Signal Close Action Kriegspiel – Conclusion

HMS Agile

HMS Agile

As mentioned in couple of other posts, I have played with an idea to establish game of Signal Close Action in a way that neither player has benefit of god perspective over the battlefield. We then went on to test the system with what originally ought to have been short test scenario of few turns, perhaps no more than 15. What happened though, was entire, and complete chase scenario that took 40 game turns to complete.


It was an meeting encounter of two smaller ships of the line. Obsolete 50 gun two deckers on both sides. French were spotted by British from one nautical mile away – long enough distance to give players decision how to fight the upcoming battle. At the start neither side knew exactly what they were up against. British, while smaller had additional benefit of being painted as single deck frigate. French on the other hand, was large 50 and more like flush deck 64. Wind was moderate Breeze most of the time, with brief period of Strong Wind early on the chase. Both captains were good, but French were less drilled and hence were average and Amphion had normal speed. This gave Broadside Factor of 110 6/6.  British had good crew and fast Agile, giving slightly less strong Broadside Factor 110 5/5.


Single ship actions can be time consuming because there is only limited force that can be concentrated against the opponent, and one should try to concentrate the force without being subject to risk themselves. The fight between the ships could be divided into three parts because of the nature of the starting positions Chase – Closing in and Melee.

I. Chase

At the start, French attempted half heartedly to run away from the British but soon realizing that they were slower and that they kept constantly falling off wind, large encircling battle developed where chase gunnery were fired upon enemy.

mid tunsFrench had the distinct disadvantage of being on the lee side, but unfortunately the French captan was not perhaps aware that the weather gage is mainly beneficial in strategic level in fleet actions, where holder of the weather gage may choose the time of attack – essentially the moment when to fall upon enemy. In single ship actions, weather gage is not all that important, albeit it does dictate that the windward ship has somewhat better option to disengage – assuming that rigging remains intact.

First third of the game revolved rather heavily on both sides attempting to gain or maintain weather gage, and for British to close in as quickly as they could. During the chase, broadsides were cleared and ships lowered to water since neither ship was cleared for action.

Eventually French came about, and next stage of the wight evolved.

II. Closing in

mid tuns umpire

Actual umpire view with gunnery arcs.

Once French had figured out that there is no practical means to escape, very long range gunnery evolved, where french turned broadside towards approaching English and fired from half a mile distant. Not much damage was caused by the long distance gunnery. Both ships kept semi circling around each first from long distance, and then from medium, exchanging gunnery. British firing down on the hull when effective and French aimed for rigging. It took a long while before inefficient long range gunnery begun to told and first sections were lost.

closing inWhen French gun exploded due to poor loading and careless handling of powder, and minor fire was started, it almost looked like the fight would develop to a close distance slogging match, but that was not to be and English ship, instead of closing in, allowed distance and French could speedily put repairs in action. Same occurred when rigging sections were lost, both sides – separated from each other when sufficient damage was achieved to the enemy, and initiative was relinquished to the opponent to carry out necessary repairs unhindered.

Second third of the battle developed into action where both sided attempted to rake each other, and at the same time evading other – usually in opposing tacks. Until, ships finally came into effective range for last turns and events started to develop more rapidly.

III. Melee

mid tuns umpire2

Actual umpire view with gunnery arcs.

Both ships finally found common direction and were no longer on opposing tacks and slugfest ensued where both ships caused nearly equal damage to other. French still continued to disable English and they continued to put French crew out of action. When distances grew closer, it was evident that British were gaining upper hand in the fight. For some time since the explosion on the French vessel, they had certain difficulties to bring full broadside to bear, while English gunnery got better. As umpire, I was certain that if the English kept French closely engaged, they would bring down French.

closing in2

Actual umpire view of the doomed French approach to contact.

Perhaps seeing the development, French captain decided to bring out cutlasses and boarding pikes, establish boarding netting and do all preparations to ram, and take the English ship by the only remaining advantage(s) he had in his possession. His ship was larger, with larger complement of men. He could, if gaining surprise, use the massed force of boarders to overcome the defenses of the English ship. Only thing he needed was a bit of luck (something that French did not really have early on). Because of certain difficulties reading the distances how far ship actually travelled, French did receive welcoming broadside from musket shot just prior boarding the English ship of war.



French 50L Amphion

And so did it happen that after long run and long to medium range gunnery both sides sustained damage completely opposite to other and this enabled larger, heavier French to run to bow of British with all hands ready for boarding. Perhaps not unusually British rigging was mauled to extend that temporarily disabled the ship, while French suffering from poor handling of guns that contributed to the loss of broadside efficiency and morale of men. At the final stage, French elected to ram the English ship of war, and while doing so, wind of fortune pushed British ship that just regained command and started to get underway, such way that they were able to bring full broadside to bear on approaching French from musket shot. It was at this instant French morale started to waver.

Once larger French got alongside and secured English ship with grapples and boarded the English ship of war, wave after wave of boarders flooded over to the unsuspecting Englishmen who, regardless of unpreparedness did put up a good fight. Eventually English counter boarders were assembled and they fought back hard seeing that French were just about to surrender the ship.

At the midst of confusion of the battle something unexpected happened. Battle was raging hot and ever demising broadsides were shot from point blank range to such extend that English crews became exhausted by the effort. It was then the doomed French ship that had last word and with half broadside gone, she fired away felling both officers and men. At this instant, it was seen how English ensign was lowered as a sign of surrender and men seized fight. Perhaps we shall never know why the English ship struck her colors but after the carnage abroad, there was only 1st lieutenant left in command, captain severely wounded.

After all, both vessels received quite bit of mauling, and especially French were quite leaky afterwards. Perhaps it is not surprising that at the end damage equalled in rough terms, albeit English were much more likely to hit the target than French. Broadside weight and ship size favored French, while quality favored English.

French are now happy to lock the English sailors below decks, and take their prize home. If they can make it without scuttling their own ship. Thank you for both participants, I hope it was enjoyable experiment.

End result of British Agile (Struck):

Damage: RDC[3/6]: 70/110, HDCL[3/5]: 7/110, HDCR[0/5]: 24/110 
Explanation of above: Location[Full DC's lost]: damage sustained/DC

End result of French Amphion:

Damage: RDC[2/6]: 93/110, HDCL[1/6]: 60/110 , HDCR[3/6]: 19/110
Explanation of above: Location[Full DC's lost]: damage sustained/DC
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4 Responses to Signal Close Action Kriegspiel – Conclusion

  1. That rigging is awesome. What scale is the ship? Must have been quite some fiddly hours.

    • Tichy says:

      1:1200 Langton – base painting seems to be still under consideration. Actually, the “Langton Method” of rigging is quite fast. Essentially, they are mostly loops of long (however long is defined in 1:1200 scale) thread, and relatively easy to do. Only drawback is to keep the lines tense and I am not sure how long these will hold out – wishing the best though.

      Perhaps it is masochistic, but I actually like doing rigging. Something weirdly satisfactory once you get it right.

  2. Juha Heinänen says:

    Experience was definitely fun. With no previous experience of the system I did start overly passive, partly to get feeling for the system and partly to lull the British to false sense of security. Targetting rigging was napoleonic French tactics for which they did suffer and results of exchange here reflect that nicely. As well as me taking in more fire from closer ranges where it hurts more. Fun experience, great job from the umpire.

    • Tichy says:

      I have to admit that from the umpire’s perspective I would have put my bet for your demise, would it only have been for the gunnery. Boarding under the circumstances was very brave and borderline foolish thing to do – but it worked out spectacularly.

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