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Thread: Trafalgar 2016 - The View from Villenueve

  1. #1

    Default Trafalgar 2016 - The View from Villenueve

    Here's my take on the Trafalgar battle fought at the Enfilade! convention on 5/29, organized by Walram.

    One of the fun things about these battles is that they are so big that nobody really has the full picture. In that way it feels very realistic. So although I was nominally commander of the French/Spanish Combined Fleet, I can still really only give a partial perspective from the French middle.

    Hope you don't mind the length of my report--after all, it was a full day of fighting! [Even at that, I think I have missed a few turns. My recollection is that we got through 15 turns, but I could only distinguish 12 from my photos. Anyway it's close.]

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    Storm Clouds Menace


    Despite my great misgivings, battle could not be declined. Before my eyes the two vast fleets were converging. Terrible carnage would suffered this day, and the fate of empires hung in the balance.


    On both sides, officers and men alike prepared themselves for the task they were about to undertake.


    From the deck of my flagship, Bucentaure (bottom, fourth from the left), I saw two columns of British warships, under full sail, slicing through the waves like a dagger to the heart of my fleet.

    The combined French and Spanish force consisted of five divisions--Van, Main, Rear, Obs. Van, and Obs. Main. I had assumed direct responsibility for the second and third divisions (Main and Rear), 14 ships in all, ably assisted by commodores Colin, Greg and Gary.


    In my mind's eye, I could see clearly my intrepid adversary, the incomparable Admiral Nelson, striding the deck of HMS Victory at the head of the British van.

    Battle Joined


    [Turn 2] The first shots rang out between the Santa Ana of my Rear division (bottom) and HMS Royal Sovereign, leading the British main force (right).


    While the British main force stayed in line-ahead (previous picture), the British van (top) deployed in a line-abreast approach. The heart of my force (bottom: right-to-left Santisima Trinidad, Bucentaure, Redoutable, San Justo) could do nothing but await the fateful encounter...

    [Side-note: there was a rules restriction that the French/Spanish could only sail slowly in line formation until the British broke through. However one of the commodores didn't quite understand and started speeding up and turning. I decided that sounded like just the sort of random thing that would happen in a battle, so I decided not to intervene. That is why Redoubtable is getting tail-gated in this picture.]


    [Turn 3] Having traded blows, Royal Sovereign turned to try to break through the line, between Santa Ana (ahead) and Fougeaux (aft).


    [Turn 4] Now, I felt, the engagement had truly begun, for both flagships, Victory and Bucentaure, at last unleashed their initial broadsides (center-right). Meanwhile Royal Sovereign ran afoul of Fougeuax and the two ships began exchanging musketry and preparing boarders (left).

    A Brisk Action


    As the pace of battle accelerated, every man knew his station and did his utmost for king and country.


    [Turn 5] Victory (center) closed our line, firing murderous raking broadsides with both port and starboard batteries. While Redoubtable turned away to try to avoid collision, a solitary French marine in her mizzen-top aimed his musket and fired. The ball struck Nelson with a sickening thud, and the life of a British hero was cut short. Undaunted, his men fought on with his name upon their lips.

    Previously [somehow I never got a picture of this] I had seen through my spyglass that far ahead, at the front of our line, the isolated HMS Africa (64), had bravely but rashly tried to intercept our leading ships. Now I received the signal that she had been boarded and forced to strike. My joy was short-lived, however, as Fougeaux had to succumb to the violence administered by HMS Royal Sovereign--our first loss.


    [Turn 6] Battle now raged all around me. HMS Victory was fouled with both Redoutable and San Justo, all three trading damaging blows (bottom). Just ahead, my flagship, Bucantaure, was still constrained to try to maintain formation by sailing in a straight line, so I had no choice but to endure a second killing stern rake, this time from HMS Neptune. Aft of San Justo, both HMS Temeriaire and HMS Leviathan had also crashed our line. I could see that the rest of the British van force was angling farther foward to chase my van.

    Still farther back, at the end of my own personal command, Monarca and Pluton were coming face to face with overwhelming force from the British main column (top-left). The nearby hulk of Fougeaux offered an ominous portent.

    It was at this point that I took my one significant action as commander of the fleet. My blood was up, so I signalled the van admiral to have all his ships tack and come to our assistance.


