Saturday, 27 October 2018

Nelson Who? - Trafalgar re-fight using Grand Fleet Actions in the Age of Sail

Battle of Trafalgar by John-Thomas Serres

This is a report of our victorious action against the English pirates under Admiral Lord Nelson and his nefarious bunch of vagabonds. We in the glorious Spanish Fleet under Admiral Don Federico Carlos Gravina, shamelessly made second to a mere Vice Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve by the Beast Emperor Napoleon, managed a magnificent victory over the not so glorious Royal Navy of England.

The rules used in this Trafalgar re-fight

Following the instruction of the Beast to form a fleet to threaten England Admiral Villeneuve fled his
usual hiding place Toulon. With us meeting with him after he left the Mediterranean and
accompanied him on his summer cruise to the Caribbean. Why he went there rather than taking on
Adm.. Lord Nelson we have yet to determine. Probably French cowardice.

We eventually made it back to Cadiz in September 1805.
After much vacillation and 'noncing about', the Beast’s lap dog Villeneuve finally gave orders to leave port. Leaving port, in as much disarray as only the French could arrange, we made to sea
heading for the Mediterranean and hopefully the glory of Spain. We shook ourselves into proper
order thanks to the efforts of the professionalism of the Spanish commanders and headed south.

Early on the 21st October 1805 the English Fleet were spotted to our west and we hoped for a
chance to best the English. Only to have the Beast’s coward order a retreat to Cadiz, yet again
throwing the French into total disarray, with the English twenty miles away. This was compounded by the wind shifting against our fleets and giving the damnable English the weather gauge!

The mad English, ever impetuous for action drove straight at our lines. Slowly as the wind was light.
Our gallant R. Adm. Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros on the Santissima Trinidad, his flagship, was first
into the fight [The Coward Le Pelley still pushing hard for Cadiz]. A few smart broadsides from our
heroic ships in his squadron and the English formed line in accordance with the English Fighting
Instructions. The lead ship HMS Victory having enough of the hot fire and, as the English would say
‘bottled it’. As our squadrons passed each other in opposite directions, more hot fire was poured
into the English ships. The Victory leading it’s squadron and wing of the English fleet passed Adm.
Villeneuve’s squadron where more shot was exchanged, again the gallant Spanish taking the lead in
the action.

During this time V. Adm. Collingwood of the English fleet also tried his luck in a headlong charge,
again to be blunted by V. Adm. Ignacio Maria de Alava y Navarrete in the Santa Anna. Again the
English wing resorting to the English Fighting Instructions and trading broadsides with limited effect.

It was only with V.Adm. Alava putting the Santa Anna [112] in the path of the English Victory
[literally] that the English were brought to action. Adm. Lord Nelson veering off with most of his
squadron with only HMS Conqueror [74] courageous enough to come to close quarter action. With
the 2 ships thudding together the action was led by our heroic sailors in sweeping on the conquerors
decks. With a fierce and hard fought action our heroes being beaten back to our own ship, only for
the ferocious English to take the fight back to the Santa Anna, within the hard fought action V. Adm.
Alava was struck down dying on his deck. The Santa Anna was taken as a prize by the English.

During these actions V. Adm. Collingwood and Adm. Lord Nelson of the English fleets, whilst still
firing broadsides were heading to the south and I’m sure trying to escape the battle. It was only the
English Commodore Conn in the Dreadnought bringing up the rear of Collingwood wing that ordered
his whole squadron to close and attempt to board our ships under R. Adm. Charles-Rene Magon de
Medine. All attempts being hotly contested by both the French and our heroic Spanish sailors.

Unfortunately in the hard fought action Montannes [74] fell as a prize to the Thunderer [74]. All
other actions being fought to a stand still and all other ships breaking off.

At this point the English declared they had had enough, time for their afternoon tea I think, and they
broke off and heading for Gibraltar to lick their wounds and contrive a report of a victory.

The battle was a raging success to our heroic Spanish fleet. It is hoped that a square in Madrid will be
named after this battle with a statue to the true hero of the battle V. Adm. Ignacio Maria de Alava y

Trafalgar is always a difficult battle to recreate as there is so much expectation on the Royal Navy
side due to the legendary colossal victory Adm. Lord Nelson achieved and his death in bringing it
about. Psychologically this is always perceived as an easy win for the RN. However it’s anything but.
In this action, with the Royal Navy team deciding to follow the English Fighting Instructions and not
do as Adm. Lord Nelson did, break the line, board and destroy everything in sight. This resulted in a
very inconclusive win to the English side. With most of the allied fleet making it back to Cadiz. Adm.
Villeneuve will undoubtedly try and claim a victory and still be cashiered by Napoleon.

