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fredmiracle
08-12-2014, 20:37
Chapter 1: The Surrender of Unite

As he scanned the western horizon, Chef d'Escadre Esprit-Tranquil Maistral must have reflected to himself that the Dons made fickle friends. Ostensibly allies of the government in Paris, his orders revealed that the Spanish were actually planning to place their New World silver at the disposal of France’s mortal enemy, Britain. Maistral was well aware that only the only chance to avert this dire development lay with the two frigates of his meager squadron, and their mission to intercept the Spanish treasure ship.

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Maistral flew his pennant from the mast of Hermione, while his good friend, captain Douville commanded Unite. Maistral’s orders dictated that when the Spaniard was sighted, his frigates would take up a loose battle line, and attempt to intern the ship before it closed the range. If the galleon determined to fight, however, one or the other of Maistral’s frigates would endeavor to take up a raking position, while both maneuvered to prevent the Spanish from employing both broadsides simultaneously. Once the firepower of the mighty two-deckers had been diminished, both would close to musket range to secure her compliance.

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The frigates were wearing on their patrol lines when the lookouts on Hermione shouted with excitement—sail on the horizon. Signaling frantically, Hermione got the attention of Unite and both Maistral and Douville set to work, putting their plan into action. Running before a brisk sea breeze, the Spanish galleon, Buca de Plata quickly came hull-up and closed the range. As Hermione turned up into the wind, and the two commanders came within hailing distance, Maistral realized that if the Spanish meant to give battle, then he was at risk of bringing his frigate into a vicious head-on rake. He decided, therefore to keep Hermione’s bow to the wind, and allow her to make sternway. It was at this point that the battle plan started to unravel.

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Faced with the unexpected maneuver, Douville was forced to turn downwind, exposing his own stern quarter, rather than Hermione’s bow, to the defiant Spanish broadside. It landed heavily on Unite, reducing her fighting capacity significantly before the battle had even properly commenced. As Douville frantically tried to retake his position in the line, he found his counterattack screened by Hermione. Even worse, the full broadside that was launched by Hermione was poorly timed, and fell harmlessly into the ocean.

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As the Spaniard began to wear and pursue Hermione, another key element in Maistral’s orders went by the wayside, for the galleon prepared to cut between the two frigates, allowing all her guns to be worked. Although Hermione missed the moment for a clean raking shot, the converging fire of both frigates landed the first telling blows on Buca de Plata. In return her starboard volley missed a rapidly withdrawing Hermione, but the port broadside created further havoc on Unite.

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As Maistral urged his flagship into a tacking maneuver to bring it back into the fight, he could only watch in horror as Unite launched another, much diminished, broadside against the nearly intact might of the Spanish vessel. Once more, crashing blows rained down on Unite in return, dismounting guns, staving in planks and toppling the masts. No ship could survive such a pounding and continue the fight, and so it was with sadness but not censure that Maistral watched as Douvilled lowered the tricolor and hoisted the white flag of surrender.

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Maistral knew that his own mistakes had contributed to the disaster, and that it now fell to him alone to try to redeem the situation against near impossible odds...

fredmiracle
08-13-2014, 12:40
Chapter 2: Dancing on the Knife's Edge

Hermione was left to spar with a formidable, and hardly bloodied, enemy alone.

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Faced with the unmitigated failure of his battle plan, Maistral now improvised a series of maneuvers that are justly remembered as among his most inspired. Lying directly upwind from the Spaniard, he used the maneuverability of his vessel to good effect, repeatedly darting in to rake the Buca de Plata when it tried to tack, and then withdrawing before it could turn to expose its own broadside.

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The Spanish captain knew he fought at a disadvantage, and was sorely tempted to turn and run for Cadiz. But he also knew that this persistent foe would not stop nipping at his flanks unless he forced a decisive confrontation. With the demoralizing defeat of Unite still fresh in the French crew's minds, the wily Spaniard judged this the best time to make his stand.

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Time and again the galleon attempted to tack and unleash a crippling blow from her forward guns--and time and again the silver-laden vessel failed to keep up with the maneuvers and close-hauled sailing of her opponent, and was forced to fall helplessly away without taking a shot.

