Monday, 18 January 2016

AAR - The Prussian Empire versus The Black Wolf Mercenaries

"Some two months had passed since the ambush at Visund Oil Field, and the Prussian Hunter Fleets still keenly felt the loss of U-113, vessel of Submarine Commander Grönemeyer. The Markgraf had withdrawn to the south, and the Prussian hold over the shipping lanes in the North Sea faltered. 

A new player emerged from hidden bases along the Scottish coast - the mercenaries of the Black Company. Piratical and beholden to no Great Nation, their attacks at the end of the last year had forced the Markgraf to turn away from the northern oil fields, and now they had free reign to attack the shipping lanes and plunder as they pleased. 

Baron Grunner could not stomach this conceit - his experience against the Black Company off Greenland had bred a deep disdain for these renegades, and the loss of his best Submarine Commander still enraged him. While the Markgraf evaded Grand Coalition patrols, he charged Carrier Group Lützow with engaging the Black Company - defending Prussian shipping, ensuring his Wolf Packs would have unrestricted access to the North Sea oil fields, and denying them the chance to attack the Markgraf again. 

The Black Company were a scourge, and would need to be dealt with quickly..."
The Hunt for the Markgraf (cont.)
Naval Battles of 1874

Welcome to a new year, and a return to the North Sea! The Hunt for the Markgraf continues, and the Prussian Empire continues to rampage through the shipping lanes of the North Sea. As they attack Grand Coalition shipping, they clash with the piratical mercenaries of the Black Company - running the captured Sturmbringer-class Submarine U-113. Can they rid the seas of this menace and recover their lost vessel? Let's find out...

The board is set, the pieces are moving
This week, Mike and myself play out one of the Ironclad scenarios from Drachenfutter's excellent tournament pack - this time an area control mission where points would be awarded for holding Table Quarters at the end of four turns - one per quarter and an extra point for holding the opposing Quarter. We added an extra caveat - if the Prussian Empire destroyed or captured the Sturmbringer-class Submarine, they would score a further scenario point. 

The mission was 1,500pts, with the convoy present on the board only as immovable terrain pieces. 

Prussian Carrier Group Lützow, tasked with the destruction of the Black Wolf Mercenaries operating near the Shetland Islands
The Prussian Empire

SMS Lützow - One Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleship with Elite Crew
One Rhine-class Assault Carrier carrying five Fighter Planes and one Reconnaissance Plane

Two Squadrons of two Donnerfaust-class Support Cruisers and one Havel-class Light Carrier, each accompanied by one wing of four Dive Bombers
One Squadron of three Hussar-class Gunships

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

Two Wings of five Fighter Planes
The Black Wolf Mercenaries accompanied by their prize, the captured Submarine U-113
The Black Wolf Mercenaries

Royal Fortune - One Retribution-class Sky Fortress accompanied by two wings of three Fighter Planes
U-113 - One Sturmbringer-class Submarine
One Death Bringer-class Submarine

Two Nemesis-class Battle Cruisers with Guardian Generators. One is accompanied by two Fury-class Frigates as Escorts
Two Manticore-class Support Skimmers with Main Turrets and each accompanied by six Reaper-class Attack Submarines
One Squadron of three Chimera-class Medium Airships

One Squadron of four Fury-class Frigates
One Squadron of four Wraith-class Airships