So, in this alternative universe we have to ask; Nelson who? With there being a Trafalgar Square in
Madrid with Alava’s column in the centre of it.


Saturday, 20 October 2018

Battle of Convent Bay, Haitian Revolution - Sharp Practice II

With 25,000 dead and 30,000 wounded British troops (more to disease and the jungle than battle),
the Crown forces decided to abandon all but Port St Nicholas and Ile de Tortue to the revolutionaries
under Toussaint.

As part of that withdrawal, a force of Royal Marines and black chasseurs, were sent to secure the
Convent of Perpetual Motion and cover the evacuation of the nuns to a waiting Royal Navy sloop.
With this force in position, French trained black infantry could be seen advancing on the convent and
the jungle was alive with freed slaves and Maroon skirmishers. Judging the situation critical, parties
of sailors, more native chasseurs and local militia advanced from the small port to cover the nun's
route to the waiting ship.

As the revolutionary line infantry shook out into line, they delivered an effective long range volley
into the face of the British marines. Not ones to let such a slight go unchallenged, the steady British
line returned the favour. As these two forces settled into exchanging volleys, a mass of freed slaves,
led by a Voodoo shaman, rushed out of the woods. Seeing the threat, the British deployed their
native chasseurs, who settled down to skirmishing with the advancing mass of former slaves.
Maroon skirmishers were now firing on the "Jolly Jack Tars" advancing from the port and taking fire
from more native chasseurs supporting their efforts. After a short exchange, one party of Maroons
remembered an important appointment elsewhere, but three more groups continued firing from the
jungle and swamp.

The tars were starting to suffer, but pressed on. Seeing the flank of the enemy line troops in the
distance, they made a hopeful charge. Their dander must have been up, as they flew forward like
demons, sweeping away a group of revolutionary uniformed troops and forcing the rest of the line
into melee. Loses were heavy on both sides and the Tars were routed, but not before they had
severely mauled the best troops the enemy had.

Meanwhile the freed slaves were starting to fatigue as they approached the marines. Skirmish fire
from the chasseurs had caused considerable "shock" in the irregular tribal mass and their advance
slowed to a crawl. The shaman saw the danger, slit a chicken's throat and smeared himself in its
blood, whilst invoking the help of the spirits. His men were greatly encouraged and with their morale
restored, charged. Well I say charged, more strolled really. A result of 5 on 3D6 is not a great roll and
the British line had time to turn to face, but not reload. With the situation critical, the free men were
encouraged to renew their efforts and got into hand to hand combat with the supporting chasseurs,
sending them running.

Meanwhile another party of sailors was suffering at the hands of the maroons and decided to fall back.

With the situation critical, the British line saw off the charge of the first group of former slaves, but
took loses and fell back.

On both sides force morale was a dangerously low levels. The next activation looked critical and a
group of Maroon skirmishers got the drop on the retreating Tars. One volley later, the sailors were
running for their ship and British morale collapsed.

An interesting game to Sharp Practice 2 rules. To be fair things could have gone either way and at
one point the revolutionary side looked to have lost, when the sailors charged their firing line in the
flank. At the end of the day one point separated the two sides morale rating, but it was one point
that counted.

All in all not a good day to be a nun.

Many thanks to Chas for putting on the game. Thanks also to Bob & Chas for gallantly playing the
British and to Nathan for manfully joining me on the side of the valiant free.


Monday, 15 October 2018

Clotted Lard Support for Combat Stress

Following our very successful inaugural Lardy Day, 'Clotted Lard' held this September, club members have decided to make the event a regular one on the club calendar, replacing our usual club monthly meeting in September, with all after event proceeds being donated to Combat Stress.

In addition to confirming Clotted Lard going forward club members were pleased to see that this first event netted £229.80 for the charity which club members were very happy to see rounded up to £250.

To allow future attendees to plan Clotted Lard into their diaries for next year and to alert new members joining the club, the banner for next year's show is attached on going to the club blog page with next year's date, the 14th of September and the contact details for anyone wanting further information.

Thank you to everyone who helped this year to make 'Clotted Lard 2018' the success it was and Devon Wargames Group looks forward to welcoming everyone next year.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Guilford Courthouse - Rise and Fight Again

One of four games held at this month's meeting of the DWG featured Steve M's AWI collection being played using Stand to Games, 'Rise and Fight Again' (RAFA) in a Guilford Courthouse style scenario that sees General Cornwallis try and batter his way through serried lines of American militia before having to tackle the American Continental battalions awaiting them on a hill at the back of the battle lines.

