Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Famous Ships of the Greenland Campaign


In this post we look at some of the key ships that took part in the brief, yet bloody conflict around the icy shores of Greenland, and discuss how a little narrative can add so much to your games
The Greenland Campaign has come to a close, ready for the launch of Dystopian Wars Second Edition and the beginning of a new campaign on the far side of the world. The "Greenland Campaign" was not an organised affair, but a simple series of games between friends using a variety of fleets, tied together by drawing links between the results of one game or the loss of a certain vessel, done almost entirely on the fly. A Retrospective of the campaign was discussed last week.

One of the best ways to create narrative and make a "campaign" out of a series of different games is to add some flavour to your force - name the flagship, have you commodore build a "grudge" against a particular opponent who always beats you, stop using a particular vessel if it is Lost or Captured, etc.

This kind of small action takes a tiny amount of imagination and a few seconds, but makes for a far more interesting experience, and a more interesting write-up when creating an AAR to post on the blog! As important as having a painted fleet and some good scenery, building up an idea of why two fleets are engaging one another breathes life into the game and makes it something more than just pushing pieces of resin around a kitchen table.


The Red Viper came about as I wanted to try an unusual colour scheme on my second Death Bringer-class Submarine. When I later painted a Covenant of Antarctica fleet in similar colours, I decided to link together in the narrative. The name comes from a certain fictional character - prizes for who can Google the fastest 
The Red Viper is a Death Bringer-class Submarine commanded by a captain of the Black Company known only as the Sea Snake. Little is known of the Sea Snake, save his unstable mood swings and penchant for violence, but rumours abound that he was once a Prussian submarine commander, one of the pioneers of the infamous Sturmbringer-class design and an architect of the London Raid.

In battle with the Russian fleet, his Submarine was badly damaged and sank to the bottom of the desolate North Sea, abandoned as the Prussian fleet fled the Russian guns. Increasingly desperate as their air and their options ran out, the crew were chanced upon and saved by vessels of the Covenant of Antarctica. They were offered a choice - forgetting their oaths to Prussia and the Emperor and taking the Covenant, or a slow death in the icy waters. None refused.

Skilled in submarine warfare, the survivors were scattered across the world to help the Covenant develop their fleet of submersibles and wave-lurking vessels. In the captain, however, something was rotten. Perhaps it was Decompression Sickness, or perhaps something had snapped when he saw his old comrades abandon him at the bottom of the ocean, but he became cruel and violent. He was quickly marked as a liability to the Covenant and their grand plans.

The Sea Snake was reassigned to the newly founded Black Company, a mercenary arm of the Covenant tasked with the most aggressive military actions and rampant piracy. Under the command of Vladimir Nikonov, the Black Wolf himself, the Black Wolf Mercenaries quickly made their name as highly effective yet notoriously violent mercenary soldiers. The Sea Snake soon found himself in command of one of the fabled Death Bringer-class Submarines, and in recognition of his saviours and employers, took the colour scheme of the 7th War Fleet and christened it the Red Viper.

In the opening months of 1872 the Sea Snake was contracted by commander Karl-Ehrhart Grunner of the Prussian Empire to track down and destroy the FSA Enterprise-class Dreadnought Argo. Offered exclusive hunting rights and raw materials, he agreed, and in less than three weeks tracked, ambushed and destroyed the Argo off the coast of Greenland. The Black Company took the opportunity to ransack the merchant ships it had been escorting to mark their victory.

With a major threat to their Wolf Packs now removed, the Prussian forces on Greenland called for reinforcements to bulk out the fleet harboured at Holsteinsborg. The Sea Snake, ever the capricious mercenary, took the opportunity to ambush these reinforcements and captured the grand Blucher-class Dreadnought Sachsen at Kap Farvel, dragging the hulk back to Ammassalik.

Furious beyond comprehension, Grunner despatched a fleet to attack the pirate port and recover the Sachsen, an audacious and potentially suicidal plan that caught the mercenaries off guard with its audacity. Overwhelmed by superior numbers and an enemy that dominated both the sea and sky, Ammassalik was bombarded and the Sachsen recovered.

The Sea Snake had underestimated his former countrymen, and paid for it dearly - the Red Viper was last seen jetting great columns of smoke, disappearing into the water under massed waves of dive bombers and heavy ordnance.

...but this was not the first time the Sea Snake had gone down with his ship...


