I hosted a small ACW naval game using the Sail and Steam Navies rules I bought last month. While I'd read the rules pretty thoroughly it was the first game I'd actually played. I chose a scenario I'd run before with Ironclads featuring the large Union wooden vessels Niagara and Vanderbilt intercepting the Stonewall with wooden consorts in stormy conditions headed for Havana.
|The Union squadron. From top: scratchbuilt Niagara, Thoroughbred Kearsarge, and scratchbuilt Vanderbilt. All scratchbuilt ships by Larry Enoch.|
I hadn't counted on the small table (6' X 5'), which was kind of cozy for 1/600 scale, but due to the scenario conditions it worked out-visibility and movement were both reduced to 42"
There are some real advantages to S&SN. The rules can be played off the ship cards and a one page quick sheet. At least in theory. The ship cards are color coded and are provided as part of the rules package that come in a 535 page .pdf on a CD-ROM. The ships are rated throughout the war, so many have more than one card. Because the game is basically played on the ship cards, it's important to have the capacity to print them out in color, which can be an expensive proposition. I printed out the cards I needed and then laminated them with my handy home laminator.
|This single exchange of broadsides between Tuscaloosa and Vanderbilt resulted in a magazine explosion and plunge to the bottom for the tiny Confederate ship.|
|Far in the background, the sloop Niagara is pounding the Texas to splinters, while the Kearsarge and Stonewall prepare for a one sided exchange.|
|Stonewall has sailed through her Union adversaries and isn't looking back. On to Havana and victory.|
|USS Kearsarge ignominiously ramming USS Vanderbilt. Kearsarge, with her steering destroyed, had little choice in the matter.|
I found the rules to be more playable than Ironclads without much loss of authenticity. There are a couple of clarifications needed to some language-as with all rules. Everyone liked the simple order writing requirements. Some differences in the game really did unbalance the game. In Ironclads, Niagara's 150 pdr. Parrotts and 11 inch smoothbores would fire every other turn, as would Stonewall's Armstrong rifle. In this game only monitor guns fire every other turn. I truly don't have a problem with this but it made Niagara the grim reaper against wooden ships. However, against armored Stonewall, hits pretty much pinged off with little opportunity to do serious damage.
I'm anxious to try a bit more evenly balanced game in the near future. I think Sail and Steam Navies is a winner.