Sunday, 1 June 2014

AAR - Greenland Campaign Finale

"..following months of skirmishes, blockade runs, raids and ambushes, proxy wars with entire fleets of mercenaries and the resulting betrayals and subterfuge that followed, the Federated States of America made their final assault down the Davis Strait and into the Prussian port of Holsteinsborg. 

Their fleet was heavy with bombs and ordnance for leveling the port, and bolstered with mercenaries from the Honourable Eclipse Company. The way was open; the defence fleet that had sallied forth to deny the 27th Bomb Group were sitting at the bottom of the ocean or had been dragged back to port in pieces... 

...but the Prussian port was not defenceless - the mighty Stiglitz still sat in anchor at Holsteinsborg, attended by an entire flotilla of support craft and escorts. Commander Jürgen Grönemeyer was present with his Sturmbringer-class Submarine and elements of his Wolf Pack, and finally, after weeks of preparation, commander Karl-Ehrhart Grunner reclaimed his flag aboard the Emperor-class Battleship Hetzer

Battle would be joined in the shallow waters of the port itself, and the siege broken... one way or another..."
- The Blockade of Greenland
Naval Battles of 1872

Battered and broken, the Sachsen is dragged back into port, pursued by the American fleet
Welcome to the final game of the Greenland Campaign and our last game using the 1.1 Rulebook! The end of an era.

Being the grand finale, myself and Good Friend Ben created a great board full of terrain to represent the Prussian port of Holsteinsborg, and used fleets bigger than our usual fare. Centrepiece models were key to the spectacle, with the massive Stiglitz-class Floating Fortress (discussed here) dominating the Prussian defences while Ben ran the lovely Savannah-class Sky Fortress, the heavily armed Elysium-class Large Airship and a mighty Enterprise-class Dreadnought together. I think he wanted to make sure the port was bombarded out of existence!

For the Stiglitz-class Floating Fortress, we used the stats of the Ottoman Hisar-class Mobile Airfield but replaced its weapons and generators with three fore-mounted Hussar turrets, one fore-mounted and the one aft-mounted Battleship turret, and the prow-mounted Tesla weapon of the Blucher-class Dreadnought. Instead of the Firtina Generator and the mine controlling device, the Stiglitz would be equipped with a single shield generator and a tesla generator. We priced it at 250pts for this scenario.

The board features a grand sea wall extending almost all the way across the side of the board, representing the fortress that sits at the centre of Holsteinsborg, while beyond its protection lie jetties, loading docks and repair yards full of cargo ships and the damaged Sachsen, recovering from brutal treatment at the hands of the Black Wolf Mercenaries and then further injury in the bombing raid last month.

The terrain was dense, and the coming engagement would be a close and brutal affair - perfect for the close-range Prussians and the brawlers in the FSA fleet!

At the walls of Holsteinsborg, the Federated States of America and mercenaries of the Honourable Eclipse Company engage the Prussian Empire
Ben's Fleet
The Federated States of America
One Enterprise-class Dreadnought with one shield generator
One Savannah-class Sky Fortress with one Wing of five Torpedo Bomber TFTs and a Recon Plane
Four Lee-class Scoutships
Reinforced Cruiser Squadron - one Princeton-class Gunship and two Lexington-class Cruisers with shield generators
One Squadron of four Augusta-class Frigates
Two Wings of five Torpedo Bomber TFTs

Mercenaries - The Honourable Eclipse Company
One Elysium-class Large Airship with two Wings of three Fighter Plane TFTs
Three Phoenician-class Scout Airships
One Squadron of four Hades-class Interceptors

My Fleet
Prussian Empire
One Stiglitz-class Floating Fortress with two Wings of three Fighter Plane TFTs, one Wing of five Dive Bomber TFTs and a Recon Plane, accompanied by two Wachter-class Escorts
One Emperor-class Battleship with shield generator
One Sturmbringer-class Submarine
Two Hussar-class Gunships with one attached Konigsberg-class Battlecruiser 
Three Donnerfaust-class Support Cruisers
One Squadron of four Stolz-class Destroyers
One Squadron of five Saxony-class Corvettes
Two Squadrons of four Arminius-class Frigates
Two Wings of five Dive Bomber TFTs

