Monday, March 25, 2013

Battle of the Atlantic, Take 2

Mark Campbell put on a Close Action game in DC as a playtest of a hypothetical scenario which pits an elite British force against a line of American super-74s and super-44s. I participated in a previous game at Historicon 2012, reported here. This time, I was the British admiral, I had several advantages--I had time to study the scenario, I had motivation to study--the enemy admiral being Lee Tankersley, I knew I couldn't just wing it--and almost all my players were experienced.

The scenario opens with both fleets in line ahead, close hauled, on a collision course with the Americans a couple of hexes closer to the intersection. The Americans have heavy frigates, effectively about the same as a normal 74, in parallel line a few hexes to windward. The British second squadron is also a few hexes to windward, but behind the first squadron.

I don't always stress staying in line, but in this case I did; and I stressed that we should stay at least 7 hexes away from the enemy, given their abundance of short range carronades.

We started with first squadron turning starboard in succession, coming into broad reaching with the wind (and Americans) off our port side. The Americans maneuvered to close the range by a couple of hexes; I ordered  first squadron to wear and open the range, an order which Mark described as "perfect--exactly the right thing to do, at exactly the right time". I admit to some qualms as the line turned, moved, and turned, but when it was done we accomplished the maneuver with no collisions, everyone in line and no one blocking fire of anyone else. I was quite pleased.

Quite pleased with first squadron, that is. While we were doing aquatic ballet and leaving half the Americans leeward and without targets, a couple of my second squadron ships decided it was time to play chicken with the American battle line--apparently forgetting completely about the whole "stay seven hexes away" part. These two ships got hammered but they also dished out a lot of damage and disrupted the American line; and even when they struck, they had the American admiral's ship Ohio trapped between them.

Meanwhile, the enemy frigates had swept around the furball and come down to attack the head of our line. I ordered my lead ship to tack--pausing first to be sure it was Joshua commanding that ship, so I could trust that it would be handled properly--and then ordered other ships to follow. They worked their way to windward, came down on the Americans, who were still disordered, and handed out stern rakes as they passed by, dismasting Franklin and forcing her to strike, and lining up to rake the hapless Ohio as well.

Meanwhile, the rest of our line moved to windward to engage the frigates. Ocean guessed badly on a maneuver and discovered that getting shot at by three American heavy frigates is just as bad as getting shot by three normal 74s, but she helped block the enemy line of movement. My own ship, the 100 gun San Josef, got pretty badly battered as well (and failed 3 of 3 moral checks, sigh). However, we forced two of the frigates to strike, and the third one was stuck and obviously doomed. The fourth and smallest--captained by a nine year old girl--slipped out of the net and escaped, battering Ocean as she passed.

With eighteen turns complete and a snowstorm bearing down on DC, we called it. The Brits had six ships effective, San Josef and Ocean seriously damaged, and Benbow and Black Prince struck. The Americans had Franklin, Independence and Guerriere struck, Ohio and Constitution immobilized and doomed, Delaware severely damaged, and three super-74s and the little 38 gun frigate still effective. A convincing British victory, and a good game.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sailing in Company

Having boarded Prosperity, and made my Report, I went to my Cabin, and admired the Spyglass which Caleb Grey had given me. Had I been Asked to name a boon, I had chosen that Fra Veritan be invited to the court of Alzakarra, that he might study the great Book, for that would, I think, delight him greatly, and had I something of my own chusing, it had been of the art Martial, or else Musickal. Yet the Spyglass is of great use to a ship's Officer, and further a Handsome gift, both in its own right, for it is finely worked with Filigree, and for its Value, that being, I reckon, four hundred gold or more. And it fits nicely into my Belt.
And I called Fra Veritan to examine the Books, who said that the Musical book is written in the Kannae, a script for holy works, and the other book is a meditation in, he said, the Mazite tradition, and that one I gave to him. The herbal and bestiary, and the third, are in the writing of Druids, and the last book, whose illuminations be spirals and swirls, is, he says, in the Draconic tongue, much used in dweomercraft. 'Pon the latter I essayed a little Charm, for the reading of Incantations, but the pages are still a Mystery.
The Captain charged me to stay abed and rest, which is a Novelty, for such orders be seldom given to a Midshipman! But when I have prepared my Blades, the edge and the point, and anointed them, then I will rest.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Departing Innis Byr

