Our first clash between two large fleets, the Dwarven Admiral Redhammer in His Admiral's Ship with seven squadrons met the Elven Sea Lord Kelven at a small group of islands in the Helgath Sea. Each fleet's strength was just shy of 1000 points, but having four hours late on a Sunday night to play, both players looked forward to resolving their largest sea battle to date. We placed the 3x5 board on the kitchen counter so we could stand or sit on stools rather than crouch over the coffee table in the living room where we usually play. The terrain was placed using the MATS method which was new to us and created some random placement of large and small islands. The smallest island in the center, where only a pair of palm trees grow from an exposed sand bar, is home to a hermit long ago shipwrecked; he was, at first, excited to see ships on the horizon and the prospect of rescue, but joy soon turned to dismay at the sound of the boom of Dwarven cannon shot and the crack of Elven lightning bolt.
The Sea Lord smelled the exhaust of the Bellows Airships, as they were upwind of the Elven Fleet, ascending above the trees on the main island. He had a command sent to his nephew, and the Commodore executed a perfect maneuver to synchronize fire from all four frigates, green flashes of light arcing to the lead airship and sending a shudder through the frame of the gas bag. It was one thing to trust a dragon circling above the fleet, the Sea Lord thought to himself, a creature that has a will of it's own, but quite another thing to trust a mere machine in the sky, filled with explosive gases. He turned to the Ship's Mage. The old elf in Red & Gold attire stood with his arms folded, eyes closed, clearly concentrating his mystical energies. The Sea Lord returned his attention to the action ahead, confident he could win this battle against stinking machines without the aid of magic. "At the least you could petition the spirits of the air," he muttered, not expecting the Mage to respond, "to change the course of the wind in our favour." But at least half the fleet, including his new flagship, could sail in any direction despite the wind. And he smiled with the confidence that this would prove an advantage the Dwarven admiral would underestimate.
The Dwarven Admiral Redhammer cocked his elbows over the handles of the periscope on the command deck inside his flagship as it came around the south side of the main island separating the two fleets. He saw the Elven fleet had turned to battle line and were firing broadsides of lightning canon against the pair of airships flying over the island. But he had a trick up his sleeve: his best squadron of cruisers turned to firing positions off the port bow of the Admiral's ship and fired three full broadsides against the lead ship in the Elven frigate squadron. The frigate didn't stand a chance against Dwarven weight of lead, even at long range, and the ship went up in a blast of flame and splinters, raining carnage down on the other frigates, throwing the squadron into disarray. Redhammer grinnned at the flash of the explosion. He knew the frigates would no longer be a threat in the battle.
One remaining Assault Destroyer remaining intact, the crew witness to the slaughter of all the marines aboard the red veteran cruiser, the commander gave the order to turn hard to port and set all sail to escape from this part of the ocean tinged red with Elven blood. Sea Lord Kelven, in the flagship to the south of the islands, realized his mistake in taking the fight to the enemy frigate and destroyer squadrons in the narrows while the enemy flagship and cruisers tore apart the frigates and destroyers on his flank. He ordered all propulsion ceased and anchor dropped, allowing the gun leftenants to unleash yet another broadside against the Dwarven frigates hammered among the rocks. Overhead the dragon gave another war cry and rammed the Bellows airship, killing itself in the collision as a propellor blade caught and severed an artery in the dragon's neck, the winged creature dropping into the water below. Fortunately the battleship Rock Tortoise, not far behind the flagship, was able to fire a salvo which tore through the envelope of the airship and sent the collapsing frame down into the water.
The squadron of new Elven destroyers, able to move directly into the wind and charging through the enemy fleet to engage Redhammer's fleet at point blank range, managed to shake the confidence of the enemy crews, not to mention put some holes in Dwarven ships. Two Crow Destroyers were quickly sunk, but the third was able to turn with a parting broadside and retreat around the lighthouse rock to ram one of the last remaining Dwarven destroyers. Unfortunately the ram caused more damage to the Elven craft than the metal Dwarven one, and the ship went down quickly while a few Elven marines attempted to scramble aboard the enemy ship but were cut down by Dwarven blunderbusses discharged in their faces.
Kelven ordered anchor up, but the ship wasn't moving, and the executive officer reported the propulsion system damaged from a salvo fired by the enemy flagship. The Sea Lord cursed, ordering a daring maneuver with the junior officer was reluctant to carry out. After all, wasn't this Sea Lord a yacht racing winner rather than a battle hardened admiral? But the officer scurried below deck, too scared to cross any Sea Lord. The ship began to move and turn to starboard, bringing the bolt canons in line with the enemy flagship to exchange broadsides. Kelven turned to the Ship's Mage. "Now is the time," he shouted, "Time to call upon the mystical spirits of the river of time and light to turn the tide of battle. Now!" The mage's eyes opened, he glared at the Sea Lord, then he raised both arms to the heavens, chanting, and dark thunderclouds gathered above the enemy ships. "Now!" Lightning clashed on all sides, striking palm trees and the lighthouse, but when the cracking echoed into the distance the Sea Lord stood at the starboard railing and observed none of the enemy ships damaged, not even scorched. He dismissed the Ship's Mage with a wave of one hand. That gesture was enough to condemn the aging and spent mage to a few remaining days shakled to the keel of the ship before a court trial in the capital and inevitable stripping of title, robes, and miter, leaving the elf only the choice of a dignified suicide.