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1500 RoF vs. FSA (in the right forum this time)

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Well, apologies for the delay, an unexpected illness ended up delaying our game by a week.  On the bright side, that meant I had some of my new goodies at my disposal.  On the not-so-bright side, my FSA oponnent had yet to recieve his fleet in the mail, so his side was comprised entirely of proxied ships from myself and our Prussian comrade (fortunately we have a lot, roughly 10k pts. all-in).  Obnoxiously, he had a pair of boxes containing 90% of his fleet list on his dorrstep the next morning.  Ah well, there's always next time.  Until then, back to the Canaries!:

 

*when we last left our heroes...*(whoever those may be):

The Republique of France had recently gained control of the Island chain near Caleta del Sabo, driving off the Prussians vying for control of the area.  Both sides had been aware of a "flare" in the region, indicative of some sort of industrial scale sturginium processing.  Feeling the mystery behind the local Antarctican presence may have something to do with these readings.  Both sides arrived within hours of each other, only to find Caleta del Sabo levelled, and a number of what could only be described as "quantum anomallies"- water stagnating on the sides of hills, buildings embedded in the strata of the shores, and countless other disruptions of reality.

Once the area had been secured (or at least, as much as one can secure such a place), French scientiffic survey teams and the Corps d'ingénieurs began to scour the area.  As they searched, they began to piece together their view of what had happened.

Near what they projected as the epicenter of the "event" they found a small, heavily fortified facility, largely intact.  The concrete bunker read as Sturginium-laced through the instruments.  A number of armatures ran over the structure, which the team began referring to as the "Titan Bones".

After nearly a week of efforts, the teams finally managed to breach the facility.  The smell of death had already grown strong, and a foul acrid smoke poured through the first points of ingress:

 

"Il avait une odeur comme une usine d'équarrissage , et la coquille brûlé regardé comme si un incendie avait fait rage pendant des jours . Métaux conventionnels avaient été slagged à l'étage , mêlage avec ce qui restait des équipages décimés de la machinerie ."                                                  

      -Ferdinand Sarrail, Lead engineer of del Sabo Expedition Alpha

 

Within the depths of the facility a survivor was found, though near death.  He was identified as Thomas Mason-Bragg, A former Australian Researcher whom had recently defected to the Antarctican Covenant.  He was medically stabilized and transferred to the Field HQ on Isla de Lobos for "debriefing".

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Meanwhile, in the wake of their victory at La Palma, FSA forces began to erect the El Paso Listening Post (seriously, check a real map of the Canaries, there's an El Paso there!).  Within the first days of switching on the post they had managed to crack a number of french encryptions, and had determinned the location of the Lobos HQ.  Additionally, they  had managed to intercept transmissions directed towards Del Lobos HQ advising them of the situation at Del Sabado and to prepare for the arrival of the HVT.

FSA commanders saw a golden opportunity before them-  Re-acquiring this asset would greatly strengthen their bargaining position with the normally reclusive Covenant, with whom the Coalition still valued as a potential ally.  Moving swiftly would provide the additional benefit of crippling the forward HQ of the French ,who had been making alarming progress entreanching themselves- thanks in no small part to allied resupply from nearby Khenifiss Shipyards in southern Morocco (largely a puppet state propped up in the wake of the Zagreb treaty by the French, who forsaw future "complications" in continued dealings with the Ottomans).  Of course, should recovery prove itself not an option, there was no way the Imperial Bond could be allowed to compromise Mason-Bragg.

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Deployment:

We had a "neutral third party" set up the table, which has become tradition in most of our games and leads to some interesting boards as they are designed by a single person, allowing for cohesion, yet the person has nothing at stake in the game, leading to less terrain being placed for obvious advantage.

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There is an additional strip of open water to the right as well.  The bunker complex on the island at southern center was the "forward HQ".  The board felt a little more open than our typical fare, though our table-setter (my prussian friend from the last battle) did seem to quite gleefully place that western island right in line with my clean get-away.  That coupled with our agreed-upon 24" center deployment zone pretty much meant my HVT was bound east for Morocco (though I made a big show during deployment of musing out loud about my remaining western options.  Lesson one, plant every seed of doubt you can, let no conclusion be forgone.  With the bunker located at the northern edge of my zone, there was actually a fair number of ships in my fleet capable of hitting either edge in the alotted four turns, but only just.)

