Cruel Seas

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Review: Fair Winds and Following Seas

December 15, 2018 by blipvertus

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I picked up this game recently and have started building flotillas and played through the first couple of scenarios. Overall I’m very happy with this game but a few areas need some work.

The rulebook is very well laid out. It starts with just 14 pages of basic rules and the first three scenarios are designed to get you familiar with the mechanics. Then comes a section of optional rules to really flesh things out followed by five more scenarios. The next section includes advanced and alternative rules followed by some short but informative histories of the six major combatants.

The final section includes summaries of all the combat vessels being released to include  points values and optional and variant weapons and equipment options.  The final few pages are reference charts.  While nice, they should have been a separate printed set of charts.

Spread throughout are a number of photos of expertly painted models both from the game and scale models from the author’s personal collection. A number of photos, line drawings, schematics and first hand accounts are scattered throughout giving the whole book a nice feel of an Osprey style reference book with a complete set of wargame rules.

The rules themselves are fairly straightforward but a few mechanics are oddly designed. For instance, when attacking, you roll a D10. But when you hit, you roll multiple D6s. Personally I would’ve stuck with the D10s but this doesn’t affect game play, it just seems odd.

Turn order uses the now familiar draw a die from a bag system first pioneered in Bolt Action. This seems to work well but does stumble a bit when dealing with orphaned torpedoes. Perhaps a bit of explanation on this point would help.

Boats launch torpedoes during during the boat’s activation and are placed next to the firing vessels. They then don’t move until the boat activates again. If the boat is sunk prior to it’s next activation, the boat’s activation die is removed and the torpedoes then activate at the start of the next turn prior to any other vessel activation.

This creates a few odd situations where a well timed torpedo launch becomes ineffective due to the loss of the firing vessel or equally as bad, an ineffective launch becomes devastatingly effective because of a new turn order. There are a couple of remedies including using a die for orphaned torpedoes and moving them when that die is drawn or keeping the order die in the bag and just have the owning player assign the die to the orphaned torpedoes. Personally I prefer the first solution but other players may find other solutions or just use the rules as written.

These quibbles aside, this is a really nice set of rules and it’s chock full of information to allow players to develop any number of theoretical or historical scenarios throughout all the operational areas these smaller vessels operated in.

Vessel stat cards are included for each boat and are are quite nice but the printing is very fine and those of us with glasses will have a hard time making out some of the text.

Damage is tracked on the stat cards using an exceptionally flimsy piece of punched out card stock slipped on to the stat cards. This is extremely disappointing and should be discarded immediately. I suggest laminating the cards and using dry erase markers.

The ship models are tiny and have some very small parts but are very nicely detailed and assemble well despite the small size of some pieces. Regrettably there are no assembly instructions and the painting guides only cover the two fleets in the starter box. Fortunately there is a wealth of online information and YouTube painting tutorials available. Warlord has promised that the assembly guides and painting guides are forthcoming.

There is, however, a major flaw with the sprues  for the German E-boats.  The sprues allow for one S-38 class and one S-100 class  Both are equipped with a stern mounted 3.7cm M42 flak gun.  Only 1 is provided on the sprue.  This is a major oversight.  The remedy for this is to build the S-38 boats with the 3.7cm gun and bold the S-100 boats with the quad 2cm gun.  It’s a legitimate option by the rules but the lack of the second gun forces you to to build the boats in only one way

Interestingly the US PT boat sprues come with a spare 20mm gun  It is true that not all boats in the same class were identical so customized loadouts were a historical reality and the rules do allow for some customization on some boats, but not all options are available on the sprues.  For instance, some boats can have depth charges, but none are provided. It’s unknown if Warlord is going to provide weapon or equipment sprues In the future.

The game plays fast and combat is brutal. So far, games are taking about an hour using the scenarios provide in the book. After drawing a die, you either increase or decrease your speed by one level. There are three levels of speed: Slow, Combat and Full.  The boats move in a straight line a minimum distance (predefined by your speed) with the option to turn.  If you have additional movement you repeat the process.  Every time you have the option to turn, you also have the option to shoot.

Shooting uses a D10 with modifications based on range, target speed, the shooting vessels speed, crew experience, visibility and special equipment.  You roll one die per gun and some vessels have an amazing number of guns for their tiny sizes.  Once you hit, you then roll D6s for damage.  A 6 is a critical hit so you then roll a D10 and consult a chart.  You can have a spectacular failure when one of your torpedoes explodes before you get a chance to fire it off.

Torpedoes follow a similar procedure but have a lower chance to hit and Allied torpedoes frequently fail whereas Japanese torpedoes are much better.  Should a torpedo connect, the results are spectacular with players rolling a whopping 16 D6!  A standard tanker only has 85 hit points.  However, the rules are contracdictory.  In the rules section for torpedoes, the rules show torpedoes detonate on a 3+ if fired by a regular crew.  But the quick reference chart says it’s a skill test and it shows that a regular crew succeeds on a 5+.  EDIT: This is corrected in an errata and it’s now easier for torpedoes to detonate.  Regular crews succeed on a 3+

There are rules for minefields and they refer to a chart that shows the odds of the mines detonating EDIT: The mine chart has been added to the errata.  Minefields are classified as light or dense.  You then compare the speed of the vessel to the density of the minefield and roll a D10.  Should one detonate it does 12 D6 damage.

Despite a few odd issues detailed above, I think this will become a favorite of gamers very soon. The small boats have never been represented before and this game really captures a just fascinating aspect of naval warfare.

I for one am a fan and I look forward to more releases and playing more games.

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civilcourage
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2819xp

Thanks for the review @blipvertus i’ve been sitting on the fence with this one. I have seen the play through but it helps having an unbias review of the game to work out if it is actually going to be a good game.

torros
Member
8980xp

An excellent review.It does sound like a fun game it’s just a pity they couldn’t get it right first time

The only quibble I would have is “Turn order uses the now familiar draw a die from a bag system first pioneered in Bolt Action” as this method of activation has been used in quite a few games over the last few decades

brimat
Member
212xp

Thanks for the write up. 🙂

Time to watch some play videos.