Tuesday 8 June 2021

Action off the Rio Plata, 15th March 1865....Game Number 66 Part 2

The combatants. The frigate U.S.S. Sacremento at the top of the picture with the U.S.S. Niagara on the centre left and the U.S.S. Kearsage on the centre right. The C.S.S. Stonewall is at the bottom (not literally, at least not yet anyway!)

The C.S.S. Stonewall begins her turn to port in order to engage the rapidly closing frigate - the U.S.S. Sacremento

The U.S.S. Sacremento was gaining rapidly on the stern of the C.S.S. Stonewall  but her course would take her some four points off the Rebel ship’s starboard side. Seeing the course of the Yankee ship Captain Longsdarff decided to circle to port as tightly as he could so that he should be able to engage the aft quarter of the enemy frigate. It would also enable him to see how the second enemy ship was placed in relation to his main target, the fast approaching frigate.

“Something wicked, this way comes….” The closing pair of Union sloops attempting to convince their enemy that they are in fact, but a single vessel. The ruse will be spotted but as long as they are able to both close the range and manoeuvre into a favourable position it will not be in vain

As the C.S.S. Stonewall heeled tightly into her turn the Captain focused his attention on the second enemy ship. The sloop had pored on all steam and every scrap of canvas as she attempted to fall in with her flagship. Her approach was a little untidy as she seemed to be adjusting her course in a seemingly random fashion.

Something gnawed at the back of Captain Longsdarff’s mind. The other ship heading towards him looked somehow different from previously. For sure she had all canvas set and was steaming hard but there was something not quite right her appearance. Her approach was very untidy and indicated poor levels of seamanship so he felt even more confident in the ability of his command to be able to dispense with her as well. She was making enough of a show for two ships he mused - the thought that it was two ships did not enter his thoughts. Satisfied that the haphazardly approaching enemy warship posed no immediate threat the captain turned his attention to the looming enemy frigate.

Turn 1. No firing due to range so straight to initiative. Union 4 Confederate 5 so the Confederate opts to let the Union ships move first.

Captain Longsdarff eases the turn of his ship as the reason for the poor seamanship of the smaller enemy warship is revealed - there is not one but two of them! His instinct that something was not quite right was correct but it was scant consolation as he now had three enemy warships to contend with. Should he cut his losses and make best speed to get away? The thought was dismissed even before it was fully formed - he would fight one of them and then get away. His target would be the Yankee flagship.

Turn 2. The C.S.S. Stonewall opens fire at the frigate and the leading sloop - the U.S.S. Kearsage. With her gunnery factor (GF) of 2 the Stonewall rolls 2d6 against the frigate scoring a 1 and a 4. Her penetration factor (PF) is 3 whilst the armour factor of the frigate (and the other two Union ships) is 0 as they wooden built. This means that a a plus 3 modifier is added to each score making revised scores of 4 and 7 meaning that the frigate has taken a point of damage for the adjusted 4 whilst the adjusted 7 is a critical hit! The location of the single hit is rolled scoring a 1 meaning that a flotation point is scored. The critical hit comes up as a 4 which is a gunnery factor hit, reducing the nearest gunnery factor by 2 or by 1 with an additional flotation point hit. The Union ship opts to take one on each in order to preserve her artillery for the moment. The C.S.S. Stonewall then fires at the U.S.S. Kearsage with her forward artillery.

As this is at maximum range for the type her gunnery factor of two loses a point so a single d6 is rolled. A natural 6 is scored! With the plus 2 for her penetration factor the score is 8 meaning that a critical hit is scored! A further 6 is rolled - FIRE! The U.S.S. Kearsage catches fire!

There is no return Union fire so it is straight to initiative. Union 4, Confederate 3. The Union player lets the Confederate ship move first.

The C.S.S. Stonewall opens fire on both the U.S.S. Sacremento and the U.S.S. Kearsage scoring telling hits on both whilst she continues her turn. Captain Longsdarff noted the tell tale orange glow of a fire aboard the Union sloop which he hoped would take her out of the fight. Every seaman dreaded the outbreak of fire and on a wooden ship even more so. The U.S.S. Kearsage pulled away from the approaching Confederate allowing the U.S.S. Niagara to position herself off the stern of the  Rebel ironclad. Meanwhile Commander Howard on the U.S.S. Sacremento urged his men on as the great ship swung her helm over to engage the enemy.

