Monday, 2 May 2011

The Battle of Foggy Bank Straits

So my bro has been pestering me to get a game organised for him, so a suitable occasion arose on Saturday night with a visit to Angus Wargames Club.

I had been swithering on what game to play and was thinking a Naval encounter of some sort, but it had to be something that both bro and Ruarok could get playing fairly quickly without me having to spend an hour explaining the rules, so that ruled out General Quarters and a WW1 battle (although I did have the WW1 Victory at Sea "Age of Dreadnoughts" rules on standby) so the logical choice was "The Uncharted Seas" by Spartan Games as at least Ruarok had played these before and had his Orc Fleet put to sea in anticipation of contact.

If you are not familiar with the Rule Set Dear Reader, the setting for the Uncharted Seas is the fantasy world of the Forbidden Isles and provides rules for Naval (and some Air) combat between the various races that inhabit that world.

There are some who see The Uncharterd Seas as a replacement for the long departed GW game "Man O War". I admit, I never got into Man O War when it was available and regretted it in later years, so when Spartan Games announced a couple of years back that it was producing a new Fantasy Naval Game I was determined not to miss out this time and pre-ordered the rules and picked up a Dwarven starter fleet and the starter fleet for the Imperial Humans, with Ruarok picking up the Orcs and Cammie getting another Dwarven Fleet. A few games were played and the rules seemed easy enough to follow and then Spartan starting releasing errata and then new rules for submarines and sea monsters, new ships, more errata, changed the line of sight rules, then introduced new races and airships and it all started to get very bitty and difficult to follow what was going on. The final straw came when they changed the stats for the Orc fleet. We didn't know if we were coming or going, so the game was put to one side.

Fortunately, Spartan Games put their house in order and brought out last year the Second Edition of the rules which tidied up a lot of the loose ends and brought together all the information on the new races, ships etc. So it was with the Second Edition of the rules that we set sail on Saturday night.

My bro borrowed my Dwarven fleet and Ruarok had his Orc fleet fresh from it's quick spray of Matt Varnish which had been done that afternoon after he had had touched up the paintwork on a few of his models.

So it was that the Orc Fleet of Admiral Giz'me Rumudog approached the Foggy Bank Straits from the North West following unconfirmed reports that a Dwarf Fleet led by Admiral Bob in the DS (Dwarf Ship) Thingymebob was in the area.

Unfortunately, my iPhone quickly ran out of battery so I only managed a few pictures of the ensuing conflict so had to rely on Ruarok taking plenty of pictures on his phone. So apologies in advance for some of the wobbly pictures!

Foggy Bank Straits, looking northwards, so named due to the mysterious Fog Banks that can suddenly appear out of nowhere and disorientate even the most barnacle encrusted sailor (The Islands are Hexon scenic tiles from Kallistra).

Unfortunately, for the Orcish Fleet, the game started badly with the wind direction being in their faces and thus reducing their speed to half move (for the Battleship and Cruisers). The Orc Frigates and the Dwarves did not need to worry about the wind being steam powered (in the case of the Dwarves) and paddle wheel powered (in the case of the Orc Frigates - lots of ickle Goblin slaves peddling like mad).

The Dwarf fleet in Battle formation ready for the inevitable contact.

The morning sun casting it's bright light over the Orcish Fleet. Would this be a bad omen for the Orcs?

Each fleet is organised into squadrons, with each squadron having between 1 and 6 ships in it depending on their size class (battleships are in a squadron of 1, frigates usually between 3 and 6 ships per squadron). Initiative was rolled for at the start of each turn and the winner gets to move their first squadron and then the opposing player moves their first sqaudron and so on.

Combat occurs, if at the end of a squadron's movement, they are in range of a target. There are 4 range bands, each 8" in length and the number of Attack Dice a firing ship can roll is determined by the range with the most dice (usually)  being rolled at the shortest range - Range 1. Facing of a ship is important as this will determine which arc a ship's guns can fire in. Some ships follow the traditional broadside approach with their maximum firepower being available on their port and starboard arcs, whereas some ships (e.g. the Orcs) have their maximum firepower in their forward arc (and they also like to ram things!).

Combat involves rolling the appropriate number of Attack Dice (D6's) depending on arc and range, a 1-3 is a miss, 4 and 5 score 1 hit and a 6 scores 2 hits and you get to roll that dice again (and if you roll another 6 you keep going!). The number of hits are calculated and if the total exceeds the Damage Rating of the target then you score a damage point. If the number of hits exceeds the target's Critical Rating then the attacker gets to roll on the Critical Hit Table and then all sorts of fun things can happen. Once the number of damage points exceed the target's hull points it sinks.

For the game, I had ruled (I was umpiring so my word was law) that once one fleet had been reduced to 1 squadron the game would end and the largest fleet would be declared the winner. Also the fog banks from which the Straits took their name were no ordinary fog banks in that on a roll of 4-6 on a D6 at the start of each turn they would move in a random direction determined by a D8 and distance determined by a scatter dice. Also there was a potential effect for any ship that entered the fog bank (or had the fog bank move over it) but I wasn't telling the Admirals any of that.

