Friday, February 16, 2007

The Battle of La Coruna II

So we finally played a naval battle last night. In the event, only two of us were actually present which put a different emphasis on the game, but it was fun nonetheless. I played the British and my friend Oleg played the French. Technically I won, but since we kept going until each side had utterly depleted their fighting forces, winning was entirely academic. Especially since there was no winning critieria for the British beyond reaching the far end of the table with at least four supply ships (which I didn't since only three made it). The game started with the British coming in two columns from the north. Already here I made a critical error however because I convinced myself to combine the supply ships with the fighting ships, where as I probably should have had the supply ships in a seperate line. My mistake meant I spent much of the game trying to redress the supply ships, and largely failing.

The French tried to use the weather gage to range up along side the British fleet and come in behind and rake them from the rear. This plan failed however because the British fighting ships saw the French tactic and turned to keep them broadside on for most of the game. By the time the French had reached their advantageous position, they only had two ships left and the game was already done. The real high point of the battle came after an hour and a half when the French ship Braave, having been defeated by the British Admiral in HMS Africa, caught fire and exploded. The image below shows the 'drama' unfolding. Red lines denote the direction of the British, blue, the French. Braave is the damaged ship counter marked with a die at the top of the image the British supply ships (one also sinking) are the two lines fleeing southward to the rear. The red arrow shows the direction of the wind.

In hindsight I can see our rules need some more polishing. Our battle was way to 'clean' with no smoke markers (though we discovered popcorn works really well as smoke) and sinking ships disapearing very fast. We also had ships sinking due to rifle fire from the fighting tops, which was just plain ridiculous. Rifles could, and often did, kill a ships officers, but the ships didn't sink as a result. Often they would keep on firing from a stationary position, or flee.

I already have the next game planned. It will involve four players and multiple ships of the line!

Ships involved were:

The British
(fighting ships).
HMS Africa. 64. Third rate Ship of the Line. 1781. (Adm)
HMS Hotspur. 38. Fith rate Frigate. 1792.
HMS Andromache. 32. Fifth rate Frigate. 1782.
HMS Beagle. 18. Sloop of War. 1804.
HMS Viper. 12. Brig. 1797.
HMS Turbulent. 12. Gun Brig. 1790.

(Supply ships)
HMS Eurydice. 24. Sixth rate Frigate. 1781.
HMS Jamiaca. 24. Sixth rate Frigate. 1800.
HMS Saracen. 18. Sloop of War. 1800.
HMS Minx. 14. Gun Brig. 1796.
HMS Rattle. 14. Gun Brig. 1781.
HMS Sheerness. 6. Brig. 1789.

The French:
Le Formidable. 74. Third rate Ship of the Line. (Adm)
La Cleopatre. 36. Fifth rate Frigate. 1799.
Zephyr. 32. Fifth rate Frigate. 1779.
Braave. 28. Sixth rate Frigate. 1794.
Sirene. 24. Sixth rate Frigate. 1785.
Comet. 18. Brig. 1790.
Belina. 4. Gun boat. 1789.
Antoinette. 2. Gun boat. 1803.


brando said...

HMS Beagle! I know that one.

moif said...

Where from?

moif said...

I should add that all the ships in the game were taken from real life examples.. .

brando said...

That's the ship where Darwin had his inspiration. I remembered it because I thought it was a funny name.

The British seem to have the coolest names for their ships.

HMS Colossus, HMS Minotaur, HMS Illustrious, HMS Glorious.

The US needs to get with the times, and get a rock solid naming convention. We just named our newest and best the "Ronald Reagan". We already name elementary schools after presidents. We need to name our flag ships after Medal of Honor receptiants. Or maybe after great intangible concepts.

USS Gary Gordon, USS Freedom or USS Stompyerheadin

Something like that.

Oleg said...

... and from the French point of view.

Firstly, Im not at all experienced with naval tactics, and on hindsight I realise that I tend to treat frigates like cavalry. I wasted lots of time trying to get into position, rather than simply converging whilst delivering as many broadsides as possible.

I failed to appreciate the power and endurance of a Ship of the Line. I should have got much closer, much faster.

The big disaster was when Braave blew up. Evading this utterly wrecked my line.

I also tried (just to see what happened) sending a Frigate through the British screening ships. It didn't work.

The rules avoid book keeping, which is good. Normally we don't need to know what happens to a ship when it is out of action, until after the engagement (captured, wrecked, recovered, officers captured, dead... etc.), but in the case of explosion we need to know at once. The 'sunk by Rifles' result was strictly 'didn't burn or explode, and wasn't captured / recovered by either side'.

