Ironclads, Bill’s Ironclad Rules, 1/600 scale
For more than a year now, my pal Bill Gilchrist has been developing a set of ironclad rules. At the moment’s they’re simply called Cap’n Bill’s Ironclad Rules (working title), but at some stage they’ll get a proper name. This game involved Fort Sumter – a very nice model by Peter Pig – and a sort of very abstract version of Charleston Harbor. In other words, this wasn’t a historic game. Both sides had two squadrons – one of ironclads, the other of wooden gunboats, while the Confederates also had the fort, plus a couple of smaller gun batteries. Ray and I played the Bubbas, while Tim and Bart ran the Yankee ships. As usual Bill umpired. We Rebs decided to deploy behind Fort Sumter, hoping to weaken the Union ships as they approached. then we could dart out and finish them off. of course things didn’t quite go according to plan…
While my three Confederate ironclads (Atlanta, Palmetto State and Albemarle) loitered behind the guns of Fort Sumter, my colleague Ray Neal sallied out with his three little gunboats. No hiding behind the forts and letting them do the fighting – no sirree! That was the end of that plan. So, as it took time for my ships to raise steam he bore the full brunt of the Yankee onslaught. The four Union wooden-hulled gunboats outgunned Ray’s three ships, and began to get the better of the gun duel as the two sides closed with each other. The three Union monitors concentrated their fire for the forts, silencing the small fort to the north of the harbour, and then taking on Fort Sumter, as they closed within range.
Ray’s ships went down fighting. or rather, they didn’t sink, but they were pretty much beaten to a pulp above the waterline, their guns were silenced, and they could barely keep afloat. One began sinking, while the other two failed their morale test. Unable to make it back into Charleston, they decided to break off, head east, and try to beach themselves below the guns of Fort Ray, which lay on the south side of the harbor. The Union gunboats though didn’t emerge unscathed. Two of them – the Sassacus and the Mattabesset – were quite badly shot up. these ships though, lacked the firepower to take on Fort Sumter, and so contented themselves with lying off and bombarding Fort Ray.That meant it was up to the three Union monitors Manhattan, Tecumseh and Canonicus to deal with the Confederate ironclads, and subdue the fort. By now my late-starting ironclads were under way, but progress was slow, particularly as I tried to keep them steaming in line abreast, to present their big guns at one enemy ship – the Canonicus. Meanwhile the fort was busy pounding away at the Union monitors, scoring more hits than its gunners deserved.In Bill’s Ironclad Rules the big-gunned Union monitors needed to pass a test to reload, which helped keep their rate of fire down. Even so, when two monitors circumnavigated the fort and began shooting at my ironclads from astern, they started scoring telling hits on my flagship – the Atlanta. Still, I was pounding the Canonicus quite heavily now, and as my guns were lighter they could fire every turn. This duel continued for a few turns, by which time it was time to pack the ships away. Nobody had actually sunk by the end of the game, although one of Ray’s gunboats was going down, and the other two were heading for the beach.
Of the ironclads the Atlanta, the Canonicus and the Massachusetts had all suffered hits of various kinds, but were still in the fight. So, it was still everything to play for. With hindsight I left it too late to get my ironclads under way – and Ray attacked too early. Next time we’ll get the timing right, and manage to sink one of those damned Yankee ships!