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Slowly but surely these blows began to tell on the larger ship, and at length Maistral deemed it time to close the range once more, and attempt to overwhelm the Spanish crew...

fredmiracle
08-13-2014, 12:40
Chapter 3: Trading Blows

Hermione remained miraculously free from damage. Now was the time to determine if the strength of this diminutive vessel would be enough to overcome that of her weakened but still imposing enemy.

As the two ships converged, they exchanged heavy volleys of musketry, to little observable effect.

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More telling was Maistral’s maneuver to come alongside the Spaniard in such a way that his broadside could fire while the Spanish could not.

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But it was now the Spanish captain’s turn to show his prowess. Sadly for Maistral, Hermione had struck the galleon only a glancing blow, and was not able to grapple with Buca de Plata in this advantageous position. Instead the two ships turned and traded full broadsides. Once more the French gunners were found lacking, while in return Maistral’s flagship took its first damage of the battle—a bitter portent of what was to come before the fight would ultimately reach its climax.

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Still seeking close-combat, Hermione began a series of full-rudder turns. The Spaniard, meanwhile, came up into the wind and fell off in a clever move that exposed her fully loaded port broadside. Belatedly Hermione’s gunners attempted to respond, and vicious musket fire began to decimate crews which until now had incurred but few casualties.

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A gunnery pass followed, with the advantage again going to the Spanish.

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While Hermione had a lot of fight left in her, Maistral recognized that the Spaniard was far from beaten, and that the fight could easily go either way...

fredmiracle
08-13-2014, 16:23
Chapter 4: Endgame

Once more the two combatants squared around for yet another extended gunnery pass.

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As the ships again hove out of range, Maistral rejoiced at the many enemy shells which had fallen short of their targets. Nevertheless, the French commander was also conscious of the still impressive power of the Spanish two-decker, and realized that this exchange was not working to his favor. Desperately he looked for some way to stop what looked to be a steady march to defeat.

As Buca de Plata began another ponderous tack, Maistral decided that a bold move was necessary, and turned his ship into the wind to attempt to cut across the treasure ship’s bows.

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The French gunners continued to struggle, but it was clear that at last the Spanish firepower was dwindling. Racing to push his advantage, Mastral turned to pursue the galleon, as his exhausted and much-diminished crew continued to rain musket and cannon fire onto their foes. It was a close-run thing, and a dying volley from the galleon nearly interrupted Maistral's naval career (he later found a bullet-hole through the skirt of his great-coat). Yet finally the Spanish crew could stand no more. Reluctantly their captain lowered his colors.

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As the Spanish captain hauled in his flag, Maistral saluted him—it had been a fight for the ages, and no ship could have been expected to show more courage than had Maistral’s gallant foe. Having paid his respects, Maistral began the long process of securing the prize, rescuing Douville in the drifting Unite, and beginning the slow journey to Brest.

Satisfied that he had done his duty for his country, Maistral still couldn’t help feeling the dull weight of depression, which inevitably descended on him after battle, as he had opportunity to reflect on the many sailors and comrades who had been lost this day.

- finé -

fredmiracle
08-13-2014, 16:29
Whew, what a battle! Almost 40 turns I think. Much of that was due to the low damage draws by both sides. I calculated that I saved 9 hull damage and 3 crew damage, and the AI saved 15 hull and 3 crew, by lucky chit draws...

I forgot to leave Unite on the board for the captain to be potentially captured, because I was just thinking BASIC rules all the way (of course I did play with rakes...). Guess since I won it wouldn't have mattered.

My navigation had its good and bad points. I was quite happy with the sequence when I was upwind from the SOL and adroitly kept myself from receiving any return fire for several turns. This points out the maneuver advantage of the frigate over the SOL (which I was happy I could manage to exploit), but also the limits of a fairly contrived scenario, coupled with an AI that doesn't really have any good way to handle such a situation. Not sure if a player could have found some more creative ways to respond...

Results:

Esprit-Tranquille Maistral (P): returned to port / defeated and captured larger ship (treasure ship)
Pierre Douville (P): returned to port / no achievements (temporarily surrendered his ship)

Nightmoss
08-13-2014, 20:11
Momentous battle!! Where and how did you manage to pull so many zeros?!? I can't imagine a solo game going 40 turns? :hatsoff:

Bligh
07-21-2015, 10:50
A mammoth battle indeed, and some very able maneuvering by both sides Fred.
I am amazed at the sheer tenacity of both commanders and yourself.
How long did 40 moves take?
Rob.