luck over pluck ...
Nathan Peterson and Dale Long exchange
A bit of father-son action as Tim
and Evan Hitchings unfurl the sails.
16 hearty sailors shoved off in the latest version of the
Wooden Ships tournament. Notice: it's sailors,
not seamen, as three of the crew were women. That's the
modern navy for you. The event's ranks also were noticeably younger
than usual with at least half a dozen under the age of 30.
The most startling game of the event was the semi-final match
between Evan Hitchings and his dad, GM Tim Hitchings. This
was Evan's first Wooden Ships and Iron Men tournament
in eight years and the only one in which he played more than
one match. While most of his earlier games were against
less experienced players, he proved his mettle against his dad,
who first played the game six years before Evan was
The players met each other with two ships-of-the-line each,
broadside for broadside, until Evan stealthily allowed one
of his ships to drift into a raking position against one of his
dad's sterns. Not to be back-sided by his own son, Tim
grappled and meleed, unwisely breaking off contact when he should
have captured Evan's ship for double points.
The ensuing bombardment finished off Evan's ship. However,
several hundred yards away, Evan's other vessel did the same
to Tim's remaining ship. Due to the severe crew carnage
Tim had suffered in the earlier melee, Evan took the match on
Evan's victory set up a grudge match in the Final against
Dale "Dan" Long. Dan had returned to the tournament
from an impressive third place finish in 2007 as the man to beat. In
the preliminaries, Dan had handed Evan his only defeat.
In the Final, Evan and Dan opted to play a single ship
sudden death face off rather than a more grueling squadron
engagement. The pair seemed evenly matched -- Evan, the
precocious upstart, versus Dan, the solid veteran.
The rivals went right to work, maneuvering their frigates
into close quarters for effective gunnery. Broadside answered
broadside until Dan landed a critical hull hit, demoralizing
Evan's crew from crack to average. Such a blow should have
been a portent of Evan's demise, as a weaker crew is unable to
fire as effectively. However, Evan persisted until he landed his
own critical hit, setting Dan's ship afire.
Dan was forced to make the most crucial decision of the
game -- does he fight the fire or gamble on gunnery? If
he assigned crew to fight the fire, the effectiveness of his
gunnery would be diminished; if he didn't fight the fire, his
ship would slowly burn to the waterline.
Dan chose to let the fire blaze away and gamble that his gunnery
would finish off Evan before the fire took its fearsome toll.
Evan was forced to maneuver his best to deny Dan the best
fields of fire and to maximize his own. As he did so, he
continued to pour shot after shot into Dan's hull. The
ever-roaring fire on Dan's ship, aided by Dan's horrendous die
rolls, enabled Evan to even the damage on the two ships.
When Evan finally finished off Dan's hull, Dan could have finished
Evan off simultaneously -- if he could roll a 6 (How we
all sympathize!). The players (and the GM) were spared
having to re-fight the action when Dan didn't make the roll he
It was agreed by Evan and the GM that Dan's gutsy decision
to let his fire burn was the right one, despite the eventual
result. Huzzah to Dan for his pluck! Huzzah to Evan
for his luck!