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Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Posted by Andy on April 22, 2016 at 2:20 AM Comments comments (2)

Dante quickly closed his book as his school hover bus pulled up in front of Donald J. Trump Middle School.  The heavy and quite old tome, "Out of Africa : The British Military Exodus of 1895" , had captivated him now for several weeks.  This work of a retired Major Dr. Werther Farthingsworth had been written not long after the events it described.


Dante had learned quite alot about the Phoney-War period that followed the 5 March, 1894 declaration of war between Great Britain and France.  That declaration, in turn, drew a number of other nations into the conflict, thanks to the political spider web of mutual defence alliances that existed at the time.  The Phoney War wouldn't turn "real" for well over a year.


During that period of "war-but-not-war" there were still several very real armed clashes, from under the Atlantic, to over the deserts of French Northwest Africa and on and over the Rock of Gibraltar.  It was this latter battle that had closed this particular book and Dante looked forward to writing a book report about it for the librarian, Miss Gann.


Dante would write about how, immediately following the Battle of Saint Bernard's Hospital, the adventuring party of Charles La' Strange, in the service of France, and in possession of the fabled Staff of Wubakhamun, had escaped the battle still raging in the hospital.  Just a city block away the French, with Spanish underground assistance, had arranged three identical vehicles.  La' Strange, presumably with the Staff of Wubakhamun in his possesion, got into one vehicle and all three vehicles then set off in opposite directions.  One vehicle was destined for the Spanish border, one for the end of the large mole, and one headed towards the southern tip of the peninsula.  


This deception and the threat of firing at three civilian vehicles in the streets of the city would, the French masters pulling the strings of this operation had hoped, discourage the British from firing at any of the vehicles.  French agents and their Spanish allies saw to it that the way was clear for all three vehicles,


Meanwhile, overhead, and in coordination with the attack on the hospital, a small supporting French aero force went into action.  Under the able command of Admiral Daniel Sharou, the French ships LES ARCS, CHARLAMAGNE, LOIRE, JEANNE LA PUCELLE, L'EPEE, and a handfull of escorts opened fire on the closest British aero ship, destroying one quite quickly.


Unfazed by the double surprise attack, Flight Admiral Stephen Casten-Smith, CinC British Africa, responded quickly, getting his several battleships, moored just over Gibraltar's harbor, underway.  His earlier orders only hours before the attack, to his ships' captains, to rig their ships to feign being moored, proved to pay off.


That morning also witnessed the arrival, from the west, of a fairly large force of Japanese aero ships under the command of Japanese Air Admiral Joedeki Phiyapamoto.  Phiyapamoto was conducting a round-the-world cruise, designed to showcase the newly engineered might of the Japanese Empire in Asia.  Following a formal invitation and request for assistance from Casten-Smith, Admiral Phiyapamoto hesitated not one bit to engage the trailing end of the French fleet.


Also arriving over the area, from the east, were the aero ships of the Austro-Hungarian Air Admiral Larrazier Bucanon.  Late in arriving to battle, Admiral Bucanon nonetheless pressed his ships forward to aid his ally and friend, Admiral Sharou.  The Austro-Hungarians fielded no less than one battleship, two light battleships, three light cruisers, and a full complement of rocket boats.


Dante even used Google to look up some of the more famous image renderings of the battle, thinking they would make his book report for Miss Gann even more impressive...



Lead Japanese ships quickly closed on the French and began targeting capital ships to the rear of the French force, just as the lighter ships of the British did what they could to make the French pay for their temerity.



The various large and medium bore batteries of Gibraltar also took their toll on the French, doing considerable damage to a couple of the smaller ships.


As the vehicles began making their way to their mysterious final destinations,, along their separate routes, a rather innocous looking surface vessel was reported by some eye witnesses to be moored at the end of the large mole.





The French carrier LES ARCS launched two squadron's of fighters, which proceeded to attack the British and cause some serious damage, even as the three vehcles made their way to their as-yet unknown destinations.


Casten-Smith agonized for a time over the decision to fire or not fire lage caliber guns at the moving vehicles.  In the end, he realized there would be serious repercussions over the probable collateral damage that would ensue, and there was no guarantee, in the busy streets below, and given the smoke, haze, and confusion, that the vehicles he targeted were really the suspect vehicles at all.  So for a while he held his fire.



As the Japanese fleet turned to deliver a devastating broadside on the French, Admiral Sharou knew he had to make full steam, had to use the speed advantage of his vessels to his advantage, even as the Austro-Hungarians started nipping at the leading edge of the Japanese.



Unfortunately for the French, the exchange of fire with the British and the Japanese cost them the L'EPEE, the LOIRE, and the CHARLAMAGNE, although the British also suffered the loss of three of their escort class vessels.



In the waning stages of the battle, Admiral Sharou made good his escape with LES ARCS, JEANNE LA PUCELLE, and their gaggle of escorts, headed for the safety of the open Mediterranean and the cover of a large French surface naval fleet sitting in international waters.


Admiral Bucanon was in an excellent position to cover for the withdrawing French and he, in turn, turned his fleet to the east and soon made good his escape, but not without the eventual loss of almost all of his rocket boats.


Admiral Phiyapamoto fended off the coveing attack conducted by the Austro-Hungarian rocket boat diversion and exchanged long range shots with the Austrian-Hungarians as they withdrew from the area.  The Japanese then returned for rest and refit over Gibraltar in the days that followed, before resuming their round the world cruise.


