Monday, December 21, 2020

Battle Report: Castles in the Sky- Maiden Voyage

 The Royal Navy had been one of the first of the Great Powers to make use of the Air Screw.  Instantly, all other Navies became obsolete.  The Great Aerial Arms Race had begun.  The British had been at the forefront of this race thanks to their great shipyards and the access to the resources of their empire.  In addition, the Admiralty was always trying to stay ahead of the technology curve.  

The First Lord Sir Jackie Fischer had re-upped the game with the launch of several all "Big-Gun" battleships.  They were heavily armed and armored and were a revolution in the Arms Race.  In addition, the British also experimented with a new class of vessel, the Battle Cruiser.  The Battle Cruiser was intended to act as a faster, lighter ship, but still armed with the "Big Guns".  

One of the first of these was the HMS Invincible.  She was launched in 1907.  The Admiralty had her deploy for a maiden voyage around the Mediterranean with one of the armored cruisers she was to replace, the HMS Shannon.  The Shannon herself was a relatively new ship as well, being deployed in late 1906.  

Their were some scattered eye witness reports that the maiden voyage of the HMS Invincible did not go without incident.  There were unconfirmed and scattered reports by local North African fisherman that the HMS Invincible and her escort had a run in with French forces off the Algerian coast.  

The London Telegraph was unable to confirm these reports independently.  Both the French and British Admiralty and other relevant cabinets have been tight lipped on the subject.  


This will be a bit of a maiden voyage for the V4 rules for Castles in the Sky.  They went through pretty complete testing previously as v3.2 and V2.  However, the games revealed some items that I wanted to update.  This naturally led to a V4 with some significant changes.  

I look forward to giving these a maiden run while the HMS Invincible takes a maiden voyage of her own! 


Royal Navy

HMS Invincible- Command 2

-Invincible Class Battle Cruiser    

HMS Shannon- Command 4

- Minotaur Class Armored Cruiser

L'Aire Nationale

Saint Louis- Command 2

-Charlemagne Class Heavy Cruiser

Algiere - Command 4

- D'iberville Class Cruiser

Fantassin- Command 1

- Chasseur Class Destroyer


This will be a Patrol mission.  The French have come out to meet the British.  L'Aire Nationale has claimed that the British have infringed on their national airspace off the coast of Algeria.  They demand that the British land and prepare to be inspected.  Of course, the Royal Navy refuses and a conflict is inevitable.  


The Patrol will be played on a 48 x 48 MU board with 1 MU equaling 1 inch. 

The battle is mostly taking place over the ocean, with a bit of coast on the south side of the board the French are coming from.  That leaves two board sections without terrain on the British side.  We randomly roll the following for these sectors and get a land based feature that does not impact play, so we add a sand bar.  The next we roll a  mountain but that does not make sense over the ocean, so we ditch it.  There is no terrain that will impact play. 

We also roll for complications and get none.     

The French are coming from the Algerian coast to the South.  They are led by the Saint Louis at mid-altitude and full speed.  She is flanked by the Algiere who is also at mid-altitude and matching speed.  Meanwhile, the Fantassin is on the far left at high altitude and matching speed. 

The British are on the opposite side, they are "crossing the T" of the French, and moving across the battlespace to start.  The HMS Invincible is leading the way at mid-altitude and speed, with the HMS Shannon trailing and closer to the coast.  They are matching speeds.


Turn 1:

The French roll 3 dice (Command Rating of the Largest ship + 1 for having an escort) to the British 2.  The French get 1 success, and the British 2.  These success will also indicate the number of Commands the two fleets can use.  The Brits choose to go first.


HMS Shannon increases speed and moves up to try and meet the oncoming French forces.  As she goes up, her increase in speed is eaten up by the altitude change.  The Saint Louis steams ahead, neither gaining speed or altitude. 

Captain Hargrave of the Invincible orders “Come to a New Heading” and scores a success on the Command roll.  He increases speed and turns towards the oncoming French, ready to trade fire.  The Algiere decides to drop two altitude which increases her speed temporarily.  She ends at Altitude 3, and creating distance between her and the St. Louis. 

The French destroyer, Fantassin; increases speed and uses it to climb two altitude. 


No one has the range yet, so no combat occurs. 


No action is needed.

Turn 2:

The French score 0 command successes, to the British 1.  The Brits again decide to go first. 


The HMS Shannon continues to turn into the French Fleet and speeds up.  The Algiere counters by going even lower, and still moving to give space between themselves and the St. Louis. 

The Invincible tries to go All Ahead Full but fails.  Instead, they increase speed only 1 and continue moving to engage.  The Saint Louis is happy to oblige and looks like they are heading to move between the two British ships.

Fantassin, stays high and fast looking to angle in on the HMS Shannon with a Torpedo shot.


This time, the Invincible and Saint Louis have the range!  They decide to engage in a long range gunnery duel.  However, the Invincible’s main gun has a powder cartridge jam in the loader and is unable to fire!  At Long range the ship has only 1 Firepower dice, which it fails to hit with.  This triggered an ammo roll, which the British also failed and jammed their main gun. 

