Our Black Seas range is soon set to expand with the introduction of galleys and xebecs to the game. These vessels will open up new mechanics and tactical options, whilst also allowing players to field entirely new fleet compositions -for example, squadrons of Barbary Corsairs raiding the North African coast. Will you raid trading routes or recruit some of these vessels for your national navies?
A Xebec is a two- or three-masted vessel usually found in the Mediterranean that was used mostly for trading. It had a long overhanging bowsprit, an aftset mizzen mast and lateen sails.
Favoured by Barbary Corsairs (Muslim pirates operating off the coast of North Africa) and Algerian Berber corsairs, early xebecs had two masts, whilst later examples had three. The ships were generally smaller than frigates of the period, both in terms of displacement and the number of guns they carried.
The modified ships were oftentimes faster than their victims owing to a narrower floor, and their lateen sails meant that it could sail at great speed close to the wind – lending them a great advantage in pursuit or escape. Xebecs armed in this way would mount between 300 and 400 men and would mount between 16 and 40 guns.
The design was not without its disadvantages; the ships fared poorly in rough weather and high seas, and the sails were vulnerable to enemy dismantling fire. A wise captain would therefore need to pick their battles wisely, and use their ship’s superior maneuverability to avoid unwinnable confrontations and instead prey on the weak – striking swiftly to overwhelm their prey and withdraw equally as quickly.
As well as uses in piracy there were some uses of xebecs in national navies as light warships – often as a direct counter to the pirates themselves. The advantages of speed and maneuverability did not go unnoticed by coastal traders either – especially those who favoured speed and draft over cargo capacity.
One of the most famous single-ship actions in all of naval history involved a Xebec. On 6 May 1801, the British sloop Speedy defeated the Spanish Xebec-frigate El Gamo. This engagement is the inspiration for many examples of literary naval fiction, perhaps most notably Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander.
We’ll be introducing both a squadron of three xebecs and a large xebec. You’ll find all the rules for using them in games of Black Seas on the ship cards included within the respective packs.
Though galleys were out of favour by the Age of Sail, they were still used. Galleys are very low, long, and slender ships that use banks of oars as their main mode of propulsion. Identified easily by their long hulls and shallow drafts, they still maintained sails that could be used should the winds prove favourable – though this never superseded manpower as the primary means of manoeuvrability.
In Black Seas, galleys can deploy oars and, if needed, move independently of the wind. While moving under oars, these ships can move as if at Battle Sails, no matter where the wind is coming from. However, as the crew is busy rowing, the ship will shoot with an additional -2 penalty. Galleys may also deploy their sails, following the same rules as all other sailing ships. However, in order to switch from sails to oars, or vice versa, a ship must spend one full Turn without shooting.
Originating in the Mediterranean by the early naval powers – notably the Greeks, Illyrians, Phoenicians, and Romans, the galley remained the predominantly used types of vessels used for both war and piracy in those seas until the end of the 16th century. Though the advent of the lateen sail used in hybrid vessels like xebecs had displaced the use of galleys by the 18th century, the vessels still saw some use. The last recorded battle where galleys took a significant part in the Mediterranean was at Matapan in 1717; however, the vessels enjoyed a brief resurgence in the wars of the 18th century between Russia, Sweden and Denmark.
We’ll be introducing both a squadron of three galleys and a large galley. You’ll find all the rules for using them in games of Black Seas on the ship cards included within the respective packs, as well as the Black Seas rulebook.