Friday, December 28, 2012

DANG 2012 - Lords of the Lake

DANG (Dave's Annual Naval Game) for 2012 was a War of 1812 game on Lake Ontario titled Lords of the Lake. The game covered action on Lake Ontario during the summer months of 1813, when there was the most naval action and the highest chance of a decisive battle. The campaign was one of my own design, using some ideas from previous DANG games and the tactical rules used for battles were a modification of the Sail and Steam Navies rules from Bay Area Yards.
A view of the battle to come
Everyone began arriving at my place just after 9:30 AM and we spent a little while catching up on things, talking about the projects we are all working on and planning. After that we split up into the sides with Mark, George, Dale, and Scott taking the British squadron and Kevin, David S., Charlie, Paul, Dave C and Arthur taking the American squadron. Each side got their briefing and began planning their actions.

Each side had the same orders (although they did not know that), which were:
  1. Achieve control of Lake Ontario. If you cannot gain full control of the lake, it is important that you do not lose control of it. A disputed lake is better than one in enemy hands. 
  2. Provide support to our naval forces on Lake Erie by providing material and manpower. 
  3. Support army operations on the Niagara peninsula 
A view of Lake Ontario
The game ran from July to September in bi-weekly campaign turns, with each side assigning missions to their ships for the turn to achieve their orders. The missions included: patrols, escorting convoys, supporting land operations, training, interception, and repair/refit. Each of the missions had certain restrictions on how ships assigned to that mission could react to enemy ships in the same area.
The Americans get their briefing
The Americans started the game with a couple purpose built warships and a bunch of smaller converted merchants. The warships were primarily armed with carronades, while the converted merchants were armed with long guns. The Americans also had two warships that were still being completed, the large 26-gun sloop of war General Pike and 10-gun schooner Sylph. The ships could only be completed if supply convoys, which ran once per month, got through to the American yards at Sackets Harbor. The Americans also received additional crew from the ships blockaded in New York and Boston that they could use to man their ships or send to Lake Erie to help naval forces there.
The British Captain's Conference
The British started with five warships with one more under construction. The British ships were all armed with carronades, but were overall better ships than the existing American counterparts (however, the General Pike out-classed the larger British ships). The British convoys were set to provide supplies to army forces on the Niagara peninsula or to the naval forces on Lake Erie. The British also received additional crew (in their case from ships in Quebec) that they could keep or send to Lake Erie.

With everything set, the campaign began with each side making plans for the first two weeks of July. The Americans formed a strong escort for their July convoy (which was carrying the main armament for General Pike) and patrolled off the American base of Sackets Harbor. The British decided to refit their larger ships (upgrading the armament) and send the other ships out to train. Both sides wanted to see what the other was thinking and didn't feel confident in trying to engage the enemy right away.

During the second half of July the British continued to train their crews and sent a few ships on escort duty. The Americans received word from their army that some troops were available for an attack on the British Army's stores at Burlington Heights and decided to commit most of their fleet to supporting the operation. The attack turned out to the very successful due to the naval support.

When the calendar turned to August, the British Army was screaming for naval support saying that without it they might be pushed out of the Niagara peninsula. The British Lake Squadron commissioned a new ship (the 14-gun brig Lord Melville) and sent all their ships to support the army. Meanwhile, the American Army was chomping at the bit to follow up the successful raid with an all out attack, with naval support. The Americans commissioned the 26-gun (all long guns, including two pivot guns) General Pike and sent it on a training mission, while most of the rest of the fleet was sent to escort their August convoy (which was carrying the guns and final naval stores for Sylph). But the Americans did send three small schooners to support the army. The two groups supporting the land operations spotted each other and the Americans decided they were in a bad spot and ran back to Sackets Harbor. A few lucky die rolls and the fact that most of the British ships were square-riggers, as opposed to the fore-aft rigged American ships, allowed the Americans to escape. One of the ships had a mishap shortly after the escape that heavily damaged the ship's masts and putting her in the yard for the next two weeks. With full naval support, the British Army was able to turn back the American attack and drive the Americans back to Fort George.

During the final two weeks of August, the armies on each side calling from more naval support; the British to push the Americans back across the Niagara River and the Americans to fight off the British attack. In Kingston, the British knew the General Pike was ready to fight and felt the only way they were going to beat the heavier American ship was to have better trained crews. So, they decided to ignore the army's calls and send all the ships out to train. The Americans decided to send a handful of schooners to support the army, while the rest of the squadron patrolled lake looking for the British. The Americans spotted the British ships and started to pursue them.
The operational map used to determine the position for tactical battles
The British did not feel they were ready to face the Americans and turned back to base. Initially, they were able to keep their distance, but a sudden shift in the wind allowed the Americans to get within gun range. With that we moved to set up the first, and only, battle for the campaign.

