Wednesday 24 November 2010

All at Sea play testing (or a big battle of little boats...)

Work has been a bit hectic so I'm only just getting around to uploading some photos from a big game of Irregular Wars: All at Sea that we played up at my local club (Southern Battle Gamers, Sydney) a few weeks back. This was the first playtest we have had involving more than two players (we had 7!). It was also the largest fleet action yet with 13 ships involved.

The vague scenario:
With the assassination of William the Silent, Stadtholder of the United Provinces of the Netherlands in July 1584, the Spanish are seeking to exploit any Dutch weaknesses. A Spanish-Portuguese convoy is dispatched from Lisbon with enough gold to pay the mutinous Spanish forces in the Low Country and bribe key fortresses along the Dutch border. If the notorious Dutch Sea Beggars can seize the treasure ship it could be the turning point in the war of independence. However, a small fleet of English privateers is shadowing the Spanish, waiting to make their move...

The fleets:
The Spanish squadron: commanded by the Captain-General of the Ocean Seas Mark
Gloria de Cristo (Glory of Christ), 1,000 ton carrack
Nuestra Senora de los Mares (Our Lady of the Sea), 720 ton galleon

The Portuguese squadron: commanded by Victor
Donzela de Lisboa (Lady of Lisbon), 700 ton galleass
Sereia (Mermaid), 300 ton galleon
O Harlot Feliz (The Happy Harlot), 160 ton pinnace

The Sea Beggars: command divided between Steven, Willie and Nic
Gekke Prins Lodewijk (Mad Prince Ludwig), 480 ton galleon -Steven
Hommel (Bumblebee), 200 ton crompster -Willie
Willem (William), 240 ton galley -Nic
Orangje (Orange), 240 ton galley -Willie
Nassau (Nassau), 240 ton galley -Nic

The English fleet: command divided between Michael and Josh
Lady Jane Seymour, 800 ton galleon -Michael
Tudor Rose, 480 ton race-built galleon -Josh
Swiftsure, 100 ton pinnace -Josh

We had to make a couple of tweaks to the initiative and movement system, but in the end I think that the rules system as a whole worked well and everyone enjoyed themselves at least a little... even if their vessel was captured in the opening rounds leaving them feeling a little underwelmed with their crew's fighting spirit. The Dutch and the Iberians wore each other down leaving the piratical English scum in a position to steal the loot. That treasure should have been mine! The basic rules system we used follow a few pictures of the night.

The sinking of the Swiftsure

The Sea Beggars swoop in...

The Portuguese counter-offensive

 Drawing initiative cards.

On his most Catholic Majesty's service

Avoiding those thieving English and their thieving ways!

Dutch galleys play 'dodgems' with the Nuestra Senora de los Mares

The fight rages o'er the water

Turn sequence.
1) wind            2)initiative and heading and movement  3) boarding   5) gunnery

1)     The player/s in control of the two largest ships roll 1d6 for each ship. If the results are the same, the wind will change the total number of points in an clockwise direction if number rolled was even or an anticlockwise direction if the number rolled was odd.

2)     Each player draws one card from a deck of cards for each vessel under their command (only use a single suite). They may distribute these cards to in which ever way they choose among their vessels. The card drawn indicates the order in which players must change the heading of their ships, declare the manner in which vessels with both sails and oars are moving, and move their vessel.
Card order runs ace, 2-10, jack, queen, king. An ace will always declare first, a king will always declare last.
Movement for vessels under sails is dictated by their vessel type and heading. Each vessel must move between the minimum and maximum movement allowed. Vessels moving by oars may chose not to move or move any distance up to the maximum allowed.
If the bases of any two vessels touch at any stage during their movement, either or both players may attempt to grapple and board. Each player who wishes to grapple rolls 1d6. The combined total of any or all rolls must be 4+ in order to successfully grapple. Grappled ships cease their movement immediately and in all future turns while they remain grappled. If a vessel is successfully grappled before it has had its own movement, it loses its opportunity for movement this turn and in all future turns while they remain grappled.
Although multiple ships of a single nationality may grapple a single enemy (hence counting towards a single boarding outcome), a vessel of a third nationality may not attempt to grapple any ship where a boarding action is currently taking place.

3)     Once grappled, a vessel will remain so until a single player/fleet has taken control of all ships involved. In each successive boarding phase, 1d6 is rolled for each vessel involved in the action. The player or fleet with the lower total subtracts the difference in the scores from their soldier and crew factors as they choose – one point of difference for 10 soldiers or crew. This represents deaths, injuries and capitulation during the action. When a vessel’s soldiers and crew are reduced to 0 it has lost the action and the vessel is captured by their opponent.

4)     Gunnery is simultaneous. For every twenty crew, a vessel may fire one gunnery factor per turn. A smoke marker should be placed to indicate firing. Each area with allocated gunnery factors (bow, stern, port  broadside, starboard broadside) may only fire once every two turns regardless of how many gunnery factors were fired. Roll 1d6 for every gunnery factor firing this turn. For every successful hit, roll 1d6 (2d6 if raking) to determine crew/soldier losses and critical hits.

