Out of the box: Arctic Convoy

Now that my eyes have thawed out and thoroughly recovered from looking at the frigid photo of USS Staten Island, I can pass along a bit of info about one of my wargaming new arrivals.

“Arctic Convoy”, the latest release in the Second World War at Sea series from Avalanche Press, covers the Allied convoy runs (and a few other operations) in very far northern waters during the first half of World War II. By way of a “what’s in the box” report, the folks at APL have packed a lot of gaming goodness into their now-standard one-inch game box.

Lots packed into Arctic Convoy's box.

Lots packed into Arctic Convoy's box

There are two operational maps that cover a broad swath of some of the wost places to sail on the entire Earth. A standard series tactical map, along with a number of airbase and carrier basing cards round out the tabletop decorations. There are 210 ‘long’ ship counters and 340 square counters, a series rule book, a game-specific rule and scenario book, a booklet of ship logs and a couple of play-aid cards.

So much for the Red Banner Northern Fleet

So much for the Red Banner Northern Fleet

When joined, the operational maps have quite a bit of overlap so that they take up a total playing surface that’s about two feet deep by four-and-a-half feet across. The western map features Scapa Flow in the southwestern corner and covers an area north through Iceland to the coast of Greenland. The geographical area covered then stretches eastward to include the Norwegian coast, Svalbard, Murmansk and Archangel’sk. The eastern-most portion of the map stretches to the Soviet minor port of Dikson in the north-eastern corner – a port generally usable only in high summer or with the aid of ice-breakers.

Just looking at the map makes me cold

Just looking at the map makes me cold

The game-specific book features six tactical scenarios, 20 operational scenarios and quite a few special rules. Some of the special rules, like mine warfare, have appeared in other games in the series. Many of them, though, are included to help model the inhospitable sea and weather conditions of the Arctic. There are rules for determining which turns are daylight and which are night in various latitudes, rules for pack ice, rules for snow conditions and rules for additional engineering failures induced by the harsh conditions – just to name a few.

It may appear daunting at first to a series newcomer, but the additional rules weight really isn’t that great. I haven’t played the thing yet so I can’t say for sure, but the rules look like they paint a properly grim picture of the conditions faced by navies (and aircraft) operating in the Arctic.

Some of the Kreigsmarine's warships

Some of the Kreigsmarine's ships

There weren’t a lot of marquee surface engagements fought in the theater, which accounts for the dearth of tactical scenarios. The most interesting-looking are both historical encounters, however. Tac scenario three covers the sinking of HMS Edinburgh, a Royal Navy cruiser that was carrying five tons of Soviet gold to the United States (the gold was salvaged from the wreck some 40 years later, by the way). Scenario six features the Battle of North Cape, wherein the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst ran afoul of HMS Duke of York.

The operational scenarios, as you might expect, largely feature convoys trying to get Lend-Lease cargos through to the Soviet Union. All but a couple of them are historical and they cover periods of both Allied successes and failures. Being essentially ‘campaign’ scenarios, they typically run long – anywhere from around 72 turns (12 days) to 120 turns (20 days).

More details on this interesting title to come.

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