The MHWC was invited to put on a Blood, Bilge & Iron Balls game at this year 'Legion' wargames show, run by the nice people of Red Kight Wargames and the Thanet/Ramsgate wargames club. I had been hit by a nasty stomach bug and so a few of the members took up the baton and made the trip. Andy has submitted a great report of the day and game and so I shall now pass you over to him....take it away Andy! (Sorry, no pics at the time or posting, but if any arrive I will add them and let you all know).
MHWC sent a small contingent to Legion 2012 in Sandwich this weekend. Phil, Clive and Andy staged a Napoleonic Naval game using Alan’s Blood Bilge and Iron Balls rules and Bernie’s 1:1200 Ships.
The show comprised around 9-10 traders, with about the same number of games. Space wise the show occupied two rooms at the venue, which together were probably no larger than Iwade Village Hall. The traders and games were quite tightly packed. Among the games put on by visiting clubs were a Sci Fi game using Tomorrow's War (I think), a Warhammer 40K game, a WWI dogfighting game, a Modern Afghanistan game, two WWII games, one in 15mm and one in 28mm. There was also a Sudan game, a Dark Ages game and a Vietnam game (complete with sound track).
Not sure of the footfall, maybe around a hundred? We spoke to several members of the public, including a couple who had the rules and a couple who were looking for a suitable set. We distributed Broadside posters, and some for the MWS Open Day.
Phil devised the scenario:
A French squadron comprising the ships of the line Commerce de Marseille (120), Pompee (80), Hoche (80), Rivoli (74), Le Superbe (74) and the Frigate Pomone (40) was anchored in a bay off the coast. The wind was onshore, and from just aft of the French squadron. To seaward was a small island, ahead a couple more islands and some sand banks , each surrounded by shallows. Between the islands and sandbanks and the mainland was a narrow channel through which a skilful captain might navigate. The French objective was to escape to the high seas.
The British squadron comprised the ships of the line the Ville de Paris (110), yes that is a British Ship!, Swiftsure (74), Bellerophon (74), Implacable (74), Africa (64) and the Frigate Shannon (38). The British objective was to prevent the escape of the French, and they would approach the French from windward.
The French had a slight advantage in weight of shot, but the British had the wind gauge.
In the first game Phil took the French, with the British in the hands of Clive (Africa and Shannon), and Andy (the remainder). Phil was later aided by Mark, a member of the public who joined in the game.
Clive ordered the Africa and Shannon to set full sail with the intent of getting ahead of the French squadron, while the remainder set half sail to try to keep the French under their guns. Some of the French headed for the coastal channel while the remainder headed for the open sea.
Ville de Paris and the British 74’s engaged the French ships heading for open water, inflicting some damage, in return the French seemed to concentrate their fire on the Bellerophon, taking down two masts and setting several fires.
As the battle progressed the Commerce de Marseille took some damage to her steering and ran aground in the shallows off one of the island, but managed to refloat herself. The Pompee was not quite so lucky, following the channel between the islands and the coast she also took some damage to her steering and ran aground on a sandbank, however she failed in her attempt to refloat and became stuck fast.
Meanwhile the Shannon, somewhat bravely, tried to head off the French in the channel, suffered severe damage and ended up in the path of a French ship of the line, which couldn’t avoid her and rammed. In the subsequent boarding action the valiant crew of the Shannon could not resist the overwhelming numbers of French boarders, and she was forced to strike her colours and was captured, the French managed to sail her off before any of the other British ships could come to her aid.
The Commerce de Marseille had been the focus of the British fire throughout the battle, and was reduced to only a few guns in her Port battery with less than 10% of her fighting crew left. In the last turn of the game the French were poised to get their last two floating ships, the Commerce de Marseille and one of the 74’s, off the table while the British were in position to give the Commerce de Marseille a close range broadside, it would all come down to which card came up first, the British shooting phase or the French Sailing phase, in the end the Fates favoured the French, and both ships got away, leaving the Pompee beached and at the mercy of the British.
The first game ended with both sides taking a prize and having two ships with severe damage, but, the French achieved their objective in getting off the table so must be awarded the victory. At least in the French papers.
In the second game we switched sides, Andy taking the French and Phil the British, Clive having left the show by now.
I formed my ships in two divisions in line astern, Commerce de Marseille leading the two French 80s to the seaward side and the two 74’s and the Pomone nearer the coast. Phil came in under full sail in line astern, apart from the Shannon, who stayed further out. As the French got under way they all headed for the gap between two of the islands, not wanting to chance the narrow channel. I also had a suspicion that Phil had set to much sail and would overshoot the French Squadron’s course. The Commerce de Marseille’s division set full sail as soon as possible to get ahead of the second division and form in squadron line astern . Great planning I thought until I remembered two things, spacing and relative speed. My first mistake was that I had not left enough space between the ships in the divisions, as the lead ship turned into the channel between the islands the angle of the ship to the wind changed reducing her speed, as the ships behind hadn’t turned yet, they didn’t so rather than coming out in line astern the 80’s had to alter course to come alongside the Commerce de Marseille. The second was to put the Frigate, my fastest ship at the end of the second line, doh! As soon as the wind got on the quarter I had to bring the Frigate alongside the 74’s to avoid a collision. So instead of coming out in two lines, merging into one, it was more like a rugby scrum with ships blocking each others fields of fire.
However, my suspicions about the British sail setting proved correct, the British line of battle passed ahead of the French scrum at less than optimum range, only one British ship being in a position to bow rake the Commerce de Marseille.
As the French continued forward the British passed to starboard, and some targets of opportunity arose, although usually only 2 or 3 French ships were able to bring their guns to bear without another French ship getting in the way. A couple of lucky shots damaged the British Ville de Paris’ steering, and she was headed straight for a island! Fortunately for the British she ran aground in the shallows rather than hitting the island proper, so would have a chance to repair her steering before refloating. Not passing up an opportunity to inflict some more damage on a sitting target any French Ship that could fired on the Ville de Paris, giving her crew 4 fires to worry about as well as trying to get afloat. Other ships were also engaged, the Bellerophon losing a mast (again) and suffering heavy damage to her hull, while the Implacable also took some lesser damage. The French didn’t get off scot free, the Commerce de Marseille had three fires burning, and had lost half her crew. Pompee and Rivoli also took some damage and Le Superbe lost a mast.
While the bulk of the British Squadron had passed to Starboard of the French and were now desperate to alter course to avoid the shallows, sandbanks and islands, HMS Africa decided that the best course of action was to head into the anchorage area past the French, getting a few broadsides in as she passed without taking too much damage in the process.
Unfortunately we ran out of time as the show drew to a close. The French were getting their sailing order sorted out, and had the weather gauge advantage over most of the British, who were now scattered. The Africa would be out of the game for a while as she would have to tack across the wind before she could pursue the French. The only British ships in position to intercept the French as they headed for open sea would be the the Frigate Shannon and one of the 74’s. So another probable victory for the French.
Phil and Clive are of course welcome to add their spin to this account.