Ironclads, Sail & Steam Navies, 1/600 scale
I missed the club night game this week thanks to Storm Babet. Both Sean 2 and I have to cross causeways – the Churchill Barriers – to get to town, and they were closed, with waves crashing over them. Fortunately, he was able to come round on Sunday, and we staged a small “learning curve” game in my kitchen, with my friend David roped in too. He opted for the Confederates, so we took the Union. In this fictitious game, loosely based on the real Battle of Wassaw Sound, the CSS Atlanta had joined up with the CSS Palmetto State from Charleston, and the two Confederate ironclads set off to challenge the Union blockading squadron. The blockaders though, had been reinforced by the Passiac class ironclads Nahant and Weehawken, commanded by Sean and I. We played on a 6×3 foot table. Both sides closes with each other, with the longer-range of the Confederate rifled bow guns allowing them to pop off at the monitors as they approached. these didn’t really cause much damage, and the game really got going when the range dropped to 32 inches, when the big Union smoothbores joined in. Even then accuracy was poor, so inevitably both sides closed to point-blank range. The gunnery system worked well, but it didn’t really give the Confederates much of a change Their 6.4-inch and 7-inch rifled guns couldn’t make much of an impression on the Union monitors. All they could manage was to cause the odd bit of minor damage. When the Union 11-inch and 15-inch smoothbores though – firing every two turns – they proved deadly at close range. Eventually though, the Palmetto State managed to ram my Nahant, while making a healthy 6 knots, and punched a hole in the monitor’s side. The Nahant didn’t sink though, but she lost a lot of hull points, and let in a lot of water. Meanwhile the Atlanta was fending off Sean’s Weehawken, and for a novice occasional wargamer David was making a very good job of it. Inevitably though, at those sort of ranges the power of the huge Union guns began to tell. Both Confederate ironclads began taking serious hits. In Atlanta her crew were suppressed from repeated hits by Nahant’s big guns, and she lost power when her “stack” – or funnel – was shot to pieces. For some reason Weehawken went up the sound a bit, and took a while to rejoin the fight. It turned out to be a steering hit, but she was still close enough to Palmetto State to pound her, and cause a critical hit – which wrecked her engines. So, that meant that by this stage both Confederate ironclads were fairly crippled – and the Palmetto State was now dead in the water. So, Sean could take his time turning around and rejoining the fight. His prey wasn’t going anywhere. It was now all about stopping the Atlantia. She hadn’t used her ram yet – and more importantly she hadn’t used her spar torpedo, strapped on a pole in front of her bow. Thanks to her stack hit though, she could only limp along at 3 knots – not enough to make it back to port. She was also sinking slowly, from flooding hits. So, she wasn’t going to ram or torpedo anyone that day. Wisely, Davis decided to head for the southern shore, and ran the Confederate ironclad aground near Pinckney Island. The Palmetto State though, had enough, and her crew hauled down their colours. So the affair ended in a clear Union victory, thanks to the firepower of the monitors’ enormous Dahlgren guns. Still, this wasn’t about winning or losing – it was all about trying out the rules. The verdict was that they worked fairly well. Sure, we were struggling at times, having to look up special damage, and having to get our heads around the garish playsheets and ship cards. By the end of it though, we’d forgiven the American designers for the vulgarity, and for the most part we could play the game straight of the playsheet and ship cards. All very straightforward and sensible.Yes, we developed a healthy respect for the big gun ironclads – a 15-inch Dahlgren is a real ironclad-smashing beast – but those monitors are vulnerable to ramming, and the Confederate guns can chip away at them. Afterwards, we tried out Atlanta’s spar torpedo, and it sank Weehawken outright. Still, I’d sooner have Dahlgrens! We’ll certainly try these very well-designed rules again.