Sunday, November 20, 2011

ReCon - Nov. 19

The Minnesota Miniature Gaming Association holds a quarterly one day con at the VFW post in Coon Rapids, MN.  Yesterday I went to renew old friendships (now living in WI) and play some games.  The attendance was one of the higher gatherings in my memory with a nice variety of games to be had.  Here the St. Paul Irregulars get started with Impetus round robin play. 

 Some games are scheduled and many are just "show up and play" types.  I saw a Fields of Glory tournament, Sci Fi action, Wings of War, WWII micro armor, zombies, etc., plus the games I played in and ran.

First up for me was the Battle of la Belle Famille in 1759 using a play-test version of Wilderness Wars.  Todd Powell was the always capable referee and he modified his scenario to accommodated the unexpectedly high player interest.  Lovely figures did battle in an attempt to relieve Fort Niagara from the British siege.  Results were remarkably historical and tragic for the French.  The revisions were an improvement over past games but the troops are still very fragile and difficult to have charge, even from behind.

Next up I ran an introductory game of Naval Thunder: Bitter Enemies.  The premise of the game was that the French sortied rather than be shelled to oblivion by the British at Mers-el-Kebir in 1940.  We didn't use any optional rules and I did not allow the French to fire till fired upon.  Although I let them reply to fire it allowed the British to set the engagement range.  The French had the two old battleships Bretange and Provence leading the two modern battlecruisers Dunkerque and Strasbourg  along the coast, with six destroyers on the outside.  The British had the Hood, Valiant, and Resolution along  with the light cruiser Arethusa and five destroyers.  I decided the Enterprise and other destroyers would be off table with the Ark Royal.

Of the six players, two were playing their third game, another owned the rules, and the rest were new to it.  However, within a couple of turns they were reminding me of modifiers and such.  I had a short easel with an enlarged reference chart and I strongly encourage others to make the effort.  They greatly speed up an understanding and grasp of the game mechanics IMHO.

So I told the players about criticals and noted that in all the games I've played, I've never seen a magazine explosion.  "Admiral Sommerville" told me his plan, we made a double move and the British opened fire.  Not much happened.  One 15" hit on the Bretange from the Valiant that penetrated, and of course.....

Abruptly the game changed drastically with the capital ship odds even and the French pinned against the coast.  I allowed the Dunkerque to catapult off a prepared seaplane (felt like they were going to need a boost) as the French destroyers and destroyer leaders began to make smoke.  Now I had warned the players repeatedly about the low survivability of destroyers in the game and they would quickly see how fragile they are.

The British had the Valiant, Resolution and Hood in line approaching the French on a diagonal intercept course.  The Arethusa trailed the destroyers and the British placed great hope on her eliminating the big French DLs. 

The French started laying smoke right away which served to disrupt the British firing to some degree.  However, they shifted to eliminating the source of the smoke and were quickly effective.  However, next blood went to the French as the Arethusa was hit by a lucky 13" salvo and sank on turn three. 

The spotter plane helped the Dunkerque for a time, but then was shot down by AA.  After four turns of firing the French were down a battleship and two destroyers, the British a light cruiser and two destroyers.  Recognizing the limited life expectancy of the destroyers, both sides began torpedo runs on the opposing lines.  Few would make it to launch point.

The French got to launch first and put torpedoes into the Hood and Valiant.  Hood took serious damage and developed a list, but Valiant's submerged armor absorbed half the damage.  Strasbourg, as these French ships are prone to have happen, lost half her main guns with a single main gun critical.  These French 13" guns are great weapons but the two turret arrangement has serious drawbacks.

Next the British got in torpedo attacks and did serious harm to Dunkerque.  Strasbourg continued to take critical engine room hits and slowed to a crawl.  Hood had a rudder hit that coupled with the list that wouldn't go away was slowing and compromising her effectiveness.

In the distance 12 biplanes appeared which manifested themselves at swordfish torpedo bombers from the Ark Royal.  As the guns continued to roar they split to have six each attach the Strasbourg and Dunkerque.  The latter managed to drop one of the bombers but they bored in and four fish found homes.  This same turn Valiant succumbed to flooding and fire.  As we quite, the Dunkerque was a mission kill and would never fight again.  Provence, who just chugged along at her slow speed would escape along with one destroyer.  Hood and Resolution, who had been slowed to less than the French, would limp home for the grisly report.  No other British ships survived.  A British victory but the French could be consoled by doing much better than historically thanks to being at sea.

The weather was closing in so after an enjoyable meal with our friends we headed for Appleton and home.  Arriving safely at 1:00AM, weary but well pleased with a good day.

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