Monday 8 March 2021

Raiders of the Lost Ark(ansas) Revisited....Game Number 64

 The three combatants - U.S.S. Essex at the top of the picture, U.S.S. Carondelet to the right and the C.S.S. Arkansas in the foreground. All of the above are roughly twice the size of the original versions modelled around nine years ago!

Now this is something I did not expect to do - refight one of my early battles with new models and rules after a game of nearly nine years! To christen the newly built C.S.S. Arkansas I decided to refight the battle that took place in June 2012, game number 11 in the man cave - a report of which can be seen here: Raiders of the Lost Ark(ansas)

The models of way back then were built solely with Hexon in mind so were designed to be no larger that around 3 3/4” long - in fact most averaged around 2 1/2” to 3” long. As they were built largely from Balsa I decided to base them on clear acrylic with the wakes, name and ensign emblazoned on it. Clear bases for naval models are a good idea as it means that they never look out of place regardless of the colour of the playing surface! My newer and much larger models are unbased and are far more forgiving of handling than the original and much softer Balsa wood versions.

The models and the Hexon have long gone but it was sharp little action back in the day!

U.S.S. Carondelet leading followed by the U.S.S. Essex

The C.S.S. Arkansas. 

The main difference from the first time around is the fact that I am using a square grid rather than hexagonal and that the newer and larger models occupy two grid areas rather than one. The rules used previously were Bob Cordery’s Memoir Of Battle At Sea or MOBAS as they were known at the time. These rules came about from a chance conversation Bob and I had at the Skirmish show in Sidcup. We were thinking about how the Command and Colours system could be applied to naval games and so he came up with a set of rules. As I recall we both had a lot of fun experimenting with different ideas and variants and the whole concept eventually morphed into some of the rules in Bob’s book - Gridded Naval Wargames.

The rules in use for the refight are those that I am currently working on so the ships involved will be far more closely aligned to their historical counterparts in respect of ‘vital statistics’ - speed, protection and firepower.

I have tried to mirror the original terrain set up as far as I am able although this has been hampered slightly in that I currently only have a limited number of 3” square terrain pieces and most of them are in need of painting. No matter, we shall improvise!

Somewhere, along the Yahoo River....

Thus far the journey of the C.S.S. Arkansas had been largely untroubled by the Union forces - which was just as well as she had problems enough of her own. The engines were proving to be be particularly unreliable and whilst they were of sufficient power for the great ironclad they were constantly threatening to break down. In fact the ship had already hove to on two occasions to fix one part or another before she could resume her journey.  Her captain and crew had taken what precautions they could to ensure her safety as the liberal coating of thick river mud along her casemate bore testimony. She could still fight though and so was ready to take on whatever the Union could muster to try and stop her from reaching safety - and a much needed overhaul. For now though, her engines pumped rhythmically pushing her forwards and closer to her destination.

The Yahoo patrol of the Union river fleet consisted of the gunboats the U.S.S. Carondelet and the U.S.S. Essex and in order to cover as much of the river as possible were steaming abreast of each other and hugging the opposite river banks where they could. It was the U.S.S. Carondelet that spotted the rebel ship first and so her captain signalled the U.S.S. Essex and prepared to engage.

The opening positions. The C.S.S. Arkansas (left) is able to see the U.S.S. Carondelet (top right) but as yet  has not spotted the U.S.S. Essex (bottom right)

Turn 1. No firing. Initiative was 6 for the Union and 2 for the Confederates. The Union requested that the Confederate ship moved first.

Both the C.S.S. Arkansas and the U.S.S. Carondelet turn to face each other but for different reasons - the former to make use of her ram whilst the latter wants to engage with her powerful forward facing artillery. Meanwhile, the lumbering bulk of the U.S.S. Essex manoeuvres to round the small headland.

Wasting no time the C.S.S. Arkansas swung her helm over and increased speed as much as she dare to engage the Yankee gunboat heading straight for her. Time was pressing so the captain of the C.S.S. Arkansas wanted to best her opponent as quickly as possible and so the order was given to make ready to ram. 

Aboard the U.S.S. Carondelet the forward gun crews worked feverishly to be ready to open fire on the fast approaching rebel ironclad. 

Meanwhile, the U.S.S. Essex prepared to enter the fray.

