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"House Rules for Cruel Seas" Topic

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1,429 hits since 30 Dec 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo David Manley Supporting Member of TMP30 Dec 2018 8:11 a.m. PST

Having given Cruel Seas a workout for the last few weeks I've put together a few suggested "house rules". Like Warhammer Trafalgar there's a good game in there, it just needs a little bit of work :)

This is a work in progress, thoughts and comments on my suggestions most welcome.


FlyXwire30 Dec 2018 8:30 a.m. PST

Dave, thank you!

(going to print these out now for an in-depth chance to fully absorb them)

Splash markers still like the idea of these they're one of those, literally "tactile" game mechanics that just seem neat.

Now with my limited knowledge of Coastal actions, it seems that with these mostly night-time engagements, that judging target headings [and speed] was a major gunnery issue. I'm almost thinking here that splash markers are functioning akin to Flak burst in WWI as spotting markers to alert fighter units of the proximity of these enemy elements (crude vectoring mechanics), and by following the succession of bursts (Flak or splash indicators), that a means of tracking for target direction and speed is being presented as a prospective/interactive game mechanic. (?)

Personal logo David Manley Supporting Member of TMP30 Dec 2018 8:39 a.m. PST

They are more an aid to acquisition than actually getting rounds on target. In my experience the fall of shot from automatic weapons at sea can be quite disperse, using them as an aiming point isn't likely to help that much. And from what I've seem machine gun and cannon fire gives a much more coherent "beacon" due to the higher rate of fire. Outgoing fire is a much better indicator

FlyXwire30 Dec 2018 8:45 a.m. PST

I think that aid to acquisition is valid in these nighttime environments, and far less so if playing/fighting daytime combats.

Nick B30 Dec 2018 8:52 a.m. PST

Excellent amendments.

I thought the Holman projector was so hated by crews (being considered more dangerous to crews than the enemy) that it was never really used. I remember one veteran saying in an inerview that they were so afraid of a primed grenade being dropped onto the deck that they used potatoes instead!

Tony Adams Supporting Member of TMP30 Dec 2018 8:54 a.m. PST


Thank you for your efforts on Cruel Seas. It is a simple enough game that I think it lends itself to house rules very easily. Yours are very interesting and well thought out based on the history.

Just out of curiosity, occasionally I game with a good size group. Any idea of what the limit of number of players would be before things get unmanageable? Thanks again.

Personal logo David Manley Supporting Member of TMP30 Dec 2018 12:34 p.m. PST

I think it would work well with quite a few players. We ran a coastal game with different rules but a similar "activation" approach that had ten players and 10-15 boats and ships so I don't see any reason why CS wouldn't as well

Personal logo David Manley Supporting Member of TMP30 Dec 2018 12:42 p.m. PST

Nick, they (Holman Projectors) were used occasionally, they did even being down a plane or two! I've read their most popular use was in shooting potatoes and gash at friendly boats for high jinks :) Put of interest the Steam Gun Boats had a steam powered projector!

FlyXwire30 Dec 2018 12:58 p.m. PST

Dave, #5 Torpedo management using a separate die in the activation bag for all torpedoes to move simultaneously is a great idea. It manages all torpedo movement, but as an uncontrolled an unpredictable activation love the possibilities!

Nick B30 Dec 2018 1:03 p.m. PST

David – potatoe ammo is a clear omission from the rules ;-)

Personally I wouldn't fancy handling a primed grenade on a pitching wet deck with wet cold hands! They deserved a medal for simply using this weapon.

It's a shame Warlord didn't ask for your input to the rules IMO.

D A THB30 Dec 2018 2:19 p.m. PST

Thanks. I will try these out when I get a chance to play a game.

Rhubarb 63330 Dec 2018 2:24 p.m. PST

David potatoe ammo is a clear omission from the rules ;-)
Personally I wouldn't fancy handling a primed grenade on a pitching wet deck with wet cold hands! They deserved a medal for simply using this weapon.

Definitely an omission on Warlord's part. Potatoes and grenades, they're so hard to tell apart:

Nick B30 Dec 2018 4:40 p.m. PST

LOL! Brilliant! :-)

epturner Supporting Member of TMP30 Dec 2018 4:46 p.m. PST


Thank you David.


JARROVIAN Supporting Member of TMP30 Dec 2018 4:48 p.m. PST

David, how do you feel about high speed craft launching torpedo's at each other? I've had this happen in other games/rules, but always thought it highly unlikely, and suspect any commander 'wasting' expensive torpedo's in this manner would be given short shrift from his bosses.

