wooden ships & iron men   

Updated Nov. 23, 2012

2012 WBC Report     

 2013 Status: pending December Membership Trial Vote

Dale Long, NJ

2012 Champion

Event History
1991    Jim Truit      23
1992    John Boisvert      29
1993    John Boisvert      36
1994    William Rohrbeck      28
1995    Larry York      21
1996    David Cross      16
1997    David Metzger      20
1998    Michael Brannaman      20
1999    Paul Risner       8
2000    David Cross     16
2001    Curtis Dietrich     26
2002    William Rohrbeck     23
2003    William Rohrbeck     27
2004     Arthur Davis     22
2005     William Rohrbeck     19
2006    William Rohrbeck     21
2007     William Rohrbeck     14
2008     Evan Hitchings     16
2009    Derek Whipple     19
2010    Tim Hitchings     25
2011    George Deutsch     20
2012    Dale Long     22


Rank  Name              From  Last  Total
  1.  William Rohrbeck   NH    07    116
  2.  Tim Hitchings      DE    12    101
  3.  Evan Hitchings     DE    12     60
  4.  Keith Hunsinger    OH    07     50
  5.  Arthur Davis       MI    04     41
  6.  Dale Long          NJ    12     36
  7.  George Deutsch     MD    11     31
  8.  Derek Whipple      WA    10     28
  9.  Paul Owen          VA    12     20
 10.  Larry York         CA    02     20
 11.  Curtis Dietrich    FL    01     20
 12.  David Cross        NJ    06     18
 13.  Ron Glass          FL    09     12
 14.  Wade Fowble        MD    03     12
 15.  Joseph Belyeu      AL    11     10
 16.  Rob Doane          MA    08     10
 17.  Paul Risner        FL    99     10
 18.  Benoit Groulx      qc    04      9
 19.  Mark McCandless    LA    03      9
 20.  Stephen Field      IL    02      9
 21.  Bill Thomson       TX    10      8
 22.  Bill Place         PA    12      6
 23.  Isaac Clizbe       VA    10      6
 24.  Joe Pabis          VA    05      6
 25.  Kevin Boles        AL    04      6
 26.  Ed Majeski         IL    02      6
 27.  Malcolm Smith      VA    12      4
 28.  Mark Sciera        NY    09      4
 29.  Kathy Hitchings    DE    08      4
 30.  Verity Hitchings   DE    05      4
 31.  Michael Bergt      FL    03      3
 32.  Joseph Abrams      CT    00      3
 33.  Stuart Smart       NY    99      3
 34.  Robert McKinney    VA    11      2
 35.  Brian Wool         DE    09      2
 36.  Keira Herzfeld     DE    08      2
 37.  Stephen Shedden    TN    07      2
 38.  Joe Doughan        NJ    05      2
 39.  Jim Jordan         MD    04      2
 40.  Francis Czawlytko  MD    01      2

2012 Laurelists                                          Repeating Laurelists:

Paul Owen, VA

Evan Hitchings, DE

Bill Place, PA

Malcolm Smith, VA

Tim Hitchings, DE

Past Winners

William Rohrbeck, NH
1994, 2002-03, 2005-07

Larry York, CA

David Cross, VA
1996, 2000

David Metzger, NY

Michael Brannaman. SC

Paul Risner, FL

Curtis Dietrich, FL

Arthur Davis, MI

Evan Hitchings, DE

Derek Whipple, WA

Tim Hitchings, DE

George Deutsch, MD

Dale Long, NJ

Paul Owen vs Malcolm Smith

GM Tim Hitchings oversees his finalists.

Master & Commander ...

In Nelson's Shadow ...

The tried-and-true format of allowing players their choice of matches with one ship, two ships, or three ships per side continues to please the discriminating WSM player. Also, the inconvenience of filling out ship logs is eliminated at every stage of the tournament by providing players with ready-made logs prepared by the GM. Just minutes after entering the room, players can sit down and play, trading broadside for broadside. The free form format allows players the flexibility of scheduling matches at all hours, every day of the week until Saturday.

