Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Burlington Races--The War of 1812 on Lake Ontario

American fleet in their starting positions.  The cards by each ship note the movement order.  The Pike is the lead vessel
Last Friday we met for one of our Truants games.  Dave Schueler and Mark Waddington teamed up to play an age of sail game based on Jim Moulton's Prevailing Winds rules.  Mark Waddington shared his magnificent hand-made sailing vessels with nine players, none of whom had ever played the rules before.  This was a play test, so it was clear from the outset the game might have some rough edges.

First of all, it needs to be said, this game was a real gamble for the hosts. Not many of us play a lot of age of sail games, so we were easily confused.  The wind system was not difficult, but without hexes to visualize wind direction, it could occasionally be tricky but doable once I figured it out.  Movement was based on a card draw system that made things pretty random and difficult to stay in formation, and was my least favorite part of the game.  I thought gunnery was the easiest and best part of the game. The lack of familiarity with the rules led to some unnecessary crabbing, which was unfortunate.

 The War of 1812 lake battles are pretty interesting with some pretty unusual ship types.  First, they are generally smaller than we'd find in Napoleonic battles, with sloops, brigs and lots of small gunboats.  There is also the matter of armament as both side try to ship the biggest broadside for their small vessels.  Many vessels carry carronades instead of long guns to boost their broadside weights, but sacrifice gun range.  In our battle that was a problem as the Brits, with generally larger ships but few long guns faced a bigger fleet with more long guns.

I was an American player running the sloop Madison, following behind the American flagship Pike captained by Mark Waddington.  The Pike was armed with all long 24 pdrs., and simply ruled the lake.  As the British struggled to close the range, Pike easily dismasted the British flagship Wolfe, and had its way with a couple of the smaller British schooners.  Madison got off a couple shots with long guns, and fired off the carronades once as the British tried to close, but could not match Pike's hitting power.  Mark clearly had the most fun of the game.  The gunboats had their own little scrum going with a couple of the smaller British ships.  The British had a little more success fending of this mosquito fleet, sinking a couple of them and dismasting another.

I really enjoyed this game, and would love to play it again.  I only took one picture at the beginning, which doesn't do justice to either the game or Mark's beautiful ships.  Hand-made from balsa, with scribed decking, and handmade brass guns and gun carriages, they are simply magnificent.  I believe they are scaled at 1/600. We played with sixteen ships, and he had another eight or ten in his carrying case.


David Manley said...

Lovely models :)

The Angry Lurker said...

Sounds and looks great, love the age of sail games.