On Thursday at the uni club we replayed a portion of the Battle of Trafalgar to mark the anniversary.
I think most wargamers are familiar with the overall outline of the Battle of Trafalgar 21st October 1805. Essentially Nelson's daring plan was to allow the Combined Franco-Spanish fleet to cross his 'T' in order to break their line and bring on a general action where he was confident that British training and gunnery would pay off. But for our game to commemorate the 209th anniversary of this iconic action, we would concentrate on just the tip of the 'Lee' column, led by Admiral Lord Nelson's deputy, Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood. Collingwood's flagship, HMS Royal Sovereign, had a brand new copper bottom, which allowed Collingwood to fulfil his ambition of being first to break the enemy line:
We used Trafalgar rules, which we find gives a good fast-play game, concentrating on the gunnery and DC aspects without going into too much detail on sailing, weather and other environmentals. However we did heavily modify the weather rules, as outlined in the game scenario, quoted below:
21st October 1805. Admiral Lord Nelson wants to bring on a general action with the combined Franco Spanish fleet, which is attempting to escape North to Cadiz.
He divides his fleet into 2 columns, the better to prevent any escape and to hasten a larger general action. However closing the Combined Fleets’ line whilst in column is a tense period for his ships, as effectively this allows the Combined Fleet and initial period of crossing his ‘T’, thus bringing their broadsides to bear with bow raking shots on his leading ships, which are unable to respond. He gambles that the heavy swell will affect the accuracy of their gunnery.
|Between us we're pretty well read on the Age of Sail - or is that 'Aged Sailors'?|
This week’s game concentrates on the first hour or so of action as Admiral Collingwood leads his southerly ‘Lee’ column to break the enemy line about halfway down the Combined Fleet’s line of battle.
|The RN Lee column, with Royal Sovereign in the lead. All Alan's models, a fraction of his collection.|
The Combined Fleet starts the game Beating under Battle Sail, the British Fleet starts the game Running under Full Sail.
Clear weather, light Westerlies, Sea state 6-7 running East-West.
Deep water, 21 miles North by West of Cape Trafalgar, in the Straits of Gibraltar, South of Cadiz.
Wind. Light Westerly winds gives the British fleet the wind gauge, but it is only allowing the columns to close the Combined Fleet painfully slowly, maximising their time in broadside range of the enemy. All movement reduced by 2cm.
Sea state 6-7, with a deep swell running East-West. Resultant yawing to ships heading North or South (Combined Fleet initially) results in -1 modifier for gunnery.
Mission The Combined Fleet to clear the area North making for Cadiz. British Fleet to close with and destroy the enemy.
Lead ships will start on table as space permits, junior ships will arrive on table at the start of successive moves, without dicing, in the order of sailing. Players will assume command of 2-3 ships, depending on numbers, spreading command along the line to allow for late arriving ships and players. The British team will have first move, and have the wind gauge. The Royal Sovereign will be positioned 100 cm due West of the tip of the Combined Fleet’s line, and the Bellisle will be positioned a further 40cms to its rear, representing the Royal Sovereign’s lead into action.
Scenario Specific rules:
Blaze table – On result of 1-5 reroll result, if same number take result, otherwise remove blaze counter.
The Wind Table – 1 – 5 = No Change in wind direction or strength. 6 = Wind changes strength, roll on Wind Strength table. (If already becalmed, add 4 to roll)
Wind Strength table – 1-2 = Becalmed (inertia moves only). 3-5 = Wind drops, reduce speed by 2cm 6 = Wind freshens, increase speed by 2cm
Command and Signal – Ship rosters for record keeping will be provided.
The ship models we used were from two sources, Alan's, shown in the photo above of RN ships waiting to move on table, were from Skytrex, purportedly of the 1200th scale, whereas my Spanish squadron were very slightly larger 1200th scale Langtons:
Neither of us bothers to rig our ships, as recommended in the rules, ostensibly because we feel such rigging would be out of scale, and, in my case, out of laziness!
Still, I think they pass the '3 foot rule' of looking ok at arm's length:
And so, having looked at the scenario and set the scene, to battle! Below, looking from the WSW, we see the first two ships of the RN column moving to intercept the Combined Fleet. The RN team was manned by Peter and Mark. HMS Royal Sovereign has drawn ahead from the next in line, HMS Belleisle...
Now looking from the East. The wind has maintained direction, but weakened even further, encouraging the Combined Fleet to put on full sail. Combined with the heavy swell, this means any long range gunnery will only hit on 6D6, so no critical hits can be scored...
The same view from due South. Notice the Combined Fleet's line, on the right of view, is pretty ragged. It was clear by this point that Alan, the Combined Fleet's commander, was going to concentrate on making a run for Cadiz, rather than fighting a delaying action - looks like we had a stern chase on our hands!
With the wind picking up again slightly, the Royal Navy survives the moment of greatest danger and breaks into the Combined Fleet's line - the Royal Sovereign has taken a battering, but is still afloat and fighting! However the bulk of the Combined Fleet are to the North of the breakthrough, so may make off safely if they have no qualms about leaving the rest of the fleet behind...
Now a seagull's eye view from the East. The bulk of the Combined Fleet looks to be making good their escape, although there are a couple of lame ducks. Speaking of lame ducks, the Royal Sovereign's last remaining mast 'goes by the board' and she begins to drift. Her guns are still manned and ready, but out of range...
Looking from the SSE, the stern chase is on! The Lee column can only concentrate on finishing off the lame ducks, the Bahama and Algeciras...
But as the Belleisle fails to dismast the Pluton with a lucky shot, and she sails off the table, relatively unscathed, the game is over - the bulk of the Combined fleet has escaped destruction!
Some of the lads aren't too happy with Trafalgar as a set of rules, I'm not sure why, so soon we will be playing a similar game, possibly even the same scenario, with 'Form Line of Battle' to see if those are deemed worthy. So maybe another tale of adventure on the high seas will follow soon... In the meantime, Alan has also posted an account of this game: