Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Year's Day

Gary Swearingen's annual War Eagles New Year's Day Wooden Ships and Iron Men bash this year was a historical scenario based on the Battle of the Lizard: Two French Squadrons descend on an English convoy of supplies for the war in Spain for fun and profit.... The convoy is covered by a single English squadron. The insubordinate French junior Commodore has launched himself at the English. Tsk. The French senior Commodore plans to slip his frigates past the English to wreak havoc in the convoy.

That worked out rather better than expected. One of the French frigates would make the Yankee Clipper look slow and was very well handled, ducking between Chester (50) and Ruby (50) and raking them both and all but dis-masting the Ruby, then swooping past and into the convoy....then the wind changed.

Things went rather badly for Brian Swearingen, in charge of the English squadron, all day. First there was the little matter of twos. In a game system that rewards high die rolls, a substantial majority of his rolls were (you guessed) twos. At one point, he had like twelve consecutive, plus lots of others. It was weird.

Then there this little mis-judgment:

The plan (I think) was to ram that little 50 gun ship with his big 'ol 80 gun Cumberland and tangle up the entire squadron, but he came up just a bit short.... On the other hand, orders were to hold up the French squadrons at all costs and it took most of the efforts of the entire French squadron the rest of the game to finally force the Cumberland to strike.

The other French squadron, a 60 gun and 3 50's with dubious crews, was supposed to get cored by Royal Oak, 76, on the left and Devonshire, 80 guns on the right of the French battle line and coming down the wind.

But the French Admiral, counting on his large crews, rammed the Royal Oak and boarded it from his crack 60 gun flagship, Mars. Honesty compels me to give slight credit (2 crew hits) to a timely stern rake at long range by a 50 from the other squadron.

The toughest part came after winning the boarding action, extricating the prize and the flagship from under the guns of the Devonshire, with the English downwind. Sailing upwind with under-crewed, damaged ships isn't easy. We got knocked about pretty good on the way out.

Then came the denoument. Moments after the Cumberland struck to the other squadron, which had been pounding it and getting pounded forever, the Devonshire is swarmed by three French 50's simultaneously. That took just about forever to set up maneuvering mostly into the wind, but it was over quickly once it happened. ;o)

Gary ruled it bragging rights for everybody and plenty of French recriminations over who did the most, which was very historical. The two squadron commanders were supposedly still sniping at each other years later. (Duane and I are still arguing over who gets the Ruby. We'll probably still be arguing in 2108.... I had a prize crew on it, by gum! And it was my frigate that stern raked it nigh dis-masting it on the way by, making it a sitting duck!) The English squadron was tasked with stopping the French at all hazards, so losing all his ships was not strictly a failure, since only one (but very fast) frigate broke past them before the convoy had time to scurry to safety.


Anonymous said...

*Frank drools over the ship mini pics...*

kimalanus said...

I recognized the Devonshire as a model that I painted and rigged back in the day. The 50 gunner off her bow is one of my early experiments with inking.... Gary has all teh old War Eagles stuff 'cause he's got room for it. It's fun to take stuff out and remember it.