Tiny Ships: A Game of Coastal Patrol

As mentioned last weekend after our game of Narrow Seas, we also wanted to try out Coastal Patrol, available in the Summer 2011 Special from TooFatLardies.

I managed not to take a single photo during either of the two games Corey and I ran today, but nothing about the visible setup we’ve got has changed in a week except that all my 1:1200 scale boats are properly based, on 20mm wide by 40mm long by 1.5mm high clear acrylic bases ordered from Litko.

tiny ships on bases
Tiny ships all based on 20mm wide by 40mm long 1.5mm tall acrylic bases from Litko. Gloss varnish makes great glue for this sort of thing and won’t fog the acrylic the way superglue can. Click for larger.

The first game we ran was very small, a pair of Royal Navy Fairmile D MGBs (Motor Gun Boats) escorting a coastal freighter, under attack by a pair of S-38 mid-war Schnellboote. The S-boats roared in, fired all four of their ready torpedoes at the freighter while taking scattered gunfire from the MGBs, blew up the freighter, and roared off. As they were exiting the board one of the pursuing MGBs ran head-on into a stray mine (Coastal Patrol has a random events table that can be pretty lethally random!) and was blown out of the water.

For the second game we gave the Germans a convoy to escort, a freighter and a tanker somewhere along the coast of France early in the war. They had an armed trawler and two Raumsboote (R-Boats) escorting and were under attack by a quartet of tiny, lightly armed Vosper 73′ MTBs. This game ended in an absolute draw, as nobody lost any ships, although part of this was because we were messing with the Coastal Patrol torpedo rules and concluded that we’d taken them from massively powerful (any vessel struck by a torpedo is considered sunk automatically) down to nowhere near powerful enough because although the trawler and the freighter got hit neither took any serious damage. The Vospers all roared off into the night again, although one of them was taking on water quite badly, pumps just barely keeping up.

For both games we were (just like last weekend’s Coastal Patrol games) ignoring the rules for spotting, target ID, blinds/dummy markers, and all that stuff. I’ll be making some blinds and markers before our next games (of either system) so we can incorporate those rules, which are sure to change the on-table dynamic again.

So, compared to Narrow Seas, what are the rough similarities and differences? CP uses a TFL-style actions-per-activation system, with vessels getting between zero and three actions (diced for) every time their card comes up in the activation deck. This leads to some tense decision making, which I like. Do you maneuver your ship, run damage control, or fire, and at who?

One thing we definitely liked about CP vs NS is that CP’s turning circles are considerably smaller than the NS turning arcs. This makes the vessels feel more agile, and increases the effective size of the table.

CP’s firing is much simpler than the NS system, and involves much less dice rolling. We did seem to miss a lot more with CP than with NS, though, which isn’t really unrealistic with small vessels moving quickly over the water!

There are definitely a few rough spots and gaps in the Coastal Patrol rules. Some of the game mechanics don’t seem to be fully explained (damage from collision/ramming, for example) and although Making Smoke is an available order and Smoke Generators are listed as shipboard equipment on some of the damage tables, there are not in fact any rules for how smoke is intended to work… That said, there is a file of Coastal Patrol house rules out there that fill most of the gaps easily enough, but which I can’t currently find online to provide a link to!

We will be coming back to Coastal Patrol, and might stick with it as our main coastal naval rules, but we’ll have at least one more bash at Narrow Seas as there are definitely some things it does better than Coastal Patrol.

An Actual Game of Tiny Ships!

This afternoon we actually got the tiny ships onto the table and had a game using the Narrow Seas rules.

First, of course, I had to use blue-tac and scrap card to base up my tiny ships.

all based up
The Brits and Jerries all based up, for now. Click for larger.

We ran two British coastal merchant ships escorted by a quartet of RN Fairmile D MGB gunboats, being menaced by a quartet of S-boats somewhere along the coast of England. We ignored all the visibility, spotting, and illumination rules for this game, it was purely run-and-gun.

early game
Early in the game, two merchants hugging the coast, British Fairmile D boats maneuvering to intercept the approaching S-boats at the top of the photo. Click for larger.

The Germans kicked up to high speed to maneuver toward the sluggish merchantmen, while the MGBs tried to intercept.