As for Casten-Smith, he finally had his opportunity to fire on one of the suspected vehicles, as it moved out of the civilian areas of the city and entered the land end of the large mole.  The British aerial bombardment was accuate and effective, in fact destroying the vehicle and holing part of the large mole.  However, the British were not as lucky as they would have hoped.  Searching the wreckage they could neither identify the body of any of the member's of the La'Strange family, nor find evidence of the Staff of Wubakhamun.


Casten-Smith had realized then that the Phoney War was at an end.  Fighting the French and her allies under the Atlantic, in the murky neutral depths, was a tussle.  Fighting over a colony like French Northwest Africa was a wrestle.  But fighting in and over and firing on Gibraltar, a military fortification and part of Britain's Empire, was a down right fist fight.


Dante loved the way Farthingsworth ended his book.


"As that brutal morning became a mournful midday over Gibraltar, a small French plane quickly and unexpectedly touched down on a still-quiet stretch of straight road in the southern most part of the peninsula.  The few British AA guns in the area were strangely silent at this, thanks in no doubt to the work of the Spanish underground resistance to Brithish occupation."


"Having departed LES ARCS with the rest of the launched aircraft, this lone plane and its two-plane escort had managed to fly low and unobserved to this rendezvous point.  As the grey sedan quickly pulled up and stopped, its passenger door flew open and Charles La' Strange, with a wrapped parcel in hand, rushed for the waiting aircraft."


"The contents of that parcel and the affirmation of Casten-Smith's dire predictions would both combine to bring ruin to Europe within the year."



With all of this history rattling around in his head, Dante's path to the library, where he planned to excitedly tell Miss Gann of his book report plans, was on autopilot.  His "plane" was about to crash, for as he rounded the last corner, he ran straight into Jamal.


"Where do you think YOU are going, you little runt?!?!", bellowed Jamal, giving Dante a solid shove backward.


Angry and frustrated with all that he'd had to suffer at the hands of bullies like Jamal, Dante reacted the only way a kid pushed to his limits could.


As Jamal closed on Dante, with malice in his eyes, Dante swung as hard as he could.  The loud crunch from that heavy book meeting flesh, Jamal's shout of pain, and the crash as he hit the floor could all be heard through the open library door.


Miss Gann came out the door in an instant, determined to find out what had happened.  Eyeing the situation she shouted, "Dante Broussard and Jamal Wubaqui, what on EARTH is going on out here"?  "Your fathers will NOT be happy about this!!"

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.



Out of Africa

Posted by Andy on February 4, 2016 at 1:30 AM Comments comments (1)

Breathlessly, eleven year old Dante Broussard closed the door behind him.  He'd slipped through this way a number of times, to evade the bullies stalking him in the school's halls beyond.  He found solace and comfort here, amongst the books of the library of Donald J. Trump Middle School.


Dante silently wandered over to his favorite section, History.  Like his father, he found books on military history particularly fascinating.  He'd been here many times before, at the tail end of lunch, evading the mean kids who were too dumb to come look for him in here.


As his eyes scanned the familiar spines of the books, his gazed lingered on one that he didn't recall seeing before.  Perhaps Miss Gann had put a new book on the shelf.  He was always interested in reading something new, about a historic battle he hadn't heard of before.  He liked quizzing his father later, to see if he knew as much as young Dante had discovered.


Sliding the book off the shelf, he glanced at the publisher's name.  Cussler Publishing House, he read.  His father wouldn't think much of that, often cautioning his son that some publishers, like Cussler, were prone to exageration - might publish as historic fact information that was really based on rather questionable historic research.


Dante noted the title and sub-title, "Out of Africa : The British Military Exodus of 1895".  He also took note of the author, a Major Dr. Werther Farthingsworth, retired.  He'd have to ask his father about the name, he didn't recall seeng other books by this author, and he'd spent lots of time browsing the military history books in this room.


Knowing he had little time before the bell would ring and he'd have to rush off to class, Dante flipped the book over and read the back.




"Following the March 1895 five-fleet aeronef battle over and for control of the skies of French North West Africa, the British chose the uncharacteristic course of action and withdrew their forces from the region altogether.  That they had sent the Conservators of the British Museum into Africa to search for relics of Ancient Elbonia, under the cover of the battle, would suggest that their dramatic and unsual decision to exit out of Africa after the battle was undoubtedly related to their archeological expedition."



"In late March 1895, British Flight Admiral Stephen Casten-Smith, CinC British Africa, was faced with the choice of three possible routes "out of Africa".  Code named Rock, Paper, and Scissors, Casten-Smith opted for the one route that would take his forces to the Mediterranean coast the fastest, Paper.  Placing Rear Flight Admiral Robert Wubhearst in charge, Casten-Smith hoped his forces could avoid a large proportion of the hostile forces arrayed against them."




"Having divided their own fleets to try and intercept the British, patrolling forces of the Ottoman Empire, Italy, and Austria-Hungary were all in position to offer some, albeit token, resistance to an otherwise free British passage.  Strangely absent from the ensuing battle were the French, having eschewed route Paper in favor of concentrating on routes Rock and Scissors"


"The resulting battle for "imperial skies" witnessed the utter devastation that could be wrought with the latest in air-torpedo technology, with the very quick demise of OES KAPLUNK and OES KAPUT and their screening escorts.  Indeed, the Ottomans suffered mightily, at the hands of the British, with the further loss of the OES KAPOW, to concentrated fire from HMAS RWALPINDI and HMAS ISANDLWANA."




"Wubhearst's fleet did not escape unscathed, however.  While it would later be borne out that the British had indeed managed to extricate their archeological findings from Africa, it cost them the HMAS ISLANDLWANA, as it was tragically torn from the skies by the concentrated might of the Austro-Hungarians."