FSA:(We'll start by naming things off left to right, to make up for the heavy proxy)

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-3 Princetons behind one John Henry "space marine" (technically an illegal squad but he had the points left and I wanted him to use it almost as bad as he did, and we're all grown-ups here)

-A screen of 3 lee scout ships, intermingled with a squadron of 3 yale destroyers and a bunch of turtle subs (plus some SAS)

-The EotBS Battleship was being run as a Boston, hence the turtles.

-# more yales and an enterprise round out the front rank, with a laterally deployed (interesting...) saratoga parked in the back.

RoF: my only stand-ins were a pair of uncharted seas dwarven subs that I use as epaulards, (honestly I like them enough that I hardly consider them proxy at this point, and am working on figuring out how to graft a bombard to their backs), and one ecuyer being fielded in a squad as a toulon (why oh why does the box come with 2?  Why!?!)

So, this picture was taken after my first activation but still gets the idea across pretty well.  I had split my squadron of Chevaliers (which I have decided never to do again without several good reasons) and keep them somewhat pulled back, as I knew they would be a prioritized target and their high movement would still allow them to engage somewhat rapidly.  It's difficult to see, but there is a small group of requin hidden behind the tourbillon, each holding one of the "possible HVT" tokens.  The idea here is the vessels which may have contained Mason-Bragg would be marked with hidden tokens, revealed when the ship was boarded or destroyed.  Should FSA manage to destroy or board the "bunker" (which we gave a paper thin DR/CR 4/6 with 2 wounds and 2 AP) the token would be revealed, representing stolen intel from the base.  These tokens can be seen under the squadron of Lyons to the west, as well (the southernmost one is in fact our "target", BTW!).  The frelons were placed with the specific intent of countering the boston sub, hoping to capitalize on their hunter MAR.  The Dieppes to the east are pretty much serving in their typical "meat shield" role, which they once again performed admirably.  Magenta 1 was intended to tear ass across the center line dropping heat, threading the needle between the two tower islands.  Of course, that was until America happened :\  .  Tucked over against the harbour island to the west is my poor cherbourg, all patched up from it's beatdown at the hands of kreepy unkle karl.

Turn 1:

Well, I started the evening by warning my oponnent I was going to do very untoward things to John Henry in the Frenchest way possible so, first activation saw a trio of toulons sail lazily forward and set John's head on fire with somel heat-lancing.  2 raging fires.  This seemed to upset the princetons, who promptly came out to play and returned fire.

I've gotten into the habit of reading prows.  Seeing that the princetons were comitted toward the western flank I moved my pair of requin forward, taking care to keep them cowering behind the tower.  My assumption was they  would eventually see a princeton wandering into boarding range and give me an opportunity to bypass the ridiculous shields they were outfitted with.  'Murica basically burned an activation moving the saratoga it's minimum 2", so I decided to show him what a proper carrier was capable of and pushed the tourbillon in.  A solid shot from the turrets crippled the generators on a Lee.

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ok, there's some terrible photography for a couple activations, and I can only blame myself.  The central squadron of yales advanced and took a chunk out of my lead toulon (a rather big chunk, actually).  Living for the mission, they toolies were left to fend while I began to rally the far less conspicuous Dieppes into screening position.  I think it was a little obvious, though, as FSA immediately limped the Lees forward and threw spots on my rearmost screener and my Maggie (who had yet to move, fortunately), while simultaneously putting the lead toulon out of it's misery.

I decided it was time to kick the beehive, so I made a stab with the frelon.  I figured their high threat level would goad my oponnent into prioritizing my targets for me.  (lesson two:  why does the dog chase the cat?  Because it runs, child, because it runs.)  Sure enough the enterprise found it's legs around that time, breaking towards the eastern edge.   I then decided I'd better get my lyons into the screen before the wheels came off.  Sure enough the next activation saw a flurry of yale rockets giving my rearguard dieppe a hard pounding (tee-hee).

100_3612_zpsmsagft8z.jpg

It was starting to feel like the wrong end of the board (the one with the HVT) was seeing a lot of action.  I needed to make some headlines.  In a desperate cry for attention my epaulards fired into the princetons.  Not much damage done, but the real pain is the corrosion.  Now there's that lingering feeling that the line is decaying (I can't speak to how much these psychological tactics work, but press every advantage).  The western edge is now patrolled by a flaming henry and endangered Princies- hopefully that got his attention.  I think it did, as he immediately started measuring boarding ranges on his turtles.

