Sunday, 11 December 2011

Beat to quarters!

Today, it ended up that the entire group at the Hamilton Road Gaming Group played one game! We took to the seas and sailed to 'whatever' using the venerable set of rules published in 1975 by TSR called Don't Give Up the Ship, put together by none other than Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson, and Mike Carr as the original D&D was being developed. The rules stand the test of time and the whole gang had a fun time - lots of laughter, few if any arguements, and loads of cannonballs in the air.
My wife, who introduced me to this game over 20 years ago, set the scenario of US Naval forces attempting to break the blockade of Baltimore harbour by the Royal Navy. The US ships were to hold off the Royal  Navy's units to let two cargo ships get off the table. There were also two pirate ships, the White Rose  and the Crimson Star, who came in to mess things up further.
The ships were from Beth's collection of 1/1200th models. Bear captained the USS Constitution (44+gun frigate), Darian the USS Essex (32 gun small frigate), and the USS Wasp (16 gun sloop of war) was my ship. Lain entered later with the USS United States (44+ gun large frigate). On the Royal side, Derek skippered the HMS Victory (100 gun ship of the line), Andy the frigate, HMS Lydia (yes, Hornblower's ship - 36 gun frigate), Martin (14 gun sloop) and Lance (44 gun frigate.) Robby had the pirates (Crimson Star and White Rose - both 26 gunners) while Beth commanded the freighters and controlled the shore batteries of Baltimore.

The merchant ships make for the open sea!

HMS Victory enters to imtimidate the US forces.

I realize that Baltimore harbour had no sandbars and atolls, but the set-up
needed some spice. The Wasp and Essex narrowly escape a collision.

The Pirate's Crimson Star ran aground and had to kedge out. Embarrasing!

Lots of swirling sail!

Another near collision. Nessie's cousin, Balty, swims beyond the ships for
the sake of spice and colour.

the Lydia... with the white ring denoting Crown ships in this instance.

The Gaming Group in mid game,

Collisions happen with inexperience crews.

Robby and the pirates took one of the freighters and the Crown forces captured the other. Martin's ship sank. He and I seemed to have a duel for almost the entire game, but I can't take all the credit; he was getting battered from all sides. Our ships often got in the way of others, cutting off what might have been good broadsides. I think that was to be expected since only Beth and I had played the rules before (although Robby had a 'training game' the day before) and it'd been years since we played.
Our second game was a meeting engagement off the coast of Brittany, with almost the same sides. Martin exchanged his ship for a lighter privateer, represented by the White Rose. Robby added the Crimson Star to the US flotilla. This time I was sunk, but the Wasp gave as good as she got... almost.
I can't remember much of the second game since I was plotting my own moves and then moving for myself and another fellow. It got real busy out that afternoon.

The USS Consitiution under full sail. It's my wife's dream to attend the
Constitution's "turn-around" cruise in Boston harbour some day.

The HMS Victory amid the ships. The brown strip in the background is
meant to be Baltimore harbour and the Maryland coast.

More action aboard.

The USS United States enters the fray, cutting across the wind.

A few notes:
  • There's a lot to be said for "Beer & Pretzels" games. Detail and 'chrome' are all fine, but don't we play for fun? Once in a while, a simple game that you can add to later is well worth it.
  • Stay away from ships-of-the-line, especially if you are skippering a sloop.
  • Andy and I discussed the set of rules and agreed they are "old school" and we're fine with that. To us, "old school" means the rules are written in such a way that there are few if any idiosyncraticly particular rules for one nationality or ship. The rules apply to everybody. There are the rules, the advanced rules, and the optional advanced rules, and you can choose which to apply. They are easy to learn, fast to catch on to, and fun to play. As I've said before, in my dotage, I'm more interested in fun than in exact simulation of reality. I live in reality; I game for fun. Don't get me wrong; wildly unrealistic rules are not so much fun unless they are fantasy/sci-fi and even then they need to be internally consistant. [Here endeth the lesson.]
Next week at the club: the Christmas party - Wings of War including Santa's sleigh, the Red Baron, and Snoopy. Also some other simple games to be played around the pastries and hot chocolate. In January and February, "Iron Ivan Boot Camp" about 5-6 weeks of WWII games using Disposable Heroes in order to get real familiar with the rules and the different armies. Both Eastern and Western front scenarios using Wehrmacht, SS, Russian, US, British, Canadian, and Sikh troops - line infantry, commandos, and paratroops. (Paint, Martin, paint!) Eventually we want to do a Dieppe scenario. Churchill tanks will be needed.
Looking forward to the Christmas-New Year's holiday. My children will be home and I'm taking some time off after Christmas, which is a very busy season for my profession. So I add this to guard your season:


  1. Great looking game. Fun and easy. Ships look great as well.

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