Tuesday, 22 May 2018

ATZ: The End is Nigh!

Introduction

Last month, we played a game of All Things Zombie in which I introduced a new team: the congregation.  Nominally, this group of basic civilians is led by Reverend Green, though it has to be said that he's been showing some signs of instability.

Well, members of the congregation have decided to sally out once more, this time to look for help.  There's a police station not too far away; perhaps the officers from it can protect and reassure the community?


Taking the field this time are a mix of familiar characters and some new faces:
  • Reverend Green.  REP 4, Brawler, crossbow with just a single bolt.
  • Ricky, REP 4, Greedy, cricket bat.
  • Laura, REP 4, pistol and machete.
  • Max, REP 4, Brawler, two-handed axe
  • Matt, REP 4, Dim, gardening spade.
  • Barbara, REP 5, Runt, katana and wooden stake (maybe she's confusing zombies with vampires?).

The Scenario


The gang have to reach the police station, ask for help and then return the way they came.  Sounds easy, but there are some things I haven't told them:
  • Most of the police are out on missions of their own (or maybe have abandoned their posts or are dead, who knows?).  There are just 2 officers left to man the building; they won't be able to offer more than advice.
  • Initially there are no zombies on the table.  A wave of them will be spawned on their 4th activation; they will be placed initially on random table edges.
  • A second wave of zombies will be spawned half way through the game (as near as I can tell).  This area of town is going to be overrun!

The Game

So, how did it go?  Who lived and who died?  Read on to find out...



Predictably, the party split up (lambs to the slaughter, thinks I...):
  • Rev. Green decided to try to break into the gun shop, despite being told that the place was armoured like a fortress.  Max appointed himself as the reverend's bodyguard, so he went along with this plan.  Mind you, I'm not entirely certain that this was to keep the minister out of trouble; perhaps Max wanted to be on hand in case the crazy clergyman needed to be...stopped?
  • The rest of the party (Barbara, Laura, Ricky and Matt) proceeded towards the police station.


Barbara outran the others and, rather than wait for them to catch up, ran into the building on her own.  The resulting Meet and Greet went poorly: I guess that the cops didn't think much of a crazy woman bursting in wielding a rather nasty-looking sword and shouting some unintelligible gibberish.  They were just about to arrest her...



...when the rest of Barbara's group of citizens ran into the police station, closely followed by a pair of zombies.  More zeds were crossing the square; too many to fight!


The Cross and the Axe


What of the others?  Max and Rev. Green had finally given up trying to enter the gun shop (for now!) and were trying to catch up with Barbara's crew.  This wasn't completely successful; Max found his way cut off by a single zombie.  Although he knocked it down several times, it always got back up before he could move away.



As Rev. Green caught up, Max was still involved in this single fight, oblivious to everything else around him...



A rare double-event came up.  In the ensuing calm, Max ran away from his zombie opponent and Rev. Green realised that his cross had a certain weight and solidity to it; if he swung it right then it might do some real damage.  Both of these characters gave up trying to reach the police station and retired to the far side of the gun shop.



The herd of zombies, having lost sight of these two characters at the corner of the building, scattered and began shambling in random directions.  Oddly, most of them chanced to be heading straight towards the police station.



Max was once again ahead of Rev. Green and was trying to find another route to rejoin the rest of the party when he was set upon by 3 of these wandering zombies.  Perhaps it the more open space gave him room to swing his axe, or maybe he'd just had enough of being pushed around - either way he was far more deadly in this outnumbered fight than he had been before.  All three zombies were cut to pieces in fairly short order.

The Police House


Back at the cop shop, there was an almighty skirmish as two zombies followed the civilians in through the front door.  The police gave up trying to arrest Barbara and instead fought for their lives.  Clouseau was knocked to the floor by his opponent; he was fortunate that his body armour absorbed the damage.  Then the player characters waded in to assist and with their help, the zombies were quickly dispatched.