Feeling the weight of the western situation on my foe's mind I tried pushing some panic buttons.  I had a pair of super speedy (15") requin with mystery tokens make a fast break on one of my pre-discussed escape routes, self-screening while still presenting a flank.

This seemed to do the trick, as John pulled up his big boy pants and strode into action.  Severely reduced combat effectiveness meant he actually did no damage to the requin-screen, but one of the advance pair was cut down by the island.  Meanwhile, Big Bad Boston Breached like a whale and put a hole in my tourbillon.  Gone like a flash (damn evasive maneuvers!)

Remaining moves were incidental, flyers forming up, destroyers whiffing, etc.

Turn 2:

"bring me the robot's head!!!"  I told him I was going to do it.  First activation the lone requin (who nailed his disorder check thanks to some fancy 6-rolling) tacks around the island and boards the ever-lovin' hell out of John!  Everybody dies.

100_3619_zpsbub5petc.jpg

Keeping the objective in mind, I shuffled my eastern screen, keeping the injured vessel to the rear.  A squadron a American bombers popped over Manor Hill, and the frelon moved to intercept.  A very poor showing saw a pair of the squadron felled without a single American plane taking a scratch.  In a surprising turn (literally) the Boston practically about-faced and began to follow the enterprise on an eastern engagement heading.  Suddenly there was not time to muck about with SAWs.

I made another long move with the decoy convoy in he west, dangling them temptingly within slaughtering distance (and alarmingly close to exit range, I had to be a little coy about cutting their move short in turn 3 so as not to give away the bluff)  It seemed to have the desired effect as the lees moved into position to repopulate the john henry, which I then sunk 'cause I'm a D*ck.  I believe this was when the saratoga made it's next nominal movement (I guess it was just there to provide 9 SAW).

Suddenly a lot of fire started to come toward my larges.  I had reached the lashpoint.  By this I mean my oponnent's frustration had grown to the point that, by their own admission "I'm at least going to sink your big stuff if I'm going to lose.  This is where Sun Tzu would tip his cap and prance on home.  But hang in there kiddos, there's still the tensest moment yet to come (in part due to this assumption on my part.  Lesson 3:  when you make an assumption you make an ass out of you and forrest gump, or somethin')

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Turn 3:

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Time to bring'em home.  I deked with the western convoy, parking them a couple inches off the edge, hoping panic would focus his attention in the wrong direction.  He got a shot off with a princeton, but didn't do much.

100_3631_zpsqorpaf50.jpg

 

Here it is, the shot that made the game.  There came a point in my screen tactic that I would have to have one element of the convoy out of position (no tally ho card for me!), and there was an awful lot of firepower on that eastern flank.  I had managed to do a little damage with the frelon, softening up the enterprise (thank you bombs for being so nifty against shields!), but there was still that damned Boston.  It had been tearing a sawthe through the fleet most of the night, and it manged to line it's nose guns up directly on my southeastern-most Lyon (the one containing mr Mason-Bragg, if you recall).

Lt. Lucky Balboa chomps his cigar, squeezes the dual triggers....

9 Dice, devastating munitions...

...4hits.  Mason-Bragg lives.  I reveal the token to my oponnent, who concedes he will not be able to catch it in time.  What a game.

Reflections:  This was an amazingly satisfying game to play in a few ways.  One, the plan worked.  Stick and move, froggies, stick and move.  Secondly, despite the plan working, it all came down to one hideously epicly tense roll of the dice.  That's a sign of a good match.  As I said in the preamble, I saw a Huuuuge reduction in effectiveness with smaller chevalier packs, and will likely not try that little experiment again.  I like the magenta, but it feels light for a primary large to me.  I could see taking it as a secondary heavy, but I feel pretty exposed with my admiral all the way up there.  No matter though, I got big Charlie in the mail recently!

FSA is tough -Shields, big guns, sustained fire- we observed that France and America seem tailor-made to beat the bejeezus out of each other for looong periods of time.  They counter each other so beautifully.

Which brings me to my final observation, similar in theme to last time:  France has proven themselves adept at the "mission objective two-step", but I have begun to feel the need to blunt some noses.  Both times now I have managed to claim victory from the hands of heavy losses, moral victories and such.  It is time for France to prove itself as not just a tactical force, but a military power.  The one open engagement they have endured ended quite badly for them, though this was in part due to the overall "greenness" of the commander.  I have begun formulating strategies to this effect, and hopefully my next report will feature some front-line action!

Thanks for tuning in everyone, and we'll see you soon!

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