Showing posts with label form line of battle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label form line of battle. Show all posts

Friday, 16 January 2015

The Battle of Lissa - 1811

In March 1811 France dispatched a mixed French and Venetian flotilla of six frigates, and several smaller craft, under Rear-Admiral Bernard Dubourdieu to capture the strategic Adriatic island of Lissa. Off the coast of the island this force was met by a force of four British frigates under Captain William Hoste.

We played out the ensuing action last night using 'Form Line of Battle'

The Franco-Venetian force consists of six ships.

Windward Column - Favourite (40), Flore (40), Bellona (32)
Leeward Column - Danae (40), Corona (40), Carolina (32)

The Favourite, Flore and Danae are French and the other ships Venetian.

Opposing them, in line are Amphion (32), Active (38), Volage (22) and Cerberus (32). The Volage is entirely carronade-armed.

I rated the 40s and the 38 and Superior 5th rates, the 32s as 5th rates and the Volage as a 6th rate. The French and British ships had a gun-class of A, whilst the Venetian ships were B, as they didn't seem to have secondary carronades. The Volage was rated as D. Venetian crews were Poor, French were Experienced and the British crews Elite. The Franco-Venetian ships all had extra crew factors to represent the Italian soldiers they had on board.

Here are the British ships. They started in line ahead, beating and very close into the shoreline.


The two Franco-Venetian columns bore down on them.


An overview of the opening positions. The wind is coming from the top-left of the photo, and the land a little off the bottom of the picture. This meant that the battle would tend to drift into the island itself.


The French leeward column made for the two British ships at the rear of the line, and firing commenced at medium range between the Cerberus and the Danae.


The British got off to a bad start when, in the light winds under which the battle commenced, the Active almost ran on board the Amphion, steering out of the way at the last minute, but throwing the head of the British line into confusion.


The Danae and Cerberus closed to point-blank range and began to pound each other in earnest. Despite its smaller size, the more experienced British crew gave the Cerberus the advantage, and the Danae quickly began to suffer serious damage.


The engagement began in earnest. To the left the Favourite and Flore engaged the Amphion and Active, who had turned towards the land in order to avoid masking each other. Cerberus and Danae fought each other to the right. The Venetian ships lagged behind, barely into the fight yet, whilst the Volage also found itself strangely isolated, its deadly short-ranged firepower making the French somewhat reluctant to close with it.


The situation a few turns later. As in the actual battle the British ships had worn, and were now travelling in the opposite direction to that which they had started in. The Danae had taken a serious battering from the Cerberus and was close to striking, but kept passing its morale checks. Most of the Venetian ships were now engaged, although still not closely.


A broadside from the Cerberus finally finished off the Danae, shattering its hull and leaving it sinking.


The little Volage found itself stuck between two larger Venetian vessels, the Corona and Carolina. But quality told over quantity, and Corona caught fire


The Favourite had taken some major damage early on, and was soon in trouble. The crew were ready to strike after a broadside from the Active, but the wounded French captain rallied them. (In FLOB a killed captain critical gives a penalty when taking strike tests, but if the captain is wounded he inspires his crew and gives them a bonus - the Favourite missed a roll by one point and was saved soley because of this rule.)


By now the wind had picked up to a strong breeze, which made fine maneuvering harder, and very dangerous in such close proximity to the shore. But as the laggardly Bellona came into the fight the wind gave the Amphion a chance sweep across its stern, and rake the Venetian, hulling it below the waterline. The crew panicked and struck.


Meanwhile the crew of the Corona were having real difficulty extinguishing the fires on board their ship, but despite that managed to pull of a last minute tack to avoid going aground. That black bit is the edge of the table, representing the rocks on the coast of Lissa.


The Volage took advantage of a lull in the action to lower boats and take possession of the Bellona before it drifted into the island.


The British had also tacked, and were now back on their original course. Aside from the Amphion, who was now engaged with the Flore at the top of the picture.


The Flore put up a good fight, but once again the superior British gunnery began to tell.


The Favourite was pretty much beaten, and the Volage closed in to force it to strike.


Having extinguished the fire, but now badly damaged, the crew of the Corona decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and sailed their ship away. The Carolina joined them


The Franco-Venetian force lost the Danae, Favourite, Flore and Bellona, the first one sinking and the other three captured. Rear-Admiral Dubourdieu was seriously wounded, whilst the captain of the Danae was killed. Carolina and Corona escaped with moderate to heavy damage, mostly from fire in the case of Corona. The British ships took very little damage to the fabric of their ships, but the Cerberus and Amphion had taken plenty of hits, and both had their captains killed.

Despite their superiority in numbers this is a tough one for the Franco-Venetian force, but it's the numbers they have to use, ganging up on individual British ships whilst preventing others from assisting. In this game the British were mostly able to prevent this, fighting a series of one-on-one engagements in which quality was always going to win out. But it made for a great game, with some truly cinematic moments.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Frigate Action - British vs Dutch

On 30th May 1781 two British frigates out of Gibraltar encountered and engaged a pair of Dutch frigates.

The British ships were the Flora (36) and Crescent (28). The Dutch were Castor (36) and Briel (36). Despite being of the same nominal size as a Dutch frigate, the Flora out-gunned them, with both heavier long-guns, and new-fangled quarter-deck carronades.

In the ensuing action the Flora shattered the Castor, whilst the Crescent was hard-pressed by the heavier Briel until the Flora came up in support, at which point the Briel withdrew.

