Ironclads, Smoke on the Water, 1/600 scale
Its been a good while since we last played an American Civil War naval game, and this was the first since we got our shiny new sea mat. OK, its not really suitable for the muddier waters of the Mississippi River – we’ll need a special mat for that – but its great for the inland sounds of the Carolinas.This game was based on the Battle of Albemarle Sound, fought in May 1864 between a Union blockading force of wooden gunboats and the Confederate ironclad CSS Albemarle. We had to substitute a few of the Union ships, but otherwise this was a straight refight. It also panned out pretty much as it did back in 1864. The Albemarle lumbered onto the table, and throughout the game only one lucky Union 100-pound rifled shot managed to penetrate its armour. Everything else just bounced off.However, with her smokestack shot away early on, her speed was reduced to a crawl (10cm a turn), while the wooden Yankee gunboats danced around her, trying to cause damage. The two little Confederate gunboats (well, tugs really) Cotton Plant and Bombshell were either sunk or driven off, and then near the end of the game the USS Sassacus made a successful ram attempt against the Confederate ironclad – just like she did in real life. However, by the end of the game the Albemarle was bloody but unbowed, and lumbered away to safety back up the river.For the first time we used the optional reloading rules – where medium guns take three turns to reload, and large ones a nail-clenching four turns (four minutes in real time). This dramatically changed the nature of the game – making it a lot more interesting. However, in future we might drop the reload times to two and three turns respectively – which is long enough when your ironclad only has two 6.4-inch Brooke rifles to fire back with!One other new trick was the speed markers. In the rules, you’re meant to put a marker behind the ship, showing what speed its doing (“M” for Medium, “V” for Very Fast etc.). Well, that looked ugly, so instead we stuck down wake markers – you can see them in the picture above. One means Slow, two mean Medium, three Fast, and four means Very Fast. Simple, eh? That means the USS Mattabassett above is going along at Medium speed. Simple but effective. All in all this was a fun game, and quite pretty.