Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Thorny Nest of Pirates.

Since the table was set up, I figured a quick change of scenery would allow me to try a small Hearts of Tin game to further test the suitability of the rules for small skirmishes. An Afghan pass came to mind but I haven't painted any up Afghans or Mahrattas yet. Surveying the shelves in search of inspiration, my eye fell on the small horde of pirates I made for Cold Wars a few years back.  OK,  why not?

Pirates suggested the Caribbean which suggested palm trees, so out they came, pushing the fir trees farther up the mountain side. Removing the palm trees from the shelf exposed my  little band of natives so out they came, blow pipes and all. Pirates needed a ship which in turn needed water so I moved one of the towns back and added a small bay. The other town became a plantation. How do I fit in one of those nice Perry Spanish priests?  Pirates just don't seem appropriate company for him. AHH the natives! An Hispanic, Caribbean Le Loutre.

Then I spotted my steam boats and  having recently looked at some old prints of my Emir's Lair game, inspired by British expeditions against Persian Gulf pirates during the early 19th Century, the scenario started to come together. A pirate lair, defended by shore batteries, is attacked by a British punitive expedition which marches overland to take the stronghold from the rear while the Royal Navy attacks from the sea. A small party of natives, lying along the British path, provides a distraction. (See the previous post for a view of the set up.)

Most of the figures were singly based but the British regulars were on 4 man bases so I just grouped the rest into 4 man companies and carried on. So the forces were:

Native Village: Leader, 1 company of militia light infantry with darts (6" range) and 2 companies of militia "spearmen".

Plantation: Leader, 2 companies of Irregular Light Infantry with muskets and 2 of Swordsmen.

Town. Leader with  2 companies of Irregular Light Infantry with muskets and 2 of Swordsmen plus 2 heavy(siege) guns in batteries.

British Column: (marching in over the mountain)
General +2iC who will take over if he is wounded.
2 companies of Victoria Rifles, regular light infantry with rifles
4 companies of 26th Foot, regular line infantry with muskets
2 companies of York Volunteers: regular line infantry with muskets.

(I contemplated making the British regulars elite but I figured fever and the march through the jungle had probably taken its toll.)

HMS Reuse
Commander, 1 Heavy/Siege gun and crew, 1 company Royal Marines, Elite line infantry with Muskets

The Reuse will appear in the bay, on the corner depending on a die roll, starting whenever the British want, 1 on the first turn, 1 or 2 on next turn etc.
The Pirates could not react until there was firing, the British were seen, or the Native drums started to beat.
The object for the British is to take and burn the pirate ship, the object for the Pirates is to prevent them.
By turn 4, the British are forming on the plain while the Rifles skirmish with the natives. The pirates have come swarming out to pepper them with musket fire while the swordsmen rush to defend the guns.  

 Father Pedro leads his lambs to the slaughter.
 Only 1 turn later than hoped, the Reuse appears and steams towards the jetty and the empty ship
Lieutenant Jack Pointer, Commander of the Reuse,  leads the rush onto the Narwhale.  

Unfortunately, British musketry had driven back the pirate skirmish line at just the wrong time. Winning the initiative, they were able to double back and just reach the ship before the Reuse crashed into the side. Following this up, they inflicted 2 hits in  melee (one from their leader) while the Royal marines whiffed and the Captain, (Commander I suppose technically) who had rushed to lead them  went down and was captured (no doubt hit by a pistol ball as he rushed to duel the Pirate Captain.) As the leaderless Reuse pushed off, blood running out of the scuppers, a shore battery which had been  turned around again, holed her. A bad day for the navy, it was down to the infantry. That wasn't going so well either. With only 8 companies to start with, they had been picked at by skirmish and artillery fire and despite having repulsed a rush of swordmen and having driven back the enemy skirmishers, were down to 5 companies and were just entering grape range. Must have been the hot weather and fever, time to fall back.

So there we are. This is about the smallest game I can see myself playing. Did it work? Yes BUT. The game itself was fun and interesting and the rules worked well (even though I borrowed some improvements from Gathering of Hosts) but it took just over 30 minutes to resolve. Sometimes that's a good thing but it took as long as that to set up and will take nearly long to take down. It has taken even longer to write up the blog entry! A game that short should be quick and easy to set up. I can picture flipping open a gridded board, dropping a few terrain pieces and troops on the grid and being ready to play in 10 minutes with a 5 minute clean up time. That, would make sense.

I need to spend some time thinking about whether I would have liked a game of the same size that took a little longer, or just want to play larger scenarios, saving a portable game for quickies. If I do want to play this as a minimum but worthwhile size of game, then I will continue some refurbishing of  MacDuff and try another game. The urge is towards saying HofT for 20mm elements for battles and MacDuff with single figures for 40mm skirmishes and small battles but no decision has yet been reached.


  1. This little battle might be worth a re-play . . . see how different it is the second time . . . and if that pleases or disappoints.

    -- Jeff

  2. Hi Jeff, I did plan on several small tests using both rule sets but I think the jury is in.