Sunday 10 April 2022

Raiders! And the Lost Ark….13th August, 1862….Game Number 69

“The Arkansas is coming!”

It has been a busy week with work and various Laurel related bits and pieces - nothing serious, just administrative in nature - which means that my plans around typing up the final draft of my ironclad rules (including the 3 x 3 variant) as well as painting up a dedicated board have rather fallen by the wayside.

Be that as it may, I have managed to get in another game that incorporates all of the tweaks etc from the previous versions and prior play testing. It has worked a treat with only minor tidying up around the ramming rules and the number of ships that can occupy a grid area.

The Background

In order to push to Vicksburg the Union forces first had to secure the waterways so as to allow for speedier troop transfers and supplies getting to the front line. In order to achieve this they first had to find, engage and neutralise the powerful rebel ironclad, the C.S.S. Arkansas. 

A Union cavalry patrol had sighted the rebel ironclad berthed in a minor back water and so a scratch force of three ships, the gunboat U.S.S. Essex and the two rams, the U.S.S. Switzerland and the U.S.S. Queen of the West was hastily assembled and tasked with bringing the rebel ship to heel. The reasoning behind the composition of this force was simple. The U.S.S. Essex would provide the firepower whilst the two rams would look to administer the coup de grace whilst the rebel ironclad was occupied in a shooting battle.

Unbeknown to the Union forces the Confederates had gotten wind of this sortie via the same method i.e. a cavalry patrol had spotted the three ships making their way at all speed towards the mighty ironclad. Not wishing to caught at a anchor the C.S.S. Arkansas raised steam and swung her bows towards the approaching enemy raiders. Battle would soon be joined.

The protagonists - The C.S.S. Arkansas in the foreground with (from left to right) the U.S.S. Queen of the West, the U.S.S. Essex and the U.S.S. Switzerland. As usual, any resemblance between the models and their historical counterparts is purely coincidental and representatively intentional….

The Ships

C.S.S. Arkansas - Size: Medium, Speed: 2, Flotation Points: 9 (6/3), Armour: 3, Guns: FW: 2/2, P, S: 2/3, Ram Bow

U.S.S. Essex - Size: Large, Speed: 2, Flotation Points: 12 (8/4), Armour: 2 Guns: FW: 3/4, P, S: 2/2

U.S.S. Queen of the West - Size: Medium, Speed: 2, Flotation Points: 9 (6/3), Armour: 1, Ram Bow

U.S.S. Switzerland - Size: Medium, Speed: 1, Flotation Points: 9 (6/3), Armour: 1, Guns: P, S 1/0 Ram Bow

The Initial Positions

The U.S.S. Essex, in a loose formation with the two rams - the U.S.S. Queen of the West (off the starboard beam of the U.S.S. Essex) and the U.S.S. Switzerland bringing up the rear. Meanwhile, the C.S.S. Arkansas approaches from the south eastern corner.

Turn 1. No firing thus far so straight to the initiative rolls. The Union scored 5 whilst the Confederates rolled 2. The Union, no doubt keen to ascertain the intentions of the C.S.S. Arkansas, opted to allow the Confederate to move first.

End of Turn 1. The U.S.S. Essex heads straight for the rebel ironclad in order to bring her powerful forward battery into action. The faster U.S.S. Queen of the West cuts closely across the bows of the slower U.S.S. Switzerland to support the Union gunboat. The C.S.S. Arkansas readies her forward artillery whilst her commander considers making use of her ram and so orders full speed ahead.

Turn 2. Both the leading ships open fire. The U.S.S. Essex rolls 3d6 at a range of 3 (remember that the square the firing ship occupies counts as range 1 and at range 3 a 6 is needed for a hit) scoring a pair of 2s and a 6. The 6 generates a further d6 roll which comes up as a miss. The damage roll is a 5 which adds a 1 due to penetration of 4 against armour of 3. The final score is 6 meaning 2 points of damage are scored against the C.S.S. Arkansas. The rebel ships fires back to no effect, scoring a 2 and a 5. For initiative the Union rolled 4 whilst the Confederate rolled a 1. The Union opted to move first.

End of Turn 2. The C.S.S. Arkansas attempts to ram the U.S.S. Essex head on but only lands a glancing blow (she rolled 4d6 scoring a pair of 2s and a pair of 3s) so both ships find themselves broadside on at point blank range! Meanwhile the two rams manoeuvre to secure the best position to launch their own attacks.

