Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Naval Battle: Cape St Vincent 1797

Have got our Men o' War rules working well for small ship actions I turned my mind to modifying them for large fleet actions. The issues to be addressed were 1) I only have 10 model ships & 2) the rules needed streamlining to allow actions of 20+ ships a side to be resolved in a good timeframe.

I fixed the ship problem by making counters by fixing printed graphic to 60x54mm plastic bases salvaged from Perry 28mm plastics boxes.  Not as good looking as ships, but cost nothing & perfect for game development purposes.  I also printed 4 A0 sheets of 65mm hexes and worked out how to paint them blue (an acrylic paint wash applied with a sponge roller).

The current rules actually work very fast as they are, but recording damage on separate damage logs doesn't work well with a lot of ships.  With a large fleet you really need to be able to get all the info you need for combat by looking at the ship.  The command logs for controlling movement work fine for any sized action and mostly orders are by squadron & follow the leader anyway.

The main change is to modify the ship stats so there are less dice per broadside and less hits need to knock ships out.  With less hits to record, they can be recorded by using coloured counters on the ship counters.   I also took out some subtleties like secret chain & double shot options which add a lot to a small game, but become tedious en masse.

Cape St Vincent 1797:
British: 15 ships of the line with elite crews.  James in command.
Spanish: 25 ships of the line with raw crews.  15 in the weather group with Mark in command.  10 in the leeward group, Jim in command.

The Spanish are in two groups. Mark on the right, Jim on the left.   The British fleet has formed a single line sailing on a beam reach away from the camera towards the gap between the two Spanish fleets.
Mark has turned to starboard to try and get past the head of the British column.  Jim's fleet is struggling upwind to try & join their comrades.

Poor Spanish gunnery has allowed the lead British ship to survive converging fire & mark has got into the Spanish spirit by getting his own ships in the way or each other.

Things have got a bit messy at the head of the British column where the lead ship the Culloden has been cut off and forced to strike her colours.  But even so, the superior British gunnery is hurting the Spanish.

White flags are going up in the Spanish feet as the British gunnery take its toll, though the Prince George, 3rd in the British line, surprises everyone by sinking.  The leeward Spanish fleet still hasn't got near the action (nor indeed had Nelson in the Captain, 3rd from the end, this time the Spanish went the other way robbing him of his chance for glory).  

The Spanish that got past the head of the British column have hoisted more sail and are running for home.  Some of the others are getting away on the far side.  6 Spanish ships have struck their colours, one after being boarded.  The Spanish had no time to put a prize grew on the Culloden so she was recovered leaving the only British loss the Prince George sunk.

The battle didn't go exactly the same way as the historical, but the result was similar in the end.  With a large part of the fleet downwind, the Spanish just couldn't use their superior numbers to counter the  superior skill of the British. 

The whole battle took 2 hours and a enjoyed by all.  So now we have a one page addendum to the Man o' War rules allowing them to be used for large battles. 

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