Saturday 21 January 2017

Actium: A battle report, part 2

The second evening gaming this battle proved to be less interesting than the first. This was mostly due to the nagging suspicion that the rules were flawed. It soon became an evident truth.

There were a couple of great moments. Antony's decares flagship was sunk by a racing cataphracted trireme - it needed a 12 (on 2d6 +2) to sink it and got it, even though it was set on fire in its approach. Soon afterwards another cataphracted trireme performed a perfect 'anastrophe' (a rake followed by a fast turn around and a ram) on a quinquireme. A nice period special rule for the most manoeuvrable galleys.

There were a few more boarding actions than in the first week (largely due to better grappling rolls by galleys of Antony's fleet) and a couple of prizes actually changed hands but, most of the ramming attempts failed. There seemed to be far too much bumping about without any effect - a bit like dodgems at a fair, it was all good fun but pointless.

However, the biggest problem with the game was the missilery. There was simply far too much of it, making it a tedious process; it was far too effective. Although I didn't keep an accurate count, for each ship sunk by ramming two vessels went down in flames due to incendiary missiles. In fact, it actually occurred to Peter (playing Octavian's fleet) that a better way of sinking the enemy was to catch fire then grapple an enemy ship in the hope of the fire spreading to it. To his credit he didn't play this way, though given the rules he must have been sorely tempted. The game, more competitively played, could easily become like a battle using Elizabethan fire-ships rather than an ancient galley battle.

After the second nights play, with a clear victory looking impossible to achieve, I called an end to the experiment. On the night, thirteen galleys were sunk (about a third rammed), three more had been captured and were still afloat, and two more (the octares and a heptereme) were totally disabled (each having been raked twice).

I still think the GMT War Galley rules hold much promise. I just think they needed a bit of tinkering to suit our taste and style of play. I also thought the scenario needed a bit of tinkering for command and control purposes but more of that anon.

I am making the following experimental changes to the rules.

  • Some changes to the factors in my galley stats table. I am not of the opinion that very big ships were good rammers because they were not very manoeuvrable historically: They relied on boarding and shooting. I have, in consequence, made fives and sixes the best rammers (now with a ram factor 6 / 8) and down rated sevens and eights (to 5 / 7) and tens (to 5 / 6). I'm also going to down rate ram defence factors (for all galleys except tremiola, transport and lembi) by one level - 6 becomes 5, etc. This will, overall, increase the ram chances in the game by a considerable degree.
  • I am going to allow liburnian galleys to carry out an anastrophe attack. 
  • Any ship moving more hexes than cruise rate will get a flat +1 ramming DRM.
  • The negative grappling DRM for attacking a galley moving in the opposite direction has been changed to "attacking a galley moving at maximum speed". Half speed and fatigued have been added to the positive DRM for restricted movement.
  • I'm going to change the rule on galleys that have been rammed. I my view, allowing them to do anything at all is a waste of time. Rammed ships will immediately become total wrecks, replaced with beaded wreck markers. Rammed ships will sink on sixes as per usual except that: They DO NOT take down ships they are attached too. Instead, disengaging from a 'sunk' ship will get a -1 DRM and the wreck will sink properly when disengaged (to signify a sunk wreck that's being held up we'll remove its beads for 'sunk but held afloat'). 
Lastly, I am going to completely change to the shooting rules.

  • Ships require engines to shoot out to two hexes. They ONLY shoot in their squadron move phase as they are moved - shoot it or lose it, no reactive fire.
  • Decares have 4 engines and roll 4 dice; octares have 3 engines and roll three dice; hepteremes have 2 engines for two dice; sexteres have 1 engine for one dice, as do quinquiremes and quadriremes where applicable by period. Smaller galleys cannot shoot. Engines cannot be 'knocked out'. Captured ships can shoot 1 engine only, regardless of galley size.
  • There are no DRMs. When shooting each galley rolls its dice. Each roll of five and six causes one depletion. 
  • If incendiaries are available, and any number of sixes are rolled a single fire saving check is required. A fire will take hold on a failure to roll crew skill or lower. When a fire takes hold the ship must STOP. It will not move, shoot, grapple or launch a boarding action (it may repel) until the fire is out or the ship is abandoned. You can't use the buggers as Elizabethan fire-ships! 
  • The Firefighting phase in the turn sequence stays as is except: 1-2 fire out; 3-5 remain on fire, may spread; 6 fire out of control, abandon ship, the ship burns for the rest of the game and may spread. Fire spreads to grappled / fouled on DR 5+.
My next post will be the new Actium set up. I'm not sure if it will be played by the guys or by me solo.


Gonsalvo said...

It sounds like the basic rules mechanisms are reasonably sound, but require tinkering to reflect your understanding of the relative importance of the various components of Galley warfare - moving/maneuvering, engine fire, small arms fire, ramming/shearing oars, and boarding (melee). The changes you're considering should influence the effectiveness of each. Play testing awaits!

I face the same issues with 16th century Galley warfare, and need to get my rear in gear to revise my own rules for 15mm galleys. Given the scale, these will be more tactical in scope and detailed in resolution.

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