Friday, July 25, 2014

Meeting Over the Column

November, 1889

A squadron of Oenotrian screw galleys was dispatched to raid a convoy of merchant cloudships supplying the Western Column of the British Martian Army. The convoy's British steam-powered escort was known to have retired to Avenel for coaling. The warships were spotted and identified by scouts on the ground while still 30 miles south west of the column. A call for help was heliographed back along the British line of march. The convoy was warned and began to make its way heavily back to the North as the Oenotrians churned on to the kill.

SS High Rhodes

The High Rhodes is a small privateer operating on Mars, which was one of the centers of Space Vermin's Space: 1889 campaign. The hull of the ship is a highly modified Swiftwood class Oenotrian kite (she was repaired and auctioned as a prize vessel). The kite was selected because:
  • they are, generally, faster than a crank vessel if one needs to run away.
  • it is much cheaper to operate and requires a smaller maneuver crew (even if one buys marshie slaves as crankers, you still need to feed them, wot?) - additionally, slaves won't fight for you, and freemen need to be paid...
  • steam vessels are quite rare on Mars, since the boilers and engines must be shipped from Earth, which makes them triply expensive outside governmental circles.
  • there is no need to waste cargo or supply space for coal.
This same rarity works against the availability of modern equipment and artillery available to British subjects (although American arms merchants make this less of a problem).
During the ship's outfitting, the captain was able to obtain a Letter of Marque, and used his contacts in the Royal Navy to obtain two 5-barrell Nordenfelts (replacing the sweepers) for the High Rhodes.
SS Rhodes chart
click image for a PDF of the chart

The nearest available help was a Royal Syrtan kite squadron and a British auxiliary (privateer). The Syrtan squadron flew south swift as the wind, arriving briefly before the Oenotrians could close with the convoy.

Oenotrian Squadron
3 Hullcutter screw-galleys
1 Clearsight screw-galley

Syrtan Squadron (British ally)
2 Whisperdeath kites
1 Bloodrunner kite
1 SS High Rhodes

Syrtan (British) Marines armed with rifles.
Oenotrian Marines armed with rifled muskets.
All crews are Trained.

Set up

Use either board, ignoring terrain. The encounter takes place over the flat desert west of the canal. Wind is from the north.

The Oenotrians enter from the southwest corner of the board. The Syrtans enter from the eastern half of the north edge of the board. The convoy is off the northeast edge of the board.

Option: For a smaller number of players, delete the Bloodrunner kite and the Clearsight galley.

Game Length

12 turns

Victory Conditions

Ships may exit off any edge, but once exited, they may not return to the battle. Oenotrians exiting to the northeast are attacking the convoy.

  • 10 points for every Whisperdeath kite destroyed.
  • 20 points for every Whisperdeath kite captured.
  • 10 points for every Hullcutter exited within 3 hexes of the northeast corner able to reach medium altitude (these can raid the supply convoy).
Syrtans (British):
  • 10 points for every Hullcutter destroyed.
  • 15 points for every Hullcutter captured.
  • 5 points for every Hullcutter exited south or west edges of the board.
Total the Victory points. High score wins.

Notes on the Royal Syrtan Navy

When the British Government established a Regency over Syrtis Major and its possessions in 1882, it needed an aerial navy. While it eventually began to build its own units, and in 1889 has few enough of those, it needed to start somewhere and even today needs units to fill gaps in its patrol areas. The navies of Syrtis Major and its allied cities were added into a combined service, the Royal Syrtan Navy. They fly a Syrtan pennant, with a quadrant showing the banner for the city the vessel originated in and a quadrant showing a Martian version of the Union Jack.
S.S. Rhodes
The Swiftwood-class kite S.S. Rhodes

The native vessels are under native commanders with native crews, though usually an English officer serves as mate or observer. The native vessels are slowly being replaced by British steel vessels, but the replacement process is slow - and the British cannot quickly replace the native Martian's expertise and knowledge of the local areas.

The continued native service provides natives with an honorable way to end their service to the Syrtan native crown, and eases tensions about British dominance, providing a point of pride for the native population. Compared to British aerial vessels, the Syrtan Navy is poorly funded and given few modern weapons, but its requirements are lower and additional funding is provided by the city governments as a point of pride and through merchants, usually as mild baksheesh.

Scenario and ship stats courtesy of Mitchell K. Schwartz ©1996

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