A temporary truce was called between the police and the civilians, especially when they saw that zombies were gathering outside the building.



So, here is the situation:
  • The cops were busy trying to barricade the front door of the precinct house against a large group of zombies.
  • The civilians left the police station and, after a brief conference, scattered to try to break into and take a vehicle...



    ...or, in Rev. Green's case, the gun shop.  He was determined to gain entry to the building.
  • At this point, the second wave of zombies arrived.

Split up and Look for Clues...


Inevitably, the arrival of so many new zombies caught the scattered players out somewhat.  Barbara was ambushed by two of the undead, but used her katana to good effect and quickly dispatched both assailants.  She then left the table discreetly and safely.



Rev. Green and Max were also surprised.  A steady stream of zombies attacked them, but these were spread out and the two characters were able to deal with them one at a time.



The others were not so lucky.  Matt, Laura and Ricky were set upon by a large group of the undead.  Laura's shots missed, then the zombies were upon them and a desperate melee ensued.  Ricky fell to the teeth and tearing hands at the first contact.

The Beginning of the End


Hearing the shots and the sound of fighting, the two police officers abandoned their front door barricade and ran out of the station's side exit.  They weren't the only ones to be attracted to the melee, though; zombies were closing in quickly.

Matt stepped over Ricky's body to try to hold the line, but he was torn down just as quickly as his colleague.  Only Laura seemed to be winning her fights...



Whilst zombies were munching on the bodies of her colleagues, she took the opportunity to escape.  There was no point in trying to assist the two police officers - Clouseau was already dead and Callaghan was surrounded and barely keeping on his feet - so she ran for it!



For the cops, the end was swift...


Last Rites


Back at the gun shop, Max finally cracked.



Even as Rev. Green finished off the last zombie in the vicinity, Max ran for it, unable to face the horror any more.  He didn't go far, though.



Laura rejoined Rev. Green and Max just in time to help clear one last shambler out of their path.  The road ahead was empty now; all they had to do was leave the board in order to escape safely and there were no zombies or other hindrances anywhere near them...



Of course, things are never that simple!  An unexpected random event caused a single zombie to be placed close to the remaining 3 characters.



Still, this wasn't a problem.  All the players had to do was leave the table and they'd be safe.  A single move would do it.  Just leave the table...



Of course, the players decided to attack!  Unfortunately, both Rev Green and Max failed their "brown pants" rolls and so Laura was the only one who actually engaged the zombie.  Even more unfortunately, she lost the melee very decisively and was knocked out of the fight, badly wounded.  Disastrously, the zombie won the next activation roll and promptly tore her belly open, killing her instantly.



At this point, Max ran away.

Rev. Green, convinced of his own invincibility, tried to stop the zombie from eating parts of Laura's body.  His melee skills were no better than hers, though; he also fell to the lone zombie.  There was no-one to save him and so he (probably) bled to death whilst the zombie feasted on the corpse of his parishioner.


Conclusion


Out of 6 characters (8 if you include the two cops), only Max and Barbara escaped.  What can I say?  It seems that each time I put players in a game where the only sensible decision is to flee, they stay and fight.  Sometimes I simply despair of humanity 🙂!

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Carronade 2018

Introduction

Early May heralds the first big wargames show of the year - in Scotland, at least.  This is the wonderful Carronade, hosted by Falkirk & District Wargames Club.  Despite my grumbles about last year's show (most of which were due to hot, sticky weather and a bad temper that I took with me, rather than to any fault of the show itself), my son and I were determined to go and to enjoy ourselves.

This year, 2 things about our preparations were slightly different from previous shows:
  1. We took the train rather than the car.  This was remarkably successful; there was little waiting at the stations and it saved me an hour and a half of driving each way (and that's very tiring after being on the go all day).  There was a bit of a walk to & from the venue in Falkirk - perhaps 20 minutes - but the weather was fine and the exercise is probably good for me.
  2. I'd arranged to meet my friend Steve at the show; it was the first time in quite a while that he'd been to such an event, I think.  So for much of the day there were three of us going around together, rather than just two.

