Monday, 7 June 2021

Operation Double Happiness: a G&G convoy

Following on from the Battle of Surabaya, Mark continues with his Galleys & Galleons narrative campaign...

Last year, those dunderheads at Nanking ordered An-Te Hai (Admiral of the Tribute Bearing Fleets) to fetch luxuries for the Imperial Court from far-off Ayuthaya. The Admiral, annoyed at having his literary studies disarranged, nevertheless conveyed his fleet safely to Ayuthaya, and the Court cargoes were duly loaded. Now, all he has to do is get the convoy back to the Pearl River ...

Reports from the usual spies, plus patrolling Fei Yu craft, confirm the homeward  voyage will not be so easy. The hated Southern Barbarians (Portuguese) have a squadron at sea and are obviously inveterate pirates. And some reports hint the Cannibal Islanders are about to embark on one of their occasional forays into waters through which the convoy must pass.

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Here are the three sides involved in Operation Double Happiness. A [*] indicates the flagship of each side.

Ming Chinese convoy (372 points)
Lotus Blossom & Peony Pavilion* (51 points each) Galeass junks
Q4 C5: Drilled soldiers, Galley, Reinforced hull, Sluggish, Square rigged, Sweeps, Veteran NCOs

Ginger Jar & Hainan Trader (20 points each) Merchant junks
Q4 C3: Merchantman, Reinforced hull, Square rigged

Golden CarpSilver CarpEmerald Carp (62 points each) Submersible rams
Q3 C3: Ramming, Sluggish, Submersible, Unarmed, Unorthodox

Flying Fish (44 points) Fei Yu
Q3 C1: Airship, Bow gun, Lateen rigged, Relay, Semaphore, Sweeps, Trained gun crew

Portuguese (198 points)
Sao JorgeSao MartinhoSanta Barbara* (60 points each) Fragatas
Q3 C3: Chaser guns, Galleon rigged, Master gunner, Trained gun crews

Moscato (18 points) Brig
Q3 C2: Lateen rigged, Merchantman, Master gunner

Cannibal Islanders (164 points)
Mangonui* (52 points) Double hulled canoe
Q3 C3: Intimidating, Lateen rigged, Unarmed

TakitimuTaranakiTe ArawaTongariro (28 points each) War canoes
Q2 C2: Boats, Inimidating, Unarmed

A Leviathan (basking whale, motivation uncertain) may also appear. It’ll be statted if and when it does.

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The Portuguese + Cannibals combined are roughly equal in points strength to the Ming convoy. The convoy has to get home, losing as few ships as possible. The four large surface vessels are especially important, as they contain the Imperial cargoes. The raiders are interested only in getting hold of the loot. 

The convoy must cross the length of two tables (each 1500x1800mm), and has favourable winds that will not change (the monsoonal trade winds). On table 1 the Portuguese will engage the convoy. On table 2 (which is not tactically adjacent) the Sea Cannibals will be the main enemy, but up to 2 Portuguese ships, if undamaged, may follow the convoy as pursuers.

The Portuguese and Cannibal start points, and - up to a point - the number of Turns before they appear, will be randomly determined. 

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Table 1 - Battle of the Con Dau Islands

The convoy rounded Ca May cape at the mouth of the Gulf of Siam, and the astrologers set a course ENE a few leagues off the Vietnamese coast. The admiral suspected the Portuguese would be waiting, and as the convoy approached the Islands four barbarian ships appeared.

⬇️ After three turns, the two squadrons were in sight of each other. The wind is from the S, blowing across the table R>L. The convoy is broad reaching before the wind. The Portuguese are close hauled into the wind. Both squadrons are in two lines, but An-te Hai has ordered his submersibles (all currently on the surface) to move forward on the flanks.


⬇️ After 6 turns the Portuguese are battling the wind, and early turnovers, to try and get into action. The Santa Barbara, leading the starboard column, has come about onto an intercept/chase course but the others have not yet followed suit. 


⬆️ The big Ming surface ships are holding their course, daring the Portuguese to come and fight, while the submersibles, with their erratic propulsion, are doing quite well so far to get into ram attack positions. They have submerged (luckily rolling the necessary activation points) on their close approaches, so the Portuguese can’t shoot at them.

⬇️ Here’s another shot at the end of Turn 6.


⬇️ On turn 9 the Golden Carp surfaced, and rammed the Santa Barbara, inflicting 2 damage.


⬇️ The Portuguese response was immediate, massive, and underwhelming. 


⬆️ All Portuguese ships fired full broadsides, with their guns pointed by Master Gunners ... and they scored not a single hit. Extraordinary. The photo shows the Portuguese positions at the points they fired, there is some post-shooting movement not yet done.

⬇️ On Turn 11 the Sao Jorge finally landed a hit (1 damage) on the Peony Pavilion, An-Te Hai’s flagship. Several priceless porcelain teacups were broken. You can see the flash of the guns as the full broadside shoots. The Ming galeass can’t reply as its cannon are forward firing.


⬆️ But what is this in the background? The Santa Barbara (Portuguese flagship) and the Sao Martinho have both struck to the submersibles attacking them! After repeated attacks, and frustratingly unable to land a blow in return, both fragatas were on all-coloured dice, and both then rolled “1” on the All at Sea table. A humiliating day for the Portuguese Indes Squadron :(  The small piles of white dice stand in for flags of surrender.

