I just got back from Hotlead (2018), in Stratford, Ontario, Canada, and had a fantastic time!!! One of the best things about Hotlead is that they run tons of participation games where you can try out different rule sets without owning the books or models. The hosts provide everything for you and teach you how to play new games. In this post, I quickly discuss a home-brew game called Iron Ships (a 15mm naval miniatures game set in the American Civil War Period, ran by Mike Barratt).
Mike did a good job of hosting our group, and this game was fun, fast and simple. On top of providing us with a few hours of fun, Mike also taught me some history. 🙂
I did not know much about ACW ships before the game. I knew Ironclad ships existed, but I didn’t know much about their look or how they operated. Our host provided us with the context of history for these ships and gave each side three ships to work with. I was very surprised at the low-profile of the Union Ships.
Likewise, I was not sure what to expect from the Confederate ships. They are of an older design and technology than the Union ships, but they have a lot of Cannons to fire if you manage to broadside a ship.
In this game, the Confederates have older style ships that relied on broadside tactics while the Union had faster and better ships with turrets (but fewer guns overall).
The Scenario we played for this was a fictional battle that may or may not have happened. It was not based off of a single battle, but instead off of a possible encounter that may have happened. In it, the South controls a river system while the North controls the sea (and enters the game through the sea). The battle itself takes place on the river during high-tide. On top of three ships, each side was given a battery of two shore based cannons to aid in the fight.
The objective was simple – destroy your enemy. Below is a picture of the game in play.
The system was fast and fun. By the end of turn three, we (the participants) were pretty much running the game on our own. In fact, our gaming host had to run out of the convention for a short duration and we were able to continue the game without him there.
The game uses D6s for initiative rolls and there are separate initiatives rolled for each ship during each phase (movement and firing). Shooting is determined by adding up your firing factors (Combined Cannon Power of the firing ship in question) and comparing that number to a chart. That chart tells you how many cards you can flip over from a fresh deck of ordinary playing cards. Each face card represents a hit and the suit determines the hit location. The hit location determines what systems (or ship elements) are damaged and the effect of the hit. As you take damage, you check damage off of a “ship card” like you would for BattleTech. Once you run out of Crew or Float-Ability, your ship is done.
These rules were slick and quick, which is great for a convention game. I enjoyed the game and think that Mike did a good job with developing this system. That said, I could see the card-flip mechanic for damage really slowing the game down if you scale this game up with more ships. In some cases, we were flipping over 10 to 20 cards to determine damage on a ship. There might have been instances where you could even flip more than 30 cards over to resolve your attack.
Taking a ship completely out of action is difficult, but possible. Disabling a ship to the point that a player would like to withdraw it from combat is less difficult.
Below is my quick account of how the game went.
At this point, the tides change and both generals decide to turn their ships home. The Confederate ships have suffered a lot of structural damage, but the Union ships lost a lot of crew. There was no clearly defined winner.
Wrapping It Up…
Overall, I had a lot of fun with this game. It was simple, fun and fast, plus I learned some tidbits about an era of history that is not my forte. Thanks goes out to Mike for hosting this game and for teaching us his rules for American Civil War Naval Combat.
I would also like to thank the organizers of Hotlead for putting on a fantastic gaming event. As I discussed with St. Andrews Wargaming, it was Hotlead that drew me back into miniature wargaming and the event continues to deliver loads of fun. A game like this one is not one that I would normally come across at my local stores or gaming clubs, yet I can go to this gaming convention and try out all sorts of great games without even owning the materials myself. That is one of the things that I love about gaming conventions of this style and I am happy that such a large event is near where I live.
Until next time, Happy Gaming Everyone!!!
Update… If you like this article, be sure to check out our Hotlead 2018 wrap up article.