Two Wings of five Dive Bombers

As the convoy flees, the Black Company turn about to face the Prussian threat
Aerial squadrons prepare to clear the rocks while the naval vessels hold the flanks of the deployment
The Prussian fleet is based around the carriers in the centre, with the hammers of the Gunship squadron and Heavy Battleship holding the flanks
They prepare to clear the convoy and get close with the enemy fleet
The two forces arrayed for battle, looking to secure a vital hunting ground 
As wings of Fighter Planes cover their advance, the Chimera-class Airships unleash their rocket batteries upon the Prussian flagship. They penetrate the Shield Generator and causes minor damage
The Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleship takes fire
Retaliating quickly, the turrets and Speerschleuder impact on the lead Airship
Arcing through the lightning rod of the Speerscleuder harpoon, the Arminius-class Frigates' Tesla-weaponry damages the lead Airship further
The fleets close quickly
The rocket batteries of the Retribution-class Sky Fortress destroy one Arminius-class Frigate
More fire from the Prussian fleet brings down the lead Chimera-class Airship
Long-range fire from the Sturmbringer-class Submarines smashes one of the Stolz-class Destroyers aside
Torpedoes from the Deathbringer-class Submarine damage a second
Neither fleet has made a huge impact on the other, but the losses amongst the Prussian escort squadrons may impact the battle in the coming moments
The loss of the Chimera-class Airship is a blow for the aerial squadrons of the Black Company
The Prussian fleet prepares to enter optimum range
The Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleship takes the initiative and boldly attacks the Chimera-class Airship squadron once more, damaging one and also landing a Speerschleuder harpoon onto the deck of the Retribution-class Sky Fortress
The Wraith-class Airships launch their attack, in an attempt to stop the Saxony-class Corvettes before they can cause trouble. Their massed firepower is split amid the squadron, but only manages to damage two and sink a third
The small Airships have left themselves exposed, and squadrons of Prussian interceptors descend upon them
The Chimera-class Airships attack, their fore guns failing to make an impact on the Arminius-class Frigates but rocket batteries finish a Stolz-class Destroyer
Another Wraith-class Airship falls to the swarms of Fighter Planes
The Nemesis-class Battle Cruiser and Fury-class Escorts launch their attack upon the Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleship, turrets failing to find purchase but broadsides breaking the shields and overloading the Shield Generator
More misery for the exposed Airship squadron
The shields are down! Fury-class Frigates attack the Prussian flagship, scoring more damage with their high yield weaponry
The Manticore-class Support Skimmer joins the attack, piling more damage upon the crippled capital ship
The Rhine-class Assault Carrier makes its presence felt, bringing down the last Wraith-class Airship and damaging the Retribution-class Sky Fortress
The Support Squadron "Crosses the T", wreaking havoc through the Chimera-class Airship squadron
The Retribution-class Sky Fortress pours fire into the Arminius-class Frigates, destroying two more
Below, Reaper-class Attack Submarines ruin the engines of the lead Donnerfaust-class Support Cruiser with their torpedoes
The second squadron of Attack Submarines pours more misery upon the stricken vessel
The second Support Squadron launches their electrical weaponry, and a second Chimera-class Airship is finally destroyed
The last Arminius-class Frigate damages the remaining Chimera-class Airship
Firing in all directions, the Nemesis-class Battle Cruiser finishes the damaged Donnerfaust-class Support Cruiser and causes major damage to the defences of the Havel-class Light Carrier. Boarding parties scuttle the last Stolz-class Destroyer
Retaliation from the Hussar-class Gunships causes massive damage across the vessel, smashing the rudder and the gun decks
Targeting the carriers before the Prussian fleet can overwhelm them with bombers, the Manticore-class Support Skimmer unleashes hell upon the undamaged Havel-class Light Carrier, smashing the engines and crippling the vessel
The Deathbringer-class Submarine launches the killing blow, but leaves itself exposed
The Sturmbringer-class Submarine attacks the nearest Havel-class Light Carrier, and the overload of Tesla-energy throws the ship out of reality for a brief moment. It crashes back into the ocean some distance back, damaged but still afloat
The air war continues as the Black Company Fighter Planes target the Prussian Bomber squadrons
The two fleets prepare to meet at close quarters
The Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleship has suffered the brunt of the Black Company starboard flank, and crucially fails to repair the Shield Generator!

