Friday, 16 August 2013


Andy and I, had seen a battle of Historical Naval ships a while ago at a wargaming convention where they were using the Warhammer Historical rule set called "Trafalgar" and we thought with our interest in sailing that it would be a lot of fun to play. The period is set between 1795 and 1815 so has a variable of different Historical battles including the Egyptian Nile battles, USA East Coast against the British, and the Russian Baltic theatre as well.

So we brought the rule book online, enthusiastically followed shortly after with some array of cool looking models from Langton Miniatures in the UK.

The game it self is fairly simple, you may have to look up various tables and charts now and again to see what damage is done but the game itself, flows along nicely and is a lot of fun. The game can last about 3 hours depending on how many points you have taken.

The first item to mention about this game should be, that the turn order is somewhat different to the normal war-gaming. Each turn you have to determine which ship or squadron of ships has the initiative, or as it is called "he who holds the weather gauge", as historical naval battles will tell us that the fleet who held the favorable weather gauge had a considerable tactical advantage over their opponents.
In game terms this is determined by looking at the wind direction, and the vessel that is closest to the source of the wind (i.e. the closest to the table edge from which the wind originates) is holding the weather gauge therefore starts first, so you end up with a mixture of yours and the enemy's ship moving about the table which makes for a fun game turn.

The turn is broken down into 4 phases
1) Weather phase - Determine wind direction and weather conditions
2)Sailing Phase - Set sails and perform ship manoeuvres
3) Gunnery phase - Open fire on the enemy with your deadly broadsides of cannons and cannonades, as well as carry out your boarding actions
4) End phase - resolve effects such as spread of fire and wreckage, and carry out boating repairs and the like.

The wind direction can play an important role in the game, and can change a number of times during the course of the game in direction and strength. It can be blowing a gale  or even become becalmed, also effects of rain and fog etc, which adds some flavor to the game.

Each ship when activated, has to immediately start its turn by moving a set Inertia move, and then it gets to move as you see fit within the movement allowance. There are some limitations where the big ships are only allowed one sharp turn, or two shallow turns, where as unrated ships have much more privileges to them for movement. To do tricky manoeuvres such as tacking, gybing, box-hauling and the like you have to first do a command check to represent the difficulty of such manoeuvres.

The ships are rated on its size and amount of guns it has,
here is a brief description of the different rating classifications:
1st Rate ships - 3 gun decks with 100 to 120 guns
2nd Rate ships - 3 gun decks with 90 to 98 guns
3rd Rate ships - 2 gun decks with 64 to 80 guns
4th Rate ships - 2 gun decks with 50 to 60 guns
5th Rate/Frigate ships - 1 to 2 gun decks with 32 to 44 guns
6th Rate/Frigate ships - 1 gun deck with 28 guns
Un-rated ships - Vessels with complements of less than 20 guns

The shooting phase is fairly easy, as there are three main types of weapons used in the game, the Light cannon, Heavy cannon, and cannonades. Each ship class is given a broadside rating (BR) depending on how many of each type it has, so for example a French 1st rate Ship of the Line has a BR of 4/4/2 ... which relates to 4 light cannon dice, four heavy and 2 cannonade dice per shooting phase. A little USA 5th rate Frigate would have a BR of  -/3/-  as it has only three heavy cannons used.
You can also fire as she bears in the movement phase (instead of shooting phase) but you cop a penalty for this, but if the opportunity arises its well worth it.

When shooting at a ship, you can declare to shoot at its hull or at its masts/sails, each has its pro's and con's - the hull will eventually cripple or sink the ship, but you will hit their cannons in the process making the return fire reduced. By targeting the masts you will slow the ship down and eventually make them not and only drift. If the ship is on a beating tack position and wishes to fire, then it may only aim high into the wind as the ship heel position only allows this. The leeward side can only fire low as the ship heels in that direction

Also when you roll a natural 6 when firing, you cause a critical hit, this allows you to roll on the critical hit tables, where the damage can be anything from increasing the # of hits to D3 hits, taking on water, hitting the rudder, ablaze and fire spread, mast is struck, crew loss and panic etc.

Being hit in the stern or bow by a raking fire can cuase major concern, as it increases the critical damage taken, and also lowers the ship saving throw.

Each ship comes with a roster sheet detailing the ships hit points for the hull, masts, crew etc, where in you cross off your damage points as need be. Its very common to loose a mast or two during the course of battle. You get points for crippling/sinking and taking over ships by boarding actions and so forth.

Examples of Roster Sheets

Langton Miniatures has a wide range of ships available at 1:1200 and 1:2400 scale, we choose the 1 : 1200 scale as it looks so much better. The hulls and sail sets are sold separately as there is a choice of sail settings in white metal and in photo etched brass, we choose the later being a lot more detailed and easier to work with.

 There is a multitude of different hull types depending on the rating of the ship and whether its battle ready (with cannon ports open) or sailing, and then you have a selection of sail settings to choose from, which include full sail, studded sail, battle sail, top courses furled, bottom sails furled etc. The miniatures are very detailed for the scale and the different options gives you a level of flexibility where you can make every ship look a little different.

There is a lot of Nationalities available to choose from, the obvious being the British, French and Spanish, but also Portugal, Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, Turkey, USA and Pirates.

Andrew went for a French fleet, as he liked their special rules for the army
His army has a range of Ship of the Line consisting of a 1st Rate, two 3rd Rate large, two 3rd Rate small, two 5th rates and two 6th Rates - his unrated ships consist of six Luggers, some barque lanteens and a floating battery

While I went for a more somewhat different army for the period in the form of the United States of America Fleet, which for the most part consists of 5th Frigates (lots of them) with a fair number of un-rated ships as well.

Andy's finished most of his ships with just a couple of un-rated ships to rig and paint, where as I have got a wee while before I finish. Still have the sails and rigging to start (which is the hard bit) but I have painted all the bases and hulls so its a start.

The rigging work involves several steps, 1st drilling small holes in the top of each mast and each side of the hull, then you have to carefully tie a cotton thread (special type) up and down so that it allows further placement of the shrouds and spirit sails etc to be placed as required for the different sail settings. Andy says its easy once you get going but it still looks awfully awkward, not to mention daunting so not looking forward to this part.

Below is photos of Andrew's finished French Fleet , I think Andrew is very pleased with them.

1st Rate French Ship of the Line

Barque Lanteen

Squadron of Luggers

5th and 6th Rate Frigates

Another Barque shot

A 5th rate with furled sails

1st Rate Ship of the Line

The fleet of French ships
Here is some photos of the terrain we did for it, also done some rocky outcrops and hills but havent finished them yet.

Village with church


Naval Fort on hillside

I will hopefully post a game report next week (my models wont have any masts but at least its a start)

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