Late in the game. The tape strips are German torpedoes in the water, heading toward the merchants off the top of the photo. Click for larger.

The game ended with three of the four S-boats getting away at high speed, while one S-boat was being scuttled by it’s crew close to shore after taking massive amounts of damage. The Germans fired seven torpedoes, only one of which hit, but that was enough to send one of the merchants to the bottom almost instantly, while gunfire also sank one of the MGBs.

I’m honestly not sure how much of the Narrow Seas rules we were doing correctly, but the basic system seemed to work. Consensus was that damage was awfully dice-intensive to resolve, especially if a ship got hit hard and was up to the Heavy/Wrecked end of the damage table. We also realized we were doing the cascading damage wrong partway through the game, however, so a careful re-read of the firing and damage rules is clearly in order.

As a scenario balance thing, Fairmile D MGBs are scary, scary beasts, each of them having significantly more firepower than an individual S-boat. More S-boats or fewer “Dog” boats, perhaps swapping an armed trawler in for one or two of the Dogs, would probably make the game “fairer”. On the other hand, the Kreigsmarine did manage a minor victory, and trading one S-boat for a coastal freighter and an MGB is more than fair.

We had a good game overall and will definitely be back to Narrow Seas sometime soon; we also want to try out “Coastal Patrol” from the Summer 2011 TFL Special as TFL rules are much liked in these parts. My proper bases are enroute from Litko, and I’ve now got a list of counters I need to produce to make the game run more smoothly.

Tell the Bartender Your Troubles

Way back in December 2018 on Twitter, Bears Head Miniatures showed off pictures of their new Beholder-alike floating eye beastie, Narthoks the Excellent. I made an offhand comment of, “With that expression, somehow I see him as the wholly unexpected barkeep behind a very strange bar somewhere, towel draped over one tentacle, goblets and beer mugs in the other tentacles…”

A few weeks later, Bears Head posted this:

…and naturally I had to join their Kickstarter, even though I had no particular use then or now for a Beholder, in bartender guise or otherwise! (is a bartending Beholder actually a Beerholder? A Barholder?)

My understanding is that the bartender version was a Kickstarter-exclusive, but the regular and sci-fi versions of Narthoks are available over on the Bears Head website, along with all sorts of other interesting figures!

So what did I get for my offhand comment? Narthoks is a big chap, roughly 2 and a half inches across at the tentacles and about 2 inches tall from bottom of tentacles to top of head/topmost eyeball. Taller than that once he’s on his flying base, of course. He’s got a towel and glass in his frontmost tentacles, a cocktail shaker in his right-hand tentacles, and a bottle and glass in the left. All the bar-ware is scaled to Narthoks, which means the glasses and shaker are the size of barrels from a human viewpoint!

barholder, bare resin
Bare resin Narthoks straight out of the box from Bear’s Head back in May 2019. Click for larger.

The figure is resin and nicely cast, with only a bit of cleanup along seams and some casting flash. He’s in two parts, tentacles and base/neck (?) and then head, and while the seam between them has more gaps than I’d normally like to see, the textured nature of his skin makes disguising this seam easy once you break out the greenstuff.

Anyway, after Narthoks the Barholder showed up in May 2019 he sat in his box until just a few weeks ago (end of January 2020), when I felt the need to radically change up my painting after painting a couple of dozen lovely but fussy and tiny 1:1200 WW2 naval boats!

For painting, I was inspired by Dana Howl’s awesome video on using glaze medium, which I’ve linked to at least once already on this blog, and by the splendid and underused (by me, at least, in usual day-to-day painting) Royal Purples triad from Reaper’s paint line.

barholder, wet paint
Blending basecoat in progress. Almost all the paint you can see here is still wet, as the glaze medium slows drying time. Makes for fun and dynamic painting on a big figure like this! Click for larger.

Narthoks’ underside is various shades of bright blue, his topside is mostly Imperial Purple, shaded down with Nightshade Purple and highlighted with Amethyst Purple. The eyeballs were painted Pure White then glazed with a variety of yellows, reds, and oranges.

barholder basecoated
Basecoating done, eyeballs and other detail parts included. Click for larger.

