Home Forums Historical Black Seas ABOUT THE SPANISH NAVY FACTION

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    Captain GUAL

    Dear Warlord staff,

    I am writing these lines because of your historical approach used to represent the Spanish Navy in your late XVIII century game Black Seas.

    Let me start by congratulating you for deciding to launch such a product to the market. That could be considered as a “minority” genre among other more established historical theatres/types of game. Thank you – as a seaman and wargamer.

    I bought your rulebook Black Seas very excited, as I was eager to play naval battles in the Napoleonic era. I had high expectations to find a game with a fresh approach to the naval battles mechanics, without being a simulator. It was about time to have in the market a game with good playability and fast-action as Black Seas seems to be.

    However, as a history lover and wargame player, in particular a naval battles aficionado, I cannot understand how you have adopted such a poor approach in your review of the Spanish fleet.

    First, I must strongly disagree with the character selection. You did not choose Admiral Federico Carlos Gravina y Nápoli, as a special character for the Spanish Fleet/Faction. Obviously, you have chosen Nelson for the British and Villeneuve for the French – both faction leaders in the battle of Trafalgar. But then you choose Admiral Álava, the second-in-command of the Spanish squad… How is it possible that you overlook Admiral Gravina, first in command of the Spanish squad in Trafalgar? I am not saying that Álava does not have enough personal merits to be selected, but would have felt natural to choose Admiral Collinwood instead of Lord Nelson? I would be eager to read about your thoughts for this decision.

    Second, it seems to me an obvious choice to include the giant “Santísima Trinidad” as a special ship, the largest ship to sail the seven seas at that time. But then, to my despair, you have misspelled the name; “SantiSSima”, seriously? I understand that it is a typo, but a flagrant one.

    Third, you have set two special rules for the Spanish fleet. And both special rules have a malus? I am a casual player, not an expert on wargames rules, but it seems like a bad deal to play with the Spanish faction. Who would choose to play with the special rules for the Spaniards? Even though you remark that these rules are optional, a more balanced approach would have been welcomed – as it would have made the special rules more attractive, more inclusive for all factions and in general more fun to play, in my opinion.

    Finally, taking all these points into account, it is clear to me that you have not put the necessary interest in developing the Spanish faction. The introduction of the historical part is accurate enough, but the selection of the special characters, the spelling of the largest ship in the game and the optional faction rules has a surprising lack of detail. Something I find very disappointing in what seems to be a good rulebook.

    I would be interested in knowing your opinion, and that of other naval wargaming aficionados, about these topics.

    Best regards,

    Captain Gual.

    invisible officer

    Contemporary English speaking authors often wrote the name of the Nuestra Señora de la Santísima Trinidad in the Italian way with SS. More learned Italian in that time.

    It still stucks in many English books and heads.

    The rules, well, the Spaniards did not win many battles in the Napoleonic era . There are some reasons and some rules should reflect that.
    If you want Spanish only by name you are not forced to use the optional rules.

    Ken Redington

    I am wondering when the Spanish fleet box will come out (with the missing Spanish Flag sheet) and maybe the Santísima Trinidad for the big ship box set.


    I fully agree with the thoughts of Captain Gual. After reading the rulebook I realized Warlord has lost the opportunity to make a great game as they did with others.

    If you compare this game with other historical games, you can see that all the factions have attractive rules to have fun playing them. For example in Bolt Action, Romanians, Italians and even partisans have their advantages when they were less successfully armies in comparison with other nationalities (Germans, Russians or Americans, for example).

    Beyond the historical discussion of the effectiveness of each fleet, XVIII century was a period where many wars occurred and where you can find many stories as inspiration for your game rules. For example, if you read about Spanish history and battles in the last part of its empire, you realize that the Spanish armies do not lose its courage and combativeness even in the worst situations. For example, in Trafalgar Spanish fleet stood fighting against British even when the French ships were fled from battle. This can be easily transferred to the rules. Moreover it is the right approach, in my opinion, focus in the strengths and not in the flaws of the Spanish army, as Warlord did with British and French fleet.
    As said, unfortunately Warlord has not make a good job with this game as it made with others. It’s a pitty.

    invisible officer

    Hmm, I don’t think that the designers deserve that critic.

