One of my ‘go to’ books on naval wargames - and the inspiration for much of my ACW project
When I set out to develop what would be in effect an advanced set of Bob Cordery’s ACW rules in his book Gridded Naval Wargames little did I realise what a protracted process it has turned out to be! The core system I am satisfied with but the firing/damage mechanism has given me no end of frustration. I have tried several variations on a theme with results that have been OK but that have always seemed to lack the ‘Cordery-esque simplicity’ of the original to a lesser or greater degree. After what seemed like quite a while I revisited Bob’s book and the answer more or less presented itself - actually it was whilst laying awake at 3am during a very hot night but his book kind of reinforced the idea!
The system now is very close to Bob’s original but with the added chrome I wanted in respect of varying gun/armour combinations. Essentially a ship x number of gun dice that can fire in a given arc. The number of gun dice is reduced by range (smoothbores and rifles are different) and the standard 1, 2 or 3 are a miss, 4 or 5 are a single potential hit and a 6 is two potential hits. Damage rolls are based on the same d6 convention as the ‘to hit roll’ except the number of d6 rolled is based on the number of potential hits scored. It is possible for the adjusted damage roll to equal more than 6 due to the gun penetration vs armour modifier so in this case a further d6 roll is made with the chance of scoring an additional damage point being equal to or less than the excess. For example the firing player scores a single potential hit which requires a damage roll. Let us say he rolls a three to which is added a plus 4 (this would be something like like a monitor firing at an unarmoured wooden ship) making 7 in all. Taking the 6 as 2 points of damage their leaves a 1 (7 - 6 = 1). This means that an extra d6 is rolled needing a 1 to score an additional damage point. One could also use this when rolling to hit as there is a plus one modifier per gun dice when firing at point blank range (1 square).
In a nutshell the firing player rolls to hit and then rolls to convert the hits into damage points with the chance of scoring additional damage depending on how powerful his artillery is against the target type.
The opening of the original engagement.
I wanted to try this out and so rather than fighting game number 73 (which, never fear, I shall revisit) I opted instead to try something different. With this in mind I decided to refight the battle from Bob’ s book to see how the results compared. Once again then, we go back to the Missenhitti River where the Union monitor the U.S.S. Admonisher is attempting to force a conclusion with the newly built Confederate ironclad the C.S.S. Missenhitti.
U.S.S. Admonisher - Speed 3, Hull Factor 3, Armour Factor 4, Damage Points 9, Gun Factor (T) 3, Penetration Factor 3
C.S.S. Missenhitti - Speed 3, Hull Factor 3, Armour Factor 3, Damage Points 9, Gun Factor (FW) 2 Penetration Factor 3 (R), (P, S) Gun Factor 2, Penetration Factor 3 (R) and Gun Factor (AW) 2, Penetration Factor 3 (R). Ram Bow.
The Initial Starting Positions
U.S.S. Admonisher (top right) and the C.S.S. Missenhitti (bottom left) move to engage.
Turn 1. No firing and the initiative rolls are 2 for the Union and 4 for the Confederates who opt to allow the Union to move first.
End of Turn 1. Mindful of the shorter range of his heavy smoothbore guns the captain of the Admonisher attempted to close the range to the Confederate ironclad who in turn was content to maintain a watching brief over her adversary.
Turn 2. Both ships opened fire at a range of 4. The U.S.S. Admonisher rolled a single d6 to hit scoring a 5 meaning a single damage roll. Her penetration factor of 3 nullified the armour factor of 3 so a straight d6 was rolled scoring a 2 for no effect. The Confederate rifles rolled 2d6 to hit at that ranger scoring a 3 and a 5 for a single damage roll. Her penetration factor of 3 is not enough to overcome the armour factor of 4 so the damage roll suffers a minus 1 modifier. The roll was a 4 reduced to 3 meaning no effect.
Initiative was 4 for the Union and 1 for the Confederates so the Union allowed the Confederates to move first.
End of Turn 2. The Confederate ironclad appears to be content to keep the Union ship at arms length - presumably to maintain the superiority of range her rifles give her - but the Union ship is intent on closing the range.
Turn 3. Both ships open fire at range 3, each rolling 2d6 to hit. The Union roll a miserable 1 and 2 whilst the Confederates rolls a 2 and a 4 meaning one damage roll, again at a net minus 1 modifier. The roll of 1 failed to register.
Initiative was 2 for the Union and 4 for the Confederates so the Union ship was asked to move first.
End of Turn 3. Both sides now seemed intent on closing the range which should favour the Union but does the Confederate captain have a trick up his sleeve?
Turn 4. Both ships continued firing at each other as fast as the guns could be loaded. Again in each case the range was 2 and each ship rolled 2d6 to hit. The Union scored a 3 and a 4 meaning one damage roll whilst the Confederates scored a 3 and 5 which again meant a single damage roll. The Union roll was a s straight d6 and scored a 3 for no effect whilst the Confederates rolled a d6 with a minus one modifier. They rolled a 4 which was reduced to 3 meaning once again no effect. Both ships were scoring hits but not causing any damage.