Fascinated and wanting to learn more, Dante reluctantly place the book back on the shelf, sliding it between two other volumes he hadn't noticed before, "Trouble on the Rocks" and "Between a Rock and a Hard Place".  


Just then he heard the peels of the school bell sound.  He'd have to tell his father about this book; have to ask him about the role the French seemingly DID NOT play in a region of great interest to them.  That his father was a staunch advocate of all things France meant he imagined his old man would have a strong opinion on the matter...


A Harrowing Adventure

Posted by Andy on August 20, 2015 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (0)

A Harrowing Adventure - by Major Dr. Werther Farthingsworth, retired


Reprinted by kind permission of the London Gazette, 25 August, 1895


Here I sit, quite comfortably now, in my Kensington flat, cigar and brandy firmly in hand.  Still recuperating from my harrowing adventures of March past.  The gentle rain, falling on the window before me, quite the contrast from the palpations I feel still when I think upon my recent experiences.


It all started for me in early March of this year, when, accompanied by my trusted man-servant of twenty years, Mustafa Gahtan, we set out to French West Africa, on Safari.  In the lands once known as Ancient Elbonia, cradle of the Wubakhamun led Elbonian Civilization; a distant offshoot, and oh so brief rival, of Ancient Egypt.


I sought the great maned head of the famed Elbonian Lion, whose proud visage graces so many of the Pharaoh Wubakhamun's discovered ruins.  In mid March I was hot on the trail of one handsome specimen, when a misguided step off the edge of a wadi, a step that rotter Mustafa failed to warn me about, saw me quite literally "break-a-leg".




Evacuated through the French colonial city of Cantwellabu, my time in the Boer War, and years spent serving in Her Majesty's - God bless 'er - Army, saw me transported to the hospital of Saint Bernards, in Gibraltar, where fine doctors of  good standing were able to surgically repair my leg.  Alas, I shall always need this bloody cane, but at least I can walk again.


I was there, recovering for a good while, when near the beginning of April a number of military casualties were brought in.  Seemed the bit of international bother of late with the Frenchies had brewed up a bit, over the skies of French West Africa, as it turned out, and Saint Bernards had on several occasions served as a military hospital.




Eager to learn more of what had transpired, and with nothing better to keep myself busy, as I recuperated, I kept a keen ear open, and overheard the poor injured bastard aeronauts of Her Majesty's - God bless 'er - Royal Aero Force, telling and retelling their war stories.


It seems quite the brouhaha had unfolded in those war-torn African skies.  For not one, or two, but as many as five aeronef fleets were rumored to have engaged one another over those bedeviled sands.  Our own beloved RAF, the ugly Frenchies, the greasy Italians, the sniviling Austro-Hungarians, even the dreadful Turks, were all present and fully engaged in deadly conflict.




I was so eager to record the stories I was overhearing, in words and pictures, if possible, that it seemed prudent of me to send Mustafa on an errand.  I knew, you see, of a stalwart fellow, a good friend of mine, and a right proper and excellent artist, living, nay, I dare say, struggling to make a living as a painter in Gibraltar.  My good friend, the Spaniard, Andres Rocha.


Andres's specialties were oils, and I was certain that, when he understood the gravity of the situation, and the drama of the moment, he would acquiesce, and paint for me a set of pictures that could aptly illustrate these brave mens' tales of war.  Besides, I had been a best man at his Caribbean wedding, at his marriage to the captivating and beautiful Tralinda, and I had recited there such a speech, so as to make men weep.  He owed it to me to assist in this literary and artistic endeavour, the recording for posterity of this aeronef conflict, before time and memory lost it forever.


Over the following weeks, as I continued my recovery and rehabilitation, Andre painted as I chatted with the several aeronauts who came and went.  In so doing, I began to piece together what had transpired in the skies over French North Africa, the probable motives of the forces involved and the purported aeronef losses for each.  I will summarize here, but together with Andres' addiional renderiings, do picture a book in the none too distant future.


With a great war surely looming in Europe, the search for R-matter deposits around the world has, generally, intensified.  Knowing that there have been recent R-matter deposit discoveries in West Africa, it is unsurprising that the various European nations would have a renewed interest in the region.  I heard from some aeronauts that the French have built new R-matter extraction facilties in their African colonies, so no doubt they had a vested interest in protecting their possessions.




Having no love for the French, under the command of Admiral Wubbenchivre, I must say that I was overjoyed to hear that the French battleship LOIRE had been brought down by our gallant fleet.  Additionally, I learned that the cruiser PUCELLE and the frigate FONDUE had also met similar fates.  One recovering aeronaut reported to me that he had heard that the Ottomans also had a hand in the demise of the FONDUE.




The Ottomans, under the command of Imir Caliph Looff, a recent arrival in the region, one can assume, were there to spread dissension amongst the native Muslims, in their general war against empire.  One aeronaut informed me that the battle was fought near the Temple of Wubakhamun, at bir Ra'ben'Hud.  I think this may also explain the presence of the Ottomans, as it is commonly believed that the Cult of Wubakhamun has many adherents in Constantinople...




One young officer, who had lost an arm, shared with me his observations.  He indicated that the Ottoman battleship KABOOM had succumbed to French destroyer and torpedo bomber attack, he'd also heard that the cruiser KAPUT had been brought down by French destroyers.




As a matter of course, I engaged in discussion with a number of fellow doctors, all extremely friendly and seemingly quite capable.  In the course of our discussions, I learned some vital details from them, details they in turn had gathered from some of their military patients.  It seems likely that the Italians and Austro-Hungarians fought it out at some stage of the battle.  That they share a common European border, and the tensions I've heard and read about along that border, it did not take me by surprise that they had come to blows over the desert sands.


Ever since the Morton Affair over Perle Hafen, we have strengthened our relationship with Vienna against the French.  That the Austro-Hungarians, under the command of Konteradmiral Brueggeman, were there in force was further evidence of our close alliance with them, against a common foe.  I was later to learn that they suffered severe losses to their rocket patrol force, with the CHURSO, PAGUS, BALATON,  and DUNA nefs all succumbing to Italian fire.  The same fate fell to the rocket corvette SCHWARZENBERG, although its demise was seen to by concentrated fire from Italian, Ottoman, and French vessels.




A pretty nurse of British and Italian descent shared some further information that she in turn had gleaned from conversations with our wounded aeronauts.  She learned that the Italians, under the command of Admiral Holtini, faired well, only loosing the destroyer POLESTRO to Austrian-Hungarian aggression.  I hadn't the heart to inform her the real reason the Italians had fared so well.  I'd fought against Italians in the past, and knew first hand about their willingness to put their lives at risk.  As to the reasons the Italians were in the theater in the first place?  More than likely, they were chiefly there to protect their engineering and financial interests in the R-matter extraction operation.  It is generally public knowledge, amongst learned and well read men such as myself, that the Italians and French are working together on the science and engineering of R-matter extraction and refinement.




It was easiest, of course, to learn of the tragic fate of our own ships, under the able command of Rear Admiral Kasten-Smith.  From a number of sources I learned, and was later able to confirm, that we had lost two cruisers and a destroyer to French fire.  The cruisers YORK and EXETER and the destroyer PHAETON served our country valiantly and the crew lost on those ships, and the casualties on several other ships that had sustained damage, will never be forgotten.




I can only surmise that our own forces were there over ancient Elbonia in order to protect British interests.  That there is a great deal of archelogical interest in the recent discoveries made in that region of the world, and that the British Museum, Royal Geographic Society, and other British establishments have financed and staffed expeditions to that region, one can only assume that our brave aeronef forces were there to protect our own people.  I'd even heard news that some wounded archeologists had been brought to Saint Bernards.  That news, days and weeks later, would come to mean so much more to me than when my ears first heard it...


I will never forget May 1st, 1895.  I'd been at Saint Bernards for six weeks, the doctors had done what they could for me and now it was just up to the healing processes in my body to do the rest.  I had expected to be discharged within a matter of days, and was planning to return to Britain on a steamer, where I was looking forward to retiring to my flat for a time.


It was early morning on that fateful day, near sunrise, when the entire ward must have been awoken by the explosion.  The blast sounded close by and, at first, I'd thought I'd dreamt it.  Perhaps had I been sharper and had my wits then, I would have predicted such an event might have happened, at least been prepared for the unexpected.  Because for days before, I'd noticed an increase in the presence in-hospital of our own colonial soldiers, not as patients, but seemingly as increased security.  Almost as if the local commander had suspected trouble was afoot.


The sound of the blast reverberated off my militant instincts, and I grabbed at my cane and my glasses at the same time, as I'd sat up.  Smoke had billowed in from the far end of the ward, and I sensed a number of armed men rushing about behind me as if in a panic.  A pair of soldiers over to my left seemed to be carrying a heavy weapon, perhaps one of those new fangled heavy repeating rifles.  They acted as if they were preparing the weapon for fire, to defend the ward and its patients.  I remember deciding at that moment that the hospital ward was not going to be a very safe place in those next few minutes.  I was quickly proved correct.


As I was beginning to rise from my bed, I saw him,  Striding into the room, brandishing a terrific rotary-like firearm, a turbaned giant of a man.  Clearly of Indian descent, from the style of his dress and the color of his skin, this monstrosity of a man swung his heavy weapon about in a very menacing fashion.  Behind the Asian I'd seen another man step into the ward.  His face and confident aire and demeanor had been familiar.  It wasn't until after the incident, back in Britain, that I was able to identify this man.  It had been none other than 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.  I had met him once before, long ago, when he was still in Her Majesty's - God bless'er - Army.


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.


Alas, the telling of the remainder of this dimension to my life story must  wait for another time.  I grow weary now, and must rest.  However, rest assured my good and loyal readers, I shall not tary over long.  Just wait for my tale to continue, in short order.

Violent Encounter in the Atlantic

Posted by Andy on June 9, 2014 at 8:40 PM Comments comments (0)

The following passage was found amidst the personal papers of the famous French author Jules Verne. These papers were recently discovered in the attic of a Paris apartment, once owned by the granddaughter of Verne himself, Madame Crystal Verne Imonfeur.


Literary scholars believe that this passage was the beginning of a chapter that never made it into Verne’s famous work, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”. Perhaps it would have led to a more climatic end to that famous Victorian era novel. We shall never know for sure.




I awoke with a start. Dressing quickly I made my way to the great saloon and found Ned there, sitting in silence, and Conseil, my dear best boy, gazing out the port gallery window. It was not long since the terrible attack of the cuttlefish and the tragic loss of one of Captain Nemo’s own crew, a man I had suddenly learned was a countryman of mine.


The Nautilus was riding amidst the Gulf Stream, submerged at some depth. My sleep that night had been disturbed by much noise and commotion, however, strangely, I was not inclined to arise and investigate. Could Captain Nemo have again arranged some sleeping draught be put in our drink the night before?


I estimated that we were perhaps half the distance between the eastern shore of America and the Old World. This great Gulf current pulled west to east and took with it such an abundance of sea life and great commerce and controlled the weather in this part of our world.