The Argo is a Dreadnought that has caused me misery in a large number of games against my friend Ben. It was a great pleasure to destroy it with the Black Wolf Mercenaries! It takes it's name from the Ben Affleck movie. The ship had several sections repainted to match the new models released with Operation: Shadow Hunter, and became the Dortmunder
The FSS Argo was commissioned in the wake of the Caribbean Crisis, having been laid down three years before with the aim of reinforcing and expanding the North Atlantic fleets. Built in the Newport Shipyards, it was a standard Enterprise-class Dreadnought marked by its gold stars on the paddle-wheels, an unusual affectation given the traditions of the 17th Federated Reserve Fleet to which it was first appointed. It was named for the mythical ship of Jason and the Argonauts, again an unusual choice for an FSA vessel, but one embraced with gusto by her crew. 

Rear-Admiral Curt J. Spaatz took the Argo as his flag in January 1872, and conducted four escort operations accompanying merchant convoys across the Atlantic Ocean. The deployment of such a powerful warship for these mundane operations was initially questioned but Spaatz had been given secret orders to assess the threat posed by the Prussian and Danish Wolf Packs, discover their ports, and destroy them.  

On the 5th February, 1872. the Argo lead a flotilla against the defences of Holsteinsborg, a small port that had been identified as the base of operations for the notorious Prussian reaver, Karl-Ehrhart Grunner. The initial attack met with only limited success; the Prussian fleet was smashed in anchor but the defences of the port caused severe damage to the Federacy squadrons. Only the Argo withdrew undamaged, protected by its banks of glowing shield generators. 

The Prussian response was swift and remorseless. With his fleet trapped at Holsteinsborg, Grunner engaged the services of the Black Company to act on his behalf and hunt down the Argo. They tracked the movements of the grand Dreadnought for three weeks before ambushing it off the coast of Greenland, where concentrated waves of torpedoes bracketed the warship and shattered its keel, breaking it apart over the course of the three hour engagement. 

Spaatz survived the destruction of his flagship, but was relieved of his duties as Commanding Officer citing "a loss of confidence in his ability to command and his failure to meet mission requirements and readiness standards." 

The blockade and bombardment of Holsteinsborg was named as the primary target in dealing with the Prussian Wolf Packs, but Spaatz and the Argo would play no further role in the campaign. 


The Griffon's Roost was one of the only models I managed to destroy in my first game against the Honourable Eclipse Company, but I thought it deserved some recognition for causing so much havoc with that infernal Earth Shaker Cannon! The name is inspired by a castle from Game of Thrones, which I thought suited the mythological naming traditions of the Honourable Eclipse Company and also recognised its role as a Carrier
Griffon's Roost was the Elysium-class flagship of Captain-General Edgar Otway Burnham, and served as the headquarters for his Brigade in the summer of 1872. Burnham had been charged with the risky assignment to establish a base in the uninhabited region near Nanortalik, in the southern reaches of Prussian Greenland.

A formidable vessel, with heavy guns and a strong complement of attack aeroplanes, Griffon's Roost also carried the Greenland Brigade's largest weapon, the Earth Shaker Cannon. During the encounter with the Prussian and Danish salvage fleet off Nanortalik this weapon annihilated an entire squadron of Sigurd-class Cruisers in two volleys, halting their advance into Eclipse Company territory almost immediately.

Ultimately the Honourable Eclipse Company succeeded in driving away the Prussian and Danish aggressors, but the Griffon's Roost was lost in the fracas, its repulsine banks sundered by ordnance and enemy interceptors. It disappeared beneath the ice floes blazing from prow to stern. Captain-General Burnham survived, but was badly injured in the wreck and forced to retire from operational command.


The Dortmunder came about following the destruction of Ben's old Enterprise-class Dreadnought in a game against the Black Wolf Mercenaries. I needed to repaint some sections of Argo to bring it in line with the new FSA vessels I had painted for Operation: Shadow Hunter, specifically the golden ram on the front and the white stars in the paddle wheels. This was a good opportunity to "create" a whole new vessel for the campaign, and allow Ben to keep using a Dreadnought even though the Argo was Lost. The name comes from a vessel from the TV show Firefly
Backbone of the Federated States Navy, the Dortmunder is one of the oldest Enterprise-class Dreadnoughts still in service, and though it spent the past eleven months in drydock undergoing refits and repairs, battle against the Prussian fleet at Holsteinsborg served as the opening engagement of its violent and highly active sixth deployment.

The Dortmunder currently wears the distinctive green livery of the 17th Reserve Fleet to which it was assigned, with white stars on the paddle wheels and the distinctive golden ram on the prow. Following refits at Norfolk Naval Base, it carries one of the new Target Painter Generators and an enhanced Shield Generator array, bringing this venerable warship up to standard with the new generation of Enterprise-class Dreadnoughts, and future Dreadnought designs.

