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"Initiative in the age of sail" Topic

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17 Dec 2018 9:36 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Changed title from "Initiative in the age of sail (re-posted because of da bug)" to "Initiative in the age of sail"

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18th Century
19th Century

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Bozkashi Jones17 Dec 2018 4:39 p.m. PST


I am working on a 'pocket' travel frigate game, for my own amusement. I'll be using a tobacco tin and small miniatures with a hex cloth as a playing area. The idea will be to have a few 'stock' scenarios based on historical frigate battles between Britain, France and the USA.

I won't be using standard D6 (I'll be using 'Crown & Anchor' dice to give a suitable period nautical flavour) doubles for hull damage, trebles for mast damage (this is very much a simplistic fun game to pull out in the cafe or pub). But I need a mechanism for who moves first/second.

In the first instance this will be the player holding the 'weather gage' [sic] which seems to bestow a historical advantage, but what if both players' ships are level so that neither holds this?

My answer would be, usually, to roll for it, but without D6 there are no values to assign. I could go black/red on one die (as C&A dice have equal numbers of both), but I thought it better to go with something more in keeping with the period.

And now the thorny question: which navies should hold the advantage in this situation?

Obviously, as a second generation Englishman (all grandparents being from the Celtic nations) I would like to place the Royal Navy at the top of the tree, but I am painfully aware of the prowess of our colonial cousins and also that French frigate captains were a lot better than their ship-of-the-line counterparts.

So, trying to avoid national stereotypes, what order gets the advantage? I suspect USN and RN before the French, but your historically informed and considered thoughts would be appreciated.

And please I'm really not trying to restart the War of 1812!


daveshoe17 Dec 2018 10:41 p.m. PST

Thinking about how to do it with the C&A die is interesting, but to keep it simple I would suggest:

RN vs. USN – Roll 1 die, a crown = RN advantage; an anchor = USN advantage

RN or USN vs. France – Roll 1 die, a crown = RN (USN) advantage; an anchor = roll another die. Second die roll, a crown = RN (USN) advantage, an anchor = France advantage.

That makes for a quick and simple way to figure it out giving each side an opportunity for the advantage, with eh RN and USN having a better chance than the French.

Bozkashi Jones18 Dec 2018 2:17 p.m. PST

Thanks Dave when it comes down to British crews v American crews I'm not surprised that not many will put their heads above the parapet, even though many may have an opinion!

I will either go for 50/50 chance for USN/RN or allow the RN to have the advantage not because of patriotism, but because of balance: the RN were generally (but not always) outgunned, so this small advantage may balance the game just a little.

And whichever way you look at it, our two nations produced some damn fine captains and worthy adversaries. Which does rather beg the question of why there aren't any American fictional heroes like Hornblower, Aubrey or Bolitho?

God save the King, and God bless America, as is one's want!


Kevin in Albuquerque Supporting Member of TMP18 Dec 2018 8:16 p.m. PST

The problem with a national characteristics die roll is that eventually no one is going to want to play the lesser nations. I would go with a d6 per side, high die winning that turn. You could use a scenario driven modifier, but I'd stay away from regular national mods.

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