The Canadian was clearly beside himself. We had lost all hope of escape along the United States eastern seaboard and now Captain Nemo had directed Nautilus far out to sea, to a destination we could not at this time fathom.


“Well, Ned! Do you wish me to ask Captain Nemo his intentions concerning us?”


“Yes, sir, M. Arronax”


“Although he has already made his intentions known, and there is no reason to expect him to change his mind.”


“Nevertheless, I shall try.”


“But Ned, we must be prepared for any opportunity – to learn more of this craft and the men aboard her, if nothing else, for we may find an ally amongst Captain Nemo’s crew.”


Just then, Captain Nemo entered the room with a start. I had not seen him in several days, not since the battle with the poulps. He appeared agitated and strode directly towards me.


“M. Arronax, I must again beseech you to respect that which I asked of you when you first arrived on my submersible.”


“Please, gentlemen, if you would return to your quarters?”


Captain Nemo motioned towards the door and towards two of his largest crewmen. Wordlessly, they escorted each of us to our chambers, and I heard the bolt slide and, with that sound, my fate was sealed, even as the heavy door closed behind me.


What could this be? Another attack by God’s creations? “Dante’s Inferno” in the flesh?


I waited for what seemed like hours, but was, in all likelihood, mere minutes. Straining to hear something that would assuage my concerns and enlighten me as to what was afoot. Alas, nothing was to come to me, by hearing or otherwise.


Then there came a quiet knock at my door. Once, twice, then thrice before I had the good sense and courage, in all honesty, to investigate. A click was heard and then my door opened slowly. To my astonishment, Ned was there, in the flesh.


“Ned! What matter of mystery is this that brings you to my door, when we should all be locked away?”


“M. Arronax, I am a clever chap, and in my determination to free myself of this wretched captivity, have contrived a way to open my locked door of my own free will. Thus was I able to exit my compartment and come here to you. Perhaps we have an opportunity here to learn what Captain Nemo is up to and use this knowledge to our advantage.”


“Indeed, my friend, perhaps. But first we must free Conseil. His powers of observation and categorization I find invaluable, he can assist us in our efforts.”


We made our way to Conseil’s compartment and he soon joined our stalwart, yet covert, party.


“Thank you, Master, for freeing me and allowing me to accompany you good sirs on your adventure.”


“You have been with me for too long, my boy. We must learn the mysteries of this vessel and its Captain together.”


We crept quietly, as a trio, through the vessel, back to the saloon, hoping that one of the ports was open, so that we may see what was occurring outside. We felt a surge under our feet as the Nautilus seemed to accelerate, and this was followed almost immediately by a shudder.


Upon reaching the open starboard saloon window we gazed hard to lay our eyes on anything of note. Then, I heard Ned gasp at the site before us. We could just make out, bathed in the bright light of the lamp of the Nautilus, another object nearby. Its direction lay forward of our vessel and it was of nearly cylindrical construction, perhaps a third the length of Nautilus. it appeared to be man-made, dark gray in color, and seemingly metallic in substance. The light from the Nautilus’ beacon had fixed upon it, and made it quite visible to us.


We each silently wondered the allegiance of this other craft. Could our fellow countrymen be looking for us, could this be some form of rescue? We knew not.


It was then that the Nautilus’ beacon swept away and the outside was plunged into darkness. Conseil had moved to the port window, and from that quarter we heard him exclaim. Rushing to his side, I was just able to catch a glimpse of another, larger, far more cylindrical craft. This one was briefly caught in the Nautilus’ sweeping light, but in the moment I gazed upon it, I knew it to be nearly half the length of the vessel we were on.


Then, all the gates of Hades seemed to open at once, as a brilliant flash seen at a distance through the port gallery window was met by an equally bright blue flash from somewhere directly above us. In that moment we all grabbed for the nearest bracing…




On April 28th we celebrated our club’s fourth birthday, by returning to the rule system we played that first night on March 11th, 2010.


Following the sinking of the RMS MAJESTIC, at the hands of a French Aeronef force in the mid-Atlantic (in our linked Aeronef/IHMN game at OwlCon last February), Aquanef and Aeronef forces of Britain and France converged over that mid-Atlantic spot to hunt for the wreck of the doomed liner. Hidden somewhere aboard the MAJESTIC was purported to be documents that might implicate one nation or another in the past assassination of US Vice President Levi Morton. Prior to recovering the liner or its contents, the Aqua and Aeronef forces of both nations were tasked with positively locating and identifying the MAJESTIC, and assessing its condition on the ocean floor.




Arrayed opposite each other were roughly equal forces of Aeronef vessels and scratch built Aquanefs. I used a scheme I’d read about, hot gluing CD-sized disks on top of clear plastic tumblers, to provide a 3D appearance to the table. Aeronefs on their flight stands stood atop the inverted tumbler/disk combinations, while the subs on their own stands stood on the table itself. Irregularly shaped cutouts represented the unknown and mysterious sea floor, and its perils. When an Aquanef came within spotting range of these areas I would determine the actual terrain/threat and deploy it accordingly. The Wessex Aquanef rules were being playtested here, and they provided the impetus for setting terrain at various depths, forcing subs to move around or above those elements of terrain else suffer the consequences.




Rob kept notes as we played (John and Stephen commanded the British Aqua and Aeronef forces respectively, while Mike and Rob did the same for the French). The following recap is based on Rob’s notes.


In turn one the French began their underwater exploration by discovering two undersea mountains and a kelp forest at the same depth. The French Aeronef formation flew in column, by squadrons, with light forces (class 3-4) in the lead, heavier/slower class 1-2 behind. French fighters and bombers were kept ready to launch. In that opening turn Rob turned right to parallel the edge of the table. The British in turn one were in line abreast formation with heavies in the middle and lights on the flanks. They moved forward at best possible speed.



