We arranged another, slightly bigger, game this week and C took the idea of the blockaded planet and ran with it. Earlier in the week I posted the two briefings given to me and JB (who was also taking command of an NAC relief force under my command).
The background involves a planet named Tab-1. One of the main products of Tab-1 is a strategic resource used by the NAC military. The main use for this material is in the production of advanced alloys.
The planet, being a member of the NAC, had a democratically elected government that was overthrown in a violent miners coup orchestrated by a man named Jakarno Lynx. The NAC undertook a blockade of the planet (effectively enforcing a no fly zone) while attempting to find a diplomatic solution. Unwilling to take immediate military action on the planets surface in case industrial infrastructure was damaged, the NAC stopped traffic to and from the Tab system.
The third player in this story are a Private Military Contract corporation called the Umbrella-Gygax Corporation. UG represent a range of corporate interests, but the largest is that of a Private Military Contractor - also know as the Mercenary department. UG also have a substantial military research wing. Unbeknown to the NAC, UG have been busy working away on their own project on Tab-1. The coup, and the attention it has drawn, has interrupted UG's project and drawn unwelcome interest. Specifically - when it is all over someone is going to do an audit and discover a mismatch between production and supply. And evidence of just where all those top secret resources have been going.
Jakarno's desperation to get off planet and escape with the monetary assets he has been quietly stripping since the coup - and escape what is increasingly looking like the inevitable NAC ground response, gives UG the cover they need. And another source of profit to make up for the lost Tab-1 enterprise.
In response to the attack on the blockading destroyer group, the NAC urgently dispatches a veteran commander (me) leading a light cruiser group and a green commander (JB) leading a long range patrol group.
My forces consisted of:
RNS Bosworth and RNS Blore Heath - Lancaster class light cruisers
RNS Durban and RNS Denver - Tallahachie class destroyers
RNS Winnipeg - Troutbridge class frigate.
While JB had 1 Lancaster class light cruiser, 1 Tulsa class heavy destroyer and 2 Tallahachie class destroyers. JB was using his own fleet, so his ships appeared mysteriously FSE like! Unfortunately I didn't take a note of his ship names.
For those not familiar with Full Thrust, movement is plotted (written) down at the start of the turn then all ships complete their orders in the movement phase. This means your never quite 100% sure where your own ships might end up, never mind the enemy ones! High speeds do make your movement slightly more predicable.
|JB's nicely painted FSE light cruiser|
Jakarno Lynx. The transport crew are under a standard contract and will not engage in any combat - they will stand down if boarded by NAC forces.
The rest of C's UG fleet consisted of a Heavy Cruiser, 3 Heavy Destroyers and 3 Frigates. From our previous encounter I knew that the UG ships tended to be heavily armed and protected, but very slow. The heavy destroyers are the most dangerous ships in the UG fleet, equipped with two shields and thrust 2. But with 3 class 2 beams, 1 class 1 beam and a pulse torpedo. You might notice no mention of point defense systems. These heavy destroyers are far far more effective in ship to ship combat than the NAC vessels of the same class.
We deployed our forces - C had myself and JB roll a dice. JB rolled low, and I rolled high. My ships reported detecting strange sensor readings at the same time as detecting the convoy.
JB has the FSE/NAC ships closest to the camera. I had my two light cruisers (CL's) in the centre and my destroyers (DD's) on the right. The plan was to get behind the UG ships... Then try to catch up with the transport. At this stage we had different views on how boarding went. The rules make it rather awkward - needing to match course, speed and be within 6cm. However C thought just getting close enough would allow Marines to do an assault boarding vs some sort of shuttle or drop pod setup. We went with that for the purposes of the game.
Points wise, the NAC had slightly more.
C's objective was to get the transport and as many of his vessels as possible to our side of the table. The UG forces, being mercs, had a hit point level at which they would drop the contract and invoke 'Lazarus Law'. Basically this meant UG forces would cease to be combatants as they were not in contract any more. However, I interpreted my orders that this was to be ignored. At the start of the game, we were unaware of the hit point % that would cause UG to quit.
The first few turns were uneventful, with the two fleets closing. My ships got up to around 20cm velocity, having thrust 6 allowed me to fairly rapidly decelerate and turn when required.
I was rolling at the start of each turn to try and pin down the strange signal I had detected earlier. Around turn three my ships reported a 'ping' - marked by the gold coin (up by the white box, top centre).
Not too long afterwards, beam fire started criss-crossing the darkness between the fleets. I had requested that JB send his CL and DDH (heavy destroyer) more towards the centre to back up the Bosworth and Blore Heath, while his DD's went left and tried to draw off the UG's forces - or at least provide better flanking opportunities.
The Bosworth and Blore Heath made a slight right turn, opening up the angle for the planned hard left. JB's DD's went wide left, his CL and DDH heading for the merchant. My FF (Frigate) started long distance scanning of the UG vessels - trying to build up a better picture of the UG ships for NAC Naval Intel. This wasn't on my orders briefing, but I considered it to be a high priority secondary objective. One of JB's DD's died under fire from 2 UG DDH's and a FF.
