Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Dead in the Water (Part 1) - A Man O War session Report from KublaCon 2006

(The following is a session report of my Man O War game run at KublaCon 2006 over Memorial Day weekend. I took notes throughout the game and have converted those notes into a narrative to tell the tale of the battle. Individual turns are marked with the **** and I’ve tried to keep events chronological for the most part. This report is expected to be spread out over several parts and I will attempt to complete it all as soon as possible. I hope you enjoy it! Man O War is a naval miniature's game by Games Workshop and is set in the fantasy world of Warhammer. I have tried to capture some of the flavor of the game in this narrative. It should be mentioned that I was the moderator of the game and not a player - a role that is almost as much fun for me as playing!)

Field Report of Wilhelm Magnus III,
Captain of The Royal Endeavor, Flagship of Wolfship Squadron Franz
In the year of our Emperor, 2543, as told to the Royal Archivist, Leopold Bellinger.

Dead in the Water.

The ocean churned beneath my feet like the gullet of some immense beast in a digestive stupor, tossing both man and vessel about with equal ease. Anything man made and not lashed down would be thrown overboard in a matter of seconds and any man who let his mind wander for the briefest of moments would suffer the same fate. Unlike the cargo however, a man would have plenty of time to ponder his impending demise as the ship continued on with out him. The wind bit into my flesh like the spines of a sea urchin, chilling me to the bone as I stood at the helm of The Royal Endeavor. It was times like this that I was thankful for joining the Imperial Navy and I was bursting with pride to have been chosen for this particular mission. It was, indeed, another glorious day on the sea for the Emperor.

Having been under way from Altdorf for three and a half weeks already, my time to enjoy the above mentioned pleasantries of a long sea voyage would soon come to an end. Nearly a month ago the call for volunteers for an unknown mission with Vice Admiral Sigmar came down through the barracks and I immediately jumped at the chance - I was astonished - Sigmar! His glorious history with His Majesty’s fleet was quite well known and most of the men would be happy to just SEE the famous Greatship he commanded – The Royal Scepter, much less sail with her! We set sail under utmost secrecy immediately and began the long trek down the River Reik to the Sea of Claws. Once on the open waters, I expected to hear more of what our destination was and who our target was going to be. But for weeks, the Admiral was silent and reclusive, nary a word about our fate was told to his Lieutenant, and it had been only yesterday morning that the signal for a command meeting for that evening had been given. Last night’s dinner with the rest of the fleet command had been both a blessing and a curse, and up until the after dinner brandy, I had been thrilled to dine with Vice Admiral Sigmar as he filled the rest of us captains on where we were headed and what our mission was.

The news was shocking to say the least.

Over the past several months, merchant ships had been disappearing off of the coast of the Tilean Sea with alarming frequency. Normally, pirate raids from Sartosa were an expected part of the shipping business and usually the captains carried substantial bribe money to ensure their safe passage. Once pirate ships started to vanish however, word spread quickly to both Bretonnian as well as Imperial ears. His Majesty sent two squadrons of Wargalleys to patrol the shipping lanes provide some relief from the rogue bandits. All was quiet for several weeks until only two of the Wargalleys were found abandoned just 2 miles from the shores of Fool’s Point, with not a living soul aboard and no hint of their fate given.

The Emperor was both furious and yet perplexed as to what should be done, as attacking an Imperial Wargalley was an act of war and even the Pirates wouldn’t be so bold. How do you retaliate against an unknown aggressor?

It wasn’t until a week later that word came from the mighty Dwarf sea fortress of Barak Varr that the Emperor found out the truth and immediately jumped into action. That was when I had been recruited and last night when Admiral Sigmar finally told us of our suspected foe, my blood ran cold.

I’ll never forget the words he used. “When the water is black like the night, when the seas are flat and the winds are calm, the only ships that sail will be the Dead in the Water.” At first I thought he had misspoke, he must have meant “that all ships will be dead in the water.”, but then the meaning of his words hit me…he meant the Undead!

At once the room was in chaos as all of us tried to fathom what he was implying and many cries of disbelief and denial were heard, but Admiral Sigmar held fast and filled us in with all the evidence too gruesome to mention here. Suffice it to say that there was not one of us that slept well that night.

