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The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


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Action of Tobago, 1797

The Age of Fighting Sail, Kiss Me Hardy, 1/1200 scale

We felt like a naval game this week, and so I thought I’d get a few of my sailing men-of-war out. Neither Sean or Gyles had played a game using Kiss Me Hardy rules before, and I was a little rusty. So, I re-read them, and we gave it a go. As this was a “learning” game, we only had a few ships apiece. Gyles commanded three French ships, I had three Spanish ones, while Sean took charge of four British ones. All of them were 3rd Rates, of between 74 and 80 guns. The only terrain was a couple of rocks, representing those lying off the north-east corner of the Caribbean island of Tobago. A joint Franco-Spanish squadron under Rear-Admiral Poultonne were approaching the island, while over to the west a larger British force were trying to land on nearby Trinidad. So, to protect the transports, Rear-Admiral Bell was sent to head the Allies off. We played the game out on a 6×4 foot table, with the rocks off Tobago on the south-western corner. The Franco-Spanish squadron entered the table from the eastern table edge, while the British appeared from the north-west.
My Spanish were having real problems keeping in formation, while the best the French could do was to try and form a ragged line of battle before the British descended on then. The Brits had the weather gauge, as the wind was blowing from the north-west. The Spanish had problems working their way up against the wind, so the French were more or less going to fight the British on their own for a bit. I tried tacking, to come up behind the French and to avoid the rocks, but this didn’t work too well. Being “landlubbers”, the Spanish crews weren’t particularly good at tricky manouevres, and two of my three ships landed up “in irons”, facing the wid and drifting backwards. The French and the British soon came to blows, but with the French sailing west and the British east, the two lines passed each other pretty quickly. The French concentrated on firing at the British ships’ rigging – a stratagem which began to pay off after a couple of turns, as the British ships lost sail power. Particularly badly hit was the Swiftsure (74), who lost her mainmast. Undeterred though, Sean curved his ships round and Thunderer (74) managed to rake the Bucentaure (80), causing mayhem on her gun decks. By this time my own ships had managed to sort themselves out, but not before Gyles had threaded Redoutable (74) and Scipion (74) through the Spanish line, wearing down to the south to have another go at the British. So far both sides had traded roughly equal damage, but the Allies were in some disarray, while the British were coming on as a cohesive force. Things looked a little bleak for us until the San Francisco de Asis (74) suddenly find herself in the perfect position for her first broadside.She unloaded her guns at close range, and best of all, as that was the last phase of the turn, the cards were re-shuffled. Then the Spanish Fire card came up again, giving her another chance to pound the Thunderer. The Spanish were firing into the hull of the British ship, causing something like 29 Damage Points in two turns. It was pretty devastating, but the British passed their “Strike Test” and the game went on. In fact, there wasn’t much more of it to play. We were running short of time, and as we had a fairly late start we only had about two and a half hours to play the game. We decided to stop the game there, to give us a bit of time to pack up before 10pm. Still, while this didn’t end in a clear result, we all enjoyed ourselves, and the two Kiss Me Hardy virgins managed to pick up the rules pretty quickly. They’re fairly fast, and everyone wanted another go. In fact, a few of the fantasy players had been looking on rather enviously, and might well be tempted over from the dark side. Meanwhile, we’ll all re-read the rules, and learn how to sail properly in formation.


2 Responses “Action of Tobago, 1797”

  1. Campbell Hardie
    13th July 2019 at 4:40 pm

    What? No ramming? They need to be taught proper tactics.

  2. Willz Harley
    17th July 2019 at 1:44 pm

    An excellent seafaring yarn, thanks for sharing Angus.
    This is the only sea time I want to do these days.

    Happy gaming,

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