Monday, May 2, 2022

Castles in the Sky: Indo-China Campaign - French vs. British


One of the features on the Castles in the Sky rules from Osprey is the option to run a campaign with a series of linked games.  I figured since I want to do several battle reports for my loyal readers leading up to the release of the book from Osprey, now would be a good time to run a campaign myself!  

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.

To help secure their position, the French sent a pre-dreadnought battleship to the region to act as the Flag vessel for their Indo-china squadron.  The Camot took station in Tourane (Da Nang) with classic colonial fan fare.  However, the British had unsuccessfully tried to thwart the arrival of the Camot, using the nearby independent county of Siam as a cover for their operation.  This attempt was ultimately and disastrously unsuccessful and put the region on edge. 

The British themselves hurriedly signed a deal with the independent nation of Siam to help reinforce their interests in the area.  The British gave the Siam government assurances of support, trading provisions, financial support, and limited missionary work in the country.  In exchange, the Royal Navy was also given coaling stations and operational abilities from Siam.  

These moves only heightened tension with the French in the area.  Soon, French eyes were looking eagerly to absorb Siam into their own Indo-China sphere of influence, and controlling the trade and traffic through the region.  

For the record, this is an alt-history campaign and I am by no means an expert on the history, geography, cultures, or much else about the region!  It just seemed like a good place to set-up a colonial brushfire war in the sky that fit in with the time period Castles in the Sky  takes place in. 

The Campaign

The campaign itself will be a small campaign between the French and the British.  This is just a regional flare-up after all.  Therefore, I will only be playing a "small" campaign per the rules.  That means each side will have a fleet of 50 Operational Value and 3 Strategic Assets.  There are some limits on Battleships, but for this campaign we are going to limit each side to 1 per fleet, therefore the bulk of the fleets will be Cruisers and Escorts.  

The French Strategic Assets will be: 
1. Tourane - Indo-China Capital
2. Saigon- Largest City
3. Hanoi - Largest Northern City

The British Strategic Assets will be: 
1. Phra Nakon - Siam Capital
2. Kra Isthmus - Narrows that connect to the Malay peninsula
3. Laem Chabang- The Busiest Deepwater port in the city of Sattahip

As stated in the rules, the campaign triggers the "Final Battle" at 7 campaign points and one side must be ahead by at least 2 points for the final battle to trigger.  


The Fleets   

Per the campaign rules, each fleet can be up to 50 Operational Value for a small campaign.  For this one, I decided to limit both sides to 1 battleship and to 35 Operational Value.  That should give enough different ships to be able to swap them around as needed, but not flexible enough to shrug off or ignore damaged craft.  

L'Aire National

Camot- Commodore Aubre- Command 4
Charles Martel Class Heavy Cruiser (Battleship)   

Cuchinchina - Captain Gourdon- Command 2
Gloire Armored Cruiser

Tourane- Captain de Genouilily- Command 2
Descartes Class Cruiser

Tonkin- Captain de Vence- Command 2
D'Iberville Class Cruiser

Hue- Captain Senez- Command 2
D'Iberville Class Cruiser

Fantassin- Captain Valjean  - Command 4
Chasseur Class Destroyer- Torpedo  

Rapier- Captain Sault  - Command 3
Chasseur Class Destroyer- Torpedo

Tromblom- Commander Morice- Command 2 
Chasseur Class Destroyer - Sky Mines

The Royal Navy (of Siam) 

HMS Malaya- Commodore Duckworth- Command 2
Queen Elizabeth Class Battleship

HMS Archeron- Captain Manby- Command 3
Duke of Edinburgh Class Cruiser

HMS Achilles- Captain Durham- Command 4
Warrior Class Cruiser

HMS Arrogant- Captain Knowles- Command 2
Arethusa Class Light Cruiser

HMS Medusa- Captain Butler- Command 2
Active Class Light Cruiser

HMS Corsair- Commander Montgomery- Command 4
Bull Finch Class Destroyer- Torpedo

HMS Hasty- Commander Rawley- Command 2
Bull Finch Class Destroyer- Sky Mines 

Both sides of the campaign will pick ships from these two lists to play the campaign.  This should allow us to see how damage and experience plays out with each ship and captain as it progresses through the campaign.  The Battleship is the Flagship of each fleet.  

