Sunday, December 18, 2016

Castles in the Sky- Battle Report- Raid off Montenegro

If you look to the right hand side of this blog, you will see several links for Free Wargames.  These are games that I have created for you.  I made them because I like to make games.  I made them for no one else, but myself.  Therefore I give them away to you for free.  I am not trying to make money with these games at the links.  If you play them, I only ask one thing, that you share your experiences so I can make better games in the future!   

Castles in The Sky is a game of ponderous warships of the air; battling on the edges of empire after the Martian Invasion of the 1880’s.  The destruction of the Martian menace by microbes left a number of tripods available to be studied.  From these war machines, great leaps forward in technology were made including the Air Screw.  From these discoveries the great nations of the world built a new kind of war machine; the airship. 

In this blog, I will share adventures with my own games as well as published games.  Today’s battle report features Castles in the Sky using templates created for Aquanautica Imperialis and Forgeworld bases from Aeronautica Imperialis.  Sadly, Forgeworld no longer makes these bases.  In a pinch you can also use Litko flying bases as well or no bases at all.  I also used burst markers from All Quiet on the Martian Front.  Enjoy!         

This game came about when The Evil Monkeigh from DeltaVector started playing around with his own version of Aeronef

Castles in the Sky
Place- Off the coast of Montenegro in the Adriatic Sea circa 1914. 
Scenario- Italians are Raiding the Austro-Hungarians

Nation- Operational Cost- Armor Value
Italy- 24 (24)
Armored Cruiser- Vettor Pisani- 7 (8)- Command: 4- Flagship  
Frigate- Soldato- 5  (5)- Command: 1
Torpedo Boat- Pilo- 8 (4)- Command: 3
Cruiser- Zenta- 4 (7)- Command: 2

Austro-Hungary- 33 (46)
Heavy Cruiser- Radetzky- 6 (8)- Command: 3
Heavy Cruiser- Habsburg- 6 (8) Command: 1
Cruiser- Novara- 4 (7)- Command: 1
2 Destroyers- Huzsar- 6 (12) – Command: 2, and 3
Battleship- Tegetthoff- 11 (9)- Command: 2- Flagship

Operational Costs are an experimental method for determining balance rather than Armor Value.  The current rules call for Armor costs.

None of the vessels are in squadron.  

The coast of Austro-Hungarian territory is set-up dividing the board in half.  The Austro-Hungarians are set-up heading north with the coast to their north edge. They are cruising at mid-altitude (3-5) and mid-speeds 3.  The line is led by the Radetzky, followed Tegetthoff, Habsburg, and Novara.  The Huzsars are to the starboard side of the Tegetthoff. 

The Italians are coming in from the Adriatic Sea.  They are coming in at full speed and relatively high altitudes.  The Italian cruisers are trying to attack the front of the Austro-Hungarian battle line, while the frigate and torpedo boat are sneaking up on the rear of the line. 

Any rocks are assumed to be Altitude 1, so a ship must be at Altitude 2 or better to cross over them.  If they are not, they will crash into the rocks.  LOS is also blocked at Altitude 1 by the rocks

Turn 1:
The Italians win the Initiative and elect to go first.

All Italian vessels move to drop altitude and pick-up speed.  They are still too high to engage the Austro-Hungarians, unless they choose to rise up to the challenge.  The frigate and torpedo boat move to try to get behind the Austro-Hungarian column. 

The Tegetthoff drops altitude and speeds up.  The Radetzky makes no change, and dares the Italians to attack him, her turrets turning to face the threat.  The Huzsar’s begin to double back towards the other smaller Italian ships, and the Novara moves out of line to try and line up a shot with her air torpedoes. 

The Italians open fire at the Radetzky.  The Italian’s are one altitude above, which means they need 5+’s to hit the Austro-Hungarian ship.  The shells from the Zenta ping harmlessly off the heavy cruiser’s armor.  The air torpedoes from the Vettor Pisanti are much more effective and reduce the Radetzky 1 armor point.  The Radetzky is surrounded by blast markers now.  The smaller Italian craft are out of range. 

The captain of the Radetzky prepares to return fire on the impudent Italians.  The heavy batteries target the Zenta.  The captain would love to give a Lock-On order, but the burst have disrupted his attempts.  Instead, he must satisfy himself with the boom of the heavy guns.  Due to the altitude difference and the burst, he will need 6’s to hit.  One shell manages to get through and jams the Zenta’s rudder!

End Phase
All damage is applied to the ships.  7 Burst markers are removed, which leaves one on the Radetzky going into the next turn. 

Turn 2:
The Italians win Initiative again and decide to go first.  

The Italian small craft raced up to try and get into position on the trailing Novara cruiser.  Meanwhile, the Armored Cruiser tries to get into a position where her broadsides could come into play.  The poor Zenta moved forward, and tried to drop altitude to avoid getting pummeled by the Radetzky since her rudder was out. 

The Huzsar’s managed to turn about and move towards the smaller Italian craft.  The Novara dropped altitude to avoid the chasers, but it would not be enough.  The main Austro-Hunagarian fleet plowed forward.  The Tegethoff moved up to target the damaged Zenta with her broadsides. 