And here we are, less than an hour from the mouth of the Mortis River and the shores of Zandri and the Land of the Dead. Off to port, I can see the glint of metal low in the waves and I have an odd feeling of comfort knowing that support from the Dwarf fleet at Barak Varr has arrived yet it also makes me feel somewhat uneasy as it lends an air of credulity to the situation. The Dwarfs don’t ally easily which makes me think this situation is as grim as it sounds. On the other hand, our so-called Bretonnian allies declined to participate in this little escapade citing the lack of credible proof that the Undead, indeed, had again been seen in the Black Gulf and Great Ocean. I suppose that once a bony hand comes knocking on one of those foppish Bretonnian Lord’s castles, they’ll have all the proof they need.

As much as I wished that all this talk of the Dead was mere rumor and exaggeration, I knew in my heart that time was running out.

Our first sighting of Skull Island came at daybreak around 5:15am. There were no sounds on the sea, no birds, no fish, and no movement in the water. With the Royal Scepter dependant on the wind, both the Imperial and Dwarf fleets had slowed to accommodate her. As we closed, the wind picked up slightly allowing her to move at full speed as we closed on the massive rock formations jutting out of the water. Sometimes when a natural formation looks like something else, it takes on that name - though usually some explanation would be required to point out the similarities to the casual observer. Skull Island needed no such explanation – it looked EXACTLY like a huge skull resting on the seas. Its gaping mouth was at sea level and opened up into a deep cave that disappeared deep into the depths of stone and rock. To either side of Skull Island stood huge spires of black obsidian, rising out of the sea in unearthly formations. The water was covered with a thick grey fog that hung eerily in place, seemingly immune to the natural laws of nature as the wind blew past it.

Something was amiss.

(Turn 1)

Admiral Sigmar led the fleet into the small bay in front of Skull Island, closely followed by our Dwarf Allies. Our fleet consisted of the Imperial Greatship, The Royal Scepter, a Wolfship squadron under my command and a Hellhammer squadron in case we needed some serious firepower. Our bearded friends had brought along a massive Dreadnought, bristling with broadsides and turrets, another Man O War Class Ironclad, a squadron of Monitors and a lone Nautilus. Not much considering we had no idea what we were about to encounter, and with no word from the High Elves nor any help from the Bretonnians, we were hoping that whatever we did come across would be minimal at best. Just then, strange sound bellowed from our stern and suddenly, our world was turned upside down.

I’ll never forget that horrible sound that came from behind the fleet. The sea behind us boiled and steamed and a great beast rose from the depths. Like the screeching of a 1000 elephants being slaughtered, the war cry of the mighty Sea Dragon froze me in place as it came to the surface. Was this some Undead magic at work or had we merely passed over this creature’s territorial waters? Most of the Imperial fleet had passed over its lair already but the Dwarves were not so lucky. The great Sea Dragon began to swim towards the nearby Ironclad. May the Gods help those poor souls.

Any thoughts of this event being a mere accident were quickly dashed as several of the large fog banks suddenly disappeared revealing two sights almost as dreadful as the Sea Dragon – a Chaos Dwarf Thunderfire Battlebarge and a Great Leveller Battlebarge! Although I couldn’t see inside the Dwarf ships, I was sure that our allies would be spiting venom once they saw their hated cousins were again terrorizing the seas. Maybe the stories about the Undead were speculation after all!

Suddenly, the sky lit up like a thousand suns and an earth shattering roar echoed across the waves. The Great Leveller was pointed right at us! We’re doomed! Much to my surprise, the sea exploded far to starboard away from my squadron and in front of the Dwarf Dreadnought. I had heard stories of the Great Leveller from some of the veteran’s of the Imperial Navy. It fired a massive projectile that exploded on contact usually obliterating any ship caught in its massive fire arc. Luckily, the Leveller is prone to great deviation or even better, misfiring at crucial times, often destroying it or the ship completely. We had no reprieve as we advanced into range as the Thunderfire Battlebarge pivoted in place and took aim right at the Royal Scepter! There were only 2 rockets launched from its decks but only 1 hit the Greatship’s large forecastle, obliterating it into a thousand shards of wood. I could only pray that Admiral Sigmar had not been standing there moments before.


