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The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


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WWII Coastal Forces – Playing the Period

Messing about in boats


Many years ago I wrote a set of Second World War Coastal Forces rules for a participation game called Plywood, Petrol & Tracer. That still pretty much sums up what this is all about – small wooden boats filled with highly-explosive fuel firing tracer rounds at each other, or torpedoes at ships twenty times their size! It all makes for an exciting wargame, especially if you get the game balance right. The pictures on the page are all from games we’ve played at the Edinburgh Club, and they work really well as multi-player events or as one-on-one battles.


I tend to concentrated on the coastal forces battles fought in the Mediterranean, as it allows for a greater mix of nationalities and boat types than engagements fought in, say, the English Channel or the South Pacific. British, Americans, Germans and Italians all make an appearance, and craft range from tiddly little pre-war British or Italian MTB’s to hulking great tankers and destroyers.


I game the period in 1/600 scale, which is just about right for this – combining nice models with sensible ranges. Most actions were fought at night, at close-range, and so the rules need to take account of that. I tried a few sets, including David Manley’s Action Stations, but on the whole I found them a little too slow for my tastes. After all, nobody really wants to spend a whole evening fighting out a game that takes about three minutes in real time! In the end we settled for Dillon Brown’s Attack with Torpedoes, a set of rules he designed for a participation game, and then published. One of the fun things about Dillon’s rules is the use of ranging sticks – painted black and painted to represent lines of tracer. As you can see the games sometimes look like that kid’s game with sticks, but the system is really good fun – and it works!


Quickand-DeadcoverMore recently we picked up a copy of The Quick and the Dead, by Buck Surdu, which is a card-driven game, and very fast paced. While it mightn’t suit everyone, it certainly makes for an entertaining experience. While it lacks the scope and subtlety of other coastal forces rules, Buck’s offering certainly delivers some of the frenetic flavour of this kind of high octane naval encounter.

The idea is, you’re dealt a hand of cards, and these are used to move and/or fire, to enhance the attack with modifiers or special damage, or to defend against it. Everyone commands two boats (or one if its a big vessel like a torpedo boat destroyer or a minesweeper), and players have to make pretty fast decisions about which boats to move, who or when to attack, and when to risk a morale test in lieu of moving/firng, which might give the player the cards they so desperately need!

Give these rules a go – you might like them! Produced by LMW Works of New York, and available here


This will never be a major period, although I have bought a lot of models for it (mainly from Skytrex and PT Dockyard). However, as a once every six months participation game, it works a treat. We can use either set of rules (both very different), depending on how the mood takes us…



Home-made ship record cards for The Quick and the Dead – prettier than the ones that come with the rules






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