Often, a tournament will have a surprise player who stands out, playing better than expected. This time the midshipman of the year was Bill Place. Here's Bill's commentary:

"'Yes, I did fire my cannon on both sides of my ship the last turn.... What? I can only load the cannon on one side of the ship for the next turn?' Thus I discovered in a simple format the challenge of movement and battle faced by the warships of the 18th and 19th centuries.

"I had played Wooden Ships and Iron Men once two years ago for the first time to get a feel for the game. Like many people, I have it sitting on my shelf at home, having never played it. After not playing last year, I gave it another shot at this year's WBC. After the demo, I played the one-on-one ship scenario whereby the game usually ended when one ship sank the other. I managed two wins and lost the third. During all this time I was getting a better handle on how to move ships no matter the wind direction, relearning (over and over, mind you) that if you swing the stern (i.e. - the back) of the ship to the left to change direction, you're actually turning to face the right, what battle sails are, etc."

Every year, Saturday features the "Fleet Action", multiplayer combat in a scenario fueled by history and the GM's imagination. Here's commentary by Paul Owen.

"The Russian fleet awoke in a blissful fog that morning. I had anchored my squadron of four ships in a column - a frigate in front, the two SOLs in single file behind it, and a second frigate in the rear - such that the fort was to my port side and my starboard broadsides pointed to the harbor opening to my right. We noticed dim outlines of large ships entering the harbor in the fog and my lookouts thought nothing odd of the fact that they were approaching in formation. ''British merchants' must have been the explanation.

"Unexpectedly, the fog thinned to reveal that the six approaching ships were Swedish men-of-war under the command of Malcolm Smith. A gunshot warning brought all crews to quarters. The first order of business was to reload my starboard broadsides so as to get a shot on the approaching enemy. I was able to get a few volleys out, aided by the stability of my ships at anchor, but as I turned next to the task of unfurling sails in preparation to get underway, the Swedes interleaved themselves among my ships in a manner worthy of Lord Horatio Nelson and raked my rigging mercilessly.

"There was no time to weigh anchor or switch to springs. Instead, my SOLs and rear frigate cut anchor and got underway immediately. My lead frigate had already lost two masts in the opening minutes of the battle, so I deemed that there was no sense in having her cut anchor; she'd be adrift before long anyway. Instead, she stayed at anchor in hopes of getting a shot at a careless passing Swede. But my enemy unloaded volley after volley of chain shot on her, so that she was denuded not only of rigging, but of her entire crew. She was indeed a ghost ship of the Czar's fleet!

"My lead frigate and SOL did manage to concentrate broadsides on the hull of a Swedish ship and force her to strike her colors. Another Swede sailed between my SOLs too aggressively and turned up the line between my column and the fort. My alert crew managed to grapple her and hold her fixed in front of the fort's guns, which pounded away at her hull until she struck as well. So two Swedish SOLs were out of action.

"However, the relentless Swedish barrages on my rigging had taken their toll. Three of my four ships were completely dismasted by the end of the day, though hulls and guns were nearly intact. One Russian SOL was still underway, barely, giving as good as she was getting. Then, out of the fog, came reinforcements - Dale 'Dan' Long commanding another squadron of Russian SOLs who lit into the Swedes and forced a third to strike her colors. My brave Russian crews held fast to the remains of their vessels as the Swedes had to settle for the damage they'd done.

"The GM awarded a narrow victory to the Russians, although I have to say it was a Pyrrhic victory indeed."

Here's Paul Owen telling of his semifinal match:

"Frigate Frenzy -- For the semifinal, we were each given the opportunity to choose from among three orders of battle: two elite-crewed American frigates, including one 44-gun ship, three crack-crewed British frigates, or four French frigates - one crack and three average.

"It didn't take long for me to eliminate the French option, since the average crews would significantly degrade overall gunfire performance and since four ships would be considerably difficult to keep together to focus firepower. But I seriously agonized over the American and British options. In the end, I decided that the third British frigate would outweigh the advantages of the American elite crews, especially once I'd done some damage to the 44-gun frigate and mitigated her firepower advantage.

"Interestingly, Evan chose the American option, and we were both pleased that we had chosen different orders of battle so that we would truly test which combination would win out. Like me, Evan had agonized between the American and British options and had selected quality over quantity."

