For Baron Karl-Ehrhart Grunner, this was the tipping point. No longer would he waste lives and ships keeping the Russians at bay - he needed access to the wider oceans or his entire purpose was lost. If they wanted their lost Dreadnought Markgraf so badly, he would drive it into the ice wall himself!
Assembling the best warships left in his battered fleet and commandeering a Titan-class Troop Transport to carry an entire legion of Luftlancers directly into battle, Grunner ordered the Markgraf to be unleashed, revealed from its secret moorings and claimed as his flagship. They sailed for a narrow passage in the ice wall where a hastily gathered Russian fleet was assembling to intercept the immense Dreadnought. There would be a reckoning amid the ice, near the shores of Bru, and the Russians would finally have their chance to reclaim their lost Dreadnought. For Grunner, this was an incredible gamble - glorious victory and the breaking of the blockade, or a most humiliating defeat..."
- The Hunt for the Markgraf
Naval Battles of 1873
This week, Mike returns to the field of battle borrowing my Russian fleet as I unleash the Prussian Empire, including (for the first time on this blog) the immense Dreadnought Markgraf, the centrepiece of this entire narrative campaign.
After having their fleets smashed and port blockaded, the Prussian Empire have finally unveiled the captured Dreadnought and launched a massive attack on the Russian blockade, aiming to smash a hole through the ice and restart operations in the North Sea once more.
This would be the first battle for the Markgraf in many months, something special for the campaign. I think after so many games it was time for the Dreadnought to show itself, and win some victories for the beleaguered Prussian Empire!
The game was a 1,500pt affair, with some extra points for the Prussian Empire to pay for the Markgraf and a table slightly denser than usual, featuring lots of icebergs to represent the blockade the Russian Glacier Generators had erected. Rather than drawing Secret Objectives, it was decided that the Prussian fleet would have to score t least 1,050 Victory Points (70% of the Russian fleet value), and the Russians would (unsurprisingly) have to Capture or Destroy the Markgraf.
|The Markgraf leads the remnants of Stavanger's Prussian Battle Group, joined by the infamous submarine commander Jürgen Grönemeyer aboard his Sturmbringer-class Submarine and supported by the Titan-class Troop Transport Olympic Carrier|
The Prussian Empire
SMS Markgraf - Captured Moskva-class Dreadnought with Mimic Generator accompanied by two Wachter-class Escorts
SMS Kaiserin Elisabeth - Elbe-class Fleet Carrier with Elite Crew, carrying one wing of four Fighter Planes and one wing of five Dive Bombers
U-113 - Sturmbringer-class Submarine
One Squadron of three Hussar-class Gunships
One Squadron of two Havel-class Support Carriers carrying one wing of Fighter Planes each, accompanied by one Donnerfaust-class Support Cruiser
One Squadron of four Stolz-class Destroyers
One Squadron of four Arminius-class Frigates
One Squadron of five Saxony-class Corvettes
Two Wings of five Dive Bombers
Olympic Carrier - Titan-class Troop Transport
|The Blockade Task Group of the White Banner Northern Fleet, lead by the Borodino-class Battleship Imperatritsa Mariya|
The Russian Coalition
Imperitritsa Mariya - Borodino-class Battleship with Stoic Crew
Varyag - Dudinka-class Assault Carrier with Glacier Generator, carrying one Reconnaissance Plane and one wing of five Dive Bombers
One Azov-class Battle Cruiser with Regular crew
One Azov-class Battle Cruiser with Regular crew
One Squadron of three Tambov-class Gunships
One Squadron of three Suvorov-class Cruisers
One Squadron of three Chany-class Strike Submarines
One Squadron of four Rostov-class Destroyers
One Squadron of five Kazimov-class Corvettes
Two Wings of five Fighter Planes
|Nestled amid the rocks, the Russian fleet has formed a huge wall of ice about itself|
|The Prussian Empire attacks through a narrow channel, led by the Markgraf|
|Battle will be joined around the central iceberg|
|The Sturmbringer-class Submarine, Saxony-class Corvettes and Hussar-class Gunships attack along the port flank, while the Markgraf and the Arminius-class Frigates hold the starboard|
|Kazimov-class Corvettes lurk in the shadows of the rocks|
|The Chany-class Strike Submarines and the Dudinka-class Assault Carrier make the first move|
|Their long-range fire cripples the gun decks of the Markgraf, hamstringing the Dreadnought before it can attack|
|Rostov-class Destroyers align their guns|
|Another blow to the gun decks|
|Under the cover of waves of Fighter Planes and Dive Bombers, the Elbe-class Fleet Carrier brings it's immense firepower to bear, ripping apart one of the Rostov-class Destroyers with the Tesla Coil|
