Monday, April 5, 2021

Battle Report: Castles in the Sky- Big Trouble in Indo-China


The French Foreign Ministry decided that their colony in Indo-China had an excellent strategic positions via-a-vis the British interests in the South China Sea.  Despite the advent of Airships, the South China Sea was still one of the busiest trading routes in the world.  Both air and naval ships travelled through the area carrying valuable cargos.  

In addition, the area saw a regional war in 1893 that allowed the French to gain further territorial concessions from Siam.  However, the Siam Government had appealed to the British for aid.  At the time, the British left it a local matter between Siam and France.  However, if an opportunity arose like that again, the French government was not so certain the British would not intervene.

Therefore, the French Government decided to send the French Airship to their base at Tourane (Da Nang) in Indo-China.  The old Pre-dreadnought Battle Ship the Camot was sent on station.  A battleship class airship in the area, even a pre-Dreadnought build, was a definite escalation of military might in the region.  

Such a move made the British Colonial office very nervous.  A Colonial official in Australia partnered with Captain Trilby in the South China Sea and devised a scheme to ambush the Camot en route to its new station.  Their goal was to force the Camot to return to France for drydock and repairs.  They used the Siam government as a cover for their operation and flagged their vessels deliberately to obscure the actual attackers. 


Today, instead of randomly rolling up a mission.  We decided to play the Raiders scenario from the rule book.  This is a scenario that had caused issues during play testing, and that I completely re-wrote.  Therefore, I was eager to try it out to see if the changes made it more competitive. 

In this mission, the British forces are trying to cripple, sink or destroy the Camot via any means necessary.  They score extra points for damage done to the French Battleship.  The French are trying to drive off the attackers. 


L'Aire National

Camot- Captain Aubre- Command 4

Charles Martel Class Heavy Cruiser    

Tourane- Captain de Genouilily- Command 2

Descartes Class Cruiser

Fantassin- Captain Valjean  - Command 4

Chasseur Class Destroyer  

Rapier- Captain Sault  - Command 3

Chasseur Class Destroyer

Royal Navy (of Siam?)

HMS Archeron- Commodore Trilby- Command 2

Duke of Edinburgh Class Cruiser

HMS Bellerophon- Captain  De Selby- Command 3

Warrior Class Cruiser

HMS Medusa- Captain Butler- Command 2

Active Class Light Cruiser

HMS Lancer- Captain Montejoy- Command 4

Bull Finch Class Destroyer

HMS Corsair- Captain Montgomery- Command 4

Bull Finch Class Destroyer


This battle will be played on a 48 x 48 MU board where 1 MU equals 1 inch.  It will primarily take place over water.  We used the normal terrain and complication generator in the main rules to determine additional details.  

In this battle there will be no Complications.  

For terrain we generated two island with low hills (alt 1) on the north side of the board.  On the South side we have two features with no impact on play.  

The French will be on the west side of the board.  The British take the opposite side.  

The French Battleship is coming in the center flanked by the two destroyers.  The Camot is at Alt 4 going speed 3.  The two Destroyers are matching speed and at 3 and 5 respectively.  The Tourane is to the North at speed 3 and alt 7.  They signal the approach of the enemy forces to the rest of the fleet.

The British are in line abreast.  From North to South it is the HMS Archeron, HMS Bellerophon, HMS Medusa, HMS Lancer, and HMS Corsair spread across the edge.  They are at speed 4 to start.  Archeron is at the highest altitude at 6, then 5, 4, 3, and 2 respectively afterwards to try and cover the board with firepower.  

In my last couple of reports, I used dice to acts as markers and tokens.  This game, I am doing something different and going with 0 on table tracking components.  Instead, both sides are documenting on a normal piece of notebook paper to see if we run into any complications using that method.   

I foolishly forgot to take the pictures of our initial deployments.  

Turn 1: 

The British score 2 success on 4 command dice, versus 1 French success on 6 dice.  The British choose to let the French move first.  


The Tourane moves down a level and speeds up, but turns away from the fight.  The British and French fleet plow straight ahead. 


None, no one has the range.  


No activity yet.  Still maneuvering. 

Turn 2:

British again win with 3 to 1 successes.  Again, they allow the French to move first.  


Again, both sides keep moving forward.  No one seems willing to turn away first in this game of chicken.  However, the French speed up to 4.


The rang is closing fast, but not there yet.  


No activity needed .... yet. 

Turn 3: 

1 British success to the French 0.  The French have 6 dice! Again, the British let the French go first. 


 Finally, as the French keep moving forward, the British blink.  They realize that the HMS Medusa is heading straight for a French Battleship.  The Medusa, Bellerophone and Archeron begin to make a left turn.  The Archeron also drops down to Alt 5.  

The French Touranes turns into the fight again, with the Archeron ahead, but two levels below her.      


The Camot begins the battle with a barrage of Heavy Battery fire at the Medusa.  They also fire a full spread of Air Torpedoes to help clear a path.  A heavy Shell bounces off the light Cruisers armor, while her Point defense destroy to incoming Torpedoes.  A third also bounces off her armor, leaving her with 3 Friction.  

