I’m not sure how to phrase this… there has been twice in my gaming career (it’s a career, right?!) that I’ve stumbled upon game rules that I’ve wanted to exist. By that I mean rules that I wasn’t aware of, but that I wanted to fulfil a purpose. The first was Inquisitor, a reimplementation of the Confrontation rules from White Dwarf. The purpose Inquisitor fulfilled was to get me back into gaming (15 years ago!) as it evoked a strong sense of nostalgia for those WD.

Several years ago I picked up a load of Pirates of the Spanish Main ships (mostly on Ebay) – I thought they were pretty cool, but the rules were very simplistic. I didn’t expect more from the rules, but I ended up shelving the models and forgetting about them. That was until I stumbled upon Wooden Ships & Iron Men Lite, a set of rules adapted by John O (on BoardGameGeek) from the 1974 Wooden Ships & Iron Men boardgame. A little like Inquisitor it reignited a dormant interest. Luckily I also own a hex-mat that is a perfect size for playing the game.

Gavin and I played a game based on the Battle of Tamatave, a battle between the French and British navies off the coast of Madagascar in 1811, using these rules (John O also adapted a set of scenarios, including this one). I created some squadron info and damage sheets. With these, some dice, the hex-mat and some little boats we had everything we needed. This photo shows the starting positions for the French (top-right) and British squadrons. The British have the wind guage which is blowing from the left of the photo. This gave them an advantage as the ships closed. The French ships are better armed and ultimately this had a bearing on the result (that and Gav’s impetuous attempted boarding late game!)

The game plays very nicely, with chits randomly drawn determining the order in which ships fire, manoeuvre and can attempt things like boarding actions. This randomness means that sometimes the optimum firing position is lost as the enemy gets their Helm (manoeuvre) chits before your Cannoneer (firing) comes out. At other times you get to fire rapidly in succession (late in one turn and early in the next). It gave a distinctive flavour to the game.

In the end the French one out. Gav’s tactics were sound. He sent his Schooner (HMS Racehorse; bottom-middle), a fast moving ship to tie up two of the French frigates, while his Brigs engaged the other French ship. After dismasting Racehorse (and causing her to strike colours with a subsequent raking shot) my frigates moved slowly towards the other. The isolated ship dealt some damage to the nimble (with the wind) British Brigs, but it was overwhelmed and boarded. When my (mostly undamaged) ships arrived they were able to outshoot the Brigs (ahistorical I know – the British we renowned for their gunnery). The game ended with the French causing all of the British Ships to strike colours or surrender after boarding.

All told a lovely little game – I thoroughly recommend it.

Until next time,