Pre-Dreadnought, Perfidious Albion, 1/1000 scale
Thursday 19th October was the club night closest to Trafalgar Night, and appropriately enough I earmarked it as the day when I inaugurated my new pre-dreadnought fleets and cool-looking sea mat. The ships are 1/1000th scale, from Dale Kemper’s Houston’s Ships in the States, while the mat was made by Richard West of Terrain Mat.The game pitted a British Fleet against a French one in a fictitious engagement set in 1890. I chose that period because the ships were at their funkiest, and those Houston’s Ships models really bring out the charm of ’em!Club regulars Hugh and Colin commanded the French, while Phil Olley and I took charge of the good chaps. This being the eve of Trafalgar Day, and both of us being former Royal Naval officers, we both had a suitably keen expectation of victory. The question was – could we pull off a Victorian Trafalgar? Our chances of Victory were helped a little as the French never really formed up into any kind of battle formation during the entire game. As a result they never really managed to make the most of their gun line, as ships obscured the firing arcs of others, or generally behaved like a bunch of headless chickens. by contrast – appropriately enough for two wargamers trained in these things – we put our battle fleet into a single gun line, and began blazing away with all we’d got. As a result the poor French got a bit of a pounding. This drubbing began in fairly spectacular fashion when the French flagship Formidable (carrying Colin’s alter ego Admiral Longniddrie on board) blew up following a lucky shot from HMS Victoria. Phil’s flagship Victoria was at the front of our line, and drew a lot of French fire, but none of it proved too destructive. More importantly, none of it hampered the work of the flagship’s gunners, their work aided by Phil’s impressive die rolling abilities. My own squadron led by HMS Inflexible also performed fairly well, pounding away at the French with vigour, and generally concentrating on silencing the guns of the enemy. Then there were the inshore squadrons. Both sides sent their cruisers and smaller ships in close to the shore. In fact I sent mine too close, and HMS Galatea was incredibly lucky not to run aground. Having navigated a frigate off Start Point I should have know the risks! The French torpedo boats launched spreads of torpedoes, but utterly failed to hit the British cruisers. In turn they were duly peppered as they swept past.Then the two cruiser forces met, and once again the British struck lucky, hitting the magazine of the French cruiser Vauban, causing her to blow up in truly spectacular fashion. So, appropriately enough the battle ended in an emphatic victory for the Royal Navy. However, it wasn’t really a Victorian Trafalgar, as the French had only lost three ships. Still, it was a great game – even the gallant French losers appeared to enjoy themselves.Of course, we used those Perfidious Albion rules, which always produce a highly enjoyable but rather silly game. It was also a pretty one, and club members kept on coming and staring at the battle as it unfolded. I don’t know whether the sea mat or the ships were admired the most, but the combined effect was pretty stunning.