    To give “gimmicks” is not easy. They should be based on historical facts, not the wish to give every fleet some nice stuff.

    Bravery is OK but to die without doing much effect to the enemy shows some serious defects of a fleet. At Trafalgar the Spaniards had the biggest ships. A lot of firepower. They had high losses but if losses are an indicator for bravery they are behind the French. The Allies did no exact loss lists like the RN but what we know tells a sad story.

    Only HMS Victory had more than 50 KIA. Many Allied ships had more than 100.

    If I want to be nasty I could state that the Santisima had an unknown high number of casualties but surrendered to 98 guns HMS Prince that had no KIA or wounded at all. The only SOL so lucky. (It had destroyed the Achille, so was not lazy). But that would be unkind to the brave sailors of a proud nation.
    But bravest was Redoutable with 522 hors de combat from a crew of 643.

    So no bravery bonus for the Spaniards.

    Only French had been fleeing?
    1 ship destroyed, 10 captured, Spanish 11 captured. Dumanoir Le Pelley tried to bring the van in but it was the age of wind power. It was not just French “reluctance”, Spanish Captain Valdés had his Neptuno towed by boats into action. Only SOL from van and soon struck to Minotaur. Le Pelley took four French and two Spanish SOL to safety. Unlike Villeneuve he was not killed in one of the strange “suicides” connected to Napoleon. So he was not considered a coward.

    Nelson did a good job but to attribute everything to a “genius” would mean to jump short. From Admiral down to Captain the Allies did no good job. No RN ship was lost in battle or the following storm.

    Cosmao retook two Spanish ships of the line, but it cost him one French and two Spanish vessels to do so. A bad deal.
    So no deserved bonus for a Spanish Admiral.

    To play without using the optional malus rules is more than enough, to give some extra sugar would be strange.

    Not to forget: The Spanish fleet has a special flavour with the biggest ships. A good reason to play Spaniard.


    Me parece que estas mal documentado y que hablas solo con lo que has leído en tu idioma y por eso te contesto en el mio. Se nota tu hispanofobia a leguas. Cuando te cuentan una mentira durante mil veces, la gente la cree como verdad.
    Estoy muy cansado de la leyenda negra que envuelve a España como nación desde hace siglos, gracias a lo que los ingleses escondéis o como cambiáis la historia a vuestro gusto.
    El Santísima Trinidad capturo mas barcos que ninguno en su historia. Este navío cayo derrotado cuando 5 barcos ingleses
    lo rodearon y estuvieron 3 horas a cañonazos hasta que lo desarbolaron y pudieron rendir el barco mientras este, desarbolo al HMS Victory.
    El San Juan de Nepomuceno, al mando de Churruca, Clavo su bandera definiendo la no rendición del barco mientras era
    rodeado por otros 6 navíos ingleses. Y solo se rindió cuando los mandos murieron.
    El Santa Maria, destrozo el navío Sovereing con solo una andanada de sus cañones, haciendo que su comandante y segundo al mando de Nelson, abandonara el barco.
    Al comandante español de vanguardia, se le negó por parte de Villeneuve, combatir por su cuenta con 5 navíos por que ya era conocida por los marino españoles, la incompetencia del francés.
    Tripulación inexperta???? En Trafalgar solo hubo 700 hombres inexpertos que se llamaron a levas en los 23 navíos españoles.

    Y eso sin hablar de como derrotaron a Nelson en las canarias. Blas de Lezo en el caribe, etc…..

    Y por ultimo, de momento…. El Glorioso.
    1º Victoria española
    2º Victoria española
    3º Victoria española
    4º Victoria española
    5º Victoria pírrica británica
    Final: Victoria estratégica española
    El Glorioso consigue cumplir su misión y posteriormente es capturado.