I went again into the Fane, for upon the pillars were Flowers like unto orchids, which, when the Guardian loomed above us, were pale, but when that lay at our feet Hewn by Kanak's stroke of legend, were suntouch'd, and thereby Golden. And we recalled the words of the Prophecy, viz, that we must walk the Path of golden Petals. And so Inae gathered them, and with mortar and pestle and a Fire kindled on the stones, made an decoction, and while she was busied with these matters, Kanak and I cast our eyes upon the Altar. And behold, it was no solid stone, but a Coffer, and therein, diverse Books, and a Casket of herbs, and these things we took. I delved not deeply into them, but examined lightly, and they appear to be:

  • a  large Boke, thirty pounds or more and hundreds of pages, written in different hands, in a language I know not, but I surmise it to be the Journal of the settlement here. This was in a trunk of its own, the rest being all together in a second.
  •  In the same tongue, or one very like it, a slim Volume, written in a dashing hand, by one, methinks, whose flow of words exceeded his pen; and another, but somewhat larger, and precisely writ, and containing many Symbols, as perhaps may be musical Notes.
  • In Chondathan, an antique dialect, an Agronomical accounting, viz, seeds sown, frosts and rainfalls, and such; and a Second which interested Kanak, for its pages depicted plants and fishes of the Deeps, but I wonder how those high upon these Cliffs gained familiarity thereof.
  • One book in an alphabet unknown, neither Elvish nor Dwarvish (for those runes I recognize, though I do not read them) nor any I have seen of Men, and I know not of what it speaks, for its Illuminations be only of spirals and swirling lines.
  • In yet another tongue, whose glyphs I ken not, three Books, one an herbal, with many pictures of botanicals therein, and the second some beastiary or Anatomical work, for its drawings were of birds and beasts but also their bones and organs, which I expect will delight Inae, and Greyson also, for I remember his drawings of marvellous Beasts; and the Third a mystery, for it bore no illuminations, but some columns of Numbers in the margins. 

