Saturday 14 May 2011

Hampton Roads Revisited - And Slightly Delayed!

The C.S.S. Virginia about to inflict her mortal blow on the hapless U.S.S. Monitor

At the club last Wednesday night I had the opportunity to try out Dave Manley's Man 'O War (the Games Workshop fantasy naval game - now sadly out of print) ACW variant with some models from the collection of Mr Fox. As a quick game/rules try out we opted, at the eminently sensible suggestion of Mr. Fox, to revisit one of the most famous naval engagements of history - the Battle of Hampton Roads or more specifically, the USS Monitor versus the CSS Virginia. Yours truly was the gentleman of the south whilst Mr. Hunt, claiming the moral high ground of being anti-slavery, represented the Union.

The two ships faced each other head on at a range of about 36" and from the start just steamed straight forward towards each other. Initially the weapons used (all classed as medium smooth bores) lacked the range to hit but after a couple of turns this was rectified and both sides furiously blazed away although to little effect. The Virginia blinked first and swung her helm over to starboard in order to open her broadside firing arc and so the Monitor conformed to this unexpected manoeuvre, firing as she turned. First blood went to the Union as she managed to score a telling blow on the ram of the rebel ship, thereby removing at a stroke one of the enemy vessel's weapons. The Confederate return fire was loud and prodigious but sadly totally ineffective as the Union vessel continued to torment her larger adversary - scoring a further hit which disabled a broadside gun. This was followed by more fire as the big rebel ship attempted to open the range in order to gain a more advantageous firing position.

Both sides attempted to manoeuvre for position and in this fortune at last swung in the favour of the rebels when the Confederate ship (more by judgement than luck) was able to place herself in the position of a bow rake and was able to fire her undamaged broadside along the full length of the Union vessel at point blank range. The rebel fire was deadly accurate at such a short range and all four guns recorded hits. Two hits were scored against the same location on the lower hull and so when the first saving roll was failed it meant that the second round was deemed a critical. With suitably Southern dash and aplomb the dice was rolled and a 6 duly scored. This meant that the hapless Monitor had sustained three automatic underwater hits - as she only had three to begin with the gallant vessel slipped beneath the waves, her shot-riven hull battered way beyond that for which it was intended and with her ensign flying gallantly until the last.

The rules worked really well - Mr.Manley has once again hit the nail on the head with a set that are playable, fast and have that all important period 'feel'. After a blizzard of email exchanges with Mr.Manley for clarification of a couple of points I am going to expand the ship cards to include a wider variety of types as well as 'hexing' the rules for use with my Hexon terrain. The system works so well that I want to tweak it further and produce a version covering the pre dreadnought era - especially useful for the Balkans project.

As ever, my thanks to Mr.Fox for providing the models and Mr. Hunt the Union opposition - it was a game that not only played very well but also in a good spirit which makes the whole experience even more enjoyable. Many thanks to all and also to Mr. Manley for the rules and additional support 'above and beyond' the call of duty.

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