Ironclads, Bill’s Ironclad Rules, 1/600 scale
We were all at see this week in Edinburgh, as Bill Gilchrist gave us another taster of his “Ironclad” rules. The battle was completely fictitious, involving Confederate ships more usually found on the Mississippi River, off Savannah and up in Pamlico Sound, as well as a more appropriate Union blockading squadron. The game was a sort of encounter battle, with two squadrons a side – one of ironclads, one of wooden-hulled paddlewheelers. I took command of the Union paddlewheeler squadron, consisting of the Mattasesett, the Sassacus and the Commodore Hull. Despite coming from New England Ray Neal led out the Confederate paddlewheeelers General Bragg, General Beauregard, Sumter and Planter, while Tim Watson commanded the Confederate ironclads Atlanta, Arkansas and Albemarle. Finally Donald Adamson took charge of the Union monitors Tecumseh, Manhattan, Montauk and Onondaga.Essentially the two Union squadrons appeared at opposite diagonal corners of an 8×6 foot table. The Confederate ironclads arrived on a third corner, while their supporting paddlewheelers entered in the middle of the table, representing the mouth of the Cape Fear River. We had already factored out any coastal forts, so no Fort Fisher in our battle. this was all about the ships. The Union monitors were quick to engage the Confederate paddlewheelers, as the Confederate ironclads were still out of range. For my part I put clear blue-brown water between my ships and the enemy ironclads.Soon the Confederate paddlewheelers and the Union monitors had intermingled, and were trading shots with each other at point blank range. Naturally the monitors were shrugging off the enemy fire – or most of it – while the paddlewheelers were suffering badly. My own squadron skirted the edge of the first of two islands, and then curved down to intercept what was left of the Confederate gunboats. By now the monitors of both sides had come within range of each other, and were trading shots. As I came past the second small island I was charged by two Confederate gunboats – the General Beauregard and the General Bragg. The Bragg had suffered badly earlier in the fight, and was stopped dead in the eater by the guns of my two “”double-enders” Mattasesett and Sassacus. I couldn’t stop the General Beauregard though, and she rammed the Sassacus. It was only a glancing blow, but it started a flood. I managed to fix that, but now she and the Commodore Hull were brought under fire from the ironclad Atlanta. By now the Beauregard had been forced to abandon the fight – she failed a moral check – as had the Planter and Sumter, as both of these paddlewheelers had been very roughly handled in their run past the Union ironclads. One of them – the Sumter – managed to ram the Manhattan, but she was riddled to bits in the process, and forced to limp away to safety. The Manhattan though, was so badly holed that she was eventually forced to run herself onto the beach – presumably south of the entrance to the Cape Fear River. That could make a great little land and sea game all of itself – the Confederates attempting to capture the monitor, while a plucky guard of US Marines try to hold them off while engineers repair the hole, allowing the ironclad to be towed to safety. That though, is a game for another day…Amazingly, my double enders scored a few hits on the Atlanta, allowing two Union monitors to come up and pound away at her. She finally failed a morale test and headed back towards the Cape Fear River. The next Confederate ironclad – the Arkansas – was also badly hit, and set on fire. She extinguished the blaze, but failed her test, and so she too headed for home. The battle was all but over. My squadron had survived, despite being knocked around a bit, and the only other Union casualty was the Tecumseh, which was damaged and forced to abandon the fight. In return the Confederates were forced to retreat, with the General Bragg disabled and abandoned off the little islands we used to represent the Frying Pan Shoals. The rules worked well, although I still think they make it too easy to damage ironclads – and the pace of the action was fast and furious.Uncle Bill’s Ironclad Rules (a tongue in cheek working title) are taking shape nicely. Originally I was going to co-author them, but Bill has done all the work, and all that’s left for me to do is to top and tail them with historical titbits. The plan is to get them into good enough shape to offer them to Osprey for publication, which means they might well appear in print some time. Meanwhile though, we still have playtesting to do, and a lot more work! Bill is on the lookout for more playtesters, so if you want to give them a go then drop me a line.