Showing posts with label age of sail. Show all posts
Showing posts with label age of sail. Show all posts

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Galleries and Galliots

Today Catherine and I went up to Sydney in order to see and exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Entitle 'Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age : Masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum', it's a collection of paintings from the main museum on Amsterdam, and illustrates the style of art influenced by the unique Dutch society of the 17th century. The centrepiece is a room devoted to Rembrandt, but this post is about the second room we encountered. This was the view as I came into it.

It covered the influence of Dutch overseas trade, specifically the Dutch East India Company, and it's naval power.

Needless to say I was like a kid in a sweetshop. Behind me is a picture of a Dutch warship in a storm; possibly a wreck off Gibraltar, although that is unclear.

There were about ten paintings in all, plus this - a model of a 1640s 44-gun warship, probably made for a guild or merchant company.

It's exquisite.

Did warships of the period really have all this carving and decoration? Repairs would have been fifty-percent art restoration.

Anyway, I know that some readers of this blog like ships, so I took a few pictures of bits of the paintings for both them and my own personal collection. This first set are from a couple of paintings of Dutch ships off Batavia. In the background you can see the port and castle of Batavia itself.

On the other side of the gallery was this; a painting of the Four Days Battle of 1666 by Willem van de Velde. Pure naval battle painting porn. Just look at the glorious detail!

A couple of ladies were looking at the picture and trying to puzzle out the flags. I couldn't help myself, and they ended up learning more about naval ensigns that I suspect they needed to know.

Anyway, if you want to see more, the exhibition runs until February 18th next year. The rest of it is almost as good as the pictures of ships, so it's well worth the trip.

(The title mentioned 'Galliots' I have no idea if there are any in the pictures.)

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Sophie and the Algerine

I am currently rereading Patrick O'Brian's 'Aubrey and Maturin' series, having realised that I hadn't reread some of the later books in the series since they were first published. Or, at least, I couldn't remember what happened in them. With a couple of the later books dealt with, I decided to go back to the beginning, and am most of the way through 'Master and Commander', the first in the series.

I thought that it would be quite fun to refight one of the actions from the book - indeed the first action described. This means that, whilst it is not Aubrey's first fight by any stretch of the imagination, it is his first in command of his own vessel.

So, it's 1800, and Captain Aubrey is in command of the 14-gun brig Sophie, operating out of Port Mahon in Minorca. He has been tasked with escorting a convoy and, whilst exercising the crew at their guns, it is noticed that Algerine galley has slipped in and taken one of the merchant vessels, the Norwegian Dorthe Englebrechtsdottir. Sophie speeds off to the rescue.

As a scenario this uses a few rules I'm not that familiar with - merchant vessels, chasers and oared vessels.

The Sophie is an unrated vessel, Hull/Broadside 5, Gun-class E (but with only a +2 at point-blank range, as she is armed with guns). Her crew are Experienced; it is obviousl from the book that they are competent, but not a finely-honed fighting machine. I gave her one crew party to make the scenario more interesting; in a larger game a vessel her size wouldn't rate one. In addition I gave her 1 Bow Chaser, but given that it's a single small gun I decided that it wouldn't inflict any ratings hits. However if its shot scored a 'hit' and it was also a critical, then the critical would count. She has two masts.

The galley was rated as Hull/Broadside 4, although the Broadside factor is virtual and for damage/striking purposes only. I gave it 3 Bow Chaser factors and 2 Stern; the book seems to suggest that it was well-armed with 24- and 18-pounders. I gave it a Gun-class of B, meaning that it could easily out-range the Sophie's 4-pounders. The galley rated 6 Oar Factors, and I made its crew Experienced as well with 3 Parties. The rules don't seem to cover switching between oars and sail, which I thought was odd, so I assumed that the vessel would declare in its Command and Repair phase. Under sail the galley uses a single lateen (fore-and-aft) sail.

The Dorthe Englebrechtsdottir is simply a merchant - 4 Hull, no broadside, or indeed any guns at all. She has a Poor crew with No Crew Parties. I decided that she couldn't set full-sail. Unlike the other two vessels she was Ship Class 1.

The setup. I used a 3' x 3' area, with the a light wind coming from the north. The Algerine could set up anywhere on the south edge. The Dorthe Englebrechtsdottir was placed heading east about a third of the way in from the west edge. The Sophie started off-table. In each British action phase after that in which the galley fired or declared a boarding attempt, roll a dice. On a '6' the Sophie appears at the centre of the north edge and moved normally from then onwards.

