Friday, 2 December 2011

1860 to 1890 Naval Ramming


The Italian Ironclad Ram Affondatore - sunk as a result of damage received at the Battle of Lissa in 1866, she was re-floated and repaired and served the Italian navy for another 40 years!

Unsurprisingly the Ram attack has caused me a number of minor headaches in respect of how to undertake it within a war game. I have the bare bones of how it should work and intend incorporating it in the Close Range Attack phase of the rules rather than more commonly within the movement phase. This will save incremental or sequential movement which can slow things up considerably - especially when there is a lot of such attacks under consideration. As a fudge this will also include spar torpedo attacks as essentially in order to attack they have to 'ram' a vessel.

The basic idea I have is that a player declares his Close Range Attack as normal and so the target is now faced with three options. It can respond with its own Close Range Attack (this is primarily when facing off attacking destroyer/torpedo boats in the 1890 to 1920 set but is the same in principle for the earlier period) and so the combat proceeds as normal. It can ignore the attack - typically to ensure that it can fire in the subsequent gunnery phase. Finally, the new choice is to Evade and this is specifically for use against a ram or early spar torpedo based attack.

I have a process worked out for this that needs a little road testing but the gist of it is that attacking ram needs to roll a d6 and score higher than his target's speed to make an attack. The target must also roll a d6 needing to score higher than the attackers speed to evade. If both are successful then the ram attack damage is calculated at half its normal rate to represent a glancing blow against the target. If the attacker passes and the target fails the evasion roll the the attack is at full effect. If both fail then the attack does not happen at all; similarly if the target passes and the attacker fails then that is also a failed attack.

Using this simple technique means that a fast ram is more likely to catch a slow opponent. The evasion roll represents each side lining up to attack or dodge the blow or to minimise the impact where possible. The resolution of the blow itself will be the same as for a conventional Close Range Attack so the mechanics are nicely aligned.

It looks very much like the rules will be easy enough to put together - ship specifications will be far more problematic although the 1860 to 1905 Conways will be absolutely essential for this part!

12 comments:

Paul of the Man Cave said...

A much considered but barely used capability really. You may recall this article:

http://pauljamesog.blogspot.com/2009/10/ironclad-ramming.html

David Crook said...

Hi Paul,

Many thanks for the reminder! The problem is that it needs to be represented in one form or another - even if it was not that effective. Luckily the swampy bayous had plenty of opportunity for this type of poetic behaviour and so I can justifiably include the same.

It was one of those things that seemed like a great idea at the time.

All the best,

DC

Anonymous said...

There was s good article on Ramming in a Warship annual some years ago. Essentially as long as the target was capable of any form on manoevre, ramming was quite ineffective. However, perhaps you may consider the morale aspect? The "Fear" of being rammed may cause a ship's manoevres to become limited as a result of the fear factor if a ram fitted ship is within a certain distance.
M J Ney

David Crook said...

Hi MJ,

In an abstract way a ship under the threat of being rammed has had its morale impacted upon - simply because in my rules the ship is 'facing off against its would be assailant or attempting to evade thereby reducing its combat effectiveness. I would be interested in seeing the Warship article - do you have the details on when it was published etc?

Many thanks in advance,

DC

Xaltotun of Python said...

Re Lisa, I think that was a poor example for the Naval bods of the time to use - I gather that the only ship actually sunk by a ram in that battle was the Re d'Italia by the Erzherzog Ferdinand Max. At the time, Re d'Italia was dead in the water at the time!

But you definitely need rules for ramming and sinking your own ships! I was going through an 1880 book recently to help answer a query on gunnery ranges, but also noticed the section on ramming. Between 1869 and 1880 it lists 9 peacetime events where a ship rammed another of it's own Nationality, resulting in 5 of the rammed vessels sinking!

Rob

David Crook said...

Hi Xaltotun,

Absolutely spot on about the threat being much larger than the reality! Also the 'friendly fire' factor is something to bear in mind as you rightly say.

I am trying to keep it as simple as possible within the rules because I don't want palyers to become obsessed with the idea - having said that the ACW on the rivers was, on occasion, a regular ram fest!

All the best,

DC

El Grego said...

Your ramming rule sounds good so far - I would not mind testing it sometime in the near future... (wink, wink)

I can imagine that having a spar torpedo at the ready would be a penalty to the attacker's maneuver but a bonus for final damage. I am not certain if you could fit that in while making the process simple.

David Crook said...

Hi EG,

I am still thinking about Spar torpedoes as essentially they were weapons used against static targets. That is a good point about the torpedo boat handling being impacted when having one of these weapons deployed.

When the rules are at a suitable point I will make them available - have no fear! The same applies for the 1890 to 1920 set - I am just adding a few ship specifications to those - and I will upload them to the blog in some fashion when done.

All the best,

DC

Anonymous said...

Found it! Warship 1990 "Ramming" David K Brown and Philip G Pugh analyse the shortcomings of this 19th Century Tactic. A comprehansive analysis of the methodology and technology involved in the use of the Ram. Elements include "The Ram in Battle", The Ram in Accidents", "Protection against Ramming", "The Shape and Structure of the Ram" and "Ships Designed as Rams" concluding with an analysis of the ram as a whole and a list of every ramming incident between 1861 and 1879. Attacks on Submarines are also considered as are the kinematics of ramming.
A. Nelson Seaforth's novel "The Last Great Naval War" (Published 1930) regarding a fictional naval war between Britain and France also describes the use of the ram in battle albeit with perhaps rather less accuracy than one would like. H W Wilson "Battleships in Action" Volume 1 contains a useful chapter on early ironclad losses due to ramming/collision although the more modern work contains better analysis Wilson provides a more detailed description from the point of view of the participants.
Hope this helps!
TTFN
M J Ney

David Crook said...

Hi MJ,

I have a copy of Wilson (in 13 x A5 pamphlets!)so will check that out.

Many thanks for the info - much appreciated!

All the best,

DC

Paul of the Man Cave said...

DC - better make sure you start scouring for two copies of those references - they sounds great!

And I agree, ramming rules are essential - how otherwise can we pit the HMS Thunderchild against Martian walkers?

David Crook said...

Hi Paul,

I am on the collective case!

All the best,

DC