I was able though, with the time that was available, to complete the draft revisions to the rules and to clear my thoughts of a couple of sticking points that were troubling me in connection with gunnery. This is now clarified to my satisfaction and so I am all set to run the test at the first opportunity. Having opted to use ship specifications straight out of the book' rather than converting historical data into factors for weaponry has been a major time saver - the only conversion now required is that of speed into hexes as all guns are used as they are e.g. an undamaged QE class battleship will fire with 8 x 15" on a broadside rather than an assigned factor. This will sound much more realistic during the heat of battle and so has far more historical resonance! A small point to be sure but it does also mean that knocking up ship damage record cards will be a lot easier (and faster).
Whilst completing the revisions to the draft I pondered further on the question of the play test and when I would be able to fit it in as normally even a small action requires a certain amount of setting up to run - and this usually not something I like to tackle during the week due to time constraints.
The answer came in one of those occasional flashes of inspiration I have. Many years ago, back in the early 1980's, I used to take part in a number of role playing games. As part of this phase I acquired a number of pads of hexed paper - used for mapping locations where the action was being undertaken and such like (I even ran a few such games and it was quite good fun at the time). I still have these pads and the hexes are in two sizes. The first used standard board game sized hexes of roughly half an inch across whilst the second used one inch across the hex flat sides. Both pads are A4 in size.
I had planned to use these pads for designing scenarios and for plotting moves (a la Jutland) or even for campaigns but I suddenly thought - why not use them for testing the rules out on rather than setting up the table with Hexon tiles and models?
The larger of two pads has an area of 7 by 11 hexes - a little smaller than my preferred 8 by 12 but absolutely fine otherwise. Obviously I have no ship models of that size but for testing purposes that does not matter as I have plenty of material that could easily be used for ship counters. In this case I have opted for using small wooden blocks with the ship name or some other identifier stuck on the top via a sticky label. Counters from any one of a number of board games could also be used - they do not have to be anything fancy; merely identifiable as whatever ships are being used for the test.
In the interests of saving time I plan to take this set up to work to use it during my lunch hour in a quiet corner of a coffee shop or a pub somewhere in the city. It will not take up a huge amount of space and I can certainly live with the odd looks I may receive when rolling a dice on the table and moving pieces of card/blocks of wood or whatever else I opt to use for the ships!
The irony is of course the fact that this is truly a 'Portable Naval Wargame', albeit merely the test bed for the rules!
PS The swampy bayous were also revisited - more of which in due course....