Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Saturday Feb.27th saw the West Tokyo Wargamers' first official event. There were two main games on, a WW2 Russian-Japanese game, and a Renaissance naval game. Having read Crowley's "Empires of the Sea" over the New Year and bringing back an old set of rules and ships, I was really looking forward to the game.

I was really pleased at how successful this game was. The rules were the old WRG rulettes for 16th century naval. I’d never used the rules before, although they’ve been lying around for years. A couple of friends who used them in the UK weren’t that impressed with them, so I was a little anxious about how the game would turn out. Still, after going through various sets of online rules, they still looked the best ones to use, not least because they didn’t need any bookkeeping, just markers to show cripples, etc. So I made a couple of equal points forces with the ships I had and gave it a try.

The forces were,
1x Genoese Capitana (flagship)
4x Genoese galleys
4x Spanish galleys

Barbary Pirates:
1x Barbary Capitana
2x Barbary Lanternas (big galleys with extra troops)
15x Galiots (small galleys for raiding)
The Christian ships were much heavier, and in a head to head fight have a significant edge over the galiots.
After a quick explanation of the rules, we set up and started. The Christians had their backs to the open sea with coastline on their right and a long beach behind the pirates. Both sides split into squadrons - the Christians into two (Genoese on the right and Spanish on the left) and the pirates into three equal sized squadrons.

The pirates moved first and soon the left hand squadron tried to dash between the Genoese and the shore in order to get behind the Christians. The Genoese turned to follow them and were soon in a position to shoot.

No hits, and the galiots continued to try to outflank the Genoese, who were starting to break up their formation in order to catch the pirates.
One pirate galiot and a lanterna hung back to cover the flankers. The Spanish squadron saw what was happening, reversed course and started to move towards the Genoese flank. Would they get there in time?
The three flanking galiots now found themselves having to turn to face the Genoese ships, or be forced into the shore. There was a brief flurry of shooting (which showed just how inaccurate the main guns were) followed by the first boarding action of the day. The Genoese capitana attacked a galiot head on and captured it in short order. First blood to the Christians!

However, in order to gain the victory the Christians had had to break up their formation, leaving them vulnerable to the smaller but faster Muslim ships. As the prize pulled away, another galiot was able to dash into contact with the capitana’s port side. The cannon blast decimated the crew and soon the Genoese capitana was itself captured. The loss of the flagship meant that each ship now had to roll each move to see if it could attack. Only a couple of ships (including the prize) started to retreat, but the rest were content to hold their positions rather than attack, giving the pirates a significant advantage.

At the same time a second Genoese galley was caught by a sudden dash. Although they held off the boarders, collapsing morale on the Christian side after the loss of their admiral meant that they surrendered soon after. It was starting to look like Djerba all over again!

The remaining Christians decided to cut their losses and retreat. A third galley was captured by the corsairs, and then a fourth. The latter made a heroic last stand to enable the remains of the Christians to get away.
Overall, a definite Muslim victory. Pirate losses were just one galiot. The Genoese lost the capitana and three galleys. The Spanish could claim some measure of victory as they were completely unscathed.
The rules played quite well. There were very few problems. The most difficult thing was remembering the move sequence – turn, shoot artillery, small arms, melee and lastly move. Galiots are horribly outclassed in firepower and head to head fights, but are very dangerous if they can manoeuvre. Manoeuvre, in fact, seems to be one of the main points of the game; it’s not just a head on clash. The combat is very quick and decisive, so you need to get into a good position before any hand to hand combat. The problems of slow artillery shooting, short ranges and lack of accuracy mean that there is an element of cat and mouse about the game too. Players enjoyed the game, and the few members of the public who wandered in seemed to find it interesting too. It’s definitely something to do again in the future.

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