Sunday 15 September 2013

The Battle of the Islands

Over the weekend a few of Posties Rejects gathered in the Shed-o-War for something a little different from our usual fare. Postie dusted off his Napoleonic ships and hex tiles for a game called Man-o-War. I think these are another one of Posties own 'customised' rule sets that are simple to play and quick to learn. They certainly gave all of us pause for thought and everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy the game (although some enjoyed it more than others for reasons that will soon come clear). One of the best aspects of these rules was that there was minimal dice rolling and most of that was just to determine the location of, rather than how much, damage was inflicted.

Setting the Scene
28th August 1793 - Somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea a French Fleet is on patrol trying to stop any British ships from coming to the aid of Toulon which is being surrounded by French forces. The game begins with both forces blindly heading towards each other...who will spot who first?

Order of Battle
British (Richard & John)
Ville de Paris - 110 Gun Ship of the Line  (Flagship)
Thunderer - 74 Gun Ship of the Line
Tanais - 38 Gun Frigate
Africa - 64 Gun Ship of the Line

Canopus - 80 Gun Ship of the Line  (Commodore)
Implacable - 74 Gun Ship of the Line
Glatton - 54 Gun Ship of the Line
Empervier - 16 Gun Brig

French (Surjit & BigLee)
Commerci de Marseilles - 120 Gun Ship of the Line (Flagship)
Le Pompee - 74 Gun Ship of the Line
Le Rivoli - 74 Gun Ship of the Line
La Pomone - 40 Gun Frigate

Le Hoche - 76 Gun Ship of the Line (Chef d'escadne)
Le Superbe - 74 Gun Ship of the Line
Mars - 20 Gun Corvette
Duguay-Troven - 74 Gun Ship of the Line

The models used are 1:2000th scale and I am told most (possibly all) are from the NavWar range of white metal models. All were painted by Postie.

The Action
The game was played out on an 8'x10' table using plastic hex terrain.

The French fleet (foreground) and British fleet converge while Postie explains the basics of the rules to the two British commanders.
The French Fleet in two neat wouldn't stay in formation for long.
The French Admiral diverges from his own plan to attack a British Frigate with three Ships of the Line. 
The french sub commander (me) however stays in line. I know this is the best formation to be in, and at this stage of the game we had the Weather Gage (the wind was in our favour). 
The British and French Frigates, Tannis and La Pomone engage each other and both vessels are damaged. The Tannis is eventually sunk but the French effort to achieve this has split its fleet and sent each squadron heading in a different direction (that's what happens when your admiral drives his line of ships into the path of yours).
 The French Admiral is now heading SW while my squadron is heading north again. Then the wind changes direction fortuitously giving the French Admiral the weather gauge. The Commodore (me) attempts to turn to port before his squadron is blown too far North to join the action, but the Admiral overrules him!!!! Rather than mutiny I continue North but I know that it will take me ages (sailing into the wind) to get back into the battle.    
Despite loosing the wind the British move into the attack anyway because they know they are effectively only fighting half the French fleet.  Its will still be tough fight but the battle is now theirs to loose.
The French Admiral shows his inexperience (sorry Surj) and sails his flagship Commerci de Marseillis down the whole British line taking heavy damage from broadside after broadside from the British. Holed below the water line the French flagship struggles to stay afloat and in the battle. The hopes of the French fleet however are dashed when the tiny British Brig Empervier (with a mere 16 guns) inflicts the coup de grâce and sinks the Flagship.  
Now the British ships turn their guns on the Le Pomone and pound her mercilessly (ooer missus!). She is soon on fire, with many of her guns destroyed and missing a mast. There is still plenty of fight left in her yet though.
British commodore Richard directs his ships. Richard is normally what I would
describe as the Gentleman Wargamer (especially when compared to the other
Rejects) but I saw a whole other side to him in this game!
My Squadron is trying to work it's way into the battle but sailing into the wind means I have very limited movement or maneuverability. It was incredibly frustrating only being able to move one hex per turn and knowing that the battle would effectively be over by the time I reached it. 
The La Pomone has multiple holes below the waterline and is both sinking and on fire. In last desperate move she tries to ram the Thunderer but British seamanship beats french desperation any day of the week. The Pomone sinks shortly afterwards. 
My squadron arrives just in time to take some damage but is still struggling into the wind and at that point the Umpire calls it as a British Victory.
Two deserving winners. Richard and John handled their ships well, had a good strategy and most importantly use the wind to their advantage. Well done lads.
What can I say that won't offend my commanding officer? Next time I think a little mutiny might help our cause! For a change I can't blame defeat on the dice rolls because this rule system uses relatively few. I can't even pass it off as a case of our plan not surviving contact with the enemy, because for the most part I don't think we had a plan. All I can say is that we (meaning me and Surj) learnt a lot in this game, especially the need to think several moves ahead and to take the wind direction into account of everything you do or plan to do. Fighting into the wind is exceptionally hard and, as we found out, it is all too easy for the enemy to divide your forces and destroy you piecemeal. 

