Mark Campbell hosted a 24-player Close Action game this weekend, and chose a battle which could have happened in 1743 if the Swedish admiral had been more aggressive. Both fleets start with fourteen ships in line ahead, close hauled, with the wind coming over the starboard bow. The winds are light, the sea is calm. Both fleets are almost exactly the same strength; the Russians have slightly better morale, while the Swedes have the wind gage. It was a very well balanced battle.
I was selected to play the Swedish admiral commanding both the fleet as a whole and the center of our line, with subordinate admirals in charge of our van and rear squadrons. The admiral isn't usually in the lead ship, and the rest of the squadron is usually supposed to follow the lead ship, so that captain also has a lot of influence in determining where the squadron goes. In this game, the leader of our center squadron was Joshua.
As soon as the game started, we turned to get closer to the Russians and I signaled which ship I wanted Josh to attack. The enemy van faded away from us but kept going in the same general direction; my van got a little too far ahead of them but swung around and cut them off. At the same time Josh broke through the enemy line exactly where I had signaled him to, and the rest of the center squadron followed to attack. The Russian rear and part of the center, eight ships in total, were straggling behind, so I ordered the Swedish squadron, with five ships, to break off their attack. This meant that the ships actually in combat were 9 Swedes against 6 Russians, which is about the best that a commander could hope for. The enemy van fell back towards their center, which meant they passed by Josh's ship and pounded on it pretty hard; but our van came along in hot pursuit. Josh's ship was dismasted and immobile but as he put it, "I don't need to move, I have targets right here."
Around turn 9, both van squadrons passed through or just downwind of the action in the center, and the Swedish rear cut across and engaged the Russian rear. I sent a signal to the fleet "Blood for Odin!" and things rapidly devolved into a general melee--which means that ships were headed in every direction, almost everyone had a target at point blank range, and it was a tangled mess. A Swedish ship caught fire and tried to get in among the Russians, but before the fire spread to the enemy, the crew put it out and gave up the fight. Shortly thereafter a Russian--the one Josh originally attacked--hauled down his flag. One of our leeward ships got overeager and fell in among six Russians, but rescuers came in the nick of time and he was able to crawl off with the Swedish flag still flying. To windward, two Russians did the same thing but separated from their squadron, they got trapped among Swedes and couldn't escape. Some of the leeward Russians were starting to edge away from the battle when Mark called the game after twenty turns. I had to leave before the post-game conference but I believe the final tally was that both sides had several ships severely damaged, but the Swedes won the day and captured four Russians. It was a close battle, and very enjoyable.