In turn two the French Aquanefs discovered a giant crab, which attacked and missed its target. The French undersea force also discovered a wreck, but it did not appear to be MAJESTIC. The French Aeronefs began launching their fighters. The British Aquanef force discovered the NAUTILUS and another formation of undersea mountains. Both Aeronef fleets advanced towards each other in formation.




In turn three the French damaged the crab and continued to launch fighters from the air. Both fleets continued their advance towards one another, in formation. The British exchanged fire with the NAUTILUS.


Turn four saw continued fire between the NAUTILUS and the British and fighting between the crab and nearby French Aquanefs. In the air, the French and British fleets closed range, but held their fire. The French circled behind the British line.




In turn five the French defeated the giant crab and it began exiting the battle area. NAUTILUS disengaged and Nemo decided to leave the two sides to their own devices…he’d gotten what he was after…  Meanwhile, the air filled with gunfire, as the entire French fleet fired on AGINCOURT delivering 97% damage. The British fleet fired back at LOIRE which took 60% damage. The French also lost a fighter squadron.




In the sixth turn the British and French both discovered a second wreck on the sea bottom. The French, however, lost their reconnaissance sub to crushing pressure while trying to confirm that the wreck was MAJESTIC, leaving the British undersea force as the first to positively identify MAJESTIC. In the skies, the British fired on the cruiser JEANNE LA PUCELLE, which was destroyed. LOIRE then delivered the coup de grace to AGINCOURT.




As the game wrapped up and was called, the L’EPEE and YORK both succumbed to focused firing.


In the end we decided that the British Aquanefs signaled the fleet the location of MAJESTIC and London would receive the location before Paris, although probably not by a lot of time. The French decorated their Admiral for destroying AGINCOURT and a British cruiser but have reported to the French people a great victory. The official French Naval records will read that the LOIRE and other naval casualties were lost in a tragic training accident in the Orient.



Stay tuned for our next exciting chapter in our alternative Victorian era campaign, coming your way in early 2015.

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.

Admiral Cussler is Missing!

Posted by Andy on May 1, 2013 at 1:20 AM Comments comments (0)

"This is Gerd Maloins, reporting from Pearl Hafen, Neu Wien.  I am using a new wonder device, a vox recorder, to capture my voice so it can be played back to audiences later."


"Today is April 22nd, 1893, and this morning a beautiful dawn broke over the port city of Pearl Hafen. The accompanying peacefullness was shattered, however, when shocking news reached us that hostile landings had taken place this morning on the north side of the island."


"We understand that a landing by United States ground forces began just before dawn.  We have unconfirmed reports that the invading force is spearheaded by the United States 7th Cavalry (Mechanized).  We have also had unconfirmed reports that United States aeronef forces are also supporting the invasion.  We are still trying to confirm all these reports."


"The local armed forces here on Neu Wien have not traditionally guarded the entire coast of the island.  The Austro-Hungarian backed colonial government has instead put its efforts and resources into"strengthening" the ground defenses of Pearl Hefen, with the recent completion of a series of stongpoints and fortresses to defend the landward approaches to the city."


"We'll switch off this device now and come back to it a bit later when we have more news to record...........Werner, how do you turn this damn thing off?.........  <click>."




"Gerd Maloins here, recording from Pearl Hafen.  We can now confirm that United States ground forces HAVE landed on the island of Neu Wien and military units have begun marching on this capital city.  Any assault on this island would be expected to attack the capital as a requisite to full conquest, so we expect that in the forthcoming hours the growing conflict will move towards us."  


"We have not yet seen evidence of the United States aeronef squadron, believed to be under the command of Admiral Jorge Cussler, however there have been confirmed reports that United States aeronef forces did accompany the United States invasion force.  Admiral Cussler played such a major role in last year's incident surrounding Vice President Morton's assasination.  His threat to return to the island would normally lead one to believe that he would be a part of this sudden assault."


"We'll bring you more as it develops.  For now, this is Gerd Maloins for the Grosse Austrian Gazette....<click>"




"....This is Gerd Maloins...........Austro-Hungarian aeronef ships are moving...........I can see our English allies in their aeronef craft mov.................French air forces are also in the area............turning toward coast...........still no signs of the United States aeronef fleet...................................................................................................<click>."




[We recently received the previous vox recordings here in Vienna, by way of aeronef courier, and have decided to publish their transcripts.  We have not heard from Gerd Maloins for several weeks now.  We've had reports that the United States aeronef forces never did make an appearance over Pearl Hafen and that, despite local forces putting up a heroic defense, a paucity of Austro-Hungarian land forces on Neu Wien meant it would only be a matter of time before the city was occupied by United States army units.  We've also had reports that the cowardly, untrustworthy, French aeronef forces over Neu Wien took advantage of the escalating conflict to strike at and destroy two of the valuable early-warning Austro-Hungarian/English R-Matter mirrors along the island's north coast.  Filling in or Gerd's normal column, in his absence, we are reprinting an earlier article, below, written by him some weeks ago.  --Ed].


Road to the Precipice


by Gerd Maloins, Gross Austrian Gazette (GAG)


Success in the Crimean War and the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 helped lead to a strong and healthy Austro-Hungarian Empire. Shrewd negotiating with Britain, culminating in the Grenadine Purchase of 1889, has given Austria-Hungary a significant colonial presence in the Caribbean. Szent Katerina was acquired from Britian through the Grenadine Purchase and Austro-Hungarian presence and influence has built up in the area ever since, primarily around the island's capital of Pearl Hafen.


