Some questions after a thorough read of Trafalgar

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Some questions after a thorough read of Trafalgar

Postby Sapphon » Wed May 20, 2009 8:26 pm

Cross-posted from the Yahoo! group. Some of the questions are complex, and I figured the more opinions I could get, the better.

Hi all,

A few days ago I got a copy of Trafalgar and skimmed through it. I got the
impression I was going to love this game, as it was similar to a game that had
captured my heart in the past, Battlefleet Gothic. Yesterday I had a long bus
ride to get through and really sat down to take a hard look at the book for the
first time. I came with the following questions (and 2 more beside, but those I
was able to find the answer to by searching this list). Warning: #8 is a
monster! I felt it required some elaboration or it'd sound like baseless

1) Aiming High and Rakes: What does it mean that a mast (mizzen or fore) is "hit
first" during a rake? Does this mean that all damage done by a bow rake (for
example) goes to the foremast first, then the mainmast, then the mizzenmast as
masts are destroyed? Or does it mean that only the stated mast can be hit during
a rake, regardless of how much damage is done? What happens when the mast that
is "hit first" is destroyed before the rake even happens?

1a) A related question: Are hits assigned to particular high locations, or are
UNSAVED hits? Put another way, do saves come before or after hit allocation?

2) High Locations Criticals: What happens when Chain Shot rolls on the critical
table and the result is that the mast takes 2 (or D3, for that matter) damage
instead of 1? Chain shot is already doing 2 damage. In the case of the D3 this
is particularly bad - you can roll a '1' and do less damage than a non-critical
hit would have!

3) Rules of Engagement: Ships declare firing in a strict order from leeward to
windward, so the way I understand it, this rule means that if an Unrated vessel
is the furthest windward, it always requires a command check to be shot by
larger ships unless another small vessel somewhere else on the board is getting
uppity, because it will declare its firing last. Am I reading this correctly?

4) Aiming Leeward: Does this rule mean that a vessel that is Beating cannot aim
low into the wind, or only that it cannot aim high to leeward? The wording is a
bit confusing to me.

5) Fire As She Bears and Boarding: Can a ship being boarded Fire As She Bears!
on its aggressor as it's being approached? Can a ship that has declared its
intent to board FASB! before it moves into contact?

6) "Firing into Boarding Actions" vs. Drilled Crew: If the British are firing
into a boarding action in which a friendly ship is involved and they roll 1's to
hit with shots that are eligible to re-roll those 1's, what occurs?

7) Ship costs: Why does a Portuguese 2nd Rate cost the same as a British 2nd
Rate? In general the Brits pay a little more for their vessels because of their
national advantages; is this just a copy-and-paste error? Privateer Xebecs and
Spanish Xebecs have the same issue; Privs are usually a little more expensive,
but not in this case.

8) Firing High and damage resolution: Am I understanding correctly that as a
ship loses masts, it effectively becomes more resistant to high location damage
because of the way the rules work?

Bear with me here. A British 74 and a Spanish 80 are sailing alongside each
other in their respective lines of battle and trading broadsides. The Brits are
firing low and the Spaniards are firing high. As the British player deals
damage to the Spaniard's hull, the Spaniard's ship will degrade in quality at a
consistent rate - after 5 failed saves, the ship will lose carronades, after 11
heavy cannons, and then it will be Crippled after 19. It is predictable that
after a certain number of failed saves, all this WILL happen.

As the Spanish player deals damage to the British ship, however, Nelson's
'Nothing is certain in a sea fight above all' quote comes to mind. At first,
all the damage will be dealt, but the effects of the damage may not be applied
evenly. Because hits are allocated to high locations randomly, the British ship
could lose speed after a mere 4 unsaved hits (to one mast), or could be totally
unaffected by 9 unsaved hits (3 to each mast). Fair enough; that is
significantly different from aiming low, but flavorfully so. I like it.

The real 'gotcha' comes in when masts start disappearing. Say the ships do
damage to each other at the rate of about 3 unsaved hits/turn (yes, I know this
is a lot and not statistically accurate, but I don't want a 20-turn example).
The number is the same because, although the Spaniard will have a harder time
hitting, the Brit will have a harder time saving, too. Also say, for the sake
of simplicity, that the Spaniard gets VERY lucky and never 'wastes' shots on a
damaged mast (IE if a mast has 1 point of integrity remaining, he will only hit
it 1 time that turn, as opposed to the 3 that are possible).

After 2 turns, the Spanish ship will have lost Carronades and taken a low
critical. The British ship will have lost a mast and taken a high critical.
From now on, in addition to his reduced firepower, the Spanish player has to
contend with the fact that 1/3 of his hits will do nothing - they will hit the
destroyed mast and, according to the rules, have no further effect. So now the
Brit will continue dealing 3 unsaved hits/turn while the Spaniard will go down
to 1.5 (he loses 1/3 of his firepower thanks to hitting the destroyed mast 1/3
of the time, and 1/6 thanks to losing his Carronade).

After 2 more turns, the Spaniard will lose his heavy guns and take another
critical. The British player will lose another mast and be slowed to a crawl
(4cm movement allowance, but this is still enough to turn), and may have taken
another high critical - roughly a 50% chance. The Spanish ship is now down to
2/6 of its original firepower (originally it had 2 light dice, 3 heavy dice, and
1 carronade die; it now has 2 light dice) and has a 2/3 chance of hitting a mast
that is already destroyed and doing no further damage. That is a pretty big
chance! As a result his effective unsaved hits/turn is reduced to 0.33 (and
this doesn't even account for the fact that the remaining cannons are more
saveable than the ones he's lost!) It will take him 9 more turns to go through
the Briton's last 3 points of masts, while he will be Crippled after another 3
turns (2 if any of the criticals thus far did extra damage). It must be very
demoralizing for the player aiming high to watch his ship go to pieces around
him as his gunners target masts that don't exist anymore!

