Thursday, 19 May 2016

AAR - Clash Of The Titans

"The walls of Bremerhaven lay in ruin, and the full force of the White Banner Northern Fleet descended into Prussian waters. Enraged by the maddening search for the Markgraf and the losses they had suffered, the Russian Admiralty committed the full weight of their North Sea assets into the attack - the twin kingships of Monarkh Squadron and the immense Petrushka

Against them stood Baron Karl-Ehrhart Grunner and the Markgraf, his own flagship Grendel and the Sachsen, recovered from Greenland as the winter ice thawed. The Teutonic Order also committed their grand Hochmeister-class Dreadnought-Robot Carolus Rex, only recently repaired and refitted following battle at Midbrødøya. 

Such a commitment of tonnage and ordnance was unheard of, and grossly foolhardy - truly, two of the Great Nations of the world had been driven insane by their mutual antagonism, and their folly would see the deaths of thousands upon thousands of men. In the hunt for one vessel, the Russian Coalition had sacrificed entire fleets, and in their pride the Prussian Empire had crippled their North Sea operations - and impacted those beyond it. 

Here, at the walls of Bremerhaven, there would be a reckoning - not just for the Markgraf, but for the entire World War..."
- The Hunt for the Markgraf (cont.)
Naval Battles of 1874

Welcome to another Battle Report from Full Spectrum Dominance, and the final (?) episode of the epic Hunt for the Markgraf campaign. Nearly eighteen months in the making, this narrative campaign has seen Mike and I play a huge number of games using all sorts of scenarios and new models, involving not just the Prussian Empire and the Russian Coalition but the Federated States of America, Kingdom of Denmark, Black Wolf Mercenaries, Kingdom of Britannia, Britannian Raj and Royalist Australians. 

After so many games, I thought it was time that dastardly Dreadnought was finally caught. The way our games had gone, and the narrative progressed, the Russian Coalition was not going to catch her in open water, or trick her into some Saw-like deathtrap - they would attack it in port, with the biggest fleet I have ever mustered, in the least subtle way possible! 

THE SCENARIO
The mission was simple - smash each other until we get bored. The board would be set as the harbour of Bremerhaven, but relatively open to facilitate several thousand points worth of models clashing. Adding up everything I wanted to run, we landed at roughly 3,200pts per side - though most of these points were tied up in Dreadnought-Robots, entire squadrons of Battleships and five (!) Dreadnoughts. Running the Russians, I decided not to run any Carriers, but awarded the fleet an extra two squadrons of Fighter Planes to represent the massive logistical support behind the Russian attack. 

The only special rules beyond all this were the Russian Commodore would be housed on the Petrushka, and the Markgraf would be worth double Victory Points for any damage suffered - if I could Prize it, I would earn a whopping 1,060 Victory Points

THE FLEETS
Russian Coalition
Leading elements of the White Banner Northern Fleet, sent directly into the harbour of Bremerhaven and set on the capture or destruction of the Markgraf
Petrushka - Svarog-class Dreadnought-Robot with Istomin Bombard Cannons 

Monarkh Squadron - two Moskva-class Dreadnoughts and three Borodino-class Battleships

One Tunguska-class Skyship equipped with a Glacier Generator and accompanied by five wings of Fighter Planes

Rogatina Squadron - one Azov-class Battle Cruiser with Regular Crew and three Veliky-class Escorts
Shashka Squadron - one Tiksi-class Support Cruiser and three Novgorod-class Frigates
Two Azov-class Battle Cruisers
One Squadron of three Tambov-class Gunships
One Squadron of three Rudnitsky-class Repair Cruisers

One Squadron of three Chany-class Strike Submarines
One Squadron of four Rostov-class Destroyers
One Squadron of five Kazimov-class Corvettes

Four Wings of five Fighter Planes

This fleet was heavily influenced by the scenario - I knew I would be running the paired Dreadnoughts and squadron of Battleships (not actually being run as a squadron, I must comment!), and the Petrushka, and unsurprisingly this did not leave me a huge amount of points! 