I left the striking conditions as in the rules; technically Algerines fight to the bitter end, but I just wanted to see how the scenario played out at a basic level. Victory is really about control of the Dorthe Englebrechtsdottir; if the Algerines can sail her off the south edge then they win. If the British can sink or drive off the galley then they win. If the Algerines sink or capture the Sophie as well as the Dorthe Englebrechtsdottir then they can be considered to have won a major victory.

And away we go!

Here's the hapless Dorthe Englebrechtsdottir

The Algerine rows into sight. That galley needs a bit of a repaint.

The galley attempts a long-range shot at the merchant. A lucky shot; it hits the Norwegian, who hauls down its colours and heaves to.

Unfortunately the long-range shot was a bad idea; before the galley can take possession of its prize, the Sophie comes into sight, alerted by the firing.

The Algerines lower boats to take possession of the merchant, whilst the galley prepares to engage the British vessel.

The galley fires, inflicting no damage. Corsairs board the Dorthe Englebrechtsdottir.

The Sophie yaws, and fires a broadside down the length of the galley. A lucky roll sees the galley devastated - most of its guns dismounted and the bows wrecked.

Ignoring the galley for now the Sophie moves towards the captured Dorthe Englebrechtsdottir, and lowers boats in order to recapture it.

The crew of the Sophie board the Norwegian and in a brisk fight they retake it. Meanwhile the Sophie entertains the galley with another broadside

As the Sophies sail the merchant out of reach of the galley, the Sophie brings her broadside to bear again, and another devastating broadside sees the galley strike.

A decisive victory for Jack Aubrey! The Algerine firing so early was a mistake, as it brought the Sophie into the action before the Dorthe Englebrechtsdottir could be captured. Ideally, and as in the book, the Sophie should appear and be left with the choice of recapturing the merchant or taking the galley.

A second run-through saw the Algerine not make the same mistake. It closed on the merchant, then lowered a boat with a boarding party whilst it rowed to windward to guard against interference from the Sophie. This would have been a good plan, as it left the galley in a good position - between the Sophie and the prize - had the crew of the Dorthe Englebrechtsdottir not driven off the corsair boarding party. However a shot from the stern-chasers caused the merchant to strike, albeit at the cost of its foremast, fouled over the side. The galley sent a second crew party to board it and clear the fallen mast. At this point the Sophie arrived. It sailed swiftly past the galley, hitting it with a couple of shots, before heading for the Dorthe Englebrechtsdottir in order to recapture it before it cleared the fallen mast. However the prize-crew held on for shot after shot, cleared the mast and attempted to sail their sluggish, crippled prize to safety. The Sophie matched course, and fired a few more shots, but still the prize wouldn't strike. The galley had worked in behind the Sophie now, and was causing damage - at which point the light breeze died entirely, leaving the Sophie becalmed. It also left the prize in the same state, and another shot saw it strike, but the Sophie was now at the mercy of the galley - and it had none.

Aubrey made a gallant attempt to bring his ship back into the fight by towing with boats, but the galley was able to out-manuever him and keep up a constant, wearing fire. With no hope of relief, and no chance of escape, the Sophie struck.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

The Return of Rainbow and Avon

Last week I blogged a couple of refights of a Napoleonic naval action between a French 40-gun frigate, La Nereide and two smaller British ships, the 22-gun Rainbow and the 16-gun Avon. After I wrote them I actually came up with, and played, a finalised version of the scenario, based on a closer reading of the action. Basically La Nereide and Rainbow fought first, with Avon coming up later. So I have spaced the entry of the British ships.

Here it is.

The ships are:


La Nereide (44) - Superior 5th Rate, Experienced crew, Hull/Guns 8, Gun Class A


Rainbow (22) - Inferior 6th Rate, Veteran crew, Hull/Guns 7, Gun Class A
Avon (16) - Unrated, Carronade-armed, Veteran Crew, Hull/Guns 5, Gun Class E*


This can be fought on a 3' x 3' area. The wind is coming from the south. La Nereide is in the SE corner heading NW. Rainbow is in the SW corner heading NE. Both ships start 6D6cm from their respective corners. Avon is not on the table at the start of the battle.

Special Rules

At the start of each British Action phase roll a D6. On a '6' Avon is placed in the SW corner, heading NE, and moves normally that turn.

On the whole this heavily weights the scenario in favour of the French, who have a chance to take out the smaller British ships one at a time. A game-orientated British player will obviously avoid combat with the Rainbow until the Avon comes up, but where's the fun in that?

