Friday, January 21, 2022

"Firing into the Brown" # 3 - Riverine encounter, books and tanks

"So Carnehan weeds out the pick of his men, and sets the two of the Army to show them drill and at the end of two weeks the men can manoeuvre about as well as Volunteers. So he marches with the Chief to a great big plain on the top of a mountain, and the Chiefs men rushes into a village and takes it; we three Martinis firing into the brown of the enemy".

Kipling "The Man Who Would Be King"

Time for another update, and settling into our new name...... 


Back in November of the year before last I added some more iron/cotton/timber clad ships ships to the ACW Naval project (22/11/20 [clicky]), but as I was tidying the loft up the other day I was reminded that I hadn't actually used them in a game yet!

I'm a die hard fan of an (as yet?) unpublished set of rules for the period that I got from the inestimable Bill Gilchrist [clicky] donkeys years ago.. to my mind they play well with just the right level of complexity and simplicity to allow a thinking mans game that isn't too mired in the minutiae of how many inches of armour, and pounds of shot the ships are carrying that a lot of other rules for the period suffer from..

Decision made, and striking while the iron was hot the table was set for a swift set to primarily featuring the new additions..

Table set up - Confederate navy starts from the top of the following picture, which depicts the engagement area - a wide stretch of river with a few islands, one of which is occupied (but plays no part)..  as is so usual in the period, one force (the Confederates) are trying to get through to the other side of the table so as to force a passage for much needed supplies, but are opposed by a smaller, but better quality, Union force..

Opposing forces, following - Union on the left, Confederate on the right.. I thought a 3 vs 4 game might be fun - as said I've even up the odds by making the Union force slightly better lead in terms of commander quality..

Start of the game:

Opening positions as follows..

The Confederates win the initiative and dive to the right so as to pass the island to their left, the Union force conforms (possibly a mistake, but we shall see) - initial fire is largely ineffective, with only a couple of hits.. (black pompom in any of the following signifies a hit)...

In following moves the Confederates turn to port so as t open up their broadsides for firing, and rain steel down on the Union ships, causing multiple hits..

It is at this point that both commanders (ie. me) realises it would have made good sense to get one or two ships down the other side of the island so as to flank the other force, but too late now, and as is often the way with wargames, a 6 foot by 4 foot table is entirely negated as the entire action is fought in an area one foot square!

The Union double-ender following is running perilously close to shallows, but you can see the weight of fire concentrated on just three ships.. the damage to the small gunboat in particular is considerable (from memory, in addition to the loss of strength points they also suffered damage to steering, and also confusion on board - the gunboat was hit hard.

In the next turn the Union win the initiative, with 3 actions, but with the exception of a success in stopping the double ender careering off the table, their firing is largely ineffective.. The Confederate turn is mostly concerned with recovering damage on the small gunboat which they manage to do only by using all action points, but they also manage to shield it by interposing another one of their ships by way of an obstruction..  the iron continues to fly.. 

Close quarter manoeuvring continued, both sides were on no more than 3" movement (dead slow in rules terms)

..until eventually the inevitable happens and the small Confederate gunboat is sunk (bottom in the following) and the Union sidewheeler (top middle) is also dispatched..  both sides have lost a ship, but the Union ship carried more firepower and is the greater loss..

Key point - the Confederate side wheeler has tried to force it's way through so as to open up some space for manoeuvre, but the Union double ender is having none of it and rams them causing considerable damage both to themselves and the sidewheeler (neither of them are specially equipped for ramming) - honours go to the sidewheeler though - she fires everything from both sides and both ends and causes huge damage to the Union stern wheeler..

The Confederates push the advantage and continue to attempt a force through..  the sidewheeler pulls away from the collision firing as it goes, their big sidewheeler is trying to pass (left in the following) and the big cotton clad (bottom right) is also moving up..


Five hits on the Union stern wheeler (following) and she disappears beneath the muddy water in an explosion of smoke and steam - the Union double ender, their last ship - top right - deciding that discretion is the better part of valour, opens up all the valves and scarpers for home..

...the butchers bill..  a victory to the Confederacy but hard fought..

Post match analysis:
  • A most enjoyable game - you'll note in the last picture that I knocked up some plastic heat sealed ship templates, with a handy picture of the actual model to help navigate through multiple cards. In the old days we would have used chinagraph pencils [clicky] but I use old dry marker pens from work to mark off and remove any specific damages/speeds etc move by move...
  • I would say 3 or 4 ships a side is about the maximum that you can play solo - the wipe off cards were a big help as there was space for any specific notes I needed to remember move to move (eg. moves required because of turning, or rudder damage, heavy gun reload etc. etc.)

Well this one was a pleasant surprise..  it was offered for free on Kindle as a loan under my Prime membership - not something I've seen before, but as the subject matter looked interesting I took them up on the offer, and because I was fresh from an extended stay in Dickensian London and was looking for something light to clean the palate I started this straight after..

Well worth it I would say - even though I got it for free - while it wasn't 100% polished, the story, and characters, developed nicely as the book progressed and the background was interesting as well. 

The story concerns one Jack Pembroke, a Royal Navy Lieutenant in WW2, suffering what we would now call PTSD as a result of events/wounds at Dunkirk, but after physical recovery given command of a small group of converted trawlers equipped for mine sweeping in South Africa. 

The story concerns his coming to terms with the psychological effects on him of his experience at Dunkirk, but also at the same time learning the in's and out's of command over a disparate bunch of sailors (regulars and volunteers, British and South African), while at the same time doing the hideously dangerous job of clearing mines, but also dealing with the risk of German surface raiders, and increasingly, U Boats.

Bodes well for the next book which I will definitely be reading..  8/10.


The French tanks in the last post, or more particularly the camouflage, seemed to chime with my reader, so by way of an interlude - here is something that popped up on my Farcebook feed this week...

I had the very good fortune to visit the Musee des Blindes in Saumur (which is the French equivalent of Bovington) years ago (2006!! 😲), so have followed them on FB for some time..  the R35 in the video had been out on loan and returned to the museum recently so they put up a short video..  brilliant isn't it... 😀


'Laters', as the young people are want to say...


  1. You're in the routine now Steve! I liked the tank video, especially the fellow running to get away from the tank!
    I too must dig out Bill's rules, certainly enhanced by the sealed ship templates. They do give a good game. Did I mention to you 'By Sea and River', the naval campaign system by David Manley? Although I have only used it once it gave a good series of games.
    Best wishes

    1. Ta Jim - we can only hope it continues! I'll look up the Mr Manley offering, thanks...

  2. Great bat rep and once again I was very taken with French armour. Thanks for sharing the video.

    1. Thanks JBM, there is something very attractive about a nation that could design such a tank, then paint it like that, and then call it "Orang-utan", and then send it to war.. :o)

  3. Never dabbled with ACW naval games but found your AAR entertaining, thanks. Odd to see a French tank advancing...

    1. Ta David.. the ACW river bug bit as a result of Featherstone's "Naval Wargames" - must have been the first effort I had at home casting - a miniature hand sculpted Monitor/Merrimac. French tanks advancing odd? Try telling that to the Free French 2nd Armoured Division.. :o)