Turn 3. The U.S.S. Kearsage attempted to douse the flames on her fore deck. To the huge relief of the captain and crew a 1 was rolled so the flames were extinguished. She was able to rejoin the fight. The U.S.S. Niagara opened fire at point blank ravage into the stern of the rebel ship. She has a gunnery factor (GF) of 4 but adds a d6 due to the range making 5d6 in all. Her penetration factor (PF) is 2 but the armour factor of the ironclad C.S.S. Stonewall is 3 meaning that each d6 will have a minus 1 modifier. The firing was abysmal with scores of 1, two 2s, a 3 and 4 - all of which were reduced by 1 for no effect other than a copious expenditure of powder.

The C.S.S. Stonewall fired again at the Yankee frigate. She rolled a pair of 3s which each added a plus 3 PF/AF modifier meant that two sixes were the result for two lots of two point hits. The location rolls were 1 (flotation point) and 3 (gunnery factor). The U.S.S. Sacremento opted to take the two gunnery points off her port battery meaning that she was now 4 gunnery on the starboard and three on the port side.

For initiative the Union rolled 5 whilst the Confederates rolled a 1. Once again the Union allowed the Confederates to move first.

Captain Longsdarff surveyed the scene with a degree of satisfaction occasioned by the simple fact he believed he still had tactical control of the engagement. His enemies were scattered like a covey of partridges and he was well placed to take advantage of their apparent confusion. What happened next was rather unexpected as he found two enemy warships suddenly placed off both of his port quarters. He would be caught between two, as yet ineffective fires. Now was the time force the pace.

Turn 4. Both the U.S.S. Sacremento and the U.S.S. Niagara opened fire with all possible guns against the rebel ironclad. The U.S.S. Sacremento scored a miserly 2, 3 and 4 - all of which were reduced by 1 due to the PF/AF adjustment. The U.S.S. Niagara rolled her 4d6, again each had a minus 1, had scored a 6, two 5s and 2! These were adjusted to 5, two 4s and a 1 meaning that the rebel ships has at last sustained some damage. The hit location rolls were a 1, a 5 and a 6. The 1 was taken as a flotation point hit. The 5 was a steering hit meaning that her turning ability was reduced by 1 and the 6 was a bridge/pilot house hit. Her Captain opted to take the latter as a flotation point hit rather than to effect his steering any further.

The C.S.S. Stonewall fired back at the frigate. Her two d6 scored a magnificent 5 and a 6 which, adding the plus 3 PF/AF modifier meant that two critical hits were scored! This resulted in two rolls which cane up as a 2 and 3. The 2 was hull damage so 2 flotation points were marked off. The 3 was engine/steering damage which required a further roll of a d6 to see the extent of the damage. A 1 was rolled meaning that the ship speed was reduced by one.

The initiative roll would be crucial. The Union rolled 3 whilst the Confederates rolled a 1. Again the Union allowed the Confederate ship to move first.

By now Captain Longsdarff was aware of the damage to the steering of his ship and so cold reason shaped his thinking. It was time to entertain the notion of breaking off the engagement. The enemy frigate was some way away and he took satisfaction from the fact he had inflicted telling damage on her. The two enemy sloops were still in the fight but he was confident he could brush past them. The last broadside from the enemy was a rude reminder (if one was needed) that a lucky blow could end his mission so caution would be needed.

The ship heeled over into the new heading as she made ready for her final shots at the enemy.

Turn 5. U.S.S. Niagara opened fire. 4d6 this time, 3 6s and a 2 was the result, all with the usual minus 1 meaning 3 5s and a 1. Three hits! The location rolls came out as 1, 2 and 3 meaning two flotation point hits and 1 gunnery. the Union player was not finished as the U.S.S. Kearsage opened fire with her forward artillery. Her gunnery factor was 2 and the penetration factor was 3 (the same as the armour factor of the C.S.S. Stonewall) meaning it would be straight dice roles for hits. A pair of 4s came up and the location rolls were 3 and 5. The 3 was another gunnery factor whilst 5 was a further steering hit. The C.S.S. Stonewall was now unable to answer to the helm. Her final shot was against the U.S.S. Kearsage. She rolled a 1 and 3 which were adjusted to a 4 and a 6 meaning three points of damage and two location rolls. A 4 and a 5 came up which meant engines and steering. The ‘6’ hit was thrown against her engines meaning that she was now only able to make speed 4.