Great fun. We must do it again.


moif said...


We will!

The next game is already being planned. It will have a Spanish contingent as well! I'm already measuring out wood scraps and card for new models and next game will be purely fictional so I'll be making up names.

I'm thinking about the original game I planed, but with a difference. A combined British fleet, with two admirals taking on French fleet sheltering in a Spanish harbour. Multiple Ships of the Line on both sides with the prospect of the big ships slugging out whilst the smaller ships fight the landing... details to follow


Yikes! Your right. I didn't make the connection at all, and yet I have 'Voyage of the Beagle' on my bookshelf alongside my Jack Aubrey novels!!!

In the next game I'll be making up names, so I've been dreaming up strange, Spanish-esque names for their flag ship.

The Spaniards had the worlds largest warship in the Napoleonic wars. She was the super Ship of the Line, Santissima Trinidad, with a staggering 144 guns. The Brits put an end to her at Trafalgar. I can't really use her, but I intend to field a few similarly impressinve Spanish SOTL's with similar sounding names. Trouble is, I don't speak a word of Spanish so Babel fish will have to be my friend.

moif said...

Model of the Santissima Trinidad

brando said...

In the US Marines we learned about the battle of Trafalgar, and Lord Nelson’s double line, and how he fought in full dress. That’s good stuff. On our mess nights when we need to take a leak we say “I need to shed a tear for Lord Nelson.” Of course we honor Chesty Puller higher, but I think it’s noteworthy that we honor a warrior from another country.

Oleg said...

The Santissima Trinidad site has English translation, plans, specifications and old pictures - really nice.

And I have to bring the 'Trafalgar - An Eyewitness History' back.
An excellent and rather scary book.

- Oleg

moif said...

So, who is Chesty Puller?

And I think you still have my third Baroque Cycle book as well...

brando said...


You guys have a cool ship name. The Thetis.

moif said...

You guys being the British I presume


Thetis being a sea nymph apparently, any Thetis in particular?

According to Wikipedia the first Thetis was a 22-gun storeship launched in 1717.

The second Thetis was a 44-gun ship of the fifth-rate (frigate); 720 tons; 250 men. Built at Liverpool; launched April 15, 1747 and sold June 9, 1767. On July 14, 1761, captured the French man-of-war Bouffone (32 guns).

The third Thetis was a 32-gun ship of the fifth-rate (frigate); 685 tons; 220 men. Built at Bucler's Hard; launched November 2, 1773 and wrecked off St Lucia on May 12, 1781.

The fourth Thetis (1782) was a 38-gun fifth-rate (frigate); 700 tons; 38 guns; 238 men. Built on the River Thames; launched September 23, 1782. In 1795 captured the French storeships Prevoyante and Raison; in 1801 took part in Keith's expedition to Egypt; in 1809 assisted in cutting out the French man-of-war Nisus (16 guns) at Guadaloupe, and took part in the storming of the batteries at Anse-le-Barque; in 1810 took part in the capture of Guadaloupe. Sold June 9, 1814.(This one is my favourite I think. Lots of history)

The fifth Thetis was a 24-gun sixth-rate (frigate) launched in 1796.

The sixth Thetis was an 8-gun schooner purchased in 1796.

The seventh Thetis was a 10-gun gun-brig launched in 1810.

The eighth Thetis was a 46-gun fifth-rate (frigate) launched in 1817 and wrecked off Cape Frio in 1830.

The ninth Thetis was a 36-gun fifth-rate (frigate) launched in 1846 and transferred to Prussia in 1855.

The tenth Thetis was a Briton-class wooden screw corvette, launched in 1871 and sold in 1887.

The eleventh Thetis, launched in 1890, was an Apollo-class second class protected cruiser. She was sunk in 1918 as a blockship at Zeebrugge.

The twelfth Thetis (N25), launched in 1938, was a T-class submarine. She sank during trials but was salvaged and recommissioned as Thunderbolt. She was sunk on 14 March 1943 north of Sicily by the Italian corvette Cicogna.

brando said...

Wow, I didn't know that Thetis was such a popular name. I think it's Achille's mom.

I was talking about the flagship for the Royal Danish Navy. This one.

I guess the US has had some ships called the Thetis as well.

moif said...

Heh. My ignorance is revealed. I did not know we had such a ship named Thetis in the RDN.

Judging by the picture though she looks to be a sister ship to the Galatea-3 expedition ship, Vædderen (Capricorn).

Ken said...

Oooooh!! Naval warfare!

Ken said...

Iirc, Chesty Puller was the commanding general of the US Marines who landed on Guadalcanal. He is the most decorated Marine in USMC history.

More here:

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