    [Turn 7] As Bucentaure at last broke formation to return fire against HMS Neptune (top-right), I saw the ships behind me win a great success. Together Santa Ana, Neptune, San Leandro and Indomptable were able to overwhelm the isolated Temeriere (a 98-gun second rate) and Leviathan, capturing and taking both in tow (center). Still Victory kept up its uneven fight against two enemies, with deadly boarding actions sweeping all three decks clear.


    [Turn 8] HMS Victory was fighting like a fleet unto itself. Redoutable was forced to strike at last, and San Justo broke free, nearly a spent force (center).

    Despite my earlier signal, a few of the lead ships of the fleet had sailed on for Cadiz, departing the battle in company with our prize, HMS Africa. Most of the van had tacked as ordered, however, and were now approaching the battle. Leading them were three ships of my own division command, San Francisco, San Agustin and Heros, which began to discharge their guns in support of the heavily-beset Bucentaure and Santisima Trinidad (top).


    By this point the battle had devolved into two entirely separate fights. The dreadful hole torn in the line by HMS Royal Sovereign had continued to expand, as one French ship after another impacted the impenetrable British line. Monarca had been instantly destroyed by simultaneous fore and aft rakes from Royal Sovereign and (?) HMS Tonnant [I think it was 22 B-chits in one turn or something like that]. Now Pluton had to capitulate as well, athough her marines and boarding parties sold themselves very dear (empty bases, center-right). The only consolation was that the heated engagement had forced HMS Mars to strike as well (bottom).


    At last the Observation squadrons at the rear of our line were also coming into action, although they met with a great deal of ill-luck. [That is to say, I heard the chit-draws were really frustrating!]

    Endgame


    [Turn 9] To my great dismay, yet another raking shot from a British 74 [HMS Achille?] destroyed the remaining will to fight among Bucentaure's crew. Reluctantly I was forced to haul down the flagship's colors (empty base, top-middle). Hoping to return the favor, San Leandro turned to engage HMS Victory (bottom-middle), while San Justo turned into the wind to tack and have another go at the British flagship as well.


    [Turn 10] The van battle continued to rage unpredictably. I feared my ships were taking the worst of it. San Leandro now grappled with HMS Victory (bottom), firing her broadside at point-blank range.


    Fighting boiled in the rear as well. Several of our ships had been lost, but we still hoped to finally finish off the Royal Sovereign (bottom), which was lightly damaged but badly depleted of crew.


    [Turn 11] Now another French ship, Neptune, was lost (center). But in a moment of sweet redemption, HMS Victory, which had fought nearly single-handedly against Bucentaure, Redoutable, San Justo, San Leandro and Indomptable, was finally captured by a boarding party from San Leandro. The venerable first-rate was crewed and brought under tow (bottom).


    The crippled San Justo was captured as a prize by HMS Belleisle (middle), which had been beating up in pursuit of our ships for most of the battle. However San Francisco managed to get a line to Bucentaure and begin towing the flagship to safety (right).


    The carnage continued unabated in the rear of the fleet as well, with several more ships striking.

    Reckoning


    At this point the "end of afternoon session" clouds rolled in, and mercifully called a halt to the battle. The gods on high deemed the action a marginal French victory. But standing, dazed, on the wrecked quarterdeck of Bucentaure, I was far less certain. It seemed to me that we had had the worst of the fighting, and that if the battle had continued the superior British gunnery would eventually have brought us to ruin.

    In the main and rear French/Spanish squadrons, half of our 14 ships were out of action (Pluton, Monarca, Fougeaux, Neptune, San Justo, Redoutable, Bucentaure). Of the remaining ships, Santa Ana, Indomptible and San Leandro were barely in the fight, and few of the others were in solid condition. We had captured Victory, Temeriere and Leviathan, but it was far from clear that we could hold on to them. My sense of the engagements ahead and behind was that although we were fighting bravely and dealing heavy blows, the weight of destruction had been falling even more heavily on us.

    In the end, no one can say what might have befallen had the battle continued...

    [Thanks Dave, Tess, Dean and Jason for a great experience as always!]
    Last edited by fredmiracle; 06-05-2016 at 12:48.