And the replay? La Nereide gave Rainbow a right royal battering. Avon took a long time to appear, piled on full sail to get into the fight and was defeated very rapidly, leaving La Nereide to then finish off Rainbow. Much of the battle was fought in a strong wind, which made accurate maneuver difficult.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Ionian Mission


This scenario is based on an action described in the novel 'The Ionian Mission' by Patrick O'Brian. It was originally written for the first edition of the 'Form Line Of Battle' miniatures rules, but I have updated it to fit in with FLOB 4.0/5.0.

Obviously if you've not yet read 'The Ionian Mission' then this scenario is loaded with spoilers.

There's a refight at the end of the post.

Background To The Action

In an unknown year towards the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Jack Aubrey is in command of the 28 gun frigate HMS Surprise. He is sent on a mission to force the French out of a port on the Ionian Sea, and involved in negotiations with a minor Turkish ruler. The ruler captures Jack's transports and set out to sea to assert his authority. Jack puts the Surprise onto a southerly course to intercept the Turkish ships.


Surprise (28) - Superior 6th Rate Frigate, Elite crew


Torgud (32) - Inferior 5th Rate Frigate, Poor crew (See special rules below, however)
Kitabi (20) - Inferior 6th Rate Corvette, Poor crew

The Torgud mounted a pair of heavy cannon which gave its broadside an extra punch, but which hampered its sailing qualities. It therefore moves at Frigate speed but turns as if it were a ship of the line (2 points per movement phase). The heavy cannon can be used three times during the game, their use being declared before the dice are rolled. Each use adds one to the Torgud's fire factor for that shot.


Use a table approximately 6' x 4' with the N-S axis being the longest.
            K    T 

The ships are as follows:
S - Surprise
T - Torgud
K - Kitabi

The wind is from the South East.

Torgud and Kitabi should be lined up about 15cm apart heading NNE and about 15cm from the Southern edge of the table.

Surprise is heading South West about 30cm directly NE of Torgud.

Special Rules

The Surprise lived up to its name and initially caught the Turks unawares. To simulate this the following special rules apply. The Turkish ships may not deviate from their initial course or fire until the phase after they are fired on or until they become alerted. They may only move on one dice although they still roll the 4 dice their attitude to the wind entitles them to. In each Turkish command and repair phase roll a dice. If the score is 5 or more the Turks are alerted. Add one to the score if the Surprise is within 20cm and 2 if it is within 10cm of a Turkish ship. On all following phases the Turks may fire and move normally.

It is recommended that the optional rul for Poor crews turning more than one point be used.


If the Turks capture or destroy the Surprise they win a major victory. 
If the Surprise leaves the table they win a minor victory. 
If the Turks leave the table and neither exit via the Northern edge the British win a minor victory. 
If one Turkish ship is captured or destroyed the British win a minor victory. 
If both Turkish ships are captured or destroyed then the British win a major victory. 
Any other result is a draw.

'Historical' Outcome

The Surprise initially engaged the Torgud in attempt to mask the fire of the Kitabi. After a fierce exchange of fire, the Torgud attempted to close on the Surprise in order to board, but was out-manouevered. This left the Surprise in a position to engage the Kitabi instead, forcing it to disengage. Both Turkish ships ran to the North West with the Surprise in hot pursuit. Kitabi and Torgud collided in their haste allowing Jack to use the corvette as a bridge to board the frigate and capture both vessels.


I first developed this scenario more than ten years ago, and have played it a few times over the years. It's actually a tricky one for the British, as FLOB can sometimes be a bit random, leaving their one ship vulnerable to a couple of unlucky rolls or card draws. But, I guess, that's how the fortune of war works.

I played this game using my ancient Navwar 1/1200th ships.

Here's the Turks, sailing along blissfully unaware that their treachery has been discovered by the British.

HMS Surprise sails nonchalantly into view.

The Surprise suddenly turns downwind and fires a devastating initial broadside along the length of the Torgud.

With the Torgud damaged, Surprise turns on the Kitabi, but she manages to cut across the bows of the British vessel. The Surprise is damaged, but poor Turkish gunnery means that it's not too bad.

The Torgud tries to turn back into the action, but damage and the heavy guns means the ship is unwieldy and its slow going.

As the Kitabi turns the Surprise cuts tight under its stern, and fires its previously unused starboard guns. In a single broadside, Aubrey's well-trained crew smash the Kitabi, forcing it to strike.

Whilst the Kitabi drifts, the Surprise and Torgud close on each other.

