – a Vosper. As a trade-off the German R-boat was also wrecked, and left floating, with all her guns knocked out. That was down to a good firing pass by one of Alistair’s boats. Seconds later it was hit in turn by an 88mm shell from the flaklighter, and the British boat was left dead in the water. That meant that despite hitting the freighter, the British were now down to just two boats. One of these was Bart’s one with the unconscious skipper. It narrowly missed accidentally ramming the Agatha, but as it turned away it was rammed by the flaklighter. Now, Campbell – who loves ramming – was under strict instructions to lay off it this time. However, this time he couldn’t avoid the collision. So, the flaklighter smashed its way through Bart’s remaining Vosper, and it was left drifting, taking on water, and generally knocked out of the game. So, that left the British with just one boat – Alistair’s Vosper. It was trying to extricate itself from the melee when it was hit by that quad 20mm on Michael’s armed fishing cutter. So, like the rest of the flotilla, this last British MTB was left dead in the water, and drifting as its crew tried to get their engines repaired, or to find someone to tow them home. So, that was the end of the game.The British had crippled the Agatha, but amazingly her munitions hadn’t exploded. That though was probably a matter of time. However, all six boats of the 14th MTB flotilla had been crippled in the attack, and their crews were more than likely to be captured by the Germans. So, I would call that a German win. As for the rules, they worked like a charm. The torpedoes and big gun firing were easy enough, and just like the last time all the players took no time at all to get their heads around the very straightforward and intuitive firing and moving systems. So, all in all, after two rounds of playtesting, we thing David has a real hit on his hands. Certainly for us, Narrow Seas will now be our Coastal Forces rules set of choice.