In the wake (did you see what I did there) of Thursday's 'Trafalgar' game, I found myself volunteering to run a game of 'Form Line of Battle' next week. Now, as much as I like FLOB I have, in fact, only played a couple of games of it in the last few years so I am, quite frankly, a bit out of practice. This afternoon I decided to set up a game so I could get used to the mechanisms again.
I chose the Battle of Flamborough Head, in which US naval hero John Paul Jones, in the converted merchant vessel Bonhomme Richard, and in company with a couple of French frigates, Alliance and Pallas, attacked a British convoy in the North Sea. The convoy was escorted by the 44-gun Serapis and the 20-gun hired vessel Countess of Scarborough. In a fierce fight, which saw the Bonhomme Richard pounded until she was sinking, Jones attacked and boarded the Serapis, forcing it to strike and giving him the victory. Meanwhile the Pallas engaged and defeated the Countess of Scarborough. The Alliance, according to all reports, sailed around the action firing on friend and foe alike.
This made for a simple scenario. The Bonhomme Richard and Serapis are both rated as Inferior 4th Rate Ships of the Line, whilst the Alliance is rated as an Inferior 5th Rate Frigate. I ignored the action between the Pallas and the Countess of Scarborough, although might include them in a later refight. I gave the two main ships Veteran crews, whilst that of the Alliance was Experienced. Captains were Average, except John Paul Jones who was rated as Inspired.
I set up all three ships running before the wind, with the Bonhomme Richard and Serapis at long cannon shot, and the Alliance some way behind them, midway between the two vessels. The Alliance would be controlled by whoever got the first action in the turn, so would change sides randomly.
The Serapis and Bonhomme Richard at the start. Whilst I have a model of the Bonhomme Richard, it's not painted, so a Dutch vessel acted as a proxy.
They edge towards each other, closing the range, whilst the Alliance moves into view as well.
The Serapis opens fire!
The Bonhomme Richard opens fire as well, trying to rake the Serapis.
Even the Alliance joins in, firing on the Serapis at long range
The wind dropped at this stage, slowing all vessels. Bonhomme Richard raked the Serapis.
But Jones misjudged the turn, and the Serapis cut in under his stern.
A raking broadside from the British causes massive damage to Jones's vessel.
And worse was to come. The wind, already light, dropped to a calm, with the Serapis neatly lined up at the rear of the Bonhomme Richard.
Fortunately the British shooting wasn't as accurate as that first broadside, and whilst the Bonhomme Richard took more damage it wasn't critical. I had started to look up the rules for lowering boats and towing a ship, when the Bonhomme Richard picked up a stray breeze and was able to manuever out of peril. The two ships continued to exchange fire, but Jones was still getting the worst of it.
The positions were reversed; the Serapis attempted a bow rake ...
... but the wind picked up enough for the ships to move again, and Jones managed to get in a stern rake of his own. However damage left his broadside weak and ineffective.
The ships slowly circled each other in the light breeze, continually shooting. Both were taking damage, but if the exchange continued it would be the Bonhomme Richard that would strike first.
However the Alliance had been creeping closer to the action, and in a sudden burst of movement passed aft of the Serapis and fired a deadly broadside into her stern.
Lots of damage. And a morale test. Which the Serapis failed. The British ship hauled down its flag.
The battle was heavily influenced by the wind dropping to almost nothing at a key point, giving the British a real advantage in in the one-on-one fight. This was offset by John Paul Jones getting the initiative for several turns in a row, allowing the Alliance to come to his aid once the wind picked up again.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the table, my assistant was playing out the fight between the Pallas and the Countess of Scarborough.
When I asked her who'd won, she just said 'Tweet!'