Yesterday (Tuesday) was a day I'd been looking forward to for a couple weeks: the first expansion in our US slow growth "league." I put league in quotes because we're down to three people now, or so I hear as I've only played against EV. Still, the possibility is there and I won't complain about getting games in. Having any number of opponents, from 1 to 1000, is better than having none.
Back to the point, we had our first 650 point game today. EV's hand was somewhat forced as he couldn't lay hands on any submarines, but I think he came off just fine with a flagship and a pair of heavy cruisers. My list is in the last post, but I'll put it back up all the same.
Battleship - 120
Airship - 85
Cruiser/Heavy Cruiser squadron - 135
Cruiser/Heavy Cruiser squadron - 135
Kraken - 35
2 Frigate squadron - 70
2 Frigate squadron - 70
EV's list looks like this:
Flagship - 155
Battleship - 110
2 Heavy Cruiser squadron - 150
2 Cruiser squadron - 110
4 Frigate squadron - 120
I was running 2 sets of 2 frigates instead of 1 group of 4 mostly to get an extra card out of it, but also to see how a 2 ship squadron worked. There's also a benefit to having an extra activation, but that never really came into play here. I found at the beginning of the game that your hand size maxes out at 5, so having 7 squadrons just meant that I could lose 2 squadrons and still have a full hand, not that I'd get 7 cards. Knowing that now, I may well run a 4 frigate squadron in the future, but more of that at the end. My setup:
I didn't have any real good plan here. In the last game I had a notion of going around an island that worked out, so I had a similar idea in mind here. EV's setup:
I was somewhat pleased that he marginally split up the flagship and the battleship. A more general view of the setup, for terrain and whatnot:
As with the last game, I targeted the big beige island for my roundabout plan. Not much happened in the first turn, aside from me saying "You have guns at range 4?" and some plinking. After the end of the first:
And now the ruckus begins. I take first blood this time, sending a frigate to the bottom:
You can see my plan, such as it is, in effect here. My fleet is making its way towards the island. I'm very careful to keep my battleship screened and it's rear covered. The southern bluff token is the sub for those playing along at home. End of turn 2:
I take out another frigate, this time with a cruiser:
And the Shrouds respond by taking out a frigate as well.
My bluff token got blown up real good by EV's heavy cruisers. The overriding theme of this game was "I can get 2 AD on that target which probably won't do anything, but why not? I may as well try." There was probably as much band 3 and 4 shooting in this game as all our previous games combined.
I'm fairly happy with how things are going at this point. My fleet is just about under cover and I haven't really lost anything yet, just a frigate. Since the Shrouds are mostly still on the far side of the island, my wrap-around still seems viable. End of turn 3:
This is one of the first rules questions that came up. When a sub surfaces, can it face any direction, or does it face the same way the bluff token is pointing? We played it that the sub surfaces pointing the same way the token did, which makes sense, and I think we're right. Since I didn't get a ram in on the broadside arc, this went down as a collision. I'm not convinced that it should work like that, but that's how we did it. My sub passed its crash dive roll, hence the tokens.
Here is where it all starts to unravel. I was constantly surprised by how fast the Shroud ships were. EV's battleship lights up my heavy cruiser, leaving it on fire and with one hull point. My fleet had slowed down a little bit at this point as I was hanging back taking pot shots before going behind the island. This would prove costly as the game unfolded.
Here's another mistake I made: I sent too much after the frigates. While I blew them to hell and back, I ended up sending a frigate squadron, a cruiser squadron, the airship and the sub after 4 frigates. By now I was starting to consider abandoning my plan to sail around the island because the Shrouds were much closer than I thought they would be. In the mean time I was happy to blow something up, but that would change soon enough. The remaining frigate recalls another rules question for me. Two of EV's frigates were side by side and wanted to shoot my airship. While flying models don't block LoS, I couldn't find anything in the rules about surface ships blocking LoS to flyers. We ended up ruling that because they were of the same size, the back frigate was blocked by the front one. This one I'm less sure of than the sub surfacing.
The Shroud flagship enters the fray with a vengeance, finishing off a cruiser. This thing is bad news, as I found out.
I had drawn the Fire Buckets card this turn, but never got the chance to use it. The heavy cruiser was consumed by fire when it activated.
The airship finishes off the frigates. I used a hammer far too large for the job, but I squashed those frigates good all the same.