Turn 3. At point blank range the U.S.S. Essex and the C.S.S. Arkansas exchange ineffective broadsides - no doubt the gun crews were still recovering from the jarring ram attack of the rebel ironclad. A single hit is scored by the Union ship but the effect roll was insufficient to cause any damage. For initiative the Union roll a 1 whilst the Confederate rolls a 2 - and opts to move first. The two ships have moved apart but the rebel ship puts her helm hard over and launches a further ram attack against the Union gunboat, this time on the beam. The C.S.S. Arkansas rolled 5d6 for the ram itself (4 for a ram attack when the ramming ship is equipped with a ram  and with an additional d6 for the beam attack) and scores a 2, 3, 2 x 5s and a 6 which translates into 4 points of damage - 1 for each of the 5s and 2 for the six. As damage was inflicted the ramming ship then suffers a ram attack from the target ship. In this case 2d6 are rolled - neither of which score any damage. The two ships then separate as the ram does not result in them being locked together. 

End of Turn 3. After the second ram attack the U.S.S. Essex opted to disengage from the rebel ship. Meanwhile the two Union rams lined up to attack the C.S.S. Arkansas with the U.S.S. Switzerland steaming head on towards the rebel ship.

Turn 4. The U.S.S. Essex fires at the C.S.S. Arkansas to no effect whilst the rebel ship opens fire on the looming bulk of the U.S.S. Switzerland scoring a single hit. The initiative rolls are Union 4 and Confederate 5 so the rebel player opts to move first - and you can guess what is coming! 

End of Turn 4. The C.S.S. Arkansas rams the U.S.S. Switzerland scoring two points of damage for nothing in return. The two ships are then broadside to broadside. Meanwhile the U.S.S. Queen of the West circles ominously whilst the U.S.S. Essex looks to move into a decent firing position.

Turn 5. The C.S.S. Arkansas delivers a punishing broadside against the U.S.S. Switzerland - 5 points in total - and the Union ship succumbs to the damage! The initiative rolls are 6 for the Union and 5 for the Confederate. The Union opt to move first and so the U.S.S. Queen of the West orders full steam ahead and rams the C.S.S. Arkansas! The Union ship rolls 4d6 scoring a 1, a 4, a 5 and a 6 and the extra d6 (for rolling a 6) came up with a 4 meaning that 5 points of damage are inflicted on the rebel ironclad. Unfortunately for the Union ship she received 4 damage points in return - the shock of impact against the rebel ironclad no doubt loosening seams due to shock damage.

At this juncture the C.S.S. Arkansas had each reached its critical point and the resultant roll came up a 5 meaning a flood result. Fortunately the effect roll was a 1 meaning that the rebel ship could take either a flotation point damage or one off her speed. She opted to sustain the speed loss meaning she was now at a speed of 2. 

Meanwhile the U.S.S. Essex manoeuvres into an optimal firing position, ready to take advantage of the hotly engaged rebel ironclad.

End of Turn 5. The critically battered C.S.S. Arkansas, her speed reduced and required to break off the action, limps past the sinking U.S.S. Switzerland while the U.S.S. Queen of the West lurks menacingly nearby. The U.S.S. Essex in content to observe events from a prudent distance.

Turn 6. Although below her critical point the C.S.S. Arkansas is still able to fire at enemy ships if they are adjacent. She duly does against the U.S.S. Queen of the West and scores a single point of damage. For initiative the Union roll a 6 whilst the Confederate rolls a 5. The Union opts to move first.

Despite her damage the U.S.S. Queen of the West seized the opportunity to administer the final blow to the crippled rebel ironclad. She immediately turned to ram the enemy ship and this time the damage to the Confederate ship proves to be fatal. Her ramming rolls are 2 4s, a 5 and a 6 meaning 5 points of damage are scored, 4 more than the C.S.S. Arkansas has left. The celebrations of the Union ship were cut short though as a rending sound was heard from below the waterline forward and by inflicting the mortal wounds on the rebel ship the U.S.S. Queen of the West herself sustained fatal damage. Both ships slipped slowly into the murky waters or the river.

End of Turn 6 and the of the battle. By dashing her already riven hull into the rebel warship, thereby sinking her, the gallant U.S.S. Queen of the West sacrificed herself and succumbed to her extensive damage. The U.S.S Essex made ready to pick up survivors from the three ships.


I very much enjoyed this action although some clarification around the ramming rules - before, during and after - is certainly needed. To my shame and embarrassment I misinterpreted my own rules but fortunately it did not prove to be a massive issue. This is the largest 3 x 3 action I have fought and surprisingly enough it did not feel particularly cramped. Although a degree of ‘driving the narrative in a particular direction’ took place - I wanted to get the rams in action - it did not feel out of place. The U.S.S. Essex needed to keep the C.S.S. Arkansas at arms length - ideally in her forward gun arc - so as to avoid her ram attack. The two Union rams on the other hand, really needed to get stuck in and so they did but paid the ultimate price for their temerity.