I chose the three Battle Cruisers for looks alone (including my favourite Rogatina Squadron), the Tunguska-class Large Skyship to deal with any potential Prussian flyers. The Repair Cruisers would keep the big guys in the fight, as I was sick of losing the Petrushka. The Tambov-class Gunships were chosen to smash the Prussian Dreadnought-Robot, and the small squadrons were just standard choices for me. Lacking Fleet Carriers, we ruled that the fleet would have expanded Local Air Support to show the support of the carriers beyond the battlefield - I went for four squadron of Fighter Planes to deny the Prussian squadrons, and hunt down any rogue Donner Squadron

Prussian Empire
The Prussian defenders, led by some of the grandest vessels of the Iron Fleet
SMS Markgraf - Moskva-class Dreadnought accompanied by three Wachter-class Escorts

Carolus Rex - Hochmeister-class Dreadnought-Robot with a pair of Speerschleuder Turrets and  Blitzschlag-Zweihander Sword

SMS Grendel - Blucher-class Dreadnought with Tesla Generator and Shield Generator
SMS Sachsen - Blucher-class Dreadnought with Tesla Generator and Shield Generator
SMS Kronprinz - Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleship with Elite Crew
SMS Rächer Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleship with Elite Crew
One Elbe-class Fleet Carrier carrying one wing of four Dive Bombers and one wing of five Fighter Planes

One Konigsberg-class Battlecruiser with Aggressive Crew
One Squadron of three Donnerfaust-class Support Cruisers and one Havel-class Light Carrier, carrying one wing of four Dive Bombers

One Squadron of four Stolz-class Destroyers
One Squadron of four Arminius-class Frigates
One Squadron of five Saxony-class Corvettes

Donner Squadron - one Adler-class Heavy Bomber and three Zerstörer-class Strike Bombers

Two Wings of five Fighter Planes


DEPLOYMENT
The broken harbour walls of Bremerhaven are no match for the Russian fleet
The Russian fleets launches their grand attack into the harbour
Monarkh Squadron holds the centre
Battle Cruisers of Rogatina Squadron and Shashka Squadron hold the flank - the closest vessels to the Markgraf
Carolus Rex holds the centre, while the Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleships attack from the flank
The Markgraf is escorted by a pair of Blucher-class Dreadnoughts
The Prussian fleet prepares their defence
TURN ONE
Rogatina Squadron and the other Azov-class Battle Cruisers launch a bold attack on Markgraf, their bombardment causing minor damage
The Russian fleet closes at speed, unleashing their limited long-range firepower upon the Prussian fleet

Several Prussian vessels take damage - crucially the gunnery decks of the Markgraf are smashed
Even the mighty Carolus Rex staggers as the Istomin Bombard Cannon of the Petrushka opens fire
Prussian ordnance obliterates the Rostov-class Destroyers, cripples the Chany-class Strike Submarines and damages the lead Moskva-class Dreadnought
TURN TWO
Swarms of aircraft engage overhead
The SMS Grendel causes massive damage to the Rogatina with forward batteries and Tesla coil
A Borodino-class Battleship launches a punitive attack on the exposed SMS Grendel
The SMS Sachsen moves to defend her sister-ship, crippling the Borodino-class Battleship with a full broadside and finishing the crippled Rogatina
The Chany-class Strike Submarines emerge from the depths and smash one of the Stolz-class Destroyers, damaging a second
Carolus Rex unleashes electrical fire upon the damaged Moskva-class Dreadnought, ripping through her superstructure and crippling the vessel
The ruined vessel launches a suicidal attack, still managing to destroy the Konigsberg-class Battlecruiser with the forward batteries
Donner Squadron swoops down and drops their payload upon the stricken vessel - they hit something critical and the entire ship disappears in a flash of light!
The ruined hulk of the Dreadnought reappears over the walls of the harbour, smashing them asunder with incredible violence! The ship is utterly destroyed
The surviving Moskva-class Dreadnought moves against the SMS Sachsen, but firing the turrets individually proves a mistake and little damage is caused
The Tunguska-class Skyship engages Donner Squadron at close range, smashing two of the Zerstorer-class Strike Bombers from the sky and obliterating the crew decks of the Adler-class Heavy Bomber
Dive Bombers cause massive damage to the Borodino-class Battleship
The Tambov-class Gunships open fire upon the Elbe-class Fleet Carrier and cause several critical hits, as their boarding parties gut the Adler-class Heavy Bomber
The lead Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleship ruins the port-side Tambov-class Gunship
Turret fire from the Borodino-class Battleship lands several decisive blows on the Carolus Rex
The second Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleship finishes the Tambov-class Gunship and damages the engines of the Borodino-class Battleship
The Markgraf struggles to damage the Azov-class Battle Cruiser, as the remnants of Rogatina Squadron cut down two of the Wachter-class Escorts
Saxony-class Corvettes spring their trap, destroying one of the Veliky-class Escorts and rampaging through the decks of the Azov-class Battle Cruiser - it is left a ruined derelict
Revenge from the last Azov-class Battle Cruiser destroys two of the Saxony-class Corvettes and scores a critical blow to the SMS Grendel
The third Borodino-class Battleship pours yet more ordnance into the Carolus Rex - it struggles to remain upright from the weight of fire
Arminius-class Frigates launch electrical fire through the Speerschleuder harpoon embedded in the deck of the Borodino-class Battleship, but the Petrushka makes his move, obliterating them all with the mighty Bombard Cannon. Wrist-mounted gunnery also damages the Carolus Rex further

