A first view of Trafalgar

Glenn and I had a introduction game to the new Warhammer Historical rules for Napoleonic naval wargames called ‘Trafalgar’.

 We played the game with approximately 1000 points a side, which got us a 1st rate each, 3 3rd Rates each, and one or two 5th rate frigates each (France had 2, Britain 1).

The book is a lovely glossy card bound book, with the rules themselves are fairly short, written in a very approachable manner with a fair few diagrams to illustrate the specific rules. The remainder of the book contains the fleet lists for the various protagonists including Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, and USA.  There are a series of generic scenarios, as well as a Trafalgar campaign with more dspecific scenarios.  The rest of the book contains a historical introduction, painting and rigging workshops and various templates and reference schedules (these are also available for download from the Warhammer Historical website).

The game is intended to be played over 20 turns, however as it was our first game we were constantly referencing the rules our progress was slow and we onl.y really finished 8 turns in 2 hours.  With a better understanding of the rules no doubt this will improve radically.

We played a very basic scenario, no odd terrain features or coastlines, just open sea. 

The ship movement is very easy with each ship having a ‘speed’ determined by its sail setting and its aspect to the wind.  Ships of different ratings moanoeuver in different ways – ships of the line being less manoeuverable than the more spritely frigates and so on.  Ships move in a fairly easy to determine manner – those ships closest to the wind have initiative, so move after those who are further down wind.  Ships may fire during their move, or when an opposing ship enters their firing line, but at a penalty, alternatively they may wait until the main firing phase.

Firing  is again fairly easy to follow, with each ship class having a firing rating consisting of three numbers representing the number of light guns, heavy guns, and carronades.  Each gun type has a different strenght as well as range.  So long as a ship is in arc, it may fire all of the guns in range.  A basic 4+ is required to hit, adjusted by various factors for range or target (firing at the sails is done at a penalty).  Different nations have different advantages, for example the British may re-roll ‘1s’ so long as they do a standard low shot.

All hits then receive a saving throw, which is dependant upon the target location, as well as the gun being fired.  Also bow or stern rakes incure saving throw penalties.  All failed saves cause damage against the location which is simpy marked off from the ships rosters.  Any natural sixes rolled by the attacker which aren’t saved cause critical hits against the target location.  A roll is made against the critical damage table for the location and the results applied.  These can range from simply additional damage, crew kills, below the water damage or fires. 

As ships take damage the damage is recored on the ships roster, with each ship within the fleet having it’s own roster.  These are available to photocopy from within the rules.  As the ships take damage various penalties begin the apply, such as reduced speed for losing masts, reducing firing capability for hull hits, through to command penalties, losss of special modeifiers, and close combat modifiers etc.  Eventually ships will be de-crewed, immobilised, or even sunk.  Players may attempt to board these ships to either recover or recapture them.

There are a whole host of additional rules which I have ommitted to mention, all of which bring more flavour to the games, covering improvements to the ships, weather, national characteristics, special crews, commanders, coastal fortifications etc.

The rules say that they are intended for 1/1200 though we played our game with Glenns 1/2400 fleets without any modifications and I’m not all that sure if it detreacted at all.

At the end of our 8 turns my fleet of French had taken some serious damage mainly to the hull, with reduced firing and my two main ships having trouble with their rudders.   The British fleet had lost of sail and a few masts, so was beginning to slow down.  No doubt with a few more turns we would have achieved a more definative result.

I thoroughly enjoyed the game.  No doubt many of the rules were played wrong (or missed out).  I do intend to continue to try the rules out further.



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