Fury-class Frigates attack at close range, while their boarding parties scuttle the last Arminius-class Frigate

Apologies for the quality of this shot
Hussar-class Gunships swing about, opening fire upon the exposed Deathbringer-class Submarine - it barely survives the attack! Their boarding parties also launch upon the Manticore-class Support Skimmer, but are beaten back at frightening cost
Unleashing the wrath of the Hussars, the Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleship launches deep into the Black Company fleet. Turret fire and AA batteries damage the Manticore-class Support Skimmer and destroy the last Chimera-class Airship, while boarding parties run rampant through the Nemesis-class Battle Cruiser and leave it a burning ruin. A bold attack!
Reaper-class Attack Submarines try to damage the Donnerfaust-class Support Cruiser, but it advances and damages the Retribution-class Sky Fortress. The Rhine-class Assault Carrier is also shown pouring more fire into the Black Company vessel, and ripping through the engines of the Deathbringer-class Submarine
The Retribution-class Sky Fortress is beginning to burn, and acts quickly to Prize the Donnerfaust-class Support Cruiser below it, while ordnance smashes into the far Support Cruiser
The crippled Nemesis-class Battle Cruiser breaks forward through the Prussian squadrons, turret fire causing a flare of Sturginium aboard the nearest Donnerfaust-class Support Cruiser. Another flash sees it return to reality some distance behind the vessel. This squadron has now suffered two such flares, and is scattered across the ocean!
The Saxony-class Corvettes enter the fray, damaging the Retribution-class Sky Fortress further and finishing the ruined Nemesis-class Battle Cruiser
The Manticore-class Support Skimmer obliterates the Hussar-class Gunship before it, but its boarding parties are lost attacking the second
The Deathbringer-class Submarine is finished by waves of Dive Bombers
The lightning of the Sturmbringer-class Submarine plays havoc with the damaged vessels of the Support Squadron
The Support Squadron reforms
Dive Bombers rip through the Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleship
The two remaining escorts to the lost Nemesis-class Battle Cruiser finish the Prussian flagship with their powerful fore guns
The Kaiser Karl destroyed, the rest of the Black Wolf Mercenaries turn upon the Rhine-class Assault Carrier. Here, the starboard Manticore-class Support Skimmer opens fire, causing a massive fire to break out on the deck
Reaper-class Attack Submarines jump upon the wounded beast, their torpedoes smashing the engines
A wave of Dive Bombers finishes the Rhine-class Assault Carrier
With such losses, the Prussian fleet has been gutted 
The Black Company have fared little better, with many of their best ships destroyed or nearly lost
The Prussian Support Squadron moves on the Sturmbringer, their massed electrical fire only causing minor damage
The burning Retribution-class Sky Fortress fails to damage the Saxony-class Corvettes
Their retaliation fails to damage the Manticore-class Support Skimmer, but their boarding parties ransack the Retribution-class Sky Fortress and take it as their prize!
The Manticore-class Support Skimmer swings about the platforms and attacks from above, crippling one of the Hussar-class Gunships with brutal firepower
The Hussar-class Gunships move, but the damaged vessel impacts with the Manticore-class Support Skimmer before it and sinks. Fire from the last vessel causes massive damage to the offending mercenary ship, however
Shrugging off such damage, the vessel floats forward, finishing the last Havel-class Light Carrier with the fore guns while the turret damages the last Hussar-class Gunship
The Fury-class Frigates launch their boarding parties to retake the Black Company carrier,and in the chaos the Retribution-class Sky Fortress falls into the oil platform below. Reaper-class Attack Submarines and two Fury-class Frigates destroy the last Hussar-class Gunship
In a final act of spite, the Sturmbringer-class Submarine destroys one Saxony-class Corvette and the damaged Donnerfaust-class Support Cruiser, then captures the second with waves of Black Company mercenaries. Another fine prize!
The Prussian fleet is lost, and the hunting grounds remain the playground of the Black Company
U-113 escapes once more, as the last Prussian interceptors follow in vain
The scattered survivors of the Prussian fleet struggle to return to friendly waters
The Black Company has suffered significant losses, but have two more prizes to add to their grand fleet
The Prussian Empire scored 1,185 Victory Points but did not hold any of the Table Quarters at the end of the game. In turn, the Black Company held three Table Quarters, including the Prussian territory - 4 Scenario Points. They also scored 1,698 Victory Points - a bloody mess, but ultimately a big win for the Mercenaries!