Kazimov-class Corvettes launch their attack upon the Stolz-class Destroyers, overwhelming and scuttling two of them
The fleets have engaged at close-range, and already the casualties are mounting up
By the derricks, the Prussian Dreadnoughts have taken heavy damage, but torn the heart from the Battle Cruiser flotilla - can the intervention of the Borodino-class Battleship and Moskva-class Dreadnought turn the tide?
In the centre, the Carolus Rex is almost lost and Donner Squadron destroyed, but the pair of Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleships are still waiting to commit their attack. The Petrushka looms over everything, as yet undamaged
The Prussian fleet is scattered, and has taken serious damage on many of their most valuable vessels, but the Russian attack has suffered as well
TURN THREE
The Moskva-class Dreadnought takes the initiative and smashes the SMS Sachsen brutally, as waves of drunken conscripts overwhelm the Elbe-class Fleet Carrier and leave it a burning ruin. A brutal attack from the Russian fleet!
The crippled SMS Sachsen barely survives the Russian onslaught
Drifting forward, the SMS Sachsen manages to destroy a Veliky-class Escort and damage the crippled Borodino-class Battleship, before the Luftlancers launch onto the Moskva-class Dreadnought and messily take it out of the battle
Tambov-class Gunships finish the Carolus Rex, toppling the mighty Dreadnought-Robot with gunnery at point-blank range
The SMS Grendel puts more pressure onto the Russian starboard flank, obliterating a Novgorod-class Frigate and pouring troops onto the Tiksi-class Support Cruiser, ravaging the vessel
The last Azov-class Battle Cruiser launches an ill-fated attack upon the Prussian Dreadnoughts, but achieves nothing
The SMS Kronprinz finishes the damaged Borodino-class Battleship and causes massive damage to the Tambov-class Gunships
The Tunguska-class Skyship dominates the skies, ripping the last Zerstörer-class Strike Bomber down, finishing the SMS Sachsen with broadside batteries and landing a crucial blow to the Havel-class Light Carrier
SMS Rächer enters the fray, landing a Speerschleuder harpoon on the deck of the Borodino-class Battleship and gutting one of the Tambov-class Gunships with elite Luftlancers
Chany-class Strike Submarines spring their attack upon the stern of the Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleship, their powerful guns breaking through the Shield Generator
The Donnerfaust-class Support Cruisers move to attack the Tunguska-class Skyship, electrical fire ripping through the aerial Battleship
Rudnitsky-class Repair Cruisers add their skills to the battle, bringing crucial repairs to the Borodino-class Battleship
Dive Bombers and squadrons of Fighter Planes damage the Tunguska-class Skyship and sink the last Tambov-class Gunship
The Markgraf overwhelms the last Azov-class Battle Cruiser, as the Saxony-class Corvettes dash themselves upon the hull of the drifting hulk before them, or are finished by the last survivor of Rogatina Squadron
The hastily repaired Borodino-class Battleship careers into the lead Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleship, causing minor damage to both of the Prussian kingships. Boarding parties launch themselves onto the Havel-class Light Carrier and scuttle it
Unholy slaughter! The Petrushka wades forward, claws flashing and wrist-mounted turrets belching fire as it rips apart the SMS Rächer in several short, terrifying seconds
The ruined hulk flashes into nothing as something critical is ripped open, reappearing behind the Dreadnought-Robot and collapsing under the waves
The Petrushka is confused as the broken vessel vanishes before it
Fire from the second Borodino-class Battleship finishes the crippled SMS Grendel and causes engine damage to the lead Donnerfaust-class Support Cruiser
The Russian fleet breaks through the walls, and the Prussian defence collapses
The Russian attack has cost untold lives and ships, but the Prussian fleet is broken, reduced to a handful of damaged and terrified vessels
Several burning hulks drift through the harbour as the battle rages, testament to the violence unleashes
TURN FOUR
The brutality of the Petrushka comes to the fore as the second Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleship is ripped apart - a violent end for the glorious SMS Kronprinz
Last act of revenge - the Donnerfaust-class Support Cruisers bring down the Tunguska-class Skyship with their electrical batteries
The Borodino-class Battleship launches forward, scuttling one of the Donnerfaust-class Support Cruisers and damaging another with close-range fire
The Markgraf spies an opening, obliterating the pair of Novgorod-class Frigates before it
Chany-class Strike Submarines make their attack, slicing through the engines of the damaged Donnerfaust-class Support Cruiser
The second Borodino-class Battleship comes to an all stop, trying to turn and catch the Markgraf. It manages to finish the last Wachter-class Escort, but is too late! The Russians have taken the harbour and have free reign to raze Bremerhaven off the map, but their true goal has escaped their clutches once again!
The battle draws to a close as the Prussian fleet is broken, disengaging and abandoning the harbour where they can
No less than eight derelict vessels drift through the harbour, while the broken hulls of six capital vessels lurk beneath the waterline
Losing the derelict, drifting hulks, we see how few vessels have survived the horror
AFTERMATH
Denied their prize, the Russian fleet prepares to ravage Bremerhaven
Somehow, against all odds, the Markgraf has escaped once again! 
By the end of four turns, the Prussian Empire had scored an impressive 2,340 Victory Points, yet in turn they had lost a mighty 3,113 Victory Points. Ouch! An incredibly bloody game! VICTORY FOR THE RUSSIAN COALITION!

