Second World War at Sea: Arctic Convoy
Optional Rules

By Steve Cabral
April 2017

Second World War at Sea: Arctic Convoy . . . what a learning experience! I learned why no one wants to go to Murmansk. Twenty-four-hour daylight in the Arctic Ocean leads to potential endless Luftwaffe attacks that can only be thwarted by bad weather. The weather is not as bad as in Second World War at Sea: Bismarck but very mercurial; it can go from clear to squall and back to clear in three turns. Then I learned about pack ice. With daylight gone in the winter it moves south, pushing the convoys right up against the coast of Norway and making them easy prey for raiders and U-boats. The third thing I learned was air supremacy: The Allies have no air support unless they bring their own on carriers. Arctic Convoy can be a very tough time for the Allies.

Just to make things even tougher (or easier in a few cases), here are some optional rules that give more local flavor to Arctic Convoy play.

An Arctic Update

Typically the Murmansk Run took anywhere from 10 to 15 days. The fast transports (Speed 1+) in Arctic Convoy can make the run in that timeframe with ease, but some convoys include slow escorts or other non-transport ships with a speed of just 1. Those slower ships cannot make the run in 15 days due to the historical requirement that convoys must zigzag to confuse raiders. The convoy rules (first used in Bismarck) therefore need to be updated to allow slow escorts to break off from convoys early so the convoys can speed up and reach their destination by game's end.

To that end, add the following to Arctic Convoy Special Rule 25.4:

"If any non-transport ships with a convoy are slower than any of the transports in the convoy, and if the convoy cannot reach its destination and unload there by the end of the scenario if it travels the entire distance to its destination at the speed of the slower ships, then the slower non-transport ships may split off from the convoy early so the convoy can speed up and reach its destination in time to unload by the end of the game. They may split off at any time; there is no minimum required time they must spend with the convoy. Only non-transport ships may do this: Speed 1 and 1+ transports assigned to the same convoy must stay together unless and until the convoy divides in combat or disperses."


Abort (modifies rule 5.3)

In some SWWAS games (and Arctic Convoy in particular), the Abort mission can cause the aborting task force to move close to enemy airbases. When plotting abort missions, the owning player may keep his aborting task forces up to 10 zones away from enemy airbases, even if that causes them to take a longer route to a friendly port. They must still move at least one zone closer to a friendly port each turn.

Arctic Convoy ships

ASW Sweep (modifies rule 26.11)

ASW sweeps were first conducted during the Great War, but to little effect. The doctrine of aggressively seeking out enemy subs persisted into World War II and was drummed into officers’ heads, but that didn’t change the fact that subs were nearly invisible to search by surface ships. Navies kept hunting will-o-the-wisps for years despite the obvious fact that convoys were sub magnets that brought the subs into close proximity with the escorts that could then deal with them.

In scenarios taking place in 1943 or earlier, any ASW Sweep die roll made by U.S. and/or Commonwealth forces (only) suffers an additional -2 modifier due to heavy reliance on surface search. In scenarios taking place in 1944 and afterward the extra -2 modifier only applies if the task force making the ASW Sweep die roll does not include at least one CVE that currently has at least one step of aircraft on an ASW mission.

Convoy Escort Mission (26.4)

The Royal Navy’s standard practice was to attach and detach escorts from convoys at sea. Great Britain made virtually no use of mid-ocean refueling until 1943 (unlike the U.S., Japanese and German navies). Strict radio silence could also cause convoys to miss their replacement escorts if the convoy was diverted, delayed or experienced bad weather, while the escorts could end up expending extra fuel trying to find their convoy.

The Convoy Escort mission is identical to an Escort mission (5.24), except that it does not have to begin in port with the convoy. The Escort task force can leave port alone, but before it leaves port the owning player must plot its entire mission in advance until the turn on which it and any friendly convoy will be in the same sea zone. Thereafter, the Convoy Escort task force must make normal Search die rolls each turn to contact the convoy (5.7), and if it does not contact the convoy on a given turn it must follow the movement plot of the convoy it is attempting to contact until it does.

If at any time a Convoy Escort task force’s search die roll result to locate a convoy is a modified -2, all ships in the task force expend an extra fuel box at that time. If at any time a Convoy Escort task force’s search die roll result to locate a convoy is a modified -3 or less, it Aborts its mission. If a Convoy Escort fleet makes contact with a convoy, the Convoy Escort fleet joins the convoy like a normal Escort Fleet that turn and moves with it like a normal Escort fleet on that turn and thereafter (no need for a “Combine” order).

Hard Aground

When a task force exits any port on the Arctic Convoy maps that is not in the U.K. or Iceland, the owning player rolls two dice. On a result of 2, the owning player puts all ships in that task force in a cup and draws one out randomly; that ship has run hard aground and must remain in port. Put it in a separate task force box and roll one die for it during the Special Operations Phase of each turn, following the procedure in rule 9.47 to refloat it. Once refloated the ship can leave port anytime thereafter, but must roll for running around again when it does as above. The rest of the ships in the task force with the ship that ran hard aground are unaffected and can keep moving normally.


Even more in the Arctic than elsewhere, the Earth’s magnetic field affected torpedo guidance systems. Whenever a ship or sub fires at least one torpedo factor, the owning player rolls three dice for the firing ship before resolving the torpedo fire against the targeted enemy ship. Roll for each firing ship separately. On a result of 3 through 16 the owning player resolves the torpedo fire against the target enemy ship normally. On a result of 17 or 18 the torpedoes miss their target and home back in on the firing ship or sub. The owning player then rolls another die for the ship or sub that fired the torpedo(es). On a result of 1, the ship or sub takes one torpedo hit from its own torpedo factor. A sub hit by its own torpedo is destroyed; roll normally on the Torpedo Damage Table for surface ships hit by their own torpedoes.

Arctic Convoy planesHeavy Fighters

Double the Air-to-Air combat strength of Bf110 units (of any type) when firing at non-fighter aircraft.

New Counters

Enclosed are markers for Pack Ice, the North, Central and South Weather Zones and for spotted subs and U-boats. There are also two new unit counters: A Ju188e and a Bf110g. When playing 1944 scenarios, use the 1943 Air Allotment Tables but add the Ju188e to Bomber Group 3 and add the Bf110G to Fighter Group 2. You can download the new counters here.

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