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Subject: Doing battle against the odds rss

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Johan Anglemark
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A small squadron consisting of three frigates, L’Inconstante, Le Succés, and Unité, are patrolling in the Mediterranean to protect French shipping, when they round a promontory and catch sight of a large British man of war to the west. She is identified as HMS Hibernia, a first-rate ship of the line, in fact one of Great Britain’s largest warships with a complement of 850 men.

This will be a tough fight, and the odds are stacked in favour of the British ship, but the squadron commander onboard Unité has been starved of glory and decides to take the risk. He signals to the captains onboard L’Inconstante and Le Succés to sail in formation with 100 yards distance right at the Englishman, and try to manoeuvre to get a chance to fire at her all ships at once, raking her if possible, taking advantage of their superior manoeuvrability. The wind is of moderate strength, from the north.


Foreground, L to R: Unité, Le Succés, L’Inconstante. Background: HMS Hibernia.

As the ships approach each other, the wind veers to north-east, and HMS Hibernia is taken aback. On the French ships, the sails billow and their speed increases.



HMS Hibernia straightens up to face the oncoming French. Unité reduces sails to battle sails. The other two French ships continue straight on westwards.



The wind keeps shifting to the east. As the British ship comes closer, L’Inconstante and Le Succés reduce sails. L’Inconstante veers to port and HMS Hibernia to starboard. HMS Hibernia and Le Succés are now within firing range and let loose their port bow broadsides at each other. The damage on both ships is moderate, but HMS Hibernia is pierced below the waterline and a mast is knocked down on Le Succés.



L’Inconstante and Le Succés reduce sails again, as they are getting closer to each other and Le Succés is difficult to handle with a broken mast. Onboard HMS Hibernia, the pumps have started up. Le Succés veers to starboard, which the captain of L’Inconstante had not expected. Unité fires a starboard bow broadside at HMS Hibernia and gets a full broadside in return. The French suffer heavy damage to both ship and crew and the deck is awash with blood. HMS Hibernia on the other side hardly feels what Unité threw at her.



Onboard Unité the carpenter’s team carry out repairs to the hull. Fearing a collision with Le Succés, L’Inconstante increases sails to try to get out of her way. HMS Hibernia keeps the pumps going as the carpenter hurries down into the hull to locate the leak. As it turns out, L’Inconstante fails to stay clear of the oncoming Le Succés whose broken mast fouls up her commander’s attempts at navigating her, and the two ships crash into each other. Something in the galley is overturned on L’Inconstante, and a fire breaks out. L’Inconstante and HMS Hibernia fire their broadsides at each other. Le Succés assists with a port quarter broadside. L’Inconstante is badly mauled; another fire breaks out. HMS Hibernia is once more hit below the waterline so that water gushes in through a second breach. HMS Hibernia and Unité are just a score yards apart and on both ships the marines fire their muskets, with devastating results on the Unité. Onboard Le Succés, the carpenter manages to jury-rig a replacement mast and HMS Hibernia’s carpenter plugs one of the leaks.



The wind stays easterly, but decreases. The fires ravage L’Inconstante and the water keeps rising slowly in the well onboard HMS Hibernia who keeps the pumps going. On L’Inconstante the carpenter patches up the worst damage to the hull. HMS Hibernia’s carpenter moves on to the new leak. Onboard Le Succés and Unité the captains order grog for everyone, to boost morale. As the wind has calmed, Unité increases sails and fires a very effective broadside at HMS Hibernia.



The fires onboard L’Inconstante are far beyond control and now reach the ammunition storage with catastrophic consequences: The ship explodes and disappears beneath the waves. A few cheers can be heard from HMS Hibernia. Some survivors are fished out of the water by Le Succés. Because of the weak wind, Le Succés also sets more sail. HMS Hibernia keeps pumping and fires a full starboard broadside and a musket volley into Unité, whose returning fire consists of a scattered, feeble burst of musketry. Unité is torn up badly and takes staggering losses. The ships falls silent and after a little while she strikes her colours. Massive cheers break out onboard HMS Hibernia, whose second leak is then plugged.



