One of the other members of the local games club (Helensburgh Alternative Hobby Association, HAHA) has recently purchased quite a large fleet of starship models from Brigade Models. Indeed, I think that several club members may have dipped their toes into these waters recently. Could it have anything to do with the games of Full Thrust that I have hosted there on Thursday evenings? Maybe.
|A Royal Navy cruiser squadron: heavy cruiser Conquest (?) in the background and light cruisers Crusader and Cutlass in the foreground.|
Anyway, J. was keen to try out his Royal Navy and so I set up an Escalating Engagement game. I've played this scenario once before (it's described here) and that encounter ended up being a very uneven fight. Would it play out any differently this time? Read on to find out...
- Royal Navy: a mixed force of cruisers with a few destroyers and other escorts, using the stats for GZG's New Anglian Confederation fleet. In other words, decent shields, a fair number of beam batteries and some torpedoes. Also 1,000 years of tradition to uphold...
- Orion Pirates: An eclectic mixture of light and medium ships with quite a variety of weapon types: regular beams, needle beams, salvo missiles - and a pair of light carriers.
I suspect that this group thought they were chasing a merchant convoy, rather than engaging in a stand-up fight with a regular navy. Pirates aren't really about taking risks!
The thing about the Escalating Engagement scenario is that you cannot be sure which forces will arrive, or where they will appear. The exit from warp/FTL is particularly hazardous; we were playing the optional rule that a roll of '6' could result in a very bad exit, way off the intended target.
So, here's what happened on turn one:
- A Royal Navy cruiser squadron dropped out of FTL in a commendably neat formation. Their navigators were obviously on the ball as there was very little drift between the ships.
- The pirates were a bit more sloppy! One of their corvettes was on target, but a light cruiser almost missed the table (and therefore would have been ruled to be lost, broken down, recalled or otherwise absent for the rest of the game).
Worse (much worse!), the escort carrier Vengeance overshot the entry point dramatically and [a] took minor damage for hitting debris from a nearby asteroid field and [b] was now right in front of the surprised-but-delighted trio of enemy cruisers.
On turn 2, more ships warped in.
- A Royal Navy strike cruiser and her consort arrived a bit ahead of the previous squadron, nice and tight.
- For the Orion pirates, their second carrier misjumped and ended up in another sector (about 30" off the table!). Her small escort ships did arrive pretty much at the intended point, though.
As the RN cruiser squadron turned towards her, the Vengeance was doomed - and she knew it. There was no way that the light carrier could escape from 3 cruisers at almost point blank range! Still, I wasn't going to give up without a fight: she started by taking evasive manoeuvres, though this had limited effect.
She launched her fighters; one pirate squadron attacked each of the RN light cruisers. This was something of a disaster, as the first CL shot down 5 of the 6 attackers with a series of d6 rolls of '6'. The surviving fighters caused only minimal damage.
Finally (and somewhat in desperation!), the Orions revealed that there was a traitor somewhere in the Royal Navy fleet. There was only a very small chance that this would gain anything immediately useful; the gamble didn't pay off.
Finally, the RN cruisers took their shot. With 3 cruisers firing at close range, the Orion carrier didn't have a hope and was blown apart.
On turn 3, there were more arrivals:
- A very welcome Orion heavy cruiser and her escorts popped out, somewhat apart from the other pirate ships.
- For the RN, a destroyer and frigate warped in, well out of harm's way [whew! At least it wasn't their battleship!]
This gave each side 7 ships, with no more reinforcements to come. However, the Royal Navy had heavier vessels on average and arguably they were in tighter formations and better positions.
Before these forces could get to grips properly, there were a couple more events:
An Orion light cruiser was buffeted by space turbulence and knocked off course. Fortunately, she just missed the nearby asteroid field, though not by as wide a margin as had been intended.
...whilst on the other side of the table, a huge comet appeared [I was hoping that it would appear on the other table edge - in the middle of the RN fleet - and cause some chaos there, but it wasn't to be].
With no possibility of turning to flee at such a short engagement range, the Orion fleet had just one hope. If they could cripple or destroy the RN's lead strike cruiser before their other ships came into short range then the odds would be a bit more even. Failing that, they'd have to run through the Royal Navy's fleet to escape out of the other side.
At very short range, the Orion fleet did indeed inflict heavy damage to the RN strike cruiser and her accompanying destroyer, though not enough to destroy either ship. The destroyer crew did abandon ship after a crippling life support hit, mind.
It wasn't enough: the Royal Navy ships also handed out a lot of hurt to the pirates. Two torpedoes from the strike cruiser hit the Etna and scored 11 for damage (on 2d6); this left the Orion heavy cruiser reeling and out of control, with most of her weapons and other systems knocked out. The Orion destroyer was also handled very roughly, leaving her barely spaceworthy.
The pirate fighters continued to harass what looked like the easier targets within the RN fleet, but found their numbers being slowly whittled down by flak for little gain.
As the pirate ships accelerated hard to try and escape, their last fighters made a desperate attack on the RN cruiser squadron. In this they were aided by yet another Orion agent on the enemy ships, who tried to sabotage the point defence systems. It was all for naught, though: the cruiser's security teams prevented the sabotage and the fighters achieved very little apart from losing even more of their number.
In the end, only the Orion light cruiser Manticore escaped, though she was somewhat damaged after charging through the RN fleet. All the other pirates had either been destroyed already (some of them quite spectacularly, due to Warp Core failures), or were totally gutted & defenceless and were about to be destroyed. It was a black day for that particular nest of villains!
Losses were very unequal in this game:
- Orion pirates: all ships bar two (the CL Manticore and the second light carrier which never made it on to the table) were destroyed.
- Royal Navy: no ships were destroyed, although a destroyer was abandoned and some of the lighter ships had quite severe damage. From memory, their heavy cruiser didn't even take a hit.
At first glance, this suggests that the fight was very unequal. Overall, that is probably true; the Orions were really hurt by the loss of both their carriers (albeit for two very different reasons). However I felt that they did have a chance - a slim chance, but nevertheless a real one - of cutting apart one separated group of RN ships before they could be reinforced. Or perhaps I'm just dreaming and there was never any realistic prospect of this happening...