My plan is unraveling now. The cruiser squadron protecting the rear of my battleship is dead, leaving just 2 frigates on guard duty. The rest of my fleet is ready to turn the corner on the island, while the battleship is just getting behind it. I decided to turn around at this point instead of running circles around the island getting raked. End of turn 4:
Turn 5 was pretty uneventful. There was some plinking, and in the case of my battleship a whole lot of plinking, but no dead ships. You can see my trademark traffic jam as I bring my fleet around to face the Shrouds. I'm pretty bummed at the lack of damage I've done so far. I've lost a frigate squadron and a cruiser squadron, plus my battleship is half dead. In return I've killed 4 frigates and done a point or two on a couple ships. Even worse, I've changed plans midway through, which is never a good idea. Also the Shrouds are poised to hit my from behind. Not good. End of turn 5:
Now the flagship is really starting to throw its weight around. EV rams one poor frigate, with predictable results.
He then unloads with the front guns on the other frigate, while also pounding my battleship with a broadside. My battleship is heavily damaged now and I haven't seen a repair card since turn 1. Where is the legendary Dwarven repair ability?
The Kraken gets off a true ram this time, holing on of the cruisers. I made another tactical error here, ramming the front ship of a squadron and setting up a counter-ram for the next turn. I did a lot of setting up nice situations for EV in this game. I'm just too nice for my own good.
Now what's left of my fleet is well and truly split. My airship is way off, while my battleship is almost dead and my remaining cruiser squadron is facing two heavy cruisers and 2 big ships. Bad, bad odds. Also my battleship has taken more damage, having its rudder smashed so it can't turn and is down to a single hull point. End of turn 6:
The flagship continues wrecking shop, ramming and prizing a cruiser. My sailors fight well, but not quite well enough, and the flagship escapes with 3 crew remaining.
My shining moment, way off in irrelevant land. My airship drops the bomb, which causes a magazine explosion in the Shroud cruiser. Here was yet another rules question: is the bomb's AD affected by hull damage on the airship? It seems like it wouldn't be, but I had forgotten to actually bring the rules for the airship with me and I'm not sure they would have said either way. We ended up playing it that the bomb was affected, though again I think we went the wrong way on this one. It also triggered another sub question: can subs be critted, or do they blow up like frigates? We played it that since the Kraken has 3 hulls points it can be crit, which decrewed it and left it adrift. This time I think we got it right. It was quite the orgy of destruction, but had no real bearing on the battle.
I'm done now, it's just down to the actual killing. End of turn 7:
I had rolled a 1 or 2 for initiative the entire game, but I won this time. I made a desperate bid to finish the flagship with my heavy cruiser, but to no avail. In doing so, I also set up a double rake by the flagship. It took out my battleship and left my heavy cruiser in a bad place.
I conceded after that last defeat. While I would have liked to see how the airship would have done against the big ships, I had school work looming that I'd already put off to game, and there was no question about how this one would end. Final positions:
These are my casualties. The cruiser was prized. The Kraken was also decrewed and adrift.
I'd like to blame this one on bad dice, and to be fair EV rolled his fair share of 6s and some of my share as well, but ultimately I beat myself. In my desire to keep getting some shots off, I delayed my island cruise long enough to allow the Shrouds to close the gap while simultaneously splitting my fleet. As noted, I sent way too much after the frigates, though really there should have been more there because my whole fleet should have been steaming ahead trying to get around behind the Shrouds. Instead I kept my butt exposed and allowed it to get chewed up slowly over a couple of turns. While I managed to screen my battleship for the first time, it was for naught in the end.
So what to change for next time? I need to exploit the flying aspects of the airship more. I think I'll keep in closer to the rest of the fleet next time, hovering around and adding fire on whatever target I'm concentrating on. That's another big one: concentrating fire. I took pot shots at many different targets instead of focusing on one and destroying it before moving on to the next. This is something I did pretty well in the last game but forgot entirely in this one. I think I was overconfident because the fleets were even and in compliance with the fleet construction rules. Before I'd been fighting uphill and put more consideration into what I did as a result. In this game I just sailed around and shot at stuff without any real purpose. Next time I'll know how nasty the flagship is, so it'll get plenty of love from everyone.
Squadron sizes may change too. As I mentioned, I didn't have the massive hand size I thought I would from all my squadrons. The two frigates were noticeably less effective than three were, so I may run a single squadron of four next time. Frigates have worked very well for me in the past, but they didn't do so well this time. Part of that is how I used them for sure, but I think it's also partly because of the reduced AD they could bring to bear. I'm also considering trading a frigate for another Kraken.
The Kraken was somewhat underwhelming. While it sunk a frigate and holed a cruiser, I still felt it did a lot of lurking and not a lot of ramming. While a pair of Krakens can't link their rams, they can hit something twice, or hit two things at once. I think the subs will have a sharper learning curve than the other ships, but I'll get a handle on them eventually.
The heavy cruisers did fairly well. I'm thinking about running them together and the regular cruisers together, but I don't know that it'll make much of a difference. Still, two of them could bring an impressive number of dice to bear, so it'll be worth trying.
There's plenty I can learn from this game, now the trick will be implementing that knowledge in future games.