Campaign- Turn 1
Both fleets choose to take a Defensive orders to start the campaign.  As a result, we roll up a Raid scenario with the British as the Defenders.  In addition, the French have decided to launch their raid at night!  

The Raid will be played on a 48MU by 48MU board using random terrain as follows.  

1= Altitude 4 Mountain
2= Altitude 4 Mountain
3= No terrain
4= Cloud bank

We place a river across the board, with the mountains along the shore line.  There is no other terrain except the cloud bank at altitude 7.  

The French Raiders have 18 Operational value with:
  1. Cuchinchina
  2. Tourane
  3. Tonkin
  4. Rapier
The British have 23 Operational Value with: 
  1. Malaya - Flagship
  2. Achilles
  3. Medusa
  4. Corsair
The target of the Raid would be the HMS Malaya.

The British are set-up in the center of their deployment zone, line a stern across the board.  The Malaya is in the lead, with the Acheron behind.  The Medusa and Corsair are set-up to defend them with Point Defense support.  The big ships are are altitude 4 and 5 respectively and speed 4.  Their escorts are one altitude above and matching speed.  

The French are on the opposite side of the board coming on at line abreast.  From French left to right it is the Tourane, Cuchinchina, Tonkin, and then Rapier.  They are at altitude 5 across the board and speed 6.  

For complications, it is Night time.  Well, that will make things interesting! 

Turn 1:
 Command: The British win with 2 successes to 0.  They elect to go first. 

The two sides trade off with the Malaya going first.  The British speed up to 5, with the rest of the ships staying in formation.  The French Cuchinchina speeds up by dropping to Altitude 4 and going to get cover behind the main mountain.  The rest of the French fleet also drops to gain speed and cover, but turns towards the back of the British fleet. 

No one has the range due tot he darkness.  Once we get close, things are going to get loud really fast! 

Turn 2: 
Command: British win again 3 to 2.  They decide to go first again. 

Again, the British stay in formation, while the French stay low for some cover, and angle to surround the British forces.  The Rapier and Tonkin are arrowing towards the center of the British fleet, while their fellow ships move around the twin mountains.  The Rapier choose to blow smoke to screen their approach, unsure of the range.    

In the night, no one has range to fire yet.   

Turn 3: 
Command: This time the two forces tie with 2 each.  The British maintain the initiative.  

The Malaya goes first, and decides to Come to a New Heading!  This gives them extra turns!  She also speed up to 6 to try and get around the mountain.  She skirts dangerously close to the mountain side!  

The Cuchinchina uses a command to blow smoke, as she drops to Alitude 3 and picks up speed to her Maximum.  

The Medusa struggles to stay with her partner, and lags behind, losing the extra Point Defense cover for the Malaya. 

The Tourane continues forward and rounds the Mountain, but the British have moved beyond her reach.  No one is there!  

The Archeron continues following her command ship, and finds the French destroyer Rapier coming up fast on her starboard from below.  Captain Manly of the British cruiser decides to try to prepare for the inevitable Torpedo attack.  However, his crew fail to heed the command.  

The Corsair prepares her Point Defense guns as the enemy Destroyer races in on the Archeron.  She stays in position to support. 

The Tonkin drops to Altitude 3 and follows the Rapier in on her attack run.  

As the  HMS Malaya swings into view, Captain Gourdon orders his crew to Brace themselves from the British ships big guns.  They man their stations and prepare for impact.  The Malaya sees the French ship in her smoke cloud, and opens fire with her Bow heavy battery.  The big gun easily damages the smaller cruiser.  