Turn 2. Both the C.S.S. Arkansas and the U.S.S. Carondelet opened fire at maximum range. Despite her better artillery the U.S.S.Carondelet missed whilst the C.S.S. Arkansas scored a single potential hit. A 6 was rolled meaning two points f damage were recorded against the Union ship (both pints taken as flotation hits). For initiative the Union rolled a 5 whilst the Confederates rolled a 6 so the Union had to move first.

Thinking that there was a nice piece of open water to head into the C.S.S. Arkansas pointed her bows at what appeared to be safety - only to see the looming bulk of a second Yankee gunboat heading straight towards her!

A ragged cheer was heard from the forward gun battery of the C.S.S. Arkansas as the obvious tell tale sign of a hit was seen aboard the enemy ship and she swung away from her. The captain, seeing a vast expanse of open water ahead immediately committed the ship towards it. His relief was short lived as another Yankee gunboat hove into view - dead ahead and blocking his escape route!

Turn 3. The C.S.S. Arkansas fired from her forward battery and her from her port side. She scored two potential hits against the U.S.S. Essex causing one point of damage (flotation points). She also scored two potential hits against the U.S.S. Carondelet causing one point of damage and a critical hit!

(The penetration factor of the port side guns of the C.S.S. Arkansas is 3 opposed to the armour factor of 2 for the U.S.S. Carondelet meaning a plus one was applied to each damage roll. The dice rolled a 3 and 6 meaning the adjusted scores were 4 and 7 - the 7 being a critical hit)

The critical hit roll was a 5 meaning a flood. The union ship reduced the maximum speed by 1 and would need to roll at the start of the next turn to see how the flood progresses.

The U.S.S. Carondelet fired back scoring a hit and inflicting a point of damage. The U.S.S. Essex scored two potential hits and for damage (which was at plus 1 due to her penetration factor being 4 versus the target armour being 3) scored 1 point and a critical (rolled 3 and 6 adjusted to 4 and 7). the critical was a 2 meaning hull damage.

For initiative the Union rolled 3 and the Confederate rolled a 2. The Union opted to move first - knowing full well what was about to happen!

As the U.S.S. Carondelet turns to rejoin the fray the U.S.S. Essex, in order to protect her powerful bow artillery, swings her helm over just as the C.S.S. Arkansas powers into her hull, scoring 4 points of flotation damage from her four d6. She did not get off lightly though as the damage she received in turn was equal as the U.S.S. Essex rolled two 6s! Fortunately the two ships managed to separate but the C.S.S. Arkansas was now in serious trouble having taken 8 out her 9 flotation points as damage!

After a punishing exchange of fire the battered C.S.S. Arkansas bore down on the U.S.S. Essex and scored a telling blow as she crashed into her forward port side. The rending screech of metal on metal and the ear splitting crack of splintered timber was soon replaced by another and far more unwelcome sound - that of water gushing in through the great gash in the hull of the rebel ship. As she withdrew from her victim whole sections of framework were pulled away. Left hanging over the side of the Yankee ship. The C.S.S. Arkansas was in deep trouble and needed to get away and quickly.

Meanwhile, aboard the U.S.S. Carondelet the crew feverishly attempted to bring the rising water in the lower hull under control.

Turn 4. The flooding aboard the U.S.S. Carondelet was being contained for the time being so she was still in the fight. The C.S.S. Arkansas resumed firing at the U.S.S. Essex scoring two hits and a single point of damage. By way of a return the U.S.S. Essex, using her weaker port side artillery (her forward guns were ‘out of arc’) scored two potential hits but no damage was inflicted. Meanwhile the U.S.S. Carondelet fired with her port artillery but to no effect. For initiative the Union rolled a 3 whilst the Confederates rolled a 2. The Union opted to move first.

As the leaking U.S.S. Carondelet continues to limp towards the fighting the C.S.S. Arkansas attempts to force a conclusion with the U.S.S. Essex. This would prove to be a pivotal moment in the action as the ram attack failed completely meaning that it was counted as a ‘glancing blow’

The C.S.S. Arkansas was nothing if not brave as it once again bore down on the U.S.S. Essex with the intention of ramming her, oblivious to the extent of her own wounds. By sheer luck - some adroit handling by the captain of the U.S.S. Essex - the blow was a glancing one so aside from once again hearing the banshee like sound of metal screeching against metal no damage was inflicted. All the C.S.S. Arkansas had done was to psh her opponent away from her.

