Sunday, 31 December 2017

The return of Don Marko

Another quality update from Mark in Thailand:

Hi all

It’s been two years (Dec 2015) since I last reported on the adventures of Don Marco da Pattaya the “popinjay of the Indies”. Having a day to spare, I thought I’d bring things up to date.

We last saw Don Marco in command of the successful expedition to capture the KhiNok Island from the Chinese pirates. He was appointed Governor of the islands, tasked with ensuring the lucrative trade in birds nests continued and the profits flowed back to Malacca. 

But it hasn’t worked out that way. After two years of mysteriously small profits, and rumors that Don Marco has installed solid gold bathroom taps in the Governors mansion, the Malacca authorities have sent a squadron to arrest him.

That hasn’t worked out either. Using a combination of charm, gold, and a little arsenic, Don Marco has seized command of the squadron. His best chance of beating the rap will be to sail into Malacca with holds full of loot. As it happens he knows one of the annual convoys carrying Burmese gems from Songkhla to Canton will be sailing about now.

The wako escorts for these convoys are a legend for ferocity, and the cargo vessels can also defend themselves. Taking them on will be a high stakes gamble, but what choice does he have ...

The opposing forces are:

Portuguese (total 154 points)
The galleon Santa Caterina da Goa
Q3 C4 (76 points)
chaser guns, drilled soldiers, galleon rigged, master gunner, trained gun crews

The fragata Santa Barbara
Q3 C3 (60 points)
chaser guns, galleon rigged, master gunner, trained gun crews

The merchant brig Moscado (Nutmeg)
Q3 C2 (18 points)
lateen, merchant, master gunner

The convoy (total 198 points)
The escort: pirate junks Bok Choy, Bean Sprout, and Bitter Melon
Q2 C2 (50 points each)
derring-do, intimidating, lateen rigged, reinforced hull, yare  

The convoy: dhows Zanzibar, Socotra and Djibouti
Q2 C2 (16 points each)
lateen rigged, merchantman, shallow draft

Victory conditions:

The convoy must cross the length of the table, any vessels exiting off the sides count as losses. For the convoy, each successful junk exit is 1 Victory Point, a dhow is worth 2 VP. Don Marco gains 1 VP for each pirate junk taken or sunk, and 2VP for each dhow captured but nothing for a dhow sunk.

Don Marco must not lose either of his two major units (the galleon and frigate), doing so means his officers will withdraw their support for his hare-brained scheme.

The game:

The first photo picks up the action after two turns. The Portuguese reached the interception point shortly before the convoy, which is running before the trade wind (the wind is blowing diagonally across the table from lower left). The convoy junks and dhows are easily recognisable from their distinctive sail plans. Don Marco on the Santa Catarina galleon leads the Moscado across the front of the oncoming convoy, while the Santa Barbara frigate moves downwind to head off any escapees.

At the start of Turn 3 the galleon opened fire on the junk Bok Choy, causing 1 damage point. The convoy reacted quickly. The dhows all turned to starboard and increased speed (from Running to Broad Reaching) to try and make an end-run around the Portuguese rear. The escort turned to port, intending the usual pirate tactic of engaging the enemy more closely, except for Bean Sprout which closed directly on the Sa Catarina. This photo shows the situation at the end of the turn.

In Turn 4 the Sa Catarina fired her chaser guns and port broadside at the Bean Sprout, causing 2 damage points, but the pirates were not deterred and closed the galleon, grappling it ready to swarm on board next turn. The other pirates tacked to cover the convoy, as the dhows continued their escape run. The Sa Barbara frigate at R of the photo has reversed course to intercept them.

Turn 5 started with a bang! The Sa Catarina fired a full Broadside at point-blank range at the Bean Sprout before the pirates could launch a boarding action. This caused critical damage and the pirates and their vessel sank from cumulative hull damage. See next photo. The galleon then swung around to join the general chase after the dhows.

This photo shows the end of Turn 7. The only further damage has been to the dhow Djibouti, which caught fire, exploded and sank after being hit by long range chaser gunfire from the Sa Barbara. But the convoy has also been affected by two untimely turnovers, which have had the effect of preventing the pirate escorts from engaging the big Portuguese galleon. One of the two surviving dhows (out of frame at lower R) seems to have a clear run to the exit edge, while the other looks cornered and in need of intervention by the pirates.

In Turn 8 the two remaining pirate junks caught up to the Portuguese, who suddenly found they had wako where you least need them - attacking from the rear. The next photo shows Sa Catarina and Moscado with a pirate junk grappled at the stern of each, ready to board.

Two turns later (including one untimely turnover by the Portuguese that prevented them from trying to cut the pirate grapples before they came swarming over the bulwarks) ... the next photo shows the story.
In the foreground the dhow Zanzibar has slipped past the Sa Barbara and has clear water before it. In the background the other dhow, Socotra, has taken the other tack and is sneaking away behind the action. The galleon Sa Catarina and the pirate junk Bitter Melon are fighting each other to a standstill, each has 2 damage points. The little merchant brig Moscato is showing the bigger boys how it is done. Amazingly it has caused 2 damage points to the Bok Choy (which also had 1 from earlier punishment) suffering none itself.

At the end of Turn 11 (see next photo) the two dhows seem to have made their getaway ... at extreme R and at bottom of the frame. The exit table-edge is along the bottom edge of the frame, about 2xL from the Zanzibar. The Sa Barbara continues its dogged pursuit (on the L of frame). Behind it the Moscado has shaken off her pirate attacker (using a good Activation roll to cut the grapples, then using its compulsory under-sail move to get away).

The Bok Choy could have chased it down but instead chose to alter course and close the side of the Sa Catarina, but with no time to grapple. On the galleon Don Marco, in his finest armour and plumage, had just accepted the surrender of the Bitter Melon when the heavily damaged but still game Bok Choy came alongside.

In the last round of the boarding action between Sa Catarina and Bitter Melon, the galleon rolled two successes for activation. I checked the rules, and it seemed I could use both of them to fight two rounds of boarding actions (unlike gunfire say, where a given arc of fire for a vessel can activate only one time per turn). The first round the pirates won, both ships were now on 3 damage points. This was the heart-stopping moment! But then the galleon’s crew won, taking the pirates into excess damage territory causing them to strike.

At the end of Turn 12, with my available playing time fast running out, I called it for Don Marco. In the next and last photo you can see in the foreground the Sa Barbara has caught and grappled the Zanzibar, I am counting that as a capture. In the background the dhow Socotra is the only one that will make it off table. I am allowing it to get away although if played out the Sa Barbara and Moscado might still chase it down. The Sa Catarina fired a full raking broadside, at point blank range, at the Bok Choy and blew it into very small pieces.

Don Marco has won his gamble, it seems. His squadron has sunk one dhow and two pirates, and taken another dhow (with treasure, we assume) and a pirate. Only one dhow, and no pirates, escaped. In terms of VP allocation, that’s 5-2 to Don Marco and the Portuguese.

Maybe the reception at Malacca won’t be too bad!

Cheers from Pattaya 

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