    Pedro Mesía de la Cerda

    Jonh Crookshanks
    Robert Erskine
    Smith Callis
    George Walker
    John Hamilton †
    Matthew Buckle

    1 navío de línea de 70 cañones

    4 navíos de línea
    6 fragatas
    2 bergantines

    1 navío de línea capturado
    44 muertos y 173 heridos2​

    1 navío de línea hundido
    Varios navíos y fragatas gravemente dañados
    433 muertos y 352 heridos

    Los franceses trataron de cobardes a los españoles por querer esperar a que pasara el mal tiempo de los días siguientes. Si se hubiera esperado, La flota de Nelson habría sufrido bajas seguro y hubiese sido una ventaja táctica para la combinada. Cosa que no tiene nada que ver con la cobardía.
    Los únicos cobardes en esa batalla, fueron el almirante francés al mando y otro mando francés, que viendo la batalla perdida, no quiso dar la vuelta para ayudar al resto de la flota, cosa que si hicieron los barcos españoles a su mando y algún navío francés que también dio la vuelta para entrar
    en batalla, desobedeciendo la orden de este.
    Estos barcos dieron la vuelta a sabiendas de que la batalla estaba perdida, ya que la inutilidad y prepotencia del almirante Villeneuve, hizo que los barcos de la combinada, lucharan en inferioridad numérica contra los ingleses de hasta 6 a 1.
    Si esa misma flota, hubiese estado comandada por otro almirante que supiese combatir y sin miedo a Nelson…. seguro que hablábamos de otro resultado.

    Y si realmente quieres saber algo de historia real, solo tienes que salir de tus libros ingleses que hablan solo de las “Grandes victorias” omitiendo las claras derrotas de vuestra Royal Navy.

    Una cosa tengo que dejar clara:
    La Royal Navy, fué y es una grandisima armada, eso no deja duda alguna, pero no se puede nunca, repito nunca, despreciar a la Armada Española que durante mas de 300 años, fue la mas grande y moderna armada del mundo.
    No se puede despreciar a los grandes ejércitos españoles de la época, que mandaban en el mundo y mucho menos a sus mandos, que siempre estaban en primera línea y eran de los mejores del mundo.
    No se puede despreciar a un país por envidias pasadas y mucho menos, cuando perteneces a una empresa británica que quiere vender en el resto del mundo.
    Se que al final, vuestro orgullo os impedirá corregir el error y lo dejareis como está, pero no estáis actuando de una manera correcta.
    Un saludo desde España, país que tiene las puertas abiertas para que vosotros los ingleses, descubráis que es un buen país un buen aliado.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by Raul.
    Captain GUAL

    Dear Mr. Invisible Officer,

    First of all thank you for your reply.

    Contemporary English speaking authors often wrote the name of the Nuestra Señora de la Santísima Trinidad in the Italian way with SS. More learned Italian in that time.
    It still stucks in many English books and heads.

    Your are very right sir, not only the game designer is Italian, but also he did asume his mistake and fortunately the stern of the Santísima is going to be spelled right.

    The rules, well, the Spaniards did not win many battles in the Napoleonic era . There are some reasons and some rules should reflect that.

    Well, here I must desagree with you. First of all Spaniards and French were allies in the most part of that century, fighting against the English shoulder by shoulder. So to be honest they won or lose more or less the same amount of battles. However, I do not see any malus in the French special rules. I am not saying that the Spaniards do not deserve to have some malus to represent them, but I do not see the effects of the reality of the situation well balanced in the other Navys. A more positive approach would be very welcomed.

    As an example, we could take Admiral Villeneuve. The history do not treat him very well, so many authors considered him a coward by refusing to engage constantly the British and to personally fled from the Battle of Nile, leaving his Squad to be destroyed behind him. But instead of setting a “coward” rule for him, the designer use the special skill “Lucky” to represent him, which I couldn´t be more agree with. In my opinion is always better to find a positive approach while setting up rules to represent any faction.

