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"Valparaiso 1814 Scenario - USS Essex vs HMS Phoebe" Topic

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Blutarski24 Dec 2020 12:03 p.m. PST

An "interesting" wargame scenario -

Historically, the USS Essex (Captain David Porter) had been blockaded in the neutral harbor of Valparaiso, Chile for six weeks by the British frigate HMS Phoebe (Captain James Hillyar) and ship/sloop HMS Cherub. Porter and Hillyar were on friendly personal terms, having met during Porter's posting to the Mediterranean station prior to the war, and actually exchanged social courtesies in Valparaiso during the blockade period.

Porter had played havoc with British merchant shipping and Pacific whaling fleet, but earnestly desired to cap his war cruise with an action against a worthy British naval opponent; he therefore issued a challenge to Hillyar, offering to leave the protection of neutral Valparaiso and fight a fair frigate versus frigate duel if Hillyar would agree to exclude HMS Cherub from taking part. Hillyar politely declined the challenge, possibly because Phoebe's short-handed crew had only recently been filled out with a number of untrained landsmen. Hillyar's refusal of the challenge put Porter in a difficult situation. Although he could theoretically remain safely in neutral Valparaiso, every passing day posed a risk that British reinforcements or diplomatic pressure might conspire to turn a difficult situation into an impossible one. Porter therefore decided to attempt an escape to the open sea. Unfortunately, Essex was caught by a sudden squall while rounding Point Angel, losing her main topmast as a result. Porter could neither fight nor flee in such a crippled state and was forced to anchor his ship. Immobile and predominantly armed with short-range carronades, Essex was shot into submission by Phoebe and Cherub from beyond carronade range in a bloody one-sided engagement.

This scenario assumes that Essex is not damaged by a squall and Captain Porter has an opportunity to fight on even terms.

Porter issues challenge.

If Hillyar declines the challenge -
> HMS Phoebe crew quality is one level inferior to USS Essex.
> Porter gets to choose weather and time (day or night)
> British must capture or destroy USS Essex to claim victory.
> Porter can win simply by escaping to the N, S or W out of gun range or vision of both British ships.

If Hillyar accepts the challenge -
> HMS Phoebe crew quality = that of USS Essex.
> Weather to be diced for randomly.
> HMS Cherub must remain heaved-to off-table beyond the N, S or W table edge, with her position known to Porter at game start.
> Victory goes to the player who succeeds in capturing or destroying his opponent.

"Perfidious Albion" Option -
> In the case of an accepted challenge scenario, Hillyar may at any time attempt to summon HMS Cherub by signal to enter the fray by a score of 1 on the throw of a D6.
> If successfully summoned, Cherub will enter the play table anywhere along its previously specified edge 2xD6 turns if upwind, 4xD6 turns if downwind and 3D6 if otherwise.
> Once Cherub enters the play table, scenario conditions immediately convert to that of a declined challenge.
> Failure to capture or destroy Essex after invocation of the Perfidious Albion Option results in the disgrace of Captain Hillyar and the banishment of his family from polite society ….. ;-)

Vessel relative speeds -
The true maximum speeds of the three ships at that historical point in time have never been historically ascertained. Essex and Phoebe were both of comparable size and class (900t frigates); Essex probably enjoyed a slight edge by virtue of her lighter weight carronade armament. Cherub was a 400t ship-sloop, a class not known for great speed. On the first occasion upon which any ship makes Full Sail, it must throw 1D6 and record the net result.
> USS Essex adds 1 to score.
> HMS Phoebe records the raw D6 score.
> HMS Cherub subtracts 1 from score.
In the event of a chase under full sail, the ship with the higher score will add one unit of movement distance to its normal value each turn it is under Full Sail. Loss of any mast or spar will negate this movement advantage.

A little Blutarski Christmas-time scenario gift for the Age of Sail geeks among us.



Frederick Supporting Member of TMP24 Dec 2020 12:33 p.m. PST

Interesting – would love to see an AAR!

carojon25 Dec 2020 3:16 a.m. PST

Hi Blutarski,
Thanks for posting your scenario. There are some really interesting what if's in it.

I was thinking of some of the potential after effects of an escape by Essex and her running into the British reinforcements that came up to join Phoebe, one being a Leda class frigate similar to HMS Shannon.

Having recently reviewed Ben Hughes' book on the subject I will have to give this one a go, once I have a USS Essex built.

Happy Xmas

Blutarski25 Dec 2020 10:32 a.m. PST

Did not have an AAR at hand. The following comes from memory of a game we played some years ago. We ran it as a straightforward challenge encounter, with my friend as Captain Hillyar of HMS Phoebe, myself as Captain Porter of USS Essex and HMS Cherub not involved.

Rules my "Steer to Glory" AoS rules.
Wind Moderate Breeze.
Game Time Just before dusk.
Phoebe and Essex were equal in speed.

We both started at Battle Sail, with Phoebe maneuvering very carefully to keep me beyond carronade range (300 yds), despite my best efforts to get close. I was slowly but steadily getting pecked to death at long range (~400 yards), while my miniscule long gun factor was barely scratching Phoebe's paint at that range.

I was saved by a wind shift which gave me the wind gauge while taking Phoebe's sails aback. I immediately increased sail while my friend was busy getting Phoebe's head off the wind and was able to close within carronade range. With the carronades of Essex now giving her a big firepower advantage (IIRC, I went from a 1:4 firepower inferiority to a 10:6 advantage). After taking a bit of a beating, my friend was not interested in continuing at these odds and attempted to escape by making sail and turning straight downwind. My pursuit put us in a chasing situation exchanging chase gun fire (note: stern-chaser gun factor is about 2x that of bow-chaser for a given ship class, but covers a much narrower arc). He was now slightly slower than me as a result of damage inflicted by my carronades. I had great hopes of catching (I was closing the distance at about 30 yds per turn) and finishing Phoebe off.

However, as bad luck would have it, a lucky sternchaser shot disabled my fore topsail. This caused me to slow down until I could repair it and, by the time it was fixed, the sun had set and Phoebe had disappeared in the growing murk.


Happy Xmas, Frederick.


Nightmoss25 Dec 2020 5:13 p.m. PST

Blutarski is it okay with you if I copy and paste this scenario on the Sails of Glory Anchorage forums. Some folks over there don't have TMP accounts. Thanks.

Blutarski25 Dec 2020 6:19 p.m. PST

Hi Nightmoss,
Feel free to post it.
As I mentioned ….. it's a Christmas gift.



Nightmoss26 Dec 2020 7:36 a.m. PST

Thank you much, B. Happy Holidays and have a wonderful 2021.

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