Action in Orsola Bay, Sicily, 1804

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Fred Worthingham
Posts: 18
Joined: Wed Oct 17, 2018 6:06 am
Location: Duns, Scottish Borders

Action in Orsola Bay, Sicily, 1804

Post by Fred Worthingham »

This is the game I ran recently for the superb Eborlard weekend organised by John Savage.


A British squadron led by Rear-Admiral Pound in HMS Imperial took on a French squadron under Contre-Amiral Quilo in La Metrique. This pitched the British squadron of 1 x 96, 2 x 74s & a 38 against 4 French 74s. All British crews were Average Jolly Jack Tars except for the frigate crew who were Elite. French crews were all Average Sans Culotte. The shoals and islands of the bay made it particularly hazardous for damaged and drifting ships as well as lumbering three deckers.

The ships used are the Warlord Black Seas 1/700 range. As recommended by Andy Crow, to accommodate these larger ships, I increased the firing ranges by 50% and increased their turn template size by one level but I did not adjust their movement. To ease play I made up range rulers with the to hit number and any relevant modifiers on them and I customised some Gaslands templates for the turning templates which were a pretty close fit to what I wanted. I find the whole circle templates difficult to use in a close action.

Both games were a lot of fun with plenty of tension and lots of laughs. They also gave a very good feel for the period. Age of Sail is where I started gaming as a boy after an inspirational visit to the National Maritime Museum so you can imagine my joy at putting on this game. I am hugely indebted to John (Archdukek) who first introduced me to KMH at Deep Fried Lard 2016, Tom who got me back into it at Steel Lard 2019 and Andy Crow who ran some cracking virtual games during the dark days of lockdown. Also a massive thank you to Nick and Rich for giving us such fun with these rules.

In the morning game the British were left short of gunpower when their three decker ran hard aground on one of the islands leaving the 2 x 74s and frigate to take on the 4 French 74s. Whilst the crew of HMS Imperial lowered boats and tried to warp her off, HMS Badger and HMS Avoirdupois, the British 74s, did their best to hold out and the frigate HMS Firkin used her maneouvrability to great effect. All fought hard but eventually one British 74 struck and the other made her escape to leeward in very bad shape whilst poor HMS Firkin was forced to strike as she was on the point of sinking.

If the morning game was a bar brawl, the afternoon was more of a ballet, at least to begin with. The French line was well formed and remained so for a long time until one ship missed stays whilst tacking. However, they had already taken advantage of the disjointed enemy line with the British three decker too far away and her broadside often masked by friends. HMS Badger was in the thick of the action and repeatedly set on fire, eventually drifting into the Centimale. Badger struck, the fires were put out by French boarders but by now the two ships had drifted onto a shoal and stuck fast. Meanwhile the British frigate HMS Firkin managed a simultaneous bow and stern rake of two French 74s but was then smashed to pieces by their combined broadsides. A devastating broadside from HMS Imperial caused La Metrique to strike and it seemed as though the British might be able to carry the day. However, the combined broadsides of the two relatively unscathed French 74s, Decimale and Lusardi caused much damage and started a fire on HMS Imperial so that when a sudden wind change took her aback, her masts began to topple, leaving her crippled and burning. Only the heavily damaged HMS Avoirdupois was left in the fight for the British but with two French 74s circling, her fate was sealed.

Two French victories caused much distress at the Admiralty! The British were somewhat restricted by starting in two separate formations whereas the French started in a single line. The shoals and islands really created some difficult moments for navigation, particularly for the three decker. In both games it proved very difficult for the British to bring her broadsides to bear effectively and it demonstrated the difficulties a disjointed line has in taking on a cohesive one. It also demonstrated the hazards such large ships faced in treacherous coastal waters.

All in all a tremendous couple of games and a top weekend. I look forward to more such games in the near future.

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