    If you want Spanish only by name you are not forced to use the optional rules.

    Of course i Will! I Will use Spaniards when released to fight with my French Navy that I already bought, in order to represent the “combined armada” ;).

    Best regards,

    Cpt. Gual.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by Captain GUAL.
    • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by Captain GUAL.

    Imagine that these rules are written in Spain, and that instead of Nelson, they choose Collinwood. Victory, they write it as Bictory and your flag, they put it upside down or with other colors, how would you feel?
    sorry for my poor english.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by Raul.
    invisible officer

    I would feel well, being no British. (Crazy mix of German and neighbours)

    With the many cruelties done by English writers to German language I understand your feelings very well.
    Some in BA should be rated as war crimes.

    I wrote Napoleonic by intent, before 1805 Spanish often won. Forced to be allies of the Oger they lost the “bite” for some time.

    Nobody should doubt that the brave Spaniards gave him a a hard beating. Englishmen think it was just Wellington. Not me!


    I did not want to get mess in a historical discussion, but if you insist…

    It is totally unfair to judge the effectiveness of a total fleet only analyzing one battle, which we should not forget that was full responsibility of Villanueve.

    Let’s talk about Villanueve. He was an incompetent Admiral and the sole reason Napoleon put him in command of the fleet was just because all the competent ones were killed during the French revolution. His perk was not the luck, as Napaleon said, but the ability to run away from battle. You can review his performance in the battle of Nile, between others. I must admit that Villanueve has a valuable virtue for the French fleet because is tactic was to engage, try to disable the enemy ships and run away from the battle as fast as they can. And this is well reflected in the rulebook (aim high and more speed for French ships).

    However we must not forget how the battle of Trafalgar came about. Villanueve was hiding from Nelson until he was trapped in Cadiz. Once there, he refuesed to leave until he learned of his dismissal by Napoleon. Then, without the fleet ready and bad weather for his objetives, he sailed on the worst moment. We all know Nelson’s battle plan, but what was Villanueve’s? His battle plan was to flee from Nelson and, if he appeared, turn back and hide again in Cadiz. So when he saw Nelson approaching, he performed a maneuver that left his forces disorganized and at Nelson’s mercy. And inexplicably it is included as the special French character for the French fleet.
    If you don’t believe my arguments about Villanueve’s incompetence, let’s ask Napoleon his opinion on Villanueve (and I doubt Napoleon was very fond of the Spanish):
    Napoleon wrote in a letter of 11 August 1805: “Gravina is all genius and decision in combat. If Villeneuve had those qualities, the battle of Finisterre would have been a complete victory”.

    Where is Gravina in the Black Seas rules? It is not.
    And I do not want to forget the “brave” Dumanoir, who at the beginning of the battle ignored the signals he received and fled from the battle with 4 line ships (302 guns in total, what could do this ships in battle?), while the rest of his squad turned to face the British (Spaniards and some Frenchs). Dumanoir was captured in Galicia 12 days trying to reach France.

    If you want to learn about the courage and fulfillment of Spanish duty you can read about Cartagenas de Indias, Nelson in Canarian islands or Tolon Battle. Denying this to the Spaniards who fought at that time in inferiority and worse equipped than their enemies, is at least unfair.

    As said, the Black Seas reflects in a positive way the French tactic of running away. This is a designers’s good decision which provides more fun to the players. Why don’t they include same positive approach in the Spanish flee? Weren’t they able to find inspiration for that? As said in my first post, I believe that Warlord lost an opportunity to make a great game and I am really sorry for that.

    Bob D

    Quite agree: the Spanish fought well on plenty of occasions; and it is a bit odd that Gravina is not represented out of the box, but I would hope that Warlord will provide lots of additional content if the game does well, and it would be easy enough to add a Special Character for him here online: perhaps when the Santísima Trinidad is launched 🙂

    Agree about the spelling as well, but I think the typical mis-spelling in English is to ensure that we pronounce is correctly! My wife is a proud Ecuadorean descendant of El Gran Capitán and still has his family name (plus her mum’s, and has a composite 4-word first name), and hearing people here in the UK try to say all of it is genuinely hilarious.