The Archeron chooses to Fire For Effect, and the Command test is successful.  Three shells ring off the French Battleship's armor, and cause 1 Friction. 

The Tourane fires her bow Air Torpedoes at the Archeron.  The British Point Defense misses them, but they streak by past the target and fail to explode.  

HMS Corsair had started to dart ahead of the British line, and targets the Rapier with a Torpedo Barrage.  1 is destroyed by Point defense, but a second hits the superstructure of the ship and causes 1 hit!  The return French barrage causes 1 Friction and 2 Hits on the HMS Corsair.    

The Fantassin fires on the Bellerphone with Air Torpedoes.  The British Point Defense removes 1, but the rest miss.  1 Friction on the British cruiser. 

HMS Lancer also fires on the Rapier, but Point Defense takes out two, 1 misses, and a third fails to cause damage.  However, the French Destroyer now has 5 friction. 


The Rapier loses a point of armor.  The Corsair has their screw fouled and then... disaster strikes as an air torpedo detonated near exposed gun powder, which led to a change reaction and the little ship explodes in a 1 MU radius.  All hands are lost and that gives the British a big set back. 

No repairs or Strike your Colors tests needed. 

The British have 7 Friction and is forced to leave 1 on the Bellerophone.  The French have 6, and the French admiral easily removes it. 

Turn 4:

The French finally win with 3 successes to the British 2.  The French choose to go first.


The HMS Lancer tries to reload her torps. which with Command 4 they easily do.  They also gain altitude two levels to try to gain safer firing position.  

The French keep plowing forward, and forcing the British to react.  Both French Destroyers also reload Torps.  

The HMS Medusa successfully crash dives to Alt 1 and speeds up to 7 to avoid the Battleship.  

The British Cruisers make for the Camot to try to get firepower on her and slow her down.  


The lead French Destroyer, the Fantassissin fires her reloaded torpedoes at the HMS Bellerophon.  The Point Defense smack one away, but a second hits and causes damage,  The third flat out misses. 

The HMS Lancer and the Rapier also exchange Torpedo fire again.  This leaves 3 Friction on the Lance, and 2 Friction and a Hit on the Rapier.  The HMS Medusa is out of position to help the weight of fire this turn.      

The Archeron opens fire on the Camot.  She lands enough hits to cause a Friction point with her forward guns.  However, nothing gets through the Battleships thick armor.  

In return, Captain Aubre calls for the Camot to fire for effect on the Archeron who is just in her Port arc, allowing for a full broadside.  The gunner's eagerly follow their Captain's orders.  The target is on class smaller, 1 altitude higher, and with a friction marker so the firepower is reduced by 3 dice per battery.  Still, 6 dice with re-rolls is nothing to sneeze at.  Thanks to the Command, the batteries aim is true and the British cruiser takes 2 Friction and 1 penetrating hit!              

The HMS Bellerophon returns fire, but misses due to friction and altitude.  However, she passes her Ammo check and can keep using her main forward guns.  

Finally, the Tourane's captain chooses not to fire as the range is just a bit too far at the altitude difference.  The shot has little chance of hitting and a higher chance of causing an ammo failure.  


The Rapier loses another Hull armor point, bringing her down to 4.  The Archeron also loses a Hull armor point.  The Bellerophon loses 1 Hull and her rudder is jammed. 

The French had 4 Friction, so easily remove it. The British had 7, but also manage to remove it with a solid roll.


Turn 5: 

The French have 3 successes to the British 2.  The French chose to go first again.


The Fantassin re-loads her torpedoes and moves ahead without deviating from her course.  

Meanwhile, the HMS Medusa comes up two altitude levels and tries to circle back behind the French fleet.  

The Camot steams forward to follow her escort destroyer as the HMS Archeron drops 1 altitude to move in behind the French Battleship.  

The Rapier drops to Altitude 3 which causes her to speed up, but she is still in a position to help ward off air torpedoes from the Camot.  

The HMS Lancer makes a 90 degree turn and cuts across above the Archeron, looking to circle back into the fight.  She re-loads her Torps.         

The HMS Bellerophon has a jammed rudder so can not change course.  She is right above the Camot's decks and ready to cross above her at Alt 5 compare to the French ship at Alt 4. That will be a brisk exchange.  

The Tourane increases speed and heads into the mix.    


Captain Aubre decides to Fire for Effect on the HMS Bellerophon.  The skilled captain easily passes the test, and uses the last French Command to do so.  7 potential hits out of 8 possible, so 2 Friction.  Before the French roll, the Captain of the Bellerophon has a choice, should he Prepare for Impact and limit his return shooting and the best chance to damage the French Battleship or should he take it and see what happens?  He all ready has two friction and an Altitude difference reducing his firepower.  He decides to Prepare for Impact!  Despite Preparing for Impact, the Bellerophon takes four hits.  Ouch!  

The Bellerophon has no shots back due to friction and other factors taking his Firepower below 0.  That leaves the Archeron, who is at the same altitude as the Camot.  The guns boom out, and cause 4 potential hits, but none manage to sneak past the French armor.  The Light Batteries also manage to pepper her and together they cause 2 Friction.  

