By Rob Morgan
I’ve long enjoyed Science Fiction in wargaming, but quite often “fantasy” gets matters a little confused, or downright wrong. The martial qualities of wizards are a good example. My Grey Gandalf beats your Brown Radagast, that sort of thing. I have known a couple of gamers who have wizards and warlocks aboard their fleets, adding celestial firepower and, especially, changing the weather. (What is it with wizards and storms?)
I’d never thought of this form of the craft of belligerence seriously until I was in the arts library recently. In Archaeology, the bi-monthly journal of the American Archaeological Institute (March/April 2013), I found an article by Samir Patel, entitled “Pirates of the Original Panama Canal,” dealing with the discovery of the remains of a number of the ships of Captain — later Admiral — and Governor of Jamaica Sir Henry Morgan. The ships were lost during his astonishing raid in 1671.This was a substantial privateering expedition, of 36 ships, around 1,850 men and 250 guns.
According to the author, several ships, many quite small, were lost during the crossing of a reef in the attack on a fort. Aboard one of them was the fleet’s only woman, who sank without a trace. She was a “Bruja,” a local witch, and was, it seems, employed by Henry as part of his HQ staff! Of course, Henry was a Welshman from Tredegar, and perhaps knew the value of such matters in the remoter parts of the Americas. In any case, it seems that witches did have a role, potentially at least, in war at sea. Was it poor seamanship? Or didn’t the “Bruja” see the reef coming?