Rob hosted a first-rate Napoleonic naval game at the club on Friday, using 18 of his delectably constructed 1:1200 scale model ships from Langton Miniatures and their Signal Close Action fast play rules.
The scenario pitted a Franco-Spanish fleet (Brian, Phil, Rob) trying to break out of port and escape off table, against the British fleet (Doug, Patrick) blockading at a distance - replicating what frequently happened during the Napoleonic wars, including just before Trafalgar.
Doug deployed his three frigates (Topaze, Beaulieu, Euryalus) along the centre of the table in line astern, with another squadron of two third-raters (Ajax, Minotaur) and one first-rater (Victory) held further back.
Patrick's three ships (Royal Sovereign (1st), Orion (3rd), Colossus (3rd) started on the port side of the table.
Phil's squadron of frigates (Themis, Hermione, Cornelie) took up position on the starboard side of the table. Brian, with one first-rater (L'Orient) and two third-raters (Redoutable, Aigle) deployed in the centre, ahead of Rob's Spanish squadron (Santissima Trinidad (1st), San Ildefonso (3rd), San Leandro (3rd)).
The Franco-Spanish fleet left port, increasing speed, with the Spanish bringing up the rear. Phil's frigates headed for the starboard flank, and Doug turned his frigates to face them while moving forward.
On turn 5, Phil's frigates fired at the Topaze but missed, but soon inflicted 24 points on her rigging. On turn 6, Phil dealt another 24 points damage to the Topaze, and again 24 points on turn 7. Doug, however, failed to score any hits on Phil's frigates.
Turn 8. Doug managed to hit one of Phil's frigates for 8 points damage. Patrick fired on Brian's ship Aigle, inflicting 24 points with another 14 going on her from the Orion.
Turn 9. Brian began a breakaway attempt with the ships Aigle and L'Orient turning and moving to the port side of the table, but almost collided with one of Rob's ships.
Patrick countered by sailing into the path of Brian's and Rob's ships in order to block their progress; the Royal Sovereign fired on them but missed.
Turn 10. Rob's ship San Ildefonso and Brian's ship Redoutable narrowly missed a collision.
Brian damaged the Royal Sovereign's rigging with shots from the Aigle and Redoutable. Rob veered to port, following Brian with all three ships to avoid Patrick's squadron.
While Rob and Brian were trying to escape, Patrick turned and unleashed 24 points of damage on the L'Orient's rigging from the Royal Sovereign.
Nevertheless, hampered by the wind, which favoured the Franco-Spanish, Patrick's squadron had to turn away, opening the way for Rob and Brian's exodus...
Meanwhile, Doug fired on Phil's frigate Cornelie and tried to board her from the Euryalus but was repulsed!
Redoutable's Diversion; A Duel of Frigates
Turn 12. Brian's ship Redoutable was now moving to starboard, leaving the rest of the fleet behind to make their escape. Doug's Minotaur caused her 18 points of damage.
The Victory pummelled the San Ildefonso's rigging for 24 points.
At close range, Phil's Cornelie inflicted 48 points damage on Doug's Euryalus, even though the Cornelie couldn't break free.
Meanwhile Rob and Brian's squadrons redoubled their efforts to escape while Patrick's ships were turning. Brian's Aigle gave 9 points damage to Patrick's Orion. Brian's Redoutable continued to veer starboard in the middle of the table.
The duel of frigates continued as Doug fired in succession at Phil's frigates flanking his ship, inflicting 48 points at close range, before his Minotaur, Victory and Ajax struck the Redoutable with 71 points in total off the rigging.
Patrick, now back in arc, also struck Brian's L'Orient with fire from the Royal Sovereign - 24 points on the rigging; and his Orion dealt 14 points to the San Ildefonso. He could not stop them, however.
Turn 13. Near end of play, Phil managed to inflict 48 points and break free from the Euryalus and moved onto the fourth table board of six with his lead frigate, to initiate his getaway.
The Redoutable was still plunging ahead, hitting the Minotaur for 36 points, but was seemingly being sacrificed, soaking up concentrated fire from the Minotaur, Victory (144 on the hull), and Ajax (inflicting a bow-rake worth 216 on the hull)...
Patrick belatedly tried to stop the San Ildefonso (24 points from the Royal Sovereign), but two French and three Spanish ships of the line, their sailors whooping for joy while raising casks of rum, were heading for the table edge...
All in all a fast-moving naval game brought to life with Rob's majestic models. No ships were sunk, captured, or critically damaged, but the bulk of the Franco-Spanish would have escaped had play continued. The British were stretched across the table and hampered by a head wind, which slowed them down and made turning difficult, and rarely got close enough to wreak decisive damage.
Brian deliberately allowed the Redoutable to disrupt Doug's squadrons (she actually survived intact despite notable damage) in order to support Phil's frigates - which eventually broke free of Doug's clutches; this move also tied up Doug's squadron of better ships, letting the bulk of the Franco-Spanish fleet escape.
Thanks to Rob for a good game and to all who played. On a personal note, while a convinced land lubber, I enjoyed the spectacle and admired the aesthetics while documenting the action for this here blog!