My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cold Wars Report (1)

Well, I made it back from my trek to Cold Wars 2012. I don't know if I was the one that traveled the farthest (I doubt it), but a lot of people seemed surprised that I had flew in from Arizona, so I guess it is not usual.

I was signed up for one of the first gaming sessions (on Thursday) and when I finished the last gaming session at 4 PM on Sunday, I could not find any other games that were cleaning up, much less still going, so I guess I closed out the convention. In all I played nine games using six different rules, four of which I had never played before. In addition I was able to watch a number of games, take some extra photos (mostly of terrain), meet a lot of people I had only "met" on the internet, and learn a lot about how the hobby is changing.

A nice looking American Civil War gameWorld War Two skirmish game in a box
A pre-dreadnought game (I think?)Byron Angel's Age of Sail game

I think the easiest way to chronicle it all is chronologically, but not that some activities will be on other blogs, such as the DBA-related events on my DBA blog, and the events with wooden soldiers on my Wooden Warriors blog. I didn't do any solo gaming there, so nothing will be on the Solo battles blog!

A Flames of War game set in the desertAnother Flames of War game set in the desert
An Age of Steam naval gameA Napoleonics scenario using Shako II

Game 1 - Age of Sail (It Is Warm Work)

On Thursday night I was schedule to play a fictional battle on Lake Ontario in 1815 using the rules It Is Warm Work. These rules are simple, for fast play, to recreate fleet actions in the Age of Sail. I played on the British side and unfortunately, we lost. I did have a good time, however, and that is what counts.

The scenario was setup such that the wind was coming from the broad reach for both sides, although the Americans were slightly upwind of the British. The British had slightly more ships, and therefore slightly more guns, but the American crews were better at gunnery, so it should have been somewhat even.

The first picture shows the British squadron at the start of the game. In the foreground are three brigs and sloops and three frigates. These were commanded by my team mate.

The British squadrons
In the background are three more brigs and sloops then a line of three Ships of the Line (SOL). These were in my (Commodore Sir James Lucas Yeo's) command.

The action started off with both sides trying to gain as much distance upwind as possible before we were in cannon range (10" for bigger ships, 5" for smaller ones that contained only carronades). A wind shift of 90º put the wind straight into the British, which sent the squadrons in different directions.
As it was played, there was a 50% chance the wind would shift into the British face and 50% chance it would shift into the American face. We lost the roll. That one roll probably had more to do with the subsequent battle than any other!
Early action. British in foreground
The Game Master (GM) had thrown in an interesting rule for the game: ships could only fire at like-type ships (SOL at SOL, frigate at frigate, etc.) unless willing to accept a penalty for "ungentlemanly conduct". This caused for more maneuver as ships of like type jockeyed for position to fire on the right type of ship.

After two wind shifts my SOL are still in formation (foreground)
With the wind shifting a second time – again in the face of where most of the British had turned to compensate for the last wind shift – the British squadron formations were starting to founder. As the lines started to cross, and ships needed to avoid collisions, only the SOL maintained formation, as no one else dared to fire upon them.

British SOL start to hammer American counterparts
Eventually the SOL lines converged and superior American gunnery compensated for the fewer ships and guns. Nonetheless, at the end of the exchange one British SOL had struck colors and one American SOL was crippled and fleeing. This left two British on one American SOL.
SOL in broadside action
However, by this time the penalty for "ungentlemanly conduct" was past, so all ships could fire any target. With the American frigates having defeated the British frigates, they were now free to harass the British SOL, reducing the British gunnery advantage.

End of the game
By this time the game had gone four hours (including rules explanation, fumbling about, and cleanup) and it was time to call a halt. The Americans were declared the winners.

Summary

This game was plagued by wind that varied too wildly (at least it was a plague on the British). The GM had decided to use the optional wind shift rule, but had altered the odds of the change (1 in 216 instead of 1 in 432). The amount of shift in the original rule, however, was much wilder – it could switch to any direction immediately – but the GM still had it too wild as each shift was 90º! However, he compensated by ruling that the wind shift was to occur the following turn, allowing the players to try and change direction as best they could. Nonetheless, 90º shifts in the wind was just too great to be able to compensate for with all of the ships, and when it happened three turns in a row it just hammered the British.

Another "change" was how ships turned. I had misunderstood when he said that the template he was using was a combination of the template provided in the rules plus the obligatory 1" forward movement after a turn. So, using his template you could out 1" of movement when you turn. However, I was counting out 1" of movement and taking an additional 1" of forward movement after every turn. This meant that all of my turns were a lot wider than was necessary. That's what I get for not listening closely.

The rules are fairly simple in that you have a ship roster composed of circles with numbers in the center. The number of circles represent the amount of hits you can take (each hit marking off a circle) and the number in each circle represents the number of dice you shoot with. The more damage you take, the lower the number of dice to attack with. Basic chance to hit is '6' at long range (greater than 5" and up to 10"), '5' or '6' at short range (5" or less), or '4', '5', or '6' when firing a rake at short range. The player rolls one die for each hit taken and on a '6' the hit is saved.

As the fire arc is straight out to the sides in the original rules, the GM found that the movement system allowed for the player with initiative frequently to get out of the firing arc of their opponent, so he increased the firing arc to 90º (45º left and right off of the center line). The problem was not so much the firing arc, but the IGO-UGO movement system. The first player must make his complete move before the second player even starts. This give the second player a tremendous advantage and creates situations where the second player has to avoid collisions at the beginning of his movement because of the enemy's position at the end of their movement. This also happened in a later naval game I played. How to do simultaneous movement without a lot of pain? Something to ponder.

The other part of the IGO-UGO that did not work well is gunnery. One side fired and the other took damage. The other side fired, but at the lower values resulting from the damage. This definitely made for a tense roll-off on initiative, but I don't like that so much rides on a single die roll each turn. Another fix to ponder for my own Age of Sail game.

From a convention game perspective, although the "ungentlemanly conduct" penalty might be period-appropriate, it had no place in a time-restricted convention battle where everyone wants to just get stuck in. In our case we had to guess at the probable outcome of the battle as issue was not really decided by the time time was called. But, all in all, it was a fun game, to terrain nice, and ships very good looking (if a little small for my taste). It certainly rated 3.5 stars out of 5.

More to follow, as this was just Thursday night ...

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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 50 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ (although I have a townhouse in Houston, TX and a small home in Tucson, AZ) working on a contract for "the next two years" that is going on five years now. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").