U.S.S. Tyler, U.S.S. Queen of the West and the U.S.S. Carondelet about to do battle with the C.S.S. Arkansas
Aside from the historical basis for this game its inspiration also came about as the result of a comment on an earlier blog post of mine. The author of the comment was none other than that well known Bon vivant, wit and raconteur as well as being a truly gifted blogger - Archduke Piccolo. It is to him that this action is dedicated and with my grateful thanks for the suggestion!
Ordered into the Mississippi to attack Union shipping north of Vicksburg, the Confederate ironclad C.S.S. Arkansas set off from Haynes Bluff early on the 15th July with the intention of surprising the Union fleet at dawn. Unknown to the Confederates the Union had heard about the rebel ironclad from deserters (despite their own intelligence being that the ship was still incomplete) and so had decided to send a small force into the Yazoo to find and engage her.
The Union force that steamed into the Yazoo consisted of the timberclad U.S.S. Tyler in the van followed by the U.S.S. Queen of the West and with the ironclad gunboat the U.S.S. Carondelet bringing up the rear. At around 6am on the morning of July 16th, the opposing sides came into sight of one another and so battle was joined.
The Opposing Sides
C.S.S. Arkansas - Size: Medium (3), Speed: 2, Defence Factor: 6, Flotation Points: 9 (7/2), Guns: FW: 4, P, S: 5, Ram Bow
U.S.S. Carondelet - Size: Medium (3), Speed: 2, Defence Factor: 5, Flotation Points: 9 (7/2), Guns: F: 5, P, S: 3, A: 5
U.S.S. Queen of the West - Size: Medium (3), Speed: 2, Defence Factor: 4, Flotation Points: 9 (7/2), Ram Bow
U.S.S. Tyler - Size: Medium (3), Speed: 2, Defence Factor: 3, Flotation Points: 9 (7/2), Guns: FW: 2, P, S: 4
The Union wins by sinking or reducing the C.S.S. Arkansas to its critical point. The Confederates win by sinking the U.S.S. Carondelet and exiting the playing area on the opposite side to where they entered. Any other result is a draw although favouring the Union.
The C.S.S. Arkansas steams along the Yazoo and spots the approaching Union squadron. bringing up the rear of the column is one of the thrice cursed Yankee ironclad gunboats!
Turn 1. No firing and the Confederates are deemed to have the initiative for the first turn. The rebel commander opts to allow the Union to move first.
End of Turn 1. The Union column steams parallel to the rebel ironclad with the U.S.S. Queen of the West looking to get an early ram attack in.
Turn 2. The C.S.S. Arkansas immediately opens fire against the leading Union ship, in this case the U.S.S. Tyler. The rebel ship rolls 5d6 scoring a 1, a 2, a 3, a 4 and a 5 meaning two potential points of damage. The U.S.S. Tyler has a defence of 3 (her size alone as she is unarmoured) and rolls a 2, a 3 and 4 meaning that the roll of 4 negates one of the two potential points of damage inflicted. The U.S.S. Tyler fires back with 4d6 scoring a 1, 2 4s and a 5 meaning three potential hits. The C.S.S. Arkansas has a defence factor of 6 and rolls a 1, 2 3s, 2 4s and a 5 meaning that all three hits bounce off her armour. For initiative the Union rolls a 4 and the Confederate a 3. The Union opt to allow the Confederate ship to move first.
End of Turn 2. The U.S.S. Tyler leads the U.S.S. Carondelet on a looping arc to come up on the stern of the rebel ironclad. Meanwhile, the U.S.S. Queen of the West lines up her bows with her intended victim.
Turn 3. Both the leading Union ships are able to open fire against the rebel ironclad. The U.S.S. Tyler rolls first with 4d6 scorning a pair of 1s, a 5 and a glorious 6! Her additional roll is also a 6! The next roll though was a miserable 1. That is 5 potential points of damage. The C.S.S. Arkansas rolls her 6d6 for her defence scoring a 2, a pair of 3s and three 5s meaning that 3 of the 5 points of damage are negated so the rebel ship suffers 2 hits. The U.S.S. Carondelet fires next with 3d6 scoring a 1, a 2 and a 3 for no effect. The C.S.S. Arkansas fires at the Union ironclad gunboat with 5d6 scoring 1, a 5 and 3 6s! She then rolls a 3, a 5 and a further 6 which converts into a 3. That is an incredible potential 10 points of damage! The U.S.S. Carondelet rolls 5d6 for her defence and scores a pair of 1s, a 2, a 4 and a 6. She then rolls a further 6 followed by a 3. She has negated 5 of the 10 hits - heavy damage, but nothing fatal. For initiative the Union roll a 2 and the Confederate a 4. The rebel ship, perhaps mindful of the lurking U.S.S. Queen of the West, opts to move first.
As expected, the U.S.S. Queen of the West accelerates to attack speed and rams the C.S.S. Arkansas head on. She is a size 3 ship fitted with a ram meaning her attack would normally be 4d6. However, her speed of 2 gives her an additional d6 but this is removed by the angle of attack. She rolls a pair of 1s, a 2 and a 5. The C.S.S. Arkansas has a defence of 6 which is halved when being rammed. She rolls a 2, a 5 and a 6 with a 2 for her extra roll. She has negated the single point of damage she received and her excess is 2 points which are recorded as damage on the luckless Union vessel. As only one ship suffered any damage there is no roll to see if they are locked together. Both ships are able to execute a free turn.
End of Turn 3. The two Union gunboats maintain a discrete distance from the rebel ironclad and for the moment are content to let the ram carry the fight. With the damage the U.S.S. Carondelet sustained no doubt being a factor in their cautious approach.