Thoughts on the Rules

I am now confident that I am pretty much there with the rules. I know what to do with the whole ram attack thing as there are two main problems I had to tackle ‘on the fly’ so to speak. I am going to assign the number of ram attack dice rolled based on the size of the ship and if ram equipped. For example, a medium sized ship would 3d6 plus a further d6 if equipped with a ram. Similarly, the post ram attack positioning of ships needs some clarity and I want to address the whole ‘I have rammed you once and missed so I am doing it again as we are next to each other’ scenario. This happened twice in the game which was not how I intended it. I guess I just git caught up in the moment!

….And in closing….

….the pimped up game board after the second coat of paint (finally!). The patchy appearance is due to it drying unevenly. The paint was obtained from Wilkinsons and the colour is Totally Teal - possibly a touch tropical and certainly not great for rivers but I am a great fan of blue water! The tin cost about £3 as I recall - this was a pre pandemic purchase that is finally getting used!



Mark Cordone said...

Things are coming along nicely. I must confess to having'forgotten' my own rules in the heat of a game, but sometimes this leads to improvements in the rules. I'm looking forward to the next battle on your completed board. Perhaps a small fleet action with a number of ships on each side?

Archduke Piccolo said...

David -
I was about to make a comment on 'brown water navies' but ... never mind. The blue will make the ships really stand out - a nice contrast.

I was wondering how under your rules the CSS Arkansas would go against the squadron sent to intercept her passage downriver from the Yazoo - the ironclad Carondelet, the timberclad Tyler and the ram Queen of the West. More than likely the Ironclad and ram would show more fight than they did according to Confederate accounts...

David Crook said...

Hi Mark,

I was thinking about cranking up the action to 6 ships so will perhaps give that a spin next weekend. The board will be ready then and I have something in mind to try….

Looking back over the wording of some of my rules I am amazed that I have been able to make any sense of them at all!

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Archduke,

Thank you old chap!

I must confess that I prefer a plain blue playing area for my naval games - regardless of the setting! The action was loosely based on that which you described and I certainly have the models to try it. Perhaps I may give it a go later but for now I need to finish typing the final draft and the board,

All the best,


tradgardmastare said...

I do like the look of your board. The set up shows what terrific fun can be had in a smaller sized battlefield.

David Crook said...

Good morning tradgardmastare,

The board was an off cut from a sheet of 8mm thick plywood we purchased to fashion boards to go under the sofa and armchair cushions to provide a firmer seat. This was suggested per Laurel’s operation to help her back. As you had to buy this by the sheet i was able to get a couple of off cuts that have been earmarked for a couple board ideas.

This one should be finished today all being well.

I am really enjoying the 3 x 3 format - I have yet to try a land action though - and the best way of describing it is being rather like watching Match of the Day rather than the full 90 minutes of a football match! It certainly does not replace more general naval wargame rules but it appears to be very good at what it is intended for - close in fighting between ships.

All the best,


The Jolly Broom Man said...

You are really into something with this DC. The blow by blow account was very useful to those like me following the evolution of the rules. They might not figure for ACW naval combat but have you any thoughts on boarding actions, mines, torpédos etc.

Simon said...

I look forward to hearing how the 6 ships a side game goes. Rules seem to be working very well indeed.


David Crook said...

Hello there JBM,

The whole idea has really struck a chord with little old me and I am have great fun with it! Mines featured in the ACW and I have rules for them. Self propelled torpedoes appeared in the late 1870s so I shall give them some thought in due course. For now though it will be spar torpedoes. Rather confusingly early mines were often called torpedoes - for the ACW they are ‘dumb’ or command detonated types.

I will need to think about boarding actions at some point but I have a couple of ideas to flirt with.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Simon,

They seem to hanging together quite nicely and with just some ironing out of the ramming rules to contend with. The ‘6 ship special’ will feature next weekend by which time I will have the board completed and (hopefully) the final draft of the rules ready.

I also need to think about finishing off the last 10 models for the collection as well!

All the best,


Robert (Bob) Cordery said...


An excellent battle report … and your rules seem to be pretty well ready for publication.

You have shown that the 3 x3 game format works a treat for naval wargames … and I can see others developing them for riveting and coastal forces battles.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hello there Bob,

Thank you old chap - much appreciated! The finishing line is definitely in sight before the rules are unleashed on a couple of play testing targets (they know who they are….). I just need to get some time together to actually sit down and type!

I have been thinking about submarines, coastal forces and aircraft operations - especially using naval aviation - so methinks there is plenty of mileage to be covered in due course.

We shall see what we can see!

All the best,


Aly Morrison said...

Another excellent sounding and looking game David…

The three by three certainly seems to be working well…
As to forgetting your own rules … I know a couple of well known games designers who have also done the same…
So you are in grand company.
I look forward to seeing the next encounter.

All the best. Aly

David Crook said...

Hi Aly,

Thank you old chap! To be accurate the main issue I had was not understanding what I had written previously but it is good to know that I am in good company all the same!

The next encounter will be over the weekend all being well.

All the best,