The Touranes tries to fire its Medium batteries at the HMS Lancer, but a flaw in the cartridges cause the guns to misfire.  They are jammed until repaired. 

Fire from the rising HMS Medusa manages to put another Friction point on the Camot.  

The HMS Lancer fires a spread of Torpedoes at the Tourane, but her Point Defense is ready and takes out two of the torps and the other two miss. 

There is no other shooting.


The HMS Bellerophon took too much of a battering from the Camot and explodes!  She has a 4 MU blast radius.  It is enough to hit the Camot, HMS Archeron, and HMS Lancer!  The Lancer takes 1 hit and loses 1 armor and jams her rudder.  The Archeron avoids damage, but takes a friction point.  The Camot is also undamaged, but takes Friction point.  Ouch! 

Friction, the British have 1 and the French 5.  Both sides can easily clear it.  

For Damage, the Tourane fails to fix her powder issue on her Medium Batteries.  

Turn 6- Final Turn:  

Both sides score 1 command success, and the French maintain the initiative.  They decide to go first again.  


The Camot finally slowly begins to change course to try and keep the British cruiser in her Broadside.  In response, the Archeron goes lower and tries to speed away. 

The French destroyers stay in formation with the Camot.  The HMS Medusa speeds up and falls into formation with the Archeron.  

The HMS Lancer has not rudder, so decides to drop to get below the Tourane.  Which they easily manage.  

The Tourane falls in with the Camot in a trailing and above escort position. 


The Camot fires a parting Broadside at the trailing HMS Medusa and manages a hit to add insult to injury! 

The British do not bother returning fire and just try to high tail it away.


The HMS medusa loses 1 Hull armor to the parting shot.  Now all the British ships took damage from the encounter.  


French victory! The British failed to even dent the French battleship.

British lost 16 armor, with 2 ships exploding like fireworks! 

French lost 2 Armor on the Fantassin destroyer.  

Captain Aubre and the Camot made port at Tourane with no further incident.  The balance of power in the region had just been shifted with the arrival of the French Battleship.  The French Foreign Office did not even bother logging an official complaint since the engagement had been so one sides.  The single French sailor's death was written off as a training accident instead.  

For the British, the loss of the Bellerophon and Corsair were a more significant matter.  Captain Trilby was formally charged with dereliction of duty and summarily drummed out of the Royal Navy for his stunt.  It had cost the Royal Navy too dearly for the admiralty to do otherwise.  Meanwhile, the loss of the two air ships was listed as an accident in official records.  

The entire affair was brushed under the rug in an effort to cover up the reality.  Meanwhile, the British  admiralty began to lay plans to send their own battleships into the region to restore the balance of power in the South China Sea.  

I re-wrote this scenario to try and make it more competitive, but I didn't even get a chance to try the new victory conditions out.  The British got pasted!  A quick glance could make a person think that Battleships are overpowered!  However, a closer inspection reveals the truth.  

1. My opponent's ships were never up to the challenge.  The Duke of Edinburgh class of cruisers has a lot of Firepower dice, but their power is not high.  The Duke of Edinburgh class is way better at taking out other cruisers and escorts.  That was not how it got used.  

The only ship that could really scratch the Camot was the Bellerophon, once a point of armor got peeled off, the other ships could have easily piled on, but never peeling that first point off the French Battleship was the key.  

2. Poor flying.  The Bellerophon was never in a great position to try and get that first key hit.  This was due to a poorly timed turn and weak initial set-up.  My Skumgrod had planned to pivot and cross the T of my French squadron as it approached.  Then, the British propensity of guns could go to work.  They never successfully made the turn or crossed the T.  The way the line was initially formed put the far too weak light cruiser right in the French Battleship's path.  That was a receipt for disaster.  

3. My Skumgrod got bogged down in a duel with my Destroyers instead of using his Torpedoes to put Friction markers on the Camot.  This would have slowed her down, allowed for the crossing of her T, and disrupted her shooting.  The extra Point Defense offered by my Destroyers made him feel that torpedoes fired at the Camot would be a waste of time.  

4. My skumgrod let me get Broadsides to bear on his key ship when I could put a Fire for Effect Command on it.  Once the Bellerophon was out of the picture, he had no chance.  

5. Finally, my French commander was too good!  Combined with two escorts for extra command dice allowed me to dictate the flow of the battle.  His British commander was not good enough to consistently counter it in the mid and late game when he needed it.

So the battle really came down to poor strategic decisions, some poor tactical flying, and some bad luck.  After all, I blew up 2 British ships.  That requires a box cars damage roll.  Like I said a combination of factors made sure my Skumgrod did not get a chance to test the new Victory conditions for the Raiders scenario. 

Meanwhile, my strategy was simple.  I planned to motor across the board and drive a wedge through his forces.   Then I want to use the Descates cruiser to try and bracket the enemy cruisers and hit them on both sides.  I never really did a good job with the bracketing, but it all worked out for me in the end.   

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