The Saint Louis has no such issues and causes 2 Potential Hits on the British Battle Cruiser.  The Saint Louis has 3 forward firepower at long range, but is firing at a Cruiser class vessel from a Battleship, therefore it is reduced to 2 dice.  Both cause Potential Hits.  Since there are 2 hits it does not cause Friction as that requires 3.  However, we now immediately roll to see if damage was applied by re-rolling the hits and adding the Power rating of the shot, then compare to see if it is over the Target’s armor rating.  1 potential hits is converted to a real hit, and we will determine the damage in the End Phase.   

The Light Battery at long range would have no effect on a cruiser class vessel as it is an Anti-escort gun, this would reduce its 1 firepower to 0.     

The other ships do not have the range yet.   




The long range shots from the Saint Louis manage to light a fire in the Invincible and reduce her 1 Armor point.  This would be very dangerous for the British ship!

The British repair teams scramble to resolve the jammed forward turret and the fire.  However, they fail at both!  Oh no!

 No other action is needed. 

 Turn 3:

The French gain no successes on 3 dice, and the British gain no Successes on 2 dice.  Their will be no Commands this turn! Since the French have more dice, they win! They choose to go first to press their advantage. 


The Algiere continues to angle low to try and get some sniper Torpedo shots at the HMS Shannon, while the French Destroyer does the same. 

 The British Invincible tries to gain height, and turn to use Broadsides on the oncoming French Heavy Cruiser.  The French seem game and rise to the challenge, moving to parallel the British ship. 

 Meanwhile, the HMS Shannon tries to fall into position trailing the Invincible.   


With the French closing the range, Captain Hollande decides to use his Heavy bow turret on the Invincible, while his port Light batteries try and suppress the Shannon.  He passes a Command Check for Target Priority and relays the orders. 

 The Saint Louis forward Turret fires on the British Battle Cruiser, but the shells fail to find their mark.  Normally, the Saint Louis has 5 Firepower at Medium range, but it is reduced 1 as the Invincible is a Cruiser sized target, and the Heavy Battery is for Battleships.

 However, the Light Batteries still do not have the power and range to even harm the Shannon.

 Return fire from the Invincible’s rear turret fails to find its mark as well. 

 The Algiere launches a barrage of Air Torpedoes at the trailing Shannon.  There are 8 dice in the Torpedo attack!  5 look like they are on target, but the Shannon’s Point Defense crews destroy two inbound torpedoes.  3 are still potential hits, but they are all cancelled out by the Cruiser’s armored belt.  This causes 3 Friction markers on the Shannon!

 The Shannon targets the Saint Louis, but her guns are designed for other cruisers and not Battleship class opponents.  Therefore, at the range her bow, stern, and starboard batteries are all reduced to 1 dice each.  The Starboard batteries suffer from a malfunction, but the bow Battery strikes the Saint Louis.  The joy is short lived as the shell bounces harmlessly off the ship’s armor.

 The Fantassin also fires a torpedo barrage at the Shannon.  This has 4 in it!  The Shannon manages to take out 1 of these torpedoes, and one simply misses.  2 are potential hits and they strike vulnerable parts of the ship due to their high angle approach.  That is 2 Hits for the End turn.   


The HMS Shannon’s two hits peel her armor down to 6, but there is no further damage.  Repair crews also manage to repair the Malfunction in her starboard batteries.

The HMS Invincible’s fire continues to rage and reduces her armor 1 level.  However, fire crews manage to put it out before it can cause further damage.  The Bow Turret is still inoperable. 

The British manage to remove 6 of 7 Friction points off of the Shannon, reducing her to 1 Friction.

Turn 4:

Both sides roll for Initiative.  The French and British both score 1 success, so French retain the advantage.  They choose to go first again.  


The Algiere immediately succeeds at a Reload command to prepare another Torpedo barrage.  The ship then turns to give chase to the fleeing HMS Shannon. 

 The Invincible continues to speed up and makes for the safety of an oncoming squall and then international waters.  Captain Hargrave has her drop altitude to help gain speed. 

The Fantassin speeds up to stay in the race and continue to harass the fleeing HMS Shannon.  However, her Torpedo Tubes are still empty. 

Finally, Captain Mosley commands his crew to go All Ahead Full, and they poor on as much steam as they can!  They also drop altitude to gain speed, but the speed gains are somewhat off set by Friction as the boilers had been cooled by the earlier altitude changes.

The Saint Louis gains speed to try and stay caught up to pound the Invincible.  However, she stays higher to limit return fire.  The two ships prepare to exchange close range fire.


The Saint Louis readies her Bow and Stern Heavy Battery turrets.  The height difference reduces their Firepower, as does the scale of the target.  However, at close range there is still plenty of dice!  The broadside roars, and the Invincible takes 7 hits, three are deflected by armor, but 4 more sink home.  That leaves her with 1 Friction markers as well. 

HMS Shannon tries to get some payback on the Algiere, and fires her Stern and Starboard weapons.  However, the Starboard weapons fail to fire again!  One shell from the stern turret pings off the French Cruiser’s armor. 