The Americans set up with the two newest ships, General Pike and Sylph, leading the way, followed the rest of the squadron.
The American squadron ready for action
The British had their heaviest ships, Wolfe and Royal George, in the lead followed by the squadron's brigs and schooners.
The Royal Navy squadron beating to quarters
With the setup complete, we paused for a moment to issue grog rations to the crew (I looked up the recipe and made enough for everyone to have 4 oz tot) and give the standard Royal Navy Thursday toast "A bloody war and a quick promotion!"
Both sides ready for action
With that we were ready to get the battle underway. The Americans had the wind gauge and they started a turn to close with the British to get within long gun range.
Americans turning to close, but not maintaining good formation order
After a few long range shots, the British decided they needed to close to bring their carronades into action.
British closing the distance, while maintaining an orderly formation
The battle moved on as the lead ships exchanged fire while the trailing ships tried to get in range and angle to get their guns to bear.
Americans moving into position
More movement, while the British check ranges
As the battle raged, the lines became a little more disorganized (and we neared the edge of the table, so it was time to shift everybody back to the other edge).
The lead ships engage, while the trailing ships maneuver
The General Pike was using its pivot guns to fire chain shot to slow down the British flagship Wolfe. The damage slowed Wolfe, causing Royal George, which had been taking damage from Sylph, to move up to try and draw the American fire.
Royal George moving to support the flagship
Seeing some disorder with the lead British ships, General Pike turned to cut in front of the British. Meanwhile the rear American ships had left their position in line, were trying to get a off some shots at the British rear and get on the other side of the line so the British would be taking fire from both sides.
Pike trying to cut off the lead ships while the trailing American ships try to get behind the British
The lead ships got involved in a big scrum, with ships bumping into each other and firing at very close range. The American fire blasted the lower hull of Royal George and her crew was ordered to abandon ship as the corvette began to sink. Wolfe sustained a lot damage and the crew struck after taking heavy casualties. While the two Royal Navy big ships were done, their carronade fire had caused a lot of damage to General Pike, with half of her rigging shot away and almost half the crew dead or wounded. Sylph was also stuck in the scrum, but hadn't taken much damage.
General Pike (lower left) and Sylph (lower right) play bumper boats with Wolfe (upper left) and Royal George (upper right)
In the middle of the American line, the schooner Governor Thompkins stuck after her captain was killed and taking heavy hull damage.

With their two largest ships out of action, the remainder of the British squadron decided to break off the action. Beresford, the tail-end British ship, turned and fired a few shots to slow down the pursuing Americans on the right side of the squadron. Because the other Americans had to turn to avoid the group of stopped flagships and Governor Thompkins, the British ships could put on full sail and were able to pull away from the action. Given the ship losses, the battle was judged a win for the Americans. As the referee, I sort of forced the British into this battle (although the dice did show the wind change that led to the Americans catching them). In my defense, it was getting toward the end of the campaign and I wanted to make sure we had a good battle.
Ship positions as the battle ended
With the battle over, we talked over the situation for the last month of the campaign game. The British decided they would spend the last month of the campaign in port. The Americans would try to support army operations on the Niagara peninsula and repair their damaged ships. In early September word also arrived from Lake Erie that the Americans had won the battle there (there was a die roll for this that was modified by the amount of crew and materials each side sent to Lake Erie).

A quick review of the orders for each side showed that while the British had lost their two largest, they didn't lose total control of Lake Ontario (although they did concede it for the last month of the campaign). The Battle of Lake Erie went to the Americans and the Americans were in a better position on the Niagara peninsula than they were historically. With all that in mind, the 1813 campaign was declared an American victory, but it is really just a set up for more battles in 1814 (when both sides would add 50+ gun frigates to their squadrons).

Overall I thought it was an interesting campaign game and a good battle. Thanks to everyone that participated. Unfortunately, Kevin had to leave just before the battle to help out his son, who was involved in a car accident. Kevin's son is fine (just bumps and bruises), but the car was totaled.

If you are interested in seeing the rule modifications I made to Sail and Steam Navies for the game, you can download a PDF of the changes here (Note: you will still need a copy of Sail and Steam Navies to use them). A file with the ship logs from the Lords of the Lakes game (the file includes the major ships operating on Lake Ontario during 1813) can be found here.
2012 DANG Attendees

7 comments:

  1. Sounds like a lot of fun, as always with DANG. And some lovely models there! Any chance of sight of your campaign rules? I have a similar collection of models based on the Peter pig 1/450 range bit nothing "campaigny" to use with them.

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    1. David, the rules are on their way. They are limited to Lake Ontario, but could provide a good basis for other locations.

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  2. Very interesting report, and an unusual game (for me!)...very nice!
    Phil.

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  3. Sounds like it was another fine DANG event - great looking game. I use S&SN for civil war iron clads but never thought of it for Napoleonic naval - I think I'll give those rules a go.

    Miles

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  4. Sounds like a really well-run game; great write up and photos. Best, Dean

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  5. Hi Dave,
    Great job on Lords of the Lake! Would you be willing to send me a copy of your campaign rules for the Ontario game? I'm working on something similar for Lake Erie, and also on using 3D printing for models or molds to enable 1/1000 minis for the lakes fleets.
    Many thanks,
    G

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    1. I sent an email with the referee rules/guidelines. If you don't see them, you might want to check your Spam folder.

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