Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Club Night, Anchors Away!

We played 'Hammerin' Iron' the American Civil War naval rules last night from Peter Pig and it was not for me. My own rules of choice for this period are 'Smoke on the Water' which play equally as fast as the PP rules but are heads and shoulders above in historical feel and accuracy.

The Rebs arrive.

I am jumping the gun, the game is played on a hex grid and a mat which you can buy from PP, Simon and I were the Confederetes while Stuart and Paul were for the Union, the scenario had four CS transports and a depot which the Federal's had to destroy, these were on opposite sides of the river and fairly close to the Union starting edge. We had six ships each but after going through the set up phase we lost a ship but gained a fort, more on that later.

The USS Signal braves the Confederate fire.
 The Confederate navy entered with two of its worse protected and armed vessels while the Federals got three, including a monitor. Stuart and Paul split their forces and went for both objectives, they had no problem doing this as most of the Confederate shots bounced off their armour while the denizens of the fort didn't seem to have a clue what was going on and failed to load their guns for most of the action. The US navy had a good time firing on their targets and soon sent one transport to the bottom while destroying two of the four buildings at the depot. Confederate morale plummeted as their reserve ships seemed as cowardly as the fort garrison.

Too late the Reb reinforcements arrive, the Gaines is about to strike her colours.
 Some accurate shooting from the US navy sent the CSS Planter to the bottom with a spectacular explosion, the ship was already on its way out so the agony was not prolonged, they then concentrated on the only other Rebel vessel (mine), the CSS Gaines, which struck her colours just as a couple of her friends turned up, however so did more Union vessels. We now had the mighty Virginia and the General Beauregard on the table and they made speed as best they could to succour their friends. The Beauregard evened the score somewhat by ramming and causing one of the enemy to surrender, the Virginia meanwhile although unable to make steam sat like an island opposite the transports and fired shot and shell into anything which came close. Soon after this the last Confederate vessel appeared just in time to be packed away as Stuart called time.

The Gen. Beauregard saves face for the CS Navy.

Stuart tried to make sense of the victory points and I think it looked like a close run thing, we had lost two ships, the Federals one, however two of their vessels were badly damaged and would not stand up to much more of a battering. We had lost two transports and two houses so I think everyone was happy to call it a draw.

As I said above I did not like the game, it was too abstract, the hex system gave some strange results with shooting arcs, looking at the table it was obvious a ships guns could hit their target, but when applying the hex ranges the cannonballs sailed past on either side, very strange. I was also unsure of how they treated some of the ships weapons, the Planter had one large gun at the bow, this was not allowed to fire to the sides, only straight ahead, now I am not an expert on ACW armaments but they did not bolt guns to the deck and stop them turning. One of the most awkward rules was that the fort guns to fire needed to roll a six, so they were virtually useless for the entire game, remaining mainly silent, thereby negating the whole point of a fort. There is a bit more paperwork involved with SOTW but if you want a wargame as opposed to a game I would have to give SOTW the edge.

There seems to be a lot of blurring around the edges these days between historical games and wargames, I know both are games but I like to think that some veer more towards realism than others, Johnny Reb for instance to me gives a good game, has an historical feel and from what I have read of the period gives an excellent historical result. Bolt Action which I am dipping my toe into is probably more a game, but I am happy with that. But for ACW naval I look for more wargame than game.


  1. I've played both games and they're quite different beasts I think. HI is quite 'gamey' like a lot of the Peter Pig games with their pre-game shenanigans. I find its an ideal game for a club night. SOTW is a good set but I've played a couple of games where the ships ended up blazing away but unable to actually cause any damage to each other...maybe more realistic but a bit frustrating! This might be down to my scenario planning though.

    It's a fascinating period of naval warfare though.

    1. I agree entirely with your thinking on PP. However my own forces are not equipped with super ships, I mostly have unarmoured, cotton or tinclads, only one monitor and one CS ironclad, so I have never really had a problem damaging another ship with SOTW. My only problem is winning!

      I have actually seen the USS Cairo, very impressive.

    2. Which they pronounce as Cayro?

    3. Why am I not surprised!!