Monday 10 June 2024

The ECW At Sea

In 1648 all was not well in the Three Kingdoms. Whilst the fleet has declared for Parliament at the start of the English Civil War, some parts of the Navy were growing discontented and eventually a group of captains and crews declared for the King. They assembled a fleet off the coat of Kent, before making for the safety of a Dutch port. At one stage they found themselves being chased by the loyal Portsmouth fleet, with a second fleet moving in from the Thames to intercept them. All three forces were in sight of each other at one stage, but a battle never took place.

This game is freely adapted from a scenario by Barry Hilton of The League of Augsburg in which an action does take place. In the scenario the twelve Royalist ships encounter a similar sized force of Parliamentarian ships heading from the Thames and they fight. I thought that it would be fun to give it a go, but scaled it down a little for Galleys & Galleons, dropping each force to five ships - I just assumed that the action represented the vanguard of each force encountering each other. 

Here's the board five turns in. The western edge is land (the Kentish coast), with the Royalists entering from the south (left) and Parliament from the north (right). The wind was blowing from the west. I started each side with one ship in the centre of their edge. At the end of each turn a new ship would appear directly behind it, or 1S to the east or west (I rolled randomly). The next ship would appear randomly behind the second ship and so forth. This had the effect of scattering each force a little.

The stats for each side are as follows:


Constant Reformation (Flag) - 40 - Q4 C5 - Square Rigged, Chasers, Master Gunner, Flagship
Swallow - 36 - Q3 C4 - Square Rigged, Chasers, Trained Gun Crews
Convertine - 30 Q3 C4 - Square Rigged, Chasers
Antelope - 30 - Q3 C4 - Square Rigged, Trained Gun Crews
James - 29 - Q3 C4 - Square Rigged,


George (Flag) - 52 - Q4 C5 - Square Rigged, Chasers, Drilled Soldiers, Flagship
Unicorn - 46 - Q3 C4 - Square Rigged, Chasers, Drilled Soldiers
Lion - 42 - Q3 C4 - Square Rigged, Chasers
Tiger - 40 - Q3 C4 - Square Rigged, Chasers
Constant Warwick - 32 - Q3 C4 - Square Rigged

In addition because the loyalty of crews on both sides is suspect, all ships have the Mutinous trait.

In the above picture the Royalists are leading with Convertine, followed by Constant Reformation, James, Swallow and then Antelope bringing up the rear. Parliament have Lion to the fore, followed by George, Unicorn, Tiger and then Constant Warwick.

Convertine opened the battle, raking Lion and causing some serious damage.

Lion suffered badly, taking fire from Constant Reformation as well

The two side were now closing rapidly.

And that's the point where Parliament's activations failed them. Lion got this horrible roll, which not only saw the rest of the parliamentarian force unable to activate, but forced a mutiny check on the lead ship. The crew were restless, but the ringleaders were quickly suppressed. However Lion was now a spent force.

And as they floundered, Parliament's flagship came under fire, shattering it, destroying its tiller and holing it below the waterline.

Lion struck as James opened fire on it.; the only sensible move on its part.

Starved of activations, the badly damaged George collided with the Royalist flag, Constant Reformation. Amazingly George escaped serious damage, but the Royalist flag took some minor damage.

Other ships were now engaged, with Constant Warwick opening fire on Swallow.

Things continued to go badly for Parliament when Unicorn collided with the struck Lion. The Royalists looked like they were going to score an easy victory.

With nowhere to go, and badly damaged, the Parliamentarian commander resorted to an act of desperation, and grappled the George to Constant Reformation. Parliament had an edge in boarding, with two of their ships having soldiers on board. The Royalists brought James up to grapple George and even the odds.

A fierce boarding action broke out, and Parliament finally saw fortune swing their way, when after a couple of rounds, Constant Reformation struck! This now left James to fight George alone; the Parliamentarian ship was badly mauled, but James was smaller.

Unicorn had cleared Lion, but came under fire from Antelope. Antelope had already damaged Tiger, but was up against two enemy ships now.

Despite that the crew of Tiger considered their allegiance, and after a short scuffle overpowered their officers and declared their ship for the King.

Unfortunately Unicorn came up, saw the royal standard go up on Tiger and fired a broadside, forcing the turncoat ship to strike.

The unlucky James was also forced to strike as the crew of the George continued to fight like demons. Despite being badly damaged, George had boarded and captured two enemy ships, one the enemy flag. The royal prisoners, including Prince Rupert, were bundled into a boat and rowed to the Kentish shore, away from the battle.

George was now ungrappled and about to swing back into the battle. Continuing its run of luck, a cheeky shot from its stern chasers damaged the rigging of Convertine as it sped towards the centre of the action.

The action was mostly drifting away from where George was, with Unicorn still fighting Antelope (bottom left) and Convertine about to pass Parliament's Constant Warwick in the centre.

George extricated itself from the struck enemy ships and turned as rapidly as its damaged tiller would allow to avoid running ashore on the Kentish sands. As it did so Swallow came up and a single broadside forced the Parliamentarian flagship to strike. 

At the same time Convertine, having had a fruitless exchange of fire with Constant Warwick, came up on Unicorn and a ragged broadside started a fire on the Parliamentarian vessel. That was too much for its crew, who struck and abandoned ship.

This now left Parliament with nothing but Constant Warwick. It was undamaged, but the Royalists still had three vessels, two of which were virtually undamaged. Seeing discretion as the better part of valour Constant Warwick fled. 

Parliament lost George and Lion, which struck, Unicorn, which almost certainly burned and exploded, and Tiger, which changed sides (then struck). The Royalists had seen Constant Reformation and James strike, and the loss of their senior command as prisoners. With the Portsmouth fleet coming up there would be little time to consolidate their gains. The struck enemy ships would be run aground, although it might be possible to extricate the flag and James since they had mostly suffered little in the way of physical damage. 

The uneasy loyalty of crews had seen mutinies suppressed on two ships (Lion, as described above, and also, towards the end and having no real effect on the action, Antelope), whilst one, Tiger, had actually turned coat. It did add a delightful element of unpredictability to an excellent game. At first it looked like Parliament was going to lose heavily early on, but they dominated the mid-game with things only coming apart when the Royalists got their act together at the end. One to try again. 


  1. Beautiful models, are those hand-made? Thanks!

    1. They are indeed scratchbuilt. made from lolly sticks, cocktail sticks and card.

    2. Do you happen to have an how-to by any chance? Thanks!

    3. This post is the last of three on how I made them, but there's two other posts linked in it:

  2. Great action, and I like the fleets! I have a feeling that whatever happened aboard 'Tiger', it would have made a gripping story in itself!

    1. Yes, Tiger did have an interesting story to tell. There's an even more exciting trait in the game called Treacherous where a ship automatically changes sides under certain conditions. Unlike Mutiny which only happens once per game, a Treacherous ship can, in theory, continue to change sides throughout the game :)

  3. Your ships look nice šŸ‘šŸ‘ I made some Renaissance galleys - probably 40 years ago - and used pins for the masts (carefully snipping off the point).
    I made sails of card with very small pin holes in the centre, almost at the top & bottom. That way I could curl the sail slightly and slide it over the mast/pin, so it appeared like the sail was billowing full of wind.


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