Bay of Bengal:
When I designed Great War at Sea: Cruiser Warfare, I included the pieces for a number of German raiders that didn’t see action until well after the events of the game. I can’t stand to see empty cardboard on a sheet of pieces, so I filled those slots with the extra German ships. And then I pretty much forgot about them.
Jim Stear, the series developer, came on board well after Cruiser Warfare’s release, but didn’t forget those orphaned pieces. They bothered him: every ship in a Great War at Sea game, he believes, must be used in at least one scenario, even if we need to craft a hypothetical one. Cruiser Warfare had ships that didn’t appear in any scenario. He set out to fix that omission.
Great War at Sea: Bay of Bengal is the result of that annoyance. It fell out of print when the core games (Cruiser Warfare and Second World War at Sea: Eastern Fleet) it uses for a map and pieces were no longer available. Now that we’ve brought both of those back in new editions, we can do the same with Bay of Bengal.
Bay of Bengal is a scenario book; it doesn’t have any new pieces, because those new pieces are sitting untouched right there in Cruiser Warfare. There are just four of them, the converted steamers Wolf, Leopard and Moewe and the sailing ship (yes, the sailing ship) Seeadler. Four ships aren’t much to build a whole book around, even though they were all very active, so there’s plenty of action involving other ships, too.
It’s our practice to make sure every game we publish is fully playable with the parts that come within the box (or in the case of Cruiser Warfare, the Playbook). We can stuff a game with 50 scenarios, but if add a 51st needing one piece from another game, someone will set his head on fire. Many years ago our then-marketing manager decreed, “Just put the extra scenarios in a separate book sold separately.” So that’s what we’ve done ever since.
The operational scenarios (the ones where you move your fleets on an ocean map) take place on the map from Second World War at Sea: Eastern Fleet, which covers the entire Bay of Bengal. The map works just fine for either game system, so you can move about using the regular Great War at Sea rules with no problem.
The first edition of Bay of Bengal came out in 2012, and since then most of the games from which it drew playing pieces fell out of print, including the central game, Cruiser Warfare, as did Eastern Fleet which provided the operational map. And so we allowed Bay of Bengal to lapse out of print as well; customers tend to get unhappy when they have to pay premium prices on auction sites just to play the scenarios from the new book they just bought.
We’ve brought back Cruiser Warfare in a Final Edition, and Eastern Fleet in a Second Edition. And thus I set out to modernize Bay of Bengal to use game and books currently in print in place of the old, retired games on which the first edition was based (Pacific Crossroads, Mediterranean, Sea of Troubles, Plan Gold).
The first edition had thirty scenarios, as does the second. Four of them have been totally replaced with new scenarios, and the others revised to a greater or lesser extent so that’s they can be played with components from games currently in print (Jutland, Cruiser Warfare, Rise of the Dragon, Zeppelins and Plan Red, plus of course Eastern Fleet for the operational map).
Bay of Bengal pre-dates the story arc format we’ve used in recent books and games, so the scenarios aren’t deliberately organized to tell a story. Instead they take several different approaches to naval operations that took place, or could have taken place, in the Indian Ocean.
To start with, we have the operations of the cruiser Emden in the Bay of Bengal, including her raids on Penang and Madras and her final battle with the Australian cruiser Sydney. Those also can take place in Cruiser Warfare (if the Central Powers player decides to detach Emden for an individual raid) but that’s a very strategic game rather than the operational game presented here. And this chapter does tell the story, at least of the Bay of Bengal/Indian Ocean part of Emden’s cruise (which includes almost all of the exciting parts).
And then there’s the raider Wolf, an armed merchant cruiser that arrived in the Indian Ocean in 1917 during her lengthy cruise and sank multiple merchant ships there. She also laid mines off the ports of Colombo and Bombay. Her scenarios are of the cat-and-mouse variety; though well-armed for a merchant cruiser, she’s not going to stand up for long against a purpose-built warship.
After the historical chapters come two more featuring hypothetical foes. First the British must defend their Indian treasures against Dutch, French and American foes - including American aircraft carriers. And then there’s a much more in-depth look at a conflict with Japan, sort of a prelude to Eastern Fleet with battle cruisers instead of aircraft carriers (the battle cruisers actually appear in both games, first when they’re new, then a generation later as re-conditioned fast carrier escorts).
And then we flesh out the set with a small scenario sequence in which the German East Asia Cruiser Squadron attempts to cross the Indian Ocean with Britain neutral but offering use of her ports to the French and Russians. Unlike the case in the other scenarios, this time the Germans have the firepower to turn on their tormentors and inflict some real damage.
Cruiser Warfare is a completely different game than the rest of the Great War at Sea series, with a world-wide map divided into areas where the fleets have a strategic focus. Bay of Bengal lets you play with those fleets on an operational map just like the other Great War at Sea games; Jim Stear has crafted a huge expansion of Cruiser Warfare’s play opportunities using games you already have on your shelf. This is a fun multiplier.
You can order Bay of Bengal right here.
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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.