The Zenta knew she was about to get pummeled and went on Brace for Impact orders.  Her shells went wide of the mark.  Thankfully, the captain passed the Ammo check, so the ship still had shots.  The Vettor Pisani Re-loaded Ordinance but was too high to fire on the Austro-Hungarian Radetzky. 

The Soldato and Pilo tried to put air torpedoes into the side of the Novara.  The Austro-Hungarian gunners were ready and took them out with quick-firing deck guns.  However, this put three bursts on the ship.  Not much luck for the Italians with their shooting. 

The Radeztky found the stricken Zenta in its broadside arc.  Bursts kept the crew disrupted, but the heavy cruiser still managed a broadside on the Italian cruiser.  A heavy shell smashes into the Italian ship again reduces its armor.  The crew’s attempt to Brace failed.    

The Habsburg also can target the Zenta with its bow batteries, and opens fire with a salvo.  Three shells hit, and one manages to strip a further armor point off the Italian cruiser. Again, the crew failed to Brace.   In addition, the Habsburg fires a salvo of air torpedoes.  However, Italian point defense destroys both before they reach their target.

Finally, the captain of the Tegethoff ordered his men to Lock-On, it was too bad they did not listen.  3 shells strike, two bounce harmlessly off the armor, and 1 strikes home.  The crew fails to Brace again!  They need better training! Another Armor point will be stripped away! 

All damage is applied, and to the Zenta and is reduced to 3 armor from the battering it took from the Austro-Hungarian fleet.  Plus, it still has a damaged rudder. 

6 total Bursts are removed.  The Zenta still has 4, the Novara has 3, and the Radetzky has none. 

Turn 3:
This time the Italians choose to let the Austro-Hungarians go first!        

The vanguard of the Austro-Hungarian fleet moves to engage the Italian cruisers by spreading to cover Altitude 3 through 5 as they steam towards the safety of their air defense zone.  The Huzsar’s race back towards the smaller Italian craft, and the Novara tries to get out of the way. 

The Zenta drops to altitude 2, and speeds up but is hampered by the bursts around her.  The Vettor Pisani moves up to altitude 7 to avoid the Tegethoff and Radetzky, but that also means she is out of range for her own weapons.  The Soldato and Pilo move into attack the exposed side of the Novara. 

The second Huzsar fires on the Italian torpedo boat with its forward battery, but misses.  The Novara uses its stern battery on the torpedo boat.  However, a near miss allows the torpedo boat to absorb the shrapnel and keep on course, but she has picked up a burst.     

The Habsburg fails to Lock-On to the Italian Zenta with a command.  However, its gun batteries open up on the Italian craft at close range, with 1 altitude separation.  7 hits on the Italian cruiser!  The ship breaks out in a fire, it’s screw if fouled, and its hull is breached in several places.  The Italian Zenta will be reduced to –3 Armor.  One overkill hit and she will explode.  The crew will need to abandon ship.

The Austro-Hungarians have no other shooting, so the Italians take over.  The crew of the Zenta give a final barrage of fire before abandoning their vessel.   The barrage causes 5 hits on the Hapsburg with one managing to cause a hull breach on the Hapsburg heavy cruiser. 

The Pilo and Soldato both try to Re-load their Ordinance.  They both succeed but the Pilo may not fire as she has picked up a burst.  The Soldato fires at the Novara at close range.  The  deck gun misses.  The Austro-Hungarian gunners fail to hit the incoming torpedoes at close range, and one smashes into the Novara.  The cruiser’s hull is breached. 

There are no aeroplanes to move.

The damage is applied, and the Italian Zenta begins to lose lift and sink.  The crew abandons ship as a fire rages across the craft.  Her speed is dropped and she loses 1 altitude band.

There are no repairs to be made.

The Italians roll 4 and the Austro-Hungarians roll a 4.  The bursts are removed from the Pilo and 3 from the stricken Zenta.  The Austro-Hungarians remove all 4 from the Novara. 

Turn 4:
The Italians win initiative.  They choose to go first. 

The Italian commander realizes they have made a hash of things as he watches the Zenta begin to sink.  At least his countrymen are over land, making them more likely to escape the crashing airship alive.  His command ship stays high, and turns to move along the sides of the Austro-Hungarian fleet, knowing that they do not have the lift to catch him.  Instead, he is hoping to close in on the weaker Navara before the Austro-Hungarians can make it to the safety of their air defense network.

The smaller Italian frigate and torpedo boat break-off from the Novara and head to meet-up with the larger Italian ship. 

The Austro-Hungarian heavy cruisers move to eventually meet-up and support each other.  The Tegethoff speeds up and heads towards the safety of the Austro-Hungarian defense network.   The Huszars begin to come around to escort their larger brothers away. 

The Italians Re-load Ordinance, but no one has the altitude or range to fire. 

The Austro-Hungarians also do not have the range or altitude. 

Everyone is still maneuvering for round 2… if there is one.

