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The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


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Cape Rodopos, 1570

Renaissance Galleys, Galleys, Guns & Glory!, 1/300 scale

We were all at sea this week, in something which was a completely new departure for me-  and for the club. It all started a few weeks ago, when a package from Thomas Foss of Skull and Cross was handed to me, containing a bundle of flat-packed plywood ship kits. They were Renaissance galleys of various sizes, both Turkish and Occidental. Jack Glanville then stepped up to the place, offering to build and paint them. Then Thomas supplied us with a playtest version of his rules for the period – Galleys, Guns & Glory! The result was this colourful and unusual naval battle – probably the most spectacular-looking naval game I’ve ever taken part in.Jack had been busy since he took the kits home, and turned up with a box-full of lovely ship models – a mixture of galleys, galiots (liittle galleys) and lanternas (extra big galleys). That’s a Venetian lanterna in the picture above – a spectacular-looking model. When you see it, its hard to imagine it was once a couple of sheets of pre-cut wooden bits, and a sheet with flags and decorations printed on it. It even has – and I love this bit – that white stuff at the front – which represents smoke – and serves as a reload marker during the game. They’re designed to clip neatly over the barrels of the ship’s forward-facing gun battery! It was clear that Thomas had worked it all out!Anyway, on the day we had around a dozen ships a side, even though Jack had to improvise with templates for two of the galleys – just to make up numbers. A care package is on its way to him, with ships to turn these into real galleys. In addition, each of the bigger ships had a fusta behind it. These were little oared launches, but in the game their main purpose was to hold the dice used as damage markers – another really nice touch. Each side had four squadrons – two of either Turks or Venetians, and the others of the Knights of Malta or Barbary Corsairs. The fleet flagship on either side was a lanterna – looking fabulous with the smaller ships clustered around them. We played the game on an 8×6 foot sea mat, with three players a side. I commanded a Venetian squadron, supported by Paul and Michael, while Bill, Jack and Peter took charge of the two Muslim factions.The game began with both sides closing with each other. The Turks were keen to get in close, so raced forward, while the Venetians were a little more cautious, hoping to cause some damage from gunnery before the two sides clashed. For my part that didn’t work well. i fired the guns off from my galley and its two supporting galiots, but didn’t hit anything. On the far left Michael did the same, but at least he scored a hit. In the centre, Paul trundled forward, and kept his powder dry. Now, the Venetians get a reloading advantage – they reload on a “5-6” instead of just a “6”. That of course doesn’t help when you keep rolling low, so for the rest of the game my guns remained resolutely empty.That was when this started to go wrong – badly wrong. First, Paul’s big Venetian lanterna clashed with its Turkish counterpart, and fired a largely ineffective salvo from its bow-mounted guns. The Turkish lanterna fired back, causing two crew casualties. Then the two sides exchanged small-arms fire. Again, the Venetians hardly killed anyone, while the Turkish archers effectively slaughtered almost everyone on the deck of the Venetian flagship. Then it came to boarding, and after a brief surge the Venetians were pushed back, pinned in the stern of their own flagship, and then slaughtered to a man. Rather than figures we use round wooden counters-  each one represents about 50 men. When you run out of counters you run out of crew – the last one to go represents the captain. With his death the occidental fleet lost their commander, forcing a morale test on nearby ships. This led to three Venetian ships retiring, which in turn left their compatriots to their fate.Michael and Bill fought their own private battle on the Occidental left, while on our right I did the same against Jack’s Barbary corsairs. Bill’s boarding parties proved unstoppable, despite the extra saving dice afforded the Knights of Malta, to represent all their armour. For my part I didn’t even get to fight a melee – instead my crews were cut down by Muslim archers. By the end of our little private battle I had boarded and captured a crewless Barbary galiot, while Jack had taken my galley and a supporting Venetian galiot.In fact by now all of the Christian squadrons were in trouble, as their opponents used small-arms fire to wipe out the Christians. One Turkish galiot was rammed and sunk by a Maltese galley, but that was about out only success. By the time the smoke had cleared we’d lost a lanterna, two galleys and five galiots – over 2/3rds of our original fleet – while the Turks and Barbary Corsairs only lost three galiots-  one sunk, two captured.Despite our abject defeat it was a terrific game, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves immensely. It was a real pleasure to play with such nice models, and the rules had a nice feel to them – simple and easy to remember, but with enough chrome to bring out the great flavour of the period. We’ll certainly take these ships out for a spin again, and this time the Lions of St. Mark will have their revenge!



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