sailing, sailing ...
The first of six rounds of head-to-head
action finds the GM maneuvering for a broadside.
Exuberance of youth vs Experience
as Andrew Chitwood tries his hand against Reverend Hunsinger.
While old salts keep returning to the helm, each year sees
green midshipmen assemble to ride the waves.
This year saw the return of Steve Shedden, fabled as the player
with the most devastating broadside in the history of the tournament.
One missing regular was the GM's wife, a casualty of appendicitis.
The newest of the new players was young Andrew Chitwood who
challenged five players, including veterans up to five times
his age! While his won-loss record was not great, everyone
who played or observed him can testify to his sportsmanship.
The action began with players facing off with elite British
64-gun ships of the line, vessels with enough firepower to do
some damage, but slow enough to enable new players to get a handle
on the basics of sailing and shooting.
From there, players with a need for speed moved on to sailing
French 44-gun frigates. The French 44 is best known for
its enormous crew. It was this match that saw Andrew Chitwood's
only win, against one of the eventual semi-finalists. Next
year, he may be a contender.
Match # 3 gave our captains their first command of two ships
each: a crack British 40-gun frigate and a crack British
36-gun frigate. With an additional ship, players can learn
the fine art of maneuvering two ships to concentrate on one enemy. Concentrating
superior firepower on a narrow portion of an enemy's defenses
is a principle applicable to almost all military-themed games. Not
surprisingly, no veteran player lost a match 3 game to a landlubber.
The fourth match gave each player two British 74-gun ships
of the line. Historically, the 74 was the backbone of the
British navy during the Age of Nelson. It was the most economical
big ship to deploy in large numbers, yet hearty enough to hold
its own in battle with larger vessels. By this point in
the tournament, most players still slogging it out were in contention
for one of the four semi-final slots.
After maneuvering and target acquisition, the skill that separates
admirals from captains is choice of ships. Therefore, Match
# 5 gave players the opportunity to display their strategic vision. Each
player could choose two or three ships, ranging from heavy frigates
to 84-gun ships of the line, from British, French, Spanish, Turkish,
and Russian navies.
When the smoke cleared, perennials Bill Rohrbeck and Keith
Hunsinger had qualified for the semi-finals, along with returning
veteran George Deutsch. New to the playoffs was Dale Long,
who had eliminated the GM in Match #5. Dale and Bill entered
the semis undefeated.
The semis gave players even wider freedom to design their
own squadrons, a further test of their grasp of the interplay
between ship selection and on-board maneuver.
For the third year in a row, the Final was a head-to-head
clash of titans Bill Rohrbeck and Keith Hunsinger, with Bill
edging Keith for the hat trick.
For anyone eager to see the ebb and flow of an actual match,
below is the Naval Gazette account of the Hunsinger-Long semi-final,
as reported by Keith.
Both sides selected three crack Russian 74's. Dale entered
in an open line ahead with one space between each ship.
Keith kept his ships closed up, bow to stern. That proved important
from the beginning as the two players turned parallel to each
other but with Dale slightly ahead. Keith concentrated
fire on the third ship in Dale's line and dropped a mast. As
Dale's first two ships pulled ahead, his third vessel, repairing
rigging as rapidly as possible, was effectively left out of the
Keith used the Nelsonian tactic of splitting the enemy line
and pulled between Dale's lead two ships. The high hit
values ensured lots of damage to both sides, but Keith's 3 to
2 superiority was telling. Still, it was not without cost.
His lead ship was pummeled on both sides and, as the last hull
square was marked off, instead of striking its colours, it blew
up, damaging both his own sister ship and the second of Dale's
Ironically, though causing heavy damage, it cleared the way
for Hunsinger to pour fire into Long's leading two ships and
within three turns of the explosion both of Long's lead ships
struck their colors, with all their hull squares checked.
The 90-minute time limit arrived at the same time and the
2:1 destruction advanced Hunsinger to a third consecutive Final
meeting with Bill Rohrbeck.