I play solitaire. First, a choice has to be made between 6 scenarios corresponding to the different hypothesis about the battle forwarded by the historians. I chose the Out of the Sun scenario (scenario 1): the French ships start chained in front of the port of Sluis; the English ships enter the Zwin estuary from the north-east. Their approach is supposed to have been masked by the sunrise so the French are caught relatively unprepared. The only optional rule used is the presence of the Queen Philippa of Hainaut.
The French formations cannot be activated (and leave the chains to be able to maneuver) before an English unit comes within 4 hexes.
Both fleets begin with a morale level of 17.
Turns 1 and 2: The English squadrons advance towards the French.
Turn 3: The French restrictions for movement are lift. All the French squadrons leave the chains. An English cog from the brown formation tries to ram a barge and is damaged. The English begin to use their fire power. The sally phase is skipped.
Turn 4: The English white formation advances south to envelop the enemy. A French barge rams into cog Thomas which is damaged and grappled. The sally phase is skipped again.
Turn 5 : More squadrons get grappled. English men at arms capture a French ballinger. Edward III is killed by a French fire but his knights perform a heroic sacrifice to avoid that. During the sally phase, a barge is captured by the English. It ends after the archery segment.
The French morale has dropped to 14.
Turn 6: One more squadron, the cog Riche de Leure, is captured by the English. The fire breaks out in a cog and is put out during the end phase. The sally phase stops again after the archery segment.
French morale has dropped to 11.
Turn 7: A galley is captured by the English. The French capture a nef. The sally phase stops after the archery segment.
The French morale has dropped to 9 and the English morale to 15.
Turn 8: The English capture a French ship and a ballinger. 2 French knights are eliminated by missile fire and one more following a mêlée. The ballinger is recaptured by the French. During the sally phase, one more French knight is killed during the archery segment. Then Edward III is killed twice but saved twice by the heroic sacrifice of his knights. The sally phase ends after the boarding segment.
The English morale has dropped to 12 and the French morale to 4. The French morale collapses (the die roll was 5).
Conclusion: The French couldn’t use their advantage in mêlée (because of their numbers) whereas the English could make a good use of their superiority in archery (always the same story: longbows versus crossbows) because of the following mechanism. The units are activated during the activation phase (to fire, board or engage a mêlée) only if they are located on a friendly squadron. Once on board of an enemy ship, the unit isn’t activated again until the sally phase. A test is done so that the sally phase can stop before the archery phase that comes first, before the boarding phase or before the mêlée phase. So the archery phase occurs almost every turn whereas the mêlée phase is often skipped and did not even occur once during this game.
This, combined with the setup rules that allow the English fleet to maneuver whereas the French fleet cannot, makes it very difficult for the French to win this scenario.
Find more session reports in: Wargaming great battles of history
Nice report. Sluys was such a lopsided battle, and that scenario strives to capture that lopsidedness more than any other. The French fleet is virtually immobile, chained together to prevent the English from sliding past them and strike at Bruges. Coming "out of the sun" meant the French did not notice the English until it was too late, and then...bam...arrows fall out of the sky and English Cogs ram the French line. When I was designing the game I questioned whether that scenario was worth including. Since the battle really was a slaughter for the French (all but 3 vessels captured or capsized), I decided that it belonged in the set if only so players could "see" how it may have happened. Or, at least, to play some approximation of it.
There are more balanced scenarios, of course, but you noticed a key element in the way the game plays -- archery precedes melee, giving the side with the better archers an advantage. And, the Sally Phase allows melee to continue for more than one turn, but it is so unpredictable that it may be skipped in some turns. Therefore, a crafty and disciplined English player can be tough to beat no matter the scenario, but even the English can't control the wind and the current. If it changes on him, his fleet can be rendered nearly immobile, and then he's done for.
Thanks for the report!
Thanks for the report! I gotta get this one on the table.