The Mechanics of Combat in PATE

In PATE, players represent squadron and fleet commanders (admirals) rather than the captains of individuals ships. Therefore, they make decisions about the tactics of the fleet, but do not control individual ship movements. (This is necessary to allow the battles to resolve in one turn). During a PATE battle, players must make six decisions; whether to initiate, accept, or evade battle, whether to fight at range or at close quarters, whether to aim at enemy rigging or hulls, whether to maintain line ahead or attempt to break the enemy's line, and whether to break off battle and, if they are in coastal waters, whether to run to harbor or to open sea. Based on those decisions, combat occurs, the loser must flee, and ships are damaged or sunk, This document explains the mechanics of PATE combat and how the orders players send affect what happens in a naval battle.

Joining battle

At the start of the battle, ships have the chance to initiate battle, accept battle, or evade it. No battle occurs unless at least one ship selects "Engage" or "Run Past" for its combat order to bring on battle. In harbors and coastal waters with onshore wins, any ship can engage any other ship. In sea areas and in coastal waters not with onshore winds, a frigate cannot engage an enemy ship of the line, nor an enemy transport group if there is a ship of the line allied to the transport group present. If any ship does engage another, then PATE determines which ships, if any, fight in the battle. There are three special situations for evasion:
If none of the special cases apply, then evasion is determined as follows. Ship with "Evade" selected for its combat option attempt to evade; ships with "Accept","Engage", or "Run Past" selected do not.

Determining battle positions

Once the ships that will fight are decided, PATE then determines the range at which the battle will occur,which side will be to windward, and whether ships will fight in lines, or lines will be broken. Battles in harbors are always at close quarters. Otherwise, if all ships want to fight at range or at close quarters, then it is done. If all ships on one side want to fight at range and some or all on the other side want to fight at close quarters, then those wishing to close may try. The chance is high if the closing ships have windward gauge and low if they have leeward gauge, and also depends on ship quality. If both sides have at least one ship trying to close, then if a side has at least half as many ships closing as the opponents, then its ships fighting at range do so automatically, otherwise the opponents have the above chance to close with the ships fighting at range in addition to those fighting at close quarters.
In most battles, the ships are in two groups, one to windward and one to leeward, in which case the group to windward fights from windward. In some cases, groups of ships are in a variety of positions from windward to leeward. For example, if two groups of French ships and two groups of British ships all arrive at a port, it may be that a British group is furthest to windward, a French group next furthest, the second British group next, and the second French group furthest to leeward. In such a case, whichever side has the group furthest to leeward is the one that fights from leeward, and the other side fights from windward.
Once range and wind position are established, ships at close quarters which want to break the enemy line may do so as long as each side has at least three ships at close quarters. If all ships on both sides are trying to break the line, then the battle becomes a general melee and no adjustments occur. If not, then each side that has at least three ships trying to break the line gets a chance to do so. If they succeed, the combat power of the ships breaking the enemy line is increased 50%; if they fail, their combat power is decreased 50%.

Battle outcomes

Once the tactical situation is established, we calculate total strength on both sides. Ship strength is determined by:

135 for FL, 100 for SL, 25 for FR, 0 for TR
If crew is below 70%, reduce strength by 2.5% for each 1% below, falling to 0 at 30% crew
If at close quarters, add 5 for each 100 Marines
Quality modifier: -30% for Very Poor to +30% for Excellent, doubled at close quarters
Experience modifier: Bonus is square root(experience)/10 + 0.9 at range, doubled at close quarters (that is, square root(experience)/5 + 0.8). Examples: 0 = -10%, 1 = 0%, 4=+10%, 9=+20%, 16=+30%, 25=+40%, 36=+50%, and doubled at close quarters
+10% for aiming hull, +10% for windward, -10% for closing
Pre-existing hull damage: -10% for 1 point, -20% for 2 points, -40% for 3 points, -60% for 4 points
Pre-existing rigging damage: -5% for 1 point, -10% for 2 points, -20% for 3 points, -40% for 4 points, -60% for 5 points
+33% if breaking the line has succeeded, -25% if it has failed
Run Past orders: -66.7%

Shore batteries are worth 100 times the port's defense rating if intact, half that amount if damaged, with no further modifications. Shore batteries direct half of their fire at hulls, and half of it at rigging. The side with the greater total strength is more likely to win, but is not guaranteed to win.

The amount of damage and crew loss depends on the total strength of both sides and the fraction of ships at close quarters (more damage likely in close quarters battles). The chance of a ship being captured depends on how much damage it has taken, with rigging damage counting more than hull damage, the amount of rigging damage the opposing fleet has taken, whether it has Run Past orders, and on whether the battle was fought at close quarters.

Page maintained by Stephen Schmidt. Last updated 12/25/18.