The Algiere returns fire with her fully loaded Air Torpedo spread.  The Shannon is hit hard again.  Point defense and Armor protect her from a few Torpedoes, but 4 hit home into her weakened armor.

The Invincible fires its Starboard light batteries and the stern turrets Heavy Batteries at the Saint Louis as they parallel each other.  The height saves the French ship from the brunt of the shells, but the Light batteries suffer an ammunition shortage, while 2 shells from the 15 inch cannons ping loudly off the Saint Louis’ armored belt. 

The French Destroyer hangs back and calls in the fall of shot to her sister ship using her wireless.    


The British have to determine further damage.  The Invincible loses 4 more Armor Points, making her a sitting duck!  Plus, her Rudder is Jammed by the shell fire.  The HMS Shannon is Crippled from internal damage and loses 4 more armor as well!

Captain Hargrave of the HMS Invincible decides to Strike his Colors after failing a check.  Capt. Mosley refuses, even though his ship is crippled. 

The British roll a 10 to remove Friction, so all friction is removed. 

With that, the British decide to call it a game!


The Invincible and Shannon were escorted by the French flotilla to a French controlled Aeroport in Tangiers.  There they were interned and the crew put under house arrest at a nearby French base.  The accommodations were not 5-star, but they were as good as any French sailor would receive.  

Eventually, the Foreign Office managed to negotiate a release of the two ships back to British authority.  However, it was only after French officials had plenty of time to inspect and document the two ships specifications very closely.  There was also some back room exchanges of money in Switzerland involved.  

Overall, it was an embarrassing start to the Invincible classes career.  Two more hulls had all ready been started in Great Britain, and work did not stop on them.  However, the Admiralty were quick to begin design and production on a replacement class for the Invincible.  

Meanwhile, the French squadron was treated as National heroes in the French press.... for a few days anyway.  The captains were hosted at a State Dinner in Paris.  The Officers were invited to high society events.  The crewmen were bought drinks in North African taverns.  They were convenient props to help unite the people around the glory of the French Republic.  Soon, the French Squadron were back to business as usual patrolling the North African coastline.     

No need to count up the points.  The French convincingly beat the British squadron off the coast of North Africa.  The British took 11 hits to the French 0.  Ouch!  What accounted for such a lopsided Victory?

1.       The British losing their forward turret on the Invincible due to a low percentage shot that they failed to fix in subsequent turns due to poor repair rolls, or needing successes for more pressing issues.  With that turret out of action, there went one of their best hopes for hurting the Saint Louis.  

2. The British got Torpedoed to death!  The D'Iberville is an Air Torpedo cruiser carrier, and it had a Captain with 4 command dice!  Ouch, that means it could easily Re-Load IF the French Admiral had any Commands to give.  The British really did not have a strong counter to this and really could have benefitted from an escort or two instead of another cruiser.  This would have allowed them to use overlapping Point Defense to help defend against the Air Torpedo swarm. 

3. The British did not use their improved speed to get them to where they wanted to be.  The French led with their Heavy, and the British flew straight at it.  Instead, they should have avoided the Saint Louis and targeted the smaller ships.  

Overall, how did the game hang together?  Some of the big changes in the game system were to change how the modifiers work for hitting.  In essence, I stripped out any modifiers that impacted the Target Numbers and replaced them with Modifiers that impacted the number of dice rolled instead.  This worked really well, and was easier to remember.  It also allowed for a greater range of possibilities for the player, but still had an impact.  For example, a low number of dice being rolled tended to cause Ammo rolls.  Ammo Rolls can take a weapon system out of action until repaired.  As a player, you had to decide if the risk was worth the reward.  Frequently, it was not and it was better to get closer. 

I also increased the number of hits needed to get a Friction marker from 1:1 to 3:1 from guns.  This meant long range shooting had less chance of causing Friction than up close work.  Combined with the new Modifiers, it gave the commander's a reason to close in and mix it up!  It also gave a clear role for "Sniper" ships like escorts and cruisers with Air Torpedoes as they can cause Friction at range easier than guns.  Finally, ships were not getting overwhelmed with Friction Markers like when it was 1:1, but it still was a hinderance.  

Finally, some small tweaks like Escorts giving extra Command Dice for initiative, waiting to resolve hits until the End Phase, and Striking the Colors rules all added some more depth to the game.  The old versions had no Morale rules, so the Striking the Colors was a big add that really helps define the "endgame".    

I am not going to break down ship performance yet, since I will need more data.  However, I used a spreadsheet to calculate Operational Values, and it seems to have appropriately costed Battle Cruisers and the D'Iberville compared to other war ships.  That is just on first glance though.  More testing is needed.       

This is Version 4 of the rules, and I think they are well on their way to completion and publication.  However, more Playtesting will be needed.  Excelsior! 

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1 comment:

  1. Stirring stuff

    Allons enfants de la Patrie,
    Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
    Contre nous de la tyrannie
    L'étendard sanglant est levé, (bis)
    Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
    Mugir ces féroces soldats ?
    Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras
    Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes !