View Full Version : Historical Scenario: North Channel Naval Duel - The American War of Independence

06-05-2018, 15:14
24th April 1778

John Paul Jones is captain of the sloop-of-war, the USS Ranger. He and his crew have been tasked with raiding the coast of Great Britain and attacking merchant shipping. The crew, after months at sea and with few prize ships captured are becoming mutinous. To boost morale, John Paul Jones concocts a plan to capture HMS Drake, a British sloop-of-war, currently moored in Belfast Lough. Having tried to attract the attention of HMS Drake a few days earlier, he sails again into Belfast Lough to draw out HMS Drake.

Having seen a mystery ship sailing about a few days earlier, the captain of HMS Drake, George Burdon, has been busy recruiting many local men to join the ship to strengthen its’ close combat capability. When the mystery ship is spotted for the second time, HMS Drake sets off to pursue it into the North Channel between Northern Ireland and Scotland. On its way out, a boat brings the recently married Royal Navy Lieutenant William Dobbs, who is carrying a letter explaining that there is an American brig attacking shipping and conducting raids on the coast of Great Britain and Ireland. Perhaps this is the mystery ship?

Having difficulty catching up, HMS Drake sends a smaller boat to get a closer look at the mystery ship. John Paul Jones, aboard the USS Ranger, orders his crew to hide themselves and the big guns so that they look like a merchant vessel. The men in the boat from the HMS Drake are fooled, get too close and are captured. One of the prisoners reveals that HMS Drake has many men armed for close combat.

HMS Drake continues its pursuit to within hailing distance, whereupon the USS Ranger reveals its colours and unleashes a broadside.

Players: 1-2

Gaming surface: One game mat (98 cm x 67 cm). Wind comes from the Southwest.

US Player: USS Ranger (replaced by USS Atalanta). The ship is sailing directly East and the rear left corner of the base is placed 3/7’s of the map width from the North edge and 3/8’s of the map width from the West edge (see map below).

Cover the last crew box with a damage marker to reflect the shaky moral of the crew.

British Player: HMS Drake (replaced by HMS Swan). The ship is sailing directly East and is placed so that its main mast is at B range Southwest of the main mast USS Ranger (see map below).

The HMS Drake may not fire on the first turn.

The Drake had problems with its guns rolling around. Also, the powder monkeys needed much encouragement to do their job as they were, rightly, afraid of being crushed. Use the Gunners lacking training rule.

Additionally, to reflect the fact that HMS Drake was only armed with 4-pounders that could barely penetrate the hull of USS Ranger, treat all damage counters with the number 1 only as 0 counters. (This is in addition to the special rule below for both ships).

HMS Drake had additional men available for close combat. Use the Spirited boarding and Hold Fast crew abilities. Also, in addition to its normal number of actions, HMS Drake may always plan a boarding action if the ships’ bases are touching in the planning phase.


Special rules: Both ships start with backing sails. Both ships start with ball shot.

Additionally, to reflect the fact that both ships were only armed with light guns (4-pounders and 6-pounders) that could barely penetrate a hull, treat all damage counters with leaks as 0 counters. Note that a player can declare use of the Aiming High rule before drawing damage counters so that leak damage counts as sails damage instead as per the rules.

If either ship uses full sails during the game, they take one extra C damage counter if they receive a broadside.

Do not use the First Broadside or Double-shot rules, unless you want a very quick action!

Optional rules: Consider using Light wind in the game, the actual conditions during the action.

Also, if you want the battle to last longer, consider treating higher value damage counters as zeroes, with HMS Drake always one more than USS Ranger (e.g. For HMS Drake damage counters with 1’s and 2’s count as zero, while for USS Ranger 1’s count as zero).

Solo play: If playing the USS Ranger against HMS Drake solo, I strongly recommend using Fred Miracle’s solo interception rules for HMS Drake, available here: https://sailsofglory.org/downloads.php?do=file&id=98 (https://sailsofglory.org/downloads.php?do=file&id=98). Use these rules even if the range drops below one ruler distance.

The solo ship increases sails to battle sails on the first turn. On the first turn, the solo ship uses a turn with a maximum of 8 (i.e. replace a calculated 9 or 10 turn with an 8).

The solo ship’s always use Aiming High when firing.

If USS Ranger is the solo ship, I recommend using DGH’s app, available on Android here:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.pisangterbang.sog (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.pisangterbang.sog)

The first time the ships’ bases are touching at the start of the planning phase, HMS Drake uses the crew ability Spirited Boarding automatically. Hold Fast is also used automatically when one crew marker remains, and further damage might be taken during the turn.

Points values:

HMS Drake (HMS Swan)

Ship Cost
Gunners lacking training
1’s count as 0’s*
Ship damage (Ranger fires 1st)
Spirited boarding
Hold fast
Additional boarding action

0, -3, -6
32, 35 or 38

*Treat all damage counters with the number 1 only as 0’s.

