Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Cod Wars? Yes, Because . . .

I'm of the opinion that anything which floats can be made into a good game.  For that reason, if you put on a game that has ships of some sort then chances are I'm going to enjoy it.  Due to this, I've played with everything from sailing ships to World War II battleships.  I haven't played any ancient naval (but want to try it), and I've even played Greenpeace protesters in a "Save the Whale" game.  So, I don't mind trying out an oddball game.  Keep that in mind as you read this.

One of the regular members of our gaming group likes to ram things when we play naval games.  He's at his happiest when he can bang into other ships on the table.  Preferably, the rammed ships are his opponents but I'm not sure that's completely necessary.  This has actually become a bit of a running joke among the group.  Unfortunately for him, ramming things with a sailing ship is really bad for the ship where rigging and the bowsprit are concerned.  Because of this, I've been on the lookout for rules other than ancients where ramming is actually a viable tactic, and that wouldn't require a lot of ships.  After all, this is a side project and not anything major.  Well, I finally found something that I think will fit the bill:

I know what you're probably thinking: "Cod Wars?  Huh?"  These were a series of disputes between the UK and Iceland over fishing rights in Icelandic waters.  They weren't really a war in the sense that wargamers think of one: there was only one fatality and the naval forces of the two nations never actually shot at each other.  The actions of this set of "wars" consisted of the Icelandic Coast Guard cutting the lines of trawlers in Iceland's territorial waters, and vessels from both sides ramming each other.  Not necessarily ramming to sink another vessel, but more like the traditional 'bumper boats' that the US and USSR played with each other during the Cold War.  Well then, sounds perfect for my needs.
After buying the rules, I was pleasantly surprised (and somewhat relieved) to find that all the miniatures you would need to play a game were available on Shapeways.  I bought what I would need to run the game, and was again pleasantly surprised when they arrived.

L to R: ICGV Baldur, ICGV Tyr, 3 side trawlers, British tug Lloydsman

L to R:  ICGV Odnin, ICGV Aegir, 3 stern trawlers

L to R:  Star Polaris, Star Aquarius, HMS Exmouth, ICGV Ver
Those  three sets provide more than enough ships to run any scenario, and most of the ships needed for a campaign (which is included in the rule book).  This is my first experience with 1/1200 ships printed by Shapeways, and I have to say that I am very impressed with them.  The detail is fantastic, as I hope the closeup below will show:

I will also try and get some extreme closeups before I start painting any of the models.  The fact that the ships are printed in a translucent plastic doesn't help much in seeing the details from a photograph.  To give you an idea of the detailing, the two ships at the top of the photograph (Star Polaris and Star Aquarius) are actually different from each other.  One has slightly larger funnels than the other, AND it also has an extra crane and rubber boat on board. 

You don't even need to label their bases.
As you might guess, I'm very impressed with these.  I'm looking forward to getting them painted and out for a game, just to see what everyone thinks.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Best. Day. EVER! (In gaming terms, anyway. . . .) Part II

So after the Constitution versus Java fight, Mark decided he wanted to play this game again.  We took a break long enough for me to print some ship sheets, and then went back at each other again.

This time it was just a generic frigate fight.  I picked out two ships at random: A British 36 gun frigate (HMS Santa Margarita) with 12 pound main guns, and a French 38 gun frigate (Proserpinewith 18 pound main guns.  This is where things started getting interesting.  The random dice roll for crew/captain quality gave the French a regular crew, and the British a green crew.  So we have a more experienced French crew with heavier guns, but the British can reload and fire faster (2 phases to reload, opposed to 3 for the French).  So, can quicker firing but lighter guns make up for the differences in weight of metal and crew experience?

The random setup proved to be interesting as well.  By die roll, the British started in the middle of the table.  When setup was done, the French wound up behind them, with both ships starting at Easy Sail.  The weather was moderate, with the wind from the SE at force 4.  With everything ready, the starting situation looked like this:

An English frigate chased by a French one?  Hmmm.
With both ships at Easy Sail, we were both tearing along at 10 movement points each, which is anywhere from 4.5 to 8.8 knots, depending on how the ship is facing into the wind.  I quickly decided that being the chasee was not something I wanted to do.

"No Royal Navy captain is going to let himself be chased by a Frog!"
I started taking in sail, as I didn't want to fly by my opponent and have to claw my way back.  Mark, on the other hand, decided to stay at Easy Sail.  This helped me to decide on my tactics; I would shoot high in hopes of forcing more rigging damage onto him.  That should lead to a mast falling, and then the advantage would be mine.

As we continued to approach each other, I kept taking in sail while he kept pushing ahead.  He decided to turn away from the wind so as to give himself more maneuvering room, and to stay with me.

