Time to try out my ACW modifications to the Galleys & Galleons rules! Basically, the real big difference is the ‘ironclad’ special rule: For 10 points, it gives the boat the ability to defend against shooting with two dice and chose the better result. I’ve also made some minor changes to the ‘All At Sea’ table (which is now called ‘Mississippi Blues’) and to the critical hits. Another thing is that boats under steam have to move at least one small movement distance per turn, similar to the compulsory move under sail. This is intended to model the sluggishness of steamboats and to force the players to plan ahead and prioritise activations.
Our first test game was a bit of a drawn-out affair. We decided to have an all-out battle with four boats a side, which took quite a while to resolve. However, when analysing the game, we discovered that we forgot one or two important rules and that our tactics were too timid.
For the second game, we decided to play a proper scenario: A Union squadron, consisting of the ironclads USS Carondelet and USS Osage and accompanied by the timberclad USS Tyler and the ram USS Queen of the West was sent to reduce two Confederate shore batteries. However, a squadron of three Confederate boats, consisting of the ironclad CSS Arkansas, the gunboat CSS Grand Duke and the ram CSS Little Rebel, steamed down river to ambush the federals…
Initially, the Union fleet advanced slowly – I had difficulties activating my ships. The first turns saw a half-hearted exchange of fire between the Union ironclads and the batteries without any results.
But then, the ram CSS Little Rebel charged forward, intending to ram the Union monitor Osage. However, the USS Queen of the West, the only Union boat capable of ramming, darted forward and ran down the Little Rebel, causing severe damage (3 hits). The next activation phase saw the Little Rebel fail on a red dice and change heading, crashing into the riverbanks and sinking in the mud.
However, Confederate revenge came in the shape of the fearsome CSS Arkansas, an ironclad ram that, although sluggish, managed to head directly into the Queen of the West. Shells from the island battery had already damaged the Union boat and the ram gave her the rest. Another boat down – this started to look like it was going to be a brutal and close game.
While the rams were doing their jobs, the Union ironclads shuffled into position to shell the batteries. My plan was to anchor both boats in front of the island battery and reduce it methodically before changing position and dealing with the second one. I also wanted the USS Tyler to deal with the CSS Grand Duke, which was steaming along to threaten my starboard flank. Unfortunately, the Tyler got into a cross fire from the batteries, making its captain lose his nerves and cowardly striking the colours. The shame!
Well, at least the ironclads did their job. They did take some damage, but being “though customers”, as a Confederate officer once said, they stayed afloat until they managed to destroy the battery. Being anchored, however, made them vulnerable to ramming attacks, a fact that did not slip the attention of the captain of the Arkansas, who steered his boat directly at the Carondelet. Fortunately, this caused only superficial damage.
While the crew of the Carondelet tried to repair the damage, the Osage steamed over to the second battery. A lucky shot hit its powder magazine, causing a fire which one turn later blew up the whole fortification!
Victory – the Union squadron had achieved its objective!
But not without cost – this was a brutal game. I lost two boats: one was sunk by ramming and one surrendered itself when caught in the crossfire from the shore batteries. K. lost the Little Rebel, while the Grand Duke was severely damaged and out of the game for all purposes. My ironclads were damaged, as was the Arkansas.
We were both very happy with how the game played out. The rules gave a fast game that was exciting until the end. The ironclads are tough against shooting, but they are as vulnerable to ramming and to critical hits as any other boats. Ramming generally can be brutal, as it was historically.
We are looking forward to trying out other scenarios!