Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Game of Naval Blockade

Hunting around on my hard drive early this morning I came across a file wherein were found the rules for a 19th century naval wargame, the "Game of Naval Blockade", written by Lt. H Chamberlain and originally published in the RUSI journal in 1888 , and a map file that I'd obviously created some years ago. I don't recall where the rules came from but I do recall generating a map in Powerpoint. It looks like a lot of fun, so here for your enjoyment are the rules and the map, and i might well be giving this  a spin with the kids in the not-too-distant future.


The following rules are used to play Lieutenant H Chamberlain's Game of Naval Blockade:

The Game Apparatus
  1. A dice marked as specified in Rule 13;
  2. A dice cup;
  3. A playing board (24 x 24 one-inch squares);
  4. A Blockader (with a white hull, armed with one bow chaser gun and one gun on each broadside);
  5. A Blockade Runner (with a black hull, armed with one stern chaser gun and one gun on each broadside);
  6. Four Islands (each five squares in area);
  7. Two Rocks (each one square inch in area).

The Rules of The Game
  1. Choose sides and place the vessels as follows:
·      The Blockade Runner on one of the squares in the centre of the South edge of the board, heading North;
·      The Blockader on one of the six squares in the North East or North West corners of the board, heading East or West respectively.
  1. The players toss up, and the winner places the Islands and Rocks, aligned with the squares marked on the board, as follows:

·      not less than five clear squares from the mainland (i.e. the South edge of the board) AND,
·      not less than one clear square from the North, East, or West edges of the board AND,
·      not less than one clear square from each other.
·      As for Islands but may be closer to the mainland (i.e. not less than one clear square away from the South edge of the board).
  1. The first move is made by the player who lost the toss.
  2. Move one square at a time, alternately, except as specified by Rules 16 and 17.
  3. Stopping is not allowed, except when disabled. (See Rule 16)
  4. Course may be altered by four points, to Port or Starboard, each turn (i.e. 45 degrees) at the beginning of the turn.
  5. The Speed of the two ships is equal, except when disabled.
  6. Going astern is never allowed, even to avoid being rammed.
  7. The Blockade Runner wins if it gains open sea (i.e. by moving on to any square on the North edge of the board).
  8. The Blockade Runner may not return to harbour voluntarily: if forced to do so, the Blockader wins the game.
  9. The Armament of the ships is as follows:
·      One heavy gun on each broadside, with a 90 degree arc of fire (i.e. 45 degrees from the fore and aft line);
·      The Blockader has a bow chaser, with an arc of 45 degrees either side of the fire and aft line;
·      The Blockade Runner has a stern chaser, with an arc of 45 degrees either side of the fire and aft line:
  1. Ships are in range when separated by ten or less clear squares, counted along the North-South or East-West lines only, never diagonally. Any distortion this may cause is deliberately intended to introduce an element of chance, to represent the effect of smoke, or guns not being loaded when they bear, due to lack of communication between the conning tower and the gundeck. For example:
·         10 squares due N-S or due E-W = 10 i.e. within range;
·         2 squares due N-S +8 due E-W = 10 i.e. within range;
·         7 squares due N-S +3 due E-W = 10 i.e. within range.
  1. The Firing Dice is marked as follows:
·         One side marked D4 (for Disabled and four firing points of damage caused);
·         One side marked H2 (for Hit and two firing points of damage caused);
·         One side marked H1 (for Hit and one firing points of damage caused);
·         Three sides marked M (for Miss).
  1. Ships moving and in range may fire any guns that bear. Ships move before firing.
  2. Ships may fire over Rocks but not Islands. Use a ruler to establish whether the line of fire is blocked by any intervening Island.
  3. A Disabled ship stops and the other immediately moves six squares, altering course as required. No firing is allowed by either side during this movement. If the moving ship finishes on the same square as the Disabled ship, the latter has been rammed. (See Rule 17) Otherwise the Disabled ship is brought back into action, moving one square straight ahead, firing as normal if any guns bear.

