Monday, 30 January 2017

Weekend Galleys & Galleons

I headed down to Cancon this Saturday, and a brief report will follow, including the obligatory bloggers meet-up photo. However I also found time to play more Galleys and Galleons this weekend, choosing to play rather than photograph and blog reports. But I took a couple of photos of two of the three games. In the first a pair of pirate ships attacked a small fort, but were themselves attacked by a ghostly galleon. Both pirate ships escaped, although one didn't manage to leave by the designated exit area, so didn't count for points. The other lost a chunk of rigging, but evaded the galleon by virtue of being able to apply a speed boost from the razee ability.

I actually ran the ghostly galleon with the Unorthodox movement ability, which meant that it needed actions to move and its speed was unpredictable, but that it wasn't worried about the wind direction. It made for an interesting matchup.

Yesterday evening I tried out some more lacepulp stuff, as the Laputan navy took on a force of Chinese pirates. The Laputans had a dirigible bomber, an ironclad galleon and, of course, their flying island. The Chinese had a couple of war-junks, and three man-carrying kites, rated as square-rigged airships with very, very low C values. Two of the kites were equipped with derring-do swashbucklers, which would give them a single decent boarding action apiece, whilst the third was equipped with rockets (rated as a fiery attack). The junks were pretty much straight from the book. You can see everything in action here.

The wind shifted badly against the Chinese, which meant that they couldn't bring their kites into the attack. The assault kites were fully capable of capturing the Island of Laputa, if they could get close enough, but they couldn't. They were shot out of the sky one after the other by the island's massive gun-batteries. However the junks worked upwind and were able to attack and capture the ironclad galleon. One of the junks was lost in the fight, but the other then proceeded to hit the dirigible bomber with a lucky shot which saw it explode. With just a junk on one side and the flying island on the other, I reasoned that the Chinese would run for home, but the junk had to slip past the island first. The two models traded broadsides, and two lucky hits saw the Island of Laputa crippled and on fire. As the junk sailed for safety, the island crashed into the sea and was lost.

I didn't get any pictures of the other game I played, but it was a rerun of the fight between Henry Avery and the Mughal Fleet. I upgraded the pirate ships to have chasers, whilst the Mughals were dropped to lateen-rigged, but added in two extra ships. The fight started well for the pirates, with Avery diving boldly into the midst of the Mughal fleet, causing it to break up in confusion. However as he turned to exploit his advantage, a lucky shot from one of the smallest merchant ships started a fire, and his ship exploded. The other two pirates did the best they could, and caused damage throughout the fleet, but the Mughals made their escape mostly intact, having sunk one pirate and forcing the other to flee the action in confusion.

Since I know people will ask, here's the Island of Laputa in all its glory. It's a 3D printed castle hex-tile, with a rocky underside made from pieces of cork tile, and the whole thing mounted on a flying stand made from a clear plastic pot. I have used the lid of the pot as the basic stand, for when it is a sea-level, and can then put the lid on the pot itself for high-altitude action.

And the game stats:

Q5 C6 - 72pts - Airship, Steam Engine, Flagship, Bombs, Heavy Bow Chasers, Heavy Stern Chasers, Reinforced Hull, High Castles, Sluggish, Pilot

With a low Q value, the Flagship ability at least means that the island gets to do something each turn. The Heavy Bow and Stern Chasers means that it has a decent all-round firing capability, assuming it gets the actions to do it. It's not fast, nor is it maneuverable, but it can just aim for a point on the table and then sit there taking on all-comers.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Legend of the Shachihoko

Off the coast of ancient Japan, raiders move in from the sea.

A fortified fishing village remains unaware ...

... until sails are sighted on the horizon.

The first raiders rush ashore, but the villagers see them off with spear and bow.

But more raiders attack. The village put up a desperate defence. Many raiders fall. More villager fall.

The village burns.

But the island shakes. The sea boils ...

... and a mighty Shachihoko appears to avenge the fishermen.

It lunges forward, crushing one of the ships beneath its massive body.

It's fearsome jaws destroy a second.

The third ship attempts to escape, but soon the monster is on them as well. They fight back, and wound it with arrows, but its jaws snap left and right and soon the crew of that ship are devoured.

The village is avenged, and the Sachihoko returns beneath the waves.

This is the 'Release the Kraken' scenario from the main Galleys and Galleons rules, and was a chance to try out the rules for both Bastions and Creatures. The attackers must destroy a fort in the centre of the table, which will trigger the appearance of a creature. They must then get as many ships off the board as they can. In this game they got the fort, but none of them escaped.

In fact my Bastion was a little non-standard, in that it had no ranged weapons beyond small-arms. But then neither did the attackers. I allowed ships to grapple the island, and launch boarding actions against the village, and that seemed to work OK, representing landing parties in an effective, playable but abstract way.