The Point Defense gunners on the Corsair and Archeron were ready, as they blast the Rapier's air torpedoes out of the sky.  The Archeron has 3 Friction.  The Light Batteries of the Archeron returnt eh favor on the Rapier with a barrage of fire, causing 3 friction back, but no penetrating hits.  

The Tonkin launches a clutch of Air Torpedoes at the Archeron.  The Point Defense destroys two inbound, but one gets through and blasts past the cruiser's defenses.  The Corasir is also caught in the salvo, and an air torpedo hits her in the armored belt.  The Archeron has 5 Friction and the Corsair 1.    

The Cuchinchina can not return fire due to the altitude difference and her smoke screen.  No one else has the range, angle, or Line-of-sight to fire.

All Damage is applied.  
- The Cuchinchina has lost an armor point and has her rudder potentially jammed!
- The Archeron has lost an armor point, and her Point defenses are potentially out!

However, engineers from the two cruisers manage to repair the Rudder and re-arm the point defenses.  

There is 10 Friction markers on the board, and the two commanders roll a 13.  All friction is removed. 

Turn 4: 
Command: French win 2 to 1 this time.  They choose to let the British go first. 

The Archeron moves forward but drop altitude to possibly get cover behind the mountain.  

The Tourane makes her turns and comes in on the Stern of the British forces.  Meanwhile, the Corsair drops altitude with her charge as an escort.  

The Rapier moves to shadow the British fleet to their Port side.  

The Malaya turns to bring the French cruiser into her Broadside at close range.  The French Commodore sees the move, and orders and Emergency climb!  This allows him past the Malaya, and allows him to cross the T of the HMS Archeron and Corsair.      

The Medusa drops 2 altitude and speeds up to get back in station with the Malaya.  

Finally, the Tonkin turns to get behind the Archeron and reloads her Torpedo tubes, ready to fire.   

The Archeron decides to "Fire for Effect" against the Cuchinchina, Tonkin and the Rapier.  The gunnery is amazingly accurate, with the Cuchinchina taking three hits, the Tonkin 1, and the Rapier 1 as well!  Ouch!  Plus, it laid out 11 Friction markers on the foe.  I guess letting the British fire first was a bad idea! 

The Tonkin's salvo of torpedoes back at the Archeron cause 1 hit, and 5 friction markers.  

The Corsair also fires on the Cuchinchina with her light battery and torpedoes.  The French Point Defense destroys one torp, while two more outright miss.  The last torp and the light battery cause 2 Friction.  

The Cuchinchina fires back at the Archeron using her Broadside and causes 3 friction and 1 hit on the British cruiser.  

The HMS Malaya's rear battery fires on the Cuchinchina, and smashes deeo into her causing three more hits and taking her up to 11 total Friction.  

The Rapier has no targets, and the Tourane is too far away to fire.  

The Medusa  also fires a stern shot with her Medium batteries and adds two more Friction to the French Gloire class cruiser, giving her a total of 13 friction.  

We applied damage first:
- Cuchinchina lost 6 more Armor points for a total of 7 lost out of 8!  Her Rudder was jammed, her bridge damaged, and she was crippled!  
- The Archeron was also crippled in the fighting!  
- The Tonkin lost a stern light battery
- The Rapier lost 1 armor

The Cuchinchina is sinking from being crippled and drops to Altitude 4.  
The Archeron is also crippled and drops to Altitude 3.    

Strike Your Colors
- The Cuchinchina strikes her colors as she is crippled and heavily damaged.  
- The Archeron is crippled, but does not strike her colors, she can keep on trying to fight as she goes down!

All damaged ships have friction so can not test. 

There is 28 Friction on the board.  Since the French command ship has struck their colors, Captain de Genouilily of the Tourane takes command of the French force.  

