Monday, November 27, 2023

Castles in the Sky: The Indo-China Campaign - The Final Battle


Welcome to the final battle of the Indo-China campaign between the British and the French.  The French finally took the lead in the campaign at 7 to 5 points and have triggered the "Final Battle".  One thing about the "Final Battle" scenario in the rules is that it encourages the players to determine what that scenario is going to be!  

In an unfortunate stroke of bad luck, the British ambassador to Siam passed away.  This left the Foreign Office in a bit of a dilemma.  The deceased ambassador had a well-established and long running relationship with the King of Siam.  This untimely opening had to be filled, before the French could exploit the opening and insert themselves into a position of power in Siam.  Therefore, the Foreign Office dispatched a new Ambassador immediately via airship.  

Commodore Duckworth received the news and immediately deployed with what was left of the Royal Navy of Siam to rendezvous with the British airship.  However, Commodore Aubre also received word of the arriving diplomat from his own Foreign Service contacts.  He also left with his own fleet to intercept and stop the new British Ambassador from arriving on-station.  


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

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

Royal Navy of Siam

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

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

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

The British will also have to protect the ambassador's airship:

HMS Wesley Anne - Command 2
Troop Transport Ship

This is the Final Battle, so there is no scenario from "the book".  Instead, we are going to use elements of other scenarios to make this custom scenario.  

The British ambassador in the HMS Wesley Anne is placed within 18 MU from the short table edge at any speed and altitude 24 MU in from the British edge.  In addition, a landing point is placed on the opposite short table edge 12 MU in, and 24 MU in from the British edge.  The landing zone is a box 6 MU x 6 MU and the center is represented by a terrain piece.  The British are attempting to land the Ambassador within the landing zone before the game ends.    

Then, both the British and the French can place up to 15 AV of picket ships on opposite sides of the board on the long table edges, but no closer than 12 MU from any short edge.  Non-Picket ships go into reserves.  All ships can be placed at any speed and altitude.  Reserves enter the board in the normal deployment zones and follows the normal rules for reserves.  

In addition, if the British Ambassador's ship is stricken with a Fire! from critical damage, it will also trigger a special rules that the Ambassador was killed in the attack and ensuing fire.  Any successful boarding actions on the Ambassador's ship can "take the Ambassador" prisoner instead of the normal effect.  

The game will last 8 turns. 

The outcome of the campaign is thus: 
1. The Ambassador lands successfully in the landing zone - British Major win and Siam becomes part of the Empire as a client state

2. The Ambassador's ship survives the battle and is not crippled or sunk and still on the board - British Minor win and Siam stays in the British Orbit

3. The Ambassador's ship is crippled or left the board - Draw, but Siam becomes independent

4. The Ambassador's ship is sunk/explodes or the Ambassador is killed - French Major win and Siam is out of British orbit

5. The Ambassador is captured - The French have broken Siam from British control and swung them to French orbit         

There are three cloud banks on the board at randomly assigned heights as terrain and complications.  They are at 3, 4, and 2 and their height is a die next to them.  

The Final Battle will take place on a 72 MU by 48 MU board.  1 MU is equal to 1 inch.  

The British Picket ships are the HMS Corsair and the HMS Medusa.  The Medusa is set-up to try and catch up with and escort the Wesley Anne, while the Corsair will try to lead them towards the landing zone.  
The HMS Wesley Anne has the flag 

The French picket ships are the Fantassin and Tonkin.  They are coming across at an angle towards the HMS Wesley Anne, eager to sink some torpedoes into her.  

For this battle, we are using a standing white board to track the key details of the battle like ship speed, altitude, Command, damage, and special effects.     

In addition, I am not going to be detailing every move and shot like previous game reports. Instead, I am going to give some high level details.  The battle will be broken down by stage.  These will be the Maneuver Phase, Battle Phase, and the End Phase.   

Maneuver Phase:
The French get a good jump and aggressively move in on the Ambassador's ship.  The Fantassin hits her with a spread of torps at long-range, but thankfully the look-outs saw them coming in time to Brace and avoid any damage.  That was a wake-up call to the British to start maneuvering and get the lead-out! 

The Wesley Anne gets under the Medusa's protection as she desperately blows smoke and tries to dive out of the line of fire.  However, the French keep barreling in heedless of the Corsair bearing down on them.  The Medusa's Point Defense guns swat two torpedoes from the Tonkin out of the air, but three others slam into the transport ship.  The Corsair tries to drive off the French Destroyer with a burst of Torps, but fails to strike home.  

