The first game was based upon the Battle of Hampton Roads featuring the U.S.S. Monitor, the grounded U.S.S. Minnesota and the C.S.S. Virginia.
I have now played two throughly enjoyable actions used the 3 x 3 Ironclad variant of my more formal rule set designed for the American Civil War. It has been an interesting experiment for sure and has given me the wherewithal to set up and game fast play naval actions - either as a one off action or, and far more likely, as part of a campaign. It is now a formal part of my naval wargames catalogue so to speak.
The second outing featured the U.S.S. Kearsage and the C.S.S. Alabama
The rules that I adapted to fit the format of 3 x 3 were the set devised from and incorporating elements of Bob Cordery’s Gridded Naval Wargames and David Manley’s Dahlgren and Colombiad. It is testimony to the excellence of both sets that the systems I have used have been able to survive my cumbersome attempts to shoehorn them into something entirely different!
There are many things that came to light during my first two games - mainly from a perception perspective rather than from the rules although there were a few points that needed fine tuning (and still do) - but my overall impression is hugely positive. As mentioned previously I can see these rules (or similar) working well for a variety of periods and indeed, I have already alluded to a couple - Madasahatta being one, something age of sail related and also my perennial fascination with Lake Tanganyika during the Great War.
The Tweaks and the Reason why
The first change I incorporated was to move from using two squares for a ship model to one. This has proven to be rather more effective and so the two square model I was using (based on the Ship ‘O The Line age of sail rules devised by the late S. Craig Taylor way back in the 1970s that subsequently morphed into the Avalon Hill board game Wooden Ships and Iron Men) has changed in the parent set to using a single square. It will simplify firing arcs although the two square model was more accurate in this respect. Accuracy has been sacrificed for playability and ease of use.
Using a single square has also had implications for movement. Originally under the two square per ship system I was using a notional scale of 1 square equalled 2 knots. Clearly using a single square meant that a larger scale was needed. Again, this was a compromise dictated by the needs of playability so I settled on a notional scale of 1 square equalled roughly 6 knots. In real terms this means vessels during this period can move from between 1 to 4 squares depending on type. The knock on effect of this is that using a gradual reduction of speed due to damage sustained - as in the original rules - was no longer appropriate as a reduction of 1 to the speed of a ship would be around 6 knots rather than 2 - an important consideration when the top speed of some ships was only 3 to 5 knots!
Similarly, turning ships has been simplified from the original rules. I have adopted a very simple system whereby turns are in 45 degree increments and turning one of these cost a movement point. This means that slow ironclads with but a single movement point can either turn or move. A further restriction is that if a ship turns then it must move before turning again within the same game turn. I may play around with this slightly but it seems to work so far although making some allowance for the ships that are either very manoeuvrable or that sail like a shed would be an idea.
To make the fullest possible use of the playing area I am going to allow each grid area to have more than a single ship therein. I will give each grid area a limit and each ship will have a value based on its size. I am thinking 6 points per grid area with small sized ships rated at 2 points, medium 3 points and large at 4. This will allow between 2 or three ships to occupy a given grid area. A word of caution around this though as I will need to think about the implications in respect of ramming.
By comparison with all the above the whole firing system is a model of relative calm and clarity! The only changes that I have introduced is that I have reverted to the ‘roll to hit then roll to damage’ system as combining the two felt a little overpowering. The system now is based the old standby of close, medium and long ranges (1, 2 and 3 squares respectively with 1 being when occupying the same square as the target) requiring a 4, 5 or 6 at close range, 5 or 6 at medium range and a 6 at long range. I am using Penetration over armour factors to act as a modifier to the damage roll where 4 or 5 are two hits and 6 is 2. For modified scores over 6 then a further d6 is rolled and of the score is equal to or less than the excess then a further damage point is inflicted. A natural damage roll of 6 gains a further roll.
I have yet to adjust the critical hit table as the existing one is not suitable for the simpler system I am now using. Opting to have a random critical hit when the ship reaches its critical point is a lot easier to manage and the rationale is that if a ship had suffered that much damage then there would be good chance that something vital was broken.
The rest of the rules fall very much into the optional extras category to a greater or lesser extent. The rules I have for forts and obstacles etc can be pretty much be used as written so I will not have to worry about them. To summarise the above then, I need to formalise and tidy up the following areas:
- Critical hit table
- Turning depending on ship size
- ‘Stacking Limits’ - the number and type of ships allowed in a square
- Ram attacks