Thursday 21 January 2021

The Egyptian Gambit, Somewhere off Immobile Bay....Late 1864....Game Number 61

The protagonists. From left to right the U.S.S. Senator, the C.S.S. Cheops and the C.S.S. O’Hara

 The newly built Confederate ironclad turreted ram the C.S.S. Cheops arrived with her sister ship - the C.S.S. Sphinx - after a circuitous voyage avoiding Union patrols to take refuge in the large rebel base of Immobile Bay. There they were made ready for action. Their new artillery was installed and naval crews assigned to either ship whilst pans were made for their deployment. After several heated planning sessions (including at least one duel) it was decided that they should independently slip away from Immobile Bay under cover of the night and then proceed to engage such Union warships as they could in an attempt to loosen the blockade. The first to leave would be the C.S.S. Cheops.

In the early hours of a dark September morning the rebel ship slipped her moorings and made her way as quietly as possible out of the inner basin and through the boom defences to the open sea. Every precaution was taken to avoid being seen so her fires were low and she relied instead on the current to take her as far as possible. All was going well until the ship shuddered to a halt and lurched alarmingly on to her port side - she had drifted onto a sand bar and was aground! Worse still was the fact that her artillery would be useless due to the heel of the ship.

It would soon be dawn and despite the best efforts of the crew she remained stuck fast. The captain ordered a boat lowered with instructions to get back to Immobile Bay as fast as possible to order up some tugs to free her. There could be little hope of proceeding on her mission as firstly the level of any damage would need to be ascertained and repaired if needs be.

The small rowing boat pulled away into the darkness, the hopes of the stranded ship carried within.

It was a nervous wait aboard the C.S.S. Cheops as dawn had broken and so all eyes were scanning every point of the compass. Almost simultaneously smoke appeared from both the east and the west - with the latter being most welcome as it meant that a help was arriving from Immobile Bay. From the west though, the low, sinister profile of a Union monitor with two turrets was seen.

The Ships

C.S.S. Cheops (based on the C.S.S. Stonewall)

Medium sized - Ram bow

Speed (SP) 6

Medium Manoeuvrability (TF) 2 turns

Flotation Points (FP) 6

Armour Factor (AF) 3 

Gunnery Factor (GF) Forward 2, Penetration 2, Port or Starboard 2, Penetration 2

C.S.S. O’Hara (based on the C.S.S. Raleigh)

Medium sized - Ram bow

Speed (SP) 3

Medium Manoeuvrability (TF) 2 turns

Flotation Points (FP) 6

Armour Factor (AF) 3 

Gunnery Factor (GF) Forward 2, Penetration 3, Port/Starboard 2, Penetration 3, Aft 2, Penetration 3

U.S.S. Senator (based on the U.S.S. Monadnock)

Large sized 

Speed (SP) 5

Low Manoeuvrability (TF) 2 turns

Flotation Points (FP) 8

Armour Factor (AF) 4

Gunnery Factor (GF) Forward, Port, Starboard 4, Penetration 4, Aft, Port, Starboard 4, Penetration 4

The current is running due west at a speed of 2 knots (1 square)

The opening positions. The U.S.S. Senator, heading north (towards the wall) with the C.S.S. O’Hara heading south west from the diagonally opposite corner. Meanwhile the hapless C.S.S. Cheops, listing alarmingly on the her port side, watches the approaching Union warship with trepidation.

Turn 1. The attempt to unground the C.S.S. Cheops fails - a 5 was rolled when a 6 was needed so she remains stuck fast and unable to to do anything other than observe. No firing as yet so it is straight to the initiative. Union 6 Confederate 1 so the Union players opts to allow the Confederates to move first.

The U.S.S. Senator, seeking to take the maximum advantage of the enemy ship’s discomfiture, puts her helm over and attempts to close the range, all the while being mindful of the likelihood of other sandbars and the approaching cloud of smoke from the north east. Meanwhile, the C.S.S. O’Hara closes on the stricken Confederate ship to lend assistance but, it looks like she may have to fight instead!

Turn 2. Still the C.S.S. Cheops fails to budge from her sandy berth. The Union ship is in range and so opens fire. Range 8, GF 4 needs 5 or 6 to hit but gains +1 per dice due to the target being immobile. Rolls 2 x 5 and 2 x 1 so two potential hits. The penetration factor is 4 and the target armour is 3 so +1 per damage dice. Rolls a 4 and a 1 going to 5 and 2 so one point of damage is recorded on the C.S.S. Cheops. The rebel ship records this against the flotation points. No other firing so on to initiative. Union 2 and Confederate 3. The rebels opt to allow the Union to move first.

The U.S.S. Senator continues her approach and sees a second rebel ironclad approaching. Clearly this will be the priority for her guns as thus far the other Confederate ship showed no signs of moving. The C.S.S. O’Hara was of a similar mind as clearly the Union interloper needed to be dealt with before she could go to the aid of the stricken C.S.S. Cheops.