Nationality modifiers
Each vessel on the table is captained and crewed by men who exhibit certain national characteristics. Depending on the vessel’s nationality, these characteristics may confer a national bonus to the vessel:
·        Dutch, +1 turning rate
·        English, may reroll two gunnery dice per ship, per turn
·        Hanse, -1 to points cost per tons burthen for merchant vessels; -2 to points cost per tons burthen for warships
·        Portuguese, +1 to rolls to check for shallows
·        Spanish, +1 for every 20 soldiers involved in a boarding action
·        Others, no noticeable effect

Should any vessel sail over an area designated as shallows, or come within 4” of land, there is a chance they will run aground. The player must roll 4+ on a d6 or the vessel will run aground. The following modifiers apply:
·        +2 if the vessel is small.
·        -1 if the vessel is large.

If a vessel runs aground in shallows, it immediately suffers 2d6 damage hits to its hull. It may continue to move in subsequent movement phases but must continue to roll to see if it runs aground until it has moved out of the shallows or more than 4” away from land. Any vessel which moves into or onto land is immediately grounded. It suffers 2d6 damage hits to its hull and may not move in any way for the remainder of the game.

Collisions and ramming
Any time the bow of a vessel makes contact with any part of another vessel at any stage of movement, a collision is deemed to have taken place. Both parties must roll 1d6 on the Collision table below. Galleys and galleasses which are under oars may ram an enemy ship by making contact between their own bow and the broadside or stern of an enemy vessel. If a ramming contact is made, only the vessel which has been rammed needs to roll on the collision table, suffering a +2 modifier to their roll.
            1-2       Superficial damage – no effect.
            3          Light damage – receive one hull damage.
            4          Moderate damage – receive two hull damage and one rigging damage.
            5          Significant damage – receive three hull damage and two rigging damage.
            6          Structural damage – receive 1d6 hull damage and three rigging damage.
            7-8       Hull holed below waterline – receive 2d6 hull damage and three rigging damage.

Short range – 0-4”
Long range – 4-12”

To hit:                          Target vessel size:            Small               Medium           Large   
Firing vessel size:
Small                                                   4+                    4+                    5+       
Medium                                               4+                    4+                    4+       
Large                                                    3+                    4+                    4+       
·        -1 at long range
·        +1 if target is a galley or galleass
Every successful hit causes one point of damage to the target vessel’s hull. In addition, for every successful hit, roll 1d6. Any rolls of 1 will cause the loss of 10 crew or soldiers to be distributed as the target vessel’s owner wishes. Any roll of a 6 will require the target player to roll on the ‘Critical Hits’ table.

Raking fire.
A vessel may rake an opponent’s vessel if it is in a position to fire its broadside into the bow or stern firing arc of an opposing vessel at short range. Raking is conducted as normal gunnery except that for every successful hit, 2d6 are rolled to calculate loss of personnel and critical hits.

Critical Hits.
The subject player must roll 2d6 and consult the following table.
            2          Superficial damage – no effect.
            3          Moderate hull damage – receive two additional hull damage.
            4          Significant hull damage – receive three additional hull damage and lose 10 crew or
            5          Hull holed below waterline – receive 1d6 additional hull damage.
            6          Light rigging damage – receive one rigging damage.
            7          Moderate rigging damage – receive two rigging damage.
            8          Significant rigging damage – receive three rigging damage.
            9          Mast struck – receive two additional hull damage and 1d6 rigging damage.
            10        Lost mast – receive rigging damage equivalent to 1/3 of the original total and lose 10
                        crew or soldiers.
            11        Rudder struck – the vessel’s turning rate is reduced by 1.
            12        Fire takes hold – immediately roll on the Fire! table.

The subject player must roll 1d6 and consult the following table as soon as they catch on fire and at the end of all subsequent gunnery phases until the fire is extinguished or the ship sinks. While a vessel is on fire it may not fire cannons. Any other vessel which comes into contact with it will immediately catch on fire.
            1          Flames extinguished – the vessel is no longer on fire.
            2-3       Fire burns – receive two hull damage and two rigging damage.
            4-5       Fire spreads – receive 1d6 hull damage and 1d6 rigging damage.
            6          Magazine explodes – the vessel is destroyed and sinks. Its current location and a                                    further 1” in all directions must now be treated as shallows.

Skeleton crews.
Vessels whose crews are reduced to the number designated ‘skeleton crew’ may not longer actively approach an enemy vessel or position but must attempt to leave the table via the fastest route, ensuring they do not pass within 4” of an enemy vessel. If a vessel’s crew is reduced below the skeleton crew level the ship may not voluntarily move but will drift d3” (½ d6) in the direction of the wind each movement phase until the crew is repopulated.