Saturday, April 30, 2011

Grand Port, 1810

Last Thursday, Curt and Stacy showed up at my place for a re-enactment of the action at Grand-Port, under the tropical sun of the Indian Ocean. As mentioned previously, this was the only clear French naval victory of the Napoleonic Wars. I used a modified version of the Trafalgar ruleset that I refer to as "Trafalgar Redux". Basically, I've replaced saving throws with more hits and increased the chances of strinking colours. The game runs more smoothly and ships rarely fight to the bitter end.

I wrote comments on the set-up map in French, to reflect the fact that most of the documents depicting or narrating the battle are in French. Grand Port presents unique challenges in naval warfare. The battle took place in a treacherous bay, an ideal terrain for defense. Boats also played different important roles, like towing ships or transporting personnel.

Captain Curtis Pym was in charge of Sirius and Magicienne, in the upper left, while Captain Stacy Willoughby waited in the upper right corner aboard Nereide and Iphigenia. I, as the referee, was in charge of the French forces who were to act under pre-programmed priorities. The British captains, instead of heading directly to the French line, decided to capture the shore battery first.

Requesting all the boats, Captain Curtis Pym landed troops near the fort. His ship sustained lots of damage, but the operation was a success. Not only would the British avoid the fire from the battery, but they would also use the captured guns against the French and prevent supplies from reaching the French ships in the late phase of the scenario.

To simulate rivalry and delays in communication, the British captains were required to write letters to each other.

Captain Curtis Pym to Captain Stacy Willoughby
Willoughby, I have taken the position (though no thanks to your crew, who were mostly drunk). I have commanded the shore pilot to assist your advance on the French position, knowing you need as much help as possible. As I have done my part I beseech you not to make a cocked hat of the fulfillment of your duty. God save the King.

After having captured the battery, both squadrons proceeded to the French line. Captain Stacy Willoughby (upper right) had the pilot, allowing him to reroll rolls for ending up grounded. Captain Curtis Pym (upper left) decided to move forward without the pilot, risking to become grounded on a "1" (D6) for every 4cm of movement. Having to move forward about 40cm, the odds were not good for Pym!

Captain Stacy Willoughby to Captain Curtis Pym
Most Gracious Pym, Aghast at the completenes of your victory! No doubt you have found the addition of my crew to your ranks beneficial. Please remember they are gentlemen. If you are less bull headed than usual, you will await our ships as guidance through those treacherous waters. Ah. I see as I’m sadly mistaken. We will endeavour to strike out to port and then pass the Froggies on the port side. Once done with the enemy, we will see what we can do about dislodging your ships. Britannia will rule the waves.

Against all odds, Captain Curtis Pym made it through the bay and was able to reach the French line, combining the firepower of the four British Frigates. In the above picture, the Ceylon is already grounded and has struck colours after a duel with the shore battery. The corvette Victor, at the right of the line, is drifting, after her anchor line was ruptured.

Captain Curtis Pym to Captain Stacy Willoughby
Willoughby, Can you send the pilot to the Magicienne?

Captain Stacy Willoughby to Captain Curtis Pym
My Dear Pym, Mr. Howarth is somewhat busy at the moment. But I will do against my better judgement and accomodate.

Captain Curtis Pym, trying to emulate Captain Foly at the Battle of the Nile, was going to enter the gap behind the Bellone, the flagship of capitaine Dupperé, with the intend of using raking fire.

Captain Curtis Pym to Captain Stacy Willoughby
Willoughby, I am crossing to your port with BOTH of my ships. Draw of the Sirius and replace with Iphigenia.

This is the moment when the Bellone struck colours. It was a stunning victory for the British side. All in all, it was a very pleasant scenario that could have taken a completely different paths with different decisions.

The score for the captains is as follow:
Captain Stacy Willoughby: 160 points
- 50 points for the letters
- 10 points for crippling the Victor
- 100 points for being the first to score a first hit on an enemy ship
Captain Curtis Pym: 225 points
- 50 points for the letters
- 75 points for capturing the Bellone
- 100 points for capturing the commander
- 100 points for being the first to have an enemy ship strike colours.
I did not give points for capturing the battery because it was not on my list and because, indirectly, it allowed a greater victory to the British. In fact, the captured battery was also the first one to score a hit on an enemy ship as well as the first one to have en enemy ship strike colours. But I've decided to reward the ships captains instead.

