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Subject: [WIP] The Cruel Sea - Wargame Print and Play Contest entry rss

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Steve
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An entry in 2016-17 Wargame Print and Play Contest - VOTING CLOSED.

The Cruel Sea
A solitaire wargame covering the experiences of an escort crew during the Battle of the Atlantic, from the outbreak of war between Germany and Great Britain in 1939 through to the end of hostilities in May 1945. You play as the officers and key crewmen through their experiences on convoy escort duty. Inspired by Nicholas Monsarrat’s book of the same name, the movie and the old Avalon Hill wargame B-17: Queen of the Skies.

Design Aims
Tell a story; specifically be able to recreate stories like The Cruel Sea
Evoke the escort service perspective of The Battle of the Atlantic
Have the player feel invested in the crew members
Educate players on the Battle of the Atlantic

Components: Rules, Charts and tables – and a deck of ordinary playing cards supplied by the player, event story book
Playing time:5-20 minutes per convoy, 1 convoy per month, 600 minutes for the full campaign (if you survive that long)
Prize Categories:
Short/Quick/Small Game
Solitaire
Rules

Link to the contest thread: 2015-16 Wargame Print and Play Contest
Game files can be downloaded here:https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B40tQlmWd41mVDNpa0xFYXF6RV...
Assembly: No assembly required. Rules and charts and tables can be viewed on screen or printed as desired.
Current State: Charts and tables 50% complete. A complete campaign can be played, but some creativity is required in interpreting outcomes in unusual situations.
Feedback Received: None yet, but my view is that there is currently insufficient decision-making to engage the player.
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Eurojuegos Buenos Aires
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Love that theme. I remember reading "Escort Commander" by Terence Robertson, about the life of the real Captain Frederick "Johnnie" Walker.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederic_John_Walker

Hope you find a good gameplay challenge to match the setting.
Looking forward to playing it. thumbsup
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Steve
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Pastor_Mora wrote:
Love that theme. I remember reading "Escort Commander" by Terence Robertson, about the life of the real Captain Frederick "Johnnie" Walker.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederic_John_Walker

Hope you find a good gameplay challenge to match the setting.
Looking forward to playing it. thumbsup

It's been fascinating researching the background to this game and stories like Walker's are exactly what I'm aiming for. He sets the benchmark for "winning" the game. Although I don't actually have a win condition as such yet.
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Trevor Henderson
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Bookmarked, looking forward to this as it develops.

Regards,
Trevor
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Steve
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I've played several years of the game but decided to journal my latest attempt. Here's a taste of the story generated in this latest play through.

1939 September – HMS Compass Rose – Flower Class Corvette commissioned, Lt Cmdr Ericson commanding

1939 October – Assigned Halifax convoy. Soon after sailing sighted a long-range German maritime scout plane. This was later joined by a second plane and the first departed. That evening a merchant ship was torpedoed and sunk. The attacking u-boat was assumed to be on the far side of the convoy, so we were ordered to pick up survivors, managing to rescue 8 merchant seamen. We had no medical facilities or doctor onboard, but one of the survivors was a doctor and was able to care for the other survivors. The rest of the trip was plagued by storms, but no further u-boat attacks. Sub Lt Ferraby was sick for most of the voyage. Successfully rendez-vous with inbound convoy. The only encounter of the return convoy was a single long-range bomber near Rockall which was seen off by vigorous anti-aircraft fire.

1939 November – Shore leave (already!) – On Captain Ericson’s recommendation a ship’s doctor was appointed to the crew. Sub Lt Ferraby recovered fit for duty.

1939 December – Outbound convoy to Halifax uneventful.
Inbound convoy one merchant ship damaged by u-boat, another sunk and Compass Rose ordered to pick up survivors. Of the 15 survivors rescued several died leaving the doctor demoralised and exhausted. A troop transport ship was then damaged by torpedo and Compass Rose’s sister ship was left to protect the two damaged ships while they undertook repairs. The rest of the journey was beset by storms but the crew’s spirits remained positive as they returned to Liverpool.

After 3 months of convoy escort duty no depth charges have been fired, no crew lost, a doctor has been added to the ship’s complement, but somehow the battle has already proven cruel.
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slashing wrote:
Feedback Received: None yet, but my view is that there is currently insufficient decision-making to engage the player.


One decision-making step you could add is what happens while in port. I`ve seen this treated only as a game maintenance phase, mainly to reset the boards and counters for the next assignment (refill guns, replace wounded, switch ship model, check for promotion). But I think there is plenty of room to explore about what happens between missions in terms of crew training on procedures, modular ship upgrades and even on how the whole war unfolds (have we cracked the damned Enigma code yet??).
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Steve
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Pastor_Mora wrote:
slashing wrote:
Feedback Received: None yet, but my view is that there is currently insufficient decision-making to engage the player.