Another devastating broadside from the Surprise.

The Torgud returns fire, and starts a fire on the British ship.

However the elite British seamen are well-drilled in extinguishing fires, and the Surprise fights on. The Torgud almost manages to cut across the British vessel's bows, but the Surprise turns to avoid this, and a final exchange of broadsides sees the Turkish ship strike.

In fact at the end of the game Surprise only had one broadside factor remaining, but the with Torgud in a similar state it was always going to boil down to the massive difference in crew quality; the effect of Torgud's larger size had already been neutralised by the damage it had taken earlier on in the battle. The British victory was helped by being able to knock the Kitabi out of the fight in one shot, avoiding a sustained engagement there.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Rainbow and Avon Again

I replayed the action between La Nereide, Rainbow and Avon this evening. It was a much closer game than the first one, with La Nereide taking some early damage from Rainbow as it closed on the British vessels, but then demolishing the little Avon in two broadsides without receiving an effective shot in reply. It then engaged Rainbow properly, and very much got the better of the fight until the British ship got a stern-rake in and forced the French ship to strike.

I tried a small change to the rules which allowed a vessel with a broadside reduced to 0 to keep firing. It counts as having a gunnery factor of 0 (of course), but suffers an additional -3 penalty. Additional hits on the ship don't reduce the gunnery below 0, but remember that a ship with a 0 broadside which takes any hits must roll on the Strike Table, so surrender is only a matter of time for such a vessel. I'm looking at amending that slightly to make it more likely a ship will strike the more times it has to roll on the table.

The reason for the change is the bizarre situation of ships with no gunnery factors being in a kind of limbo - not struck, but unable to participate in the battle. It is assumed that a vessel with a 0 broadside still has a few guns left to fire and men to crew them, but that their efforts are less coordinated.

Here's a couple of pictures of the moment when La Nereide destroyed the Avon, whilst engaging Rainbow at longer range.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

La Nereide vs Rainbow and Avon

I played a quick game of 'Form Line of Battle' this evening. Having come across this site last week - Three Decks - I wanted to try a small historical action with asymmetric sides. I chose this one:

Action of 9th February 1810 

Summary - a French heavy Frigate, La Nereide (44) is pursued by two smaller British ships - the Rainbow (22) and the Avon (16). The French ship turns on its pursuers.

The 'Form Line of Battle' ratings were:

La Nereide (44) - Superior 5th Rate, Experienced crew, Hull/Guns 8, Gun Class A
Rainbow (22) - Inferior 6th Rate, Veteran crew, Hull/Guns 7, Gun Class A
Avon (16) - Unrated, Carronade-armed, Veteran Crew, Hull/Guns 5, Gun Class E*

*The rules give Unrated vessels a Gun Class of E, which gives them a +3 at Point-Blank range. I would reserve this factor only for those vessels equipped with carronades and drop the bonus to +2 for gun-armed unrated ship.

The French ship's Superior rating makes it dangerous when firing, whilst the British ships have less firepower but have some of this disadvantage offset by better crews.

Here's La Nereide

The British pursuers - Rainbow in the lead and Avon behind

The ships approach each other, with the wind coming from the bottom of the picture. Rainbow is upwind of La Nereide, whilst Avon is working downwind.

The French frigate moves to engage Rainbow, but receives a raking broadside at long range. The battle has begun.

La Nereide ranges up alongside Rainbow, and they exchange broadsides. The French shooting isn't as good as it could be.

Rainbow gets in a broadside which rips into the French vessel, causing real damage and serious casualties.

La Nereide manages to rake Rainbow, but again her crew's gunnery is poor and damage is minimal.

As the ships settle into another broadside to broadside fight Avon finally gets into the fight and adds the weight of her carronades to the duel.

La Nereide is really starting to suffer now, although Rainbow is not escaping undamaged.

The French ship attempts one last desperate move, attempting to cut across Rainbow's bow.

But the British beat La Nereide to it, and a final rake forces the French ship to strike.

Whilst the French inflicted damage with most of their shots, none of it was heavy enough to seriously hamper the Rainbow and force it to strike. Meanwhile the Rainbow gave as good as she got; more than she got when an early broadside damaged La Nereide's hull. Once the Avon entered the fight the French frigate was suffering more hits than it could avoid, and defeat was only a matter of time.

If I refought this I'd probably give the French ship a Veteran crew. This is not as absurd as it seems; French frigates on an extended cruise do seem to have had crews better than their national average, and capable of holding their own in a fight.

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