Meanwhile the U.S.S. Carondelet continued her attempt to get back into the fray despite it moving further away from her.

Turn 5. The U.S.S. Carondelet rolled a 6 for her flood meaning that is was now uncontrollable and she would sink in d6 game turns - she rolled a 5 - losing speed at 1 per turn until she was stopped or sank. She could also no longer fire. The C.S.S. Arkansas continued to fire at the U.S.S. Essex scoring two hits and causing a single point of damage, taken from her speed. By way of a return the U.S.S. Essex scored a singe point of damage that the C.S.S. Arkansas took from her forward artillery. For initiative the Union rolled a 3 whilst the Confederates rolled a 6. The Confederates opted to allow the Union ships to move first.

The U.S.S. Carondelet desperately attempting to reach the shallows before sinking

The C.S.S.Arkansas slips by the U.S.S. Essex to safety - for the time being

Endgame - the overview

With the failure of the latest attempt by the C.S.S. Arkansas to ram the U.S.S. Essex- despite the fact that the big Yankee gunboat was getting perilously close to the shore - her captain decided that enough was enough and so turned his ship away from the U.S.S. Essex and headed towards open water and hopefully safety. The engines had held up magnificently under the demands of battle but he knew that he could only punch his luck so far and the shattered forward part of his ship’s hull was a reminder of just fickle a mistress dame fortune could be.

The U.S.S. Essex had seen the obviously distressed U.S.S. Carondelet making for the far shore so her captain resolved to offer what assistance he could as soon as his ship could reach them. The rebel ironclad would have to wait until another time for a reckoning. There would be time enough, time enough to repair is own ship and to seek to their elusive enemy.

With a dull booming noise the previously shored up section of the forward hull of the U.S.S. Carondelet gave way and water rushed in to the lower part of the ship. She was sinking, not quickly for sure but sinking all the same. Her captain resolved to get his ship into as shallow water as possible - he doubted she would be able to reach the shore before slipping beneath the murky waters of the Yahoo - so that, with luck, she could be relocated, repaired and brought back into action. He could see the U.S.S. Essex in the distance on her way to assist so was confident that all would be put to rights in due course.

One thing he knew for certain though, the rebel ironclad had taken one hell of a beating.


I have to say that I rather enjoyed that! The differences between the ships used were shown up to good effect in that the C.S.S. Arkansas - and by extension the rest of the ram equipped Confederate ironclads - was designed to fight ships first whilst for the Union gunboats it was not their primary function. Forward facing Union artillery appears to be pretty effective (wait till the U.S.S. Benton arrived!) but as a rule these ships were designed to support land operations. For these reasons it made for an interesting match up and it actually felt quite balanced. 

I need to hone a few points of the rules in regards to ships turning and ram attacks - nothing major, just some clarification really - and was pleased to have used a minor change to the flotation value. As it stands now a ships flotation value is made up of the overall size of the vessel plus its armour modifier. I may revise this further as I want to look at a few sample ship types using the formula in Bob Cordery’s Portable Colonial Wargame. The rules are still very much a work in progress but conceptually I am there or thereabouts.

Back to the ship building!


Robert (Bob) Cordery said...


An absolutely spiffing battle report! The CSS ARKANSAS certainly made her presence felt, although at some cost. I assume that her repair is now a priority, and that more Union ships are.rushing to the area to bottle her up or to actually sink her.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hello there Bob,

It was an eventful game for sure but certainly felt right! The C.S.S.Arkansas was lucky to get away when she did given the amount of damage she had sustained - most of which was self inflicted when she rammed the U.S.S. Essex.

Certainly the Union would be well advised to rustle up a task force to ‘Sink the Arkansas’.....

All the best,


Jim Walkley said...

You certainly seem to be having fun David. It is surprising how much pleasure can be obtained from a game with three ships. Best wishes. Jim

David Crook said...

Hello there Jim,

It was fun the first time around - and even more so the second! My naval games tend to be around half a dozen models a side at the most - as much due to the size of models and the playing space I have as anything else. The three ships in the action had plenty of space to move around in and when I get the 6ft by 4ft ready there will be even more.

All the best,