Sunday 30 October 2011

Napoleonic naval game at Conquest 2011

For the past few years I promised myself that I wouldn't get caught in the trap of having to paint up units at the last minute for demo games at the annual 'Conquest' convention held in Christchurch during October. Sadly, yet a gain I set a low standard and failed to achieve it in this regard.

This year the Southern Strategists decided to have a Napoleonic naval battle using the superbly detailed 1/700 ships from the Skytrex range. The bulk of the fleets had been painted by Dave Houston who had introduced the group to naval wargaming last year. As a sign of 'solidarity' (a socialist term frowned upon by Dave who is our resident law firm partner and card-carrying member of the ultra-conservative 'Act' Party here in NZ), we all decided to buy and paint up at least one ship each to provide a sizable game. Several months out from the event another member of the group pushed for the demo game to be a 28mm Victoriana Dark Africa skirmish game. 'Great' I thought as that meant I didn't have to supply any newly painted troops. However, the gaming gods were against me as three weeks out from the convention our Victoriana specialist panicked at the thought of transporting all the required terrain to the show and suggested we revert back to the naval game. 'Bugger' I cried as I that meant I now had to rush to paint up two 3rd Rate ships that were languishing in my lead pile. So, yet again I was still finishing off the ships in the wee hours of the morning before the game, cursing at fingers glued together while try to add rat-lines and rigging. As it turned out my ships entered the fray without any 'colours' and banners due to frustration and tiredness getting the better of me.

Fortunately the effort was worth it as our game received plenty of public attention throughout the day and was a novelty for those use to gaming tables covered with armies instead of model ships. Although not based on any specific battle, the game played using Warhammer Trafalgar rules proved somewhat historical in that both fleets (Franco-Spanish alliance against the Royal Navy) fought until they were near exhaustion, with wind direction determining manoeuvring.

Sadly, my two ships, the 'Berwick ( a French 74-gunner) and the HMS Defiance (another 74-gunner that was seconded to the Franco-Spanish fleet for the game) came to a sticky end on their first outing; the 'Berwick' blew up after leading the vanguard of the Allied fleet, with the 'Defiance' having to strike it's colours after losing all it's cannons and crew. Still, a very enjoyable wargaming genre that provided some variety to the convention and hours of satisfying gaming and convivial banter.

The Southern Strategists table at Conquest...only a few paces from the bar as usual!
Rodger Wood took some images of the game and convention which he will put on his blog 'Rebel Barracks' and the Southern Strategist blog in due course. The convention and swap-meet was well supported as usual, but the most striking image he took records the only female gamer at the convention fully engaged in the 'Flames of War' competition. This sparked some light-hearted suggestion amongst our group that she had an unfair advantage over her opponents in that most male gamers would feel distracted by her womanly qualities and fail to ruthlessly attack her forces, giving her victory. It was certainly unusual but refreshing to see a woman getting involved in such a male dominated hobby.
The valiant but hapless "Berwick" - blown to pieces in it's first engagement

The Berwick before sinking

The fleets collide...the Berwick about to take on three British ships (top centre)

Is that the rule book or a Womens Weekly that she's reading?

HMS Defiance firing a broadside

The Defiance in action before losing her cannon and crew

Now that these ships are done I can get back to my French & Indian War/ Seven Years War project that I have struggled to finish.....    


  1. Those are some wonderful ship models. I have a mid sized collection of 1/1200 Langtons but was unfamiliar with the larger scaled Skytrex line. Despite the lack of heavy scenery, there are no better looking miniature games than ones with sailing ships.

    Very impressive work

  2. Great pics Wayne - Hhmmm - what made you chaps end up going with the larger sailing ships vs. the 1/1200th Langton's? The latter always seemed pretty big to me to start with! Cheers John (

  3. John,
    The reason we went for 1/700th scale was that Dave Houston got inspired and bought a small fleet of ships when the Warhammer Trafalgar rules were first released. The expense first put me off, but when Skytrex had a sale the rest of our group weakened and we purchased a couple of ships each. The detail at that scale is superb and we still have plenty of room to sale on a 9 x 5 table.

  4. Sorry, I just noticed a spelling error....I meant 'to sail' on the gaming...not sell of my ships!

  5. Miles,

    The detail on the 1/700th scale ships is superb but they are expensive models. I have three 1/1200th Langton ships that I'm yet to paint, so thought I would get them done in the near future to compare the two scales.

  6. Hahaha - I might've guessed Dave would have been behind it! What happened to the 1/1200th stuff he had - he and I got a bit of stuff back about '94 but never got it painted before I came north...

    So where are your crewmen - I don't see any visible? You need some figures on deck at that scale...!

    BTW - how do you find Trafalgar - I quite like the look of them at first but rapidly lost interest after a couple of games - Much prefer the look of the Langton SCA Fast Play rules instead... Still have to give Kiss Me Hardy a try sometime though - but from what I've seen a few people have had similar experiences... Lovely rulebook though if nothing else...

  7. I'm not sure what happened to his smaller ships as he has never mentioned them, but knowing him he would have sold them off if he had lost interest in that scale.
    We have made only some slight modifications to the Trafalgar rules, but they seem to play well...although I'm no rule-smith....just give me some dice and point me in the direction of the enemy. As you can imagine, with that philosophy I tend to get snotted quite a bit as I'm the worst dice roller in the group.

  8. ...but knowing him he would have sold them off if he had lost interest in that scale.


    ....just give me some dice and point me in the direction of the enemy. As you can imagine, with that philosophy I tend to get snotted quite a bit as I'm the worst dice roller in the group.

    Hahaha - that's very George Washington of you! I'm sure you will win the war (eventually)!! :)

  9. Well, we didn't lose this time Wayne.

  10. No, I thought the outcome was a well-earned draw and neither side was dominant at the end....regardless of what our colleagues may have argued!

  11. Yes an honourable draw would be a fair assessment of the outcome my worthy opponent.
    I cant help but feel the rules need to be a bit more brutal to achieve a decisive result though.
    Considering the amount of manuevering and number of times the vessels were stern or bow raked I believe a clear victor should have emerged.
    Jolly good fun though all the same.

    Are we the only gamers in Christchurch who laugh and trade good natured insults during our games?

  12. Ogilvie, old boy!
    It may not have been brutal enough for you, but I lost two out of the three ships I commanded!I felt as though I got a good sound thrashing up the gunger, so to speak.
    Apart from that, I certainly enjoyed the game and the convivial atmosphere and banter. I don't think we need to shake hands at the end of our games as there is never any real competition involved.

  13. It may not have been brutal enough for you, but I lost two out of the three ships I commanded! I felt as though I got a good sound thrashing up the gunger, so to speak.

    Indeed Wayne - FWIW guys the couple of WH Trafalgar games I've played have been exceedingly bloody (albeit with small fleets of large frigates rather than SOLs) - even with all the fluffing around with saving throws and such damage gets accumulated incredibly fast (almost too fast IMO).

    I've also found once ships get close it's hard to pull away clear again, if you collide (or make contact to board) you then end up in perpetual bumper boat type contact for several turns...