Last month Steve and I ran a play test of our newly acquired rule sets to acquaint ourselves with the differences this set offers versus the Napoleonic 'Over the Hills' set (OTH) and as you will see from the post covering our test game, both came away enthused with the changes.

JJ Wargames - Rise & Fight Again

So with a first run through under our belts it was time to take the new set of rules to the Devon Wargames Group and 'road test' them properly under club conditions, managing a full afternoon club game with two players aside all very unfamiliar with OTH or RAFA.

View from the American rear with four battalions of Continentals on the hill

The table above and below shows both forces arrayed for battle with Cornwallis' Redcoats arrayed in a single line either side of the road facing off three lines of militia and continentals, that is until the British decided to shift their attack focus to the British left rather unbalancing the American set up, however the Americans seemed content so off we went.

As in our test game we were using the Napoleonic brigade and army moral cards with dice to overall record fatigue loss and micro dice on the table to capture unit fatigue loss.

The British line set up and ready to go

As per most games of Guilford Courthouse I have played both sides contented themselves plying each others forward units with roundshot as the two lines closed and seeing the occasional gun run short of ammunition and much fun had testing penetration as ball shot found its way into rear ranks.

Just give me two good volleys

Feeling the discomfort of the British refusing their right flank the American militia and left flank riflemen attempted to reposition their lines amid the field fence rails to try and flank the British approach only to discover the joys of attempting to manoeuvre militia which only got more complicated as the enemy got closer.

To bolster the militia move a few mounted dragoons joined the turning attempt only to find the British gunners supported by some Guard Grenadiers reposition and greet the American advance with some well laid roundshot

The lines close as the gunners cause early losses

All the messing about on the British right flank was only a warm up for the start of our battle as the British left closed in on the first line of militia and received the first of about three volleys to greet their arrival; with most of the militiamen resting their muskets on the fence rails to try and make as many of their shots count, as possible.

Highland infantry taking American roundshot and an early FS loss signified by the red micro-dice

However with morale ratings of a Fatigue Score (FS) of 4 it didn't take long for one militia unit to go 'wavering' on FS 2 and one to rout on FS 1.

The British line seemed to savour the prospect of an easy win with the 71st Highlanders ignoring the FS 3 lost on their approach as they charged in against the militia to their front on the fence railings.

British redcoats advancing in open order supported by Tarleton's cavalry

To their credit the militia stood the charge and managed to get off one more loose volley before being hit by the vengeful Scots who were forced to fight two rounds of melee having only won the first round by one extra casualty.

The militia lacking bayonets were beaten soundly on the second round of combat and their casualty count took their brigade over the FS total causing all their remaining units to be removed from the table.

In go the Highlanders

The British line surged forward through the trees as the second American line started to step back with snarling highlanders crashing forward to their front and Tarleton's Legionary cavalry feeling out the right flank of the American line.

The charge proved to much for the militia and the ground was taken 

As the middle line started to grapple with the British we stopped our game. We ended up playing later than normal, as the day included our Annual General Meeting but we must have played about ten or twelve moves in the game with all the players clearly getting the play sequence and methods for resolving firing, combat and morale tests with less input from either Steve or myself.

In addition the rules only reinforced our first impression seemingly to really capture the feel of an AWI game which was very encouraging.

It would have been nice to have seen the Guards going up against the four battalions of continentals but that little contest will have to await future games, but the interesting aspect was that both sides army morale states were closely tracking the other with a slight advantage resting with the Americans by about five FS in their favour but with both armies fatigued down from scores of about FS 45 to about FS 25 at the close of play.

This close score suggests a really tight outcome with the result still favouring the American force but still causing them to vacate the field of battle, with history repeated.

For a couple of our players this was the first run through of the Stand to Games, game engine of Fatigue that is common to their three rule sets covering Napoleonics, AWI and ACW and with ACW in mind they were keen to see how FS was used to moderate the game.

By common consent all the players had a good time playing RAFA and as game moderators running the rules for the first time we both found them pretty straight forward giving lots of flavour with little complication all be it we had to keep ourselves occasionally from interpreting a situation with OTH in mind.

Thank you to Steve M for pulling the scenario together and bringing the toys along and to Steve L, Mr Steve, John and Si for providing a very entertaining days gaming.