Yesterday, Dave and Byron came to my suite for a game pitting British against French ships of the line. The battle of San Domingo was the last fleet battle of the Napoleonic wars to be fought in open waters. Of notice, H.M.S. Canopus was commanded by captain Francis Austen, brother of Jane Austen. One of the most dramatic event of the battle happened when the Northumberland moved between the Impérial and the Superb to protect the flagship. Some shots from the giant French ship went right through the Northumberland and into the Superb. But, of course, wargaming was to redefine history.
At the beginning of this fleet engagement, British and French ships had to be set at least 15cm apart (measured from base to base, not main mast to main mast) in their respective deployment zones, to reflect the scattered aspect of the fleets too rapidly engaged in battle. This included ships from the Louis squadron entering on the map, that will enter the board with a die roll equal to or lower than the current turn number. This made it very difficult to form battle lines.
The objective of the French squadron was to escape to the South West corner with as many ships as possible. The objective of the British squadron was to intercept as many French ships as possible. Victory would be measured as follow:
5 French ships escape Great French victory
4 French ships escape French victory
3 French ships escape Marginal French victory
2 French ships escape Marginal British victory
1 French ship escapes British victory
0 French ship escapes Great British victory
The rules used were a simplified version of "Trafalgar" that I call "Trafalgar Redux". It speeds up the game considerably by halving the number of dice to be rolled.
As I forgot my sea board at home, Byron was kind enough to bring his own sea mat from "Dreadfleet". Oddly enough, the mat and the ship bases matched perfectly.
Wait a minute. What is this? A wind dial? So the wind changed direction. So what. I beg your pardon? It allowed a French victory? How is that even possible?
Because of the way the ships were positioned, after the wind changed direction, it became impossible for the British vessels still able to sail to catch three of the escaping French ships, including the giant Impérial. This was enough for a French marginal victory. This kind of event could only happen during the age of sail.
Byron and Dave, discussing the outcome of the battle after it was decided to end the game when the result became obvious. The mat really made the whole experience look good. I'll definitely need to get one. Again, thanks Byron and Dave for playing this scenario.