This scenario was played for the first time and the British won a stunning victory. Why?
- Instead of showing rivalry, as was the case between Pym and Willoughby, both British commanders collaborated very closely, graciously exchanging resources like boats, crew and the pilot.
- Thinking out of the box helped and capturing the shore battery deprived the French of important strategic advantages.
- Captain Curtis Pym was EXTREMELY lucky and was able to navigate through the bay without becoming grounded.
- The French ships were bounded by pre-programmed priorities. I thought the special rules I developped for the battle of the Nile would apply here as well. But it appears that the French could have had more freedom for manoeuvers, like sending crews to support the shore battery.

I think I would change a few things if we play this scenario again:
- Forget about the "British rivalry" rule that did not really work. Players "naturally" enjoy to collaborate.
- Have the French side taken by a player instead of of using programmed priorities. The boats offer lots of interesting options and it will make things a lot harder for the British.
- Drink the rhum straight instead of using mixes.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

April 28th Pregame Notice: Battle of Grand Port using 'Trafalgar'

From Sylvain:

Battle of Grand Port

The Scenario
On 22-24 August 1810, a British squadron of 4 frigates entered the bay of Grand Port to eliminate a French fleet of 2 frigates, 1 corvette and a captured East Indiaman.
For some background:

There is an even better document: (but it's in French)

Historically, this is the only clear naval victory the French could claim during the Napoleonic Wars. It is the only naval victory to be engraved on the Arc the Triomphe.

The Game
Each player will be commanding a British frigate and will be competing against his fellow seamates for greatest honors. The French will act according to programmed priorities and automated rules. Let's see if the British players can change history.


Until all the ships on one side are destroyed or have surrendered.

In this season, the only change in weather is for the wind to change direction or to becalmed.

Reefs are impassable to ships, but not to boats. The rest of the seaboard is considered shallow water. Only frigates or smaller ships can navigate through shallow water at the speed of 4cm (1cm for inertia + 3cm for moving).
- The French removed all the navigation buoys after entering the port. Whenever a British ship moves in shallow water, it becomes grounded on a roll of 1 (on a D6), even if the ship moved only 1cm. Frigates may go faster than 4cm per turn, but by doing so will increase the chances of being grounded by +1 per extra cm.
- Frigates can do one shallow turn each turn.

Low Ammunition
Being so far from a base, ships have a limited supply of ammo.
After firing 3 times, a ship will be low on ammunition and its firepower will be halved (round fractions up). However, French ships can be replenished by boats.

Anchor Manoeuvers
Ships at anchor can manoeuver by pivoting from either the bow or the stern and away from the wind.

Stream Anchor
“An anchor used in narrow channels to prevent the stern of the vessel moving with the tide.” This anchor can also be used to pull the ship against the wind at a rate of 2cm per turn, but with the risk of becoming grounded.

Boats move at 5cm. They can be fired at at any range with a -1 modifier. Boats played an important part in the battle and can be used for the following tasks:
- Towing ships from the bow in any direction at a speed of 2cm per turn. In this case, there is no risk for the ship to run aground.
- Kedging grounded ships on a roll of 6+. One attempt per turn. The boats counter must be located at the stern of the grounded ship.
- Supplying ships with ammunition from the shore (French only). Two boats are necessary for this operation and must be located at 1/3 and 2/3 of the distance between the ship and the shore. A supplied ship will not suffer a reduction in firepower. (This is to represent the “bridge” established between the shore and the Bellone).
- Transport special crew, like the captains and the pilot.
- Transport crew for boarding actions.


French Squadron
- Frigate Bellone, 40 guns, Capitaine Guy-Victor Duperré, flagship
- Frigate Minerve, 48 guns, Capitaine Pierre Bouvet
- Corvette Victor, 18 guns, Lieutenant Nicolas Morice
- Captured East Indiaman Ceylon, 26 guns, Lieutenant Moulac
- 6 boats counters (1 per ship, 2 on the shore)

French played by umpire
French ships have programmed priorities.
- All ships from the French squadron will fire together at the same target.
- The common target is the British frigate closest to the flagship Bellone.
- Ships of the French squadron can turn on their anchor to present their broadside to the closest British frigate.
- If the closest British frigate is moving, shots will be aimed at the rigging until completely dismasted.
- If the closest British frigate is grounded, anchored or dismasted, shots will be aimed at the hull until crippled.

