Yesterday, DaveV showed up at the motorhome for some beer and wargaming. We played the Battle of Cape St-Vincent using a simplified version of Trafalgar, by Mark Latham. Basically, there is only one type of guns, saving throws are converted into extra hull points, opportunity fire can be done at will, all changes that make the game flow much faster.
Here we go: On the morning of 14 February 1797, a British squadron of 15 ships of the line met a Spanish fleet twice as numerous, with 27 ships of the line, including the giant Santissima Trinidad. To make the game playable, the fleets on both side were downsized to about half the original numbers (9 vs 14).
Dave asked what were the objectives for each fleet and I realized that I neglected to prepare clearly defined goals. Oh well, we just pounded each other for about 6 turns, just for fun. As it happened, the direction of the wind and the formations of both fleets kind of dictated the course of the battle. After a single devastating run at each other, both fleets were happy to resume course.
Here are the initial positions of both fleets, from the Spanish point of view. Minding her own business, the Spanish fleet was sailing in two groups, enjoying a well deserved morning siesta. But suddenly, a bunch of sails appeared from the North. The British! Those trouble makers were already parading into a splendid line in the middle of which Admiral Rowe was commanding from the H.M.S. Victory.
Ah, but the Spanish had no fear for within their fleet the plumply Nuestra Senora de la Santissima Trinidad (Santissima Trinidad for short) was sailing majestically. What could possibly go wrong with such a powerful vessel? [The fat Wonder of the Sea, unfortunately, would have an opportunity to vomit raging cannonballs from her 136 guns only on the last turn of the game, and at long range.]
El Grandissimo Almirante DaveV del Winnipego confidently moving his ships forward. Note how convenient wargaming in a motorhome can be: proximity of a counter top for beer bottles and sheets, quick exit, etc.
Admiral Rowe, Earl of Regina, moved his line like a vengeful wedge between the two groups of Spanish ships, just like Admiral Jervis did in the real battle. Wargaming and History, once again, were about to meet for a fabulously accurate re-enactment of the action. Ah, tears come to my eyes!
But wait! Instead of a RIGHT tacking AFTER passing both Spanish groups, Admiral Rowe had his line turning to the LEFT, BEFORE passing the enemy ships. [Note from the British player: my goal was to cross the T in front on the Spanish Lee Division. But some miscalculation regarding the distance occurred...]
Iiiii! Crrrash! Aaaargh! What a mess! H.M.S. Diadem, the leading ship of the line, was quickly dismasted by the Spanish guns aiming high. She can be seen wandering South while the new leader, H.M.S. Prince George, takes the line to the East. Lots of hull rubbing ensued. adding some damage here and there to both fleets. Thanks to raking, a few spectacular dice rolls on both sides resulted in lots of critical hits and lots of damage. H.M.S. Prince George suffered greatly.
Uh oh! The Spanish Weather Division is getting closer and closer. Will the British fleet become trapped like tuna salad between two slices of bread?
Abandoning the H.M.S. Prince George, now crippled beyond repair and useless, the following ship in line, H.M.S. Orion takes the lead and manages to break through the Spanish Lee Division. The unfortunate San Juan Nepomuceno (with black smoke), because of the direction of the wind, had to come facing the H.M.S. Victory. 50 cannon balls later, the Spanish ship, badly raked and with two fires raging on board, struck down her colors.
The British line tried again to turn, this time BEHIND the Spanish Lee Division and apparently succeeded. Trapped by the crippled hulk of the H.M.S. Prince George, the Principe de Asturias (both ships have red markers), a 112 guns First Rater, became the focal point for the fire of the turning ships, just like sun rays are focused by a concave mirror. Despite all the beating, the Spanish Vicealmirante stubbornly refused to surrender. At the end of the British line, Commodore Nelson decided that NOW was the time to do something heroic and rolled for a command check... Heroism had to wait and Nelson decided that the best course of action was to stay with the line. Meanwhile, the Spanish ships decided that it would be great fun to remove Commodore Nelson's name from the Royal Navy's payroll and concentrated all their fire on the H.M.S. Captain. Because of the distance, however, Nelson and his ship survived the onslaught.
In the final turn, the British line continued to perform parade-like maneuvers. Reduced to a few boards and planks, the Principe de Asturias finally struck down her colors. The heroism of the Vicealmirante on board is certainly worth of the highest medal that there is in the Spanish kingdom. The British had one dismasted ship (H.M.S. Diadem) and one completely crippled ship (H.M.S. Prince George). Nelson felt a little shy and did not perform any heroic deeds. The Spanish fleet left behind two 74 guns and one 112 guns. Other ships on both sides suffered considerable damage. Considering the confusion resulting from the melee, the game could have gone either way. And playing with DaveV made the whole experience very enjoyable.
Regarding the rules, there is certainly room for improvement. The simplified stats work well, but bookkeeping proved to be fastidious, especially for the Spanish Almirante with 14 ships. In order to fight bigger battles, I will have to figure out a more intuitive way of managing a squadron with a large number of ships.