Last Sunday, Alan and I played a game of Trafalgar using my freshly painted French and Spanish sailing ships. The scenario we played was one from the book, called ‘Pursuit’, which is a variation on the ‘important ship needs to get off table’ theme.
I played the Spanish, with 4 3rd rate ships of the line and one 1st rate, the Principe d’Asturias. I nominated one of the third raters, the Bahama, as the Spanish Treasure ship that needed to get off table (we quickly decided this was the Spanish Treasure Fleet, even if that had last sailed over a decade earlier). Alan played the French with six third raters (so he had the edge in number of cannon) but had to deploy in two seperate groups, as per scenario rules.
What follows is my view of how the battle developed.
As I had the wind advantage (the wind was blowing in the direction I needed to escape — east, or towards the bottom in the overview photos of the table) and Alan thus had to tack upwind to get to me, I was in a very comfortable position. My first few turns were thus spent sailing towards the spot indicated on the photo below, not needing to decide anything yet. The French sailors, in the mean time, did not same to be able to remember quite what to do when needing to tack, and a full five out of six ships ended up in irons with some mast damage to a few. Good start!
The blue arrows in the photo below represent what I thought Alan would do, if his ships ever got underway.
Having, after a few turns, arrived at the decision point, I had three options:
Option A seemed the safest, with my five ships concentrated against just a few French. However, as the wind had now turned a point towards the south — advantageous to the French — and his farthest ships had set full sail and were thus chugging along at a fair clip, I thought that perhaps the French might yet catch me.
Option B, going down the middle, seemed to be the most risky as that would definitely land me in the middle of the French fleet.
Option C beckoned as a surprise alternative. Using it, I would have to hope that I could dash behind the northernmost (rightmost in the pictures) French squadron and sail off to safety.
In the end, this is what I did:
I decided to mix options A and B. The Spanish ships in the above picture are the ones with the blue markers (for full sail setting), so you can see that I sent three ships, including the Bahama, down path A, while two ships, including the Principe d’Asturias went down path B in the hopes of interfering with the French ships that were closing the range fast. Bahama would obviously have to remain at full sail and dash of at the utmost speed down the path indicated.
And with that, hostilities were opened and many a broadside was loosed. I suffered many hits on my ships, including many fires that luckily were fairly easy to put out on account of the rain that had started to fall. In response, the Spanish gunners turned out to be a panicky bunch that half of the time did not seem to be able to remember how to fire their cannon in the heat of battle, and that, when they did remember, were quite unable to do any real damage — perhaps forgetting to actually load ball into their cannon, being satisfied with just the nice big bang (read: bad dice rolling on my part). Frustrating, especially when that meant that two unscathed (as opposed to at least somewhat damaged by the preceeding Spanish broadsides that would have been fired at them) French ships were able to cross the T of my northern ‘screening’ group (good maneuvring by Alan there):
Grumble. Luckily, however, what little damage and delay my ships could do to the French ships was enough to enable the Bahama to escape in the nick of time. Victory to the Spanish! Truth be told, it’s probably the turn or so the French spent getting underway again after they failed to tack in the beginning of the game that saved me :).
Anyway, Alan and myself were pleased with the way the game played and with the result. We handled five or ships each and the game was played to conclusion in just 2,5 hours. Good ruleset!
More pictures of the game can be found here on Flickr.
On to the next encounter!