  2. #2
    Admiral of the Blue.
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    What an incomparable account of the largest battle we have seen here Fred.
    It was truly one of the greats, and so well photographed too.
    I enjoyed every nail biting second.
    Thanks for taking the time and trouble to post this.
    Rob.

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    So sad I missed this event again. I am putting this on my calendar for next year.

  4. #4

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    Now that was a Sails of Glory battle to remember. Awesome AAR. Great photos and narrative.

    Out of curiosity I have a question concerning your comment?

    there was a rules restriction that the French/Spanish could only sail slowly in line formation until the British broke through.
    So was this rule for historical purposes or due to the size of playing space, etc.

    I certainly hope you or David or someone posts this up on the Sails of Glory Facebook page as well as a link off of BoardGame Geek. Folks need to see just how incredible this event was.
    Last edited by Nightmoss; 06-05-2016 at 10:19. Reason: typo
    "It's not the towering sails, but the unseen wind that moves a ship."
    –English Proverb

  5. #5

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    Thanks all! I will try reposting over at BGG, and feel free to link/repost elsewhere if you wish

    Quote Originally Posted by Nightmoss View Post
    So was this rule for historical purposes or due to the size of playing space, etc.
    Historical reasons I think. Basically that is what the French/Spanish did: try to maintain a coherent line and wait to be attacked. That was about all the tactical coordination their polyglot fleet was capable of anyway. Dave probably felt it would be too much of a departure from reality if we were allowed to start maneuvering right away.

    I did have some very frustrated French captains on my hands by the 4th or 5th turn though
    I guess I was one of them when I saw my flagship had to take that rake from HMS Neptune!

    In the end I was lucky--I believe historically Villenueve signalled the van to come back and help, but they ignored him and sailed away. Dave had some rules for it, and I guess our chit-draws were lucky, because in the game most of the lead ships were able to heed my signals.

    Anyway, that was about it for tactics--all the rest was "sail in a line... now FURBALL!"

  6. #6
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    Absolutely incredible battle. Was it hard to manage everything with all those ships and players?

  7. #7
    Admiral of the Blue.
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    Sounds like many of the period battles I have read about Fred. The French try to fend off an attack whilst trying to hold the component parts of the line together whilst the British whatever the Admirals plan was, end up going Pell Mell for their foe.
    Rob.

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    Awesome, and an excellent write up to boot. Bravo Zulu!

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    Thanks for an excellent report with great photos.
    Visit "The Wargames Room":
    http://thewargamesroom.wordpress.com

  10. #10
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    An excellent write-up of a spectacular event. Were the British ships allowed any form of gunnery advantage or did the French ships simply draw bad chits?

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hjl View Post
    Was it hard to manage everything with all those ships and players?
    The game organizer, Walram, has developed a pretty incredible support system for these battles. He had custom-made ship-mats which were smaller, to help space management. All the ship-mats, ship-cards, etc. were custom printed with the proper ships names. Each ship had a unique (and historically accurate) set of pennants on the masts, which also appeared on the ship mat, so you could more easily identify from a distance. There were various custom-made tokens to help with tracking. He has special cards added to each deck to allow easy sail management even with just basic rules. Also he has a special flip-chart to track what stage we are at on each turn. While playing, each ship's deck went back in its (specifically labeled) bag each time, so the cards didn't get scrambled. The planned move for each ship was just placed next to it on the game mat, so it was easy to track and see which ships had already moved. Also the setup had been well playtested ahead of time.

    In short, it was incredibly well organized, and Anchorage user AprilBrooks (wearing the red shirt in a couple of the pictures) acted as "drill sergeant" to keep everyone in sync. There were a few challenges--mostly because the majority of the players were unfamiliar with the game system and needed a bit of support for a few turns. The division leaders were all familiar with the game and each other, so we tried to help keep things running well. But the big credit for the success goes to Dave's good planning.

    Quote Originally Posted by Naharaht View Post
    Were the British ships allowed any form of gunnery advantage or did the French ships simply draw bad chits?
    Great question. The French took two turns to reload, so we were firing 2 broadsides for every 3 from the British. Unbelievably painful to wait two turns to reload But it made for a better and more historically authentic game.

