Possible house rules

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    invisible officer

    Experienced Crews would not try it. It is no question of training but physics.
    If your ship lacks the necessary motion power you can do nothing to make a “better tacking”.

    A 5 out of 6 chance is impossible with a SOL. And 3 of 6 for amateurs…..

    Gaming under sails needs more planning than with engine.

    In light airs you will not tack but wear.

    Steve Burt

    The rules make no distinction – tacking is just as likely to fail whatever the wind strength. Are you seriously suggesting that experienced crew never tacked?

    Gary Grimes

    As Invisible Officer states it is a physics problem, however, skilled sailing team is more likely to be able to use the physics to their advantage. Certain ship designs are better able to tack obviously which isn’t always based upon size, which is another factor. It is my opinion based upon my limited sailing experience (14′ catamarans & a 21′ gaff rigged cat boat) that unless you provide modifications for each ship type, the simple skill test works.

    Of course this is only my opinion.


    Steve Burt

    The point is, square rigged ships could and did tack, and most of the time they tacked successfully. The rules do not reflect that.

    invisible officer

    They tacked mostly with success, Yes. In daily routine. But not under the reduced sails used in fighting. To swing your bow through the wind takes a lot of force.

    Against the wind you get no more energy. A 1500 ts SOL has to have a lot of energy before starting to tack to succeed. Under “battle sails” you will hardly gain enough, even in good wind.

    A Veteran crew would know that they had to set more sails.

    Nobody that never sailed himself will know the feeling of a failed tack. Most today are used to vessels with engines.

    You may be veteran or landlubber. Without the energy there is no difference. There are even historical battles in light air with crews using towing rowed boats to tack.

    There are historical frigate actions with a lot of tacking. But fought with a lot of canvas and a lot of damage to the stuff. And good wind.

    Gary Grimes

    There is nothing more embarrassing than being a seventeen year old on Lake Michigan, trying to impress the young ladies with your Hobie Cat and coming up in irons because you screwed up the timing of your tack.

    Here is a sailing forum and a youtube video that could be of interest. (Keep in mind that they are referring to the process under full sail)


    See, despite having read every Hornblower novel, and having built model sailing ships as a kid, these are topics that are totally out of my comfort zone.

    Enjoying the conversation though, please continue.

    I’ll be running a 4 vs 4 at Command Con tomorrow using the advanced rules.


    Raymond Hutchison

    I like the idea of making critical harder to achieve. We played a game at home last night where a Spanish 3rd rate set my sons 1st rate on fire on one move and it blew up on its next activation. His 3rd rate also took a pummelling with 4 crits in two moves. Other than that I love the rules. Really enjoying the games

    David S

    As a follow up to the interesting discussion on tacking under the House Rules and Tacking Issues topics, I have also struggled a bit with the tacking instructions. Apologies for any repetition, but here are some ideas from somebody more familiar with sailing than naval wargaming. Would appreciate any feedback.
    This is based on the assumption that while tacking is not easy on a square rigger, it is usually straightforward for a trained crew in good conditions. Difficulties usually only present themselves in difficult sea conditions (strong tides, varying winds) and the stress of battle.
    If we take the basic rules, all that is needed to tack is 60 degrees of turn from a heading of 30 degrees off the wind. This is easy with a frigate or brig under Battle Sails (two moves with 90 degree total turn), and just possible with a merchant (two moves with 60 degrees total turn). No skills test needed unless there is a wind change, some damage to the ships steering, or poor helmsmanship. So for me the basic rules are fine as they stand.
    For the advanced rules we have a different situation. We need 90 degrees of turn from a heading of 45 degrees off the wind and the rules say we are approaching slowly (Light Sails). With one move, both warships and merchantman will end their turn pointing straight into the wind. If we are heading at right angles to the wind, we need 135 degrees of turn. The rules allow us Full Sails which gives a warship the necessary 135 degrees of turn (three moves) but automatically inflicts damage as the allowed configuration at that heading is only light sails. A merchantman would always have to test to tack (only 60 degrees of turn as no turn after the third move).
    I think that this makes tacking unrealistically difficult and unpredictable for a highly trained crew. The idea of reducing the difficulty of the skills test by adding 1 or 2 depending on the level of the crew has appeal, but as an alternative, why not just change the advanced wind rule by substituting Battle Sails for Light Sails when close hauled in the advanced rules wind chart. This would allow the necessary 90 degrees of turn for a warship without needing a test, while the merchantman would only get 60 degrees and thus still need a skill test.
    From a bit of general reading around seamanship in the period I see that you need a fair momentum to get one of these ships around, much more than modern yachts, so “Light Sails” just would not cut it. (I also note that ships often preferred to “wear away” rather than “tack”, unless in pursuit, as it was far more stressful for the crew and the ship). Getting the ship to turn at a fair lick (Battle Sails) would seem more appropriate and still fit with the logic of the game.
    That’s a bit longer than I intended!