Village- Q4 C2 - Bastion, Unarmed, Veteran NCOs, Marksmen - 27pts
(The Veteran NCOs and Marksmen represent them defending their village from the walls. Marksmen was horribly effective, and I may give the Reinforced Hull if I did this again, so they have defence against small arms)

Raiders - Q3 C3 - Square Rig, Sweeps, Unarmed, Shallow Draft, Intimidating - 36pts
(Shallow Draft was a given, seeing as the ships had to run right up to the land. And, yes, they are Viking ships. I was going to add an extra bit to the story about them being lost Vikings, but they can just as easily be local pirates/raiders))

The Shachihoko - Q4 C4 - Creature, Submersible, Intimidating, Reinforced Hull, Ramming - 83pts
(The Shachihoko is a real creature from Japanese folklore, although I'm not sure they are as monstrous as the one in this scenario. It is a creature with the body of a carp and the head of a tiger, and figures of them are often used as decorations on the eaves of buildings as they are said to have magical powers to control water and defend against fire. If you made this a magical creature, it would probably be a hydromancer.)

And the most important feature of this game? It is the first I've played where all of the figures were 3D printed.

Here is a link to the Shachihoko

Here is a link to the set containing the ships - I rescaled them; the original is about 40mm long; I went for 25mm.

The village/fort can be found in this set.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Henry Avery and the Mughals

Henry Avery,  known as Long Ben to his crewmen and associates was the most notorious pirate of his time. Dubbed "The Arch Pirate" and "The King of Pirates" by contemporaries, he earned his fame by becoming one of the few major pirate captains to retire with his loot without being arrested or killed in battle. He was also responsible for what was probably the most profitable raid in pirate history.

Born in England, around 1659, her briefly served in the Navy then aboard a slave-ship, before becoming a privateer in the service of Spain. When the Spaniards failed to pay the crew's wages, they mutinied, elected Avery as their captain, renamed their ship the Fancy and took the the high seas as pirates.

By 1695 Avery was operating in the Indian Ocean. Now in nominal command of a flotilla of six vessels, he headed to the Arabian Sea, to intercept the treasure fleet of the Grand Mughal which was on the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. This fleet consisted of some 25 ships, including the massive Ganj-i-sawai, which mounted between 60 and 80 guns and carried hundreds of soldiers. As Avery's ships approached the fleet scattered into the night. Avery pursued, some of his ships falling behind and taking no further part in the enterprise. Eventually he caught up with the Fateh Muhammed, which was captured fairly easily, before then taking on the Ganj-i-sawai. In a bold attack, supported by another ship, the Pearl, Avery took the Mughal vessel in a two-hour fight. An orgy of rape, torture and slaughter of the crew and several hundred passengers ensued, at the end of which Avery had secured treasure to the value of what would now be over 50 million pounds.

The Great Mughal was outraged, and the English government and East India Company put a huge price on Avery's head in what was possibly the first ever global manhunt. Avery evaded capture, however, and retired to an unknown location. His final fate, and that of his treasure, is unknown.

Avery's attack on the Mughal fleet seemed to be a great little action to play out with Galleys and Galleons and my new pirate ships. I decided to tweak history a little, and condense the attacks on the Fateh Muhammed and Ganj-i-sawai onto the same table. I reality they'd really be individual actions.

I settled on the following forces:


Avery in the Fancy - Q3 C3 - Galleon Rig, Dread Pirate, Swashbucklers, Derring Do, Razee - 68pts

Portsmouth Adventure - Q3 C2 - Galleon Rig, Swashbucklers - 36pts

Pearl - Q4 C2 - Galleon Rig, Swashbucklers - 29pts

Mughal Fleet

Ganj-i-sawai - Q4 C5 - Galleon Rig, Flagship, High Castles, Drilled Soldiers, Merchant, Reinforced Hull, Stern Chasers - 77pts

Fateh Muhammed - Q4 C4 - Galleon Rig, Merchant, Drilled Soldiers - 35pts

Baghlah Surat - Q4 C3 - Galleon Rig, Merchant - 23pts

It would seem, from what limited information I can glean, that the Mughal ships would have been large dhows (very large; the Ganj-i-sawai was around 1600 tons), and would probably have had lateen rigs. I went with galleon rigs for the points, but if you chose to reduce them to lateen-rigged you could add a fourth ship with the same stats as the Baghlah Surat.

The Mughals set up in a corner first, with their goal being to exit off the opposite corner. They would get 4 points if the Ganj-i-sawai escaped, 3 for the Fateh Muhammed and 2pts for the Baghlah Surat. Destroying or capturing Avery's ship was worth 2pts and the other two pirate ships were worth 1pt each.

Avery's ships set up in an adjacent corner. The Fancy and Portsmouth Adventure set  course to intercept the treasure ships towards the centre of the table, whilst the Pearl was to work around behind them and maybe pick off the weaker Baghlah Surat.

The pirates would score 4pts if they could capture the Ganj-i-sawai, or force it to run aground. They would get 3pts for the Fateh Muhammed and 2 points for the Baghlah Surat. If a Mughal ship left the table at any point other than their designated exist point, the  the pirates would score 2pts if it was the Ganj-i-sawai, and 1pt each for the others.

The Mughals kept their line early on but reduced sail in order to force the pirates to show their hand before the treasure ships were committed to passing between the two reefs towards the centre of the table. The pirates moved forward to cover the gap.

