Sunday, September 14, 2014

1:1200 Napoleonic Naval - The Battle of Trafalgar or: 'Trafalgarage'

Sylvain here, reporting from my garage. A few years ago, I painted enough sail ships to play the battle of Trafalgar, and since I have been looking for a set of rules that could handle this huge engagement in a reasonable amount of time. "Trafalgar", by Mark Latham, is elegant yet it would take days of gaming to bring the battle to its conclusion. Another difficulty is the sheer size of the gaming surface. Even at 1:1200. Nelson's column is four feet long, making it impractical on any gaming table. 

So I came up with the idea of playing the battle in my garage. I decided to regroup ships in squadrons of three and set them on a twelve inch long block. Each block has been identified with a huge sticker to facilitate recognition from a standing point of view. Movement and firing have been simplified. Ships move at twelve inches per turn, which is exactly the length of a block. Here is an example of a ship display.

Flag Officers. Some ships carry a flag officer. Each die shown beside the name represents an opportunity to re-roll any die roll during a turn. This can be applied to any unit within 12" of the flag ship.

Orange boxes. Every time one or more orange boxes are marked off during a turn, the ship must test for morale.

Masts. Each box represent one hit and the white ones must be marked off  before the orange ones. For the leading ship, each box lost reduces the speed by 2", resulting in the whole squadron loosing movement. For the other ships in the squadron, damage on masts only counts towards a morale check.

Hull. Each box represent one hit, to be marked off from left to right. The number inside each box represents the number of attack dice.

Crew. Each crew box represents one die roll to be used for boarding.

We played during our regular Friday night session. Curt and Jeremy took command of the Allies, respectively as French and Spanish, while Sean and Conn shared control of the British fleet.

The Admirals and the Referee

The Hispano-French fleet, minding its own business, heading for Cadix, just beyond the garage door, already dreaming of the pleasures of wine and love... Many times during the evening I've heard suggestions to paint the garage floor the color of the ocean.

The British fleet, ready to enter from the West wall of the garage. Even my garage was to small to fully accommodate the original disposition at Trafalgar. The next logical step will be to play in the backyard.

Two British columns converging on the French and Spanish ships. In this new iteration of the battle, both Nelson and Collingwood sail in the same super column. But wait! What is the rearguard doing?

Admiral Curt, boldly changing history, tacks his squadrons in the opposite direction, trying to lure the British fleet into pursuit while the vanguard, lead by Admiral Jeremy, would go for a quick exit.

So, if I do this it will really cock-up the game right? Excellent...

Sylvain and Admiral Conn trying to puzzle through Curt's crazy gambit.

Okay, time to pay the piper.

The vanguard is almost at the door! Three British squadrons are close behind. Many ships will be able to escape.

The final, savage, melee for the rearguard.

The game was flowing at a nice pace and four players were able to bring this huge battle to a conclusion during the course of four hours. The gaming experience was satisfactory for both sides, although I should have had established clearer victory conditions at the start. The rules, although simplified to the extreme, produced results compatible with the historical outcome. All in all, I would say the experience was a complete success.