Saturday, May 14, 2011

Assassination Battle with Jeremy, FSA vs Prussians 5-10-11

Fresh from my narrow defeat at the hands of Jeremy's Prussian Flying Circus in a massive 1200 point Control Level Mission a couple weeks ago, I made a Strategic Level Challenge which was quickly accepted. We rolled up Assassination, meaning we would deploy in 36" x 8" deployment zones off opposite corners, he would deploy everything first and I would then secretly choose which model had to die, and that model would be worth double VP.

We set up the terrain using the new streamlined version of the d10 terrain setup system we found on the Spartan Games forums (apologies to the originator, whose name I forget), which resulted in a ridiculously tight cluster of 2 very large and one medium Amera islands right in the middle of the board, creating a series of treacherous straights and channels.

Jeremy's Prussian fleet: 3 squadrons of 4 Frigates, 1 Squadron of 3 airships, 1 Squadron of 2 cruisers, 1 BB, 2 Squadrons of 5 Dive Bombers

Craig's FSA fleet: 2 Squadrons of 4 Frigates, 1 Squadron of 2 airships, 1 Squadron of 2 cruisers, 2 BB, 1 Squadron of Fighters, 1 Squadron of Torpedo Bombers

And now . . . the rest of the story . . .

Directly ahead of Task Force Righteous Fury sat a large island, gentle grassy slopes rising away from the rocky shores to a distant mountain peak. Off the starboard bow, however, was an enormous shield wall mountain rising straight up out of the sea and completely blocking what lay beyond.

Between the two islands was a narrow channel leading to another, smaller island. Huddled around this island, slowly steaming into the channel was the object of his task force’s hunt. He squinted into the machine and worked the handles, trying to bring the distant objects into sharper focus.

“Herr Flottenadmiral Turner has done it again. He’s got a wall of those damned frigates of his steaming directly into the channel. Looks like 12.”

The seaman at the Sturginium Scanner Array readout confirmed. “Yes, sir. We have 12 small returns entering the channel now, accompanying a much larger, single return.”

“That’s got to be the Eisenrichter . She’s behind that central island at the moment. Do you have any other readings, or is this my lucky day?”

Off to starboard the rest of Task Force Righteous Fury stretched away towards the channel that formed the central feature of the island chain the Prussians, who claimed these waters, called Die drei Hexen. First, just astern of the New Hampshire was his flagship’s sister, FSS Massachusetts. Then the Third and Sixth Escort Squadrons, each of four Augusta-class frigates, were sailing directly for the channel ahead while the two Lexington Class cruisers of the First Cruiser Squadron hugged the shield wall island, ready to spring around the headland if Prussian battleship could be persuaded to enter the channel. Floating sedately over the escort squadrons were the two Lee Class airships of Scout Squadron Seven. Snow snarled a little as he stared up at their armored bulk. This far out on the Federal supply line he’d only been able to secure the two new airships. Rumor had it that four more were in the pipeline to him, but they would be of no help on this day.

The buzz of his own escort fighters brought him back to the moment as they zipped back and forth overhead, guarding against the thrice-damned dive bombers Flottenadmiral Turner preferred over any other auxiliary aeroplanes. The Commodore extracted his head from the farsight contraption and turned back to his command chair. “Sailor, what readings?” he repeated the command, and the young man working the Scanner Tech jumped.

“Yes, sir. Looks like three medium sized airborne contacts and two surface vessels are behind the mountain, sir.”

“Ah, he does love his airships, the lucky bastard. And two cruisers, most like. He’ll use those to sweep around this big witch here to try to take us in the flank as we spring our trap. Signal the torpedo bombers over to that approach; give him something to think about, anyway. All other ships make best speed for the channel. The senator wants that ship dead, and we do aim to please.”

The ships of Task Force Righteous Fury sent plumes of green-tinged steam into the clear blue sky as they surged towards the channel between the three islands. The frigates went in first, trying to establish a screen against the rush tactic favored by the smaller Prussian vessels. Those same Prussian frigates, their boxy shapes low-slung and throwing clouds of exhaust, surged ahead to meet the Federated ships, and the battle was engaged as they exchanged rattling turret fire that sounded small and harmless in the distance. This appearance was belayed, however, as first one, and then a second Prussian frigate fell out of formation, their exhaust joined by billowing black clouds lit from within by the green fires of Sturginium reactor overloads.

