A little blood and bilge and a lot of balls…

Escape from Pescadrix

Following the defeat before the gates of Pescadrix the negotiations for peace went on for many weeks. The perceived treachery of the Braunschweig contingent was a shock to all concerned but taken very badly by von Donovan and the Altefritzenburg troops who had accepted them as allies following the recent campaign in nDunaland. The negotiations seemed to have stalled and von Donovan felt it was time to take matters into hand. The presence of General Ayton Wittering (uncle to the Legion’s Major Huffington) of His Britannic Majesty’s Army was to provide a solution. General Wittering had arrived at  Prescadrix on HBMS Goliath to discuss trade and alliance with the, then current, rulers of Granprix. The Legion had a long history of service with Britannia and von Donovan  called upon this to arrange transport with His Majesty’s Navy back to Altefritzenburg. General Wittering advised that two transport ships (the Inflexible and the Dictator) were due in port and that in return for past services rendered passage could be arranged for the Legion and troops of Altefritzenburg.

Two weeks later the troops embarked and escorted by the Goliath they set sail, heading east under full sail through the sandbanks on the southern coast of Prunkland.

2014-06-18 17.43.24Several hours into the voyage two sails were sighted coming from the coast to the north. Clearly ships of the line they appeared under half sail and looked ready for action.

2014-06-18 17.43.35The enemy soon announced their intentions by opening fire at long range but causing little damage. The Goliath, the ship and crew at the height of their training, returned fire with a heavy broadside and proceeding at full sail then delivered another, fires springing up on the rear enemy ship.

2014-06-18 17.43.49The Goliath and her transports forged on at full speed, temporarily taking them out of gunnery arc. Faced with two ships of near equal strength to the Goliath her captain decided to maintain full sail and with the wind behind them make a run for the open see, with the Goliath covering the escaping transports.

The enemy moved to full sail and sped ahead bringing all guns to bear… causing damage to sails, guns and hull on the Goliath. It was now that the ships were identified. The von Hall lead the way, followed by the von Richter. Both flying the flag of Braunschweig!

2014-06-18 17.58.35The transports pulled away while the Goliath dropped to half sail to cover their escape.

2014-06-18 18.15.03 2014-06-18 18.19.26The von Richter crew tried desperately to bring their fires under control but failed and finally the Goliath brought her guns to bear on the lead ship, the von Hall.

2014-06-18 18.40.14The enemy sped ahead, the lead ship having no choice as the crew try to repair damage to the steerage. The transports kept at full sail and made a run for safety while the Goliath let loose another broadside causing more damage to guns and hull…

As the von Richter and von Hall frantically repaired damage the von Hall took another devastating broadside form the Goliath

2014-06-18 18.45.42 2014-06-18 22.21.29 2014-06-18 22.28.17The Goliath pulled close to the enemy ships and carried out hasty repairs but then had to take a reduced broadside from the von Hall which was still enough to take out her forward mast. As the Goliath slowed the enemy ships pulled either side of her.

2014-06-18 22.34.16 2014-06-18 22.38.17Trapped between the enemy ships the Goliath jockeyed for position to engage but soon took a catastrophic broadside from the von Richter and explosions ripped through the ship killing dozens of crewmen and officers.

As the transports sped to safety it was not looking good for the Goliath… with the enemy ships either side another mast was lost and the crew all but wiped out, including master gunners and officers…

2014-06-18 22.58.31With no crew left to carry out any repairs and with her gun compliment reduced the Goliath was on the verge of surrender when the enemy ships, showing no mercy, delivered the killing blow of two more broadsides and the the Goliath finally struck her colours as the enemy ships drew alongside to claim their prize.

Although their target had been the transport ships carrying the troops of Altefritzenburg, the prize of an 80 gun ship of the line was a fine trophy that after repair would join the new Braunschwieg fleet. How his Brittannic majesty would view this unwarranted attack on his navy was yet to be seen… And how the small state of Braunschweig had acquired such powerful ships was as yet unknown…

The Rules

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On a recommendation from Henry Hyde I picked up a copy of Blood Bilge and Iron Balls by Allan Abbey and available from Pen and Sword books. These are a straightforward and fun set of rules for the Age of Sail. Everything you need to play is in the book, including a set of ship counters, and everything (and extras) can be downloaded from the Pen and Sword site.

The game turn is controlled by cards. Each side (and you can have more than two) has a Sailing, Repair and Firing card and these are drawn at random so you can finish the turn on a broadside and then get to deliver another at the start of the next turn! This can make for some fun! Damage is determined by dice to hit and then a deck of cards is used to allocate damage to crew, hull, sails, and guns etc. in varying degrees of severity. This is all recorded on a ship record sheet.

shipsheetAs damage is crossed off and fires recorded you can allocate your crew (or what’s left of it!) during the Repair Phase to fix the damage but as the cards randomise the sequence you may take damage more quickly than you can repair. There are rules for hits on the Ship’s Gunner, Sailing Master, Carpenter and also to steerage and the command structure: all of which affect how well your ship performs.

I kept the first game pretty simple and at least had the wind behind most of the ships which made life simple but overall it played out well. I only have a 4ft square playing surface so placing a blue throw over this and then just shifting everything over a foot as needed seemed to work fine. The rules are very ‘ship’ based so I’m not sure how many ships one person could comfortably control (more so as I’m playing solo) and although the card drawing for damage seems a little time consuming it is quite fun.

I’ve never been a big naval gaming fan (and no doubt I’ll get terminology wrong) but this was good fun and I’ll be trying it again as part of my Imagination gaming. The counters work fine but I’ll no doubt be tempted to acquire some ship models! It’s a fun way to add a naval aspect to your C18th (and Napoleonic) gaming and at £4.99 for the Kindle Edition (which with the downloads is all you need) it’s a bargain!

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