    I am not sure about the criticisms of the malus: the rule referring to Heavily Armed seems ok to me: take more guns for free on your 1st rates (a plus), but make a Skill Test to go to Full Sails (a minus): having said that, I am not sure how much the additional weight for a few guns would affect a 1st Rate, so you could quite easily ignore the malus. Out of Practice makes acquiring Veteran Crews slightly more expensive, which does not seem particularly ‘wrong’ given the unfortunate state of the Spanish Navy at the time; maybe it should only apply to a limited date range … 1796-1808 perhaps? Of course, everyone is perfectly free to ignore these rules.

    In any case, the Spanish box will be the first Fleet Box that I buy.



    • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by Bob D.
    • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by Bob D.
    • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by Bob D.
    Ken Jacobsen

    Captain Gual (and others): what stats would you give Gravina if he were in the game? Like many others, I’m a bit perplexed as to why he’s not included.

    invisible officer

    Perhaps because Gravina was a puppet of the French Admiral? Far too loyal without profile?

    Against his better knowledge he followed the Frenchman. A simple note that the Spanish ships would be unfit to leave Cadiz…….

    We should not ignore that Gravina was a noble court officer. His prestige at court led to him being appointed Ambassador in Paris in 1804 and his appointment as Admiral of the Spanish Fleet in 1805. His appointment, above (perhaps better) veteran officers such as Mazarredo or Grandallana, was due to the personal support of the King.

    Not following the orders would have ended his career. Well, the wounds from Trafalgar did that too. A brave man, but no good navy CO. Not able to say NO.

    Gravina had an excellent team of Spanish officers in 1805, many of whom had served under his orders in other campaigns such as Toulon, Cadiz, Brest and Santo Domingo. They knew that following that French fool would be wrong.

    During the battle of Trafalgar, the squadron commanded by Gravina and Escaño was more fortunate in its manoeuvres than the rest of the Combined Fleet, That allowed him to gather some units and withdraw to the bay of Cadiz.

    Gravina’s report post Trafalgar may be interesting, it included the following:
    “I do not possess the data requisite for giving your Highness a detailed and particular account of these single fights, nor can I speak with certainty of the movements of the Van, which, I am informed, tacked at the commencement of the battle in order to support those who were assailed. I can, however, confidently assure you that every ship, French as well as Spanish, which fought in my sight, performed its duty to the utmost, and that this Ship, after a terrific contest of four hours with three or four of the Enemy’s Vessels, its rigging destroyed, its sails shot through and through, its masts and topmasts riddled, and every respect in a most deplorable condition, was most seasonably relieved by the San Justo, a Spanish, and the Neptune, a French ship, which junction drove off the Enemy, and enabled the Rayo, the Montanes, the Asis, and the San Leandro, all of which had suffered severely, to unite with the other French ships, that were as just as bad a plight. As soon as this vessel found itself free of the Enemy, it directed the ships which had joined company to assist such vessels as were in need of their aid, and at nightfall, the cannonade having ceased on both sides, the Thémis frigate was ordered to tow us towards Cadiz bay”.

    Spanish officers had little tactical insight. Even post Trafalgar, Escaño, the best Spanish tactician of his time, stuck to the line of battle as the only good way to fight. Claiming bad sailing conditions of the Combined Fleet as reason for defeat. He even stated that Nelson’s tactic would fail against a fleet of equal strength. Bad maths in calculating the Trafalgar fleets?

    Gravina was a master in defense of blockaded ports, using well-armed and trained boats and launches. That would be a possible rule base.

    He was known to be a good sailor and organiser. So ive his ships a sailing Advantage?

    But in battle on open sea? The praise of Gravina in Napoleons Decrès, 11.08.1805 should be read cum grano salis. Napoleon’s ability to judge naval affairs was low at best. In that Action two Spanish SOL are lost. Against a RN fleet that was in bad shape, eve before the Action.