For all their success, the Markgraf still escaped their wrath...

CONCLUSIONS AND LEARNING POINTS
What an absolute mess of a game! Four Dreadnoughts, three Battleships and a Dreadnought-Robot destroyed - a total of nearly 5,500pts worth of vessels left burning or sinking by the end. Was it everything we hoped for? There were certainly a few very satisfying moments in the game, but ultimately the Markgraf escaped once again - this ship is blessed or cursed, I have no doubt. 

To be honest, after the initial volley I did not concentrate on the Markgraf anywhere near enough - during the Second Turn it was suffering a Weapons Damage critical effect and I had better targets, while the Third Turn it was protected by the other two Dreadnoughts. After that, it was too late, and the Prussians had done a good job in clearing out that side of the battlefield. 

The Prussians lost the battle in the centre, where their own Dreadnought-Robot and the Elbe-class Fleet Carrier were scrapped, and later both of the Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleships were destroyed by the Petrushka in two quick Activations. 

I was worried that the game would take too long, but it was quickly apparent that both sides were very efficient at blowing each other apart, and as we can see not much survived! The game itself lasted just over three hours, very good time for the points. We did help each other by playing forces with a big percentage of Large vessels - perhaps with 3,000pts of Small Squadrons or more Carriers we would have struggled to finish so quickly. 