One decision-making step you could add is what happens while in port. I`ve seen this treated only as a game maintenance phase, mainly to reset the boards and counters for the next assignment (refill guns, replace wounded, switch ship model, check for promotion). But I think there is plenty of room to explore about what happens between missions in terms of crew training on procedures, modular ship upgrades and even on how the whole war unfolds (have we cracked the damned Enigma code yet??).

Something similar is in there already - you get to do one of the following per shore break:
- Retire an exhausted crew member
- Bring aboard a new crew member
- Re-train one crew member
- Refit one upgraded system

Occasionally a full refit occurs and you can do all of the above actions.

During action the only decision is whether or not to persist in a u-boat hunt. This tires the crew, but increases the chance of sinking the u-boat. I envisioned eventual promotion of the crew to escort command giving many more tactical options, but that's beyond the scope of the game I've built so far.

At the moment events unfold according to a fixed timeline, but it is possible to influence outcomes, for example by capturing codebooks or an enigma machine; unlikely but possible.
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David Kershaw
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You could have a quick random-event table for shore break, like crewmen going in leave, being sick, being transferred, etc.
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Steve
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kerpob2 wrote:
You could have a quick random-event table for shore break, like crewmen going in leave, being sick, being transferred, etc.

Yes, I already have shore events. The design challenge is around giving the player more decision points.
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I think I follow your point on the lack of decision-making points.

Each of those essentially consist of a circumstance (information), a choice to be made by the player, and a resources cost/benefit of the different alternatives.

Some brainstorming:

- Convoy Route (could the escort change that?)
Variables: time (total mission game turns) vs chance of enemy encounter

- Convoy Route 2 (could the escort change that?)
Variables: time (total mission game turns) vs chance of weather cover

- Alertness (high, regular, minimum watch)
Variables: crew fatigue vs detection ability for that turn

- Target Value (different value of merchant ships)
Variables: a positional challenge on a separate fleet display board

- Split Hunter-Killer task force
Variables: pursuing a damaged sub leaves less escorts for next turn

- Split Rescue task force
Variables: protecting a lagging damaged merchant leaves less escorts for next turn

- Open/Close formation
Variables: early warning vs overall number of escorts available in combat

- Dedicated Air Support 1
Variables: calls for air support limited in number per voyage

- Dedicated Air Support 2
Variables: air unit of different roles available (attack, recon, medevac)

- Radio Silence
Variables: Alertness vs chance of enemy encounter

- Tactics tech tree (player chooses one after a number of missions)
Variables: the order in which you choose them
Variables: some could invalidate the availability of others
Modifiers on how many ships and how fast they can intervene
Modifiers on available ordinance and ship hulls
Modifiers on detection and communications rolls
Specialization of certain crew members

- Fire discipline
Variables: attack efficiency vs. ammo expenditure
Variables: ammo resources changes with ship model
Variables: ammo load can be customized at the start of the mission

Many of these you may have thought about already, but I hope it helps
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Steve
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Pastor_Mora wrote:
I think I follow your point on the lack of decision-making points.

Each of those essentially consist of a circumstance (information), a choice to be made by the player, and a resources cost/benefit of the different alternatives.

Some brainstorming:

- Convoy Route (could the escort change that?)
Variables: time (total mission game turns) vs chance of enemy encounter

- Convoy Route 2 (could the escort change that?)
Variables: time (total mission game turns) vs chance of weather cover

- Alertness (high, regular, minimum watch)
Variables: crew fatigue vs detection ability for that turn

- Target Value (different value of merchant ships)
Variables: a positional challenge on a separate fleet display board

- Split Hunter-Killer task force
Variables: pursuing a damaged sub leaves less escorts for next turn

- Split Rescue task force
Variables: protecting a lagging damaged merchant leaves less escorts for next turn

- Open/Close formation
Variables: early warning vs overall number of escorts available in combat

- Dedicated Air Support 1
Variables: calls for air support limited in number per voyage

- Dedicated Air Support 2
Variables: air unit of different roles available (attack, recon, medevac)

- Radio Silence
Variables: Alertness vs chance of enemy encounter

- Tactics tech tree (player chooses one after a number of missions)
Variables: the order in which you choose them
Variables: some could invalidate the availability of others
Modifiers on how many ships and how fast they can intervene
Modifiers on available ordinance and ship hulls
Modifiers on detection and communications rolls
Specialization of certain crew members

- Fire discipline
Variables: attack efficiency vs. ammo expenditure
Variables: ammo resources changes with ship model
Variables: ammo load can be customized at the start of the mission