French Shore Battery
The shore battery set up by the French will follow the programmed priorities except if there is a target that is closer to the battery than it is to the French squadron. The shore battery is allowed to move 1cm per turn, but in doing so forfeits its opportunity to fire.

Critical Hits Against French Ships
The very first critical hit against each French ships will be as follow:
- 2 hits + anchor cables ruptured
The affected ship will then start drifting windward 3cm per turn until grounded.


British Squadron
- Frigate HMS Sirius, 36 guns, Captain Samuel Pym
- Frigate HMS Iphigenia, 36 guns, Captain Henry Lambert
- Frigate HMS Nereide, 32 guns, Captain Nesbit Willoughby
- Frigate HMS Magicienne, 32 guns, Captain Lucius Curtis
- 4 boats counters (1 per ship)

British Rivalry
The commanding officers (especially Pym and Willoughby) were definitely not best friends and this rivalry played a part in the British defeat. However, in the ensuing martial inquiry, all captains had their name cleared for having done their best. To simulate this, British players are allowed a pre-game discussion about a common strategy, but after the game has started, the captains will be allowed to communicate about strategy only by “letters”. Letters (short ones) can only be from one captain to another and are written during a given “weather phase” and delivered during the next “weather phase”. Letters can include sound strategic advices as well as witty insults. After the scenario is over, the referee will compile the letters and reward the best author on a given turn with an extra 25 points. Letters may be posted in the after battle report.

British Stubbornness
British frigates will start testing to strike colours when there is 25% of the hull left, instead of 50%. With a second successful command check, the crew may decide to set fire to their their ship instead of surrendering.

British Pilot
The British had only one pilot who could navigate the shallow waters. The Frigate captains with the highest roll on a D6 will get the pilot. (Historically, he was posted on the Nereide). The pilot allows the die to be rerolled when grounded. Frigates that follow the path of the ship with the pilot don’t need to make “grounded” check rolls.

British Victory Points
Each frigate captain compile his own points using the following Victory Points Chart when the game is over:

                   Crippled        Destroyed     Captured
Frigate             25               50                   75
Commander      ---            +50                 +100

Bonus points:
Every turn, to the best letter                                                         +25
To be the first to score a hit on an enemy ship                             +100
To be the first to have an enemy ship strike her colour                  +100

The frigate captain with the highest score gets the greatest honours!

AND More Importantly: The Rhum
I've decided that naval games from now on should have a specific taste, so I bought a bottle of Rhum. I will have some Orangina, fruit juice and pop to drink with, but if you have a favorite ingredient to mix with the rhum, please feel free to bring it.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

April 14th Postgame: 'Conflict of Heroes' or 'Chomping of Gyros'

I dragged out a boardgame for tonight's session to give the toy soldiers a bit of R n' R. We played two games of Academy Games' 'Conflict of Heroes' (COH) which is basically an very inspired re-imagining of Avalon Hill's classic 'Squad Leader'. All four of us are Old Salts of boardgaming from the early 80s and we clearly remember the heady days of 'Advanced Squad Leader' (ASL) with its binders of rules and wavering towers of chits. COH distills much of what is great about ASL to provide a nice, espresso shot of WWII ultra-violence without the required lifestyle commitment.

Dan and Sylvain cut their teeth with a small scenario before the Main Event.
The first game was just a small infantry-only primer to get Sylvain up to speed and to reaquaint the rest of us to the rules' mechanisms (though a big thanks to Stacy for shouldering the burden of the rules lawyering). The games typically last only around 45-90 minutes so its quite feasible to get in two or three games in a night. 

Dan nervously nibbling his fingers to the quick contemplating the onslaught of Soviet zombies...
The second game was a 4-player scenario with a silly twist. It had the Germans set up in a village in what was thought to be a quiet sector of the eastern front. Nonetheless, out of the mists emerge hordes of Soviet Zombies wanting to feast on the flesh of the Hitlerites. Really, who can not have fun playing a scenario with zombies? The Germans had to exit 7 squads off the map using the halftracks whereas the zombies had to devour at least 7 German squads. It was great fun with the Germans managing to evacuate 4 squads out of the village before being overrun by the undead. Lots of laughs and a great scenario!

