Tuesday 19 April 2022

Thoughts on Forts, Boards and Rules

Fort Yuwatus (pronounced Yew-WAT-us) in all its glory. Rumour has it the fort was named after a local Native American called Yuwatus who worked there after having survived his small oyster boat being overturned offshore during a sudden squall. He was very close to drowning when a passing dolphin happened to nudge him to the shore and safety which was seen as quite fortuitous by the garrison and so the name stuck….

Now that the dust has settled after the Easter weekend game I have had a chance to sit down and think about various parts of the whole and what it means for me going forwards. I am sure I am not the only gamer to go through this process after a battle and I am a firm believer in there being a lot to be gained from doing so. Anyways, this post will be covering the three areas mentioned in the title and how I see these going forwards.


At the height of the action the board was a little congested in places. A larger size of square would make a substantial difference as ships would be able to be placed correctly in relation to one another as required. With only 9 squares to use one needs every inch of space available!

Whilst my board is perfectly usable it is a little on the small size for the models I have built. I reckon it would work really nicely with 1:1200th models though as each 6” square will have plenty of space to maintain the illusion of distance. For my models the squares are just about large enough but given that the rules make use multiple square occupancy - two or three models can occupy the same square and not just as the result of a ram attack - it makes more sense to have the largest squares one is comfortable with. At this stage I am thinking about 8” squares meaning that the area being fought over - I am not including the ‘manoeuvring zones’ around the outside of the battle area - will be a 2ft square. The larger squares will enable me to use the models in a slightly more roomy fashion as well as adding to the illusion of range and distance. The resulting larger board will look exactly the same as the one I already have as I am more than happy with the overall look of the thing - a nice blue being used as the mud coloured Mississippi notwithstanding!


I am happy with 95% of the rules but it is the 5% that is threatening to derail the entire project. That is not strictly true but I do keep coming back to certain systems that I really think could be made ‘slicker’ - which is more in keeping with the whole Portable Wargame mantra. I keep veering between having a ‘to hit’ and then a ‘to damage’ dice roll or having both catered for in a single dice roll. The former is probably more ‘accurate’ but the latter has the advantage of speed of execution and is the method Bob Cordery used in his Gridded Naval Wargames. One option I thought about was having the current gun factors of number of dice rolled and the associated penetration factor added together. For example, a ship rated at 3/3 would roll 6d6 to hit. Using the usual 4, 5 for one damage point and 6 for two the firing player would need to score hits greater than the the armour value of the target in order to score any damage. For example, a ship rolling 4d6 scores a 2, a 3, a 4 and a 6. This equals three potential damage points - one for the roll of 4 and two for the role of 6. Say the target has armour of 2. This would mean that the potential 3 points of damage would be reduced to a single point (3 - 2 =1). A roll of a 6 would entitle a further throw.

I am going to try this out but I will also need to think about the number of damage (flotation) points ships carry. Currently these are dependent on the size of the ship only but I am now leaning towards boosting this by adding the armour value to the total - funnily enough this method brings some of the vessels inline with the flotation points Bob Cordery used in his ACW rules contained in Gridded Naval wargames. I believe that this will serve to reflect the armour effect in two ways - reducing the chance of damage being scored and slightly increasing the survivability of the target when hit. I see this as being essential if going with a single dice roll for hit/damage otherwise ships will have a short, but exciting time of it! My parent rules allowed for individual hit locations but this is a little longwinded in use so I have abandoned it - the 3 x 3 version did not use it in any event as it was captured by the critical hit rule. 

The rules for mines and ramming still need a little work but I think I have this just about dialled in. The same applies to the whole critical hit issue. In all three of these areas the game threw up a number of minor anomalies but nothing terribly difficult to resolve. Overall all is well and certainly heading in the right direction.


Fort Yuwatus viewed from the front. Most of their artillery was emplaced facing the sea and the window shutters are used to cover infantry firing ports. The only signs of the previous buildings on the site are to be seen inside so from the exterior the aspect is that of a tidy and business-like fortification, well suited to provide cover over that side of Mobile Bay.

The small fort that featured in the battle came about as the result of two hours of work including scrambling around in my supply of wooden bits and pieces I use for modelling. The fort was manufactured from four ‘not quite Jenga’ blocks (previously available from the Works - as I recall I purchased around 15 sets of it - most of which formed my block armies) with two of them being three quarter sized. The doors and windows were made from Warbases supplied pre cut grey board, the ‘gunwales’ were made from some thin wooden strip (this was the fiddliest part of the operations), the flag staff and gun barrels from cocktail sticks and the flag from those I acquired from Brigade Models. It was not based on anything in particular - I am afraid I am a complete novice when it comes to military/naval fortifications - but it looked and felt about right for what I wanted it for i.e. a small fort!