Many of these you may have thought about already, but I hope it helps

Very similar to many of my own thoughts. The trouble is that most of those are the decision of the convoy commander, not the individual ship's captain.
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Ronald Hill
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My aunt gave me the book 'The Cruel Sea' for Christmas when I was about 13 or 14 years old which was wonderful of her. I, however, did not find the book interesting and put it away for a few years, I'd like to think I matured a little during those years. When I was about 17 years old I needed something to read and I saw this book sitting on my shelf, grabbed it so at least I had something to read on the train I took to my summer job. I couldn't get enough time to read this most wonderful book. Every opportunity I had I would open it up so I could read a bit more of the story. I was transported onto the deck of HMS Compass Rose doing her sea trials and on the her escort duties across the Atlantic. I still remember being on that train going home when I finished the chapter, turned the page and read those 3 agonizing words, "The torpedo struck..." My heart jumped into my throat, I was thinking "No, no, no..." Still, I had to read on and as characters, shipmates and the Compass Rose died. This book was one of two books that I've considered a life time favourite. That summer I read I believe all of Nicholas Mondattat's books, with The Cruel Sea remaining my favourite. I did wish that he lived long enough to have completed the second book on The Master Mariner. I would like to say thank you for creating this game and wish you all the best with it. If you need a future play tester, keep me in mind. I don't think it'll ever be too late to step back onto the deck of HMS Compass Rose or HMS Saltash.


Edit: Title correction.
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Jim F
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Where the heck did this interest in WW1 come from?
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Vimy145 wrote:
My aunt gave me the book 'The Cruel Sea' for Christmas when I was about 13 or 14 years old which was wonderful of her. I, however, did not find the book interesting and put it away for a few years, I'd like to think I matured a little during those years. When I was about 17 years old I needed something to read and I saw this book sitting on my shelf, grabbed it so at least I had something to read on the train I took to my summer job. I couldn't get enough time to read this most wonderful book. Every opportunity I had I would open it up so I could read a bit more of the story. I was transported onto the deck of HMS Compass Rose doing her sea trials and on the her escort duties across the Atlantic. I still remember being on that train going home when I finished the chapter, turned the page and read those 3 agonizing words, "The torpedo struck..." My heart jumped into my throat, I was thinking "No, no, no..." Still, I had to read on and as characters, shipmates and the Compass Rose died. This book was one of two books that I've considered a life time favourite. That summer I read I believe all of Nicholas Mondattat's books, with The Cruel Sea remaining my favourite. I did wish that he lived long enough to have completed the second book on The Master Mariner. I would like to say thank you for creating this game and wish you all the best with it. If you need a future play tester, keep me in mind. I don't think it'll ever be too late to step back onto the deck of HMS Compass Rose or HMS Saltash.


Edit: Title correction.


Spoiler Alert!!!
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Steve
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Carrying on my play through.

1940 January – Continuing in Halifax convoy duties. On sailing from Liverpool received numerous reports of enemy operations in North Western approaches. The convoy was ordered to scatter and re-assemble mid-Atlantic. We detached in escort of three merchant vessels and proceeded independently. We successfully rendez-voused with the return convoy but the weather deteriorated very badly. Lt Lockhart was washed overboard, but we managed to rescue him. After that everyone onboard had very low morale, with Ferraby sinking into a deep depression.

1940 February – Not long out of Liverpool Compass Rose struck a mine and was sunk. Still being in convoy most of the crew were picked up, although Chief Watts was lost while shutting down the boiler.

1940 March – Lt Ferraby retired on medical grounds; Lt Morrell appointed as replacement. Following a few weeks' leave, the crew re-assembled to commission HMS Camelliard - another Flower Class corvette.
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Jonathan "Spartan Spawn, Sworn, Raised for Warring!"
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So many subscriptions, this years looking great!
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Ilya Kudryashov
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Hi Steve!
Do you need an artist for this PNP game?
;-)
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Steve
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Hi Ilya,

I would be delighted to have you make art for The Cruel Sea. It's still just a bunch of ideas though, and not ready for public play test. It's not working as well as I hoped, but if / when I get it ready for the rest of the world, you will be my first choice of artist again.
 
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Quentin N.
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Replying to keep track of the game.
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Mimolette wrote:
Replying to keep track of the game.

You can subscribe to this threat. Search the page.
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David Kershaw
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Competition deadline has arrived - is this game ready or should it be withdrawn?
 
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Steve
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Withdrawn - I did mention in the contest thread, but probably in too understated a fashion.
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Harry Sidebottom
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Shame - was very much looking forward to this
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Ronald Hill
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HarryWarriorofRome wrote:
Shame - was very much looking forward to this


I agree, that is sad news on this game as I was also very interested in it as well. Thanks for the attempt though, all the best with your next endeavour.
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