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP30 Dec 2018 5:22 p.m. PST

They're generally too shallow draft to be hit by torpedoes.

MGs, pistols, cannons, and grenades are good to go, though.

Vigilant31 Dec 2018 8:47 a.m. PST

Some interesting ideas. Not sure I would use all of them but some. Your turn rules are what was in the original rules but changed by the amendments! I agree with you on this and will certainly use it. On a separate note, given the criticism the rules got for proof reading errors, including from you, you might want to re-read your post. Proof reading is a difficult job, I know I was proof reader for HM Customs & Excise's forms, notices and posters back in 1981. It is even harder when the material is your own because your mind overrules your eyes when you know what is supposed to be there.

coopman31 Dec 2018 9:28 a.m. PST

House Rule #1: Wait for David's new rules to be released.

Rhubarb 63331 Dec 2018 1:00 p.m. PST


Interesting suggestions.

Like the original rules, they benefit from a bit of play testing. Re #5 Torpedo management, I think there's a good reason why Warlord chose to have torpedoes activate at the same time as the vessel that fired them. It gets them out of the way, before the 'owning' vessel moves. I've found that using a single activation die for all torpedoes often produces the odd effect of boats activating first and racing ahead of their own torpedoes, unless the torpedo die is drawn early in the turn. Also, because torpedoes can only be fired at the end of a boat's move, the torpedo markers are placed right in front of the boat model – right in the way when you want to move that model the next turn. I know its mostly aesthetic and not a deal breaker, but I'll stick with the original rules until I find a neater solution.

On the other hand, your house rules for turning work a treat. Smaller boats are now much more manoeuvrable and the larger craft suitably less so.

Does anyone else have a problem with the original rules for damage? I've found that boats often succumb to heavy attrition from gunfire, but incur few critical hits. This produces the odd effect of vessels that are completely shredded by gunfire, but with crew and equipment still in perfect working order. For example in a recent play through of Scenario 2 'Torpedo Run', my tanker was shot up, torpedoed twice and reduced to its last two hull points, but was still able to escape at Full speed. It just felt wrong.

I'm thinking of increasing the chances of critical hits (and allowing torpedoes to score critical hits too). Alternatively, I may introduce automatic critical rolls once a vessel reaches a damage threshold, (say every time it's hull points are reduced by a third) as a way of representing the overall degrading of a vessel's performance as it takes damage.

Tony S01 Jan 2019 11:24 a.m. PST

One simple way to make critical hits more realistic may be to reorganize the current results of the critical hits table. Put rudder hit, engine hit, fuel hit and extra damage as the first four critical hits results. Then when a torpedo hits, instead of rolling a D10, roll a d4. (And obviously allowing torpedoes to cause criticals)!

More likelihood of slowing a ship down when a torpedo hits. It does seem quite wrong to have a ship still moving at full speed after some torpedo hits! Just the mere fact of having some compartments holed and taking on water should slow the bloody thing down.

Tony S01 Jan 2019 11:29 a.m. PST

David – do not the repair rules seem awfully odd, and quite liberal? Repairing structure hits in the middle of a battle? I would think structure hits would be more of a dockyard task, and would take a bit longer than a few minutes.

I could see repairing some criticals, like rudder jammed, or putting out a fire, or restarting an engine, but rolling a die to add damage points back seems off to me.

Fitzovich01 Jan 2019 12:06 p.m. PST

Tony S,
You are absolutely correct about the boats needed to lose speed as they take damage. Certainly some would be above the waterline and some would be superficial to the operations of the boat, but at some point holes are going to be created in the hull that let water in and slow things down. I was looking at the tables on damage from the old Seapower Rules and I believe an easy translation is doable as that was set up in percentages. A boat doing 39 knots would lose 3 knots in those rules for every 7% damage. A tanker with a max of 12 knots would lose 3 knots for every 25%. I'm sure you can take it from there. It's just a matter of figuring hull points as a percentage of the total and rounding it off some to make it work for you.

There is also a critical hit section that may be able to be translated of sorts for use.

Joe Legan02 Jan 2019 3:51 p.m. PST

Agree with you about damage. I have reduced every gun by 1 d6.
Additionally when a ship hits 50% and 66% damage it takes a critical. Finally when a ship gets to 66% damage it can't go over combat speed.
Am also working on a table for torpedoes. I have always hated tracking torpedoes. I don't have to aim the guns why do I have to aim the torpedoes?
Let me know what you all think about the above changes.



Tony S02 Jan 2019 4:23 p.m. PST

I don't have to aim the guns why do I have to aim the torpedoes?