Snow’s cruisers continued to hug the mountainous island, using the massive bulk to mask their presence from detectors on the Prussian flagship. The huge turrets tracked towards the enemy frigates but the smaller ships proved hard targets to the maneuvering capital ships. Overhead the Lee Class scout ships sailed higher into the sky, scanning ahead for further threats to the Federated command.

“Sir, a squadron of their frigates has broken off and is coming around the island directly ahead. They’ll be emerging on our left flank.” The calm tones of the Scanner Tech fit perfectly into the business-like hum of the bridge crew going about their duties.

“Got it, son. They’ll try a pincer movement coordinated with those cruisers, assuming we’ll hold our battlewagons back to shell the damned Eisenrichter from a distance . . . And they’ll be right, too.” A grin escaped the commodore’s self-control. “Of course, we won’t exactly be alone. And for now, we won’t have to worry about those frigates, or the cruisers. Where are the airships?”

“Moving towards us behind the mountain, sir. They’ll soon be able to come around.”

“Warn the Boston and the Concord that they’re enroute. Three of those airships could wreak havoc on those cruisers if they’re not careful.”

The signalman saluted. “Aye, aye, sir,” he turned to his own station to send the messages.

“The big girl’s coming!” The bridge officer’s voice was muffled by the farsight machine. The attention of the bridge crew shifted back to starboard as the low, sleek shape of a Prussian battleship slid from around the smallest island. Even from this distance they could see her turrets traversing, trying to track the small Federated frigates steaming into the channel. Attenuated by distance the booming of the turrets, coming perceptible moments after the flash and billowing clouds of their firing, echoed off the superstructure of the New Hampshire. Around the Federal frigates plumes of white water, tiny in the distance but towering over the small ships, bracketed the vessels but did no apparent damage. 

Before the commodore could order the Massachusetts forward she slid ahead on her own, her two turrets tracking around and thundering white clouds out over the intervening frigates. A dark column, lit from within by flickering green flames, rose over the Prussian battleship and she seemed to stagger in her forward momentum.

The bridge crew of the New Hampshire let out a raucous shout of victory, but it died as a lookout cried out “enemy frigate squadron’s broken our escort cordon! They’re coming straight for us!”

Snow recognized the pattern of the attack. The fast, agile Prussian ships had veered through the defensive deployment of his own frigates, ignoring them completely, and were slicing towards the two battleships. They’re course was not taking them directly towards one ship or the other, however, but seemingly aimed at the empty waters between the two larger vessels.

“Signal the Massachusetts. Tell them to prepare to repel borders and lower the elevation on their AA. Sound general quarters and brace for impact.” Snow’s voice was calm as he widened his stance and rested his hands behind the small of his back. His signals division moved to comply.

Sure enough, the small turrets on the frigates unleashed a salvo upon the flagship while the white trails of jump marines soared off their decks and converged, not upon the Massachusetts, but upon the Charlestown and the Lincoln, frigates of his Sixth Escort Squadron. Lines of lethal tracer fire rose from all four F.S. frigates, intersecting with the jump marines.

The deck underneath the commodore’s feet shook as if a giant’s warhammer had descended upon the flagship somewhere aft of the bridge. Warning claxons began to sound and damage reports flooded into the duty officer’s station. “Sir, rudder’s damaged, and we have several fires aft of the drive wheels.”
Snow nodded, but his attention was fixed out the viewports, down and to starboard where two of his ships were fighting for their lives.

Caught in the intersecting sprays of AA fire, many of the assaulters’ contrails stopped abruptly, or dropped into the sea, or veered suddenly off course and into the distance. But many more landed upon the decks of the Charlestown and the Lincoln, where they were met by the marine contingents aboard each ship. The action was soon over on the Lincoln, where massed rifle fire had stopped most of the boarders before they were even able to bring their weapons to bear. However, the battle raging on the decks of the Charlestown was far more violent. Tracer fire zipped off the ship in every direction and minor explosions rose from several locations. The frigate began to fall out of station with her sisters.

“Sir, Lincoln reports all boarders dealt with, no survivors. But they say things aren’t looking good for the Charlestown.” The signalman reported with an even tone.

“Looks like a massacre, sir.” The officer on the farsight reported in a muffled voice. “No marines in either uniform seem upright, and only a skeleton crew seems to be fighting the fires.”

Snow nodded.  “Dispatch damage repair parties to the drive house, prepare to bring us about twelve degrees to port.”

“Aye, aye, sir.” The helmsman responded. “Twelve degrees to port.”

“Bring down the Armistead and the Butler. Have them focus on the two frigate squadrons in the channel.”