The Pearl also worked into a good position to the rear of the Mughal line.

The Mughal force broke up. The Baghlah Surat turned to pass north of the reef and avoid the two main pirate ships altogether. The other two ships turned to pass south of the reef, shaving it close in order to avoid the pirates cutting in from two sides.

The problem for the pirates was timing. Despite being merchant ships, the Mughal vessels were still fairly powerful, and could only be taken down either by extremely good luck, or by the combined efforts of at least two pirate vessels. This meant that any attacks - especially boarding attempts - would have to go in simultaneously. Avery had Derring Do, of course, which could reduce the odds in his favour in one round of combat only.

The Pearl opened fire. Gunnery was to be mostly ineffective in this game.

And now the luck of the game took hold. The pirates were moving in cautiously, in order to avoid being raked by the larger Mughal ships. However the wind shifted counter-clockwise, leaving the pirates having to now work upwind to their prizes. A series of failed activation rolls on both sides saw the pirates immobile with the Mughals unwilling to try their guns.

The Fateh Muhammed had now worked past the pirates altogether. Avery decided that it was now too risky to try and take it on and have the possibility of the larger, more valuable, Ganj-i-sawai escape. So he let it go.

Poor sailing by the Ganj-i-sawai's crew saw it in trouble between the reef and an island. In normal circumstances this wouldn't be a difficult position from which to extricate themselves, but with treasure-hungry pirates bearing down on them, there wasn't the time or space to do anything clever.

The pirates were still missing opportunities, though, as the Fancy and Portsmouth Adventure completely failed to organise a run at the floundering Ganj-i-sawai.

The Fateh Muhammed made good its escape.

Finally! The Portsmouth Adventure ran aboard the Ganj-i-sawai and grappled, hoping the the Fancy would come up in support.

It didn't, as Avery's crew blundered again.

However the Ganj-i-sawai also failed to exploit the brief advantage it had over the Portsmouth Adventure, failing to launch a boarding action of its own in response.

This time Avery didn't fail, and he grappled the mighty Mughal ship as well. His crew swept across the decks of the Ganj-i-sawai, sweeping all before them, and leaving it ripe for the taking.

All it would take was the crew of the Portsmouth Adventure to strike in support. They tried, but a dogged defence by the Mughal soldiers on board repulsed their attack, At this point the captain of the Ganj-i-sawai went for a bold move, and ordered a counter-attack. The crew of the Portsmouth Adventure were driven back with fearful casualties. Emboldened the Mughals drove back Avery's next attack as well.

The Baghlah Surat attempted to creep past the action. But to the stern of the Ganj-i-sawai, the Pearl was coming after it.

Disaster! The Ganj-i-sawai's crew cut the grapples between them and the Portsmouth Adventure, leaving the Fancy's crew fighting alone. Avery's men decided that they'd had enough, and threw down their arms.

No longer grappled, the Portsmouth Adventure turned away from the massive Mughal ship. The Mughal gunners opened fire, and reduced the pirate vessel to matchwood.

The Ganj-i-sawai was under way again. But casualties amongst its crew had been heavy, and much confusion reigned on board. An order was misunderstood ...

... and the ship was run aground on the island.

The Fancy and the grounded Ganj-i-sawai were now blocking the escape of the Baghlah Surat which had to turn across the wind to find a way past. The Pearl had been in hot pursuit, but with the fighting obviously over elsewhere its crew became confused as well, and they tried to pass to the west of the small island.

Coral ripped the bottom out of their ship, and it sank.

The Mughals won a fairly convincing victory here, picking up 6pts for escaping ships (I assumed that their final vessel got away in its own time), and 4pts for captured or destroyed pirate ships. 10 points in total. The pirates picked up 4pts for the beached Ganj-i-sawai.

With plenty of Q4 ships in play it was inevitable that there would be some awkward activation failures. In addition the fact that Avery's ships had to work upwind into the attack didn't help. The Portsmouth Adventure took a few shots as it worked in, and only some lucky defence rolls prevented it being damaged. With hindsight Avery should have kept his three ships together, using the smaller two to grapple and board the Fateh Muhammed, whilst the Fancy delayed the Ganj-i-sawai until one of the other two ships could support him. Sending the rather useless Pearl off on its own was a recipe for failure.

My favourite moments were Avery's initial sweeping clear of the Ganj-i-sawai's decks, which promised so much, and then the Ganj-i-sawai running aground after its successful escape.

I first came across this action as a scenario for Wooden Ships and Iron Men in an issue of the Avalon Hill General, but for that game it was a rather uninteresting single-ship action. These rules, with the random activation and potential for disaster on the All At Sea table made for a much more interesting version.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The Flight of the Ophelia Vitrix

In 1685, eccentric nobleman, inventor and patron of the sciences, Sir Robert Abney was a wanted man. Implicated as a supporter of Monmouth during the rebellion against James II, his land holdings were almost certainly forfeit, and his very life in danger.  He hatched a bold plan to flee the country. His salvation lay in a product of his genius - the airship gunboat Ophelia Vitrix. With a band of loyal