I suspect that rule is there so that players can have fun trying to outguess their opponent's future position, and hope the their die comes out of the bag first!

Reminds of me of old school wargame rules, where players estimated ranges of cannon to determine hits, or threw darts at a dartboard to determine ship damage, rather than roll dice.

Bozkashi Jones02 Jan 2019 5:54 p.m. PST

With regard to torpedoes, I am very much with Joe on this one. Torpedoes are, without any doubt in my mind, one of the trickiest parts of naval rules and most involve some sort of guessing game which positively encourages players to act in a 'gamey' and ahistorical manner.

Whoever heard of a commander, in the face of a torpedo attack, maintaining their course because (a) their opponent may have wrongly guessed their intention, or (b) they can see the torpedoes and know that maintaining their course is fine?

All the accounts I have read have commanders turning away if they can or, if they are too close to the enemy and closing, turning bow-on to comb the tracks.

I don't know why rules perpetuate this convention that the player is meant to lay the torpedoes himself, and yet has no business in calculating deflection when it comes to gunfire or AAA.

I am not a Warlord critic; I like Black Powder and I have enjoyed Bolt Action, which can give an exciting and reasonably accurate game with only the minimum of tweaks… but…

If a rule set has spawned this many house rules within two weeks, I have to ask if it is really a good starting point?

Sorry; I don't want to appear negative, and I will say that I do not own the rules and I am going purely by what I have read on TMP. The models, though, are lovely and appropriately priced, but so far as the rules are concerned I do wonder that, if I bought a car, should I be expected to fit the wheels and fanbelt myself?


4DJones03 Jan 2019 2:48 a.m. PST

…Or, Nick, if the maintenance manual for your car was of the same quality as the Cruel Seas rulebook, you'd want it re-called and you given a new one?

Joe Legan03 Jan 2019 5:48 a.m. PST

For torpedoes sounds like different strokes for different folks. They should generate critical. As to the car, I like tinkering and the engine appears sound As to the manual, I never really read it after the first sitting anyway!

FlyXwire03 Jan 2019 6:48 a.m. PST

"I suspect that rule is there so that players can have fun trying to outguess their opponent's future position, and hope the their die comes out of the bag first!"

It sort of all comes from this 1st premise do you accept random [and singular element/unit] activation to start with? If so, then there's a lot that can cascade from this moving is not simultaneous, firing isn't simultaneous, and yes, torpedo movement and combat resolution might not be simultaneous either.

I think random activation is a cheap way to do game mechanics, but there's threads on the boards here with many adherents too who think it's authentic, realistic, reflective, etc…..

So after that, some of this is just argument over the details……the die was already cast.

(btw, I think Warlord made it known pre-release that these rules would be using the "award winning Bolt Action" dice activation mechanics)

Now I'm soon to play my first game of Cruel Seas, much of what comes from that will be an impression of whether this game is actually fun/competitive to play… a game (I'm holding judgement on the game's design not the rules-writing-omission mistakes). Still, I do know there's lots of "authentic" games that are just crappy to play.

DB Draft07 Jan 2019 2:00 a.m. PST

Another small point is that they do not distinguish between 21" and 18" torpedoes. The Vospers with 4 torpedoes have 18" torpedoes as opposed to the two 21" torpedoes of the early type. So some lesser damage potential could be included for the smaller diameter tinfish. Although these also have a shorter range this is not necessary to show at this scale.

I really do like the universal torpedo move dynamic as I think this is a cleaner way of dealing with torpedoes.

codiver07 Jan 2019 9:01 a.m. PST

WRT "I don't have to aim the guns why do I have to aim the torpedoes?"

When I play GQ(3), I am firmly in the camp of "I am a task force, or at least a division, commander; therefore there is no reason I should be in the business of aiming torpedoes." I don't use the RAW, and have my own house rules where you just pick the target (you do need to specify some data like depth and speed [if there are multiple settings]), and roll a die with some modifiers once the torps get there.

That being said, in coastal actions, much of the time torpedoes are aimed by steering the actual boat, so having to point the boat on the correct heading, and having to use "seaman's eye" to lead the target seems OK to me.

Fitzovich07 Jan 2019 10:18 a.m. PST

DB Draft,
I agree with you on torpedo sizes and the affects of same. I did some quick online research on the size of the warheads on the torpedos and came up with the value of 18" at 8D6, 21" at 12D6 and 24" (which would be very, very rare) at 20D6. My information from several books indicates that the Japanese T-14 class of MTB's carried 18" torpedoes and not the Long Lance as shown on the ship data card (another error needing correction).

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