Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Daveshoe's Sail and Steam Navy Adventure

We've probably played a half dozen games of Sail and Steam Navies from Bay Area Yards.  I have to say I like it. As with any other miniatures game it requires fairly regular play to master.  Still, it's easier to play and introduce to other casual players than Ironclads.

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.
Dave Schueler, a game designer himself, is always able to see the value in rules to get where he wants to go.  After playing S and SN for ACW, he saw no reason the rules wouldn't work for War of 1812.  Using Mark Waddington's beautiful handmade 1/600 ships, Dave tinkered with other rules, including Prevailing Winds to host the Burlington Races game last summer.  These were clunky and Dave moved on to work S and SN to make them suitable for his project.  I missed out on his playtest and Enfilade scenario, so I was really excited to play in a one off game on Saturday.

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. 
The tiny Ontario fouls the Royal George, bringing both to a stop.  Though Ontario would be sunk, the remaining American vessels would pound the large British ship into submission.  In the foreground, the sinking Sidney Smith sails for the shallows and beaching.
In the ensuing turns things came to a rapid conclusion.  The second British schooner, Beresford, already damaged by Madison, was sunk, leaving only the two large British vessels, both pinned against the shoreline.  Royal George, with significant mast damage, sailed off to the east ahead of the American schooner line.  However, Ontario, with a damaged rudder, fouled Royal George as it attempted to pass astern.  Though Royal George dispatched the smaller ship with its stern chasers, the two vessels remained motionless for a critical turn as the remaining American ships closed in.  Earl of Moira was sunk without a whisper.  The game ended with Royal George nearly dismasted and the Americans circling for the kill.

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.


DeanM said...

That was a nice looking game with beautiful ships. Too bad it conflicted with the game I was obligated to participate in - although that was nice too. Best, Dean

Ted Henkle said...

I LOVE Age-of-Sail games! I can live out my Horatio Hornblower/Jack Aubrey fantasies on the tabletop. We use to play the boardgame Wooden Ships & Iron Men when I was a teen. (I still have the game). The only person in my gaming group who could effectively use double-shot, was my brother.