At the battle at the Gates of Holsteinsborg, the Dortmunder was commanded by Rear-Admiral Frederick M. Willard, who took over from the injured Curt J. Spaatz following the loss of the Argo. He had transferred his flag the Dortmunder and began the blockade of the Davis Strait in May 1872. It would only be four weeks before the fleet was ordered down the Strait and into bombardment range of the Prussian port.

During the engagement, the Dortmunder struggled with malfunctions from the Target Painter Generator, which fouled the targeting of the main turrets. Ineffective for the opening hours of the battle, Willard could only watch as his fleet and his allies were surrounded by the Prussian forces and overwhelmed with lightning weaponry and waves of Luftlancers. The Dortmunder would come under fire from the Sturmbringer-class Submarine U-113, squadrons of dive bombers, and later, multiple boarding parties from the frigate and corvette squadrons that surrounded the vessel.

All this, she endured, but crippled and billowing smoke the Dortmunder withdrew down the Davis Strait and regrouped south of Nanortalik with the other surviving vessels of the FSA fleet. They returned to American waters in shame. The blockade had failed.


The Hetzer was my first battleship, and as such it was easy to think of some light narrative about this being my Commodore's first flagship, even if it might not see much use in games. With the new edition though, it might feature in my games a bit more often! The name is taken from a German military term, which means "Attack Dog." 
Prussian commander Karl-Ehrhart Grunner has a reputation for taking risks and biting off more than he can chew, a man of bold and decisive action that often appears foolhardy. He is loved by his crews, and as a fleet commander has a string of impressive victories, but is widely considered by the upper echelons of the Prussian Navy as a loose cannon, and a dangerous liability. 

It is for this reason that he was sent to the remote port of Holsteinsborg in Greenland, a "reward" for his egotistical, single-minded pursuit of the Russian Admiral Ushakov across the North Sea. It was deemed safer to grant him hunting rights and a flotilla to reign havoc on Coalition shipping than remain in the European theatre, a necessary task but one without honour or glory. With him, they sent the ruthless Submarine Commander Grönemeyer and the immense Stiglitz-class Floating Fortress, powerful tools to carry out his mission. 

His flagship during the North Sea campaign was the Blucher-class Dreadnought Grendel, but Naval Command decreed that vessel as too vital to the strength of Prussian forces in the region. Grunner transferred his flag to the Emperor-class Battleship Hetzer, which had served three deployments in the European theatre but was now due to be transferred across to Greenland. A belligerent veteran ship with a strong crew, Hetzer's reputation matched its namesake. 

 During the Blockade of Holsteinsborg and the "proxy battles" both with and against the mercenary companies in the months that followed, the Hetzer was forced to remain in port until the final Attack on Holsteinsborg, where it engaged the Enterprise-class Dreadnought Dortmunder and scored several important hits. 


The Sachsen came about as a name for Mike's Blucher-class Dreadnought, a very unlucky ship that had been bombed, Captured, crippled and ransacked far too many times in the past few months. The name was taken from a famous German warship, and I loved the brutal simplicity of the name. When I converted up a ruined Dreadnought to act as an objective or terrain piece in future games, I used a similar colour scheme to the Sachsen
Grunner proved adept at interception and pursuit of merchant shipping, building a reputation and quickly attracting the attention of the Federated States Navy, to the point that they despatched a fleet against Holsteinsborg itself. Barely surviving the attack, Grunner engaged the services of the notorious Black Wolf Mercenaries to aid him, expending wealth resources at a reckless rate in the pursuit of continuing his mission - and ultimately attracting the ire of the Prussian Naval Command.

Answering his pleas for reinforcements to Greenland, Konteradmiral von Monts and the grand Dreadnought Sachsen were sent to "assist" Grunner with his handling of the Greenland theatre, but in a base act of treachery was ambushed and killed by the mercenaries, the Sachsen falling into their hands in the process. 

Such a loss was unthinkable to Grunner, especially to such base mercenaries as the Black Company. They may have dealt with the interfering von Monts before he could cause too much trouble for Grunner, but losing the Dreadnought in the process was not part of the plan! (Grunner would forever deny such a plan ever existed...) In an audacious move, the Prussian fleet launched a lightning raid on the pirate port itself and recaptued the Sachsen, dragging the damaged vessel away from Ammasalik even as their enemies rained fire upon them.

Following this excitement, Sachsen faced several weeks of repair, but was ready to sally forth against the American blockade when they sent a fleet of bombers against Holsteinsborg. The Dreadnought did not fare well in the coming bombardment, and though they succeeded in slowing down and ultimately driving off the 27th Bomb Group, the Sachsen was once again dragged back into port. 