·         Ships are temporarily Disabled only, unless they are rammed;
·         Disabled ships have sufficient way to alter course once;
·         A ship disabling its opponent twice in a turn, counts eight points, but only gets one ramming attempt.

  1. Successful ramming wins the game, except that the Blockader cannot be rammed head on as she has an armoured bow. If the Blockade Runner rammed the Blockader head on, the Blockade Runner would lose, even though the Blockader had previously been disabled.
  2. Hits have no effect on the ship struck, but count towards Victory, if this is not clear. (See Rule 19)
  3. Victory rests with the ship that has rammed the other (except under conditions favourable to the Blockader, as defined in Rule 17) OR has driven her ashore OR with the Blockade Runner if she has escaped OR with the Blockader if she has compelled the Blockade Runner to return to harbour. If none of the above pertain, Victory may be claimed by the ship that has registered the largest number of firing points on its opponent.



PS As I said I have no idea where this came from so if this is something that one of my dear readers sent to me ages ago please let me know! 

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Bolt Action

This week I was introduced to Bolt Action at the Berkeley Vale club. Andy warned us off, using some colourful language in his review of the rules, but we were undeterred. The setting was not the WW2 actions envisaged by the authors but a near future SF setting. Valuable intelligence information was secreted in an artifact in the middle of the table and the objective was to secure the artifact, download the data and leg it. Steve and I faced off against Shaun and Rodger. In game #1 we took out the enemy command team which prevented them downloading anything, and in game #2 we secured the objective, downloaded the data and covered the very rapid retreat of our command team to safety and victory.

My observations of the game were mixed, but in the end generally positive.

I can see why people hate it. As a representation of WW2 small unit tactics it seems pretty poor (excessive squad cohesion for starters) and the morale rules are dreadful. But the simplicity of the rules is such that house ruling is easy and in any case the SF setting we were using made the various rule deficiencies less apparent. the lack of rule density in favour of glossy pictures was also evident, but that seems to be a common trend these days. the game itself was pretty fast and, most importantly, was fun. And it has generated a lot of thoughts for follow-on games. From my own perspective I thought I could cover near-future settings using my 15mm Peter Pig Vietnam stuff with a few SF augments - then I thought about using a developed version to do Vietnam in its own right. Rodger has some house rules for helicopters and I've found some house rules for modern weapons and other changes to improve small unit tactical representation and so we have that lined up for a future game. And Rodg is working on a lovely collection of "District 9" figures and vehicles. I think "Modern / Near Future BA(mod.)" is likely to become a regular item at Berkeley Vale.

All of which is over and above my 2014 plan, which is looking pretty mixed up just now. But c'est la vie and having had this Vietnam collection for getting on for 20 years and not having had them out for a game for at least 10 i reckon a diversion or two is OK :)

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Mediterranean Skirmish

The chaps at the Berkeley Vale club seem rather taken with Form Line of Battle. And quite rightly so, IMHO :) Anyway, for their second outing I thought it would be good to try an action with smaller ships rather than ships of the line. Smaller in one sense, but bigger in others as I decided to try the rules out sing my collection of 1/450 Peter Pig "Pieces of Eight" ships. These are lovely models and I really wish Martin would add just a few new models to the range. They are full of character and have a natural advantage over 1/1200 Langtons in that they are extremely rugged and hence perfectly suited to club evening play. 

The French "line" approaching

Anyway, the scenario was a 3 way battle set in the Mediterranean in the late 1700s. A British landing force and civilians are being evacuated in a couple of transports from an anchorage in the face of an oncoming French force comprising a small frigate and five schooners and sloops. The British force comprises two small frigates and two brigs. Unbeknownst to either a squadron of wiley Algerine pirates is also in the offing, touting a couple of xebecs and two dhows, packed with warriors of Allah. The aim of the game is simple - whoever gets the transports off the table wins.