I refought the action using 'For Line of Battle'. The ships were as follows:

British
Flora - 5th Rate, Gun Class A
Crescent - 6th Rate, Gun Class B

Dutch
Castor, Briel - Inferior 5th Rate, Gun Class B

All ships were Class 2 with a Turn of 3 and Veteran crews (the Dutch were pretty good at this stage, whilst the Royal Navy could still be a bit iffy.)

If you're not familiar with FLOB, the Flora's Gun Class gives her an extra bonus at point-blank range to allow for the carronades; the other ships just have long-guns. The Inferior rating of the Dutch ships means that they get a penalty when firing at the Flora, so in a straight duel the British ship should have a significant edge in gunnery, especially at very close range.

Both sides closed rapidly on their opponents, edging to get the weather-gauge. The Dutch ...


 ... and the British. Note the new sea bases, in action for the first time.


With the Flora being dangerous at close range, the Dutch opened fire at long range, hoping to inflict some damage before she got too close. They were successful.


The British came on towards the Dutch, Flora in the lead and Crescent behind. The British had to be careful not to let the Dutch double up on the weaker Crescent.


As the Flora approached Briel she took a devastating broadside which holed her below the waterline.



The British cut around the stern of the Dutch ships, but their firing lacked skill or enthusiasm, and they inflicted far less damage than they hoped. The Briel's captain was wounded though. In FLOB this is a short-term disadvantage, but in the long-term it actually gives a bonus to morale (getting the captain killed is a penalty all round, however.)


Even a stern-rake from the heavy guns of the Flora did little real damage.


The firing became general, albeit at a longer range than the British would have liked.


The Dutch kept up a steady, accurate cannonade on the Flora. Her mainmast fell, and shortly after she struck.


This left Crescent outnumbered and outgunned. She tried to work onto the stern of the Briel at the rear of the Dutch line, but the Dutch were equal to the task of preventing this.


As the Crescent tried to engage the Dutch ships, Castor sent a boat to take possession of the Flora.


Eventually the Crescent was holed below the waterline as well, and in a severely damage state broke off the action. The Dutch opted not to pursue, instead sailing their prize to the safety of Cadiz.


Damage to the Dutch ships was light; the Briel took the brunt of the British gunnery, but was still in good fighting fettle, despite her injured captain. The Castor was essentially undamaged.

The battle was won by some good medium range gunnery by the Dutch, multiplied by unlucky rolls when the British fired at close range. Unable to give as good as she was receiving, the Flora was forced to strike, leaving two relatively undamaged ships to face a smaller, damaged Crescent.

Such is the fortune of war.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Fire As She Bears!

Over the last few weeks I have been tidying up various house-rules I have used in 'Form Line of Battle' 4.0, as well as creating new ones. I have alluded to some of them in a few posts, but thought it would be worth sharing them here.

A ship which has declared a tack takes a modifier of -1 during that action phase.

(Tacking was a difficult process that occupied the crews' attention so I felt a small penalty was deserved.)

Ignore the rules for 5th, 6th and Unrated vessels firing on larger ships. Instead apply the following modifier.

A ship firing on one of a larger rate may suffer a penalty. Subtract the target’s rate from that of the firer (Unrated vessels count as 7th Rate), and subtract a further 1. Any positive score is subtracted from the base score. This can be summarised as:

Target’s Rate
Firer is:
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
5th
6th
7th
1st
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
2nd
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
3rd
-1
0
0
0
0
0
0
4th
-2
-1
0
0
0
0
0
5th
-3
-2
-1
0
0
0
0
6th
-4
-3
-2
-1
0
0
0
7th
-5
-4
-3
-2
-1
0
0

Firing is otherwise resolved normally; no damage reductions are applied.

(The rules as written for ships of small classes firing on larger ones are probably fairly accurate, and rarely come into play anyway, as most games involve ships of similar sizes. But they lack granularity, and there are situations where ships on the borderline are either unfairly penalised or not penalised. I think this table strikes the right balance.)

A ship with a 0 Broadside Rating (from damage) may still shoot. Treat as a Broadside Rating of 0 for determining factors, but apply an additional -3.

(Ships reduced to a 0 Broadside don't automatically strike, but currently can no longer fight. This rule assumes that they can, from time to time, get some guns firing, at east until the odds catch up with them and they haul down their colours.)

Critical hits now depend on the range.


Roll

Point Blank/Short

Medium/Long

1

Captain

Captain

2

Mast

Mast

3

Wheel

Wheel

4

Fire

Fire

5

1 Hull

Mast

6

2 Hull

1 Hull


Note a Critical is scored on any double which scores a ‘rr’ hit, or any roll of Double 6 if a hit was possible with a 2.

(This change makes Criticals more likely - I find they don't really happen often enough - and also covers the fact that ships would be firing higher at longer range.)

I have split Unrated/Class 7 ships into two gun classes.

Gun Class E now represents Unrated ships armed with long guns. The range modifiers are:

Point-Blank +2, Short 0, Medium -4

Gun Class F now represents Unrated ships armed with carronades. The range modifiers are:

Point Blank +3, Short 0

(Currently ships with a Gun Class of E get a better bonus at Point Blank range than larger gun-armed ships of Gun Class B. And I thought that it was worth differentiating between gun- and carronade-armed ships even at this size.)

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:

French

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

British

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*

Setup

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

Introduction

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.

British

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

Turkish

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.

Setup

Use a table approximately 6' x 4' with the N-S axis being the longest.
    N                             
    ^
    ^
                      S
   
                           
            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.

Victory

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.

Refight

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.

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