After many years of political and military strife in the region, a side-effect of European national tensions, a relative peace had settled over Pearl Hafen until last year. During a royal visit by HRH Prince of Wales, United States Vice President Morton was assasinated aboard RMS MAJESTIC. That event precipitated immediate and hosile action by United States Admiral Jorge Cussler, which has led to much United States rehetoric and a year of economic sanctions and an American led naval blockade of the islands.


Last week we obtained information, from a reliable but neccesarily discreet source, that elements of the United States 7th Cavalry (Mechanized) had mobilized from their home base of Fort Hood, Texas.  Given the fervor and sabre rattling lately occuring in Washington DC, there is some concern here in the Carribbean that the United States may soon back up its words with a show of military force.




On Monday night, April 22nd, we met at the Stag's Head to run the next chapter in our annual tale of alternative Victorian steam punk warfare, using Wessex Games' Aeronef and Land Ironclad rules, Brigade Models 1:1200 Aeronef ships, and scratch built Land Ironclad ground forces that I recently put together.  We also used Brigade's new Western European 2mm urban/village terrain to model the built up areas of the canvas of our warfare, the island of Neu Wien.


Present for this third Houston Beer and Pretzel Wargaming birthday party were Stephen and Barry who commanded the US land forces, Daniel and Joe who commanded the English aeronef squadron, Steve and Grant who commanded the Austro-Hungarian defenses and aeronef squadron, and Rob, Andrew, and Thattaya who commanded the French aeronef squadron.




US land forces consisted of nine scratch built land ironclads and three sections of "contraptions".  This force started on one short end of the table and had as its main objective the occupying of Pearl Hafen, on the other end of the table.  No US aeronefs were in support as our US player and his fleet didn't show.  Still, the robustness of the larger land ironclads allowed them to withstand repeated bombing and strafing from the Austro-Hungarian aeronef force, with the batteship Erzherzog Ferdinand Max in the lead.  




A line, a partial ring, of fortifications (strongpoints and four-turret fortresses) were the only land-based AH impediments to American overland progress.  A duel between a couple of fortified positions and the US land ironclads led to some damage against the Americans but the destruction of two strongpoints.  AH flak towers and aeronef vessels destroyed a couple of smaller US units through bombardment and strafing.  One larger LI was badly damaged from the accumulation of hits.




The British aeronef fleet, under the lead of HMS Islandlwana, was happy to support the Austro-Hungarian defenders as they were under good relations and united in their distrust of US and Germano-French motives in Europe.  They began the conflict by helping in the bombardment and strafing of US Land Ironclad forces but responded in earnest when the French fleet made aggresive moves towards the coastal R-matter detectors.




The French fleet began the battle circling like a pack of wolves, not siding with the US or AH, waiting for orders from a clearly lethargic higher command, but in the process providing practice for the inexperienced French navigators and helmsmen.  When orders finally came through they were pretty clear.  Use the confusion to take out as many of the coastal early warning R-matter detectors as they could, special lenses designed to detect the unique wavelength of light given off my energized R-matter, jointly built and maintained by the British and AH to guard against surprise aeronef attacks from the south.  The French, led by Charlamagne and L'Epee, trailed by a carrier, launched waves of bombers and were able to take out two detectors before turning out to sea and making a break for the safety of home.



Everyone had a great time and one can only end this by wondering what ever did happen to Admiral Cussler and his US fleet.  Only time and Gerd Maloins will tell...

Big Trouble in New Vienna

Posted by Andy on April 2, 2012 at 6:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Austro-Hungary and the Caribbean

(Reprinted with kind permission from the March 19, 1892 edition of the Grosse Austrian Gazette)

 

By Gerd Maloins

 

Beginning with the Crimean War (1853-1856), a resurgent Austria-Hungary has enjoyed, first as just the Austrian Empire, and later with the dual monarchy, a larger role in the world.  No less so than in the Caribbean.  How did the Austrians and Hungarians come to these waters?

 

Having sided with Russia in the Crimean conflict, and subsequently having enjoyed victory in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, Austria joined Hungary in 1867 to form the Austro-Hungarian Empire, joining two great powers into a stronger whole.

 

 

With the 1889 invention of R-Matter conversion, so important in today's lighter-than-air flight, and the subsequent rush to acquire raw materials to convert to R-Matter, the young and wealthy Austro-Hungarian Empire found an opportunity for geo-political expansion.

 

Great Britain had plenty of natural resources at its disposal, given its world-wide empire, but lacked the sizable capital assets needed to finance a rapid conversion of its powerful naval fleets to aero-capability.

 

The sometimes controversial 1889 Grenadine Purchase was the result, selling the British possessions of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to Austro-Hungary for an undisclosed amount.

 

   

In 1890 war came to Europe as France allied herself with Germany and the two prepared for an invasion of Great Britain. As a precursor to that conflict, however, the French lured Great Britain into a false sense of security when they collaborated together on the surprise attack on Perle Hafen, capital city of Neu Wien, in the renamed Szent Katerina Caribbean islands.

 

Soon after, France and Germany used Great Britain’s complicity in the Perle Hafen affair to accuse the British government of untrustworthiness, which gave them added justification in declariing war, and subsequently deprived Britain of an ally in Vienna.

 

The so-called 10-Month-War ended with the Treaty of St. Pertersburg in 1891, as France and Germany concluded that they could not secure air superiority over the British Isles, a necessary pre-requisite for invasion.

 

 HRH Prince George

  

Now, in what is believed to be an apparent move to restore friendly relations with Vienna, the British Government is sending its most able ambassador and agent of good will to visit Perle Hafen, HRH Prince George, grandson of Queen Victoria and eventual heir to the British throne.