USS Ranger (USS Atalanta)

Ship Cost
Last crew box covered


Historical outcome: John Paul Jones, knowing that HMS Drake had additional men armed for close combat, managed to prevent HMS Drake from grappling USS Ranger for the battle which lasted over an hour. HMS Drake performed poorly throughout the battle, due to its 4-pounder guns being too weak to cause any serious damage, in addition to other cannon and musketry problems caused by a lack of preparedness. HMS Drake lost 5 killed and 20 wounded, while USS Ranger lost 3 killed and 5 wounded. George Burdon, captain of HMS Drake died during the engagement.

For more information see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Channel_Naval_Duel (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Channel_Naval_Duel)

Designer’s notes: The action started with the ships within hailing distance of each other. This is probably a bit closer than the set-up for this scenario. However, a closer set-up would result in a greater chance of HMS Drake colliding with USS Ranger on the first turn, which would give HMS Drake an advantage given its bonuses for boarding.

The various bonuses and maluses given to the HMS Drake and USS Ranger reflect real conditions of the battle. A player can choose to ignore these and play a straight match between the two sloops-of-war, but I felt applying the bonuses and maluses would make for an interesting battle, where USS Ranger tries to disable HMS Drake from afar, while HMD Drake tries to board USS Ranger. I was tempted to give the John-Paul Jones, captain of the USS Ranger, either the Intuitive Captain or Skilled Tactician abilities. However, the points are balanced and perhaps a more experienced player should be able to avoid HMS Drake colliding with USS Ranger anyway! If you are playing against a beginner controlling USS Ranger, consider giving them one or both of these abilities and accept the challenge! It can also be worth working out a way to apply these abilities to the USS Ranger if it is being managed by solo rules.

An additional problem that the HMS Drake had was a lack of musket powder. Given this problem, it might have been justified in reducing HMS Drake’s musket firepower to just one throughout the battle or make some other adjustment. However, I decided that HMS Drake already had enough disadvantages and the additional men onboard the ship should counteract this effect. This I left HMS Drake’s musket firepower unchanged.

The point value adjustments for 1’s being counted as 0’s and for the additional boarding action were estimates based on equivalent captain and crew abilities.

06-05-2018, 17:12
A nice, well thought out, historical scenario, Andrew!

06-06-2018, 01:01
Very interesting little action Andrew. I especially like the use of the optional rules to give a real flavour of what took place. Very well considered in my view for what that may be worth.

06-08-2018, 09:28
That's a great Little scenario, Fabbe!

Any relations to Sjörövarfabbe?

06-22-2018, 13:29
Thanks for the positive comments! I hope to put up an AAR on this soon enough. I found playing it solo worked quite well with the solo rulesets I suggest in the scenario's description.

The name Fabbe is of course based on Sjörövarfabbe… somehow the pirate who loves piracy but suffers from seasickness seems to be a good analogy for my own sea-faring ability...

06-29-2018, 16:46
:thumbsup: Maybe if Junior plays Drake I don't get outplayed by a tyrannosaur this time... lol

06-30-2018, 00:51
Sorry DB, you got me on this one. Where does the Tyrannosaur come in? I thought that sort of thing only happened in Captain Patch's Pirate scenarios.

06-30-2018, 12:52
Last game I played, Junior was across the table... and won.

06-30-2018, 13:56
Good to see you in the site, missed you . . .

06-30-2018, 14:20
Methinks DB has been very busy by our standards but maybe not yours Dave.:wink:

06-30-2018, 17:24
Not a lot of news to report. Starting to consider another Jumpshot project like the one that became Wave 4, but I need to hear more from Ares about Wave 5, unless we work up a "Double Slate" where anything already in development can be dropped and a replacement slid in.

Actually, been getting my ass kicked in general--since Universal rebooted the Jurassic Park merch line with a new master licenseholder for the 25th anniversary, I've been busier than a one-legged man in a buttkicking contest between building a database of the new line and locating and exporting various things to collectors in places that aren't getting them--as one said, "single-handedly supplying the world with dinosaurs one shipment at a time." LOL

Capn Duff
06-30-2018, 19:27
Good to see you back DB

David Manley
06-30-2018, 23:55
" Starting to consider another Jumpshot project like the one that became Wave 4, but I need to hear more from Ares about Wave 5"

It would be good if we could see some action on the special packs that we spent ages discussing and working up too

07-01-2018, 02:02
Even knowing that a wave five is under consideration by Ares must be a comfort to our shipmate Dave and DB.
Thanks for all your efforts on our behalves.

Capn Duff
07-10-2018, 09:13
Any hints at all for wave 5 ? Even if just nationality and types so as not to make duplicates or bend types too much

07-10-2018, 14:09
Probably the only persons who may be able to get that answered are either Dave Manley or DB Chris.

07-11-2018, 09:51
In a parochial move, I emailed Ares some time ago requesting USS Essex, HMS Shannon, or other suitable War of 1812 ships...got a very nice reply, but not sure it will make a difference....

07-11-2018, 10:03
Certainly time you Yankees got a fair crack of the whip regarding models.