This is why we wargame...

Master Darbyshire prepares his ship for the Royalist attack.

After a work enforced pause which lasted three weeks, our Rupert on the Gambia campaign resumed last night. It brought one of those golden moments in gaming that always come unexpectedly. The campaign resumed on Day 9 of the thirty day odyssey with Rupert having failed to capture a grounded English slaver lying in a difficult position on the northern shore of the Gambia estuary.

This time and...

Last time... The first attack which failed.

Deserted by his French and Komban allies and forced to draw on further reserves from Swallow, he tried again. Although I set up the scenario, I had little optimism for a Royalist triumph, but then again, this is Prince Rupert.

Rupert (at the stern) approaches the target

Despite a furious defensive barrage he kicked the door down and boarded the target by climbing up the transom. His men did not follow. What unfolded was a 20+ round Donnybrook melee in which he eventually faced off the master of the slaver. Here is the transcript of the action from the campaign narrative:

The Prince was first to climb and without looking back, scaled the height of the transom and hauled himself onto the deck by the lantern stanchion. Fire from above had caused his company to falter and many fell into the water with some failing to surface. Rupert found himself alone and facing three crewmen. In a brief fight he killed one causing the others to cower terrified against the gunnel in his formidable shadow.  At that moment the imposing figure of Darbyshire lunged up from the weather deck. There ensued the most protracted and gruelling duel between these two officers.

Temperance lying high and dry on the shoal

During it, both were aided by the arrival of others. Darbyshire felled four men from Rupert’s own boat who scrambled over the stern at various times. The prince killed a bear of a man wielding a poleaxe who attempted to save Master Darbyshire. The quarterdeck became progressively slippery with gore as other mayhem occurred all around. Oblivious, the single combat drama played out astern. Even after Holmes’s men clawed their way aboard via bowsprit and foc’s’le doing bloody murder amongst the gun crews, the two leaders cut, slashed, thrust and parried in a seemingly endless struggle. Eventually, the deck of Temperance fell silent as all resistance ceased and the few remaining slavers surrendered almost to no one. Most of the Royalists were also incapacitated and the fighting simply petered out.

Sixty musketeers supported from the shore. Most were lost or ran from the guns.

The wounded and exhausted men watched their leaders relentlessly battle on. Darbyshire was bleeding heavily from a leg wound which impaired movement.  After an extraordinary period during which both men evinced equal skill and courage, Rupert scored a second significant strike the pain from which caused his worthy opponent to drop from exhaustion and bleeding out. Temperance was Rupert’s. As the first man aboard and weathering all comers, he had distracted enough men to allow Holmes’s detachment to gather in the fo’c’sle and sweep down the weather deck.

The prince approaches

When Darbyshire was revived with brandy he was found to have a deep gash to his left thigh and a straight through wound to his right side. He had five other shallower ugly and bloody cuts. The prince had received several slashes and admitted afterward that never in his life had he been in such a fight. Bowing magnanimously to his prostrate and bloodied adversary, Rupert complimented him on his outstanding skill with a blade, his courage and above all, his stamina. 

He did what? Rupert scaled the transom and attacked alone.

He promised Darbyshire would be attended by his servants and if able, would dine with the prince aboard Swallow. He offered him captaincy of the prize Defiance if he swore fealty to King Charles. Perhaps the slave-master was weak from blood loss, delirious from the brandy and exhaustion or simply one of the world’s pragmatists. Weakly, he croaked God save King Charles! Before falling into a faint. The Royal squadron had a new ship and a brave new captain.

The worthy opponent - Darbyshire - a master swordsman

There are many more challenges in Turn 17 not least, Prince Maurice's provocation of the Kombans resulting in an attack on the Royalist careenage some miles south of Temperance, a water shortage, an unfulfilled commitment by Rupert to support a Komban expedition into Mandinkan territory and, three large well armed ships sailing past St Andrew's island and heading out to sea.... Loop back to see how the princes are faring.