Saturday, May 23, 2015

Close Action: l’Étenduère’s Opportunity

This was a scenario set in 1747, between a French convoy escort, commanded by the Marquis de l’Étenduère, and British attackers under Rear Admiral Edward Hawke. The British have nine ships, mostly 50s and 60s and one 70, with mostly B and C crews and the weather gauge; the French have seven ships, ranging from 64s to an 80, with C and D crews. There is limited searoom to the sides of the map, on the grounds that the Brits are trying to get past the French without going so far around that they can't attack the convoy. Josh was admiral for the Brits, Chris Williams commanded the French.
The British ships were individually weaker than the French ships, so the plan was to concentrate our rear three on their rear two (a D 64 and D 68), and refuse our van. That plan lasted about one turn before the British captains threw it to the winds and followed their own fancies. Our rear three engaged their rear three, rather than two, which meant we gave the French the opportunity to add a C quality 74 into the mix; further, our ships got in each other's way, and didn't close aggressively. In the van, I swept down as a threat to cross their leader's bow, staying carefully out of the enemy gunnery arcs. Unfortunately, the rest of our van followed me, although the plan had been to turn away from the enemy and refuse action. Here, too, the Brits were clumsy, blocking each other's shots.
Seeing that we were committed, I cut through the enemy's line in hopes of causing some collisions that might give us an advantage; however, the French deftly avoided me and I was isolated. Worse, they got off a critical hit that did waterline damage, and sending men to the pumps cost me another crew section. After that, my gunnery was essentially ineffective. Perhaps I should have continued parallel to the enemy, instead of cutting through--but that would have pitted my 60 against a French 74, which meant having a 21 gunnery factor + 27 hull +16 crew against 27 gunnery + 36 hull + 25 crew.
In contrast with the British, the French stuck together reasonably well. Their rear three ships handled our three, and the rest joined the action at the van. I think the French admiral felt he made some mistakes, but I didn't notice anything glaring.
The end result was that the British lost 23 sections (11 R, 5 H, 7 C) vs. 9 French (4 R, 3 H, 2 C); the British failed 5 morale checks vs. 2 for the French. Part of it can be ascribed to poor Brit tactics, but not all. The French started with a stronger force, at 532 vs 473; further, the British ships are individually more fragile, and easier to diable. Post game suggestions included adding a couple of British ships and spreading the French out more, so the Brits have a chance to attack before the French can tighten their line; lowering the French crew quality; and doing away with the hard map edges which limit maneuver opportunity.