Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011 Annual War Eagles Wooden Ships and Iron Men

War Eagles has an annual Wooden Ships and Iron Men large miniatures scenario, hosted by Gary Swearingen on New Year's Day for many years now. Previous events are chronicled here and here.

As always, photos are posted at full resolution, click to embiggen....

This year's scenario was a hypothetical wherein all available Spanish and French ships in the Mediterranean Sea attempt to break past a scraped up British blocking fleet in the Straits of Gibralter. The British have a large number of frigates and smaller ships, a few third rates and a couple of East India Men which the Spanish mistook for third rates and pounded to pieces....

The Allied forces consisted of 19 Ships of the Line including two Spanish 110's, two newly built French 74's and a variety of older third rates with 9 frigates. More or less.

Present as Commanders were Mike Farley in overall command for the British, ably assisted by Karl Soderholz and John Hayes. The Spanish were commanded by Brian Swearingen, assisted by Steve Luksic. The French Admiral was Kim Harris (that would be me), with with two new French 74's and two old frigates, a Kingdom of Two Sicilies battle line of two 74's and four frigates, and a Spanish Battle line of two old 74's and two even older 60's. Order's to the Sicilian battle line were frequently altered by the merciless moderator, Gary Swearingen.

The Allied fleet was greatly aided by a following wind that never changed throughout the game. Wind change is diced for every third turn and changes in direction and/or intensity on a 1 on a die 6 roll. The game was completed in 19 turns and 9 hours.

The Spanish fleet on the right was generally able to brush past the few frigates on the left after taking some long range rakes and some closer fire that did negligible damage. They succeeded in smashing one East Indiaman mistaken for a third rate SOL and smashed another frigate trying to retire to the upper right corner.... We'll point out these sights of interest in later photos.

There was a lot more heated action on the left as the French feinted right, back to the left and then gave up and sailed into the middle of the British block. The wiggle:

Close Action:

The lead French 74 had taken a pounding moving forward and took it into his head to get a better ship so rammed one of the British frigates and formed boarding parties. Unfortunately, every British ship in the vicinity unloaded on her and while the boarding parties survived the hail of round shot, the last of 7 hull points at the beginning of the turn was marked off in fire, just before melee. They didn't explode, but were forced to strike with 20+ blocks of boarding crew all ready to go onto the 6 crew block frigate.... Oh well, would've been a bit crowded getting away, anyway. ;o) The Merciless Moderator has made boarding actions much more difficult, requiring a full turn to organize the boarding party (and the party takes double casualties while organizing) and then requiring multiple, very deadly, melee rounds in each turn. Boarding is seldom a good idea.

Meanwhile, the Sicilian Admiral is taking a pounding.

At this point, it's pretty much a settled affair. The French 74 is lost, a stern rake from the French Admiral on the white sailed frigate forced it to strike as the Admiral moves freely around the British right accompanied by a cloud of frigates. The Sicilian's, under the Merciless Moderator's command break to their left, the British right and, making for the African coast then back into the Mediterranean. The British admiral committed one SOL to a pursuit of the badly battered Sicilian Admiral's SOL and a second SOL and four frigates. I wouldn't say it was foolhardy, they are British, but still....

Meanwhile, back in the Spanish fleet

The main Spanish fleet has cleared the British line and has clear sailing. The rejoining Spanish column will have some trouble with the two British SOLs. The third ship in the line gets trapped by the two British SOL's and takes a considerable pounding.

But the Spanish fleet exits mostly unscathed, trailed by the Spaniard who is quite soggy. The MM has ruled that it will get overhauled and taken due to its considerable hull damage, exiting the table with just one remaining hull point.

Following the Spanish, the French Admiral and his two frigates make a break for the exit.

There is always a last hurrah! Two British frigates take a stern rake on the French Admiral as he exits the table last....

This action will carry forward into a Trafalgar hypothetical, reinforced by those ships which have survived the breakout. The British have two prizes, SOL which will require SOL to haul them to port. The merchantmen are too large for the frigates to tow to port, but the British commander has indicated willingness to abandon them. There were at least two and possibly more frigates that will also have to be towed to harbor. Tow ships may be too delayed to intervene at Trafalger, at least I am hoping so, otherwise, this may turn out to be an Allied debacle. The Allies succeeded in breaking eleven ships of the line into the Atlantic, including the two Spanish 110's and a new French 74 which will are powerful fighting vessels. The British will have a shiny new French 74 to rebuild and an ancient Spanish 60 that may not be worth the bother. If the tow ships are delayed, the British will have only one SOL to add to Nelson's battle line compared to the Allies eleven. If the tow ships are not delayed (the action takes place in the Straits of Gibralter, so it will be a short tow), there could be as many as five additional British ships of the line to reinforce Nelson. Historically, there were 27 British SOL to the Allies 33 at Trafalgar. This event would make it either 44 to 28 or possibly 44 to 32. Should be interesting to find out....