The French commanders, Rodger and Andy, plot their next moves

Brevity and the passage of time precludes a detailed account of the action, but the key points were this. The French attempted to work around into the bay to attack the British from the rear, whilst the Algerines (bravely, but rather uncharacteristically) mounted a full-on charge. This was met with thundering broadsides, but some clever manoeuvring did get one of the xebecs into a position where it could slow the progress of one of the transports. However, by this time the French were assailing the British rear and were in a perfect position to scoop up the delayed transport, the British warships having been drawn ahead of this ship and thus not in a position to support. As the evening drew to a close I surveyed the state of the table and called a narrow French victory. Well don Rodger and Andy!

The Algerine squadron braces itself for a broadside from the leading British frigate

The game worked just fine with the Peter Pig models and so its likely that the majority of our FLoB games will be those featuring smaller ship actions. Next on the order of play - gunboats and cutting out missions
Towards the climax of the battle - the French squadron (left) closes on the British rear

An earlier phase of the battle, as Steve drives the British squadron towards the oncoming Algerines

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Fleet Admiral Volume 1 - A Review

Bill Madison is a name that may be familiar to some of you as the creator of the Russo Japanese War Society, and author of  "Dawn of the Rising Sun", the RJW variant of CoA’s “Fear God and Dread Naught” WW1 naval rules. Bill has now realised a long standing dream of his and released “Fleet Admiral”, the first in a two volume release of naval rules covering the period. Volume 1 covers the period 1890 to 1924 and has just been released. Volume 2, covering the remainer of the period up to the end of WW2 is hot on its heels.

FA comes as a rather nicely laid out PDF of some 142 pages. Bill’s experiences with CoA is apparent as the formatting is clearly reminiscent of the older rules. And as a result it is clearly laid out and very well presented.

As the title suggests, FA is designed for large scale games, but works just as well for squadron actions. Indeed, the example scenario that is used to illustrate various facets of the rule is the battle of Coronel.

The Order of Play is fairly conventional in its arrangement. Players write orders for movement and gunnery which are then executed. The Detection Phase follows, following which ships not previously ordered to fire may do so at newly spotted targets (this is the point at which those “late unmasking” threats are engaged).  The turn ends with damage control and book keeping.

The rules themselves are comprehensive but actually deceptively simple (not simplistic, there is a great deal of effective subtlety to them which manfests itself as a very straightforward system). There is also a weath of detail applied at points where it matters. For example, the number of fire control positions or directors is critical and so is well represented (something missing from most other rules of the period). Yet done so in a manner that fits a fast flowing game system.

Firing is resolved by broadsides, with various factors for guns firing, the environment  and tactical considerations combining with a d100 roll to give the number of hits. Each hit is them rolled for individually to see what effect it has had. The key principle of the damage system is that each damaging hit is, in effect, a “critical hit” (i.e. it will cause some discernable damage effect), so there is no gradual damage point loss, but rather a succession of well described damage effects.  Torpedo attacks are pre-plotted and resolved after a suitable delay, but otherwise are similar in their resolution to the gunnery rules.

The main rules cover a mere 20 pages after which you are ready to fight a normal surface battle. The next 20 pages cover more detailed aspects such as aerial and submarine warfare, mines, communications and weather. Again, comprehensive in coverage but straightforward in application.

There then follows ten pages of scenarios, all of which will be familiar to aficionados of the period and covering the Sino Japanese War, the Russo Japanese War and WW1. The last 90 pages cover game tables, aircraft and weapon tables and ship data cards for the example scenario.

Finally, Bill has set up a website to support the rules, which can be found at:

Here you will find all sorts of additional game resources, downloadable ship cards, scenarios etc. and previews of Vol 2. Oh, and a “learn to play in ten minutes” summary which is based on the battle of the River Plate.

All in all a very nice set of rules which I’m looking forward to getting to grips with in earnest following my recent introductory skirmish. So you can expect to see further posts on the rules and games here soon. Highly recommended J