    Captain GUAL

    Dear Mr Jacobsen,

    Captain Gual (and others): what stats would you give Gravina if he were in the game? Like many others, I’m a bit perplexed as to why he’s not included.

    Regarding on your question I must say that I am not an expert in setting up rules, but I can give you some feats that Admiral Gravina did. Here goes my two pence:

    Admiral Federico Carlos Gravina y Napoli

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federico_Gravina. (This source is not very academic, but is the only I can bring to the topic, sorry about that. Still accurate ;))

    -He obtained his first command – the polacre-rigged xebec San Luis – in which he participated in the Siege of Gibraltar between 1779 and 1782, capturing the British corvette HMS St Fermin.
    -After promotion to Commander he participated in the expedition against Menorca (then under British control), distinguishing himself in the attack on the fortress of San Felipe. After this, and for other actions, he was promoted to Captain. In 1785 he commanded a squadron operating against Algerian corsairs.
    -Commander in Chief of the Spanish fleet in 1805.
    -Great politician, acting as diplomat in Paris after the San Ildefonso peace treaty.
    -Gibraltar Chronicle paid the following tribute: “Spain loses in Gravina the most distinguished officer in her navy; one under whose command her fleets, though sometimes beaten, always fought in such a manner as to merit the encomiums of their conquerors.”
    -As Napoleon wrote in a letter of 11 August 1805: “Gravina is all genius and decision in combat. If Villeneuve had had those qualities, the battle of Finisterre would have been a complete victory”.

    Even though Gravina was not the more skilled tactician of the Spaniards -I do prefer admiral Mazarredo for example- In my opinion he should be in the rulebook instead of Admiral Alava. Not only for being the Commander in Chief, but also for being a brave military and following orders until its last consequences, no matter what the odds of winning were.


    Cpt. Gual.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by Captain GUAL.

    Captain Gual (and others): what stats would you give Gravina if he were in the game? Like many others, I’m a bit perplexed as to why he’s not included.

    Spanish history during the 18th century is tabout a great time that comes to end. Spanish empire reached its peak during the 16th century and lives its decline during the next centuries. It was a ship that had been sinking for a lot of time, which had been kept afloat due to the stubbornness, pride and courage of many of the Spaniards of that period.

    Spain found itself at the end of the 18th century with a much diminished army and lack of material and economics resources. Moreover Spain was forced to fight alongside the French against the British, in an always difficult cooperation in the seas.

    The Spanish armada was led by men aware of the above and also being conscious that their time was ending. In this sense the letter that Churruca sends to his brother shortly before the battle of Trafalgar is very enlightening:

    “On the San Juan in Cádiz on 11 October. Dear brother: since we left Ferrol nobody has received their pay, despite these being declared in advance and classified as soldiers’ prest. To this end they are owed four months, and they hold no hope of seeing one real in a long time; they owe us four months of salary as well, but we won’t receive a morsel, despite the hard work we are doing: (…) This is the work with which we serve the King, that in no grade can we rely on our wages (…) If you come to hear that my ship has been taken, know that I am dead. ”

    At Trafalgar Churruca nailed the flag to the mast. He ordered that it should not be taken down while he were still lived. His ship, San Juan Nepomuceno, fighted bravely against six enemy ships and it did not surrender until Churruca died reached by a cannonball which tore his leg.

    Churruca was a capable commander, who endured to train his crew and organize the vessels he commanded. He was also a scientist, recognized after his death, inside Spain and also abroad. Moreover Churruca received many tributes and recognitions after his death, among others, he was posthumously promoted to admiral and his nephew received the title Count of Churruca.

    These kinds of stories were very common at the fall of the Spanish empire. Characters dressed in fatalism, pride and honor sinking together with the rest of the empire.

    Here you can find a lot of information about Spanish characters. It is a very interesting book from 1906 written by Edward Fraser.


    • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by Ticio.
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