Sunday, January 29, 2017

Heart of Oak

In the continuing quest with the ANF for the perfect Napoleonic wargaming rule set, yesterday we (Stephen N, Mark B and myself) ventured out to tackle Heart of Oak with the ANF crew.  Julian had put together the Glorious First of June as the test scenario for these rules.  While we had copies of the rules from Wargames Vault, I think it fair to say I was probably the only person who had been able to make a pass at reading them.  So while experienced miniature wargamers, with some knowledge and experience of naval wargaming, we were completely new and unknown to Heart of Oak.

All ship models are from Sails of Glory.  The game scale was 1 mm equals 1 metre, not very nautical but spot on for the model scale.  The wind was fixed at strength 3 and was from the SSW.  North is the left hand side of the table in the following picture.

The two fleets at set up, at extreme range (about 1.4m)
The French (on the left, downwind) are commanded by Julian with the Van, myself as CinC Centre and James with the Rear.  The British commanded by Mark W with the Van, Stephen as CinC Centre and Mark B with the Rear.

The British Van turns towards the French line.  The French were moving at 8, 12 or 16mm per turn.  A turn was a minute.  We completed eleven turns in seven or eight hours.

The French flagship.  We rolled ship and crew quality and had some strange mixes.  Smart ships with poor crews and Hookers with crack crews.  The French flagship was blessed with a green crew.

The British are now all turning towards the French.  The French line is getting messy as the ships travel at different speeds due to their quality (fair enough) and while only a few mm it soon adds up meaning keeping in formation becomes problematic.  My thought is that Hookers could be restricted to their speed, but Average ships could choose from the Hooker to the Average speed distance and for Smart ships they could select from the range Hooker to Smart.  Otherwise you'd have to fiddle with sail settings all the time.  However, maybe that was the idea. As we were giving battle we all had fighting sail set.

Some of the British ships.  After a few test shots at extreme range we waited until medium range (under 700mm) to start blasting.  Damage was impressive to start with, but soon tapered off, but not before lots of cries of alarm that the concentrated French fire was going to sink a British ship, something that never ever happened they cried.

The French Van did some tacking.  As a result one ship was demasted.

Heat and exhaustion set in and we called a halt.

I thought the rules were playing well.  The scale of the scenario was a challenge, but seemed to be working okay.

I did see an issue with the chance for critical, especially with a poor crew as it meant it was worth their while to blaze away even if there was little chance of creating damage, there was always a chance of a critical.  I would reserve criticals only for full broadsides or just reduce the chance to one percent for continuous fire.

Moving at mm isn't practical.  I find cm hard enough with Impetus.

Sailing when you specify the ship's heading (thanks to Kaptain Kobold for that tip) works a dream.


  1. I'm mightily jealous. As you know, I had this set in the captain's privy and so have read it many times.

    Did you make up ship cards for every ship? I imagine you didn't have a referee move each ship as the rules suggest.

    I assume its such a different beast from Galleys and Galleons that they serve different purposes?

    -- Paul

    1. Yep, ship card for every ship. Took a bit of time to fill out and not sure people were using them as they should have been to write down orders, in fact given the small moves, there didn't seem to be the need. Need to keep record of damage though.

      No referee and in fact missed that bit (luckily, sounds boring and, well, unnecessary).

      Totally different to G&G. I'm yet to try G&G for fleets of this size. I reckon it can be done and would give a fast fun game. We shall see...

  2. That's a huge scenario for those rules, especially if people haven't played them before.

    "Otherwise you'd have to fiddle with sail settings all the time."

    The whole game is about the sailing. Everything else, including the gunnery, is fairly abstracted. The sailing is key, and the complexity of the rules compared to other bits reflects that.

    I don't know whether you can still get it, but HoO was the ship-to-ship rules for a RPG. There were two other books that came with it. One was the RPG itself, which is not without interest, but the other was a great little sourcebook on AWI and Napoleonic-era naval stuff, which is worth reading if you can get hold of a copy.

  3. Yes, hats off to Julian for being bold and setting up the game. I think it is a credit to the rules that we were able to play as much as we did.

    As for sailing, with a fleet action you have to assume each ship captain knows how to sail their ship. Which leads me to thinking wargame rules aren't really meant to be scalable.

    I have some good books I need to go through, but thanks for the reference. One thing that we were not sure of is how long the lines of ships should really be. What was the recommended separation distance? As model scale and sea (eh ground) scale were basically the same, it has a direct bearing on play. How were the British ships meant to go in between the French ones when they are effectively bumper to bumper? We ignored collisions which would have been a constant issue with the fixed move but varied quality of ship. And as the ships were on fighting sail and engaged in battle I have a feel that such engagements were more of a stationary affair (unlike frigate actions I have read about which seemed to be more about pursuit).

    The next rules are Blood, Bilge and Iron Balls, but the ANF chaps have said they will try em out first with just a few ships. LOL where's the fun in that! It's not a game if you can't have all your toys on the table at once. ;-)

    1. " We ignored collisions which would have been a constant issue with the fixed move but varied quality of ship."

      Not sure what the prescribed distance was in reality, but I seem to remember that in our games of HoO (25 years ago) we kept a ship's length apart at least at the start, and would be constantly trimming and making sail as gaps opened or closed. Which strikes me as very much the way things went. As I recall in HoO, if you are beating you can move up to the distance listed on the chart, rather than having to go the full whack. That's how lines stayed under control; they sailed close to the wind. So if you look at actions like Trafalgar, Lissa or Camperdown, the one side is beating, and is maintaining a fairly formal line (nominally in the case of Trafalgar), whilst the side bearing down with the wind tends to end up with its formation breaking up, unless the captains maintain control. Works very nicely; you have to surrender speed and initiative for control.

    2. Thanks. Sounds good and has saved me a bit of reading, or rather has removed urgency. Cheers!

  4. Top post Mark. Stimulated some useful discussion too.
    Thanks again to you, Stephen and Biko for coming out to join us. 'Twas a fun-filled day, even if the 'action' on the table top was at first glacial and then light-speed.
    Thanks too to you and Stephen for filling in the gaps in the line with your ships!

    1. I've just commented on Julian's post. I rate the day as a big success.

      All us Perthites had ships in the game, but that is what you'd expect from coast dwellers. However our contribution was a pale shadow of Julian's fleet.

      I'm wishing I'd seen this post before investing in SoG ships:

      Kaptain Kobold has played some fun games using Galleys and Galleons (as I have as well)

    2. To be fair, I created those ships so I had some quick and dirty pre-18th century vessels to play with. I have a fairly extensive collection of Napoleonic ships in metal, which I have built up over the past 30 years :)