DEPLOYMENT 

The FSA Deployment - the centre is dominated by the larger vessels, while the Cruiser squadron and Airships hold the port flank
Another angle of the FSA Deployment
The Prussian Deployment, their flanks anchored by the island and the fortress walls. The grand Stiglitz-class Floating Fortress sits in the centre. The Sturmbringer and a squadron of Frigates are deployed behind the island and are not pictured here

The ruined Dreadnought sits in dock, attended by worker crews and repair ships. It will not be taking part in the defence
Merchant vessels flee back to the safety of Holsteinsborg, but they are too late and the gateway is closed. They will be caught in the middle of the coming battle
The board is set, the pieces are moving...

TURN ONE
Opening moves - the Honourable Eclipse Company duel with the Donnerfaust-class Support Cruisers, both sides causing damage
The aerial elements of the fleet move forward
The mighty Earth Shaker Cannon causes havoc in the dockyards, while the Lee-lass Scoutships damage the Emperor-class Battleship
The Dreadnought enters the fray, as Prussian return fire damages the Elysium-class Large Airship
The FSA continue to bombard the Gunship squadron, finishing off the damaged Hussar and crippling the second. Shields flaring, the Emperor resists a hail of rockets
The Stolz-class Destroyers advance and critical one of the Phoenician-class Scoutships. In return, the Reinforced Cruiser squadron targets the Donnerfaust-class Support Cruisers and causes serious damage to the lead vessel
Scattered rocketry from the Reinforced Cruiser squadron is shot down by Prussian ack-ack
The Augusta-class Frigates present their broadsides and damage the Destroyer squadron, sinking one
As their bigger brothers take damage, the Saxony-class Corvettes nip forward and cause further scarring to the Eclipse Company Scoutships
The Arminius-class Frigates, having suffered damage from the Earth Shaker Cannon, move into optimum range and destroy two Augusta-class Frigates
On the other side of the island, the second squadron of Arminius-class Frigates move around the jetties toward the FSA fleet. They are strafed by Hades-class Interceptors and one of their number is lost
The Sturmbringer moves in support, taking down one of the Interceptors with a Speerschleuder before disappearing beneath the waves
Before diving, the Tesla Bombard and the fore Speerschleuder cause more misery for the Elysium, arcing electricity frying a great deal of the crew as raging fires spread out of control
A wide shot shows the swirling cauldron of flyers in the centre as squadrons of bombers and fighter planes engage one another
The end of Turn One sees both sides bloodied, with a great deal of damage spread over both fleets already
Merchant vessels sit tight and hope they haven't been noticed
Turn One was bloody for both sides, but in terms of sheer losses the Prussian Empire suffered badly, losing several Frigates, a Destroyer and a Gunship to the long range turrets and rocket batteries of their foe. Both the Support Cruiser squadron and the Gunship squadron have taken serious damage, and will be less effective in the coming turn. In return, the Honourable Eclipse Company have taken a significant amount of hits on a number of their Airships, while FSA have also taken hits on the Lee-class Scoutship squadron and lost two Frigates.
TURN TWO