|Stolz-class Destroyers follow alongside, smashing apart one of their Russian counterparts and damaging the second|
|The Russian Gunships are protected behind a wall of ice|
|The Hussar-class Gunships swing about to join the battle on the starboard side of the ice, but one is caught by the guns of the Azov-class Battle Cruiser and severely damaged|
|The Sturmbinger briefly surfaces to lash the Azov with lightning, sending panic through the decks|
|The damaged Hussar is finished by the second Azov|
|In turn, the Saxony-class Corvettes attack, their Tesla-weaponry electrifying the Azov-class Battle Cruiser|
|The pulverised crew of the Markgraf are replenished from the decks of the Olympic Carrier|
|Opening moves - the aggressive Prussian Empire have moved forward at full speed, matching the eagerness of the Russian to engage at close quarters|
|The shot shows the minor damage inflicted by the Arminius-class Frigates on the Suvorov-class Cruiser squadron|
|The Prussian Fleet is preceded by waves of aircraft|
|The Chany-class Strike Submarines use their powerful weaponry to cripple the engines of the beleaguered Dreadnought|
|The Russian flagship pours fire into the Prussian Dreadnought, causing more damage|
|The Suvorov-class Cruisers open fire on the Arminius-class Frigates, knocking one out of the water|
|The Prussian Frigates try to intercept the Russian Corvette squadron, but their firepower and boarding parties only manage to destroy one, at great cost|
|The lone surviving Russian Destroyer sinks one of the Dreadnought's Escorts|
|The Stolz-class Destroyers fail to make an impact on the Strike Submarines, only damaging one despite their massive firepower|
|The Elbe-class Fleet Carrier is more effective, ripping into the Borodino-class Battleship and finishing the damaged Chany-class Strike Submarine with it Tesla-banks and Speerschleuders|
|The Dudinka-class Assault Carrier unleashes its arsenal, shredding the defences of the Elbe-class Fleet Carrier and wiping out the Stolz-class Destroyer squadron with the Heavy Mortars - brutal!|
|Prussian Dive Bombers finish the last Rostov-class Destroyer|
|The Havel-class Light Carriers turn to present their broadsides, damaging the lead Suvorov-class Cruiser|
|A wide shot of the escalating carnage, as the Kazimov-class Corvettes seek to outflank the Prussian fleet|
|Carnage awaits in the shadow of the iceberg, as the two fleets career at full speed into one another|
|The Imperitritsa Mariya plunges forward, opening fire in all directions. The Elbe-class Fleet Carrier suffers the most|
|Boarding parties leap onto the Markgraf - waves of drunken conscripts cause many casualties, but are wiped out to a man in the process|
|A closer shot of the carnage as the lead Hussar is lost|
|The Havel-class Light Carriers destroy the damaged Suvorov-class Cruiser with their Tesla broadsides|
|Bombarded from all directions, the Elbe-class Fleet Carrier breaks apart under the guns of the Tambov-class Gunships|
|Prussian and Russian aircraft duel in the skies, leaving dozens of pilots falling to their deaths in the water or the ice. Dive Bombers swoop down onto the last Chany-class Strike Submarine|
|The deadly Submarine is destroyed|
|The Suvorov-class Cruisers cause critical damage to one of the Havel-class Light Carriers|
|The Arminius-class Frigates continue their pursuit, close-range fire destroying two of the Kazimov-class Corvettes|
|The two surviving Kazimov-class Corvettes launch their attack on the damaged Havel-class Light Carrier, Sabotaging the vessel but losing their boarding parties in the process|
|Arcing their fire through the harpoon-like Speerschleuder, the Saxony-class Corvettes cause massive damage to the Tambov-class Gunship|
|Dive Bombers finish the Russian flagship|
|Panic spreads through the Russian fleet as their Commodore is lost|
|The Olympic Carrier replenishes the crew of the Dreadnought once more, as it advances and causes massive damage to the Tambov-class Gunship|
|A wide shot of the swirling maelstrom, as the two fleets seek control of the channel|
|The Russian fleet is still potent, ready to surround the Markgraf and reclaim their vessel|
|The Sturmbringer advances as fast as it can, seeking to rejoin the battle|
|On the far side, the squadrons circle each other warily|
|The Tambov-class Gunship squadron launches their attack upon the Markgraf, but having suffered substantial damage their gunnery is limited and they fail to cause much of an impact|
|The Suvorov-class Cruisers seize the opportunity and leap to attack the Dreadnought and the Havel-class Light Carriers. Their weapons fail cause damage, but the conscripts Capture the Markgraf!|
