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Trouble on the Rocks

Posted by Andy on February 28, 2016 at 10:40 PM Comments comments (0)

"I remember feeling the need, then, to assist, but assist who I was not certain - perhaps to protect the less able patients. But as I stood, I lost my bloody balance, my bloomin cane failed me and slipped away, and I fell to the ground, bashing my head against the nearby table and knocking myself out cold."


Reading this passage, young Dante caught his breath, and adjusted his electric torch beneath his sleeping linen.  His father would give him a whipping if he got caught reading in bed, after hours.   


Dante had found this gem of a history book in the school library some days before.  He'd found it fascinating and was having trouble putting it down.  Written long ago by a retired Major Dr. Werther Farthingsworth, "Out of Africa : The British Military Exodus of 1895" told of a time when Britain and the rest of Europe were in the midst of transitioning from a Phoney War to a very real Great War.  


He'd read about the great aerial battles over French North-West Africa, how members of a British Museum expedition had used the cover of this battle to "rescue" certain ancient Elbonian artifacts.  A chapter retold the daring escape of the British aero fleet and how it left Africa for safer skies, on its long journey back to Britain.  He was just about to start a new chapter, the last for tonight before really turning out the light.


"Trouble on the Rocks"


"I returned to conciousness just a few minutes later, thanks to the gentle ministrations of Anna, the lovely nurse who had been an angel to me over the several weeks of my recuperation.  I was clearly not fit to render any of my fellow countrymen aid, but rather, made do by helping Anna, as best I could, ensure the safety and well being of the other patients in this wing of Gibraltar's Saint Bernard's Hospital.  While our efforts were focused on those who could not help themselves, far more relevant events were playing out elsewhere in that very building.  It would be long after the event had passed before I could collect notes, interview survivors, and be in a position to document what had actually transpired."

 

"Following its successful evacuation from Africa, along the "Paper" route, the British Aero forces, under the command of Rear Flight Admiral Robert Wubhearst, joined up with the main British task force under Flight Admiral Stephen Casten-Smith, CinC British Africa.  Casten-Smith then brought the fleet to safe mooring in the shelter of Gibraltar's guns."


"Eager to begin his examination of the relics of the Pharoah Wubakhamun, Sir Harold Collingwood, Conservator-in-Chief of the British Museum, ordered the transfer of the relics in his possession to the relative security offered by Gibraltar's Saint Bernard's Hospital.  What at first might seem a foolhardy decision, makes some sense when one stops to consider that some of Sir Harold's men had been wounded in the previous battles and Sir Harold was nothing if not concerned about the well being of his staff.  The hospital also provided him equipment he might need to begin his examination of the treasures brought from Africa."


"Sir Harold secured many of the treasures in a large lab in the center of the hospital, including four sealed sarcophagi.  Pity for him, the fabled Staff of Wubakhamun was elsewhere, secure and under guard in the hospital administrator's office."

 



"Saint Bernard's had seen a recent increase in the presence of British Colonial troops, no doubt assigned to the wards as security.  I myself witnessed this in the weeks before that fateful morning of 1 May 1895.  The intelligence services of a number of nations must all have come to a similar conclusion.  Faced with the potential for the imminent relocation of the relics, no doubt to a location far less easily assailed, no less than four adventuring companies, clandestine agents provacateur for several of the Great Powers, struck the hospital that fateful morning."


"Bursting in through the northern wing's main doors came the forces of Lord Edward Ronan Curr, late a Major of the Queen’s Own Africa Rifles, and a maverick. He had lost his commission after successfully putting down a Bantu uprising, but at the cost of most of his command.  Curr's force had become a mercenary outfit.  While he may have been there as insurance to help Whitehall protect the relics, his history and his actions that day suggested he may have just as easily and just as likely been there working for some other employer."


"As I regained conciousness I was able to note that he and his men were moving unopposed out of the ward, heading deeper into Saint Bernards.  My later research suggested that the local British Colonial Leftenant in charge of the hospital garrison succeeded in misleading Curr, sending him off on a wild goose chase.  This brilliant ruse succeeded in making Curr and his company a non-factor in determining the final outcome of this Battle for Saint Bernards."





"Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the hospital, in the southern ward, the sounds of gunfire and obvious pandemonium elsewhere in the hospital spurred Charles La' Strange into action.  La' Strange and his associates, believed to represent the interests of the French government, had been posing as patients.  Rising up from their restful positions and revealing their well concealed and camoflaged weapons, the Family La' Strange moved quickly, deeper, into the hospital.  Their chosen course would be fortuitous, as they quickly came to the offices of the hospital administrator.  The speed and decisiveness of their movements suggested the French had no doubt been busier then their rivals in gathering intelligence.  Conspiracy therorists to this day believe there is a connection between the French being strangely absent at the Battle of the Paper Route and yet were Johnny-on-the-spot at the Battle of Saint Bernards."


"The Family La' Strange would go on to fight their way through the British Museum guards set to protect the Staff of Wubakhamun and would, in fact, secure it and spirit it away"





"Troops of the Prussian Assault Corps, under Oberst, Herr Josep Phlips, also stormed into Saint Bernards, through the east hospital entrance.   Oberst Phlips' stormtroopers quickly engaged a concentration of British Colonial guards.  Once the guards were largely overwhelmed, the Prussians were immediately acosted by the dire forces of the Servants of Wubakhamun."



"The Servants had rushed into the hospital from the main western entrance. They were the guardians of the memories, temples, and relics of the great Pharoah. The battle in the center of the hospital raged on for close to 30 minutes, with the Servants gaining the upper hand for a time, until the weight and discipline of Prussian arms were too much for all the Servants save the very tough mummified remains of a long dead priest. "



"With the British soldiers beaten back and the bulk of the Servants decimated, Oberst Phlips' men focused on the dead priest while the Oberst himself made off to find the Staff of Wubakhamun.  Unfortunately, he was too late.  La' Strange had just escaped the hospital with the relic in hand."


"In the immediate aftermath of the commotion, the prinicpal antagonists melted back into the warrens of Gibraltar, just as easily as they had suddenly materialized, no doubt aided and abetted by the Spanish underground."


Dante yawned and closed his book.  He knew there were a few more pages left in this chapter but he was too tired to finish them tonight.  He was looking forward to reading about the next stage of this great story.  The tale of how La' Strange and his French masters managed to fool the British and escape Gibraltar with the Staff of Wubakhamun, an artifact that would have tremendous impact on the battles to come.


----------------------


Postscript--


We had a great time playing In Her Majesty's Name with a collection of Northstar and Reaper figures and a model hospital I built from foam core and balsa.  The building shell can be used in the future for any skirmish game and I may, at some point, have to build both a basement and a second floor for it.  


Barry, Rob, Joe, Kurt, Daniel, Thattya, and I had a great time propelling our ongoing VSF saga along.  I'd like to thank them all for playing.



GREAT BRITAIN AND FRANCE AT WAR!!

Posted by Andy on March 4, 2014 at 4:25 PM Comments comments (0)

PARLIAMENT CITES MAJESTIC AFFAIRE AS LAST STRAW


By Gerd Maloins, Gross Austrian Gazatte (GAG), 5 March, 1894


Today, Sir Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery, was presented to the Queen as the newest British Prime Minister.  In his first address before Parliament, Prime Minister Primrose called for immediate hostilities against France, in continued abhorant reaction to the shameful occasion of the recent French attack upon, subsequent crash, and sinking of the British liner RMS MAJESTIC.




Prime Minister Primrose exclaimed, "The British people have suffered long enough with the abominable behaviour of the French government and France's military elite.  The British people have no issue with the good people of France.  But not since the French Revolution has a French government, a ruling elite, and a military general staff needed to be so badly replaced by the French people.  Never in the history of human endeavour have so many, faulted so few, for so much."


Soon after his speech, Parliament took steps to declare a state of formal war with France, closing its diplomatic offices in Paris, and withdrawing its ambassador back to London.  It is believed the French diplomats in London were also expelled from the proud island nation of Great Britain.


A proponent of a strong Royal Navy, it is believed that Prime Minister Primrose will see the British are moving quickly to ascertain the final resting place of the .MAJESTIC, and to order salvage operations as quickly as possible, before the ravages of the sea can further take their toll on the remains of that once proud British vessel.




