The next in our campaign playtest series is a Fleet Engagement between the Kharadorn and the Terran Republic Navy, fictionally led by Kate and Terry, respectively. Unlike the fleet engagement between Camille and Zed, this one takes place around an unpopulated gas giant (Njirana) with three moons.
Kate and Terry roll fleet initiative to see what kind of fleet engagement it is. Terry wins the roll, so (because she’s the defender in this case) the engagement is a set-piece.
Kate sets up on one side of Njirana:
The Kharadorn fleet is made up of two carrier groups, one built around the cruiser-sized Reträtt, and the other around the destroyer-sized Aspekt. Kate saw what happened to the escorts in the previous game, so has squadroned her escorts with the carriers. Her Karria-class destroyers will screen the main body.
On the other side, the Terrans are fielding a lesser number of their “Swiss Army Knife” ships: the flagship, Audacity, is armed with lasers, spines, fighters, and a missile rack; the destroyers Alesia and Thermopylae are similarly (but lesser) armed; while Perseus doesn’t have any missiles, so will be handling fighter ops for the fleet. The one lonely escort in the group (Young) is attached to Audacity to provide more point defense.
Terry sets up to get open fire lanes, while Kate is trying to use the planet to get closer, to try to neutralize Audacity‘s advantage in long-range lasers.
Kate basically loses the Initiative Phase, so feints right. She’s going to go around the left side of Njirana, but wants to get Terry zig-zagging first. Terry honors the feint — even if she thinks Kate is trying to fool her, Kate can still continue left if Terry goes right, which will probably still be a good thing for Kate.
Kate launches her fighters, and will be using them to further sell the feint, while Terry launches missiles and puts one of her fighter groups on patrol.
Kate sells the feint with her fighters, as they continue right around the planet. Her fleet, on the other hand, goes the other way. Klangfull overthrusts to join the rest of the destroyers on the left.
Terry wasn’t pulled too far off line by Kate’s feint, and adjusts course to pass inside one of the moons. The first wave of missiles continues to honor the threat of the fighters, and moves to screen the steepest angle past Njirana.
In the Combat Phase, Kate abandons the feint, recalling and re-launching her fighters.
Similarly, the Terrans launch another wave of missiles, and add a second patrol group, this time to Audacity.
At this point, every unit except Audacity and Perseus are affected by the Njirana’s gravity. (Even though gravity is an inverse r-squared force in real life, one of the simplifications in Jump War is to make it a step function: constant to a certain distance, and then dropping to zero outside that distance.)
Kate’s Karrias all coast this turn, as required by the draw fire special order. If Audacity finds Reträtt in range, she’ll have to target the destroyers first. It’s Terry who chooses to use Njirana as defense, placing Audacity in the planet’s shadow.
This is also the turn of subtle successes and failures: Terry tweaks Thermopylae‘s course just enough to draw the fire of Klangfull‘s lasers away from Alesia; and Kate does not choose to overthrust Aspekt. In the end, this means that Alesia will survive the turn, and Aspekt will have little impact on the battle.
Also note that one of the missiles intercepts one of Reträtt‘s strike groups, and removes it from the table.
The picture doesn’t really tell the story of the combat phase. The reader can see that Kraftig is missing, and that all of the screening destroyers have had their shields overloaded by laser fire. What is not visible is the state of the remaining ships: Alesia, Slitbar, and Klangfull are all crippled.
Basically, Kate’s fear of Audacity‘s superiority was well-founded: the destroyers essentially traded damage, but Audacity crippled Slitbar by herself, while Reträtt only managed to knock down Alesia‘s shields.
The Kharadorn have to get their fighters into the Terrans to have any hope of evening the score — but even that is doubtful, as Audacity, Perseus, and Thermopylae are all protected by patrol groups at this point, and even Alesia (who jury-rigged their missile rack) has launched a new missile this turn.
The movement opens with one of the Terran missiles eliminating one of the Kharadorn fighter groups. Slitbar moves next, continuing to screen Reträtt. Unfortunately, a missile from Audacity finds the destroyer and hits. Slitbar is destroyed.
Audacity, which was on course to hit the planet, overthrusts to avoid it. This puts one hit on her shields, and prevents her from launching ordinance this turn.
Alesia goes next: her missile attacks Aspekt, and is destroyed by point defense. Aspekt‘s fighters attack Perseus. The patrol group intercepts, and both units of fighters are removed from the table.
The last missile (from Thermopylae) finds the Reträtt‘s last strike group, and the Kharadorn fighters are removed from the table.
With only one hull point remaining, Klangfull decides it’s time to leave.
The combat phase goes atrociously for the Kharadorn. While the picture makes it look like everybody’s OK, the Terrans manage to focus fire on Reträtt and cripple her. In response, Thermopylae takes a little more damage, and Audacity‘s paint is scratched by fire from Reträtt.
Kate probably should have surrendered after turn four. Instead, she’d managed to re-launch her fighters, and gambled that she could pull out a draw in the next turn. While she did manage to finish Alesia off, the gamble was a bust. Halfway through the combat phase, Reträtt was destroyed, and Aspekt crippled.
She folded one bet to late.
With Kate’s surrender, the worst that Terry could do was a marginal victory. After totaling the score, though, it was obviously a stunning victory: 1474 to 292, or 66% of the original total! Time to finish: two-and-a-half hours.
There’s not much that needs to be said: the Terrans are designed to defeat ordinance-heavy forces, and the Kharadorn are just that.
That said, this and the previous battle are a great example of a successful playtest. In the previous battle, I became concerned that the strike groups were too large (because Baal should only have crippled Tracy, not destroyed her). In this battle, it was obvious that the too-large strike groups are a ship design trap: it was too easy for the Kharadorn to tie up too many points in their fighter groups.
When next we see carriers, their fighter compliments will be much-reduced.
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