|The Sturmbringer rises from the deep, Speerschleuder ripping through the nearest Tambov-class Gunship as the small complement of Prussian soldiers take the Dudinka-class Assault Carrier for the Empire|
|The last Kazimov-class Corvette smashes into the Donnerfaust-class Support Cruiser, dashing itself upon the hull|
|Scattered Dive Bombers converge on the Tambov-class Gunship, finishing it with a lucky strike|
|Another wave of Dive Bombers finishes the last Tambov-class Gunship, as the Hussar-class Gunship moves to retake the Dreadnought|
|Arminius-class Frigates cripple the nearest Suvorov-class Cruiser, as the Donnerfaust-class Support Cruiser and Hussar-class Gunship retake the Markgraf to restore the Prussian flag|
|The Olympic Carrier is drained of troops as it reinforces the Hussar-class Gunship|
|The Prussian fleet carries the day, smashing the Russian fleet aside and securing the Dreadnought Markgraf following a brief Russian occupation|
The Prussian Empire scored 1,730 Victory Points, taking the Azov-class Battle Cruiser and Dudinka-class Assault Carrier as their Prizes, as well as recovering the Dreadnought. The Russian Coalition scored 1,050 Victory Points, but crucially lost their control of the Prussian flagship. Victory for the Prussian Empire!
|The Prussian survivors, largely operational and ready to carry the fight out into the North Sea|
|Prussian Luftlancers secure two valuable prize ships, and recover the Markgraf from its brief occupation|
|The surviving Russian Cruisers withdraw, seeking reinforcements to stop the Prussian fleet|
CONCLUSIONS AND LEARNING POINTS
As usual, a bloody mess of a game! A huge amount of Victory Points scored, two Magazine Explosions and several Prizes. All in a day's work for the Prussian Empire and Russian Coalition.
Mike played well, using the brutality of the Russian Coalition to his advantage in the early Turns. I was shocked to suffer so much damage on Turn One, and it was unpleasant to feel the wrath of the Chany-class Strike Submarines. It took a lot of effort to keep tabs on all the different squadrons and routes of attack the Russian Coalition were careering toward the Dreadnought, and frankly I am surprised it did not end up finishing in Mike's favour.
He poured a LOT of fire into the Dreadnought, and with two early critical hits on the gun decks, took it out of the game for the first two turns. Lucky for him! By the time it was repaired, it had suffered too much damage to cause a massive impact with shooting, but the Elite Crew (fully replenished thanks to the Titan-class Troop Transport) successfully defended it against the Borodino-class Battleship and wiped out the Dudinka-class Assault Carrier.
Taking the Titan-class Troop Transport was a nasty trick, but it kept the Dreadnought in the game. Over four Turns, twenty five points of AP were poured into the Markgraf, whether as part of boarding actions, replenishment from the Titan, or recapturing by the Hussar Gunship - ridiculous!
The Escorts were not much use, as I forgot how to position them or to include their AA. The turret Linking with the broadsides and small turrets was a bonus, however.
As the game progressed, Mike's early losses (especially the two Battle Cruisers in ONE Activation from the Saxony-class Corvettes) put him at a disadvantage, and in a similar manner to our last game, the sheer number of Prussian support aircraft allowed them to out-Activate and outmanoeuvre the Russians, surrounding them and dragging them down.
Ultimately, the Prussian Empire had enough ships to resist the hammer of the Russian fleet, and reacted with several sharp jabs that left them overwhelmed, surrounded and Prized. The Russians were fixated upon the Dreadnought, and though they did cause significant damage to the Prussian fleet, including the destruction of the Elbe-class Fleet Carrier, the Prussian air support gave them the edge to weather the storm and reply in turn.
Overall, a significant victory for the Prussian Empire - one the Russians will not soon forget!
"...Grunner and Grönemeyer's attack smashed the Russian blockade at Bru, and the ice soon retreated without their arcane technologies. The Markgraf, wounded and awash with the blood of dozens of sailors both Prussian and Russian, had finally, truly entered the War, and would lead the battered survivors of Stavanger out of the Byfjorden and into the North Sea. There, they would meet their reinforcements from the south and scour the Norwegian coastline of the Grand Coalition.
The Prussian Naval High Command had played their hand, gambling that the White Banner Northern Fleet was exhausted from their exertions in the North Sea and the Byfjorden. In that, they may have been correct, but the Russians were not alone..."
Thanks for reading,