Friday after work we raced south to try and make the first round of gaming. We pre-registered and a hotel promotion we belong to meant we even got our room for half price. Can't hardly beat that. With 10 minutes to spare we made the first round and each got in the game of our first choice. Peg tried out 4th Edition AD&D while I went to play the Battle of Cape Spartivento in 1940 with Brits vs. Italians. The game system was "Naval Thunder" in 1/2400 run very capably by Jeff Henn. The game plays remarkably fast and in my one other exposure to it last year was pretty realistic given the concessions for fast-play.
At the start six Italian heavy cruisers; Zara, Fiume, Glorizia, Trieste, Trento and Bolzano (the latter three under me) squared off against five new light cruisers; something, something, Southampton, Newcastle and Sheffield (guess which ones I was fighting?) and the battle-cruiser Renown. We knew that two heavy Italian units were coming though. I deferred to the other guy present who had arrived before me to be C-n-C. So naturally, instead of taking advantage of our superior gunnery range and speed to keep them at distance while we lured them back onto the battleships, he ordered us to engage and close. I thought at the time it might work because initially we would "cap their T" and get some free shots. The dice said otherwise.
My three cruisers are closest in the view. The ill-fated turn to close is in progress and the Brits just discovered they are still out of range. On turn three the battleships Vittorio Veneto and Gulio Caesar came on table. The late arriving Italian commander (show up late and get the best ships) decided to mask the Caesar with the Veneto and charge straight forward to close. However on the first turn, with a 1 in 100 chance he scored a penetrating hit on the Renown. The battle was violent and generally poorly played by the Italians. HMS Ramilles joined the fray later as the British light cruisers began to take a toll on the Italian heavies. We discovered in these rules that the British 6" gun is almost as good as the American and ALL the Brit ships had radar in 1940 and knew how to use it to perfection. I'll look into this claim later. The lead three Italian cruisers went on a death ride to point blank, of course losing all three and the player wandered away. After the Trieste took a hit that induced a list I turned away 90 degrees with all my ships to open the range. In the process it was too much for the Trieste which capsized. One British cruiser went down slowly by the bow, midships and finally the stern. Realizing that the battleships were going to kill them, smothering the Newcastle in one turn, the other two in my sector turned away making smoke. Then I discovered the fatal flaw in the rules. No spotter planes were allowed. No visibility or shooting was allowed through smoke. Yet without being able to spot the fall of shot except by radar, the British ships could not only fire at full effect, but with a +1 for radar! Given that, how could we even compete?
The scene as the four surviving Italian ships form line. I took my faster cruisers behind the battleships, looking for an opportunity to launch a torpedo attack since the British lights were retiring. Unfortunately for me my dice decided to go absolutely frigid at this time and I never scored another damaging hit. In the end the Caesar went down, the Bolzano was a wreck, the Ramilles had four floatation points left and the Sheffield was only a bit better off. The Renown, unknown cruiser and Southampton were withdrawing. The Veneto was still in great shape, maybe 20-25% damage. Still, we were in no position to go after the convoy somewhere off table so the Italians lost some utterly irreplaceable ships and didn't get the convoy.
At a neighboring table there was a pirate civil war in process leading to the capture of the outer island fortress protecting a Spanish stronghold sheltering pirates. Unable to get into the Russo-Japanese naval game, Peg and I both signed up for this.
Saturday morning after little sleep we arrived, dropped off some things for the silent auction and went to play with the pirates. This game can only be called fun eye candy.
The Old Town is in the foreground with del Morro in the back. The place was held by a combination of French and Spanish regulars, pirates, and citizen militia. Our pirate force had some Royal Marines and ships that Peg and I lucked into as well as a bunch of English buccaneers. The year was 1703.
A bomb ship rammed the outer works and the subsequent explosion not only cleared a sector of the wall but also created a breach. Small sailing ships and lots of rowed boats followed.
With lots of fortifications we had to rush them. Some small craft were sunk or damaged during the approach, but most made it to shore. In the picture the the bomb ship burns, Peg's marines are forming on the beach for volley fire, my marines are looking to clear the redoubt in the foreground, common pirates are attacking frontally (and getting ripped up) and just in the corner of the picture, a large French pirate ships has cut it's cables to start drifting out.
Here pirates supported by my marines assault the side of del Morro while other groups finished off the valiant French in Old Town. A lucky shot from my sloops 18 pounder had taken out the large gun where the fire burns. Volley fire by my men was taking out the pirates on the walls quickly. At the time limit we had over-run Old Town, had two viable entries into del Morro and the pirates and local militia had broken. The final bit of excitement was my sloop in a river channel dodging two fireships. Fortunately for me they lit them too soon and the crew abandoned them to drift, so I got away clean.
A d6 game system, little in the way of morale and a card driven activation system. Battlefield Hobbies put the game on and did a super job of keeping it flowing, reacting to crazy ideas by the players, and handling a lot of dice rolling. This is part of an on-going convention campaign so our surviving leaders go in a data-base for next time with our contact info.
The next game for me was my misguided attempt to find out what the newish rules "Black Powder" are all about. Now I know and won't make that mistake again. The game was Mexican-American War based on the Battle of Rio Saludo. Rob Oldenburg did a good job of running it and all five other players were fun and real gentlemen, the 25mm figures well done, so my issue is with the rules.
The attacking Americans automatically got the initiative. Okay, that's reasonable. Their staff ratings were higher. Pretty consistent with my understanding of the armies. We had nine infantry, four guns in two redoubts and six cavalry units against nine infantry, five guns and four small cavalry units. We had a lot of unreliable militia types, they were pretty battle hardened.
Not wishing to dwell on it, when you dice against your staff rating you can get up to three moves and must state exactly what you will do on turn one, two and three. Most of the day the Americans got three moves. The Mexicans were allowed no reaction. Then the Americans get to fire. Say what? Automatically? We just sat there, let them march up to 1" range and open fire. Then the survivors got to do the same back if you weren't disorganized (takes a "6" on a shooting dice against you to create), shaken (three casualties) and/or managed to make your staff roll. Despite all that and the fact we couldn't get the Mexican cavalry to move for the first three turns, we were still in it when the Americans hit a rough stretch. If a unit fails a morale test badly they are simply picked up and removed forever. By about turn 8 or 9 we had wiped out a brigade of three battalions, had eliminated a battalion from each of the other two brigades, and had killed a cavalry unit. In return we had lost two infantry units and two cavalry units (one expected, one a fluke). As we are looking at our seven to four infantry advantage and four to three cavalry advantage, we were told our army morale had broken.
My opponent, who was a real nice guy and I talked a lot during the game about the aims of goals of the system since he was really high on it. He was pleased that it usually had games over in two hours with decisive results. I countered that I will make time for my leisure pursuits and can't enjoy a game that defies realism. While we played another turn after the morale break announcement our personal morale had broken as did our entire front when the Americans manhandled their guns 18" forward (triple move) and fired at full effect. I shook hands all around, thanked them for the game and won't give that one another chance.
Peg played in a miniatures based fantasy game along D&D lines with more enjoyment than I experienced.
The rest of the Con in the next post.