Sunday, April 26, 2009

Amphibious Assault

Saturday we played game four of our campaign series on Mars. It really was a great game with lots of moving parts, posing many challenges for both sides.

First, the battlefield was very unique. The scenario called for an amphibious assault up a canal with many requirements on the British forces. The 8' X 5' board was bisected lengthwise by a canal, crossed by a single bridge. Though it was possible to take small boats across the canal too, I can only presume the process would have been very time-consuming.

Four scattered Martian militia units were allotted to defend the canal area. As Martian defenders, we chose to defend high value targets that would take considerable time to rebuild if destroyed. These included heavy gun batteries, the bridge crossing and the Thunderer prisoners from the previous battle. The role of the Martian defenders was to hang on as long as possible until help could arrive.

The defenders' disillusionment began immediately. The British and their allies achieved complete surprise, sailing quietly past the defending shore batteries and disembarking their troops directly onto the bridge. There, these troops rapidly overcame the few sentries and secured both ends of the important canal crossing. Flanking parties landed near the heavy Martian cannon defending the mouth of the canal, and quickly spiked the guns, though the gunners and their defenders inflicted some loss on the landing force.

More adventurous was the airlifting of two companies of Egyptian troops up the canal to attack Martian supply points. These troops were landed far in advance of the British drive and attacked Martian militia units and disembarked . . . just as Martian reinforcements began arriving on the table. Far from British support, these troops began to receive unwanted attention from an imported walker, spraying Gatling rounds at flyer and soldier alike. Though they recovered some important documents, their demolition crews were killed and they recalled their transport for rescue.

The British advance halted, not because of any action taken by their enemies, but because they were willing to settle for half-measures. As Martian troops began streaming down both banks of the canal, it was clear that their massing was going to result in some serious bloodshed. The flyer lifted off with its charges, taking damage as it went. A small force of Martian reinforcements arrived on the north bridge road, behind the British flank. Rocket fire struck the flyer, and the fanatic Sverdlinkers launched a desperate attack on a band of Hill Martians.

The Hill Martians, firing bows, and massing their own much larger force to receive the crazed red-men, quailed under the initial assault. Eventually the tide turned and each swordsman in was slain except for their leader, the Prince Imperial, and he was carried off, bleeding from a half dozen wounds, with his fate to be bartered by the wild hillmen.

As the Sverdlinkers met their fate, the British decided to retreat up the canal. Pre-positioned charges destroyed the bridge. Guns were spiked and captured supplies were destroyed. Using their firepower to cover their retreat, Her Majesty's soldiers and sailors and their native allies re-embarked. The Martian commander Willie Fraser arrived on the scene just in time to vent his frustration. Grabbing the Thunderer survivors, he dragged them to the tallest watch tower. Fraser kicked the remnants of a destroyed rocket launcher down the stairs before hacking the head from each airship crewman with his highland broadsword. Then he tossed each headless body from the watchtower as the British raiding forces withdrew.

The British once again damaged the city's defenses with relative impunity. The damage was not so bad, but it demonstrated once again the Martians' limited ability to respond. More scarce resources would be spent on repairing valuable infrastructure. On the other hand, the British missed an important opportunity devastate the city's suburbs.

A note on photos. These were taken by both Mark and me. The top left shows an assault on one of the gun batteries defending the mouth of the canal. Sverdlinkers and Martian askaris attack the front and right flank of the gun, while sailors make their way around the left. The gun is defended by the gunners and a unit of militia muskets.

Two views of the British flotilla on the canal. The first is of the British gunboat leading the way, crashing into the bridge. This is the paper gunboat model by Reviresco. It's first battle, it was nice to get this in action. The guns mounted on this vessel were source of constant irritation to the defenders. The second view shows the Brits in position on the bridge after overcoming the few Martian defenders.

The middle view shows the Sverdlinkers' counter attack against the Hill Martians near the end of the game. In our game the Sverdlinkers are fanatic swordsmen who receive a +2 in melee combat. The Hill Martians are indifferent troops, but I had twenty and he had four. Eventually the weight of numbers ran against him and I captured the Prince Imperial. This is a personal character (mine is Willie Fraser) so this is a great loss for the British allies.

Last, but certainly not least, is Chris Bauermeister's beautiful flyer. Armed with a couple of Gatlings as well as two companies of Egyptians, the flyer was all over the place. It shot up a couple of militia units and air landed its charges behind enemy lines. Took a lot of damage too, but survived the game after braving fire to extricate its cargo.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Campaign Battle Four

Tomorrow is our fourth campaign battle. It should be big. It should be fun. It should be wild. There are a few folks attending who haven't played in our big Martian slugfests, so there will be new blood.