Signals confirmed, and soon the two Lee Class scout ships were descending majestically, sweeping down in front of the two F.S. battleships and between the two Prussian frigate squadrons. The weapons along the flanks of both airships opened fire with thunderous volleys that plunged down upon the small gray ships. Plumes of water rose up all around, staggering the farther ships and riddling the closer ones with smaller shells. Marine sharpshooters firing from positions along the ships’ baskets concentrated on the farthest frigate, the fire falling with impunity upon the assault divisions still lined up on the ship’s deck. The AA guns arrayed along the centerline of the lead ship began to spit glowing death forward, out over the island ahead.
“Sir, the Armistead signals dive bombers sighted over the western island ahead.”

“Flanking units continue to maneuver wide, sir. The three airships are coming up on the eastern island.”

Snow nodded as he contemplated the scene stretched out before him. “OK, bring Sixth Escort Squadron back around to address these surviving frigates, the fighters, and prepare to repel the flanking unit. Send Third Squadron forward at the Eisenrichter, as well as the Boston and the Concord. I’m not keen on staying longer than necessary. Signal the Massachusetts she can fire as soon as she bears.”

The ships moved like precision cogs of a well-oiled machine. Round after round slammed into the Prussian battleship while the frigates within the channel shivered under the fusillade of additional fire. Massive columns of thick black smoke rose high into the clear air from the battleship as she struggled to maintain headway into the channel, now bereft of her smaller escorts.

“Casualty reports?” The captain had noticed several of his ships struck by enemy fire as the fleets closed, but in the swirling smoke and spray it was hard to keep track.

“Sir, we’ve lost the Mont Vernon from Sixth Squadron, and the Brighton from Third. Also, we’ve finally got a report from the Charlestown. They’re out. The Armistead is reporting minor damage from enemy flak, but nothing serious.”

Before the report was complete, however, the Eisenrichter came about and unleashed its full fury upon the Federal fleet. Devastating salvoes ripped into the Armistead and the frigate squadrons as well as the cruiser squadron. Ripples seemed to float across the airship’s surface as she took damage, and the Revere from Third Squadron suddenly ceased to exist, erased by an enormous column of water and debris that erupted into the sky.

“I want that ship silenced!” Commodore snow demanded. Again orders went out. Both the New Hampshire and the Massachusetts fired deafening salvoes that tore into the Prussian battleship. She was listing to the starboard now, with roaring fires licking up the sides of her superstructure, yet still she came on.

“Airships!” The call went out from the signals station and again all attention was fixed out the starboard view screens. Three rounded, bulbous shapes rose up over the shield wall mountains, swooping down upon the FSA cruisers. The airships seemed to flare in all directions, fire erupting from almost every surface. AA rose up to meet the ships from frigates and cruisers alike, but all of the firing seemed to hesitate for a moment as the entire scene froze. A flare of green lightning burst forth from the Boston’s forward generator. The sky glowed green as a shimmering blast wave screamed out in an expanding ring of cyan fire. Where the cruiser had been there was only a flat expanse of water.
“Sturginium Flare! Brace, brace, brace!” The cry was taken up across the bridge and everyone reached for handholds to steady themselves as the massive ship rocked beneath them. The green wave swept over the battleships, scattering the smaller ships in all directions.

“Anti-air! Everything against them now! Make sure the Eisenrichter does not flee!” The bridge crew was scrambling to maintain command cohesion in the face of the Boston’s sudden destruction. All the FSA ships sprayed their flack up to meet the Prussian airships as their primary weapons continued to tear into the enemy battleship.

Sixth Squadron swept beyond the battleship, around her bow, and a single frigate slewed close to the Prussian ship’s bow in an attempt to foul her navigation.

“Which ship is that?” Snow demanded, seeing the tiny frigate place itself directly in the path of the battleship.

“The Milford, sir.”

“Brave. . . “ The Commodore watched as the Eisenrichter ground down upon the frigate. Both ships hesitated with their impact and the smaller ship was pushed around and out of sight. Several of the bridge crew said a silent prayer for the crew of the small ship.

“Sir, the Concord is reporting major damage, most primary systems are barely operable.”

In the distance, hard by the Prussian battleship, the cruiser was slewing around to avoid the western island, fleeing the destruction raining down from the enemy airships. Clouds of oil smoke billowed after her.

“Have her bring her turret to bear on the Eisenrichter if she can, and throw any AA up at those airships.”

“Aye, aye, sir.”

“Flankers off the port bow! Enemy frigate squadron closing fast!”