Meanwhile the convoy is about to sail away off the table. Hainan Trader is already gone.

Under the circumstances I ruled the two undamaged Portuguese vessels would not shadow the convoy, but turn back to try and rescue their captured friends and ships.

I played a few turns more, but it was clear the submersibles were going to escape. They disengaged (neither side grappled), and only need to roll one activation success per move to stay submerged, any more and they can also move ahead (at an unpredictable Unorthodox rate). 

So to avoid dragging it out, I rolled for each submersible: would it be able to catch up with the rest of the convoy, or would it have to head home independently. They all failed to roll ‘6’, so all will be unavailable on table 2. One (Silver Carp) rolled ‘1’ so is deemed lost from unknown causes.

The Portuguese were handicapped by coming on with the wind nearly dead foul, and after a 3 turn delay (the maximum allowed for). They were unable to shoot from extra- long range using their trained gun crews, usually a big advantage, as the convoy ran down to them at top speed, with the weather gage. And when they did open fire, their shooting was abysmal. Even when they won (but not doubled) a shooting bout, their natural dice would be odd so “no effect”. And An-Te Hai placed his strongest ships in the port column, so the Portuguese were shooting, at best, at [C3 +master gunner] v [C5 +reinforced hull -enemy full broadside] so C4 v C5. 

The big successes were the submersibles. They proved hard to stop, and the ramming was effective (every hit caused damage). It was all done on the surface, no using up activation points to pop up and down when action was joined. They did have more than their share of activation failures (and double failures) though, with many good ramming chances missed.

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A week after brushing off the ambush by the Southern Barbarians at the Con Dau islands, An-te Hai and his ships are in the South China Sea and approaching Hei dao - the Black Rocks - where they must change course for the final run home to Canton.

As the squadron raises Hei dao, the Flying Fish spots the approach of a Sea Cannibals flotilla. 

Table 2 - Battle of Hei dao (the Black Rocks)
The Ming squadron is sailing N as it enters table 2. It must round the Black Rocks and change course to WNW (or near enough) and leave the table accordingly. The Sea Cannibals come onto the table from the E (they have been raiding in the S Philippines).

⬇️ The first photo shows where the two sides come on, the ships actually start at the table edge. The wind is blowing directly along the table length, towards the curtains.


⬇️ After 6 turns the convoy is making steady progress, running before the wind, and is nearing the Black Rocks. The Sea Cannibals have been slow to advance, affected by an early turnover which slowed some of the canoes, though not the Mangonui.


⬇️ A close-up of part of the Cannibal flotilla. I’m planning to make some more double-hulled sailing canoes, possibly a bit larger than Mangonui, during the next outbreak of shipbuilding. Then the Cannibals will be able to go exploring and colonising.


During turn 9 the two Ming battleships in the starboard column opened fire on the two nearest canoes, damaging both ⬇️


⬇️ The Cannibals responded by attacking, grappling, and boarding both battleships, gaining an Initiative +1C for boarding in the same move as they contacted the enemy. The Tongariro failed to gain a foothold on the Peony Pavilion and suffered another damage, but the Te Arawa did better and has dished out 1 damage to the Peony Pavilion. Green markers = grappled. Red markers = damage.


⬇️ In turn 10 the Ming battleships pushed back the crews of both grappled canoes. The Hainan Trader, and Flying Fish, both fired at the Mangonui, without result.


⬇️ The Cannibals response was interrupted by a premature turnover. The Mangonui fell off the wind and moved into contact with the Hainan Trader, but couldn’t grapple. The ongoing boarding actions saw both Cannibal canoes taken to ‘crippled’ status, and the unlucky turnover prevented reinforcements coming to help.


⬇️ On turn 11 the Tongariro & Te Arawa canoes were both sunk (blue markers) and the Ming battleships sailed on, only for the lead ship (Lotus Blossom) to be grappled and boarded by Taranaki and Takitimu, both with initiative. 


⬆️ The Mangonui similarly grappled the stern of the Hainan Trader, and attacked with initiative. Results for the Cannibals were mixed though. The Takitimu received two damages, but the Taranaki hit the Lotus Blossom with a second damage. And the Hainan Trader received a damage, too.

⬇️ In turn 12 the close quarters carnage continued. Lotus Blossom was captured by the canoes attacking it, while Mangonui caused a second damage point to the Hainan Trader. But Mangonui was rammed itself by the Ginger Jar, which inflicted 2 damage points. 


⬇️ Turn 13, and An-te Hai brought up the Peony Pavilion, firing at (but missing) then ramming the Taranaki, which sank at once.


⬆️ In the other melee, the two merchant junks may have gained the upper hand over the Mangonui. They took it to 3 damages (= crippled) without losing any more themselves.

The jig was up for the Sea Cannibals on turn 14. Peony Pavilion continued on its rampage, sending the last canoe (Takitimu) to the bottom, and ending adjacent to Lotus Blossom. It should be easy enough to retake the captured battleship from there.

And the merchant junks overpowered the crew of the Mangonui, with men from the Ginger Jar the first onto the decks of the Cannibal flagship.

So a total victory for An-Te Hai and the Ming Court Convoy! It’ll take a day or two to get all ships back into sailing condition, and swab away the blood and guts, but the damage is all repairable at sea, caused in the fracas of boarding actions not by artillery. Then they can be on their way home.

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