You may find the first part of this session report here: “Right Fierce & Terrible – Sluys 1340” Extended Session Report by Volko Ruhnke, Part 2. Enjoy!
In game’s sequence of play, a chaotic Sally Phase ensues after all commands have acted. Sally represents the varying energy of close-in fighting. Each side rolls a die for who will conduct archery, then for boarding, finally for melee. But any tied rolls end the whole phase. Up to now, the first sally rolls have happened to cancel the phase—but not this turn.
In sally, archery occurs only within hexes—no adjacent shots. No ships move or grapple, but marines and leaders may board, that is, move between already grappled ships. Then melee may follow, but again only within hexes, leaving out the inherent melee strengths of adjacent squadrons.
Here’s what happened, as each side got to use bows to thin enemy troops already engaged aboard the same decks, got to reposition their men among joined vessels, and finally got to carry on the hand-to-hand fight.
On the French left, Béhuchet’s mariners already aboard some captured balingers liberate them (“A”), bucking up French morale. But nearby, archery onboard the barges that Béhuchet had sought to capture in person take a toll of his accompanying men-at-arms. He retreats with them to the defense of their own ships (“B”)—as their English opponents follow. Melee there, with the Constable’s back to the rails, reduce his fighting men to the last few!
On the right, Barbavera faces enemy reinforcement from behind, as the Englishmen who captured his galleys can now join the knights already on him. To delay those worsening odds, he leads his knights to board the English nefs adjacent and make a stand there. King Edward pursues him, as the English men-at-arms follow up from the captured Genoese vessels.
Melee aboard these English ships goes no better for Barbavera, who appears to be making the last stand of his career. But he remains in the fight, and Edward’s knights too are falling (turn 4 ends). (The next image shows the knights units with Edward and Barbavera each with a skull symbol: reduced in the sally melee to its last step of strength.)
Now the second-line Frenchmen spy a chance yet to save the day along the Sluys shore. The enemy’s grappled captive ships nearest them are no longer well garrisoned: the English troops have gone to aid their King. And Barbavera’s jump onto the nefs has put him and his knights in reach of French ships.
Three French squadrons come about again to ride the tide back into the enemy mass. They at once liberate some French galleys and grapple onto the captured Genoese vessels.
But the balingers intending to offer Barbavera his getaway have not yet grappled themselves to the English ships—and the corsair’s time has run out. In the next minutes, the English from Thomas will join Edward. Overwhelmed even as his would-be rescuers watch from but yards off, Barbavera will have no choice but to submit, captive to the King of England.
Béhuchet’s left hook too becomes a desperate matter of captives and rescue. English knight Sir Walter the Mawney’s arrival was to have swung affairs to Edward’s cause. Instead, Mawney serves as convenient target for Béhuchet’s powerful cogs (“A”) and soon will require aid himself. Nearby, the Constable’s own person falls captive to an English counterattack. His reserves rush in by oar and sail to liberate him (“B”).
Béhuchet’s rescuers, while fresh, are less well armored as his captors. The Englishmen holding the Constable of France see an opportunity in the boarding to trade their smaller prizes—mere balingers—for castled nefs now grappled alongside. They drag their prisoner to more these defensible decks. This tactical maneuver, however, also carries them further into the French mass of ships and away from any friendly reinforcement. With Béhuchet still captive and Mawney still free, French morale verges on collapse (turn 5 ends). (A die roll above a side’s morale at turn’s end loses the game.)
As Mawney makes his stand and Béhuchet’s mariners pursue his captors, the English make a move in the center. Admiral Quiéret, having secured his captive opposite commander, Morley, rearward aboard Riche de Leure, has returned forward to help defend his other valuable prizes, his captured English castled cogs. But the longbows all about have worn his knights down. English men-at-arms now climb aboard.
As the hand-to-hand brawl rages on the French left, Edward’s strong squadrons seek to punish Barbavera’s would-be relief. They grapple and hold a few ships. But most of the French right pulls away again.
And one French squadron of sleek oared balingers instead plunges through a gap in the English line to pursue some captured nefs as the English sought to sail them away. The balingers catch, ram, and sink the already severely damaged prizes—denying them to enemy—then disengage themselves unscathed from their sinking quarry.
