From: Sydney, Australia
seamanship can be learned, yes, but that is hard to do when blockaded in port. This was a huge issue for the French and Spanish. In the current game it is hard for GB to win as big a victory as they could historiclly. As for picking chits at sea, that has never seemed a good idea.
I agree entirely.
You might argue the point that if the Spanish and the French had better tactics, better leaders, better seamen, etc, they could have beaten the British but the simple fact is that they did not, and did not. Of all of the Spanish sailors at Cape St Vincent, less than 100 had been to sea previously (prior to the term of service which ended at the Cape), and the Spanish admiral Don José de Cordóba had never commanded a fleet in battle prior to the action (and didn't command a ship at all afterwards).
In terms of picking chits: I agree. The common formations at the time at sea were line, line, line or line. The British managed to win Cape St Vincent by forming line while the Spanish were still divided. Nelson routed the allied French/Spanish fleet at Trafalgar by *not* choosing line, or more correctly, by choosing a formation that Villeneuve had no answer to. The simple fact is that the British were able to win these battles by being better sailors, and being lead by better commanders -- in both battles they were outgunned, at Cape St Vincent by 2:1 (discounting the fact that in their panic the Spanish forgot to load some of their guns, and left the tompions in many others).
In terms of Varick's earlier points:
The Lake Erie battles were small ship actions -- sloops, brigs, etc. No ships of the line. Similarly there were a few frigate actions around 1812 where the Americans beat the British, but the Americans had zero battleships at the time and so battles between ships of the line were not fought. Foolishly or otherwise the British believed that it was "dishonourable" for a first rate to engage a frigate. The American Frigates were larger than the British frigates, being mostly 40 guns to 32 or fewer, and guns can count for a lot.
The British had a large and active merchant marine at the time, and the majority of British sailors were pressed or volunteered from this service, and hence knew how to sail a boat. The overwhelming majority of the French and Spanish sailors were pressed landsmen or from the army. This makes an enormous difference -- handling a ship under sail is hard enough, managing to do it while under fire takes experience, and the Spanish and the French did not have that.
The Americans, despite their lack of a navy prior to the 1790s but also had a merchant marine. They relied entirely on volunteer crew, however, which may have lead their crews to be smaller, but almost if not as experienced, and more committed.
The French prior to the revolution did have some experience at sea, but much of that experience had its head chopped off during the revolution. Hence the enormous gulf between 1781 and 1805. Yes, the British were beaten at sea but not by post-revolutionary France and not by Spain during the EIA period. Remember that the British and French combined their forces against the Netherlands in the 1680s and lost!
You might argue that had the French chosen better tactics at Aboukir Bay, anchored closer in or further out or even in a different location, things might have been different. If they had more experienced seamen things might have been different. If they had a better Admiral, things might have been different. However the simple fact is that the French had few experienced seamen, an Admiral of limited experience, few other officers of note (Villeneuve being one exception), and really had no clue where to anchor. The British were lead by Nelson who was both unorthodox and experienced (a dangerous combination) and the rest is history. You and I fighting the battle on a tabletop, given an appropriate set of naval combat rules and some counters and dice might come to a different outcome, which might even be fun. Brueys and his French sailors were never going to achieve that against Nelson -- Brueys had never commanded a fleet in battle before, and had never commanded a ship in a major naval engagement, despite having fought in several as a lieutenant or equivalent rank.
Anyway, back to the original discussion -- more realism is certainly not necessarily going to be more fun. Unless you are British and enjoy kicking puppies.
Dancing Bear has some good points, in particular, and to expand:
* Introduce proportional losses. The loss ratio between heavy to light ships should be in the ratio of heavy to light ships of the enemy. e.g. if you engage an enemy of 30 heavy and 10 light ships, and you lose 8 ships, then you must lose 6 heavy and 2 light ships. If you have insufficient heavy ships then you lose light ships in a 3:1 ratio -- so if you only had 5 heavy ships then you would lose those 5 heavy plus 5 light ships.
* Introduce proportional losses between nationalities. If you have 10 Swedes and 30 French fighting, and you lose 4 ships, then you must lose 1 Swede and 3 French.
* Reduce the effectiveness of light ships in battle. It's hard to put a number on this. If you're thinking realistically, a frigate with 24 x 6 pounder guns doesn't stand a chance against a first rate of, say, 80 x 24 pounders. The frigate will be blown out of the water before it even gets much into range. 2, 3, or even 4 frigates will suffer much the same fate. I'm not sure at what point the odds tip against a single heavy ship, although I note that the British first rates were reluctant to stand close to Cadiz because it was protected by gunboats mounting a single 24 pounder gun.
* Light ships don't actually move faster, but they do manoeuvre faster, and they are quicker to get in and out of port. In a strategic sense that probably means they cover more ground over the course of a month than a first rate does so perhaps some movement bonus is appropriate.
I would like to see a system which represented the British use of sloops and signal ships. e.g. a light fleet in a blockade box or other sea area, which successfully intercepts an enemy fleet, can call on another friendly fleet in an adjacent sea area which can then move into battle before it occurs. I'm not sure how you'd program that, though.