The Tisane of goldpetals being readied I, being of least Weight and likely swiftest Affected, drank first, and shewed no Harm, though scare any Benefit neither, whereupon Kanak partook, and Inae also, and reserved a portion for Laithoren. We departed that place, Kanak and I between us bearing all that remained of the Knowledge of those Monastics who had been Slain those centuries ago, and I was much in thought, videlicet, that those Men, accounted Wise, had withdrawn from the World, and thus, upon their Passing, all their words were Lost, save that chance which brought Us here. Is it not better to Wander, as verily I myself, and tell Others whatever Lore we may have, and if they find in it Merit, they shall pass our Words, and thus in some measure our Selves, down from generation to generation. For our Bodies we shall lose in the fullness of time, but our Glory may live as long as our stories are told and gods remember.
And with such weighty thoughts, we followed the path stones back, and passed over the Bridge of the golden Forest, and through the Cleft in the Rock, and came to the top of the first Cliff, where we were beset by wild Dogs, but Kanak slew two, and I one, and took no harm. And as we cleaned our Blades, we looked to the Sea, and behold a ship, not Prosperity, neither Silver Rose, but a chebec of the Shining Sea, and a party of her Men in that Cove where our longboat lay. And when we had gone down that great Cliff, and joined again with Laithoren, and Dunders, and the two Cheray, we went down to the shore, but as chebecs are favored of Pirates, and also of Calimshan, who had once brought death to Keldisle and might do so again, we went theftily, seeking not to meet them.
Yet as we approached them, we saw these men bore neither Arms nor armor, and they called out as if to one Lost, and so, leaving my companion hidden lest I risk all, yet for myself trusting my Luck, I stood and Hailed them. They having very little of the Chondathan tongue, and I none of theirs, sent for an officer, Reshan by name, a well-favored Man and fluent, who pledged Peace and brought me to their ship, and I went with them, thinking privily that if they slew me, then I, arising as a Ghoul and doubtless to their very great surprize, would at least Revenge myself. When I had gone Aboard, I knew her at once for no Pirate, for she was as clean and orderly as mortal hands could make her, and I trow even Hazlitt could find no fault in her.
And on her quarterdeck was that merchant Prince of Alzakarra, Caleb Grey, and his leman, Contessa Lissette, a very beautiful minx, though I paid her no Mind, for I judge her to be that sort of Woman who, being jaded of men's Attention, will respond to one who pays her None. Although, there being little Time, unlikely it is that such flirtations be brought to Fruition, nor, remembering Lady M the admiral's wife of Waterdeep, would it be in any measure Prudent to do so (though tis truth that stolen kisses be sweetest), yet if she takes Interest, her word in the Prince's ear may be of much Benefit to me. And when they guested me, and asked what Drink would I, I inquired if they knew of Chocolatl, which they did not, therefore I most willingly gave of my supply, and it was to the prince a Pleasure, and to the countess a Revelation, which I hope will dispose her Favorably, and perhaps as well my brother shall reap a gold piece or twain in Trade from that introduction.
And when they asked my tale, I could scarce ask a better opportunity for showmanship, for being a Bravo worn, stained and bloodied, in great contrast to all on this pretty little vessel, yet I bore a Gift that none else there could offer, for the Prince being a scholar, and greatly desirous of knowledge, I gave him that weighty  Tome which we had found, recounting, as I believe, the History of the island, and further, the tale of how I and my Companions had received the Prophecy, fought our way ashore, conquered the Cliffs, slain the guardian Monster, and won that prize which I presented to him.
Prosperity being sighted, under all sail to the topgallants, and Silver Rose a league or more beyond her but pressing hard after her, the Prince offered an Alliance of understanding, and sent his longboat to fetch our people from shore, and from esteem and gratitude gave me a cased spyglass. And we, having commended our fallen comrade Radge to the deep, embarked in the launch and raised sail for Prosperity. Grey's ship weighed and set out as well, with the banner of Waterdeep at the main, and from the jack, a banner of gold, bearing as charge a Kestrel rampant.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Golymin, 26 December 1806

Two quick, and odd, plays of the second scenario of the Russian Expansion to C&C Napoleonics. Each side needs eight Victory Points to win; the Russians can get VPs by moving units off their base edge. The French have 14 infantry and 3 cavalry units, and the Russians have  13 infantry, 4 cavalry and 2 artillery units; despite this, the Russians feel outnumbered--partly because the French infantry are all 4 block units, while the Russians are mostly 3 blocks.

Game 1:
The French start the game with almost all Center sector cards, and so launch their advance. The Russians have no center cards; they maneuver their  left to create a defensive line to hold off the French right. Desjardin uses one turn for preparatory musketry, then launches a mass bayonet charge with his entire division. The Russian center shatters, giving the French four VPs and getting them in position to cut off the Russian right. The Russians resign after a total of three turns.

Game 2:
The French left rolls over the Russian right, which barely gets off a shot in return. However, the Russians start with Forced March, which allows them to pull back their entire infantry line in the center (except for the hapless regiment in Kaleczin, which gets thrown to the wolves); they follow with Grand Maneuver, which allows them to withdraw four units off the left baseline. In a total of five turns, they pull out eight units and win, 8 to 3.

Upon the Heights of Innis Byr

On the Night Watch I saw as it were a Star on the horizon, near and north of that great ruby star which sailors name the Whale's Heart; yet after a time, I perceived that it was the light of a Ship, as it may be Prosperity. And though she be afar, yet on the morrow she will come Swiftly, and we not done yet our Quest, nor is any Healing yet given to us. And beyond Her to the northeast, over the world's Edge, Gwynneth and Llewellyn port and the warm halfling lasses I knew there, and many long, long leagues beyond them, Ravahana and Alihana and my own bed in Waterdeep; and, homeless wandering, Shautha of Sorrows. For her sake, in the dark of the night, I began composing a Ballad, in part thus:
Long leagues away,
My hearth and home
Where lovers wait,
Yet I sleep alone. 
The wind cries cold;
My bed is stone.
The Moon's gone down,
Yet I sleep alone.*
Although my watch was not complete, from weariness I must rouse Kanak, and after drawing apart from the nook wherein Inae slept, for we desired Not to wake her, then Kanak spake of certain things he had found upon the Ghoul ship, viz, an Arrow and a Wand, and by my gift I discerned that some Potency lay within them, although what, I knew not. Kanak, having no magery in him, desired me to hold the Wand, and he will gift the Arrow to Laithoren or whom he wills.

