Historicon 2008 – Rule Britannia!

I ran a Roman Naval game at Historicon this year using my collection of 1/300 paper ships from Hotz Artworks. The scenario was a clash between navies of the Roman Empire and those of the rebellious general Carausius and his Frankish allies.

Each of the two “Roman” fleets were tasked with destroying each other. The Franks are nominally allied with Carausius and while they definitely lose if the Romans win, they can also win a victory unto themsleves if they emerge from the battle stronger than either of the Roman fleets. The Romans are sallying from the mouth of the Rhenus (Rhine) when the fleet of Carausius (henceforth called the Rebels) meets them.

Each side was given some time to plan and choose deployment locations and then each admiral was on his own in terms of planning and tactics. Naval communications during the time were minimal at best, so players were not allowed to kibitz and there was only limited signals available.

The Rebels chose to place two squadrons approaching from seaward and a thrird approaching from the south. The Franks were approaching from the north and sticking primarily to the shallow areas were the deeper draft Roman ships could not enter.

As the battle unfolded, the Romans sent a the two squadrons in their front against the Rebels center and right which the two behind followed up and tried to get onto the northern edge of the Rebel line. However, that was too much sea to cross and the Rebels were able to pretty much bring three squadrons into contat with two squadrons of Romans. The initial contacts heavily favored the Rebels, who also had some luck, hitting the Roman flagship trireme three times with flaming ballista shots and set three fires. The Romans were able to get in another squaron and focused their efforts on the Rebels flagship, swarming it and inflicting heavy casualties. The admirals on the south side of the table managed to splinter a couple of ships to matchwood using multiple ramming attacks. All the while the Franks continued up the coast in the cover of the shoals and shallows waiting to pounce on the Roman fleets when no rams were pointed their way.

Unfortunately, most of the players on the Roman side didn’t do much of anything to add to the game. They didn’t listen particularly during the introduction and made plans for the game based on their own erroneous preconceptions of how naval warfare was fought in the galley age. They expected galleys to be sliced in two and sunk by ramming as was the case in the early days of the Greeks and Persians. However, in the Roman era, ships were more sturdily built and ramming would usually only sink a ship with multiple hits. Boarding actions were the main form of fighting. The Roman players charged forth at best speed and immediately tried a number of 1 on 1 rams against the more experienced Rebels. Predictably, they got the worse of this deal. When things didn’t go their way, they grumbled about the rules and the scenario, but suprisingly not about the one thing they could legitimately blame – their generally bad dice rolling!. Once things didn’t go their way, these players simply gave up and started flinging their troops into boarding actions they couldn’t win. Since they outnumbered the Rebels to start the game, they still could have made the game close if they had been willing to try and work with their limitations rather than mope about them. Oh well. This sort of thing is always a possibility in a convention game and there is only so much you can do about it. My goal in these cases is always to try and make sure the other players have as much fun as they can in the situation.

On the plus side, the game in its final form looked fantastic. I got a lot of positive comments from people passing by, many of which were amazed that the ships were made of paper. When I left Knoxville I still had not finished the infantry or finished painting the wakes on the ship bases, but I used every available minute of down time at the con to try and get everything ship shape and it paid off. unfortunately, I was so busy trying to salvage the game from the Roman commanders that I didn’t take as many pictures as I’d have liked.

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4 responses to “Historicon 2008 – Rule Britannia!”

  1. Barrie MacDonald says :

    Hi Brian
    Looks great and sounds like a realistic set of Rules. What set of rules did you use. I,ve bought the ships from Eric and even got the infantry painted but I’ve been waiting for Eric’s rules to come out before launching into it.
    Cheers Barrie

  2. Brian says :

    The rules I used are Salamis ad Actium by David Manley. I like the rules in general and feel that the level of detail is just right for the scale of the Roman Seas ships and they play fairly quickly. I made a few little tweaks. If you look on the first Roman Naval post, there is a link to the site where you can get the rules. They are sold as a PDF for only $11 IIRC, so it’s pretty cheap to get them and get started playing with your ships.

  3. Eric says :

    So how many ships did you have on the table?

  4. Brian says :

    There were 47 ships on the table in total. 2 triremes, 2 scout ships, 33 liburnians, and 10 wolfships.

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