I was also worried that we would struggle to destroy one another's Dreadnoughts once we started taking damage, but it turned out okay - we had a nice mixture of vessels' dragged down over several Turns, and those destroyed quickly (mostly due to the Petrushka, it must be said!). The Large vessels dominated the game, of course they did, but they were almost all destroyed by the end. 

The Dreadnought-Robots did not feel overwhelming at this size of game - if anything the Hochmeister-class Dreadnought-Robot was rather underwhelming. The Petrushka did score significant kills, but only really came into play in the last moments of the game, after most of the Prussian fleet had been destroyed. Wrecking two Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleships felt really good - I doubt Mike will let an undamaged Svarog-class Dreadnought-Robot so close in the future! 

Ultimately the game came down to Activation Order - the Third Turn and the sacrifice of the Moskva-class Dreadnought to cripple the Blucher-class Dreadnought and render the Elbe-class Fleet Carrier Derelict was a real game-changer, where I had been tempted to finish off the Hochmeister first. In the end, I would have lost a great deal more than one or two Tambov-class Gunships if the Dreadnoughts had been able to activate first, and I think this decision won me the game.

Terrain played a role, of course. The walls forced the fleets to split and close, where the brawlers of the Russian Coalition would have a slight advantage. I maintain it would not be a huge advantage, but nonetheless they won out as Mike committed so many of his big guns to the port-side flank. The side with the Markgraf and the pair of Blucher-class Dreadnoughts held for a while and did well to smash the Battle Cruisers and Shashka Squadron, who collapsed in the Third Turn alongside the Moskva-class Dreadnought and the Borodino-class Battleship. It was only the timely intervention of the Tunguska-class Skyship that helped drag down the Dreadnoughts in the later stages of the game. 

It is difficult to nominate a Unit of the Match in a game this size, but I think the Tunguska-class Skyship and the Petrushka both scored some really important kills that made sure I held the advantage. As mentioned before, the sacrifice of the Moskva-class Dreadnought was really important to rob the Prussians of their aerial and electrical power at the crucial start of Turn Three.

On the Prussian side, I can't say anything leapt out at me. The pair of Blucher-class Dreadnoughts took on a huge number of Russian ships, and would have won had I not committed even more vessels to deal with them. Sadly, the Markgraf did not get to make much of an impression, but this allowed it to survive and escape! 

So there we are, a rather explosive end to a long campaign. I will be writing a fuller conclusion for the whole campaign in the future, but for now, Markgraf remains at large, roaming the high seas. Will the Russians ever catch their grey and black-striped nemesis? Not today, and not for a while, as our attention turns to warmer waters...

THE NARRATIVE
"The Russian Coalition scored a decisive but bloody victory at Bremerhaven, smashing the Prussian fleet within the walls of the harbour itself and bombarding the once-proud city. Only the arrival of aerial support some hours later would halt the Russian attack, but by then the city was aflame.

The Russian show of overwhelming force may have badly extended their supply lines and pulled dozens of their ships out of position, but the Prussian operations in the North Sea had suffered a blow they would struggle to recover from. The Markgraf had drawn the hammer of the White Navy upon Bremerhaven - for all their losses in the months past, the Russian Coalition had endured and answered in the only language they understood - unstoppable, inordinate violence. 

Of the Markgraf itself, few had any answers - once more that damned vessel had escaped into the open ocean. Baron Karl-Ehrhart Grunner was a marked man - any accolades from his past exploits had been forever tarnished by his defeat at Bremerhaven, and few among the Prussian High Command wanted anything more to do with that cursed vessel - better for it to sink below the waves and be forgotten, than draw the ire of the Russian Coalition once more. 

The Prussian Iron Fleets would resume their operations soon enough, out of Kiel and other major ports, but Bremerhaven was lost. Their strength spent, the White Banner Northern Fleet withdrew into the North Sea. The War continued, and for a time at least, eyes turned to other areas of the world, and forgot the name Markgraf..."

Thanks for reading,

George

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