    If you look at the pictures closely you can see some ships have two-sided smoke counters (British) and some have triangular tokens with black/grey/white smoke (French)

  12. #12
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    Again you set standards for Sails of Gory gaming.

    What a huge game!

    Thank you for this overview and decription of the action.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by fredmiracle View Post
    The game organizer, Walram, has developed a pretty incredible support system for these battles. He had custom-made ship-mats which were smaller, to help space management. All the ship-mats, ship-cards, etc. were custom printed with the proper ships names. Each ship had a unique (and historically accurate) set of pennants on the masts, which also appeared on the ship mat, so you could more easily identify from a distance. There were various custom-made tokens to help with tracking. He has special cards added to each deck to allow easy sail management even with just basic rules. Also he has a special flip-chart to track what stage we are at on each turn. While playing, each ship's deck went back in its (specifically labeled) bag each time, so the cards didn't get scrambled. The planned move for each ship was just placed next to it on the game mat, so it was easy to track and see which ships had already moved. Also the setup had been well playtested ahead of time.

    In short, it was incredibly well organized, and Anchorage user AprilBrooks (wearing the red shirt in a couple of the pictures) acted as "drill sergeant" to keep everyone in sync. There were a few challenges--mostly because the majority of the players were unfamiliar with the game system and needed a bit of support for a few turns. The division leaders were all familiar with the game and each other, so we tried to help keep things running well. But the big credit for the success goes to Dave's good planning.



    Great question. The French took two turns to reload, so we were firing 2 broadsides for every 3 from the British. Unbelievably painful to wait two turns to reload But it made for a better and more historically authentic game.

    If you look at the pictures closely you can see some ships have two-sided smoke counters (British) and some have triangular tokens with black/grey/white smoke (French)
    I wish someone could bring a Sails of Glory game of this level to either Gen Con or Origins. I would certainly stand a better chance of participating if it was closer to home? An amazing amount of work, which isn't likely to make its way east anytime soon. Thanks for the additional information.
    "It's not the towering sails, but the unseen wind that moves a ship."
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    I cannot add anything to the comments above, I agree with all the rightly deserved praise! Well done to all involved!

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    I noticed the smoke indicators and thought what a good idea they were. Mine from the Anchorage Store are now White with the curls in black on one side and grey on the other. I failed to note that the Brits were different. I must think out my French fire again.
    Rob.

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    Fred awesome game. Well reported with excellent, clear and concise photo's/description of the action as each turn unfolded.

    Well deserved REP coming your way.

    Neil

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    "you cannot give reputation to the same post twice"

    What an amazing game.

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    What did you use for Santissima Trinidad, or for the British second class? I'm trying to get enough models together for Trafalgar, and I'm closing in, but there are a few ships that are still unmodeled.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Amara View Post
    What did you use for Santissima Trinidad, or for the British second class? I'm trying to get enough models together for Trafalgar, and I'm closing in, but there are a few ships that are still unmodeled.
    Susan, I wasn't there, but right now I'd use SGN108 for Neptune/Temeraire/Dreadnought and SGN201 the other Second Rates with the stats of Royal George or Britannia; for ST I'd take a Meregildos, slightly slow the decay of its Gunnery track and -1 Veer. (ST handled like a pig, and in "terminal ballistics" terms there's no difference between her *useful* guns and Santa Ana's.) I actually have a proposal I'm working up that, if it meets Stats Committee approval for me to pitch to Ares, might let us close out what's needed with just five new sculpts.

    In the meantime, many of the British 74's should use SGN102 stats rather than SGN104--there were quite a few Large and Middlings there, which were both more durable than the Commons of SGN104. Temeraires like SGN102 were Middlings in RN service, and Larges carried 24# guns on their upper decks instead of 18's.
    Last edited by Diamondback; 10-22-2020 at 11:21.
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  20. #20
    Admiral of the Blue.
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    Hi Susan.
    Nice to hear from you.
    I thought you may have been lost at sea like so many of our early shipmates seem to have been of late.
    Some of us had hulls of Santissima very kindly cast by Clipper, and just rigged them from other 100 deckers.
    I do have one spare hull. What are your modelling and painting skills like?
    Rob.
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

  21. #21

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    That was truly magnificent! Very well photographed and told.

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