Sunday 5 February 2017

The Arkansas On The Yazoo

On 15th July 1862 the ironclad ram CSS Arkansas was proceeding down the Yazoo River, when it ran into a squadron of Union vessels; the armoured gunboat Carondolet, the timberclad gunboar Tyler and the ram Queen of the West. In the action that followed, the Carondolet was run aground, and the other two ships ran back to the safety of their own fleet back on the Mississippi. The Arkansas followed them, running the gauntlet of the whole Union fleet before finding safety under the guns of Vicksburg.

I thought that the action deserved a scenario, and reasoned that it would be an interesting exercise to try and run it with Galleys and Galleons. I laid out a river terrain, with a couple of offshore islands for extra navigational difficulty, and came up with the following ship stats:

CSS Arkansas - Q3 C4 - 110pts - Steam Engine, Ironclad, Ramming, Heavy Bow Chasers, Heavy Stern Chasers, Fiddler

Carondolet - Q2 C4 - 82pts - Steam Engine, Ironclad, Heavy Bow Chasers, Stern Chasers, Shallow Draft

Queen of the West - Q4 C2 - 29pts - Steam Engine, Unarmed, Ramming, Chasers, Shallow Draft

Tyler - Q3 C3 - 48pts - Steam Engine, Reinforced Hull, Chasers

The Union have a distinct points advantage in the scenario so I added in a bonus for the Confederates. At the start of each of the Arkansas's turns it rolls a D6. On a '6' it may deploy a group of Confederate troop on any river-bank or island, not within M of a Union ship. They are then considered part of the Confederate force for the rest of the game. 

Confederate Troops - Q4 C1 - 23pts - Bastion
Special Rule - Treat ‘Heated Shot’ as 'Sharpshooters'. Any critical has a 50% chance of being Captain Killed and a 50% chance of Rudder Hit. Criticals from normal shooting are determined normally; it's assumed the troops have a gun or two with them.

In addition I applied the Edge of the World rule from the basic rules. The Union ships were set up 2xL from the Edge of the World. The Arkansas was set up 1 x L from the other end of the river. I didn't set any victory conditions; destroying or damaging ships seemed to be the obvious objective for both sides.

A blurry shot of the Arkansas.

The Union flotilla: from foreground to background, Tyler, Carondolet and Queen of the West.

The Confederates got lucky some soldiers deployed on the first turn. However they were the only ones to appear all game and, although they kept up a steady fire on the Tyler, it was at too long range to have any effect on the game.

The ships approach each other, and build up speed.

The Queen of the West turned to try and swing around and ram the Arkansas which, meanwhile, was turning in on the Carondolet and Tyler.

The Carondolet turned out of danger, and the ships exchanged broadsides. The Arkansas' gunnery was abysmal, but the Union gunners were shooting better and damaged the Confederate vessel's engines.

The Arkansas rammed the Tyler, but it was a glancing blow and inflicted only minor damage.

The Arkansas now came under a steady and accurate fire from both the Tyler and Carondolet. An early shot hit its engines again, disabling it and leaving it a sitting target. The Confederate gunners seemed to be asleep, inflicting no damage in return.

Eventually the Tyler forced the Confederate ironclad to strike.

I decided to run the game again, but with some adjustments. There's a real feeling in this action that the Union were floundering a little, so I downgraded all of their ships to Q4. This would reduce their ability to react, and to fire full broadsides. In addition I added in the reload rules, forcing the Union to spend precious actions to bring their broadsides into action. Finally I added Carronades to the Arkansas, to reflect the fact that in this, and the subsequent fight against the Union fleet, the Arkansas could fire wild, knowing that all ships in the area were enemies.

No troops appeared in this game. It wasn't long enough.

The ships closed again.

The Queen of the West turned towards the Arkansas. The Confederates decided to risk the ram, and fired at the approaching Union ship, once again inflicting no damage at all. The Union vessel fired its bow gun. A fire started on the Arkansas ...

... which started a second fire in the powder magazine. The Arkansas exploded.

Despite the Arkansas losing badly in both games, I still think that this scenario has some potential. Galleys and Galleons does a great job of reflecting unpredictability and misfortune in naval actions, and when you only have one ship unfortunate events can end the game quickly. But they can also apply equally to the opposing vessels as well, and with Q4 enemies there's plenty of opportunity for these to run aground or collide. I shall give this action another go at some stage.

The ships are 1/1200th, mostly from Navwar, except the Tyler which is from a long-dead company called Zodiac Miniatures. The 6mm Confederate troops are from Heroics & Ros.

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