Mark asked me to bring along a couple of the vessels I've built. None are scratch-built. I'm taking my little Reviresco paper gunboat, and I also have a couple of Merrimac shipyards resin longboats that I've painted up for my Lewis and Clark scenarios.

Mark is the mad scenario designer, and he's put my character, Willie Fraser in command of the Martian forces. We'll see how this turns out.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Mea Culpas

Yes, I know, I'm late. It's been a month and half since our last game, and I confess that all of my attention is wrapped up in my Lewis and Clark project. We have another campaign game scheduled for the 25th, and I still have a few of Mark's articles remaining to post. I'll try to stay on it.

I've included three pics of Chris Bauermeister's superb scratchbuilt flyer. It's a hybrid airship/kite, armed with gatling guns. Very spiff stuff.

Squeezing Nippletown.

Air Vice Marshal Adrian Steiner-Pugh was outraged by the attack on the fleet evacuating diplomatic officials from Shastapsh, and pledged vengeance. Referring to the oddly shaped domes of the city, he declared, “ I’ll squeeze Nippletown until she screams.” Steiner-Pugh immediately planned for a punitive raid, designed to destroy city infrastructure as well as any vessels that rose to meet them.

In addition to his flagship, the aerial monitor Thunderer, Steiner-Pugh added the corvette Reliant. He also waited for the new gunboats Perseus, Theseus, and Hercules to finish their fitting out, adding their new 4.7 inch quick firing guns to the mix. As this squadron prepared to set out, Cmdr. Griess with his light gunboats squadron, Aphid, Ladybug, and Dauntless made plans to rendezvous over the target area.

The Martians received word of the British invaders from their signal stations. With their screw galley squadron allocated out on missions, the Bowel and his planners depended on their kite squadron to intercept the invaders. Supplemented by a pair of Small Bird screw galleys and the last of the anarchist torpedo rams, Vengeance, the kites seemed primed to use their size and exotic weapons to successfully engage their enemies.

Steiner-Pugh’s squadron emerged from the hills with the gunboats clustered near the monitor and the corvette. As the kites moved to intercept them, Griess’s small gunboats appeared on the other side of the canal, shooting up the water pipe as they carefully avoided the Martian ground batteries.

Tragedy struck Steiner-Pugh’s force early in the engagement. Vengeance moved quickly to engage Theseus. Though the ram struck the gunboat squarely and detonated the spar torpedo, some design flaw caused the mysterious craft to plunge into the canal below. However , Theseus suffered trim damage as well, halting its fall directly above Thunderer. The kite East Wind struck Theseus again, dropping the gunboat directly into Thunderer. The monitor immediately lost trim and plunged into the canal below. Theseus managed to regain control, but the loss of the flagship seemed to bode poorly for the British.

Unfortunately for the Martians, the loss of Thunderer and the commander-in-chief seemed to energize their foe. Seemingly a step ahead of the kites, the British seemed to stay just out of reach of the much larger rams. British gunfire too, seemed to fill the sky, setting fires, knocking out guns, killing crew. East Wind and South Wind burned like torches , and the remaining Martians ships withdrew from the city to defend the aerodrome.

British vessels wreaked havoc on the city. Two of three bridges were seriously damaged, with the third suffering moderate damage. The Bowel’s palace was also severely damaged with the Bowel and S’fink’tor seeking shelter in an adjacent neighborhood. Most importantly, the city’s water system suffered nearly catastrophic harm when the pumping station was destroyed, water pipes were damaged, and water storage lost considerable capacity. Service to the south side of the city and the island was interrupted. All of the city’s resources were committed to repair of the water system. Water had to be transported by barge, and a Martian disease like typhoid broke out in the southern suburbs.

Damage to Shastapsh’s infrastructure prevented much further fortification against the attack that must come. However, men were detached to salvage the wreck of the Thunderer. The impact of the plunge destroyed most items of technologic value. However, engineers managed to save a six inch gun and two Nordenfeldts. However, the salvage teams also saved large quantities of munitions of all calibers. Of equal value in the rescue were the large quantities of armor plate and liftwood.

Then there were the survivors of the plunge. Steiner-Pugh and Captain Woodstern were dead. Only ten men survived the crash. Of those, four died of their injuries. Helmsman Caleb Binghamton and trimsman Harry Jones and four seamen were put to work repairing the city water works and the Bowel’s palace.

In the first picture the Griess squadron enters and begins shooting up the water pipes. This force was never opposed. The second pic is of Mark, my good friend, taking his pictures of the game. The third photo shows a pair of burning kites, which, sadly, was the Martian story. The last picture shows the resting place of Vengeance and Thunderer. Beyond the monitor's tragedy, the British suffered little other significant damage.