Monday, February 4, 2013

Another Anglo-French Dispute, at Sea

My apologies for the long absence. I have been reading and trying to devise a way to simulate Victorian era "ship-vs.-fort" no avail! Anything that gives the ship a reasonable chance at damaging the fort seems to "over value' the ship; while anything that does NOT do that, doesn't make for much of a game.   Bob Cordrey has been working on the same problem lately at Wargaming Miscellany. I wish him better success than I have had!

While "of the web" I have been painting some of the models from my shipyard. Last week I went to work on twelve that were built for the "Ironclad Draughts" game by Richard Brooks, Nigel Drury and Bob Cordery(available from Wargames Developments). The Older pre-Dreadnaughts are painted in pre-war French and British colors. My opponent is my young friend Carlos, playing his first semi-historical game.  we are using the latest version of Bob's PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME.

The first turn sees Carlos move most of his ships to my right, while sending the other across my path. He lands an early long range shot on HMS Collingwood

The second turn sees both fleets concentrate fire on the few vessels in range. Coolingwod and Admiral Baudin take some serious hits.

I move first, trying to get as many broadside shots as possible. Carlos boldly closes with my fleet. At the close of the next turn's firing stage, two vessels on each side are so damaged as to try to leave the action. Carlos, while giving away his broadsides, DID get in position to launch two successful attacks with bow torpedoes.

Collingwood and Benbow leave the battle, covered by the rest of the fleet. Close range broadsides continue to do damage.

Caiman and Requin sink as the battle rages on.  Still, the French continue to batter the British squadron. HMS Anson takes an amazing round of punishment (Carlos rolled three 6's on a close range bow shot!)

Anson and Baudin trade parting shots as they steam to extreme range. Baudin slides beneath the waves. The Terrible also succumbs to another British broadside.

As the British fleet pulls away, the Rodney is pummeled , and sinks. Indomptable also goes under, leaving the Freanch with only the Formidable afloat.

The battle ends, with the British press claiming a great victory, five French ships sunk for one British ship lost.  At the Admiralty, more sober minds see one lost, and four battered to such a point that they will not see action any time soon.  The smallest swing of fortune could have seen far worse losses for the British fleet....

GAME NOTES: Bob Cordery's  PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME is in a much nicer format than Memoir of Battle at Sea. It made teaching the game to Carlos  far easier.  The entire game took less than thirty minutes.  I promised him that the next game would include some cruisers and torpedo boats.

Next Time: Using mines and torpedoes in American Civil War games....


  1. Hi Steve,

    Great little action and I really like 'SPS' (Steve Page Style!)models - very effective indeed! I liked the idea you have used for the French military masts.

    I am also looking forward to seeing some cruisers and torpedo boats in action!

    All the best,


    1. Hi David,
      As aggressive as Carlos proved to be, I fear adding torpedo boats might make the game too exciting for older gamers!

  2. Steve,

    A wonderful battle report!

    I love the models; they are simple, elegant, and recognisable as to what they are.

    I look forward to seeing them taking part in future battles.

    All the best,


    1. Hi Bob,
      Once again, your advise to purchase both Conway's and Jane's 1898 provided me with all the material I needed to build these ships. I hope to run the Ironclad Draughts game in the very near future, and will report on it here.

  3. I know nothing about Victorian Naval warfare, but I can't help but think that ships being largely ineffectual against forts in that period might be accurate.
    The bombardment of Fort Sumter, SC in 1861 that started the ACW was 43 guns and mortars (only 4 were afloat) firing at the fort for 34 hours. Zero casualties. Although the wooden structures were set afire. Now, with the guns not moving or bobbing up and down, I would think they would be more accurate than shipboard guns. Admittedly, they couldn't close the range like ships might.
    Now there might be historical examples that bely this-I don't know. But maybe the best the ships could hope for was causing enough chaos and visibility issues as to allow them to slip past a fort as opposed to taking it out.

    Just my dollar thirty-seven.

    1. Hi SAROE,
      To your $1.37, let me add a $3.00 bill from the "3rd Congressional District of South Carolina's Cotton Growers Association" (an entity that actually printed money during the Civil War)...
      The main actions I have focused on involved Monitors against Fort Powell, at Mobile, and Fort McAllister, in Savannah. In neither case did the monitors do any appreciable damage. Earthworks seem to almost "absorb" shelling, leaving the attacker nothing but the effects of "lucky hits' right on a gun sight or magazine. Low rate of fire, and limited ammunition do not help the attackers.

      At this point, I am almost looking at giving forts a "cohesion score" for lack of a better name. As hips run by and fire on them, the fort will count all hits against their "cohesion score", and roll for damages on 6's only. Damage will reduce return fire by lowering gunnery factors.

      If a fort loses all its "cohesion score" it will not surrender, but WILL allow enemy vessels to steam past unchallenged, Essentially, the attacker has won the scenario, unless losing too many ships in the process.

      Any comments on this are most welcome!

  4. The first ironclad ships built in the UK and France were steam-powered floating batteries designed to take on Russian coastal defences during the Crimean War. They proved fairly successful, and paved the way for Gloire and HMS Warrior to be built.

    In fact ship vs. shore battles were often ineffectual affairs but on certain occasions the ships prevailed, for example the British attack on Alexandria. The most effective weapons used against shore fortifications were often heavy mortars or howitzers that fired into the middle of the defences rather than normal artillery that did not always have the power to penetrate the fortification's earthworks.