Tag Archives: navy

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.

A Headland for Tiny Ships

Cranked out a headland for my coastal terrain, so we can have the coastline end on-table without looking super-weird. It’s designed to go on either end of the modules, so that constrained the design considerably, but I like how it worked out.

headland in bare plaster
Basic headland before painting. See text for details, click for larger.
As with the larger coastal sections, the base is 1mm (.040″) plastic card cut down and sanded, with a chunk of half-inch styrofoam insulation for the land. I used a couple of different grades of sandpaper to shape the landform, including the slightly undercut eroding cliff faces, which I really like the look of.

After that I covered the whole thing with a 1:1 mix of premixed drywall plaster (the pink stuff) and white glue, smoothing and shaping it with my fingers to cover the styrofoam, smooth out the sanding marks on the cliffs, and shape the sandbank in front of the point.

painted finished point
The headland basically finished. Click for larger.

Painting and gloss gel for wave effects went fairly quickly, with a dose of my usual flock mixes on the land side. Because this headland section has to connect to any end of the other coastal sections, and I (deliberately) didn’t run roads off the ends that limited what I could realistically put on this piece. So it’s just scrub, cliffs, and ocean.

headland in context with village
The headland next to the village module. Click for larger.

Finally, a quick shot of the new headland next to the village module, which is still awaiting woodland sections. I can see I need to do a little bit more drybrushing on all the cliff sections together to match them up, but otherwise everything looks good together. The gap between the modules is less obvious when they’re properly in place; here the headland is tipping off the edge of my cutting mat and making the gap look giant!

I’ve had a bit of setback with the river section – glue accident while putting flock down – so it’s back to finishing that off in the next few days then I need to actually do the wood canopy sections to call this round of tiny naval terrain finished!

I have to admit to being straight-up intimidated to start painting the 1:1200 Last Square coastal naval boats. They’re tinier than anything I’ve painted in years and incredibly detailed. I’m not kidding when I say I own 28mm figures with cruder details than these tiny, tiny ships, most of which can balance on a fingertip.