Sunday, September 25, 2011

Steam and Sail at Fix Bayonets

It has been a little while since I last updated my blog (sorry about that). Work and home life have kept me busy the last month and I haven't been doing much game stuff. But now that Fall is here, I'm hoping that will change. With that in mind I took at trip down to Ft. Steilacoom for the Fix Bayonets! one-day game event. Kevin was planning on running a American Civil War naval game with the recently purchased Sail and Steam Navies from Bay Area Yards and I was interested in seeing how these rules played out compared to the Ironclads rules that he normally uses.

Kevin brought out a hypothetical scenario he has run before, where a motley group of Confederate ships is attempting to escape to Cuba when it is intercepted by a Union group. The twist is that the interception happens right after a storm passed over the ships, so visibility and speed are initially limited by the stormy waters. Additionally, the Confederates had a little damage done to their ships by the storm.

The Confederate group was made up of the ironclad ram Stonewall, the commerce raider Tallahassee, the cruiser Texas (this ship was being built for the Confederacy by France, but never went into service, it is not the casemate ironclad of the same name), and the unarmed blockade runner Owl. I was running Texas and Owl.
Confederate force with Tallahassee (foreground), Stonewall, Owl, and Texas
On the Union side had the large screw-frigate Niagara, side-wheel steamer Vanderbilt, and screw-sloop Kearsarge.
Union forces with Vanderbilt (left), Kearsarge, and Niagara

The Union outgunned the Confederates, but the Confederates had the only ironclad. The victory conditions were pretty simple, the Confederates had to exit off the other side of the board (final victory would be determined by how many ships exited), while the Union had to stop them.

Since this was the first time any of the players had played with the Steam and Sail Navies rules, we spent a little time going over the rules and ship cards. There is no movement plotting with the rules, you just set your speed, and gunnery happens before movement, which is a little different than most games. Gunnery is sort of a mix of the common To Hit die roll and buckets of dice for damage. Basically the gun range determines the base To Hit number and the die roll is modified by different situations (crew quality, multiple guns in a group firing, etc.). A hit location die is rolled at the same time as the To Hit die to determine what section of the target is hit (if there is a hit). The armor for the location is compared to the penetration value of the gun. The difference is the number of dice the attacking player rolls for damage. The damage die rolls really only do damage is you roll an 8 or higher, but if you get three of the same number (assuming you are rolling three or more damage dice) you hit a gun or get a critical hit. After gunnery, ships move with one side moving all of their ships and then the other side moves. After that there are morale checks and damage repairs to finish the turn.

The game started out with both sides out of visual range (due to the storm) and moving slowly. As the storm passed the visibility increased and both sides sighted each other. The Union forces had Kearsarge in the center to stop a straight run by the Confederates, while Niagara and Vanderbilt work around the edges. Niagara got off some early shots at Texas that knocked out the bow pivot gun on the cruiser. On the next turn Niagara switched to firing shell and did some heavy damage to the cruiser, slowing it and damaging its steering. On the other side of the Confederate formation, Vanderbilt and Kearsarge were trading shots with Tallahassee and Stonewall, without much effect on either side. Owl was trying to make repair her engine (which were damaged in the storm) to get up to maximum speed.

Niagara continued to pound away on Texas, which was having trouble getting off any effective shots because of the suppressing effects of Niagara's guns. Additionally, Texas took some critical hits that slowed her down and eventually put her dead in the water.
Owl with the damaged Texas
Tallahassee and Vanderbilt traded broadsides in an uneven exchange, with little damage done to Vanderbilt while Tallahassee's magazine exploded leaving little of the ship behind. Meanwhile, Stonewall was able to use her 10" gun to inflict some heavy damage on Kearsarge, including a critical steering hit.

Kearsarge takes a hit

Owl finally repaired her engines and increased speed, leaving the other Confederate ships behind. Niagara closed in to finish off the wounded Texas.
Niagara moves to finish off Texas

Vanderbilt was turning to go chase down Stonewall, but didn't realize Kearsarge had steering damage and the cruiser collided with the side-wheel steamer. No damage was done to Vanderbilt, but Kearsarge took some hull damage as the steamer pushed by (I'm sure there will be a Court of Inquiry later to determine who was at fault here).
Kearsarge and Vanderbilt meet under less than ideal circumstances

With Kearsarge and Vanderbilt effectively out of the chase, Stonewall made her way off the board. Now that Texas was finished, Niagara turned to go after the speedy Owl. Niagara fired at the blockade runner, doing some damage and starting a fire, but the attacks failed to slow Owl. Owl was able to put out the fire and exit the board.
Owl escapes with only minor singes

Since Owl and Stonewall were able to exit with only minor damage, the Confederates were declared the winners.

The rules were interesting and I'm looking forward to playing them again. Niagara seemed like a monster (especially when compared to Kearsarge, Texas, and Tallahassee) and it caused a lot of hits and critical hits to Texas. But I don't think you will see that kind of damage in battles with ships with fewer guns.

The rest of Fix Bayonets! looked like it went well. There were a couple Sword and Flames games, a 25mm WWII skirmish game, a Sharp Practice game, and a Regimental Fire and Fury game. It was a nice little event. You can see pictures that others took here.