He closed his telescope with a snap. “Very well Mr Oaks, beat to quarters and clear for action.” Within ten minutes of the drum’s urgent tattoo HMS Zealous was cleared for action. Sand had been spread across the decks and water stood ready by every gun. She was ready…
Friday evening Jon and I caught up for an overdue game using Sails of Glory. After some discussion we decided to use the advanced rules. These mainly focus on the use of crew actions and special damage. In my view they add some additional challenge to the game where crew casualties create limitations on ship options. However the additional complexity slows the game and with even two ships per side, which we used, combined with a late start there was a real risk of running out of time. Indeed, that is exactly what happened.
All four ships were new or had not previously been used, in due course they were unwrapped from their packets and deployed. Jon provided the French fleet which comprised the Imperial, a 118 gun 1st Rate and Genereux a 74 gun 3rd Rate. I provided the English fleet which comprised HMS Victory, a 100 gun 1st Rate, as well as HMS Zealous, a 74 gun 3rd Rate. In Sails of Glory a ships broadside is divided into a front, central and rear, each comprising all or most of the guns of the broadside. Interestingly the full broadside of the Genereux, is not that much different from that of the Victory. I was surprised by this and as a result a little nervous from the start. The English fleet was outgunned.
The two fleets converged with the wind blowing from the west. The French held a southwesterly course with Imperial leading followed by the Genereux, as shown above. The English meanwhile, held northwesterly course with HMS Zealous leading followed by HMS Victory. It soon became apparent that the French were gaining a slight advantage by holding a more westerly position. With the French potentially crossing our bow the English ships started to swing to a northerly course. The aim was for HMS Zealous to pass around behind the stern of the French ships while Victory held off and drew the French ships on a more southerly course.
Unfortunately as HMS Zealous hauled around she came into extreme range of both French ships. As such she was forced to exchange fire. Below HMS Zealous in the centre engage the French. HMS Victory is in the front left. Imperial is in the distance followed by Genereux.
HMS Zealous poured broadside into Imperial causing fires and leaks. With no crew allocated to counter fires initially these raged causing considerable damage to Imperial. Alas, in this initial exchange HMS Zealous lost two masts and a leak. With little option her captain ordered her on a northeasterly course placing distance between her the French while her crew worked on emergency repairs. Eventually leaks were repaired and one mast repaired providing a degree of control.
HMS Victory remained well out of range and while the crew of Imperial were distracted with their repairs Victory moved to a northwesterly course and a position to put her behind the French vessels. However as the ships manoeuvred the wind shifted. While originally blowing from the west it moved to coming first from the northwest and later from the north. By the time the crew of the Imperial had extinguished the raging fires and repaired leaks she and Genereux held a generally eastern course. In contrast HMS Victory was holding a southerly course and soon would press the aft quarter of Genereux. Eventually, as the ships manouvred and the range closed they excanged fire.
Above, HMS Victory in the distance holds a position upwind of the French vessels in the foreground, from here she would pursue the French. Below, HMS Victory at full sail closing on the French.
Meanwhile HMS Zealous, having completed basic repairs, held a generally westerly course and was closing on the French with the advantage of wind.
As light faded the ships engaged for one final exchange, with French struggling against the wind. Imperial managed to fire a number of her guns at HMS Zealous though with little impact. She was now taken aback and fell out. As she did HMS Zealous emptied a full broadside bow raking Genereux causing terrible damage. This should have been supported by a stern rack by HMS Victory. Unfortunately she had come around too much and Genereux escaped a second broadside.
Above, HMS Victory on the left, Genereux in the centre heading into the wind with HMS Zealous in the distance as she delivers a broadside. On the right is the Imperial, with the bow visible, she has been taken aback.
This was an excellent little encounter and my second in two weeks. In this engagement the shifting wind provided some real challenges while the special damages, especially fires and the loss of masts caused some anxiety to both commanders. Fortunately both Imperial and HMS Zealous were not engaged while the crews returned the ships to a reasonable fighting state. Without this time the vessels would likely have taken crippling damage.