Thursday, 2 February 2012

Grand Fleets of the Spanish Main

Well, I decided to splurge the £6.32 to buy Grand Fleet Actions in the Age of Sail from Wargames Vault, and how to playtest it except with old Wizkids Pirates of the Caribbean clip miniatures!
The excellent Admiral Whelphwood led a veteran squadron of four '74s and his flagship, the 90 gun Wycliffe against Admirale Jeanot's smaller average squadron of the Marie Antoinette 120 guns, the 110 gun Le Breton and La Geographe and the frigate Marianne.
Whelphwood's Squadron

Jeanot's ships

The first thing I realised was that my Wizkid card ships are bizarre! The French ships are just... odd, and the “card scale” size of the British was a mindscrew, but whatever – the ships aren't the point!

Grand Fleet is a simple system – a few d6, a few d10 and you're golden. So out they come. The system is pretty easy – commanders roll for initiative and then pick whether to move their ships first or second. From then on they take turns until all ships have moved, or a cataclysmic explosion destroys a ship. No-one can ignore a noise and a sound that horrifying!

Initiative swapped a fair bit for the first few turns of manoeuvring, until suddenly the HMS Wycliffe found itself bearing down on the frigate Marianne. Shooting is performed by rolling a d10 and adding relevant modifiers (ship's Gunnery, crew's Quality, circumstantial things). With a Gunnery of nine and a veteran crew, Wycliffe can do some real damage. Unless it rolls a one. When it does nothing. Marianne's return fire was equally desultory, and the turn ended with both squadrons closing in.
Whelphwood's Squadron in two lines.

Jeanot kept the initiative, and the Marianne swept away from the Wycliffe. The French line took her place, but was out of range until Whelphwood drove his squadron forwards. The Wycliffe and the Marie Antoinette opened up on each other, and the French flag lost some guns to accurate British fire.
Inspired by their first round of cannon, Whelphwood moved his squadron onwards. His line split to bracket the Marie Antoinette with fire, but didn't do an amazing amount of damage.
Wycliffe and Duke of York split to bracket the Antoinette

The Antoinette blasted the Wycliffe again, but the return fire from Wycliffe and the Duke of York nearly rendered it to a hulk, and in the next turn, actually did so, zeroing its Hull and Speed factors. Now barely afloat and devoid of masts, its crew had to test Morale (another d10 test), but courageously decided to fight on.
Leaving the near-crippled Antoinette to its own devices, Whelphwood's ships moved on to Le Breton and La Geographe. In a brutal exchange, they wrecked Le Breton's sails and gun decks. Further down the line, Plantagenet was lucky to have a weak exchange of fire with La Geographe. The Duke raked Le Breton from the stern and weak fire was thrown out by the other, far more battered ships.
The terrible crush.

Suddenly, as the Duke fired again, Le Breton went down in a blaze of lead. Even as she did, Whelphwood's second line bracketed La Geographe and opened fire. With a third of Jeanot's line of battle foundered, Whelphwood's surrounded La Geographe in a risky manoeuvre (which in hindsight I will not repeat). 

Geographe struck her colours under the weight of fire, and I called the game there. The Wycliffe was limping, the rest of Whelphwood's squadron relatively unharmed. One of Jeanot's ships was sunk, another had struck its colours, his flagship was a drifting wreck of splinters, and the Marianne escaped unscathed to bring France tales of its woe.
La Geographe, surrounded.

All in all, I enjoyed the game, and I think that with more reading it will do very well for fleet games. For squadron ones it is maybe a little abstract, but since I hate having to do a lot of recording keeping and chit-using in a game, that's fine by me really. The rules also have a section on fouling which I lazily avoided by keeping a nominal half-unit between all boats at all times.

The next step is to get some Navwar 1/3000 ships so I needn't rely on these bizarre (if charming!) monstrosities!

No comments:

Post a Comment