This is the first Port Strike that’s shown up in the Jump War campaign playtest, and it involves a classic match-up between raiders and builders: in this case, Eldar Corsairs and Imperial ships from Battlefleet Gothic.
(In the interests of completeness, I should mention that these miniatures are a product of Games Workshop, which has discontinued the Battlefleet Gothic line.)
The fleets are commanded by fictional Erin and Ivan. Erin’s objective is straight-forward: disable the station (La Grange) without losing too much of her fleet. Ivan’s objective is the opposite.
Erin can score 800 points just by disabling La Grange. Her plan is to execute a simple drive-by: get in, do a bunch of damage, and get out. She’s going to angle at the station so that she can accelerate off the board in a straight line.
Ivan would normally stand off with his carriers, but he’ll need them in close to the station to provide other targets. He also intends to get his pure escort squadrons in front of La Grange so they can draw fire (a special order). He hopes to neutralize incoming ordinance with the station’s mines.
The terrain for this battle is Atea (a garden world) and Tane (its significant moon). The station orbits Atea at the system’s L3 point. La Grange‘s stats: Veteran, Armor 7, Shields 2, PD 3, Hull 16; with 12 lasers-c and 24 mines.
The first movement phase goes pretty much as planned: the Eldar vector on the station and accelerate, while Ivan manages to get his fleet into position.
At this point, you might say that the Imperial escorts have anchored their right flank on Atea. You might also say that they’ve put themselves right into the line of fire.
That latter statement is probably more pertinent: by the end of the exchange of fire, Ivan has lost four escorts. Erin has only lost Natsugumo, but one of the Eldar destroyers in the escort screen (Hamanami) has been disabled.
The battle isn’t just escorts. Inazuma has taken enough fire from California and La Grange that she’s disabled. The good news for Erin is that the station is disabled, too. Time to leave!
If the game ended now, Erin would win. But little does she know, the hard part is not damaging a station — it’s escaping two unscathed Imperial cruisers and their fighters.
Thrusting past La Grange appeared simple enough for the screening force. The problem is that there are minefields to get through, fighters to dodge, and the ships will finish with their stern to the enemy. Erin loses her Nightshade squadron to the mines, and one of Manteca‘s strike groups finishes Hamanami. The rest of the screen makes it to the other side of the station.
And what of the two Eldar cruisers?
Unfortunately, Inazuma is disabled and unable to escape Manteca‘s other strike groups. This leaves Ikazuchi. Erin decides it’s not a good idea to challenge two cruisers with only one, and overthrusts to get into Atea’s shadow.
At this point, Erin’s stunning victory has been reduced to a draw. But the combat phase follows: between Manteca and La Grange, there are enough lasers to destroy Hayanami and her two escorts. There is no return fire.
Erin finishes with 1355 points (800 for the disabled station), but Ivan’s fleet is mostly intact, so scores 1571. A marginal victory for the Empire!
One of the things you’ll notice is how quickly a Port Strike can be over. That speed hides the extra complexity of the scenario: a Fleet Engagement can be finished with one real maneuver per fleet, but the attacking fleet in a Port Strike must make two maneuvers. One to engage, and one to disengage.
In this case, Erin’s engaging maneuver worked just fine. Even with losing Inazuma, she could have won the game. Her mistake was driving through the center of her enemy, when taking advantage of the Eldar’s superior mobility and peeling off would have been the better choice.
In any event, Ivan’s victory didn’t keep his coalition from losing this war. When we return, the new coalitions will be: Dan, Kate, Maurice, and Terry versus Erin, Ivan, Zed, and Camille. Or, for short hand: the BFG fleets against Everyone Else.
But I’ve got to repaint my freighters first …