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Subject: Session Report: USS Constellation vs Three Privateers rss

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Drew Ames
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Once again, my 8-year-old and I recently played a very enjoyable game of WS&IM (1/29/14). I was home sick with bronchitis, so I was able to pick John up after school and play the game with him for two uninterrupted hours before anyone else came home.

The Scenario
This time, we jointly developed a scenario based on the rules for making one's own scenarios found at the end of the rulebook. The basic setup is that the US frigate, Constellation (the first one, not the sloop of war now in Baltimore) is being pursued by three smaller privateers with few guns (and no carronades), but extra crew.

At the start of the scenario, the Constellation is sailing with the wind (attitude B), which was blowing in direction 3 (SE). Her bow hex was in column CC on the map. The three privateers are west of the US ship with their bow hexes in columns Y, U, and W (from east to west) and also at attitude B. All of the lightest color hexes are land.

The three privateers are (in sailing order):
* The Devil -- 375 tons, fore and aft rig, with 2 hull squares, 2 gun sections, and four average crew squares in the first division. Its value is 5 points.
* The Alert -- 525 tons, brig rig, with 3 hull squares, 4 gun sections, and the same crew compliment as the Devil. Its value is 6 points.
* The Tiger -- This brig is in all respects identical to the Alert.

The total point value is 17 points.

The USS Constellation was in real life a 38-gun ship-rigged frigate of 1,200 tons with (nominally) 28 long 18-pound guns and 20 32-pound carronades. This translates in the game to 9 hull squares, 4 gun sections, 6 carronade sections, and six elite crew in three divisions. Her point value is 17 points.

The scenario seems balanced -- balanced, but not even. The Constellation has an advantage in firepower, especially within two hexes. The gunnery of the three privateers is theoretically equal to the frigate's, but the fact that the guns are spread over three vessels, coupled with average crews, means that each ship cannot fire on more than the first or second hit tables. Even when more than one of the privateers fires at the same target, they will do less damage than the same number of guns being fired from a single ship with an elite crew.

On the other hand, the privateers have a huge advantage in manpower. If two or more can board and melee, either at the same time or sequentially, the Constellation could be taken. However, the Constellation is as maneuverable as all but the 375 ton cutter, so catching her will be difficult.

The Game
John and I played with the basic rules from my 1st edition rule book. John was captain of the Constellation.

In the first turn, John turned right to attitude A and fired his starboard broadside. He missed. Since my three ships were sailing in a staggered line astern, I chose to turn in succession, which meant that my three vessels would take longer to get into position, but could bring all guns to bear if John continued south or turned back east.

On turn tree, John took a shot but missed. Turn three saw the Devil land her initial broadside and take out one gun square on Constellation.

On the next turn, things got very interesting. John turned, crossing the T, and arresting my three ships’ movement just as they were finally in a line of battle. All three had to luff up to avoid a collision, and all three miraculously avoided fouling with one another or the Constellation. Unfortunately, John could rake the Devil and Constellation’s broadside forced Devil to strike.

The next couple of turns were spent maneuvering around the Devil and trying to bring each others' guns to bear. Devil started to drift toward land. It would take 15 more turns for her to run aground.

On turn eight, both of my remaining vessels fired on the Constellation, each getting one gun hit. John took the gun hits on his carronades, leaving his long guns intact.

On turn nine, Constellation again turned and moved into an advantageous position. I, meanwhile had my usual once-a-game move plotting mess-up and had to cut Tiger’s move from a planned four-hexes to three and roll to see if I collided and fouled with Alert. There was no foul, but Constellation’s broadside blew Tiger’s hull to shreds and she struck. Tiger, too would drift aground several turns later.

Two turns later, Alert landed 1 rigging and 1 hull hit on Constellation and then fouled with her on the next turn. It was a wonderful position with the Constellation fouled in a position where Alert could rake her bow. John decided to board Alert, but committed only four of his six crew squares. We played with the first edition rules where melee involves three die rolls during one turn to see how melee goes. It didn’t go well for John. He lost two crew, and I lost two. John had a chance to reinforce his boarding party the next turn, but declined after seeing how bloody melee can get. I was in no position to try to board with fewer crew of less quality.

Meanwhile, Alert was pumping shot into Constellation. Over the next three turns, Constellation suffered hull, rigging, crew, and gun hits. On turn 14 we unfouled. For the next several turns, Alert tried to fire, but couldn’t. Being down to one gun square due to a gun square loss earlier in the game and with a crew loss penalty, I could only get a hit if I was in a position to rake.

(I realized later that I played the penalty for crew section loss incorrectly. Since all the crew of a pirate/privateer is in the first section, I did not actually have a crew section loss. Oh well.)

On turn nineteen, with one hull, one gun, and one crew square left, Alert struck to Constellation, which had five hull, two crew, four guns, and two carronades left.


After-Action Report
First things first: John did very well again. He maneuvered thoughtfully and made some pretty good tactical decisions. He did not have trouble with the game mechanics.

The game turned out surprisingly well balanced. Constellation was a bloody mess at the end, but still had some fight in her. All three of my ships did some damage before striking, and the Alert nearly took the Constellation when fouled with her and sending raking shot into her bow for four turns.

It would be interesting to try this scenario with the advanced game rules. The extra maneuverability of full sails could change this game in interesting ways.

For anyone wishing to try this scenario, I've included in below:

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Kim Meints
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Drew

Thanks for another wonderful session report.Sounds like John is turning into a darn good wargamer and has good tactical battle sense. Be fun to see him take the 3 Privateers vs you in the Constellation.I'd bet he'd go in for the kill right away with a mass boarding by all 3 ships
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Drew Ames
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jackiesavon wrote:
Drew

Thanks for another wonderful session report.Sounds like John is turning into a darn good wargamer and has good tactical battle sense. Be fun to see him take the 3 Privateers vs you in the Constellation.I'd bet he'd go in for the kill right away with a mass boarding by all 3 ships

Thanks for the kind words. We intend to play the scenario again with the roles reversed.

By the way, I edited my original post to include the scan of the scenario. (I originally messed up the image linking.) I'd be delighted if others want to give it a try and let me know how it plays.
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Kim Meints
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Drew

I saved the image of your home made scenario spec's and already have it printed out and with my copies.Looking forward to the reversed roles
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Ruben Rigillo
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jackiesavon wrote:
Looking forward to the reversed roles;)
It's always great to see little wargamers grow!
Thanks!
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