Prussian Dive Bombers swoop onto the crippled Elysium, but suffer too many losses going in and are ineffective
The Dreadnought spreads its firepower, finishing off a Frigate and a Destroyer before causing critical damage to the Konigsberg-class Battle Cruiser
The Donnerfaust-class Support Cruisers are already in a prime position and coast forward, spreading their Tesla-weaponry between the Phoenician-class Scoutships and damaging all three to various degrees
The Lee-class Scoutships turn to the port, but their weaponry is ineffectual
What remains of the Destroyer squadron fail to damage the Reinforced Cruiser squadron, but their Luftlancers scuttle one of the Augusta-class Frigates in a brutal boarding action
The Reinforced Cruiser Squadron causes major damage to the surviving Hussar-class Gunship and even chips the paintwork of the lumbering Stiglitz-class Floating Fortress. Their boarding parties then sabotage both of the Stolz-class Destroyers
The leviathan stirs! The Stiglitz opens up with its multiple turrets and heavy ack-ack fire, crippling a Lee-class Scoutship and destroying a Lexington-class Cruiser, before finishing two of the damaged Phoenician-class Scoutships. A brutal round of shooting! 
Another view of the carnage. The turrets of the Wachter-class Escorts were also key to destroying the Lexington
FSA Torpedo Bombers finish the crippled Konigsberg-class Battle Cruiser
In a bold move, the Arminius-class Frigates swoop from the left and, following some scattered shots at the Dreadnought, launch their Luftlancers up into the Elysium-class Large Airship. Rampaging through the fire-racked deck, they finish the remaining crew and smash the important systems, rendering the vessel a Derelict, floating hulk
The last Hussar-class Gunship is finished by bomber ordnance
Sweeping around the floundering merchant vessels, the Saxony-class Corvettes launch a bold boarding assault against the Princeton-class Gunship and savage the crew, leaving it Derelict. Their turret fire also damages the Lexington 
Throwing caution to the wind, Prussian Dive Bombers descend on the as-yet undamaged FSA Dreadnought. Through a wall of ack-ack fire, they cause light damage
The aerial duel continues, swirling above the Arminius-class Frigates
Prussian fighters engage a Lee-class Scoutship, causing some damage while the Emperor-class Battleship fires upon the Lexington, crippling it with powerful turret fire. It then launches Luftlancers into one of the central Lees, leaving it Derelict but losing half its boarding parties in the process
The Arminius-class Frigate launches a boarding assault on the last Augusta, destroying it before it can collide with the Derelict Gunship
Hades-class Interceptors pursue the second Arminius squadron, destroying another
The Sturmbringer surfaces, opening fire on the Dreadnought and lancing it with Tesla weaponry
Once again, it descends beneath the surface
Another wave of Prussian Fighters take down a heavily damaged Lee-class Scoutship
A wide shot shows the fleets engaging. Pictured here, the Savannah-class Sky Fortress bombs one of the Arminius-class Frigates as it passes over them and causes minor damage
The maelstrom at the end of the Second Turn sees the Prussian fleet take the upperhand after a string of successful boarding actions, accounting for high profile targets like the Princeton-class Gunship, a Lee-class Scoutship and the mighty Elysium-class Large Airship
Turn Two started well for the attackers, but the Prussian Empire ignored certain targets in favour of staggering their attacks until the hits built up and several key boarding actions could be launched. The synergy between the elements of the fleet lead to a "Death By A Thousand Cuts" that, by the end of the turn, left the Elysium Derelict and crippled the Phoenician squadron and the Reinforced Cruiser Squadron. The Prussians began turning their attentions to the Dreadnought and the Lees by the end of the turn, causing significant damage to both and leaving the Lees at less than half strength. 

The Americans and their Mercenary allies may have taken out the Gunship squadron and the Destroyers, but at this point was feeling somewhat overwhelmed and surrounded on three fronts. 