The Union rolled 1 and the Confederate rolled a 5 which meant that, to the rebels unmistakeable relief, they would have the choice and so opted to move first.

Captain Longsdarff took the situation in at an instant and decided that discretion was now the better part of valour. His steering was inoperable (he was confident of repairs once far enough away) and his forward casemate resembled a charnel house but his engines were unimpaired. He had bested a Yankee frigate and damaged one of their sloops (judging by the great gouts of steam and smoke he saw he correctly surmised that the engines were damaged). His ship had responded magnificently to the call to battle and he was sure that once repairs had been effected and with a full crew and supplies he would be able to take the war to the Pacific. He ordered full steam ahead and went below to see the crew.

Commander Howard, aboard the battered but still functioning U.S.S. Sacremento, watched the Confederate ship slowly receding into the distance with a sense of pride tinged with relief. His command had performed magnificently against a powerful enemy and whilst she had escaped he was sure that she had been sorely injured. There was no question of his own ship being able to continue the pursuit - her damaged engines and minor flooding would see to that - so it would be left to the sloops. He knew that a squadron was operating out of the Caribbean so he would make for there to gather a more powerful force to settle accounts with the Rebel ironclad. He was not yet aware of the damage to the U.S.S. Kearsage.

Aboard the U.S.S. Kearsage Captain Nathaniel Jones cursed his luck as the engines of his ship had sustained severe damage from the rebel ironclad. He must have used up his ration from Dame Fortune when the fire on his ship was so speedily dealt with! For all that he was pleased with how the ship had held up under full power for so long and so was able to rejoin the rest of the ad hoc squadron assembled to hunt down the rebel raider. The Commander of the force was delighted to have him and his ship available once again as they were  both sorely missed and urgently needed. With his current engine difficulties he had no doubt that he would accompanying the frigate towards a refit and repair.

It would be good to see home once again as Captain Nathaniel Jones had been gone too long.

The U.S.S. Niagara had fought a brisk action against a far more powerful opponent with skill and determination. Her captain was aware of the damage to both the U.S.S. Sacremento and the U.S.S. Kearsage and so the U.S.S. Niagara would most likely revert to a shadowing role. He fervently hoped that sufficient forces could be gathered to tackle the Confederate warship before she reached the vastness of the Pacific.

Overview and Thoughts

It was rather like a bullfight. The C.S.S. Stonewall (the bull) would have the measure of any of the three ships (the matadors/picadors/toreadors) against her - if only she was allowed to concentrate on them one at a time! The Union plan worked after a fashion although the flagship had taken some telling damage, as had the U.S.S. Kearsage. The rebel ship was able to manoeuvre at will but was not able to isolate a single enemy shop so as to administer the coup de grace with her ram. She had to keep moving and all the while the Union ships were doing the same. Captain Longsdarff later described the situation as being like ‘herding cats’. 

With the C.S.S. Stonewall having to break off the action (and being fortunate enough to be able to do so) and head to a safe haven to effect repairs the Union had succeeded in disrupting the Confederate plan and most importantly, had gained some time to organise an effective response. The key thing now was to not lose sight of the Confederate warship and hope that sufficient force could be assembled quickly enough to deal with her.

The action played out in much the way I expected it to but a few areas of the rules needed a second look. There was nothing wrong per se but some of my written passages seemed to have lost their meaning somewhat. I was very pleased with how the whole wooden ship versus an ironclad played out and certainly the game reflected the history rather well. Still, for all that quantity has a quality all of its own and so it was only a matter of time before damage started to get inflicted on the ironclad given the number of ships and guns the Confederate ship was facing. 

I am quite sure that I need not mention the historical action that inspired the game - suffice it to say the outcome was actually not too dissimilar!

It was a great way to spend a couple of hours or so.


David Manley said...

An excellent write up sir! Lovely models and the rules are working very nicely :)

David Crook said...