The mapboard very near the end. The brown chits are the zombies. Not much German gray out there as they had become lunch.
Next week we're back to our 'Wings of War' WWI campaign with the Germans choosing the flight mission...

Friday, April 8, 2011

April 7th Postgame: Warhammer Fantasy Orcs vs Wood Elves

'Waddya mean the 'Winds of Magic' were too strong? I thought that was just the composting toilet backing up.'
 Here is a post-game rundown and some pictures of the game Sylvain had with Dana last night.

"Dana's Orcs and Goblins met my Wood Elves in a 3000pts encounter. The pictures shows both armies advancing resolutely to settle an old score about logging rights in the forest of Athel Loren. It should be noted that even with over 100 archers, there were not enough arrows in all the Wood Elves' quivers to kill all the greenskins."

Sylvain's Wood Elf Spellweaver about to go 'Fukushima' next to her Eagles. Let's just say Greenpeace would not be impressed.
"On Turn 1, eager to show some real power after the annoying Goblin shamans dispelled her first attempt at magic, the Spellweaver decided to push herself and used more "magic wind" then needed. Indeed, all the Wood Elves and Greenskins were deeply impressed by her unprecedented display of raw power, complete with flash and thunder, even wounding two Great Eagles in the process. After the last sparkle of magic faded away, the Spellweaver was nowhere to be found."

"By Turn 4 the Orcs managed to reach the archers and started to play Whack-A-Mole. The little crosses help to figure out how many models were put back in the glass cabinet. In must also be mentioned that on turn 3 a unit of only seven Goblins got a special praise from the Big Boss for contributing, just by being there, to the destruction of six sturdy Treekins. With a total of seven Wood Elves' models left on the battlefield, it was agreed to end the battle."

Take heart Sylvain at least you retain the moral highground of having all your models painted. That's gotta count for something!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

April 7th Postgame: Wings of War Campaign

Well, we played our Wings of War campaign last night to determine who would be going forward as the attacker for Mission 2 (1916). Dan sent up his fresh British pilots and Stacy met him with his German lads. One balloon, Allied, was on the table near the British lines. I spent the night doling out damage cards to both players, drinking beer, giving useless advise and well, drank more beer.

In about a turn or two the balloon will go thermal. With the Roland above it.
 Stacy's single seater (Albatros DIII) managed to claim both Allied aircraft as victories but was shot down in the last moments of the game by the rear gunner of his last victim (an RE 8). His Roland two-seater tore into the British balloon causing it to explode (right underneath him)! His damaged plane managed to sputter home with engine damage.

The combatants, sans balloon, jockeying for the next run at each other.
 Dan's two-seater (RE 8) took an amazing amount of punishment before being shot down, but the observer did his country proud by shooting down the perfidious Albatros. His Sopwith went down in flames as it was too close to the exploding balloon... Luckily all the downed pilots/observers managed to survive and escape to their respective lines. Back in time for tea and medals, eh?!

This sortie, the third of the set, gave the overall Mission Victory to the Central Powers who will choose the next scenario and will be the attackers in the next game.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wings of War Campaign Stat Sheets

Hi Guys,

Here are .png file copies of the Excel sheets that I'm using to track our missions for our Wings of War campaign. Its not pretty but it will give you and idea of where we are until I get it better sorted (I hate png files...). Let me know if you are having issues.

I will also be posting specific sheets to track each of our pilots/observers. That should be up later today.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Thursday April 7th: Warhammer Fantasy and Wings of War

 Hi Guys!

This week we are double booked with games. I know, when it rains... First up is a Warhammer Fantasy game at Sylvain's, with his Wood Elves going against Dana's, what, High Elves? Well, I hope its Elves that Sylvain is up against as it would be nice for him to get a dose of his own 'arrow-storm' medicine. ;)

The other game is going to be a continuation of our 'Wings of War' campaign. This will be the third sortie for the 1916 'Battle Over the Trenches' mission. Dan and Stacy will be over at Curt's for this scrum. This sortie will break the tie on this Mission and we will proceed to the next in the 1916 year.

If our game is done early then I hope to head over to Sylvain to see his crushing defeat...

Also, guys, please note the event calendar above and the sidebar event notice/confirmation gadget. Please sign-up with a google account (if you haven't already) so you can use these.