 

The Prince, while visiting,  will no doubt speak to local government officials about Britain’s reluctant role in the attack two years ago, and will more than likely seek reconciliation and a closer relationship, on behalf of the British government, with Vienna.

 

On Monday night the 19th of March, with Rob commanding the British, Stephen directing the fate of the Austro-Hungarians (with Daniel's assistance later in the evening), and Gar making his first appearance at a B&P event overseeing his American fleet, the stage was set for an enjoyable, albeit smaller and simpler then I'd hoped, evening of fine beer and Wessex Games' Aeronef, with Brigade Models' finely cast vessels.

 

 

The scene was set off the northern coast of Neu Wien, near its coastal aerodrome.  There, a number of airship mooring towers and sheds rested, together with conventional airstrips and seaplane landing areas.  Approaching from the north of the island, the British royal aero-yacht BRITTANIA, with its small aeronef escort, flew towards land, bearing the royal party.  Moving seaward to meet it, the Austro-Hungarian royal aero-yacht MIRAMAR, together with its own limited escort of three DANUBE class gunboat aeronefs, prepared to guide the British in.

 

Amongst the merchant and civilian traffic present in the area for the historic occasion was the White Star Line's newest craft, RMS MAJESTIC, bearing dignitaries, luminaries, and the United States Vice-President, Levi P. Morton.  Also in the vicinity, no doubt because of the importance of the occasion and the presence on MAJESTIC of the Vice-President, the US Caribbean Aerofleet was represented by a token "diplomatic" squadron.

 

 Vice-President Morton

 

As the RMS MAJESTIC approached Perle Hafen's Aerodrome, and all eyes were riveted on the British and Austro-Hungarian diplomatic squadron rendezvous off the coast, panic aboard MAJESTIC ensued as shots were heard and reports were filed that Vice-President Morton had been killed by an unknown assailant.

 

US naval commander Jorge "Strong Arm" Cussler, commander of the US Caribbean squadron, responded to this alarming news by moving his capital ships, including the battleship MARYLAND, forward towards Perle Hafen, and called on the MAJESTIC to heave-to and prepare to receive an American boarding party.

 

 Admiral Cussler

 

Not taking too kindly to the forcefulness of Cussler's antics, British Admiral, the Right Honorable, Potty-Fartwell, felt obliged to protect MAJESTIC as she headed towards port, further setting the stage for the impending pandemonium.

 

Admiral Potty-Fartwell

 

The Americans exacerbated the situation by firing on the Austro-Hungarian escorts, apparently on the grounds that the Vice-President had been shot in Austro-Hungarian skies, (although some reporters have suggested the Monroe Doctrine as being of some significance in the matter), destroying two of the three DANUBES as the MIRAMAR made its escape.

 

Admiral Burgerbergen

 

Austro-Hungarian Admiral Burgerbergen responded to this US aggresion by callng for his own nearby reserves, including the battleships ERZHERZOG FREDERICK V and SZENT ISTVAN, as Potty-Fartwell moved the British reserves in to further protect the MAJESTIC and ensure the safety of the royal party.  Meanwhile, BRITTANIA had succeeded in mooring and disgorged her passengers, who hurriedly moved by motorcar to the safety of the cliff-side citadel of Die Felsen.

 

   

  

Additional highlights of the action included:

  • USS MARYLAND arrived on the scene and grappled with MAJESTIC.
  • HMS STEADFAST and HMS ZULU fired on MARYLAND but hit MAJESTIC instead.
  • HMS MAORI and HMS ZULU fired on MARYLAND and also grappled with MAJESTIC.
  • During the compound boarding action, US Marines located and secured the body of the Vice-President and evacuated it to the MARYLAND, before the grapple was broken.

 

 

With the recovery of the Vice-President's body, and facing a combined Austro-Hungarian and British battlefleet that outnumbered his own, Cussler ordered a withdrawl and was quoted as saying, "I came through and I shall return!".

 

 

In his speech the following day, before an emergency joint session of Congress, United States President Benjamin Harrison was quoted as saying,

"It has been far TOO long and the American people have been far TOO lax in enforcing President Monroe's doctrine!  NO MORE, I say!!  This dasterdly and cowardly act, the taking of OUR Vice-President and MY GOOD FRIEND, a servant of the people, SHALL NOT GO UNPUNISHED!!  I shall make it the FOCUS of my remaining time in office to rid the Western Hemisphere of foreign intervention, once and for ALL!!  SO HELP ME GOD!!!"

President Benjamin Harrison

AERONEFS over Houston

Posted by Rob on March 20, 2010 at 10:30 AM Comments comments (4)

On March 11 we held our inaugural Beer & Pretzels game night on the second Thursday of the month.  I pulled out Aeronef by Wessex Games and we enjoyed a game in the skies of the 19th century.


The Austro-Hungarians had established a new base in the Caribbean at Perle Hafen and were the recipient of a sneak attack by their former allies the French.  German and British Colonial squadrons were also present and it was a bloody affair.  Each navy lost at least one capital ship, and the A-H defended their port successfully.


The Caribbean saga continues as the alliances will surely shift and new powers are rumored to be arriving soon.


French squadron - airship fighter/bomber carrier.

The Austro-Hungarian battle fleet at Perle Hafen.

Perle Hafen anchorage.

German and British Aeronef battleships clash.  The Looff class German battlecruiser (in BMW licht blau livery) was this game's fresh painted miniature and was gloriously abyssmal in its performance against the British battleship Isandlwana.

German Hornisse-V2 squadron - another failure in German engineering.