Our Day

So, what was it like?  As always, I'm not reporting on the show itself, but rather giving a personal account of what we did and how we found it.  If you want a list of, or pictures of all the demonstration games, halls & crowds then you'll need to look elsewhere...

We played a number of games, interspersed with some shopping.  Here goes:

Game 1: Star Wars Legion


My son and I played a short game of the new Star Wars: Legion game.  This was hosted by a friendly trader who wanted to promote the game, but it was all very amicable and there was no pressure to buy anything.  I took the Imperials; my son took the Rebels.  Here's a short description of what happened:
  • My stormtroopers shot down a surprising number of rebel commandos.  Apparently, the stormtroopers aren't usually such great shots, but have better armour saves than the opposition.  This squad must have been practicing with their blasters, though...
  • The speeder bikes unleashed a torrent of shots towards the rebel walker, but almost all of them just bounced off the armoured machine.
  • Luke Skywalker advanced, but hid behind a concrete wall.
  • Darth Vader moved forwards purposefully in the open, defying the rebels to stop him.  He doesn't move particularly fast in this game; I guess that running would be undignified.  But if anyone can stride menacingly then it's him...

  • The rebel strider wiped out my bikes, but was then targeted by the first stormtrooper squad.  It turns out that they had a rocket launcher and that this was quite effective against armoured vehicles.  Who knew 😀?
  • The other stormtroopers took a few casualties, but then caught a rebel squad by surprise, in the open - and decimated them.
  • Darth Vader came face-to-face with the cowering Jedi and started to lay down some hurt on the lad (it wasn't entirely a one-way fight, if I'm honest - though Darth looked to be winning).


One turn after this, we ended the game and counted up the models from either side which were in front of the bunker door.  Final result:
  • Rebels: 3 victory points
  • Empire: 4 victory points
So, a narrow Imperial victory!  The rebels' last turn of shooting hit the 6-strong stormtrooper squad hard, but only caused 2 casualties.  Had they killed more of them then the game would have been a draw or even a Rebel victory...

So, the models are nice and gameplay seems solid enough; the [basic] rules were easy to pick up.  I imagine that the components for this game are somewhat pricey, mind - what with it being a licensed product and all - though I didn't check whether this is indeed the case.  My bottom line: if you're interested in Star Wars ground combat then this probably the game for you.

Shopping

For the most part I hadn't contacted vendors in advance.  Although I had a shopping list, this was more of a "might be nice" rather than a "must have".  I understand that I was taking a chance here, as sellers cannot bring their entire lines to every show, but I was really surprised at just how many of the trade stands didn't have the item(s) that I wanted!  Mind you, one of them (Scotia Grendel) did go above and beyond by offering to mail out the pieces I wanted post free, so kudos to them!

I did get one pre-order from a trader who had put a "Collect at Show" option on their online shopping cart.  Oddly, none of the others had done this...

Game 2: Bathgate Wargames Club


After a little more wandering about, we sat down to a game called (I think) "King Grocus is Dead".  This was set in a fantasy kingdom and was a power struggle between the surviving queens of a recently-dead monarch.  Now I don't like to be negative, especially when a number of people have obviously put a lot of work into something, but this game was a stinker.  Here's why I thought this:
  • The background wasn't a one sentence description as I put in the previous paragraph, but instead was a lot of dense text with much unnecessary detail that we didn't take in.
  • Victory conditions weren't explained adequately, nor were any rules made public.  It was obvious that the hosting club members knew what the turn sequence was, what the player's options were and how to resolve encounters, searches or fights.  But they didn't tell anyone.
  • The modifiers and abilities listed on each player's "forces card" suggested a great deal of complexity that I felt was quite unnecessary for a pick up, convention game.  Did the various members of my entourage really need to have different movement rates, for example?
  • The random starting positions meant that some players were virtually on top of what turned out to be the objectives, whereas others didn't have any realistic hope of reaching them.
So, after all this grousing, what happened?  My queen and her party started in the great hall.  They spent one turn looking in an office, but not finding anything.  The next turn, they searched a chest (not actually what I had wished to do, but rather an action strongly suggested by the gamesmaster) and found the magic sceptre.  On the third turn, it was announced that I had used this to cast the spell needed to win the game (again, without really involving me in any way).  No-one else had really achieved anything, or even moved much beyond their starting positions.