At dawn we rose, all my Bones feeling split for marrow, and I scarce able to walk, yet by main Will I sang and made my voice merry, for though I be verily at threshold of the Iron Gate, shall I not greet Urogalan with a jest? Inae also is very weak, and I fear will not see the Morrow an we find not that Herb of which her goddess spake.

Beyond the Waterfall we found fallen Statues, perhaps of the brethren of this place, now cast down, methinks, by the hand of Calimshan. And there was a dim and narrow Gorge which led up into the Cliff.  Inae and I being too weak to Climb, Kanak carried us, past more statues all fallen and defaced. And after a time the siq opened onto a shelf, and beyond a Chasm, two hundred feet deep or more, and in the depths a forest gold with Autumn; and a little ways to the East a stone Bridge spanned the gulf. Little confident in the Mastery of those ancient Masons, I resolved to go alone, and ordered Kanak and Inae to remain behind. And there came a swarm of sprites, like unto blue Butterflies save they were clear as glass, and flew as readily through Stone as air. Thinking them the Spirits of the slain brethren, I spake to them most courteous, but they moved not aside, and when I walked into the midst of them, I fell senseless, and Kanak must drag me back. And so, seeing no way around, I essayed again, yet this time removing my Rapier, and my daggers, but still Armored, and unable to pass so; yet when clad only in my Doublet, the butterflies alighting  only, did no harm; and Inae the same. Kanak was much loathe to disarm, yet needs must; and he wisely put our armory into a bag, and dragged it behind him, and so also crossed over the Bridge.

Onward led the flagstones, and onward we followed, Inae and I much impaired by our Weakness, until shortly Kanak, mindful of the creeping hours, and desirous to Speed us lest we be marooned, carried us through the gardens of that place, much overgrown and Wild, of interest if we be marooned here and seeking Food, or perhaps to a druid, but none else. We came after a time unto a cliff with a line of Caves, as it were monastic cells, but these Sealed upon a time with stone, and within them a jumble of Skeletons, burned with fire. I privately thought this an ill Omen, for it seemed to me that the Calishites who came here with great effort, and wrought thus, would not do so without strong Reason; yet I spake not, seeing no need of troubling the others. Yet verily had we trod the path of old Bloodletting, and, in accordance with the Prophecy, must now seek a path of golden Petals.

And so we marched on, or more aptly, Kanak marched on, I being perched on his Shoulder, and Inae carried, passing fallen Pillars and ruined Walls, until we came to a Temple, still standing, although the back wall had fallen and Trees intruded therein. And as we approached the Altar, there was a rustling amongst the Vines, and a seed flew out, catching me as if a Net, yet I slipped free. Kanak was similarly struck, but deigned not to release himself, rather bringing his Sword heavily upon the creature, which we now perceived to be some animate Tree. Thinking it rooted and Sessile, we withdrew, but it pursued us to the Door of the temple and outside. My Rapier being ill suited to hacking vines, and I not minded to be caught again, I tried my luck with that same Wand which Kanak had given me, and behold, it cast a Dart of arcane force, which wounded the creature, albeit to no great effect. The beast, more troubled by the sword, rose up and smote Kanak, who, being already wounded twice or thrice, Fell, to my great Dismay. Yet before Life had ebbed, I sprang to his side, under the very shadow of the Beast, and by the magic of my Belt healed him, and he arose and took up his Blade once more. I ordered him to carry Inae to safety, which he did, but the Lust for battle was strong upon him, and he leapt upon the beast, and with a single furious Stroke, cleft the thing right in Twain, and so it died.

*Inspired by "The Moon's gone down, but alone I lie", from Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis, which was probably inspired in turn by a fragment from Sappho.