Monday, May 04, 2009

First [solo] game of the year!

Hurrah! I held up on a promise to myself, and despite the easy temptations of DVD's, a bar next door and large sofas'; I managed to set aside a couple of hours to try the Trafalgar rules out.

The Pirates cards I'd picked up on saturday supplied a total of 6 ships, two [in game terms] mid sized multi-deckers, three standard single deckers and a large schooner type. It was easy to define the multi deckers as ships of the line, and the smaller boats as frigates; the schooner was not a lot of use though. Still I had enough to get something together.

A quick flick through the fleet lists and I decided on a small engagment between a French Ship of the Line - L'Hercule, and a pair of Portugese 6th rate frigates - El Rayo and La Trinidad (captured from the Spanish with a name like that, no doubt!). That worked out neatly at 200 points a side. The rules suggest games of 500-2000 points, and we'll discuss the practicality of that later.

As shown in the first photo, the French ship started some distance from the two Portugese vessels, closing in on it independantly. They were running with what turned out to be a squally wind.

One of the Portugese ships prepared it's guns with double shot and managed to cut across the bows of the French ship, firing as it did so. The damage to the hull of L'Hercule was significant but not yet critical. L'Hercule swung away from the El Rayo and instead exchanged broadsides with La Trinidad. Damage was light, and both sides temporarily disengaged as they found themselves against the wind.

Although it had lost its' Caronades (short range heavy howitzers), L'Hercule was still a potent source of firepower; and using the French skill in aiming at enemy masts, it was able to savage the El Rayo on its' second pass. Destroying two masts. It was then able to turn on La Trinidad, which although managing to retaliate in some kind (causing dangerous losses in the French Crew) was set afire and then left helpless; whilst the crew first tried to quench the fires and thence to save themselves.

At the Victory was to the French. L'Hercule was battered but managed to destroy one Frigate and force the other to strike its' colours. The Portugese had the advantage of numbers and were initially able to run rings around the lumbering giant, but when they found themselves disadvantaged by the wind the vast firepower of the French was able to bear with devastating effect.
So, thoughts on the rules now I've tried them. Well, I'm sure there is nothing too new here, but the sailing rules work well enough; ships cannot move around at will, their actions are dictated by the wind - as they should be, and the command roll works well enough to limit the use of complex maneouvers. The initiative system is sensible, but in smaller games certainly will allow those who move last a very significant advantage for making bow or stern attacks on the enemy - the most devastating kind. The fire rules are exactly the sort you'd expect from a 'Warhammer' game, but the damage system works well.
The main criticism I'd say at this point is the time a game may take. Now this was just three ships, and solo play, so there were no disputes or discussions of rules. Still it took an hour and a half to play to a point where the result was clear. I think a 500 point game would take easily two to three hours, and for anything larger I'm sure you would need either an entire day or several players per side.
Still overall it works well, and I'll be pleased to introduce the rules to other players.
Once again the Pirates ships served their purpose well; but in this case I can also be pleased that my duvet cover happened to be a nice shade of blue! It's a good job that scenery wasn't needed! My socks are fairly unconvincing as the Iberian coast...

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