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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Tuesday 5 November 2019

Black Seas

For a confirmed landlubber, I do seem to be playing a lot of naval games recently. Cruel Seas started the trend and now a shiny new box has arrived from Warlord Games - Black Seas.

One of my reasons for not playing naval games has been the complexity of the rules. Cruel Seas is a very straightforward system and Black Seas, while a bit more complex, follows that lead.

I bought the starter set, Master and Commander, which gives you all you need to get started. The rule book, dice, markers and measuring aids. There is a paper playing surface, but I use a nice mousemat version from Deep Cut.

You also get three frigates and six brigs. I have been critical about Warlord models. Their plastic AFVs are far too complex and delicate for wargamers, and the better resin models rarely have proper instructions or lugs for assembly. Gun barrels are a particular irritation. However, like the Cruel Seas models, these go together very well and the all-important mast sections went in with a reassuring click. If you want to add extra detail, it gets a lot more fiddly. The sails are not bad with a press-out card that can be bent around a pen and glued on. The acetate ratlines need cutting out and are very fiddly to glue in place on the smallest ships. As for the cotton rigging, one look at the book convinced me that this was not for my large fingers! None the less even without these additions, the 1/700th models look fine.

The rules use similar mechanisms to Cruel Seas. The wake markers and the ship cards will be familiar, although irritatingly they are a different size so don't really fit into my custom MDF holders, which I use as a replacement for the pretty poor paper clips in the game.  Obviously, the main difference is the importance of wind and the mechanisms are a lot more straightforward than other games I have played. This won't stop me crashing into my own ships!

Shooting is also similar with a base hit, a few modifiers and accumulated damage points. As with all rule sets in a series, the author has taken on board feedback from Cruel Seas with some of the mechanisms, including a Break Value. Advanced rules add extra options like ammo types, fire ships and the weather.

There are plenty of scenarios, although I doubt many players will reach Trafalgar! I certainly will have glued all my fingers together by then. There are fleet lists and background info on some nations as well as a helpful section on terminology. Nothing for the Ottomans or the Russians, but I'll take that as a challenge. Finally, there is a chapter on campaigns.

Like Cruel seas, my scenarios of choice will be in the Adriatic, where British and French frigates fought it out. I'll be re-reading Malcolm Scott Hardy's book, 'The British and Vis - War in the Adriatic 1805-15. 

I doubt I will be building fleets (2 frigates and 2 brigs so far), but my initial impressions are positive. This looks like another fun game.

Early tabletop action!

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