Initiative was 6 for the Union and 5 for the Confederate. The Union Captain, mindful of his opponents ram, opted to move first.
End of Turn 4. By virtue of some canny manoeuvring the Union captain was able to maintain the range against his opponent whilst keeping a careful eye open for any possibility the enemy would attempt to ram him.
Turn 5. Again both sides opened fire at a range of 2 meaning 2d6 to hit for each. Each scored a single hit but the damage rolls were abysmally low - a 1 for the Union and a 2 for the Confederates!
Initiative was 5 for the Union and 6 for the Confederates who opted to allow the Union to move first.
End of Turn 5. Still the circling continues with neither side able to secure an advantage. Any damage inflicted could be potentially decisive although so far most gunfire has been largely ineffective - hits are being scored but the armour has been doing its job.
Turn 6. Again the guns roared out - 2d6 each at a range of 2. Whilst the Union ship missed entirely the Confederates rolled a 6 and a 3 so the 6 means two damage rolls, each at a minus 1. A 6 and 5 came up which become a 5 and a 4 meaning 2 points of damage on the U.S.S. Admonisher - first blood to the Confederates!
Initiative was 4 for the Union and 2 for the Confederates. The Union moved first.
End of Turn 6. Despite the damage received the U.S.S. Admonisher was galvanised into action as she swung around as tightly as she was able in order to engage the Confederate ironclad at point blank range. The C.S.S. Missenhitti followed suit and so both ships were heading towards one another and meaning business!
Turn 7. At range one both ships opened fire. The Union ship would roll 3d6 whilst the the Confederates would roll 2. In addition a plus 1 modifier to each hit dice is applied. The Confederate ship, perhaps taken by surprise by the sudden appearance of the enemy warship at such close range missed entirely - she rolled a 1 and a 2 whilst the Union rolled a magnificent 4, 5 and a 6! These became a 5, a 6 and a 7 meaning that there was a chance of a further hit (7 - 6 = 1). The roll of 3 was too much as a 1 was required. Nevertheless there were 5 damage rolls to make - each of a straight d6 roll. The 5d6 came up with a 6, a 4, a 3 and a pair of 2s meaning three points of damage in all.
Initiative was 1 for the Union and 4 for the Confederates.The Confederates opted to move first.
End of Turn 7. The Confederate ship was unable to gain a favourable ramming position and so continued to turn with her opponent, hoping to be able to open the range slightly. The Union ship dogged her every move as once again her guns made ready.
Turn 8. At point blank range once agin both ships opened fire. This time the Union scored a par of hits whilst the Confederates score three after rolling a 4 and 6. The Union scored a single point against the Confederate ship whilst in return her three d6 rolls came up with three 4s - each of which had a minus one meaning no damage inflicted!
Indicative was 6 for the Union and 5 for the Confederates. The union opted to move first.
End of Turn 8. The close range circling continues with the advantage swaying between the two adversaries. Thus far the Union had the better of the engagement but it was still too close to call.
Turn 9. Both sides fired at point blank range (meaning a plus 1 modifier per gun dice) with the Union rolling a pair of 6s and a 5 and the Confederates a pair of 5s! This meant that the Union was rolling for 6 damage points and the Confederate for 4 - either way this could be decisive. The Union scored 4 damage points rolling a 5, three 4s, a 3 and a 1. The Confederates rolled a 6, a 4, a 2 and 1 meaning a single point of damage scored (bear in mind the minus one modifier).
At this point the C.S.S. Missenhitti was down to a single remaining damage point so she would have to break off the action as best as she could, assuming her critical hit roll allowed. This then came up as a 6 meaning that she had caught fire!
At this point I called a halt to the action and so the picture for the end of turn 8 was how it ended. Fortunately both ships were facing away from each other and towards their own start lines!
The Union had ensured that the Confederate ironclad would not be able to threaten the great fleet of transports and gunboats being assembled along the Missenhitti and also that the damage she had suffered would mean a lengthy period of repair - assuming such facilities were available at the modest river port of Pratt’s Landing. The U.S.S. Admonisher had fought a gallant action but would also need extensive repair work before she could resume her station. One thing was certain though, the Confederates had been both fortunate to escape and unfortunate to have engaged such a tactically adept opponent.
This was rather an absorbing action and in many ways reflected the first great ironclad clash at Hampton Roads in 1862. Both ships were slow and with similar speeds. The Union had weight of fire but shorter reach whilst the Confederate had a longer range but less ‘punch’. It was only when the Union were able to get to point blank range that they could employ their advantage to best effect. The Confederate ship could have attempted a ram attack but the only occasion she was able to do so was not in an optimum position.
I am satisfied with the firing and damage rolls and believe that this version best follows on from Bob’s original. All I need to do now is to tabulate the firing dice deduction by range - one table for smoothbores and one for rifles - and also to tidy up the firing arcs. I reckon then I will have gone about as far as I can - the play testers may think otherwise though!
Once again I am indebted to Bob Cordery for the inspiration his book Gridded Naval Wargames has provided and I hope that this action is a worthy follow up!