In the game, ramming success damages the target squadron, reducing its melee and speed. Another damage becomes severe. A third sinks it. Here, the English had lost 2 points of morale for English capture of the 1-castle nef squadron. The nefs are now English, so sinking them subtracts 1 point from English morale. Because the balingers’ ram grappled them, they check for damage as the nefs sink.)
Upon the great floating field of battle to the French left, Béhuchet’s plan at last bears its fruit. The French seize Mawney. As English men-at-arms board to his rescue, French crews cut the grapples behind them.
Quiéret, reinforced from his own cogs, is holding at bay the English boarders of his great prize ships.
Nearby, Béhuchet’s captors, surrounded, give up. The Constable is at liberty again. These reverses send a shock through the English fleet. Suddenly, it is Edward’s cause that appears in grave doubt!
(Turn 5 activations conclude, and it’s on to the Sally Phase.)
The fighting for Mawney and his ships has set some afire. Longbowmen who boarded alongside English men-at-arms aim at French knights at close range. But in the excitement, smoke, and confusion, the captive Mawney takes a friendly arrow and falls dead. (Sally archery in Mawney’s hex causes a casualty check, killing him on a roll of 12, for 1 to English morale. Had the French earlier executed him to avoid his liberation, it would have been they who suffered 1 morale for the loss of ransom.)
Mawney’s cogs, at least, are recovered. Nearby, the cogs that Quiéret had captured early in the fight are proving a tough bastion. The English men-at-arms attacking there pull back to catch their breath and give time for their own longbowmen to do their work. Toward Sluys, the lines are now some distance apart, after a general French disengagement. There, Edward captures the last French ships opposing him. The gains help English commanders keep their nerve and keep the fleet fighting (collapse roll of 5 at English morale 5).
The End Phase in Right Fierce, in addition to collapse, fire, wind, and current checks, enables each side to rally one unengaged unit (flip a reduced squadron or marine counter to full), plus do so for one more unit stacked with each leader, never captured or liberated squadrons. Here, both sides have used the momentary disengagement to recover here and there. (Turn 5 ends.)
The French dead floating around the ships visibly outnumber the English. Sensing that the crisis of the battle is upon them, the English survivors collect themselves for a final push. Mawney’s men-at-arms board and secure the French cogs that had delivered his captors (“A”). To the French right, rallied Englishmen reboard Quiéret’s bastion under a hail of arrows to carry on their torment of the Admiral of France (“B”).
The French reserve of manpower is spent. Weakened squadrons begin to disperse and row for the North Sea to escape capture (“A”). At this moment, Edward slams his unengaged command of fresh cogs, nefs, and marines and captured galleys into the French center. The enemy can manage only a limited blocking action (“B”). But both sides can see that the other may break first, so neither yet gives in. (See “C”; there is no collapse if both sides are at less than 6 morale 5 but above 0. Turn 6 ends.)
As Quiéret holds English boarders at bay in a bloody standoff, Edward’s fresh men capture two more French squadrons, castled barges and nefs (“A”). The momentum of the fight becomes clear. Absent some tactical triumph, the individual ships of what that morning was Quiéret and Béhuchet’s fleet will cut away and race for survival as best each can. And no such triumph offers itself.
At morale 0 (“B”), the French to survive must by the End Phase either add morale via capture of a leader or 2-castle squadron or by liberating a French leader or squadron. Or they must push English morale down also to 0 for a drawn battle. None of that is possible: the English win the Battle of Sluys!
With the English still a coherent force (barely, as French parting blows knock English morale down to just 2) capture and destruction of French ships, crews, and fighting men will play out into the night. Edward has wrecked any French capacity to invade England. But his fleet too is ravaged, so French naval depredations along the Channel are almost certain to continue.
I found Right Fierce & Terrible easy to learn and exciting from start to finish. Jerry’s mechanics are unadorned and intuitive. Gameplay feels like that of Richard Berg’s accessible War Galley (1999), but more varied and convincing. Within setup areas given for each scenario, players have great freedom in the arrangement of their various squadrons, marines, and leaders. Whence players sail and row their ships will determine the shape of the battle. As French mass parries English striking power, the strategic and tactical choices remain intriguing. A jewel of a design! –vfr