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.

1 comment:

  1. This was a great scenario, Sylvain. It easily could have gone very badly for the British if we had been unlucky with our rolls to navigate the straights on our approach. I shudder to think what would have happened to us if we had ran aground in front of the French guns. I had a lot of fun playing it (admittedly the 'rhum' helped a bit as well).