Thursday 14 January 2021

Feeding the Anaconda, one piece at a time....Late Summer, 1864...Game number 60, Part 3

The combatants. From left to right we have the U.S.S. New Glory, the U.S.S. Coeur D’Alene, the U.S.S. Senator together with the C.S.S. Secessionist and the C.S.S. Southern Belle at the top of the picture.

 After yesterday’s game I have had some time to sit down and think about what took place and how things played out. For me there were many positives about the whole experience - way beyond what took place on the table top - and it served to confirm some general hobby related ideas I have had circling around the brain cell for some time.

The battle report was a little unwieldy in that I intentionally went through the rules process as well as the narrative of the action itself. This is not how I will do this going forward as the end result was neither fish nor fowl! It was the thing to do though as I wanted to get the main part of the rules bedded in. In this I succeeded but as a result the narrative was not as crisp as I would have liked. In my defence I am a little out of practice in respect of creative writing so this will improve over time. In many way it is rather like going back to the gym after a long break - the spirit is willing but the flesh needs to get back into he swing of things! I am committed to the three post method for my battle reports. By doing this I can put things in their proper place and it makes for a clearer understanding of the whys and wherefores of the action being fought.

The Battle

As a scenario the balance was slanted in favour of the Union but they would still need to be careful. The C.S.S. Secessionist (modelled on the C.S.S. Mississippi) was a powerful vessel that could have caused the Union all manner of problems. She could have been taken by a combination of the Union vessels but for the weak link of the U.S.S. Coeur D’Alene. This ship had very poor armour and so slugging it out with a rebel ironclad on a one on one basis was never going to end well. She may have been better advised bringing up the rear of the line and out of harm’s way unless called upon in support whilst the rest of the squadron dealt with the C.S.S. Secessionist.

The Union could have adopted a more cohesive posture and merely circled in the channel whilst engaging the C.S.S. Southern Belle at a respectful range and allowing for the effects of the current. Getting up close to the target and in overwhelming strength was arguably an avoidable and some would say needless gamble on the part of Rear Admiral Dursley and this was borne out by subsequent events as not only was the Confederate floating battery more or less unscathed, one of his vessels was virtually immobilised.

It was fortunate for the Union that the C.S.S. Secessionist was not handled more aggressively - possibly due to her having to manoeuvre against the current - as she could have really caused some problems as not only was she well armed and protected, she also sported a ram bow.

Little need be said about the part played by the C.S.S. Southern Belle. All she needed to do was fire at anything belonging to the Union as fast and as often as she could - and this she did.

The U.S.S. New Glory was fairly safe but suffered from being slow - especially once she had gotten too close to the C.S.S. Southern Belle. Rear Admiral Dursley was quite correct to let her drift away from the Confederate floating battery as he needed room to manoeuvre and were it not for the situation in respect of the U.S.S. Coeur D’Alene would have been well placed to engage either rebel vessel, especially as the U.S.S. Senator was closing in support.

The Table Top

I used my Peter Pig Hammerin’ Iron gaming mat which has hexes that are 4 1/2” across the flat sides whilst the hills I used for the headland are 4” across the flat sides. I need to address this but, and more significantly, I am thinking that I need to use bigger hexes. When I started building my models I got it into my head that the Hammerin’ Iron hexes were 5 1/2” across so my largest model is 5” at hull level (bowsprits make this even larger so there is an element of overhang). The overall length of the largest models I have built this far is 5 1/2” so this could be a problem going forwards. I will need to think about this as I am loath to build too much terrain until I have decided on the hex size I want to use. 

There are elements of polish I want to add - smoke markers, something to indicate a ram attack and a few other things but all these will feature in time.

The two sources of inspiration for my ironclads project - both are quite superb and in each case the authors have been unstinting in their support of my efforts. Thoroughly decent fellows indeed!

The Rules

The rules I am working on are an extended version of the ACW set found in Bob Cordery’s Gridded Naval Wargames. They have been fused with elements used (with the author’s permission) from David Manley’s excellent Dahlgren and Colombiad set (available from the Wargames Vault).

I have taken Bob’s sequence of play and damage results and converted the ship stats from David’s rules as the basis for tailoring specific ships types. A degree of ‘shoehorning’ was required - Dahlgren and Colombiad are table rather than hex based -  but the end result appears to work out rather nicely and it is testament to the soundness of both author’s original designs that such an attempt stands up in the face of battle!

By his own admission Bob’s rules were intended as a simple support for land based games and so as with all his rules, the core systems can be added to as required. For my part I wanted a set of ACW naval rules that would enable me to ‘personalise’ individual ships as required, beyond the generic types that Bob has used. By grafting in the tremendous amount of work that David Manley has put in concerning ship types I was able to achieve just that. 

As a simple example a Dahlgren and Colombiad gunnery factor of 3 now means that the firing player rolls 3d6 to determine any hits. Assuming these are scored (range dependent - from 3, 4, 5 or 6 when adjacent to a 6 at maximum range) the target ship then rolls to see what, if any damage is scored. The magic numbers are 4 or 5 for one point and 6 for two points. Guns have a penetration factor and targets an armour factor and by comparing the two a modifier is produced (or not, if both values are the same) and applied to the damage roll. If the resultant score is 7 or above then a roll is made on the special effect (critical hit if you like) table. One effect of this that I had not thought about beforehand is that where the modifier is equal or favours the target then it is impossible to score a special effect hit. I may need to think about this further as I am great fan of the odd lucky shot and certainly it would be in keeping with the period!

Damage points can be applied as the target player sees fit across the various stats the ship has - flotation points, gunnery or armour factors, speed or rate of turn. Special hits, along with those from mines or ramming are applied solely to floatation points.

Ships are rated for flotation points and scale of protection and the rules will detail how this is arrived at.

By using hexes I have had to simplify a number of David Manley’s mechanisms for things like turning and fire arcs but the end result is not too far away in my opinion. Once the rules are fully drafted it will make more sense!

Overall I was really pleased with this first run out and the action felt properly paced and with sufficient period feel. I am looking forward to further developing the rules, building more models and expanding the coverage to cater for the Russo Turkish War amongst others.


Justin Penwith said...

I do like your ship models and will certainly be following your progress on this project.

David Crook said...

Hi Justin,

Thank you old chap! There are a lot more models to come and I am looking forward to building them.

Then we have the Russo Turkish War to think about!

All the best,