Ok, I want to try and be positive, so here are some suggestions on how this game could have been improved:
  1. The scenario and victory conditions need to be short and to the point.  Bullet points are probably better than prose here:
    + The king is dead.  You are one of his surviving queens and are competing for the crown.
    + To win, you must find the magic gizmo and take it to the great hall.
    + You have a small group of followers, but may recruit others along the way.
  2. Consider a quick reference sheet, listing
    [a] the turn sequence (for example, "draw event cards, then each player activates, one at a time"),
    [b] the player's options ("you may move up to 6", then fight any enemies in the same area.  If a room is empty then you may search it.  If there are neutral figures present then you may attempt to recruit them")
    [c] basic rules ("to fight, pair off models against the opponent's models and make opposed dice rolls", "to search, roll 1d6 for each model; a '6' is a success" and so on).
  3. Keep modifiers to a minimum (perhaps along the lines of "bodyguards get +1 fight", "ladies-in-waiting get +1 charm"...)
  4. Give the players a few options each turn (2 - 4, perhaps?), but don't make it completely open-ended.
  5. Initial placement of both the objectives and the players should give each group a somewhat equal chance.
  6. Try to involve the players a bit more.  Ask if they understand what is happening.  Make sure they know when and what choices they can make.  Explain why you wish them to roll a dice - and what are the possible outcomes.

Lunch

We had taken a packed lunch and the weather was very pleasant, so we sat outside for our meal.  There aren't a huge number of outdoor tables at the show venue, but we didn't have any problem finding 3 seats together.

In past years, I've felt that the area around the indoor catering was intensely crowded (standing room only!), but I didn't really feel that it was so busy this year.  Indeed, the show seemed much less crowded in the afternoon than I had expected; a welcome relief for us, though possibly not so great for the traders.  Of course, I wasn't counting people and so this could all be just my perception rather than an accurate assessment of reality.

Game 3: Street Wars


On returning indoors, we found a small (but very beautiful) board where the author of Street Wars NYC was running his game.  He offered to let 2 of us each take a gang and try to fight each other, mug civilians, chase pimps and cause other 1970's urban mayhem.

My son took the Black Cobras (a Kung Fu gang), whilst Steve faced off against him with a group of skinheads.



Predictably, the gangs moved towards each other, though both groups also pursued some of the randomly-moving objectives.



Indeed, the skinhead lieutenant spent virtually the entire game trying to catch up with and mug the crazy cat lady; she kept moving out of reach and he kept failing his skill tests.  Must be the smell of all the cats; he just couldn't bring himself to lay hands on the old woman!



The Black Cobras took some early losses and their leader was then hammered repeatedly by the skinhead captain,  However, the Kung Fu guy just wouldn't go down.  This allowed the Cobras a bit of respite and they almost regained control, but then the cops showed up and started arresting members of both gangs.  I forget the final score, but the skinheads had seized more objectives and had put out of action more enemy gangers, so the victory was theirs.

This was an interesting game, with rules and character attributes that were distinctly reminiscent of Pulp Alley; I'm guessing that this was a definite & conscious influence.  The figures were nice, the scenery was nice and the games master/rules author was committed & helpful.  If you're interested in gang warfare then you could do a lot worse than give this a look.  For myself, the subject matter is a bit too narrow, though I can see that some of the models might be useful in other contexts.


Game 4: Allez Les Mousquetaires!