Official reaction from governments around the world, concerning the state of war between Britiain and France, were mixed.  United States President Grover Cleveland reportedly shrugged his shoulders and said, "They're always fighting over there.  That's why we left the Old Country."  Unofficial sources in Vienna indicate the Austro-Hungarian government is sympathetic to the British position over MAJESTIC.  In Berlin, the feeling is surprisingly pro-French.  One German government official was heard to mutter somethng about an ignored custom's inspection.


-------------------------------


OwlCon XXXIII gave us a rare opportunity to move our Victorian Science Ficiton (VSF) campaign along, with a sizeable endeavor.  Having acquired Osprey's "In Her Majesty's Name" (IHMN), and a collection of minis for same, while I was at DragonCon in London last December, I decided it would make for a great skirmish option for our otherwise Aeronef-based VSF exploits.  I figured what better way to have our steam punk cake and eat it too then to run Aeronef on one table and IHMN on an adjacent table.  Each game could accomodate four players and the action on one would coincide and be linked with the action on the other.


Our Aeronef game two years ago featured the British, Americans, and Austro-Hungarians in a bit of three way bother.  Specifically, HRH the Prince of Wales was coming to Pearl Hafen, Neu Wien, in the Caribbean.  At the same time, the British White Star liner RMS MAJESTIC was arriving as part of a scheduled and routine cruise.  United States Vice President Levi Morton and his family were aboard MAJESTIC.  The sudden and mysterious death of Morton brought things to a head between the local British escort force, a nearby patrol of US Aeronefs, and the local defenses of Pearl Hafen.


Two years later, after much sabre rattling by Washington and a punitive but half-hearted land ironclad assault on some of Austria-Hungary's Caribbean possesions, American investigations into the cause of Morton's death have led nowhere.  The British are apathetic, at best, putting into immediate question the quality and efficacy of their investigations aboard MAJESTIC.


Then it happened, last month, a mysterious man who calls himself, "The Eagle", contacted the major governments of the world.  Offering to sell to the highest bidder what he promised were earth-shattering secrets concerning the death of Morton, indicating that the information he possesed would unhinge the balance of power in Europe.  Thus, in motion was set the inexorable pendulums of government chicanery, over possesion of the "Morton File".


We deployed a roughly balanced set of four Aeronef forces, in the corners of one table, depicting the open skies and water of the mid-Atlantic.  Each Aeronef fleet commander was handed a one page set of orders.  Those orders were somewhat dependent on the actions aboard the MAJESTIC, which was placed in the center of the table, flying along its route between New York and Paris.




The British were instructed to protect the MAJESTIC from harm, and to do harm if necessary to protect her.  In the opposite corner from the British was the fleet of the United States.


The US received orders to move within visual range of and await a signal from the decks of MAJESTIC.  Upon seeing a green flare fired from MAJESTIC, the US player was to stop MAJESTIC and moor with and board her, to rescue the Secret Service agents aboard.


Between the British and American fleets, in a third corner of the table, were the Austro-Hungarians.  They were ordered to close to observation range and await a signal from the decks of MAJESTIC.  Upon seeing a red signal flare, they were to close with, stop, and board MAJESTIC, to rescue their agents aboard ship.  The fourth corner of the table is where we found the French.




The French had the most outrageous orders.  They were ordered to approach to within visual range of MAJESTIC and await a yellow signal flare.  Upon its appearance, they were to close on and destroy MAJESTIC, no questions asked...




On the other table, four corresponding factions deployed in the four corners of the lower cargo/ballast deck aboard MAJESTIC herself.  They were the hired securtiy consultants of Lord Curr and Company (hired by the White Star Line in the wake of the Morton incident of two years previous) (Northstar minis), a team of United States Secret Service agents led by none other than James West and Artemus Gordon (Foundry minis), a group of Prussian mercenaries hired by the Austro-Hungarian government, to provide them deniability (Brigade minis), and finally, the family of Charles La' Strange of New Orleans, agents provocatuer in league with the French government (Reaper Chronoscope minis).  The premise was that they were all aboard the ship because each of their respective patron nations had gathered independent intelligence that suggested that The Eagle would be aboard and might try and reach a business deal with someone over the "Morton File".