"I decided early that my first priority would be to maintain my line and keep my firepower concentrated as tightly as possible to offset the advantage of the superior American crews. We engaged in some fairly tricky maneuvering early in the battle and, around Turn 9, I actually reversed the order of my line in a series of simultaneous turns to starboard so that I could maintain formation while reversing course to maintain contact with the passing enemy. I was fortunate to catch him separating his frigates, and before long I was able to pound away at one while holding the other at bay. My notes are incomplete on the actual damage inflicted during the battle, but I believe I demoralized the crews of both American ships, which negated their advantage of quality. At that point, it was all about numbers, and in that I had the clear advantage. I may have forced one of the Americans to strike, and in the event the battle was mine."

This was a rematch between Paul and Evan. In 2011, they had faced off in the semifinals and Evan won. This year, Evan saw that the sun was still rising over the British Empire, and conceded, stating that it was one of the best games of Wooden Ships & Iron Men he'd ever played.

Here's Bill Place's account of his semifinal date with Dan Long:

"I managed to get into the semifinals, but I knew I was in trouble because I would have to play with multiple ships. With three British ships, I managed to run two of them together on the opening move. Thankfully, they did not get tangled, but it slowed them nonetheless. '

[The GM can sympathize. In his early years, he made the same mistake many times. Back to Bill...]

"Things got a wee bit better but it was decided that I should probably get in close to the four French ships, as none of them ran into each other. We pounded away at each other and, even with my inexperience, none of my ships were sunk, although one was taken as a prize. I lost the battle but gained experience.

"So, what did I learn? Despite its age, this game is fun -- easy to learn, hard to master. I learned how painfully slow ships can be when facing into the wind (wind direction can be thought of as "terrain" for you landlubbers to either speed up your ship or slow it down), that doubleshot works better in close quarters, and a crack crew can even make me look like I know what I'm doing. Shoot from afar or get in close to grapple and board. Be the captain or pirate you always wanted to be with a sense of realism. If you can spare an hour or two at the most (similar to other games at WBC), this game is well worth the time to learn and play. Plenty of support is given by the GM whose enthusiasm (and patience for us inexperienced) knows no bounds. Give it a go next year, both kids and adults, and I think you'll agree that this game has stood the test of time. And thank the GM for keeping it alive."

I swear that I didn't put Bill up to saying that last bit.

Ship-of-the-Line Slugfest--The Final pitted Paul Owen against Dan Long, who had lost a squeaker to Evan in the 2008 Final and now was back for another try. As with the semis, the Final offered each admiral a menu of prepared squadrons. This time, it was ships of the line from Britain, Russia, France, and Spain. Surprising the GM, who expected the varied approaches seen in the semis, both players chose the British squadron, composed of two elite 74s and two crack 64s. Here's Paul:

"My thought was to keep the line intact again, but there was one element of my usual tactics that I eschewed in this battle. I elected not to start with chainshot to knock down a mast but fired exclusively at my enemy's hull for the duration of the battle. Allowing my opponent complete maneuverability would prove to be a costly mistake, as Dan made full use of it to his advantage. Indeed, he successfully knocked down at least one mast from my lead ship, which forced the rest of my squadron to come out of line to bypass the flagship and attempt to regroup and get back into the battle. My force became disorganized before long. I had two ships in a downwind tail chase after one opposing ship, while my flagship was surrounded by three enemies blasting one broadside after another into her creaking hull. My fourth ship tried desperately to support the flagship but was woefully out of position and did not bring effective fire to bear until late in the battle. We both felt that I was inflicting damage as good as I was getting, so we believed the battle to be close; it was certainly a hard-fought iron punching match."
"No ship in the battle struck her colors, so it came down to points based on total damage inflicted. In this respect, despite our perception of parity, Dan emerged the clear winner with a score of 132 to 92. It was a well-deserved championship for a terrific opponent. I look forward to a rematch next year and another opportunity to seek victory at sea."

Dan's win was all the more impressive as he wasn't feeling well but sailored on for the win. Dan's in good company, as Admiral Nelson was known to suffer bouts of seasickness.

 GM      Tim Hitchings  [11th Year]   330 Kemper Dr, Newark, DE 19702 
    hitchings@juno.com   302 593-4404

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