Turn 4. The C.S.S. Arkansas blasts the U.S.S. Queen of the West at point blank range with 4d6 scoring a 1, a pair of 2s and a 4. The single point of damage is easily negated. Meanwhile both the U.S.S. Tyler and the U.S.S. Carondelet open fire - the former with 4d6 and the latter with 3d6. The U.S.S. Tyler scores three 1s and a 4 which is easily negated by the 6d6 defence of the rebel ship (in truth she only scored a single 5 so it was a close call!). The U.S.S. Carondelet does rather better and hire the rebel ship with a 4, a 5 and a 6 with the extra roll coming up as a 5 meaning 5 potential hits. The U.S.S. Carondelet is able to negate 4 of these so a single point is recorded against her. For initiative the Union roll a 1 and the Confederate a 3. The Union are asked to move first.
End of Turn 4. The C.S.S. Arkansas effectively doubles back on her original heading, mainly to gain some distance from the Union ram. Approaching her head on are the two Union gunboats - with the powerful frontal battery of the U.S.S. Carondelet about to come into play!
Turn 5. The U.S.S. Tyler rolls 2d6 and despite rolling a 6 fails to damage the rebel ship. The U.S.S. Carondelet rolls 5d6 scoring a 5 and 6 with nothing for the re roll. The armour of the rebel ship negates all three potential hits. The C.S.S. Arkansas rolls 4d6 from her forward battery at the U.S.S. Tyler. She rolls a 2, a 3 , a 5 and a 6 with the additional roll being a 4. That is 4 potential hits. The tension was palpable as the U.S.S. Tyler rolled her 3 defence dice. They came up with a 1, a 2 and a 3! The four hits were recorded. For initiative the Union rolled 3 whilst the Confederate rolled a 1. The Union moved first.
The U.S.S. Queen of the West saw her opportunity and immediately rammed the rebel ironclad in the stern. The dice total came to 4d6 and she scored a 1 , a 2 , a 3 and a 6 with a 4 scored with the extra roll. Three potential points of damage. The C.S.S. Arkansas was able to negate two of these and a point of damage was recorded.
End of Turn 5. After the Union ram attack both ships were able to turn and coincidentally opted to face the same direction! Although the C.S.S. Arkansas was now in the broadside of the U.S.S. Tyler she had the U.S.S. Queen of the West more or less within pistol range off her starboard beam - effectively masking her from the fire of the U.S.S. Carondelet!
Turn 6. U.S.S. Tyler fired with 4d6 scoring three 6s and 3! This was followed by a 5 and a pair of 1s so a potential 7 points of damage were scored. The C.S.S. Arkansas was able to negate 3 of these meaning a painful four points of damage were scored - the rebel warship was grievously damaged but still in the fight. She turned her attention to the U.S.S. Queen of the West. Her 5d6 came up with a pair of 4s and three 6s! She then rolled a pair of 2 and a further 6 which then became a 1. Ten potential damage points against a defence of 4. The Union ship was made of stern stuff though as she rolled a pair of 3s and a pair of 6s followed by a 4 and 5 meaning that in total she was able to negate 6 points with 4 being recorded. For initiative the Union rolled a 1 whilst the Confederate rolled a 6. The Union were made to move first.
The U.S.S. Queen of the West overshot the C.S.S. Arkansas leaving her room to move into the attack on the conveniently but accidentally placed U.S.S. Carondelet. Her 4d6 ram attack came up with a 1, a 3, a 4 and a 6 with an additional 4 meaning four hits in total. The defence of the U.S.S. Carondelet is 5 halved (and rounded down) to 2d6. The roll was a 1 and 3 meaning 4 points of damage were scored against the Union ironclad. With the 6 points she had already suffered it was sufficient to send her to the bottom of the Yazoo!
End of Turn 6. As the Union formation tried in vain to reorganise itself an opportunity arose for the C.S.S. Arkansas to ram the U.S.S. Carondelet. The rebel ship needed little encouragement to do so and the damage inflicted was more than enough to sink the Union gunboat. It had been a Pyrrhic victory though, as the rebel ship had sustained heavy damage and with a pair of Yankee ships between her and safety - all she could do now was to head on through the Union fleet to seek safety under the guns of Vicksburg.
Thoughts on the action
The C.S.S. Arkansas was in pretty poor shape at the end of the action and in all probability would have been fortunate indeed to have made the safety of Vicksburg. She allowed herself to get embroiled with a Union squadron that was individually weaker but collectively stronger as a formation - at least while they operated as such. The early charge of the U.S.S. Queen of the West ‘stretched’ the Union forces somewhat which initially worked to their advantage - certainly it caused the C.S.S. Arkansas to be drawn into a fight that quickly got out of her control. Unfortunately for the Union the U.S.S. Carondelet was caught out of position by the frenzied manoeuvring that took place which enabled the rebel warship to take instant and devastating advantage.
Tactically the battle was a Confederate victory of sorts, but the C.S.S. Arkansas was in no fit state to exploit the situation.
Thoughts on the rules
Wow! I really enjoyed this little action and have to say that I think I have finally nailed the firing and damage system. The opposed dice rolls really cranked up the tension - even when playing solo - and the results added a nice level of unpredictability to the overall flow of the game. The pacing of the action felt right and although it was only six turns long it had the taste of a much more involved affair.
The ram rules felt a lot better in execution although going forwards I shall base the defence dice solely on half the vessel size (rounded up) rather than size and armour. From what I have seen for the most part ship armour of the period tended to be above the waterline so would not readily protect against a ram attack.
It was a brisk little action that was great fun to fight and felt appropriate to the period. As a result of this recent flurry of ACW activity the remaining tasks left on the to do list are as follows:
- Finish the last of the ships (a dozen in all)
- Type up the rules
- Organise a board with larger squares.