The long range fire had been largely ineffectual, now it was time for knife fighting range.Time ticked down, the km's reeled off, crews braced in their crash chairs, damage control teams stood ready, gunners watched their screens. The order was given - the order was 'Execute!'.
One of my DD's (the Denver) did a hard 3 point turn and ended up amongst the UG fleet - I mistimed this turn, expecting the UG fleet to have accelerated. The other DD (Durban) and the FF (Winnipeg) stayed out and right, biding their time before they committed. Bosworth and Blore Heath committed, both using their impressive thrust 6 engines to turn hard to port. A 2 point turn put Blore Heath nose to nose with a DDH and FF. A 3 point turn placed Bosworth just off the port of two DDH's. JB's CL managed to park itself perfectly slightly behind and to the left of the UG CH (heavy cruiser). His DDH unfortunately, was not so lucky. Ending up slightly ahead of a FF and two DDH's.
The shooting phase saw JB's DDH destroyed, having taken 2 pulse torp hits and a bucket load of beam fire. The Denver also paid for my mistimed turn, also being gutted and destroyed by UG fire. JB's other DD took significant system damage - the bridge crew were ominously out of contact and emergency broadcasts indicated a reactor core overload...
The UG fleet had now destroyed 2 NAC DD's, crippled one and a destroyed a DDH for no loss - there is definitely something wrong with our ships today! The NAC is again being punished for it's lack of small ship defences...
However, the bulk of the UG convoy now had at least 2 NAC CL's behind them.
The next set of movement saw the fleets start to draw apart. The bad news for the NAC forces was the continued acceleration away of the target merchant towards the FTL point. Time was running out.
This turn (turn 6) also saw the NAC Captains surprised as a matt black UG ship suddenly appeared in the midst's of the UG fleet in a massive wash of thermal energy. This was immediately identified as the mystery vessel that had risen from the planet of Tab-1. Unfortunately no NAC ships were in range and arc to engage it.
On board JB's crippled DD, without any bridge control the last remaining damage control team makes the decision to jettison the core and save the crew (JB's in character decision). The NAC destroyer would be salvage after the battle, the remains of the crew having managed to survive on the emergency life support.
The Durban and Winnipeg both did a 3 point turn to port, bringing them in well behind the fleeing UG ships. The Bosworth and Blore Heath continued their hard port turns, bringing the Bosworth almost fully round to chase the tail of the still fleeing merchant ship. JB's CL had decelerated, hoping to end the movement closer to the merchant ship - however it had been travelling faster than we had appreciated. The mystery ship had fixed it's overheated cloaking system and vanished from the sensors.
Shooting this turn resulted in combined fire from the 3 NAC CL's destroying one of the UG DDH's - causing many cheers on the bridges of the beaten and bruised NAC ships (I think the kill went to JB's CL). Fire from JB's CL also crippled one of the fleeing UG FF's, leaving it a drifting hulk. One side effect of this was that it's course and speed stopped the merchant ship from engaging it's FTL! Unknown to the NAC commanders, the Umbrella-Gygax Corporation commander was getting very close to the point of dropping the contract due to his losses.
Turn 7 and the chase is on! Almost all the NAC ships have made it past the ponderous UG ships - and into a safer position behind those heavy DDH's guns. Sustained fire from JB's CL, the Durban and finally the Winnipeg destroyed another DDH. NAC sensors detected various UG ships spooling up FTL drives. At the same time the UG commander informed Jakarno Lynx that the Umbrella-Gygax ship losses had resulted in a breach of contract (there was some mention of end of quarter profit margins). At the end of the broadcast, a charge detonated on board the merchant vessel, destroying the FTL and real space engines.
The final turn saw the UG heavy cruiser jump away, along with one of the remaining frigates. But tragedy struck the UG fleet. In their hurry to escape the two frigates had ended up within 6cm of each other - and of the decloaked mystery ship (which had decloaked to jump). As the first frigate entered FTL it cause a gravitic shockwave. The second frigates FTL drive simultaneously went into cascade failure - blowing the frigate apart in an explosion of light - a flash of colour that no human could ever describe. This dealt significant damage to the mystery ship before it's own FTL engaged.
Following my rules of engagement, the NAC forces continued to engage the remaining UG ships. This included shooting up the drifting out of control frigate and remaining DDH...resulting in complaints from the UG DDH commander that they had invoked the 'Lazarus Law' (our term for the Tuffleyverse fluff that sees mercenaries only classed as combatants during the duration of their contract). The UG commander was informed that as his ships had continued to engage following the ending of the contract, he was now classed as a pirate and should stand down or be destroyed.
The Bosworth stepped on the gas and caught up with the merchant vessel, dispatching marine assault teams as it sped past. On arrival they found the outer airlock accessible. Just beyond the inner air lock sat Jakarno Lynx - wrapped in gaffa tape and with a sock in his mouth. The rest of the crew surrendered. The Bosworth would also have continued on to capture the out of control UG frigate. The last UG DDH Jumped away.
Total loses (including from FTL mishaps);
NAC: 1 x DDH destroyed, 2 x DD destroyed, 1 x DD requiring salvage but otherwise (mostly) intact.
UG: 2 x DDH destroyed, 1 x FF destroyed, 1 x FF captured, 1 x merchant captured.