Turn 3. Still the C.S.S. Cheops remained stuck fast rolling a miserable 2. Both the U.S.S. Senator and the C.S.S. O’Hara opened fire. Taking the Union ship first she has a GF of 4 at a range of 5. She rolls a 3, 4, 5 and 6 meaning 3 potential hits scored. Her penetration factor of 4 against the O’Hara’s armour factor of 3 means a +1 to each damage dice. A 1, 4 and a 6 come up meaning 1 damage point for the 4 (goes up to 5) and the 6 becomes a 7 meaning a Special Effect! The roll is a 2 which means 2 flotation points are lost (hull damage) and so are marked off whilst the other damage point the rebel player opts to take from the port side guns meaning they are now at GF1. Heavy damage but nothing fatal. She returns fire with her 2 d6. She scores a 4 and 6 meaning two potential hits. These are at -1 as her penetration factor is one less than the armour factor of the Union ship - 3 versus 4. She rolls a miserable 1 and a 2. For initiative the Union roll a 5 whilst the Confederates roll a 2. The Rebels move first.

The gallant C.S.S. O’Hara quickly realised that she was outclassed by the powerful Union warship and so she attempted to draw her away from the stranded C.S.S. Cheops. The speedier Union ship was able to cut inside the rebel ship’s turn and so she readied herself to pound her assailant at point blank range.

Turn 4. A glorious 6 came up for the C.S.S. Cheops! She was now free to move. The U.S.S. Senator opened a punishing fire against the C.S.S. O’Hara. Two 6s, a 5 and a 1 so three potential hits, all at +1 per d6. A 3, a 4 and another 6! Two points of damage already and a special effect. The dice came up with another 2 meaning further two flotation points. The rebel ship took one point off his forward and aft guns. She was taking heavy punishment. Her return fire scored a hit but failed to inflict any damage. The Union rolled a 4 for initiative whilst the Confederates scored 6 and opted to move first.

The battered C.S.S. O’Hara moved away from her powerful assailant who must have seen that the C.S.S. Cheops had finally worked herself free of the sandbar. The U.S.S. Senator quickly realised that not only did she now have two rebel ships to deal with but more worryingly they were between her and safety. She made full speed and swung away from the treacherous sandbar to gain some sea room before fighting her way back.

Turn 5. Straight to firing. The U.S.S. Senator continued to engage the C.S.S. O’Hara. A 6 and 4 scored potential hits with the damage rolls of 6 and 5! These became a 7 or special effect and two points of damage. The Special Effect roll came up with a 1 meaning that the armour value of the ship was reduced by 2 points (leaving 1). The rebel ship took the two points off the forward and aft guns meaning that she now had no functioning artillery in wither arc. Her reply was a hit but no damage was scored. The C.S.S. Cheops opened fire scoring one hit from two dice. The damage roll was a 6 but this was reduced by by 1 as her penetration was 3 opposed to the armour of 4. Still, a damaging hit had been scored that was taken off the Flotation points. For initiative the Union rolled a 4 whilst the Confederates rolled a 2. The Union player invited the rebels to move first.

The action fell away as the ships manoeuvred to gain a tactical advantage. The C.S.S. O’Hara was content to be a spectator at this stage as she had suffered grievously at the hands of the Union ship. The C.S.S. Cheops was eager to grapple with the Union ship but was mindful of her artillery and the need to be able to exploit her only advantage - that of speed.

Turn 6. No firing so straight to the initiative phase.Again the Union scored a 4 and the Confederates a 2 so the rebels moved first once again.

Turning as tightly as they were able both the C.S.S. Cheops and the U.S.S. Senator were straining every sinew to get back into the fray whilst the C.S.S. O’Hara limped along, still content at being out of harm’s way.

Turn 7. Again no shooting so straight to initiative. Union 6 and Confederate 1 so once again the rebels ships moved.

The Confederates opted to take the shortest route to the Union ship which meant navigating between the shore and the sandbar that had so nearly caused the loss of the C.S.S. Cheops. Her captain looked ruefully at the sandy shore and thought that there would always be something there to remind him of how close to disaster he came. The C.S.S. O’ Hara followed her at a respectful distance and looking to ensure that her starboard battery, thus far intact, would be the one to face the foe. Meanwhile the U.S.S. Senator, seeing where the rebel ship was heading resolved to give her a warm welcome.

Turn 8. Both the U.S.S. Senator and the C.S.S. Cheops opened fire over the sandbar at maximum range and solely with their forward guns. Needless to say both were unsuccessful. For initiative the Union rolled 5 and the Confederates 1. The Union player opted to move first, continuing the turn but ensuring that the channel was blocked as well. What happened next was entirely predictable.

Crunch! The C.S.S. Cheops did what her designers had intended and rammed the Union warship at the level of the forward turret. Such was the power of the impact that she nearly rode over the low warship but by the deftly applying some reverse thrust at the point of impact her captain was able to take some way off her. The Union ship was mortally wounded. As water poured in below decks, her captain reluctantly gave the order to abandon ship. She was sinking. For her part the C.S.S. Cheops received very minor damage in return. 

The Captain of the U.S.S. Cheops gave the order to pick up survivors as the Union warship slipped slowly beneath the waves. Her resting pace was in shallow water so there was a good chance she could be salvaged and possibly used again against her former owners.

