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  • Writer's pictureMike at SBS

Ironclads: On the Table

Updated: Dec 28, 2021

I ran through a couple of playtests of Ironclads a few weeks ago to test out a few game features, but also to try out some simple coastline bits that I made. My recent building run was to complete the ironclads involved in the First Battle of Charleston Bay fought in early April 1863. I also made the iconic Fort Sumter, which has a funny story of its own that one day I'll document. The short version is that I radically under-scaled the fort and didn't catch it until it was assembled. So rather than toss it, I carefully cut it into two and made a pair of smaller forts instead. I used both of these in the first game and one of them in the second.

Game 1: Charleston Battle

For the first game I played an abstracted scenario based on the First Battle of Charleston Bay. I've chosen a selection of Union ironclads (rather than the full line of battle) and shored up the Rebel fleet with the CSS Charleston (which was not historically available at this time).

Union Navy:

  • 2x Passiac-class monitors,

  • 1x USS New Ironsides, and

  • 1x USS Keokuk

Rebel Navy:

  • 2x Brick Forts (fictionally named: Forts Petry and Bond),

  • 1x CSS Chicora,

  • 1x CSS Palmetto State,

  • 1x CSS Charleston, and

  • various shore batteries.

The Battlefield is set up with the full Union line of battle, but only a few ended up being used in this game.

The USS Montauk leads the column and opens fire on Ft. Petry, which returns fire.

USS Catskill follows. Rebel rams come out to play. Montauk engages the enemy ironclads (struggles to hit with its low ROF!)

USS Ironsides joins in and engages Ft Petry with Catskill. Monatauk screens the Rebel rams.

USS Keokuk brings up rearguard and engages shore batteries.

Catskill's heavy guns are rated as Very Heavy at point blank, and New Ironsides keeps up the pressure. Together they subdue Ft Petry.

USS Keokuk subdues a heavy gun battery on shore, after taking a direct hit to its aft gun casemate.

After sinking Palmetto State, it looked as though USS New Ironsides was going to "love tap" CSS Chicora, but it ended up being a rather severe ramming. Montauk and Catskill concentrate fire on Charleston, whose armor is no match for point-blank 15" fire. The rebel ironclads sunk and Ft Petry on fire, the Union have scored a decisive victory.

Game 2: Battle of Fort Petry

The second game was just one Passiac vs Chicora, Palmetto State, and one brick fort.

For game 2, I stripped away all of the shore line from the edges of the table and reduced the fleets to what you see here. The Catskill used its speed and manoeuvrability to run circles around Ft Petry and keep the Confederate rams out of sight. After pouring enough damage on the fort to silence her guns, the Catskill engaged the rams.

However, luck abandoned the monitor early, with flooding that proved difficult to repair. More hits from the rams damaged her guns, dampened her powder (presumably from all that flooding), disabled her steering, and then to top it off, exhausted her crew to make all of the repairs difficult to manage.

With all that going on, the monitor couldn't turn in time to be run off the map presumably to be beached up shore somewhere to effect repairs! This goes to show you that even though monitors are tough and hard to inflict damage to the hull, they are vulnerable to effects of cumulative damage.

Playtesting Results

Overall, not a bad set of games. Several things came up that I will need to address in the rules, such as around the damage cards, how much damage a ship can carry and the upper limit to the number and scale of the ships on a 3x3 gaming table. So lots to consider, but generally happy with the direction.

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