Building it though, has given me the confidence to tackle some rather more ambitious real estate. I shall make another small fort to the original design for the ACW collection and I am now looking to build a larger version using similar techniques. I will also need to think about some fieldworks for shore batteries, not to mention some more traditional terrain. The small spit of land was made from a piece of grey card with some grass mat stuck to it at a slightly smaller size. The uncovered strip represented the seashore and was covered with sand and painted with Vallejo Iraqi Sand and then washed with Agarax Earthshade before being given a gentle highlight with Vallejo Buff - look at me going all ‘art house’!

When I acquired the 15 boxes of ‘not quite Jenga’ blocks many of these were cut in two. The current version of the block armies are made up of units that are half a block wide. A local carpenter was able to saw these in half for me but I also had some cut into three and one quarter piece. I have loads of these in bags currently unused but there is certainly plenty of raw material for me to make all manner of buildings etc. A nice obvious one would be North African/Middle Eastern white washed flat roof buildings - nicely suitable for the Arab quarter on Madasahatta as well….

In Closing

The game was thoroughly enjoyable and certainly looked the part. The action and the outcome felt largely credible and as mentioned, I am happy that I am on the right path with the project. I believe I am fast approaching the stage where I need to draw a line under the rules as well as completing the remaining ship models. I have spent many happy hours immersed in this facet of the American Civil War and the lessons I have learned will stand me in good stead going forwards and with other similar projects.


The Good Soldier Svjek said...

I do like it when a project like this starts to work , a great looking and playing game .

Mark Cordone said...

Your game is looking good! Whenever I come up with some new idea I find it useful to step away from it for a bit, and perhaps shift my focus to another project before returning to it for reevaluation. Have you thought about having the armor values reduce the total damage from each salvo? Example: heavy armor plate might reduce the total damage by two, so if a total of three hits would only count as one vs. Flotation points. Since better armed ships get more dice they will tend to score more hits, and more will get through. Lightly armed ships would like hen find it very difficult to score damaging hits. Just a thought...

tradgardmastare said...

The fort is an excellent addition to the board. Sailing along very nice imho.

David Crook said...

Hello there Good Soldier Svjek,

It is all coming together nicely and has given me an awful lot of enjoyment over the last couple of years. The finishing line is definitely out there….somewhere!

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Mark,

You are absolutely right about stepping away for a while. I did very little with the whole thing when my wife was first in hospital and when I did get back to it after some 6 weeks or so I could see a lot of things more clearly - and then came 3 x 3 which really shook the snow globe!

The method you describe is in essence what I have been doing so I am relieved to be on a similar tack! My biggest problem at present is getting the rules typed out in a meaningful way so that will be my next job methinks - after another game to try something out.

All the best and many thanks old chap,


David Crook said...

Hiya tradgardmastare,

Cheers old chap! I had been thinking about a small fort for a while and getting in a bit of pickle as a result with the ‘over thinking’. Still it are out rather nicely and has paved the way for more building of buildings!

All the best,


Glory to Ruritania said...

Hello David
The game is fabulous the look, you have captured the era so well, the rules are fun, it’s got it all and ships are amazing - well done

David Crook said...

Hello there Quinn (and Glory to Ruritania!),

Many thanks old chap! The project has taken on a life of its own but in an enjoyable way. I still have a few more ships to build (and a few refurbishments as the building technique has evolved and improved over time) but the end is certainly in sight for that particular part. For the movement I need to get the rules committed to type and a larger board organised but nothing too onerous.

All is well thus far!

All th e best and thanks once again,


Simon said...

Re the rules, one way forward might be to offer both options - perhaps the more detailed one as an Appendix?



David Crook said...

Hi Simon,

This is something I am thinking about at the moment - I am certainly going with both options but as the order I am thinking that the 3 x 3 version may be better suited to an appendix simply as they are a stripped back version of the parent set. Having said that the parent set is going to change significantly on the back of 3 x 3 playing experience so it maybe just one set comes out of it as the two effectively merge into one!

I will have a better idea once I have the 3 x 3 draft typed which is currently under way.

There will be another game over the weekend….

All the best,


pancerni said...

The fort looks great and is sure to expand the scenario listing.

David Crook said...

Hi There Pancerni,

Many thanks old chap!

All the best,