Final highlights on Narthoks’ body were a mix of Amethyst Purple, Pure White, and glaze medium, 1:1:1; this is most visible on the eyelids and on the bits just above the “horns” along each side of the body. The eyeballs have all had a coat of gloss medium, although as I haven’t given the whole miniature the usual coat or three of protective matte varnish, this gloss will have to be redone in due course. Ah well.

narthoks finished, front
Narthoks all finished except for basing. Go on, tell the bartender your troubles! Click for larger.
narthoks finished, left side
Left side of Narthoks. I really like how the shading of the horns and above them has come out. Click for larger.
narthoks finished, right side
Narthoks’ right side. The eyeballs have turned out nicely too. Click for larger.

Narthoks comes with a standard clear plastic flying base; I ran a length of paper clip wire up into him for a painting handle and to help pin the two halves of his body together. I’ll trim that short and slot it into the post of the flying base, but I might replace the clear plastic base with something more bar-like, either flagstones or a wood floor. I’m actually tempted to get a small display dome for Narthoks and put him on one corner of my home bar cabinet as a mascot of sorts, as I currently have absolutely no actual gaming-related use for this awesome figure!

Tiny Ships Painted!

I finally have painted ships (well, boats, mostly) to go with the coastal terrain I’ve been showing off!

All my 1:1200 naval stuff so far is from Last Square, the Figurehead range. Last Square are very easy to deal with and shipping from the States up to Canada was quick, although their website is one of the most glacially slow I’ve seen in recent years!

The figures are incredibly detailed for such tiny models. I’m not kidding when I say I own 28mm figures with less detail on them than these little boats!

For painting I hot-glued everything to 6″ craft sticks/tongue depressors, which worked well. I plan to use clear plastic bases (which aren’t here yet, the Litko order of custom bases is enroute) so couldn’t base the boats before painting. I did the Royal Navy & merchant ships first, and cramped myself too much – about four ships per craft stick is a good spacing, closer and your ships get in the way of the brush.

For Royal Navy colour schemes/camoflauge patterns I picked up an ePub copy of Mal Wright’s British and Commonwealth Warship Camouflage of WW II – Vol I from Pen & Sword, and can highly recommend that book if you need inspiration for your RN coastal warfare boats. We tend to think of warships as grey (well, I do, anyway) but the WW2 RN used a lot of white and blue disruption or dazzle pattern schemes on their vessels, some of them complicated enough to be challenging to reproduce in 1:1200 scale!

royal navy 1
Foreground, four anti-submarine or minesweeping trawlers, then a small coastal tanker, and two flavours of Fairmile D MTB/MGB in the background. Click for larger.
royal navy 2
RN armed trawlers and Fairmile D (“Dog”) boats. Click for larger.
royal navy 3
Tiny Vosper MTBs on the left, the tanker, and Fairmile D MTB/MGBs on the right. Click for larger.

I’ve got sixteen Royal Navy vessels right now, ranging from tiny 70′ Vosper Motor Torpedo Boats (MTBs) to armed trawlers to both Torpedo and Gun (MTB/MGB) versions of the famous Fairmile D (“Dog boat”) vessels.

For the German Kreigsmarine there doesn’t seem to be a handy single-volume book of paint schemes like there is for the Brits, but after some questions on the Naval Gaming FB group and some Google Image rummaging I decided on a simple off-white for the famous Schnellboote and a grey-and-dark-grey disruption pattern on the more utilitarian Raumsboote.

kreigsmarine 1
Schnellboote (S-boats) in the foreground, Raumsboote (R-boats) in the background. Click for larger.
kreigsmarine 2
R-boats on the left, S-boats on the right. Click for larger.

With dozen Kreigsmarine, sixteen Royal Navy, and a pair of small coastal merchant ships I’m set for a good variety of scenarios already. More S-boats, more merchants, and some of the missing classes of Royal Navy Coastal Command vessels, especially the very common Fairmile B, will come in the future, but this is a good mix for a mid- to late-war setup, from 1942 or so to the end of the war in Europe.

Our first game should be this Sunday, using Narrow Seas by David Manley. Need to print off ships sheets and a few other things before then!