Carnage on the high seas! Once again the Black Wolf Mercenaries and the Prussian Empire have smashed each other, but this time the Black Company wins out and secures the Table Quarters for a solid victory. 

Key moments during the battle were the loss of the Shield Generator on the Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleship, the loss of the Rhine-class Assault Carrier in one turn, and the brutal firepower of the Black Company in Turn Three breaking apart the Medium squadrons of the Prussian fleet.

Looking over the pictures, it seems that the solid block of Prussian ships was formidable, but the more spread-out deployment of the mercenaries allowed them to attack in waves, with barely-damaged "reserves" arriving later in the game to finish the weakened Gunship and Support Squadrons. The Kaiser Karl-class Heavy Battleship was brave but ultimately doomed in attacking alone.

I purposefully attacked the Small squadrons early to deny Mike some of his natural speed advantage, and to make later in the game easier - holding Table Quarters would be difficult with only Medium squadrons and two Large vessels. This paid off well, as it also robbed him of a lot of boarding potential.

The brutal firepower of the Main Turrets allows the Black Company to remain dangerous even when crippled, and this helped a lot, especially when the Manticore-class Support Skimmers needed to finish the Hussar-class Gunship squadrons.

Devastating Ordnance remains unparalleled. Such a morale booster, even if it does not work!

The aerial assets of the Black Wolf Mercenaries remain the weakest aspect of the fleet, but I like them for the numbers they provide. I doubt I would prefer to take more Battle Cruisers and Frigates. I keep using them very aggressively, and they are destroyed quickly. Perhaps I need to be more conservative in the future.

The Manticore-class Support Skimmers were excellent in this game, and their Reaper-class Attack Submarines achieved a lot, especially when picking off wounded Mediums (or the Rhine-class Assault Carrier, in one instance!)

The Sturmbringer was a solid addition to the mercenary fleet, regularly causing a number of Critical Hits at long range. The longer reach of the Speerschleuders and Tesla Bombard allowed it to support the Nemesis-class Battle Cruiser and the Deathbringer-class Submarine. For the points, a second Deathbringer-class Submarine may have caused similar damage, but would have had to advance on the Prussian fleet and brought itself into harm's way.

The Prussian fleet was strong in the opening turns, but suffered from poor luck later in the game, and suffered accordingly. Their attack seemed sound, but having lost so many of their Small vessels and with the Medium squadrons closely bunched up, they were easy to surround and would have struggled to take the Table Quarters had they survived.

The Rhine was the surprise hit of the Prussian fleet - normally I disregard it as a bloated, slow thing, but the amount of electrical firepower it can put out is great! It also works well with the Light Carriers for a strong aerial dominance.

Overall another fun game, and a deserved win for someone not-Prussian! Mike got to use a lot of squadrons he had not run in a long time, while I got to try out the Sturmbringer with the Black Wolf Mercenaries - a nasty combination! Maybe in the future I will be running some other Submarines with them...

"...Carrier Group Lützow was savaged at Blane Oil Field, surprised by the aggression of the Black Company, surrounded and smashed apart. A startling loss for the Prussian Empire, to many it proved that the mercenaries in the North Sea were not a rag-tag band but an organised armada, with their own agenda. Their employment by the Kingdom of Britannia was suspected, but to risk the ire of the Russian Coalition was a dangerous game.

The loss of the hunting grounds was a massive concern to the Prussian High Command, as their only reason for indulging Baron Grunner in his crazed crusade was the guarantee of disruption to Grand Coalition shipping. The Prussian fleets were on the backfoot, and it would take some ingenuity on Grunner's part to solve this crisis..."

Thanks for reading,


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