The fire aboard the Italian Zenta reaches the combustible gases and magazines of the ship.  She explodes spectacularly.   The explosion catches the nearby Hapsburg and rocks the ship, but fails to cause further damage. 

There is no damage to repair. 

The Italians remove 4 bursts from the explosion from the Zenta, while the Austro-Hungarians roll a 2 and remove the bursts from the Hapsburg.     

Turn 5
The Italians win, and choose to go first. 

The Italian commander of the Vettor Pisani comes down from his high altitude and offers battle to the maneuvering Austro-Hungarian Heavy Cruisers.  The Soldato and Pilo race up to support and follow their command ship. 

The Tegethoff speeds up and manages to successfully and safely disengage from the battle.  The admiral leaves the captain of the Radeztky in charge of the mopping up operations.  Seeing the Italian come down to a lower altitude, the Radetzky and Hapsburg are happy to oblige the Italian and rise up to meet him.  The Novara drops for cover and speeds up to pass near the lighthouse on the coast. 

The Italian commander is confident in his armored cruiser’s abilities, and opens fire on the Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg.  His confidence is misplaced, as the majority of the shells pass over head harmlessly, and a single light shell bounces off the heavy cruiser’s plate with a dull ring.  Seeing the futility of his broadside, the Italian quickly orders his men to Brace for Impact! 

The Hapsburg opens fire at medium range with a 8 firepower barrage.  Only a single shell finds its mark, and the rest fly past underneath.  The single hit clanks dully and careens off into the sky.  At long range, the Radeztky’s heavy guns boom out, and hit the Italian 4 times.  However, the range dulls the impact and no damage is done. 

Bursts are removed, with the Italians removing the 5 on the Vettor Pisani and the Austro-Hungarians removing bursts from the Hapsburg and the Zenta explosion. 

Turn 6
The Italian commander wins again, and decides to go second this time. 

The Italians seem to be content to move out of range and try to disengage.  They go to high altitude out of the range of the Austro-Hungarians.  They signal their intent to disengage the Austro-Hungarinas.  The pending twilight makes pursuit difficult, and the captain of the Radetzky is content to let the Italians flee.

All remaining bursts are removed. 

The Austro-Hungarian papers are quick to condemn the Italian attack on their fleet.  The Italians, embarrassed by the incident blame the raid on pro-Balkan agitators within the fleet who were incensed by false reports of Austro-Hungarian atrocities in the Balkans.  They mutinied against their officers and coordinated the attack. 

In Rome, a few unfortunate sailors were hung.  In addition, the Italian government quietly paid a hefty indemnity to the Dual Monarchy.  Any surviving Italian sailors found alive in Montenegro were given a brief prison stay before being sent home to Italy. 

Behind closed doors, the Austro-Hungarian admiralty was pleased by the day’s actions.  The Heavy Cruisers’ and Novara had taken only light damage while destroying a rival Cruiser.  The captains of the Hapsburg, Tegethoff and Radetzky were seen as heroes of the Empire.  Their views and opinions were given considerable thought and value in the admiralty going forward. 

Post-game Analysis
Enough with the fluff let’s break down the game play.  As the Italians, I made a huge mistake right off the bat.  The Italian capitals were deployed to go straight into the teeth of the Austro-Hungarian main battle line.  I would have been better to attack from behind and overwhelm the rear ships piece meal, and inviting the heavier classes to try to come about and attack.  I paid a heavy price, with the Zenta being beaten to death with very little to show for it in return.            
So, did Castles inthe Sky meet its gameplay objectives?  They were:
1.       Decisions, decisions, decisions
2.       3D gameplay
3.       Tough ships that can take a beating and then suddenly crumple
4.       Individual ships, that can scale up to larger battles
5.       Not a dogfight, but a fleet battle. 
6.       Campaign play

I didn’t try the campaign yet.  However, here is what I found in this playtest. 
1.       Initiative was a tough decision if you won.  Going first allowed you to make orders, put burst on the enemy, etc.  However, the second player was allowed to dictate the terms of the engagements. 
2.       Big ships move and maneuver slowly, so pre-planning matters.  You are trying to guess where your opponents will be, and then slowly get there too.  As intended. 
3.       The engagement envelope is small at only +/-1 altitude difference, so it is easy to avoid fighting if you want to. 
4.       Point Defense can take out most Torpedo attacks
5.       Putting bursts on targets makes a huge difference.  It stopped the Zenta from fixing its damaged rudder, stopped the Pilo from launching a torpedo attack, and kept the Novara from escaping the Italian pursuers.  Putting bursts on opponents is a big part of game play.
6.       The bigger ships were taking multiple hits, and shrugging them off, but once their armor started to peel away, it could suddenly add up quickly.  As intended.
7.       Volume of dice on target makes a big difference.  As intended.

There are still a few things I want to tweak after playing, but overall I am pretty happy with how this game turned out.  The tweaks involve adjusting Air Torpedoes, perhaps opening the engagement envelope a bit more, and clarifying Bursts since they were so critical to the game play/tactics.   

I hope you enjoyed this battle report for Castles in the Sky.  Feel free to try the game for yourself.  It’s free!  If you try it out, let me know what you think.         

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