The carpenter of Le Succés repairs hull damage and the ship increases sails to full sails. Onboard HMS Hibernia grog is served and a prize crew is dispatched for Unité.
The captain of Le Succés does not know how badly damaged HMS Hibernia is and also fears a court-martial if he flees from such a catastrophic encounter, so he decides to take his chances and fight on. The ship is very lightly damaged and still fast and manoeuvrable. HMS Hibernia carries out some basic repairs of the worst damage and Unité makes her escape manned by the prize crew. The remaining two ships approach each other. Le Succés fires a broadside at some distance. The damage to HMS Hibernia is moderate, but a mast is knocked down.



The captain of HMS Hibernia manages to handle her fairly well despite the mess with the broken mast and presents Le Succés with a broadside when she comes around. The damage is not too bad, but the ship springs a leak and a fire breaks out on deck.



The fire spreads on Le Succés and the water rises in the well. The ship’s carpenter rushes into the hull to locate the leak, while HMS Hibernia’s carpenter starts clearing away the remains of the broken mast to erect a new one. Le Succés suffered significant losses and there is no one to organise fire fighting or pumping. The carpenters on both ships finish their allotted tasks. However, the fire gets out of hand onboard Le Succés and she strikes her colours.



A great cheer onboard HMS Hibernia greets the British victory.
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Xander Fulton
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Great read, thanks!

It definitely seems like 'quality' reigns quite a bit over 'quantity', in this game.
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Barry Kendall
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It's not necessarily "quality" so much as "ship class." HIBERNIA's a hundred-gunner, with 32-pdrs on the lower deck, most likely, then 24s and a tier of 18s above that.

The French frigates probably had a main battery of 18s.

Figure fifteen gun deck guns per deck, plus perhaps six more on the quarterdecks of the frigates and maybe seven more for HIBERNIA, more likely twelves or nines rather than eighteens.

Multiply 15 x the weight of ball per gun and total for the weight-of-broadside. One broadside from HIBERNIA would outweigh the total weight all three French ships could throw, if all their broadsides could be fully brought to bear.

Now factor in the heavier construction and displacement of the hundred-gunner against any single French vessel which would receive her broadside.

The odds weren't even close in this one.
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Johan Anglemark
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Barry Kendall wrote:
The odds weren't even close in this one.

Nope. Only pure bad luck could have changed this outcome, like three fires in the same round on Hibernia or something like that. But interestingly enough, it was an even match according to the points system which shows that you can't go just by the points.
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Xander Fulton
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jophan wrote:
Barry Kendall wrote:
The odds weren't even close in this one.

Nope. Only pure bad luck could have changed this outcome, like three fires in the same round on Hibernia or something like that. But interestingly enough, it was an even match according to the points system which shows that you can't go just by the points.


That's sort of the feeling I've gotten from the point system - it doesn't feel like it works right.

As a historical reference - the French first-rate Bretagne/Révolutionnaire, after all, engaging in battle with 5-6 British 74-gun ships, and while losing...still wasn't sunk or taken and made it back to port.

That feels like a result this game would deliver, but...by the point system? No chance!
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Barry Miller
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Saint Charles
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Now only if our real-time play could unfold at the pace that your narrative evoked!

 
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Johan Anglemark
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bgm1961 wrote:

Now only if our real-time play could unfold at the pace that your narrative evoked!

Haha. I played that solo and used AI rules to handle HMS Hibernia, so it took a little longer to play than the time it took to read the report...
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Kevin Duke
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I'm pretty sure that, technically, "5th Rates" were never considered (or called) Ship of the Line. They are Frigates and only Frigates.

By this historical period, even 4th Rates were often in a fuzzy zone, where 60+ generally was called SoL but below 60 generally not.
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Johan Anglemark
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I knew that, really. Thanks, I'll correct it.
 
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