I got my first broadside off in the red phase of turn 2:

He, however, was able to use his extra speed and get in front of me for a broadside in the white phase:

 Fortunately, it wasn't quite a bow rake (ignore my gun smoke; we just forgot to take it off).  The end of the turn found us like this:

At this point, the maneuvers became quite confusing, with each of us trying to circle around the other.  Part of me wishes I had kept a track chart of the fight along with taking pictures.  I got off another broadside at the beginning of next turn, and caught the Frenchman on fire!

I think this is only the second time I've ever seen a ship catch fire.
I won initiative for the next phases, and made the Frenchman move first, as I wanted to see where this potential hazard would wind up.  It also allowed me to slip in behind him, and deliver an almost stern rake on the target.  Unfortunately, the angle just wasn't quite right for a rake.

Beginning of the phase.

"Pour it into them, boys!"

End of the phase.

I ended the turn by pulling away from the fireship again.  To Mark's great relief, he got the fire put out at the end of this phase. 

The next turn was more jockeying for position, as the Frenchman got in front of me and tried to pull away.

The chase went on for another turn while he tried to make repairs and get some maneuvering room.

After this, he decided to circle back and come towards me.

The maneuvering continued, and we managed to end the turn by getting the two ships fouled together.  I was unable to free us, so both sides prepared boarding parties, just in case.
Apparently I didn't take a picture of the red phase this turn, but nothing happened.

We spent an entire turn fouled together and drifting.  Then the French boarding party in the bow found an opportunity, and stormed aboard.

Apologies for the blurry picture; I was really nervous.
It was three factors of regular French marines versus 3 factors of green British sailors.  I had lost all my marines in the earlier broadsides, but much to my surprise the sailors took out one factor of marines.  He moved some sailors from the waist to his forecastle to reinforce for the next round.  We drifted for another three impulses.  The boarding action was inconclusive this time, but I managed to cut the two ships loose, and his boarding party retreated in the command phase.

I didn't take a picture of the ships in this phase, but it was just
more drifting.  Nothing particularly exciting.
At this point we were up to turn 10, and we rolled for weather changes.  While the weather didn't change, the wind did.  It veered from SE to due E.  This was not a good thing for either of us as you will see from the picture below:

Since we were both in irons, all we could do was drift backwards and turn until we were not facing into the wind.  Proserpine's marines were peppering Santa Margarita with fire this whole time.  Having no marines left, Santa Margarita couldn't respond in any way which was quite galling.  I think it was during this time that my 2nd Lieutenant and one of the Midshipmen were killed.

FINALLY, we can move again!
Once we could move again, it was time to start pounding each other. After the broadsides, Proserpine again turned into Santa Margarita as a prelude to another boarding attempt.

Although I avoided his collision attempt, it meant we were so close to each other that any movement would run the risk of fouling again.  Mark adjusted course slightly, and brought Proserpine alongside, and sure enough, we fouled again.

We exchanged broadsides, and each side readied boarding parties again.

Mark flung every Frenchman he could into his boarding parties, and now numbers began to tell. Santa Margarita had started the game with 8 crew boxes and 3 marine boxes.  Proserpine started the game with 12 crew boxes and 4 marine boxes.  By this point, I had only 5 crew boxes and no marines.  With the ships fouled side by side, he could try and board from fore, mid, and aft.  All I could hope for was that none of his groups had the opportunity to board; if they did, I wouldn't have the manpower to fend them off.  Clearly, this was going to be it!

Needless to say, he tried to board from all three sections.  The boarding attempt from the forward section was repulsed, and he lost a crew factor.  The boarding attempt from the waist was successful, and the fight was on.  Although he didn't cause any casualties to my crew, one factor was forced back (in this case, that means out of the waist section).  With that, my forces were outnumbered 3:1, which meant that they had to retreat.  The center of Santa Margarita was now in French hands.  The aft boarding party from Prosperine didn't find an opportunity to board.  The situation was now dire, as you can see:

I wasn't able to cut the two ships free from each other, so we would be bound together for another turn.  At this point, I struck my colors.  I might have passed a command check, but the lack of crew meant that I would not be able to hold off the French if there were any more boarding opportunities for them.  Even if I were to succeed in regaining control of the waist, it might mean there were not enough men left to man the guns and sail her.

In looking at the damage after the battle, it became clear that, between my fire and the damage from our foulings, Proserpine was so cut up aloft that she could not have chased me had I tried to disengage.  Take a look:

In contrast, Santa Margarita was nowhere near as damaged:

So, there you have it.  Two more British defeats; one completely expected and one that (maybe) could have been avoided.  One thing I learned from this:  It's easy to see why everyone went to 18 pound or heavier guns for their frigates.  The 12's I had were easy to handle, but just didn't hit hard enough in the final analysis.

If you read the earlier post, I said there were three games.  After these two, Mark brought out his Blood & Plunder pirate game and we played an engagement in that.  I managed to win that one.  Maybe I should give up my navy captain's license and become a Hollywood pirate instead!