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The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


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The Forty Mile Patch, off Iceland 1976

The Cod War, Cod War! , 1/1200 scale

With just two of us available for a game this week – the last game of the year – we decided to play something entertaining,  indulgent and involving ships. The Cod War seemed a perfect fit. After all, in this season of peace and goodwill, what could be better than a wargame where nobody gets killed? In this encounter, set off north-east Iceland in the spring of 1976, Sean commanded the evil Icelanders, and I led the plucky, enterprising Brits. The game was played out on a 6×4 foot table. In Cod War!, its all about the fish. Each turn a trawler has its nets down, and is actually fishing, you get a Cod token. Garner enough of them and you win the game Out to spoil the fishermen’s day were the Icelandic coastguard vessels Tyr, Aegir and Baldur. Their aim was to drive the fishermen off, or better still damage their boats and cut their nets, to teach them a lesson. Protecting the five British trawlers were the Leander class frigates Scylla and Naiad, and the hired civilian tug MV Star Polaris. The game started with the five trawlers scattered around the fishing area known as “The Forty Mile Patch”, guarded by the frigates and the tug. The three Icelandic “gunboats” steamed onto the table from the south – one of the short sides – and kept together as they headed straight for the nearest fishing boat – the stern trawler  Luneda. She managed to turn out of the way, but as the trio passed the guard ship HMS Naiad, the frigate managed to ram the stern of the Baldur. The British warship wasn’t damaged, but manage to knock the Icelander around a bit – a “medium” damage hit. Three of these and she has to head home –  two “heavy” hits produce the same outcome. If you cause too much damage though, you can sink the rammed vessel, and so forfeit the game by causing a diplomatic incident.The Icelanders didn’t stop though, and steamed on towards the two side trawlers St. Giles from Hull and William Wilberforce from Grimsby. Naiad and the Star Polaris gave chase, but it was clear that for now the trawlers were on their own. The Wilberforce dodged the assailants – down to two now as the Baldur had been spun about by the collision with Naiad, and was now heading off to the west, on the trail of the Luneda. The St. Giles wasn’t so lucky, and after narrowly avoiding having her nets cut by Tyr, she was rammed by Aegir, which swept up on her from astern. That’s the net-cutting attempt up below. The Icelanders though, were going too fast to easily turn and try again. They raced on to the west, chased by Naiad and the tug, while to the south-west, Scylla tried to keep the Baldur away from the other fishing boats. By now All of the trawlers were hauling in their nets. This though, takes ten turns, which is a long time when three “gunboats” are trying to cut them!The game had now sort of split into two parts. Scylla above, now aided by Star Polaris were doing a good job of guarding the trawlers, while Naiad was trying to ram whatever Icelandic ships it could. Sean though, has done this before, and was pretty determined. He missed the William Wilberforce, but  Try managed to cut her nets when the ramming attempt by Aegir forced the trawler to turn towards her. We were still fishing though, as you still garner Cod tokens for the first five turns after beginning to haul in your nets. I use markers made from map pins too, painted orange, to show who’s nets are down, and which boats are hauling them in. The game was becoming more frenetic too, as everyone was gravitating towards the same little patch of ocean. The three Icelandic coastguard vessels had reformed, and were busily chasing the Fleetwood stern trawlers Boston Blenheim and Lundeda, both of which were also frantically hauling in their nets.  So far the Star Polaris had kept between the Icelanders and the trawlers, but she couldn’t stop all three. Sean hadn’t reckoned with Naiad though, which came up fast from the south-east, and steamed straight for the  “gunboats”.In Cod War! we write down orders for the ships each turn, and reveal them simultaneously. If things are hectic, we break the moves down into fractions, in case anyone gets rammed, or their nets are in danger.   We had to do this now, as Naiad, got between the Icelandic ships, and rammed Aegir, before turning sharply to port and doing the same to Baldur. I like to think of it as perfect shiphandling on my part, but in fact it was all down to luck – both sides having pre-plotted their moves. The Ikara Leander frigate suffered a little bow damage – a “medium” damage hit – but it was worth it, inflicting “heavy” damage to Aegir, and a second Medium damage hit to Baldur. Not to be outdone, when Tyr tried to ram the William Wilberforce (pictured below)  it only inflicted “light” damage on the trawler, but suffered “medium” damage herself. It all wasn’t enough to drive the Icelanders off, but now all three of Sean’s vessels had been damaged, which had an impact (if you’ll pardon the pun) on their speed. That reduced their chances of successful ramming or net-cutting attacks. With the exception the Grimsby trawler Port Vale, which hadn’t been threatened all game, all of the the British trawlers had now almost completed hauling in their nets. Until they did, it looked like Scylla, Naiad and Star Polaris were well up to the job of keeping the Icelanders at bay. So, that’s where we decided to wind up the game. On points it was a clear British win, and the Icelanders limped home to patch themselves up. So too did Naiad, but her crushed bow was well worth it, having handed out far worse to the Icelanders. Above all though, Sean and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, playing dodgems on the high seas. Cod Wars! isn’t something we’d play every week – but it’s certainly entertaining when we do! 


4 Responses “The Forty Mile Patch, off Iceland 1976”

  1. 28th December 2021 at 8:38 pm

    I’m missing Cod Wars a lot! Lovely game Angus.

    • 28th December 2021 at 10:57 pm

      It’s a fun game, Bart – but I wouldn’t play it every week.

  2. Peter O'Brien
    28th January 2022 at 9:44 pm

    Angus you should run a game with Irish Trawlers versus a Putin task force 2022 doing drills in the south west Atlantic 🙂

    • 29th January 2022 at 7:32 am

      An interesting idea, Peter. This time though, there isn’t a Channel Fleet to escort them in their merry way.

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