Friday, 17 May 2013

England Expects ...

Ralph hosted last night's game, and we tried the 'Trafalgar' Napoleonic naval rules. It started out with Geoff and I playing, and Ralph umpiring, but Peter turned up later and took a couple of ships.

Geoff had some rascally Dons - three 74s and a 110 first rate. I was the Royal Navy and ran three 74s plus a 100 gunner. Here's my ships heading towards Geoff:

The two lines approach each other, or so it seems. In fact the wind was against me and really I was just trying to keep station whilst Geoff moved towards me.

The Spanish home in on the rear of the British line.

The opening shots - The British 100 (Queen Charlotte) was engaged by the entire Spanish line.

It didn't end well. She caught fire.

Indeed everyone caught fire.

I didn't get any more pictures after that. the Queen Charlotte sank, as did the Spanish Santa Ana. Another Spanish 74 burned to the waterline, or sank. I can't remember which. Indeed all losses were either ships sinking, or burning away/exploding.

I did take one more shot, comparing an old-style Navwar 1/1200th 74 gun ship with a Langton one. There's quite a difference in size.

So, how did the rules work? First, a caveat. My comments are based on just playing one game, and not having actually read the rules. I understand there were a couple of house-rules in play. Bear that in mind when reading anything further.

I have to say that I wasn't thrilled. Perhaps I'm missing the point of the rules in some way, but I felt that there were areas missing or just not handled well. For example, weather changes were frequent and extreme - the wind shifted direction by a high degree turn by turn, and fog seemed to come and go with great regularity. Saying that, the wind didn't seem to make a lot of difference to the game. Unless you were caught aback by one of the frequent swings in direction, your attitude to it had very little effect on your speed - indeed whether you moved last turn had more of an influence than moving into a more favourable attitude. Crew quality and training had an influence on movement, but virtually no effect on firing, except at the longest ranges. I may be wrong, but in a straight fight between two ships of a roughly equal strength the clincher would generally be how quickly crews could fire and reload guns, with better training and experience giving the edge. 'Trafalgar' didn't reflect that; the poorest crews fight their guns as well as the elite ones.

So would I play 'Trafalgar' again? Yes, certainly. You can't judge a set of rules by one game, especially one where most people are learning the ropes. But I've played a few Napoleonic naval sets over the years, and I didn't find that 'Trafalgar' had anything in it that wasn't done better elsewhere. It was said that a lot of stuff could be tweaked with house-rules, though, so it might be worth looking at that.

To end on a positive note, those Spanish ships are Ralph's, and don't they look great? The sea-mat is one he bought, and looks pretty spectacular as well; it really added to the game.


  1. The sea-mat looks excellent. I regret not being there!

  2. I own Trafalgar but have not had a game. I have used FGU's Heart of Oak since the 1980s.

  3. Nice, very nice looking battle...ships are really impressive!!

  4. The models and mat look spectacular. Hopefully the rules can be house ruled to be more to your liking.

  5. Yes I think we'll give them another try with some bodacious house rules, mainly toning down the weather a lot. Its hard to convince Aussies about Atlantic weather and its caprices!

  6. I personally don't like Trafalgar. There are too many extremes of luck, and there are some ways to game it (for example, send a sloop up table and no matter the position of the rest of your ships, you hold the wind gauge). It is also difficult to run more than 3-4 ships.

    For Napoleonic Naval, personally I much prefer Langtons Quick Play rules.

    1. I thought they gave a fun game, with lots of die-rolling, but I'm not sure how they work as an actual simulation of the period. If you feed in actual battles, and actual tactics, is the end result something that approximates what actually happened? That is, of course, the test of any set of rules.

      I have played the Langton rules once, and was intrigued enough to try them again. My game of choice is 'Form Line of Battle', which has just the right mix of detail and simplicity to allow one person to manage at least 4-6 ships, and gives good results as well.


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