Terrain for the deck table was a combination of Mantic's Deadzone plastic terrain, combined with David Graffam's paper terrain, all on grey felt.  The outer "walls" served as the exterior walls of the ship on this "deck".  Windows in that wall were portholes open to the Atlantic skies.  It was envisioned that this "deck" was a double height deck, with the roofs of the sideline corridors looking down over the center areas of the deck.  Beneath the elevated walkway, in the center of the table and oppostie the port side amidships cargo doors, was the cargo door control room.  That room would play a pivotal role in the game as the four adventuring companies began the game by hearing gunfire emanating from somewhere ahead of them.




Each of the four companies was given verbal instructions.  Lord Curr had orders to simply protect MAJESTIC.  To aprehend or physically stop any trouble makers - basically, just shoot them all.  The Secret Service was there for the "Morton File", with orders to secure the File and then fire a green flare out a porthole and await rescue.  The Prussian contingent was informed that their agent was meeting with The Eagle, in the hopes that he could acquire the File, and that they were there to back him up.  They too were to secure the File and fire a red flare out a porthole, then await rescue.  Finally, Charles La' Strange was told to do everything in his power to secure the File, and failing that, if it looked like he and his family needed assistance, to fire a yellow flare from a porthole...




It really WAS coincidence that the role of Charles and his family fell to my nine year old son and his ten year old friend...  I really TRIED to get the other adults to share a command with the boys... But in their eagerness to play, the two boys just took over five French figures and there was nothing for it but to press on...  One can imagine that when the Aeronef game needed a little "push" on my part, it was a simple matter to whisper to my son, "Do you think its time to fire the yellow flare?"  :)




My first worry concerning running two linked games side by side was trying to GM one or both games while also coordinating the action of the overall experience.  Fortunately, this was resovlved by having Rob and Steve, two experienced Aeronef players, both co-game-master (GM) and play in the Aeronef game, while Bill helped me out as GM for the IHMN game.  Leaving me with the task of coordinating the two games overall.  My other worry was that the two games would get out of sync, because their turn sequences could not be easily coordinated.  I resolved this by letting both games play out at their own paces, while translating cross-table-affecting events whereever in the turn sequences they occured.  For example, if someone shot at MAJESTIC and hit her, I interrupted the IHMN game and had every figure make and pass an immediate Pluck roll or fall down then and there, regardless of which turn or where in the turn that game was.




The Aeronef game went several turns (five I think) before the IHMN players had completed its first turn (due in large part to having many new IHMN players) and the Aeronef players dutifully closed in on the worrying MAJESTIC.  I hadn't anticipated that the French vessels would move so much faster than the other three nations, so before long the French nefs had all but surrounded MAJESTIC, French bombers from their carrier nef buzzing about the MAJESTIC.  Then came the message from the French flagship to MAJESTIC, sent so all in the area could read it:


"MANDATORY CUSTOMS INSPECTION...HEAVE TO AND PREPARE TO BE BOARDED."




To which the captain of MAJESTIC soon replied:


"A MID-ATLANTIC CUSTOMS INSPECTION?  I THINK NOT, SIR."


Meanwhile, over on the cargo deck, the four adventuring companies began moving onto the deck, looking for the source of the gunfire that had opened the game.  The Secret Service and Lord Curr's team seemed to strike an uneasy alliance at first, while the French and Prussian groups at the other end of the deck were more wary of each other.  Initital shots were exchanged at long range, between the French and Secret Service and between Lord Curr and the Prussians.




The boys running the La' Strange family were challenged to know what to do with their figures, and I was too busy to coach them overmuch, so they found themselves in trouble pretty quickly.  Having said that, they did manage to rush Claudette La' Strange forward and she was one of the first to discover two bodies and a satchel in the cargo door control room.  She then became the focus of hostile attention from the other three sides.  As mentioned earlier, it was pretty easy to convince the boys that they might need the help of the French fleet, and I may have gently suggested that they should fire their yellow flare.  After all, I reasoned to my son, "do you think you can grab and hang on to the satchel?"  He wasn't so sure.


