Saturday, 16 November 2019

Black Seas trial

A pre-game close-up of undercoated ships.
Busy with my Thirty Years War project, I've been holding back on Black Seas. My friend Ian, however, put his ships together and suggested a game which I was happy to take up. The game more-or-less confirmed some thoughts I’d been having so let me get them out of the way first.

The rules are very nicely produced and appear to be fairly clear. I think the 1/700 model ships are very good but very light. I would want to mount them on my normal MDF and steel bases for storage, transport and playing. I don't think this would interfere with how the game is played, as long as I kept them as small as possible.

The playing aids provided are useful for getting you started but they are very flimsy. I'd want to replace most of these with more substantial MDF or metal pieces, and to have proper 3D scenery.

I really don't like the wake markers which are fiddly and ugly. For now I think it’s much better to keep these with the ship cards, aligning the sail setting on the wake with the bottom of the ship card, but I'm hoping for a more elegant solution.

Talking of the ship cards, I also don’t like the red clips used to indicate hull damage, but perhaps someone will market an MDF holder with a peg track as has been done for the sister game, Cruel Seas.

Now on to the game.

I made a strong start, crossing the T and raking one of Ian's frigates which subsequently struck its colours.

It takes time to get used to the manoeuvre rules. I suffered a number of collisions and ended up very scattered. I think I won but this view was not unanimous.

We got through about 5 or 6 of the 15 turns. I really don't think we'd ever get through a game using the massed fleets being marketed by Warlord Games.

We used only the basic rules in our game, but we both now consider it essential to use the more advanced and realistic wind rules and Fire As She Bears.

Overall we judged the game a success, so I may proceed with it if and when I have the time and inclination.

My original intention was to model an American force, but I’m hesitating to order yet another set when the first one is still in its box. I’m naturally suspicious of games tied to one company, and I can see this one proliferating and soaking up a great deal of money.

My French squadron crosses the T. The British frigate (left centre) will strike its colours. In this game I experimented with placing the wake markers alongside the ships. It was less fiddly but they still got in the way. Needless to say, they are an ugly distraction from what would otherwise be a good-looking game. I am lost to explain why the author went down this design path when the ship models are so fine to look at.


  1. Hello Richard,
    Interesting, I am not very enthused by Black Seas. The ships are in a strange scale and seem very flimsy. I was at Warfare yesterday, there seemed to be a few people selling off their Cruels Seas on the B&B. I wonder if Black Seas will be the same next year?
    There seems to be more ‘fad’ games released now every year. I wonder if this is the future direction of the hobby? Gangs of Rome, Strontium Dog, the new Judge Dread games etc.
    Hope you are well

    1. Simon

      I’ve punched out the card counters but otherwise I’m keeping the game intact for now just in case I do decide to sell it.

      Following in the wake of Games Workshop, wargaming is becoming more and more commodified. This is exemplified by publications like 'Wargames Illustrated'. It can be useful but the bombardment of new games and advertorial tie-ins makes me feel slightly uncomfortable.

      I’m pretty well back to normal physically but am avoiding any heavy lifting. That includes wargames tables.