The Union blockade could be broken as long as the Confederates had the tools to do so. The investment in European built warships seemed to be paying off.

After Action Thoughts

 I ran this game as a spur of a moment kind of thing as I wanted to run through the rules again, as well as trying out the new board for size. It all worked well although inevitably here are a few areas that need some minor fine tuning. Some changes from the first version were incorporated and these proved to to be well worth adding. The board is fine for now but I want to get a full 6ft by 4ft cloth which will cover my usual 5ft by 3ft table and the full sized version when I need it. I am sold on using squares for naval games so it will make a good investment when finances permit.

Of the action itself the Union can consider themselves to be a little hard done by. The C.S.S. O’Hara was cruelly battered and doing a passable representation of a colander whilst the C.S.S. Cheops was incredibly fortunate not to have suffered more damage than she did whilst being a sitting target. The U.S.S. Senator had certainly not done a lot wrong right up until the time that around 1,500 tons of French built ironclad decided to park itself on the foredeck! Even then the Confederate dice roll for the ram was impressive - of the 5d6 rolled four were 6s and the other was a 5. The union ship literally had the hull ripped from under her feet.

The rebels would be able to return to Immobile Bay where the C.S.S. O’Hara will be repaired and the C.S.S. Cheops readied for action once again. Meanwhile the Union forces will look to strengthen their blockade and seek out any rebel ships they can with superior force.

I know I said that ordinarily I would writing battle reports in three parts so as to be able to set the scene and pace the action accordingly. I shall still be doing that but his was very much in the nature of a test run so falls outside of the usual format.

That is my story and I am sticking to it!


Robert (Bob) Cordery said...


A really gripping and eventful battle report! It felt very realistic, and the rules seem to have evolved into something worth sharing with a much wider public.

The models are excellent, and your ‘cheap’ terrain certainly didn’t look cheap! I also agree that the squares seem to work better than hexes, and moving on the diagonal didn’t seem to create the problems that I’ve often seen cited as arguments against their use.

I liked the way you showed how the mechanisms worked in tandem with the description of the action.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Bob,

Many thanks and I glad you liked it! I am really taken with using squares and it seems to work so much better. It also means that bolting them into PW would be easy to organise. I have some ideas around terrain bits and pieces but will get the ships built first.

There are a few things to tweak but nothing major. It was a great excuse to get the models out though!

All the best and thanks once again,


EB said...

Hello David,

I must stop lurking and say hi.

Your ships are the mutt's nuts and just the look I'd want if ever I head in that direction. And I've been keeping an eye on your Spencer Smith ACW as well. I've been dabbling with these myself recently, although I confess that the SSM artillery crews were quickly replaced with Tradition 25mils.

All the best


David Crook said...

Hello there EB,

Hello to you old chap! Thank you for your kind comment about the ships - I really enjoy building them! The Spencer Smith collection has moved back to its original owner but for sure I would not be averse to to dabbling in them again at some point.

Tradition 25mm are lovely figures.

All the best,


Peter Douglas said...

A stirring little AAR David. I think you’ve got a hit on your hands.

David Crook said...

Hi Peter,

Thank you old chap! It was fun to fight and the rules are coming together well. There is a way to go but it is looking promising so far.

All the best,


nundanket said...

A model AAR. Great scene setting, explanation of the workings of the rules, and narrative of what was happening. Not my period or medium (more wetness than my games) and it makes me want to change that.

David Crook said...

Hello there nundanket,

Thank you old chap! Running the rule mechanics alongside the narrative has helped me get the systems off pat. Naval games are great fun and are inexpensive to put together - you should give them a try!

All the best,


Scary Biscuits said...

I'm really enjoying your reports! Keep 'em coming and thank you!


David Crook said...

Hello there Mike,

Rest assured I am on the case!

All the best,


Jim Walkley said...

Very interesting David. Very nice that a game can be so enjoyable without lengthy setting up. Looking forward to the next game and how the rules develop. Bet wishes. Jim

David Crook said...

Hello there Jim,

Physically setting up a game is really easy for most naval actions but the trick is to flesh it out with some contextual narrative. I have a few more ideas for games to develop and also to try some tweaks out with the rules so it is very much a work in progress and one that I am enjoying immensely!

Need to build more ships though!

All the best,


Steve J. said...

Well that was a nice AAR and great game for a spur of the moment decision. The board works well with your ships and the squares seem to work OK too. The Union side certainly didn't have Lady Luck with them it seemed, but c'est la guerre!

David Crook said...

Hello there Steve J,

Thank you old chap! I was quite pleased with how the board came out although originally thought the blue was a title on the garish side. It works well with the ships though so as a quick and easily cobbled together option it was time well spent.

Ironically the Union were doing quite well right up until the C.S.S. Cheops was able to get off the sandbar and then it all started to go wrong for them. It took a really good dice roll for the ram to work as well as it did - 4 x 6s and 5 are going to ruin anyone’s day in these rules!

One thing is for sure though and that is that the Union will strike back....

All the best,