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Action off Cabo Silleiro, 1805


The Age of Fighting Sail, Kiss Me Hardy, 1/1200 scale

This Saturday was Deep Fried Lard, the annual celebration of all things Too Fat Lardy north of the border. It was held in Musselburgh, a rather soulless seaside suburb of Edinburgh, and during the day several Lardy games were available for us to take part in. Roughly there was time for one morning game and one afternoon one – so for my first session I opted for a naval game using Kiss Me Hardy. The ships were supplied by John Ewing from the Falkirk Wargames Club, who also acted as the long-suffering umpire. Essentially we fought an encounter battle, set just off the Spanish coast, near the port of Vigo. The premise was, the Franco-Spanish squadron had run in there for shelter, and now a British squadron had arrived to blockade them. The Franco-Spanish fleet needed to break out in order to work their way up the coast to La Coruna, where the rest of their fleet was waiting for them.  Six British ships-of-the-line under Rear Admiral Stirling engaging a mixed squadron of eight French and Spanish ships-of-the-line led by Rear Admiral Dumanoir. The French and Spanish couldn’t really avoid the British, so their plan was to close the range quickly, fight just long enough to delay pursuit, and then to head off the table edge. The British, of course, were out to stop them, and ideally to sink or destroy the enemy before they could escape. I played the part of one of the British commanders, with three ships-of-the-line under my command. The two sides approached each other like they were both coming down two sides of a triangle, and when they got within range the enemy opened fire. We held ours for the moment – you get a real bonus for first fire, and it makes sense not to waste it. The French and Spanish however, were keen to disable the rigging of our ships, and so prevent us from stopping them exit the table. This went on for several turns – the winds were light, but eventually the two sides came within close range of each other. the two heads of the columns crashed into each other, and soon all semblance of order was lost. Now it was all about out-shooting your rival. About half of the French fleet jinked to port, swerving round the Spanish ships in the van in an attempt to head towards the table edge. This was a shrewd move, but it probably didn’t help the Spanish morale very much. for our part our leading three ships were committed to the melee, but they were outnumbered, and some of those Spanish First Rates could inflict an awful lot of damage. I calculated that I had no chance of catching up with the French rearguard, so I altered to port myself, bringing my three ships round the back of the Spaniards. Now it was we who had the upper hand. The San Juan Nepomunceno (74) was the first to strike, followed a turn later by the Spanish flagship, the Principe de Asturias (112). On our side the Royal Sovereign was in a bad way, but somehow it passed every strike test that was thrown at it. My ships battered the San Ildefonso (74) into submission through some pretty devastating close-range gunnery, including a bow rake, and while the game ended before the French Bucentaure (80) could surrender, she was surrounded by British ships, and her surrender was inevitable. However, three french and one Spanish ship had escaped – half the enemy force, so this sweet little victory was tempered by the knowledge that that little enemy squadron was now loose upon the high seas. All in all it was a great little game, and my thanks to John for taking the time and trouble to organise it, and to run it so smoothly.

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