Before any defenses could be brought to bear against the smaller ships they swooped around a jagged promontory, guns blazing at the flagship. The ship staggered again as an explosion rocked the forward superstructure around the number one turret.

“Gunnery reporting massive damage, sir!”

“Sir, Massachusetts reports taking fire from the flanking cruiser squadron. Minor damage only.”

Snow scanned the battle. The enemy airships were now streaming smoke from dozens of minor wounds, and the Prussian battleship was limping forward at a fraction of her standard speed. The flankers were the only viable threats to his command, but the target of their mission was still afloat.

Before Snow could give the order to fire upon the Eisenrichter, a mushroom of intense green fire rose into the air from her hidden port side, silhouetting the battleship and her shroud of smoke plumes.

“Sir, Concord is signaling, Milford and the rest of Sixth Squadron have struck the port side of target one. She’s listing badly. But . . . it looks like she’s trying to come about!”

Sure enough, it appeared that the Eisenrichter was making one final push, trying to turn back into the channel and towards the remaining FSA ships. Flickering tongues of green fire shot through spreading columns of dark smoke that poured from rents in the ship’s thick armor. It seemed again as if the battle paused as everyone watched the ponderous turn. The foaming water around the battleship’s bow turned lighter and lighter as the water shoaled beneath her.

The forward motion of the battleship stopped so suddenly her superstructure was wrenched out of true, leaning forward and threatening to collapse down upon her number two turret. The sleek lines of the ship’s hull slowly bent inward as the inertia stressed the materials beyond endurance. Flashes of green fire punctuated the ship’s destruction as Sturginium generators gave way, venting plasma into the ship’s hull. The billowing clouds of smoke and steam rose gently into the sky.

The bridge of the New Hampshire was silent for a moment as everyone watched the growing cloud over the dying ship. Crewmen, tiny in the distance, could be seen abandoning the ship, lifeboats making for the eastern island.

“Well, that’s about that.” Snow allowed himself a small smile of satisfaction. “The Senator shouldn’t mind that it was an island delivered the deathblow. He has always been one for results over symbolism.” The Commodore turned back to his command chair, but hadn’t sat down before the watch officer’s voice brought him up short.

“Sir, the surviving enemy frigates are coming around! They are performing their split maneuver!”
Snow went back to the view screen. “Alert the Massachusetts. Everyone brace for impact, lower the elevation on all AA, and marine divisions prepare to repel boarders. No telling where they’re going to land this time.”

The frigates came sweeping around behind the flagship, their guns blazing once again at the New Hampshire. Once again the sky was filled with the arching contrails of jump marines, this time flying towards the Massachusetts.

But this last hope of the Prussians stalled in the face of staunch resistance. The Massachusetts’ AA proved brutally effective, dropping the majority of the troops screaming into the water even as the ship’s marine contingent raced to the port rails, bringing their long guns to bear on those attackers who managed to evade the flak. Not a single Prussian marine reached the decks of the battleship. The fire from the frigates’ main guns was equally ineffective, most likely due to the violent maneuvering required to deliver their doomed marines.

With the failure of this attack it was as if the fight went out of the Prussians. Snow snarled at the communications man. “Target the wounded airships. The fewer ships they get home the better it will be for us down the road.”

First one Prussian airship folded in upon itself, cascading down into the surf in a green-tinged fireball. The second detonated with a deep-throated bellow that shook the panes of the view screens and spread burning wreckage over a wide circle of waves.

Overhead the Armistead and the Butler shed their primary armor sheathing, the sheets of treated steel plummeting into the waves in streaks of fire and smoke. The surviving FSA ships turned towards the west and out of Prussian-held waters.

“Job well done, gentlemen. Please signal the same to the rest of the task force, and make best speed for Reykjavik Base.”

Behind Task Force Righteous Fury three frigates and two cruisers moved to assist the survivors of the Eisenrichter while a column of green-shot smoke marked the funeral pyre of the massive ship.Commodore Archibald Snow stood at the massive farsight contraption that had been set up against the fore windows of the bridge of his flagship, the Independence class battleship FSS New Hampshire, scanning the horizon. The elaborate brass tubing, gears and belts that encircled his head were vaguely claustrophobic, but that was a small price to pay to be able to scan the enemy at such distances.

1 comment:

  1. Nice battle report, I especially enjoy reading the ones where the player(s) have gone to the effort of "fictionalising" the game.

    I'm not far off picking up a Empire of the Blazing Sun fleet and the Dystopian Wars rules, I can not wait!