The British roll to remove 11, and take all friction off the Archeron, and the rest off the Cuchinchina.  The French roll 8, and remove all Friction from the Rapier and Tonkin.  The Cuchinchina still has 8 friction.  

Turn 5: 
Command: Both score two successes, but the French have a Command rating of 3, so maintain initiative. They choose to go first this time.  

The Tourane moves up towards the crippled HMS Archeron.  

The HMS Malaya makes a Come to New Heading command, and heads towards the board edge.    

The Rapier tries to reload Torpedoes and fails.  She moves towards the board edge as well.  The Corsair tries to reload Torps and also fails.  They give chase to the fleeing French Destroyer. 

The Tonkin makes a quick ascent to Altitude 4 to avoid the sinking Archeron.  They also seem content to try and flee the battle into the night.  

The HMS Medusa tries to stay with her charge.     

The Tourane does not have a great angle, but her Starboard battery sinks a shell into the Archeron.  The Archeron's stern battery jams when it tries to return fire.  However, her port light batteries find the fleeing Tonkin and riddle her armor for three friction.     

The Corsair takes a pot shot at the Rapier, and only causes Friction. 

The Archeron loses another armor point.  

Stalling, both the Cuchinchina and the Archeron fall.  The French crew is busy abandoning ship.  

The Tonkin manages to fix her stern light battery.

All Friction is removed this turn. 

Turn 6: Final Turn
Command: The French win, 3 commands to 1.  The French continue to go first. 

The Rapier disengages from the board.  

The HMS Malaya turns and stays on the board in case her broadsides are needed.  

The Tonkin accelerates away into the night.  The HMS Corsair chases after the Rapier and disengages, losing the French ship in the night.  

The Tourane also turns and flies off into the night, content to get to safety. The HMS Medusa also disengages off the board. 

The fleets leave to let the damaged ships flounder, and will try to recover them at a later date. 


The Cuchinchina and the Archeron drops another altitude, leaving them dangerously close to crashing.  However, the game ends before that happens and they are assumed to stabilize themselves for recovery later.  

The French lost 9 armor to the British 4.  British Decisive Victory, and the French barely escaped with their Armored Cruiser alive!  The HMS Malaya and HMS Archeron took the poor Cuchinchina to school!  The British now lead the campaign 2 points to 0. 

After the battle waned, the crew of the Archeron managed to repair 1 armor point before limping back to Laem Chabang for further refit and repair.  The British tap their three Assets to repair her back to full capability.  The Rapier and the Tonkin both managed to repair their ships back to full armor.  The crew of the Chuchinchina also worked tirelessly to stabilize their ship, repair two armor, and get it running enough to fly back into Saigon for further repair work.  The French decide to use Saigon to fully repair the Cuchinchina, but it will take 3 campaign turns to repair the ship fully.  The French also decide to use Hue and Tonkin strategic assets to get a 2 re-rolls next game.           

The participants gained the following experience: 
 HMS Malaya- 5
HMS Archeron- 7
HMS Medusa- 2
HMS Corsair- 2

Tourane- 2
Cuchinchina- 3
Tonkin- 2
 Rapier- 1

This is not enough for any ship to gain an advance.

The British ambassador used the French incursion and night attack to further entrench themselves with the independent kingdom of Siam's king.  They pointed to the dangerous neighbor on the king's border and urged him to deepen his relationship with the British.  

For the French part, they claimed that the confusion of night time operations and navigation led to the unfortunate incursion into Siam airspace.  The French ambassador also pointedly remind the British of how the French had studiously avoided raising a fuss when the British had tried to interdict the Camot from arriving in Indo-china.  The British ambassador nodded in agreement.  

However, despite the diplomatic efforts to brush the incident under the rug, the respective Commodore's of both nations were busy plotting their next moves.  Their careers depended on success in the region. Therefore, peace was not going to be an option.      

You can pick up the rules for Castles in the Sky at the link from Amazon. 


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