It's also become a great vehicle for converting to a sail only game for the War of 1812. Though we chiefly remember this conflict for the great frigate actions between the Constitution and the Java or the United States against the Macedonian, the war had two important campaigns: the war against British merchant shipping and the campaigns on the Great Lakes. It's the latter, in my view, that has the most potential for great games. Unfortunately, most Age of Sail rules focus on large numbers of large ships, such as 74-gunners and up, and leave out the small schooners, brigs, and sloops altogether that constitute the vast majority of the lakes games.
|The American schooners race across the table, as the British sail in two lines to cur them off from their objective.|
The game was fairly simple. The Americans had six small schooners laden with supplies headed for Sackett's Harbor to aid in the construction of the frigate General Pike. A British force went out to intercept the Americans, including two schooners and the 20-gun corvette, Royal George plus the 18- gun brig Earl of Moira. The British had the weather gauge and a short table to cross to intercept the American convoy. It was wolves among the sheep. However, creeping onto the table were the American 24-gun Madison, and the 18-gun brig Oneida. The American schooners were chiefly armed with long guns, including larger 24 and 32pdrs, while the British were almost entire armed with shorter range, but deadly carronades. The two larger American vessels were also armed almost solely with the stubby and nasty carronades.
As the game began, the British players made one fateful decision-double shot their carronades which required them to be fired at short range or six inches. They proceeded with their plan to cut off the schooners. As they did, the smaller American vessels opened fire as their long guns came into range. While the schooners, mounting between 2 and 10 guns, didn't have the heavy broadsides the larger square rigged vessels mounted, they usually had a couple of heavy guns on pivots with a larger field of fire. There were plenty of opportunities to shoot, and with shooting comes hits, and with hits damage. One of the British schooners took a broadside from Madison, hulling it badly. The smaller schooners focused on Royal George and its schooner escort, plinking away at both ships, while the British could only plink back in return because they were out of range for their double-shotted, death dealing carronades.
Though the American schooners raced along along the shoreline to reach their objective, the British eventually succeeded in cutting the American line in two. Three of the schooners, including some of the smallest tried to fight their way through the British while the others dodged the Brits to the north, shooting as they went. At this point the Brits were finally able to unleash their broadside, badly damaging the 3-gun Ontario and also hitting the 3-gun Conquest. In the exchange, however, the British schooner Sidney Smith was badly holed, and forced from the action.
It was a fun game. I ran the Ontario and somewhat larger Scourge. Despite their lack of size and relative frailty, I never felt like I was out of the action. The larger ships always had to cope with the lack of long range weapons, so the small schooners always had the opportunity to be an important part of the fight. I really liked the flow of the rules with its two movement and fire phases, and the opportunity to fire specialized ammunition such as chain, grape or double shot provided some important choices. Dave, did a good job of adapting the rules over to sail, and I hope he shares it with the Sail and Steam Navies Yahoogroup.