17 October 2011

Battle of Castle Rock Island

A mist forms above the cold, still waters of the Sorylian Sea around Ratrap Island.  Ships take shape in the mist, black smoke belching from their stacks, the hiss of steam from engines, as two Dwarven fleets approach Castle Rock on the island renowned for the presense of a sinister mage.

Our first proper game of Uncharted Seas in more than a month, we started by setting out the sea mat and islands to play Dreadfleet, but we decided to break out the reliable old fleets instead.  800 points in each fleet, no composition rules and no special objectives.  I placed my Shroud Mages along the southern edge of the space, a pair of frigates to the north scouting for a battleship, then a pair of heavy cruisers, the flagship Lightbringer, a squadron of Adept Destroyers, and, somewhere, a Ripper Submersible lurked beneath the becalmed waters.  And barely three feet away, suddenly appearing as the fog lifts slightly, and just within long range, was Admiral Redhammer's fleet of Iron Dwarves with battleship, flagship, heavy cruisers, destroyers, and their Cursed Bellows Skyships.

Start of Turn 1:  Iron Dwarves to the North and Shroud Mages to the South.  Note the coffee mug from the Blogger's favorite used bookstore just beyond the southwest corner of the board; not for any good reason, I was just very pleased to be sipping hot coffee from my Powell's mug while playing my usual opponent my favorite tabletop naval game on a new sea mat during a comfortable Sunday afternoon.  No harm in recognizing the pleasure of having the time (and cash) to enjoy this hobby.

I won the initiative roll and started by moving out the pair of Tormentor Heavy Cruisers in the center of the battleline.  Played a Full Broadside card with linked fire from both ships to commence the first volley of canon fire with a bang.  Some projectiles bounced off the armored hull of a destroyer and one shot may have put a hole through a smoke stack.  Both Admirals admired the contrast of the dice against the surface of the new sea mat.  And then I added some "smoke" for effect.  Someone mentioned that I should play the game rather than take so many pictures.

Admiral Redhammer signaled for the destroyers to advance under cover of the skyships, and somewhere beneath the surface lurked a pair of Iron Dwarven submersibles.  Shroud Mage Admiral Illyrio ordered arcane countermeasures while the flagship Lightbringer fires all bow canon against one of the skyships, severely damaging the airship with the black night painted hull.

Meanwhile, to the southwest, Admiral Illyrio's younger cousin, Captain Antonio, ordered the battleship Gravity two points to starboard and fire bow cannon against Redhammer's battleship.  The gun crews seemed to be asleep at their posts as only one, and then a second, maybe a third gun went off, in ragged sequence, cannon balls splashing down at least one hundred yards short of their target.  The helmsman was also not paying attention.

More ships on both sides moved ahead, some of them firing guns from turrets, but turn 1 came to a conclusion with some dented armor on some ships and resolution by both admirals to sink the enemy.

I won initiative again for Shroud Mages, activating the heavy cruiser squadron first.  We found the perfect place to keep the turn counter die cocked between the main tower and wall on Castle Island.

Admiral Redhammer gives the order for the Belcher Submersibles to breach and attack the enemy.  One sub successfully attacks the SM heavy cruiser, starting two raging fires, both fore and aft, before executing a panic dive and slipping back under the surface; the second sub makes an attack but lingers on the surface and is subsequently rammed by the flagship Lightbringer which also fired a broadside and fore attack successfully against both Bellows skyships.

I had aimed to put some damage on the destroyers, airships, battleship, and destroyers without focusing on destroying any of them, trying to reduce their better broadside ratings so I could execute my grand strategy of closing and ramming the enemy ships.  I had ignored the approaching submersibles to the misfortune of one Tormentor and the SM destroyer squadron.

The flagship Lightbringer managed to fire a starboard broadside which destroyed one Bellows skyship with a bang while the the bow guns fired and scored a critical hit on the near airship, crippling Admiral Redhammers sky forces.  Lots of sixes rolled for both attacks.  The western flank of the battle is relatively uneventful as the respective battleships exchange warning shots and slowly churn toward each other.

As we concluded the second turn of our fantasy naval confrontation, Sabine that Cat decided to take a break from writing her novel to watch the battle.

Both Admirals played turn cards, the Iron Dwarves setting their repair parties to work while the ship's mage on the Lightbringer successfully cast a Maelstron of Light spell into the center of the ID destroyer squadron, catching their flagship in the blast of bright light as well.

