Monday, March 14, 2011

Caribbean Cruise

The night was dark and moonless as the brig slipped ever closer to the moorings.  The vague outline of the pirate ship's masts and her form, tied to the dock, began to take shape.  But for the odd light showing in the Tower of the Wolf, navigation would have been nigh unto impossible.  Each man aboard, be he marine or sailor, tensed in anticipation of being discovered.  Would it come in the form of a signal rocket, the rattle of musketry, or the roar of a cannon.  Incredibly, no alarm sounded as the brig gently and expertly eased up against the dock.  The lieutenant of marines quickly saw that sleepy figures were stirring on the dock, the ill-disciplined pirate watch had fallen asleep on duty.  "With me men; charrrrr..." as he hooks his foot on a loose line and tumbles into the water.  Splash!

Or at least that's how I rationalize the marines failing to charge home against the totally surprised pirates and to make matters worse, falling into disorder.

The scene as the marines falter and the pirates awaken.
The premise for the action above and to follow is taken from a copy of Miniatures Wargames in the 1990s.  A Spanish possession in the Caribbean is being raided by the British seeking plunder, harm to the Spanish and the elimination of a pirate threat.  All while attempting to conserve the British force for future operations.

The British had sufficient long boats and barges to land most of their force in one wave, plus a shallow draft brig that was allowed to get within 6" of shore and a bomb vessel for bombardment.  Their "army" contained a combined force of Royal Marines, a converged Grenadier unit, Highlanders, colonial Rangers, a light gun with crew, and some light dragoons.  The Spanish forces meanwhile had three units of regular or raw infantry, one of which was detailed to help protect the pirates who were providing a regular stipend to the colonial governor.  Their best infantry was a unit of Free Men of Color who had a motivation to protect their island.  Two cannons, a small group of regular dragoons and some militia light cavalry rounded out the defenders.

The previous day young midshipman Cornblower in a cutter had engaged the pirate ship in direct disobedience of orders.  He had disappeared over the horizon in pursuit and is presumed lost.  The pirate ship meanwhile was so damaged that guns had been placed ashore as her decks were nearly awash.  So much for cutting her out.

The center of the playing area had a five-sided field work with two 12 lb. cannons.  The illustrated model is not nearly as imposing as reality, but was what was available.  Attackers could run over the top without need for ladders.

The substitute fortification on a low rise.
 As it turns out, Cornblower's men had swam ashore as their cutter sank.  Unable to salvage a gun, he had six sailor castings and two gunners, just in case one should be captured.  They had been hiding out in a friendly tavern (English gold spends well too.) and had attempted to signal the fleet thought to be off shore.

Right away we knew it was going to be an odd day because time and again players bucked the odds to either fail highly favorable rolls, or succeed at low chance attempts.  The pendulum swung to and fro freely.

The Crown forces plan was to attack the pirates under cover of darkness while the mortar boat reduced the shore battery to fertilizer.  Then several boats would land where the signal lights had been showing while others rowed up the river past the reduced fortification.  Unfortunately there was no aiming point for the mortar so daylight came with the garrison awake due to the escapade at the pirate dock and ready to make things difficult.
Regular, dragoons and Free Men outside the old school town.
 The rallied marines at the pirate landing attempted to rush the defenders only to find that the cowardly pirates were filled with a deadly resolve (morale rating of 1d10 [min. 3] and a roll of 9) which threw them back onto their brig.  correctly judging this coup de main wasn't going to work they began to work their way out, fighting an unfavorable wind as the pirate cannons began to fire.
Elsewhere the boats started ashore as a lucky shot put men into the drink and the British light gun to the bottom.

Boats are scratch built, as is the mortar boat in the distance.
 On the British left the barges made land without ripping out any bottoms and began to disgorge Rangers and Light Dragoons.  As they did so, Cornblower and his survivors emerged to encourage them.
The mortar boat was not having a good day.  A great many duds were rolled and when shots did land properly they failed to achieve the desired results.  So the shore fortification was very much still in business as the boats who were originally supposed to go up the river started to pull for shore.

Rescuing survivors from the sunken longboat.

Pull men, pull for your lives!
 To be continued.....

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