"So there we were, the four of us, having a drink in our favourite inn and minding our own business.  Well, Aramis was trying to chat up one of the local ladies, but there's nothing unusual in that.  When, all of a sudden, there's loud banging on the door and in strolls Monsieur Rochefort, calm as you like.  He announces that the place is surrounded by Red Guards and that we're all under arrest, so please would we throw down our weapons and come with him.  Well, I don't think so...".



For our final game of the show, the three of us had a go at Allez les Mousquetaires!  I took Athos, Steve had Aramis, my son played D'Artagnan and a fourth player was Porthos.  We weren't going to let any lackey of the Cardinal push us around!



As soon as Rochefort had finished his little speech, I drew my sword, rushed forwards and engaged him.  I scored a critical hit and disarmed him, then ran around him to close the door.  From then on, things became quite ... swashbuckly.



Roughly speaking, here's what happened (though not blow-by-blow; that would be tedious):
  • Various groups of Red Guards tried to break in to the inn, but Porthos & I fought them off at the front door and D'Artagnan protected the rear.
  • All of us took potshots at Rochefort whenever we had a spare action.  The constant stream of pistol & musket balls hitting nearby must have exhausted him, as he was quickly reduced to being not much of a threat.
  • When we ran out of Red Guards inside the tavern, Porthos and I sallied out and fought them in the streets.  Not all of them were killed; some ran away...
  • Aramis swung from a chandelier to engage the hapless Rochefort, with a view to capturing him.  His initial attack was repulsed as the bad guy summoned up some hidden reserves (i.e. he used up the last of his "hero dice").
  • Seeing that all the enemy foot soldiers had been repulsed, Aramis called the special "All for One" action, thus allowing me to burst through a window and tackle Rochefort from behind whilst he and Porthos took him from the front.  This wasn't a situation that the game master had foreseen, but he ruled (quite reasonably, in my opinion 😀) that the three of us would have no difficulty in overpowering & capturing the shaken and injured Rochefort.  That'll teach him to interrupt our carousing!
This was an enormously fun game, at least in part because the players got into the spirit of it and weren't afraid to try the most ridiculously heroic actions.  As it happened, our characters seemed all but invulnerable, though it's worth pointing out that the rules are still being developed and adjustments are entirely possible.  Indeed, we were asked if we would like to be listed as playtesters; we all agreed enthusiastically.

By the way, I believe that at least some other groups of players chose to flee instead of fighting and had a great time jumping across rooftops & running along the tops of walls...


Loot


So, I bought a few things for myself and some for my son as well.  We were also given some items for participating in games.  Here's the final tally, clockwise from the top left:
  • A pre-order from Sally 4th, including more clear, perspex hex bases (for Dreadball) and an MDF card holder and some Fortune cards (for Pulp Alley).
  • The SAGA "Age of Crusades" sourcebook, plus a free leader for a crusader faction.
  • MDF "tickets" to the show; very useful and quite distinct!  These will have a second life as bases.
  • A copy of White Dwarf.  It's for my teenage son, really...
  • 5 novels from the bring-and-buy stands.
  • Various animals from Warbases.  Mostly for Viking-age Britain, but the chickens may just end up strutting around a tribal settlement in Congo.
  • Badges and a sticker from the Street Wars game
  • A few more "Nightfolk", from Northumbrian Tin Soldier.
  • Some Skraelings, again for SAGA.  I don't have enough for a warband yet, but I'll keep adding a few now and again.
  • Pokemon cards.  No, this stuff really is for my son.
  • Bookmarks from the King Grocus is Dead game.
And so ends another Carronade, highly recommended.  The late afternoon walk back to the station in Falkirk seemed a bit hotter and more tiring than the trip out in the morning.  I think I must have dozed a little on the train because I don't remember much about the journey home.  Just as well I wasn't driving, then...

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Full Thrust: The Pirate's Lament

Introduction

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...


The Forces

  • 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 Game


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!

Conclusion

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...