WWII Coastal Forces, Narrow Seas, 1/600 scale
We were all at sea this week, a mile or so off the Suffolk coast. Yes, back by popular demand, we staged a small Coastal Forces game this week. The idea was, a group of four E-Boats were lurking off Orford Ness – not far from the Sutton Hoo ship burial – waiting for a southbound coastal convoy. Creeping in to ambush them from seaward though, was a small force of British motor gunboats. Naturally enough the game was set on a dark and moonless night – maximum visibility of 24″ – an played on a 6×6 foot table. The four E-boats, commanded by Sean and Gyles with two boats apiece, were heading north, with the coast two miles or so off their port beam (in other words way off the western table edge). A light wind was blowing inshore from the north-west, and the sea was only slightly choppy. So, perfect conditions for an attack on a convoy. It was also pretty good for an attack on the hunters, as the game began with the British entering the table from the seaward, or eastern edge of the table. We started this using markers, with four per player – one for each of their two boats, plus two dummies. Maximum visibility on this fairly dark night was 24″, and the dummies came off when they could be spotted by the opposition. We actually played this differently from the rules – when your playing card is turned – red or black, you can move a boat. When you get within 24″ of an enemy marker, its your move, and you’ve got a real boat, then you can ask for the marker to be turned over – revealing either a real boat or a dummy.Gyles went towards the south-east with his markers, while Mally and I concentrated our real boats to the north-west, and sent two of our our dummies south. So, in the end, our boats were concentrated on one side of the table, while the Germans were more scattered, to the south and west. Still, once the first enemy boats were spotted, the boats on both sides began blazing away. Again, in Narrow Seas you use playing cards for firing – one per boat. We used black cards for Germans, and red ones for the British. When the right colour came up, you could open fire at any enemy boat you could see. Before we go on, you’ll need to know something about the boats. Each German player had two E-Boats – an early war one and a later build, with more guns and an armoured bridge. As the British players, MAlly and I both had a Fairmile B motor launch, and a small, racy British Power Boat 70-foot motor gun boat. Each boat has a ship card like the one above – this is the one for the little British Power Boat MGB. It shows what weapons it carried, where they were on the boat, and things like speed, turning ability and size. The firing rules are pretty slick but straightforward – within a turn everyone had the hang of it, and were blazing away with 2-pounders, 20mm Oerlikons – whatever they had. Damage was also marked off on the cards, and the numbers on the diagram were used to see where any special damage occurred. As I said – slick. My own Fairmile boat was pretty isolated, and soon found itself the target of three E-Boats (or more properly S-Boats), while the other three British boats curved round from the north to catch up with the Sean’s German boats, which were running south, pounding my Fairmile as they went. Those more modern S-Boats were deadly! Meanwhile, Gyles’s second boat was moving up to join in too. My second boat was MGB-18, a BPB MGB. To buy time for Mally’s lumbering motor launch to come up, it raced in at top speed to fire at the back if Sean’s two E-Boats. Surprisingly it got a couple of good hits in against Sean’s modern S-Boat, and although battered back, it lived to tell the tale. The real fight though, was taking place a little further to seaward, centred around my poor Fairmile boat. This solitary British motor launch, ML-258, was now on fire, and had Gyles’ two E-Boats circling around it – S-26 and the more powerful S-102. The Fairmile boat was now down to just one working 20mm gun aft, but it was still in the fight, and more importantly was hitting the Germans. S-26 was in a bad way, especially as Mally’s own Fairmile B, ML-259 was firing at it too. Actually, after the last bursts from the two Fairmiles, S-26 was left “wrecked” – and her speed dropped away. The next turn, as most of her own crew tried to put out the fires on board, ML-258 closed in and finished the stricken E-Boat off. With that small victory, we decided to pull our battered British gunboats out of the fight and head for home. All but one of the British boats had some damage – especially both of mine. Mally’s British Power Boat MGM though, was unscathed, largely because she hadn’t really got into the fight. As for the Germans, one of the four E-Boats was sunk, and all of the others had some damage, but none of it was critical. However, both of the modern E-Boats had their torpedo tubes knocked out in the fighting. That meant even if a convoy showed up, they only had one boat left which was able to make a torpedo attack. So, the game was declared a marginal British win, although we were so battered it didn’t really feel like it. Still, Felixtowe was just down the coast, where mechanics and a stiff gin awaited. The rules, as ever, worked a charm. Narrow Seas! really is a great little rules system, and nicely capture the frenetic flavour of this kind of fight.