Again, I seize initiative and activate the heavy cruiser squadron to move ahead and fire all guns.  The undamaged Tormenter, unafraid of steaming ahead into their own spell of light, fired fore guns to damage another destroyer and a starboard broadside to put yet one more hull point of damage on the Redhammer flagship.

The remaining Bellows skyship, trailing smoke from severe damage, manages to move into a bombs away position which eliminates the second destroyer in the squadron and inflicts damage on the Lightbringer.

My plan had been to keep my destroyer squadron intact to escort my flagship into short range with the enemy, and I had tried to destroy both skyships before any bombs were dropped, but clearly our crews needed more skygunning practice.  And the remaining destroyer turned to maneuver around to the small island to the south (right) side of the Redhammer flagship.

Then the ID destroyers moved to surround and severely damage the lead Tormentor while the Redhammer flagship approached and fired a full broadside and adding a few more points of damage to the SM flagship.

Green dice were used to track attacks from the stern rake position, and my opponent continued to roll sixes again and again.  Clearly my luck had turned, and now my opponent was taunting me.

In a desperate attempt to damage the enemy enough so that my flagship could close and successfully ram and board, the Ripper Submersible crashed through the Redhammer flagship, coming out the other side and causing a waterline hit.  Unfortunately, the force of the impact against such a massive hull caused the Ripper to sink forever.

Meanwhile, to the west, the respective battleships continued their slow game of chicken.  But I had a card to boost speed, effectively doubling the movement of the Gravity and finally moving into a broadside firing position.

Finally, my SM battleship moved into a good firing position with a full broadside and damaged the ID battleship.

Rather than turning to answer with a broadside, my opponent gave the order for full speed ahead and rammed my battleship.  Hatches were thrown open and a furious boarding action was fought at gun port openings and down into the boiler rooms as my marines pressed on despite heavy casualties to finally take the Iron Dwarven ship.

The white die represents the six points of crew I lost in the boarding action, leaving one contingent of marines on the battleship and on the prize.  I did not want to fight a boarding action so near the enemy heavy cruiser squadron, but I was convinced I could get my battleship moving again and use the frigates nearby to screen the withdrawal, possibly taking the prize as well.  In our games we have decided not to remove captured ships, preferring the rules from DW with the option of recapturing prizes as well as not watching a large captured ship simply "vanish" from the sea.
The end of Turn 3 found my pair of frigates moving into stern raking position against the heavy cruisers, my intention to distract those while my battleship made some distance and pulled away with the prize.
My opponent finally won the initiative roll for Turn 4.  I could feel the tide of battle turning against my fleet.  But I took a moment to appreciate the view of battle with the new sea mat and islands I have been painting and find to work well with Uncharted Seas.  When we placed islands before the start of the game we both recognized that we placed islands according to shallow looking areas on the sea mat rather than placing for strategic purposes.
At this point, however, considering how to force a Shroud Mages victory, I hoped to withdraw my battleship and prize to score the double victory points for capturing the enemy battleship while attacking the enemy flagship with my own with my slight advantage in marines for a boarding action and keeping those destroyers engaged for as long as possible with my crippled heavy cruisers and my lonely destroyer to the east.
But to my surprise there were some Iron Dwarves down in the orlop deck which had escaped the boarding action and emerged to retake the ship.
My opponent played his card to recrew his battleship, and a quick melee action found my marines dispatched and then the Iron Dwarves moving to take my battleship in a fast reversal of fortune.  This event was only possible because we did not use the captured prize rules from Uncharted Seas, but we both found this a more interesting event in the game.

Back in the center of the action, my flagship suffered from a gun deck critical hit which kept it from firing any guns this turn, so my option to ram was clear.  Both players agreed that if my flagship rammed and destroyed the intervening destroyer then we would make an exception to the standard ramming rules and allow my flagship to continue movement to ram and board the Iron Dwarven flagship to make an exciting conclusion to the game.  Of course, the destroyer was crushed beneath to armored bow of the Lightbringer.  Then, as we had agreed, my flagship moved ahead the final inches to ram and grapple the enemy flagship.  I was confident with my greater number of marines, but no victory could be certain before the dice are rolled.  The crippled Bellows skyship floating above was relatively harmless and little more than an observer of the surface action down below.

Again, the dice gods had switched favors, and the Iron Dwarves prevailed in the boarding action, eliminating all of the capital ships from my fleet.  With only my crippled heavy cruisers, a pair of frigates, and a lone destroyer, I conceded certain victory to my opponent.