Despite the defeat I would relish the opportunity to give these rules another go and I hope to earn my sea legs in a future game. At the very least I would like to have a chance to go down fighting instead of spending the game tacking into the wind like it was the Americas bleedin' Cup.


  1. You were doomed once Mr.Stubborn or "Surjit" as we call him was put in charge:D

  2. Looked a great game, sometimes these little games are the best! It has been a few years since the ships have seen the tabletop, lets hope Postie gets them out again soon. The curse of Surj strikes again!!!!

  3. The French here handed to the British what Nelson sought to do against the French, divide the fleet so that it can be attacked piecemeal. Which is rather unfortunate for the Frenchies in this game. :(

    On the other hand, I can't help but be jealous of all that pretty Hexon II terrain.

  4. This looks most excellent Lee. I'd like to see the Rejects do more of this. Makes a nice change.

  5. It must have been frustrating to get out of the battle when little dice throwing could have given you a chance ;-)


  6. That is an impressive seascape chums.

  7. Beautiful ships, Lee! Great looking board too! For some reason, ship combat, be it air, water, or space, is most relaxing for me. Perhaps it is like you stated where the maneuver and playing in anticipation of future turns lends to the enjoyment. It's not like standard wargames where you pound the opposing side to oblivion...but getting set up to where you can!

  8. Beautiful ships, Lee! Great looking board too! For some reason, ship combat, be it air, water, or space, is most relaxing for me. Perhaps it is like you stated where the maneuver and playing in anticipation of future turns lends to the enjoyment. It's not like standard wargames where you pound the opposing side to oblivion...but getting set up to where you can!

  9. good looking game, thanks for sharing

  10. It was an excellent game with superb rules which rewarded historical tactics and an ability to take contextual factors into consideration. You were perhaps ill-served by certain command-control issues. I think that the next time we play it'll be a much more interesting and challenging encounter. I always find playing these types (ships aerial combat) of game very stimulating and require enormous thought and reflection. Well played, and great report of the action.

    1. "..ill-served by certain command-control issues." Very funny, I guess that's one way of putting it. I should have been a bit more forthright in my opinions. I think I lost the will to live when I was told (about mid way in the game) that keeping my ships head on into the wind would "give me more options" than turning them to get the wind on my quarter!

    2. It also helped that Richard and I had a good background knowledge of RN tactics of that period.

    3. True, but that doesn't excuse some of decisions 'we' made. I enjoyed the rules system though and I'd certainly enjoy the chance for another game (it can't be any worse than this debacle can it!).

    4. Yes, it was almost as if Surjit was a British agent. Truely a case of 'over-promotion' by the French Directorate!

  11. Nice one Lee. It is always hard when playing as a team and one (or more persons) do not know what they are doing. Nice to see a Rejects game without the two usual suspects as well and Napoleonic Naval has always been something I have enjoyed.

    Post Script: Will you be going to Skirmish this weekend? Or phrased a different way " Do I need to pack your fudge?"

    1. Thanks for the offer to "pack my fudge" but I think I'll decline on this occassion! We (the family and I) are suposed to be going to Chatham Docks for a 1940's themed event on Sunday, but a lot depends on the weather. If its raining or blowing a freezing gale we may decide not go to Chatham, in which case I'll try to swing by Skirmish instead. But frankly I won't know until the weekend and we make a judgement on the weather conditions.

  12. Looks like a wonderful game and quick play rules with minimal dice rolling also are very interesting. When you've sorted them out fully you should post them on-line.

  13. Looked like a good game, even if a bit frustrating. Think of it as role playing. Your commander gave you orders, you played it loyal this time. Next time try mutiny and see what happens. Sailing into the wind gives more options? That is good stuff.


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