The Wesley Anne desperately makes for the Cloud Banks, while the HMS Medusa stays as her escort.  The HMS Malayan and Commodore Aubre and the rest of the French fleet also arrive on scene.  The HMS Medusa escort pays off as she swats incoming Air Torpedoes from the Fantassin out of the sky. 

Battle Phase: 
The Wesley Anne escapes into the cloud bank, with the Medusa staying just above it.  The Tonkin moves to get the angle for when the transport comes out, but is greeted by the Corsair unloading on her from the Stern and the HMS Malayan from the port bow with her heavy guns.  The Tonkin is rocked by Friction and a heavy shells penetrates her armor.  

The Tonkin found itself caught up in the middle of the British fleet.  Meanwhile, the HMS Corsair was in front of the French.  They were both going to take a pounding.  The Tonkin's Captain let rip on the Wesley Anne and Corsair from both sides, passing the Command check.  Despite the Medusa's best efforts a torpedo managed to strike the transport and detonate.  

The Corsair managed to sink a torp into the Tourane, but in return was shelled by the guns of the Camot at close range.  She came away worse off with two hits.  The Malayan and Medusa pounded on the Tonkin, who failed to Brace.  

The Corsair lost armor, but the Tonkin's bridge was smashed by the enemy shelling knocking the Captain out of the fight.  The Tourane also had her screw fouled.  However, things went really pear shaped for the Brits as the Wesley Anne exploded in mid-air!  

The end of British control of Siam
End Game: 
With the British Ambassador's ship blown up in a catastrophic explosion, we decided to play one last turn as the fleets tried to disengage or get revenge.  

I finally obliged the British player and took my inferior French Battleship broadside to broadside against the British Dreadnought.  I even brought my Gloire Heavy Cruiser to support and he brought a Light Cruiser.  The engagement proved the wisdom of avoiding such and encounter all campaign.  The British fired for effect, while I braced.  Once the smoke cleared, the French Battleship lost 4 armor, a fouled screw, and took 13 friction.  The British Dreadnought took 7 Friction but no damage.  Ouch!  

With that, we called it a campaign! 

Well, the British lost the campaign when the Ambassador's ship blew up!  He's super dead now.  However, the British also ended the campaign on a high note as they finally got to use the full power of their battleship and reduced the Camot to half armor in one volley.  That was pretty satisfying for them.  

Commodore Duckworth tried to fill the gap for the lost ambassador with the King of Siam.  His diplomatic skills were worse than his command skills.  The Foreign Office in London was unable to recruit a new ambassador after the fate of the last one.  

It was not long before the French had easily out-maneuvered Commodore Duckworth at court.  The King of Siam was also unimpressed by the British being unable to help quell rebels in the Kraa isthmus, and the high upkeeping cost of their Navy.  He expelled the British, and turned to the French in Indo-china for aid.  The French were quickly able to quell the rebellion, since they had been secretly funding it. 

It was not long before Siam and France signed a mutual aid pact.  This effectively brought Siam into the French orbit.  With French ships patrolling the region, the trade lines to and from Indo-china were secured.  A great diplomatic and strategic victory for the French. 

Now, to talk a bit about the battle and the campaign.  The British underestimated the range of the French torpedoes, and in the first turn failed to take evasive actions to avoid coming under fire.  This was a big problem as the little transport got pasted before reinforcements could show up.  However, the British had a tough climb in this scenario because their fleet had been decimated in the previous Fleet Battle, and they really didn't have enough ships to challenge the French.  The HMS Malayan was powerful, but not maneuverable or fast enough to get there in time.  The French discarded their usual Fabian tactics and just came pouring on with a single-minded determination to sink the Transport.  

This was the 7th or 8th  battle in the campaign.  The pool of ships and the post-battle repair sequences were fun and interesting.  Damaging or losing ships in battle turned out to be a big deal.  However, the experience side was not as useful.  We kept forgetting to use the experience benefits in the heat of the battles.  Plus, it was a bit of tracking during the battle for the gains.           

Overall, a good time with the scenario and the campaign in general.  

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  1. Parece muy interesante el juego, nunca jugué wargames aéreos o navales, no son populares donde vivo (y somos un pueblo costero...en fin) aunque siempre me han llamado la atención.
    Gracias por el artículo, un placer.

    1. Too bad. I am a big fan or both aircraft games and naval games. Therefore, why not do both in one game?