Blockade: Directorate v. Imperials

Imperials escorting merchants to La Grange.

Imperials escorting merchants to La Grange.

The Second Coalition War begins with fictional Ivan (leading an Imperial fleet) escorting four freighters into La Grange past a raiding Directorate fleet led by fictional Dan. La Grange is orbiting Julana, a garden world that looks suspiciously like Titan.

This is the Convoy scenario tree, running along the Blockade fork because Ivan won fleet initiative.

Ivan's fleet, laid out to show its organization.

Ivan’s fleet, laid out to show its organization.

Ivan’s objective doesn’t leave much room for subtle or devious maneuvering. The running entry has got the fleet pointed at Julana at speed. Ivan guesses he’ll be able to start docking his freighters on about turn three, but they’re going to need to aggressively decelerate  to do so.

Ivan squadrons up the freighters with two escorts each, and will be using his cruisers to screen them during the approach. As the cruisers are short escorts of their own (each only having one), he’ll be augmenting their defense with patrol groups.

In this scenario, Ivan arms La Grange with 24 type C lasers.

The view of the Imperials from the Directorate fleet.

The view of the Imperials from the Directorate fleet.

Dan’s similarly constrained: since he gets no points for damaging La Grange, he’s going to treat the 18 inches around it as an exclusion zone. (24 lasers commands respect!) His fleet will arc left to cross Ivan’s path. Dan knows that he probably won’t catch Ivan in the open, and expects to do most of his damage while Ivan is moving away.

Moving from the deployment zones.

Moving from the deployment zones.

Turn One is pretty boring. Ivan coasts, allowing California to rotate and point her spinal mount at the enemy. On the other side of the board, Dan can’t bring the Imperials in range of Stanford, so keeps the Vanquishers out of range as well. Dan wants to hit Ivan all at once, and doesn’t want his ships destroyed piecemeal.

Oops.

Oops.

The initiative system is designed so that ships move in an intermingled fashion, but sometimes luck gets in the way. Dan is forced to move his entire fleet before Ivan, and discovers that he should have turned a little harder in the previous turn. His best maneuver puts his entire fleet in range of La Grange. (That, and Dan didn’t take La Grange‘s orbital movement into account, either.)

Don't cross the streams!

Opposing shields short out when they intersect.

California is the first of Ivan’s ships to move. Dan’s put two missiles across the cruiser’s path, and Ivan decides it’s worth trading two strike groups to get rid of them. Ivan doesn’t want to push California into the path of the freighters, so accepts Mellon‘s challenge and sideswipes the Directorate destroyer.

Ivan sure knows how to direct traffic, doesn't he?

Ivan sure knows how to direct traffic, doesn’t he?

Manteca moves next and its two strike groups remove the closer of Spreckels’ own strike groups. The freighters follow up, ending with the traffic jam you see above. Note the two patrol groups following the Imperial cruisers, and Directorate Strike Group 223 in the upper right corner.

Life is hard for Directorate escorts, too.

Life is hard for Directorate escorts, too.

During the drift phase, mines launched by the Imperial Cobras find their way into the Directorate formation, destroying Harriman and Gould, and lightly damaging Mellon.

The beam fire that follows is as deadly as expected, given the proximity of the fleets.

Directorate losses: Vanderbilt is destroyed by Langdone, and Stanford and Mellon are crippled by La Grange and Naumov, respectively.

Imperial losses: California is crippled by Stanford and Carnegie, and Manteca takes six hits from Spreckels’ spinal mount. It’s not enough to cripple Manteca, but it’s close.

The Directorate drives through the enemy formation.

The Directorate drives through the enemy formation.

Dan knows he screwed up by getting too close to La Grange, but there’s no turning back now. He drives his fleet through the enemy formation.

But Ivan’s fighters strike first: they finish off Mellon, and manage to cripple Carnegie. Fighters from Spreckels manage to catch FedEx‘s squadron, and destroy the freighter and its escorts.

Gratton (escorting Rearden) sideswipes Spreckels.

During the drift phase, Imperial mines beat up on Stanford some more, and debris from the destroyed ships plays havoc with almost everyone’s shields. Between debris and overthrusting to decelerate, the freighters Rearden and Hyundai have no shields left.

Life is still hard as an Imperial escort.

Life is still hard as an Imperial escort.

The third combat phase is pretty much all Dan. With the cruisers on the wrong side of the formation, there’s nothing to protect the freighters. Maersk, which managed to turtle (turtling doubles your shields, but you can’t shoot), survives Carnegie‘s attention, but Rearden does not. Hyundai‘s entire squadron is destroyed by Stanford (jury rigged lasers), and Manteca is crippled by Spreckels’ spinal mount.

The only good news for Ivan (besides Maersk) is that La Grange cripples Spreckels, and Carnegie retires.

Maersk in dock.

Maersk in dock.

The last turn belongs to the fighters. Manteca‘s trade out with Spreckels’ newest strike groups, and fighters from California finish off Spreckels.

Dan decides there’s not much more he can do, so chooses to accelerate Stanford off of the board, leaving Strike Group 223 to finally attack (and destroy) Gratton.

Maersk successfully docks with La Grange.

Epilogue

Normally, preventing all but one freighter to dock with the station would be a victory, but only two Directorate ships escaped the battle. The final margin was Ivan 938, and Dan 673 — meaning a marginal victory for the Imperials.

As usual, Dan can’t seem to execute his plan. He was right about needing to stay away from La Grange, as the station’s lasers provided the margin of victory. However, Dan lost the game in the first turn by not cutting his turn tight enough. Because of that, he couldn’t maintain a safe distance on turn two.

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