TURN THREE

The Dreadnought is the only significant threat left, so the Arminius-class Frigates launch a desperate boarding action, selling their lives to bring down some of the American Marines
The Dreadnought advances, but has a poor round of shooting and only superficially damages the Emperor-class Battleship
The mighty Stiglitz moves slowly, turret fire finishing the wounded Lexington and causing more damage to the Dreadnought
Lee-class Scoutships assault the Emperor, and in the ensuing butchery all three vessels are rendered crew-less
The Sturmbringer hits the Dreadnought with its Tesla Bombard, but the return fire from the American fleet knock out its Tesla Generator
The Emperor destroys a Lee with its anti-aircraft fire and batteries of Tesla-weaponry but is unable to damage the Dreadnought
An overhead shot shows the squadrons of fighters and bombers engaging
In a last ditch to deal with the Dreadnought, the Saxony-class Corvettes launch an assault with their few remaining Luftlancers. None survive the jump across the ocean
The battle reaches its conclusion, with both sides spent. The FSA fleet in tatters, a number of key boarding actions going against them as the Prussians outmanoeuvred and surrounded them
The Prussians have held the line, and cornered the last remnants of the FSA fleet against their wall of their repair yards
The chaos around the dockyard, with squadrons of bombers and fighters scattered across the field and drifting, Derelict vessels littering the ocean and sky
The battered Phoenician-class Scoutship surrounded by enemies
The Stiglitz-class Floating Fortress stands defiant
A view from the FSA side of the field - surrounded on all sides, battered and bruised
There seems little room for the FSA Dreadnought to escape, but the Prussian fleet has suffered enough damage that they pose little further threat to it
Parting shot - Victory for the Prussian Empire!
Turn Three was less decisive to the final result, but saw the Prussians maintain the pressure while the FSA and Eclipse Company struggled to retaliate. Having removed several major threats, the Prussians worked on stripping crew and Hit Points from the Enterprise-class Dreadnought, while doing as much damage as they could to the Lee-class Scoutships. In the end, this was enough to break the American fleet. 

ENDGAME
At the end of Turn Three, the Prussian defenders had scored 1162 Victory Points, while the FSA and their allies had only managed to score 770 Victory Points. A strong win for the Prussians in their home territory, obvious from a glance at the table - Derelict American vessels drift across the board, the Dreadnought is half-dead, while only the Savannah-class Sky Fortress has emerged unscathed. 

A brutal affair, no doubt - the second half of Turn Two was the decider as the Prussians chose their targets, surrounded and annihilated them with a storm of Tesla and Luftlancers. The FSA struggled to counter attack, and though they did destroy a great number of the Prussian Mediums, the Stiglitz-class Floating Fortress, Sturmbringer Submarine and the Emperor-class Battleship used their heavy firepower to cripple their targets and allow the Frigates and Corvettes to Board and finish them off. 

CONCLUSIONS AND LEARNING POINTS
Ben puts some of the blame on his deployment - the three Large vessels sitting in the centre were perhaps not in the best position - especially the Savannah could not get close enough to really affect the battle, while the Dreadnought was easily surrounded by multiple Prussian squadrons that would strip it of HP and AP. 

This tactic of focusing fire on one target at a time saw the demise of the Elysium in the opening moves of Turn Two, meaning the brutal Earth Shaker Cannon only managed a single volley. Considering the damage that gun did in the first turn and in previous Battle Reports, it is understandable why the Airship was considered a priority target! 

The Dreadnought had some bad shooting, and made less of an impact than expected, though it did soak up punishment and boarding parties like a sponge. 

In turn, the Stiglitz proved the equivalent of a Dreadnought with its set of turrets and the powerful close range shooting of the Wachter-class Escorts. A lumbering behemoth, it handled like a tractor, but could deal with multiple targets and drew a lot of attention from the American fleet. 

The success of the Wachter-class Escorts was an unexpected bonus - I have not used them before but they may make an appearance in future games, especially with the new rules for Escorts in 2.0. 

Having already received my 2.0 Rulebook a week before this game, my mind was filled with a lot new rules, and it was good to see the improvements and stream-lining present in the new Edition. I spent no small amount of time in this game wishing for the new Linked Fire rules, for one! 

A good fun game and a solid ending to the Campaign - obviously the FSA may have an advantage when they can draw the Prussian fleet into their traps and blockades, but attacking them in their own territory does not work out well! A proper retrospective of the campaign will follow sometime soon. 

THE NARRATIVE
"...as the smoke cleared, Grunner stood triumphant. The FSA had been repulsed at the very gates of Holsteinsborg, their fleet lying in the shallow waters of the port. The Federacy Military Command were incredulous - the effort and expenditure to blockade just one of the Prussian ports of Greenland had spiralled out of control and drawn away crucial resources needed to protect the convoys in the Atlantic and aid their allies around Europe and North Africa. 

The blockade of the Davis Strait was quietly lifted and new strategies to combat the rampant Prussian piracy developed. The war was far from over, however..."

Thanks for reading,

George

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