Of course this example has a lot of flaws. The two ships aren't really
maneuvering for one, and are fighting in a vacuum devoid of other ships for two.
But they do cost the same points, and both are enacting historical tactics that
should be equally viable.

So, in summary:
1) Aiming high follows a law of diminishing returns - the more masts you bring
down, the fewer of your shots will have an effect. A ship can be demasted in 12
hits, or it can still have masts after 1200 unsaved hits if they all hit
locations already destroyed.
2) Aiming high does not degrade the capability of the enemy ship as consistently
as aiming low, but has the possibility of doing it faster.
3) Aiming high degrades the ability of the enemy ship to evade you, but does not
degrade the capability of the enemy ship to fight you, as a ship with a movement
allowance of 3" or more may always turn to deliver a broadside. Aiming low
degrades the ability of the enemy ship to fight you AND to escape you, to a
lesser extent - low criticals can decrew a ship, destroy the rudder, or set it
4) The end result of aiming low is a ship that can take no further part in the
battle. The end result of aiming high is a ship that can take no further part
in the battle unless you move into its fire arcs until it repairs its sails.
The result with fewer "unless" and "until" qualifiers is probably the better

Anyway, I realize I am getting long-winded. In short, tell me what I am missing
- tell me why aiming high is worth it! I could deal with 2)-4) above, but 1) is
the killer - when your target is down to 1 mast of 3 it is as if the ship has an
additional 3+ save! Am I reading the rule wrong? Failing to consider a tactical
reality that makes reducing the opponent's speed more worthwhile than I know?

Answers to any or all of the above questions much appreciated. If you've gotten
this far, thanks for reading.

Looking forward to some fun Age of Sail gaming,
-Connor Shaughnessy
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Re: Some questions after a thorough read of Trafalgar

Postby TikaKino » Thu May 21, 2009 11:12 am

First up, welcome - that's quite the exhaustively detailed post!

I'll chuck in my readings of the rules below:

1) I'm pretty sure the intention is that since all the masts are in a row, you hit the furthest forward / rearmost as appropriate and head on down the line until you run out of hits. Rakes are meant to be unpleasant.

1a) The rules say "hits" not "unsaved hits", so we tend to go with the former in cases where it matters (side shots); against rakes we technically allocate the front mast as many hits as it has remaining damage, take saves, repeat if it's not dead or move on to the next mast is it is. In practice this is identical to allocating unsaved hits, so we do that instead.

It seems to me it makes no difference to the probabilities whether you allocate saved or unsaved hits, though someone with more time might want to confirm that.

2) Chain shot adds +1 to rolls on the high critical table, so you'll never roll a one (p62). It is possible to do 1 point of damage (D3 instead of 1 results), but these results also give you the possibility of 3 points of damage so I think it balances.

3) Your interpretation seems correct to me.

4) It "may only aim high into the wind" and "[the lee side] cannot aim high". I agree it's not the best worded rule in the book; we tend to ignore it as it overcomplicates things just a touch too much for our enjoyment anyway, so I can't say how well it works in practice.

5) I see no reason the ship being boarded shouldn't pop off a shot. Close action is a risky business.
As for the boarding ship, the rules don't say it can't but the boarding section does have rules for "firing from boarding actions" (p30). That would be the rule to apply, I suspect, as the crew would be busy preparing to board.

6) They re-roll the one; unless they roll it again, they don't hit the friendly ship.

7) I very much suspect that the points values are supposed to guide you towards a vaguely accurate fleet as well as simply reflecting power; hence the reduced cost of chain shot to the French, to simulate the fact they used it quite a lot. The Portuguese had very few big ships, so their second rate ships are a little more expensive than they possibly should be.

The roleplaying game "Legend of the Five Rings" does something similar with advantage / disadvantage costs to simulate the tendency towards certain traits in the clans. I feel it's a fair comparison, since Trafalgar (like all the Warhammer Historical line) is aimed more towards gamers interested in simulation than in truly "fair" match-ups.

8) I think your interpretation of the Rules as Written (RaW) is correct here.
8.1) The Spaniard does indeed suffer diminishing returns; there's less stuff there to hit, after all. From what I gather historically the French and Spanish didn't tend to go for a complete demasting, just a severe reduction in mobility so they could circle the target pounding it into surrender or move in to board.
8.2) Indeed. A demasted ship is thoroughly screwed, for the most part.
8.3) An inability to make more than one turn or go anywhere fast is a serious disadvantage. With only one turn, it suddenly gets quite difficult to prevent your opponent moving for a raking shot - at which point you no longer have that redundancy, so that last mast is going down. Lack of speed makes it impossible to stop your opponent getting the weather gage, at which point he moves second and can place himself for a rake every time with the same result.
8.4) True, but with a rake suddenly you can be much more certain of a demasting - plus, there are several critical hit results that disallow repairs on the mast, so they'd be stuck. Even with a single point repair, you should have no trouble moving to a rake and removing the damn thing again.

I think you're underestimating how crippling low mobility can be, especially against a Frenchie with a streamlined hull.

I hope this reply's not too long winded!
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Re: Some questions after a thorough read of Trafalgar

Postby Sapphon » Thu May 21, 2009 2:10 pm

Hey, thanks for taking the time; I know it is a lot to read through. A lot of your interpretations make sense and will help me out in my first game tonight (woohoo)! I had just better hope that #4 does not come up =)
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Re: Some questions after a thorough read of Trafalgar

Postby Guy » Thu May 21, 2009 2:40 pm

There's an interesting article in June's Wargames Illustrated covering Trafalgar and some suggested amendments from David Manley. Might be worth a read?

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