We've recently begun a campaign recreating the adventures of the itinerant Royalist Fleet on the West African coast in 1652. Under Prinz Ruprecht von der Pfalz known more commonly in Engish as Rupert of the Rhine, a small battered squadron 'privateered' between the Islas Cabo Verde and The Gambia for some weeks.
I have manipulated a few facts but nothing too outrageous. We have allowed the Royalists to keep their battered flagship Constant Reformation which in reality sank some months earlier off the Azores. The players are running two ships each and are responsible for all aspects of victualling, maintenance and arming. Crew welfare is also a priority. The two princes Maurice and Rupert must survive for a month (each turn is half a day), accrue enough wealth to make the transatlantic voyage to the Caribbean where they hope to link up with Royalist colonies and continue the fight to restore the crown and punish the Regicides.That is actually what happened historically.
|Entering The Gambia|
We are running the campaign via TEAMS calls and video link with elements of role play and tabletop action punctuated by regular correspondence to manage events and supply. The first five turns have been extremely eventful. The limping, slow, badly degraded Royalist ships have been on the run from England for over three years. They are falling apart. That means, ever encounter is a challenge even against inferior opposition.
|Confrontation with Arab pirates 2nd March|
In an early clash on March 1st, a weak flotilla of Berber corsairs managed to slip through Rupert's ships (the prince was miles off the action as his flagship is held together with string). Although Prince Maurice showed great bravery and captured three enemy vessels - all were empty and in the process, one of the Royalist's best maintained ships was severely damaged.
|Confrontation with Berber corsairs 1st March|
A Mexican stand off with a Dutch pirate soon afterward resulted in the English hesitating to commit to combat. On March 2nd a chance encounter with two French ships off the mouth of the Gambia river forged an unlikely alliance which was immediately put to the test when the European flotilla was molested by other Arab vessels. The French did all the fighting, and consequently took all the prizes.
|Revenge of Whitehall (42), Honest Seaman (28), Swallow (40)|
The English ships being so battered, have sought a careenage on the western shore of the great river and now are conducting extensive maintenance on three of their four vessels. The bold prince has gone inland to seek the help of the local potentate the King of Kombo.
|Let's find the King of Kombo!|
Threats, events , riches and uncertainty lurk around every corner.
The land elements of the campaign will be handled through Donnybrook and if any larger battles take place these will be catered for through Beneath the Lily Banners.
|Prinz Ruprecht and his Shore Guard.|
We have it all before us and with legitimate involvment from Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, French, Berbers and Courlanders on the great river, it is shaping up to be a really exciting gaming journey.
|Prinz Ruprecht von der Pfalz, Prinz Mauritz, Captain Robert Holmes, Captain John Mennes.|
A little extract from the campaign narrative as recorded post events...
March 2nd 1652
Although three pilots travelled with the English, two Portuguese hired at Cabo Verde and the newly captured navigator from the corsair convoy, it was impossible to be entirely prepared for the huge shifting silt banks which moved with the surging tides at the river’s mouth. Hazardous areas were pointed out to the English but the risk of grounding on unseen shallows was ever present.
|Captaine Verot's Sírene single handedly fights off an Arab pirate flotilla|
Initially they made good progress tacking gingerly into the south-south easterly wind. Verot’s Sírene was a weatherly ship and pulled away from her escort which in turn was well ahead of the labouring English. The machinations of the Arab vessels bewildered the Europeans. Most of the square riggers had moved into the channel and anchored across its width. One had in fact, run aground on an uncharted shoal, but this was not immediately obvious. The various galleys bunched behind the two largest of the anchored vessels. Rupert’s ships soon found themselves in considerable difficulty and making little progress. The French became increasingly isolated. After about two and a half hours, Sírene was almost surrounded by six or seven of the Arabs. One opened fire but missed, another took a run at her starboard side failing to secure lines and leaving herself at the mercy of the privateer. Verot ordered his guns to fire and the small vessel disappeared in a violent inferno as its powder exploded. She lay barely thirty yards off, and the strength of the blast scorched the starboard side of Sírene.
This was as nothing compared with the mayhem it unleashed amongst its fellows. Packed tightly together and quite obviously preparing to rush the French, three more of the flimsy craft sunk as debris and the force of the blast capsized or ruptured them. A further two were so badly damaged that their crews jumped into the river. The entire affair was concluded in less than a quarter of an hour. Three ships had sunk or capsized, two were wrecked and abandoned. The grounded ketch had gotten herself off the shoal but torn her hull open in the process and rolled over. The two pinnaces anchored in the channel together with two small galleys which had been about to participate in the mobbing of Sírene, quickly surrendered and the bizarre encounter concluded abruptly. Sírene had fired a single broadside of thirteen guns, caused a chain reaction and compelled the entire Arab flotilla to disintegrate. The pinnace Congre came up, but all of Rupert’s ships were still far to the north, struggling painfully up the channel. Verot searched his prizes and quickly realized this was not the slaver squadron, but a rather inept group of corsair vessels, void of anything of value and heading out of the Gambia empty handed. He had however, acquired two smart pinnaces and two galleys with only superficial damage sustained during the eruption.
When finally, the princes arrived, the sun was setting. They congratulated the French captain on his sangfroid and success. Maurice rather tactlessly tried to persuade Verot to gift the comely 16-gun Am Nasir to Rupert but the French officer demurred and offered to sell it to the English for a bargain price.