Each fleet also used it's own Fleet deck, a set of cards, some generic, some race specific which can affect such things as movement, combat, damage control and so on. The symbols on the cards determine when they can be played during the turn. A maximum of 5 cards, or 1 card per squadron can be held in hand and when a squadron was lost, so the number of cards an Admiral could hold in hand would be reduced accordingly. The cards are not essential to the game (they have to be purchased separately from the rule book) but they certainly add flavour.

The wind direction was a big disadvantage to Raurok, and his play of the "Orcish Flatulence" card only moved the wind direction one point, not enough to assist him, but almost immediately he made an error by sending his 2 Frigate squadrons south, while his Battleship and Cruisers he sent eastwards around the Northern Island. The Dwarves in the meantime ploughed straight into the Straits.

The Dwarven heavy ships opened up and the Orc Frigate, Fing, disappeared beneath the waves. The other 2 ships in the squadron, Fang and Fong, would soon meet a similar fate.

Fing Blew Up!

Then the mysterious fog banks started to cause some mischief, moving randomly, blocking lines of sight and then, disaster for the Dwarven Frigate DS Grimbob. The cloud played havoc with the Frigate's navigational systems (i.e. the look out) and the vessel ran aground on the South Island. Fortunately only one damage point was suffered but the ship would require to spend one turn freeing itself from the shallows.

Bump goes the Grimbob.

The main strike force of the Orcish fleet makes it's ponderous way eastwards before turning south.

It was now obvious to the Dwarves what the main part of the Orcish fleet was doing and so they laid their trap to await the Orcs as they rounded the Eastern side of North Island. The wind direction stubbornly refused to shift (a 6 on a D6 roll made at the start of each turn would cause a shift in wind direction) thus keeping the Orcish fleet to half movement

The Orcs move South, while the Dwarven fleet lie in wait.

An Orcish sailor's view of the Dwarven Battle Line

In the meantime, the remaining Orcish Frigates, Frig, In and 'Ell moved round South Island with the Dwarven Frigates in hot pursuit.

The death of 'Ell

With the wind reducing the speed of the Orcish Battle line to a paltry 3" (3 1/2" for the Cruisers) they headed straight into the Dwarven trap. The Dwarven cannons erupted with flame (ships can "link" their fire thus increasing the possibility of scoring enough hits to get that damage point). The results were inevitable especially with a critical hit being scored as well.

The Orcish Cruiser Nos Pik erupts in flames.

Followed quickly by Fungal Tow

Soon the ships of the Orcish Cruiser squadron were reduced to burning hulks, although they had managed a couple of damage points on the Dwarven Battleship. With their loss and the earlier loss of the first Frigate squadron, Raurok was now down to 2 cards in his hand. He kept discarding cards to try and pull a card which would lead to a change in the wind direction and thus increase the speed of his Battleship, the "Blow'emup Wi' Bigguns" but it was too little too late. DS Thingymebob lay in wait.

I should have introduced a rule that any dice lying on the table would become a coral reef and cause 12D6 damage to any ship within 1" of them.

However, the clash between the 2 behemoths of the opposing fleets did not happen as the remaining Orcish Frigate Squadron had been cornered by the Dwarven Frigates and although a successful ramming attack by the Orcish Frigates resulted in the sinking of the DS Happybob and the boarding and wiping out of the crew of the DS Shybob, the 2 remaining Orcish Frigates were destroyed in a hail of fire thus reducing the Orcs to 1 squadron and thus ending the game with a resounding Dwarven Victory.

A good game. Ruarok realised he had made a mistake splitting his forces they way he had done and said he should have ploughed all the fleet into the Straits and met the Dwarves head on as that was how the Orcs would get the most benefit for their firepower. Bro enjoyed it too (winning does that for you) and muttered something about getting his own Dwarf Fleet which I could paint for him!

I'll be looking to get the Imperial Human fleet out next but seeing how the wind can play such a big part in the battle (and the Imperials are in the main all sail powered ships) they may take some careful handling. I also should look to get round to painting the Human and Dwarf Flagship models that are sitting in a drawer somewhere but the respective fleets may have to wait sometime before those major assets can set to sea.


  1. As usual a wordy and amusing batrep, I must borrow a fleet from you sometime (I really cant persuade myself to paint those elf ships) and addict Mexican Dave to these naval shenanigans.

  2. Looked and sounded like a really good game, I used to dabble in Man O War in the early days.

  3. You missed out the funniest bits to me which was
    Your bro insisting on rolling all his dice to see all the possible damage/results possible despite the fact Ruarok's orc ship was already at the bottom of the sea from the first set of rolls.

    And Ruarok trying to end the agony by pointing out it was already sunk to no avail.

  4. @toucan - I think what my bro was doing can best be described as "rubbing salt in to the festering sore of Ruarok's open wound"