Hello there Mr Manley,

Thank you old chap!

It worked out rather well although perhaps some additional sea room may have been useful (there are plans afoot in respect of this). The rules worked well although some of the explanations need some tidying up. I was pleased with how it played and it really showed how up against it wooden warships were against ironclads.

Needless to say there were a few errors on my part but nothing serious. It was great fun to fight though and I would certainly rerun it at some point.

All the best,


Robert (Bob) Cordery said...


A great battle report! The scenario is a well-known one, and I expected you battle to unfold in a similar way … which to a certain extent, it did. The wooden ships stood up well to the bartering they got, and they certainly managed to inflict some telling punishment on the Confederate ironclad. The latter may have survived the battle, but unless she can get her damage repaired before the telegraph summons Union reinforcements, she could have serious problems.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hello there Bob,

I am pleased you enjoyed it! It certainly played out in a similar way to the ‘real thing’. The Confederate was fortunate that her speed was unimpaired as she could have been really in trouble. The U.S.S. Niagara should receive some kind of commendation for her shooting which was exemplary (once she got her eye in that is!). She is no doubt following the rebel ship at a safe distance to maintain contact and hoping that reinforcements can assembled to deal with her once and fo all.

Come to think of it there must be a game in that….

All the best,


Bob The Old Painter said...

An interesting game David, which could have gone either way given the poor Union early dice rolls. The ships look good too.

David Crook said...

Hello there Bob the Old Painter,

The Union certainly has a mixed bag when it came to scoring hits - especially given the number of guns they had! I was pleased with the way the action played out and the whole ‘gun versus armour’ balance felt right.

Thank you re the ships - I just need to build the final ten to call it a day (for the ACW and probably only for the time being!).

All the best,


The Jolly Broom Man said...

The ships looked absolutely cracking mate and you clearly had a good game with them. Top stuff!

Steve J. said...

A great little action and the ships look superb. I'm glad the two games have allowed you to think about some of the passages in the rules, which only coming to them 'afresh' can allow.

Aly Morrison said...

Splendid stuff David…
A lovely looking and sounding game…

All the best. Aly

David Crook said...

Hi there Jolly broom man,

Thank you kindly sir! I am now keen to secure a larger and more artistic looking playing area so watch this space!

If I have learned one thing from this it is that even a modest looking model, when deployed for action, can still look and fight as well.

They are also a lot easier to get to the table in the first place….

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hello Steve J,

Cheers old chap! I am happy with the rules for the most part but am conscious that some of the language could use a little clarity. Coming back to them after a short gap was very useful in pointing this out for me as you rightly mentioned.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Aly,

Thank you kind sir - much appreciated! The models have the right degree of ‘presence’ on the table top and look really effective in an old school way.

the game was a blast and it would be good fun to run it against a live opponent.

All the best,


Graham C said...

Great battle report really enjoyed that. So much so I’ve been busy on the 3D printer and printed some ships 😳
Will watch what you end up doing with the thoughts over the rules.

David Crook said...

Hello there Graham C,

Delighted you enjoyed it and I am keen to see what your 3D printer has come up with!

All the best.


Graham C said...

Inspired to print - first set of Union Ironclads printed and on blog 😁

Archduke Piccolo said...

Hi David -
A fine, brisk action, just like the historical, and with a fairly similar outcome, too.

James Fisher said...

This was a ripping game. I smiled when I read that all captains considered that they had had a 'good day of it'! The rebel ironclad is clearly a tough nut.
Great to see your wonderful ships at sea.
Regards, James

David Crook said...

Hello there Graham C,

I have seen them - and very nice they look to!

A 3D printer is something I shall treat myself to when I retire methinks.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hello there Archduke,

Thank you old chap! I would not be surprised if a similar outcome was reached regardless of the period in question. It is a fascinating scenario though.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hello there James,

Many thanks old chap - much appreciated! The game played out well and for sure the Confederate ship was a tough nut. It is the first ‘deep sea’ ACW naval game I have fought and it was great fun and made a change from the ‘swampy bayous’.

I am looking forward to finishing the last models (as soon as Warbases arrives) but have a feeling that I will be adding to the collection in the future!

All the best,