The Sachsen remained under repairs in dock as the Federacy fleet sailed into range of Holsteinsborg, and did not take part in that final defence. Battered and old, even before suffering so much damage during the campaign, the Sachsen remains defiant, yet decrepit. Grunner doubts very much that he will get his chance to utilise the vessel's true potential for some time yet. 


The Sturmbringer has been my MVP for more games than I can remember, and in 1.1 was one of the most powerful tools in the Prussian arsenal The background reflects this - a veteran crew and commander, effective and renowned across the northern hemisphere
Commanded since the beginning of the war by the Kapitänleutnant Jürgen Grönemeyer, the Sturmbringer-class Submarine U-113 is a sleek and deadly vessel, with a reputation for search-and-destroy missions across the North Sea and now the North Atlantic. 

One of the first Sturmbringer-class Submarines commissioned after the fateful London Raid, U-113's first deployments were almost exclusively against the White Navy in the North Sea, lightning raids and hit-and-run missions under Commander Karl Ehrhart-Grunner in his egotistical pursuit of Admiral Ushakov. In this, they were uniformly successful, ultimately leading to capture of the Dreadnought Dzerzinsky. 

Grönemeyer was favoured by Grunner, and following Grunner's transfer to the North Atlantic theatre, was quickly reassigned. His skills as a patient hunter served the Prussian Navy well, with U-113 accounting for nearly 40,000 tons of shipping in under seven months, despite the Britannian and Federacy attempts to curtail Submarine warfare. 

U-113 was the lead vessel in the salvage fleet that tracked wreckage from the Argo and discovered the hidden Eclipse Company base at Nanortalik. It lead the attack on Ammassalik and destroyed three Black Company Battle Cruisers, and later scored several marked hits on the Dreadnought Dortmunder at the Gates of Holsteinsborg. 

Damaged in that final battle, the Sturmbringer has been taken into dock for repairs, but will resume patrols and hunting soon enough...


The Stiglitz was my big project from earlier in the year, discussed in this post. Having not actually used it in a Battle Report yet, I felt the grand finale of the Greenland Campaign would be a great opportunity. With the release of Second Edition and the new Elbe-class Carrier, the Stiglitz feels a bit outdated, but I still love it
It was during Karl-Ehrhart Grunner's North Sea campaign against the Russians that the Stiglitz was born, crafted out of desperation as their passage home was repeatedly blockaded. Refuelling and refitting was becoming an issue; the Prussian fleet needed a way to stay at sea for longer if they were to encircle and destroy Admiral Ushakov. Recovering the hulk of the great Dreadnought Stiglitz in the Norwegian Sea, Grunner had his scientists and engineers use what remained of the grand warship to craft a huge floating airfield that could move with the fleet, carrying a massive reserve of fuel and fighter planes. He dubbed it the Stiglitz-class Floating Fortress, and though he did not transfer his flag to her, the Fortress became the nucleus of his fleet, enabling them to operate at maximum efficiency for far longer than before.

It is widely considered that the Stiglitz was not the inspiration for the Elbe-class Fleet Carrier, but rather Grunner's reaction to the time it was taking to develop and begin building such a design. Once the Elbe was passed and construction began on a new fleet of carriers, the Stiglitz became a curiosity, a ramshackle monster in a fleet that prided itself on sleek and efficient design. 

Thus, the Stiglitz was assigned to the minor port of Holsteinsborg, following its commander as he was transferred to the North Atlantic theatre. After an arduous journey, it sat in the port for some months, occasionally patrolling the Davis Strait or running exercises with the smaller carriers in the fleet. The hit-and-run warfare of the North Atlantic was not suited to the massive Fortress, but it would have its opportunity to fight when the Federated Navy launched their attack on the gates of Holsteinsborg. 

Unable to avoid the ponderous bulk of the super-carrier, the American fleet faced waves of fighters and bombers launched from the twin decks and were forced to advance into its battery of powerful turrets and Tesla-cannon. Smashing several airships from the sky and even damaging the great Dreadnought Dortmunder, the Stiglitz was instrumental in the defence of the port, and survived the battle relatively unscathed. 

It might look like a lot, but these pieces were written very quickly, and the background for each ship thought up without too much effort. I would not recommend this for every ship and squadron in your fleet, but just naming your Commodore's vessel is enough to get some narrative going and help build a more interesting gaming experience, especially in a campaign or league setting. 

Inspiration can come at any point and from any source - real life vessels from history, personal gaming experiences or the background already written by Spartan Games. Being a quasi-historical game, it makes sense to use real history as an influence, but by no means limits you like it would in a true historical game like Flames of War. 

I like to use personal gaming experiences, and expand upon them - especially when a ship is Captured, like the Sachsen. Building a friendly rivalry with your opponent, especially a regular gaming buddy, is great fun. 

Thanks for reading, 


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