That set off Aeronef hell as soon as that yellow flare flew from the port side of MAJESTIC.  Rob, the French nef commander, unleashed all his bombers and shot up the MAJESTIC.  In that one round of shooting the French had effectively destroyed MAJESTIC!  Oops...play imbalance...time to improvise.  Using GM perogative, I decided the MAJESTIC had been damaged to the point of coming to a dead stop and that the R-Matter lift engines had failed.  Thus I announced that the MAJESTIC was starting to settle in the air.  I also had all the IHMN figures check Pluck to avoid a fall to the ground.  Claudette La' Strange failed and fell, then spent several turns trying to stand, quite unsuccessfully, all while others tried to shoot her!




Once the French had fired like that on MAJESTIC, the other three fleets began opening up on the French.  At that point the French decided the MAJESTIC had taken enough damage, and there was always time to finish her off, so the French began defending themselves.  My son was a little upset that French reinforcements weren't on their way...I'm so evil...  


Over on the IHMN table, Bill began independently improvising and having sections of the deck collapse/explode as secondary damage rippled through MAJESTIC.  The Prussian commander in IHMN managed to grab the satchel from a fallen Claudette and he began scrambling for the exit.  Then he fell the next time MAJESTIC was hit.  The Secret Service player soon decided he'd better fire his green flare, in the hopes that the "cavalry" would come in response.




Chris, the Austro-Hungarian nef commander, having not seen the hoped for red flare, decided he'd ignore the French and attack MAJESTIC!  I guess he didn't want anyone to find the "Morton File" either.  What he didn't know was that the Prussian mercenaries had control of the satchel and hadn't remembered to fire the flare!!  A little reminder from me prompted them to do that and I thought we had the makings of an Austro-Hungarian overall victory, but as the red flare flew from the ever-settling/sinking MAJESTIC, Chris opted to ignore it and continued firing on MAJESTIC!




This caused more falls on the cargo deck and, soon later, we had the MAJESTIC hit the water.  I then had everyone in the IHMN game make a Pluck roll to continue in the game, ruling that a failure would indicate that person had been incapacitated for the remainder of the game.  Several failed and were eliminated, reducing the numbers on all sides.  Then the flooding started.  Each turn we had water rushing in to the cargo deck from the hull sides, four inches a turn, increasing to five inches a turn when the Austro-Hungarian nefs hit the MAJESTIC for one more point of damage.  Anyone in the water was washed away and eliminated from the game.  The only exit we allowed was to the center of the deck, up the ladders to the overhead catwalk, then out the forward or aft ends of the catwalk.




On the other table, the French nefs continued to take a beating and began to withdraw when they saw that the MAJESTIC was in the water and quickly sinking.  The British had begun rescue efforts and had begun targeting the Austro-Hungarians, while chasing the remainder of the French force off.  The Austrians continued in their attacks on MAJESTIC and even lashed out at the United States nefs.  That would not bode well for post-MAJESTIC relationships between those two nations, a relationship that was already extremely delicate.  Finally, the US player closed on MAJESTIC to try and rescue the Secret Service, without realizing that none of the Secret Service were still in the other game!




The flooding had taken its toll and like rats on a sinking ship, the remainder of the adventuring companies began running for the ladders, while still shooting at each other!  The Prussian player had to make the tough choice.  One of his troopers had the satchel, but was on the ground.  Rolling Pluck to stand up would cost an action/turn.  Having the nearby Prussian soldier, still on his feet, rush over and pick up the satchel would also cost an action/turn.  In either case the flooding waters would wash that person away.  Thus, just as the water reached the foot of the catwalk ladder, the last French figure (Jean Taureau) had clambered up and the Prussian clutching the satchel, presumably containing the "Morton File", was washed away.  The sole survivors then were four of Lord Curr's men, two of the La' Strange clan, and two of the Prussian contingent.  None of the Secret Service made it to the catwalk!




Overall, it was a wonderful adventure and I think everyone had a great time.  It neatly sets up our next chapter in the saga, to be played in April at the Stag's Head.  My thanks to Rob, Steve, and Bill for helping me GM, and to all the players for giving it a go and being patient with the setup.