Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

WBC: Wooden Ships semifinal and final

I was pleased to qualify for the semifinal in the World Boardgaming Championships Wooden Ships and Iron Men tournament.  The previous year, I'd lost in the semi-final to Evan Hitchings, and as it happened, this year would provide the opportunity for a rematch.

Semi-final: Frigate frenzy
For the semi-final, we were each given the opportunity to choose from among three orders of battle:
  • Two elite-crewed American frigates, including one 44-gun ship
  • Three crack-crewed British frigates
  • Four French frigates - one crack and three average

It didn't take long for me to eliminate the French option, since the average crews would significantly degrade overall gunfire performance and since four ships would be considerably difficult to keep together to focus firepower.  But I seriously agonized over the American and British options.  In the end, I decided that the third British frigate would outweigh the advantages of the American elite crews, especially once I'd done some damage to the 44-gun frigate and mitigated her firepower advantage.

Interestingly, Evan chose the American option, and we were both pleased that we had chosen different orders of battle so that we would truly test which combination would win out.  Like me, Evan had agonized between the American and British options and had selected quality over quantity.

I decided early that my first priority would be to maintain my line and keep my firepower concentrated as tightly as possible to offset the advantage of the superior American crews.  We engaged in some fairly tricky maneuvering early in the battle, and at one point around Turn 9 I actually reversed the order of my line in a series of simultaneous turns to starboard so that I could maintain formation while reversing course to maintain contact with the passing enemy.  I was fortunate to catch him separating his frigates, and before long I was able to pound away at one while holding the other at bay.  My notes are incomplete on the actual damage inflicted during the battle, but I believe I demoralized the crews of both American ships, which negated their advantage of quality.  At that point, it was all about numbers, and in that I had the clear advantage.  I may have forced one of the Americans to strike, and in the event the battle was mine.
My three British frigates (yellow hulls) divide the Americans (dark hulls) and concentrate firepower on the
isolated enemy frigate (center, obstructed)
Ship models painted and provided by GM Tim Hitchings


Final:  Ship-of-the-line Slugfest
For the final, I faced Dan Long, who had served as the Russian reinforcement commodore to save the day in our port defense against the Swedish aggressors in the earlier Fleet Action.  This time, we each had the option to choose from among four orders of battle, but we both chose the same force without hesitation - four British Ships-of-the-Line (SOLs), of which two were elite 74s and two crack 64s.

My thought was to keep the line intact again, but there was one element of my usual tactics that I eschewed in this battle.  I elected not to start with chain shot to knock down a mast but instead fired exclusively at my enemy's hull for the duration of the battle.  Allowing my opponent complete maneuverability would prove to be a costly mistake, as Dan made full use of it to his advantage.  Indeed, he successfully knocked down at least one mast from my lead ship, which forced the rest of my squadron to come out of line to bypass the flagship and attempt to regroup and get back into the battle.  My force became disorganized before long.  I ended up with two ships in a downwind tailchase after one opposing ship, while my flagship was surrounded by three enemies blasting one broadside after another into her creaking hull.  My fourth ship tried desparately to support the flagship but was woefully out of position and did not get effective shots against the enemy until late in the battle.  We both felt that I was inflicting damage as good as I was getting it, so we both believed the battle to be close; it was certainly a hard-fought iron punching match.
Early in the 2012 WBC WS&IM Final:  My ships (yellow hulls, left) have obtained the weather gauge and
maintain good line integrity.  Regrettably, those conditions would not last.
Ship models painted and provided by GM Tim Hitchings

No ship in the battle struck her colors, so it came down to points based on total damage inflicted.  In this respect, despite our perception of parity, Dan came out the clear winner with a score of 132 to 92.  It was a well-deserved championship for a terrific opponent.  I look forward to a rematch next year and another opportunity to seek victory at sea.


  1. Excellent battle report.

    Do we know the manufacturer of the ships? The only ones I know are Valiant and Langton.

  2. I think they're Figurehead, though I'm not at all sure. Could be Langton.