    Steve Burt

    Battle sails when closed hauled is not realistic at all; in fact sailing within 45 degrees of the wind is not realistic for a square rigger; fore and aft rig can do that, square rig is more like 60 degrees off the wind.
    What square rigged ships did do was turn a little away from the wind to get seaway, then put the helm over, but that’s not the same as battle sails. I think +2 to skill tests for tacking is fine (but not if you’ve lost a mast! That should pretty much make tacking impossible). Tacking should be slow and carry a risk of either ‘falling off’ back to the original tack or being caught in irons and drifting downwind.

    Steve Burt

    I should also add, the current tacking rules are fine for brisk winds; square riggers had a hard time tacking in a brisk wind and would probably wear instead of tacking.

    David King

    While each carriage design would vary, and accurate drawings of carronades in situ on the standard slide carriage are tricky to find, those I have measured have had a maximum elevation of 14 degrees or more, which is slightly more than the port-limited elevation of guns (seldom much above 10 degrees).

    That 5 degrees is the highest value recorded in the table of ranges is no evidence that the piece cannot be elevated to fire on masts at shorter distances, among other uses of high elevation (inlcuding firing at low elevations above the horizon with leeside ordnance comfortably while under a press of sail)

    I would also note the fitting of dispart sights was common by 1780 on carronades (and carronades alone), because without these, the piece was hard to shoot accurately, being prone to firing high because of the steep line of metal (3+ degrees elevation) and the mounting high on the ship (quarterdeck and fo’c’sle – and sometimes also the roundhouse), rather than low down in the main battery. (with some exceptions for smaller vessels and the occasional ‘rare bird’ frigate or 4th rate).
    A gun with a line of metal of around 1 degree would range to slightly less by line of metal than the carronade, despite the higher velocity and longer ranges for equal angles of projection.

    At this line of metal, the natural aiming would meet the target at 700-800 yds, with shots at 400 yds going considerably above the line of pointing… unless adjustment by sights graduated to several lesser angles of elevation and direct pointing was used.

    Notably the gunnery of Sybille showed more hits from the carronades than from the long guns at 350 yds (and also a possible carronade casualty – 19 shots recorded from the carronades, with 28 from the guns).

    invisible officer

    That carronades shot more accurate was caused by the barrel that was closer to the ball size, less windage. The ball being driven with less “jumping” around. And the powder was used better, less energy being lost by passing the ball before leaving the muzzle.

    Trained Gunner knew how to deal with the vivo, the difference between the bore and the outside.  But the navy board gave the captains not much training amo. They could buy more or use captured powder. But French (and any other non RN ) powder had different characteristics and to get fitting balls was rare.

    Some captains invented aiming devices. Including indicators for elevation in smoke or at night.

    David S

    I agree Steve re sailing at 45 degrees, and your other points on tacking in real life. It seems the accepted angle is “6 points to the wind” (or 67 degrees). However I didn’t want to propose too many changes to the rules, which use 45 degrees for a warship under the advanced rules and 30 degrees under the basic. I was just looking for a simple fix with medium and fast speed (battle and full sails) as the standard speeds dictated by the wind direction, and slow (light sails) as an option for slowing down, just like the basic rules but a slightly more realistic wind rose.
    Found a couple of great articles on the capability of sailing warships for those that are interested.

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