About twelve months ago I posted an article about some model ships I had purchased from the local branch of 'The Works'. In true wargamer style after the initial enthusiasm my attention drifted and it took the reappearance of the "Fire and Steel" packets to bring the models to the fore again. Naturally, I took the opportunity to increase the number of ships in my collection and thus the following scenario was created.
The admiral the Marquis del Norte, commanding a squadron of Spanish ships has decided that the French are the true enemy and overcoming his distaste for the Royal Navy he has persuaded several of his senior officers that they should breakout and head for Lisbon, to offer their services. (I know this ignores the possibility of a British blockading squadron, but needs must!)
The Spanish fleet consisted of 5 ships, the Santa Trinidad (flagship), the Angel de Guardia, Badajoz, Antamasia and Napolitania (which was just out of shot).
Opposing them was a French Squadron under Admiral Beaujolais with his flagship, the Neptune and the Sabre, Royal Louis and Claret.
As an experiment, we used the rules which came with the models. For each mast on a model you could roll one d6 to try and damage an opponent. On the mast was a picture of a dice, either red (long range) or white, (short range). This had a number which had to be exceeded in order to score a hit.
The numbers on the dice ranged between 2 and 4, (the Spanish tended to be higher). Once all your masts were eliminated, you were deemed to be sunk. The rules advocated the removal of the masts, but as I had found them rather fiddly to fit on the hulls, I decided that we would use a paper record.
So with sails set, the fleets manoeuvred into position. One thing that the Marquis quickly appreciated was that maintaining a rigid line of battle would not work as well as allowing his captains the freedom of manoeuvre. Beaujolais, a more traditional admiral persevered with the 'tried and tested' method and found that rather like his compatriot at Aboukir Bay (Admiral Brueys d'Aigalliers), being the 'meat in the sandwich' was not healthy. The first to suffer was the Claret, which was fired on by Badajoz and Antamasia (known to her loyal crew as Aunty Masie)
However, once the larger French ships, with their superior gunnery came into range the Spanish began to suffer. Although the French also lost the Sabre in no time the Spanish fleet had been sunk.
Reviewing the game, which, including the initial maneuvering, had taken little more than 30 minutes, we decided on a few amendments. Firstly, the gun ranges were increased for the larger ships, which eliminated the anomaly of the smaller ships (Claret, Antamasia and Napolitania), being able to sit at long range and pick off the ships of the line at their leisure. Secondly, saving throws were introduced to represent the ability of the larger ships to absorb punishment. We didn't get around to adjusting movement rates to reflect the direction of the wind, or the size of ship, that will be a task for the future.
So the fleets were re-set for a re fight. Again the Marquis tried to use his superior numbers to 'double team' one of the French ships, but Beaujolais had first blood as the Badajoz was sunk by the fire of the Sabre. The Santa Trinidad was saved from heavy punishment by the new 'saving throws' rule and slowly the two flagships closed on each other. Beaujolais was confident his better gunnery would prevail, but he had not noticed the 'Aunty Masie' which came out of the smoke and delivered a telling salvo. Two masts were shot away on the Neptune and then two more as Santa Trinidad crossed the Neptune's bow. Unable to avoid a collision, Beuajolais had a boarding party assembled and as the ships met the French crew surged forward. Del Norte had prepared for such an action and the Spanish crew resisted the attack. After a vicious struggle the French were beaten and the flagship taken. Perhaps disheartened by the sight of their flagship being taken the gunfire slackened on the Sabre and Royal Louis. Taking advantage, the Angel de Guardia, Antamasia and Napolitania, pounded the French until they sank. Basking in the glow of victory, Del Norte entertained Beaujolais in his cabin, making sure the French admiral could see his captured flagship being towed to Lisbon. Only the Claret survived to take the news of the Spanish victory back to France.