Grumpy Wargamers Participation Game - "Carribean Crush"

A shot from one of our games We occasionally (several times a year) run a participation game based on a set of rules we've simplified down from Rod Langton's "Signal for Close Action". We've used his simplifications, plus some other recommendations from him, and then simplified it a bit more. And then make sure we always have at least one of our guys for every one or two players. The game can be fast, occasionally furious, and almost always extremely educational as the SfCA rules provide an excellent feel and background, enabling players to try real tactics from the period and showing them how their ships would have really responded.
We have mixture of ships, mostly small frigates, corvettes, brigs and sloops but some (like the Indefatigable, right, an early paint job!) are the more powerful 44's or 40's. We also have a British colonial cruiser (50) plus a couple of 74's, some French capital ships, some Spanish and a lot of Dutch - cos we like the shape.

Why such a mix? because we like variety and we liked the ships. Whilst the big ships rarely get seen on the participation game, except for show, we have occasionally used the Indefatigable when we've really needed to give the British a fighting chance!

The ships we use are also from Langton's Miniatures. Like the rules, we looked around at a few others and just feel that the Langton's are the best. Most are based, rigged and painted by Tim Bancroft, but we have a few from Langton and others in the group.

Terrain is all scratch-built. When pushed, we use a little coastline and a few islands from the shelf, but prefer our own reefs, islands and coastline. Look out for it at shows - to show off the ships nicely we use a slightly lighter blue cloth and occasionally put up a giant "Jolly Roger" flag.

We've played around with the scenario's a lot, now, and tend to settle on the convoy raid/escort. This scenario works superbly in the participation game format, encouraging (forcing!) players to co-operate as they learn the rules whilst giving them a solid aim. The most successful format has been a French convoy of troops (fusiliers and artillery) in the Caribbean needing to land/dock in a protected harbour. The attacking fleet (normally British) has to capture or sink the merchantmen. We have a rundown on our trial of another scenario: Breakout.

The main alternate is a straightforward small ship encounter, often with a mix of British, Dutch, French and Spanish. As we occasionally see experienced players we tend to give them merchantment or the smaller Xebec's - it is very impressive watching an experience captain maneouvre his undergunned merchantment through potential raiders and avoiding their gunnery.

What awards have we won?

  • Fisticuffs 1999
  • Fisticuffs 2000
  • Devizes best 1999
  • Naval Wargamers Association (best) 2000
Running the game with a heavy crew (sometimes we've all turned up) means players have a chance to learn C18 Naval tactics, with good advice and almost free from knowing any rules: how critical was the wind or wind-gage? How easy (or difficult) is it to gain an advantageous position? And what about an inexperienced crew...?

The game also gives the players a chance to find out whether or not they could have made a Hornblower, Bolitho or Aubrey...

We've also added in some guidelines on our terrain, given that so many have asked about it. It is MUCH simpler than it looks to build - all it takes it a bit of time.

The modifications to SfCA we use can be found under the boxes below. If you wish to use them try "Save target as" or similar. One is the rules (in MS Word format) and the other is a ship sheet generator (in MS Excel). [To use the generator fill in the white boxes on the first form and to create a printable ship sheet on the right; or fill in a squadron in the second form to create a quick-ref sheet on the right of that Sheet, or a printable and usable squadron sheet on the 3rd sheet. Other sheets show some of the move distances and contain reference data]. We believe these to be free of harmful macros when we originally put them up, but use of them is it at your own risk.

We freely acknowledge the debt they owe to Signal for Close Action and Rod Langton - and feel we have to point out they are not any "officially sanctioned" variant of his rule - to use the participation rules you will need to get the C18/19 Naval rules "Signal for Close Action" from Rod Langton (go on, try his site and see his range).

Participation Rules Ship Sheet Calc

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Page last updated 18/04/01

by Tim Bancroft