I wondered where our Wizard was during these initial moments. Shouldn’t he be doing something to help us? I could see no sign of him on the Royal Scepter and suddenly realized that it was possible we had lost by our command and our spellcaster in one fell swoop.

Another fogbank disappeared and suddenly we had 3 Chaos Dwarf Thunder-rollers being straight down on the fleet. Thunder-rollers only have a single bow mounted cannon and normally are not a big threat, but if you happen to be directly in their path as they use their Thunder-roller attack, you could be in some serious trouble. I looked up to see our Hellhammer squadron straight ahead of their incoming ships, watching in disbelief as the Thunder-rollers churned the water.

I barked out the order for ramming speed to my first mate and our Wolfship lurched forward in the water as the men pulled the oars with a vengeance. These Chaos Dwarfs were about to taste some sweet revenge for attacking the Admiral – Wolfship style! Our very own Royal Endeavor’s mighty ram head bit into the thin hull of the Thunder-roller with ease, shattering the cross-supports and allowing the sea to rush in and quickly fill the hull. In mere seconds it was beneath the waves, its crew in the water trying to grab something to stay afloat. Without a 2nd thought we bore down on them and drove them under the bow. The other 2 Wolfships in our squadron were unable to ram and the Chaos Dwarfs managed to stay out of their broadside fire arcs for the moment much to the frustration of Captain’s Hooker and Midden.

Sensing opportunity, the Thunder-rollers closed into our fleet and attacked the Wolfship Alliance, with 4 attacks, 2 of which caused any damage. The 2nd Thunder-roller made a last second turn towards our Greatship and made a single cannon attack that punched a perfect round hole through the sails and we could hear the cheers of her crew from as far away as we were. The last of the Thunder-rollers ineffectually ran into the Wolfship Justice, much to our amazement!

As the smoke cleared on the Royal Scepter, my spirits soared as I could see the brilliant blue uniform of Admiral Sigmar on the stern of the ship, giving the order to fire the starboard cannons. The 3 broadside attack merely did cosmetic damage to the nearest Thunder-roller but it lifted the men’s spirits none the less.

Another series of brilliant flashes appeared on the Thunderfire decks as 8 more rockets took off and crashed onto the decks of the Royal Scepter. Curses! How could that thing have reloaded so quickly? The mighty Greatship was not so lucky this time as 4 of the rockets appeared to do major damage, one being a critical hit that started a fire.

My attention was drawn to aft as I heard the mighty turreted cannons of the Dreadnought fire upon the Sea Dragon that was almost upon the smaller Ironclad. Their aim was true as the great beast bellowed in agony as it took several wounds before finally reaching the Ironclad. While we watched transfixed as the beast descended upon the Dwarf ship, again the sky lit up like the very furnaces of hell itself and I knew that the Great Leveller had again fired. It appeared to be still aiming at our Wolfship squadron but again the shot deviated far from our ships. I was wondering how long our luck would hold out.

As the mighty Sea Dragon reared its massive head back to attack, the Ironclad’s front turret was able to get off a single shot in an attempt to drive the foul beast away. With all the confusion and chaos, the shot was wide and the crew waited momentarily for the coming inferno. With a great screech, the beast open it’s gaping mouth and a vile liquid spewed forth, igniting instantly as it came in contact with the air. The bow of the ship took the brunt of the attack and I’m sure no one was surprised to see it ablaze as the beast’s head swayed to and fro.

The Captain of the lead Hell-hammer gave the order to fire at close range to the nearest Hull Destroyer and the massive cannonball literally blew the Hull-destroyer out of the water. From my observations, that already was two Chaos Dwarf ships sent to the bottom and we hadn’t lost any!

Some of our Dwarf friends disappeared beneath the sea as the strange looking Nautilus submerged under the seas, only it’s small periscope visible to the untrained eye. I could see the underwater trail of one of the Clockwork torpedo’s as it left the Nautilus and headed towards the Great Thunderfire Battlebarge. My hope that the torpedo would bite home and send them to the deep depths were quickly dashed as the torpedo cut through the water to the rear of the ship’s stern… so close!

Suddenly I heard cheering and shouts and several crews of nearby Imperial ships were pointing to the south east. I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was an Elf fleet from Ulthuan coming to our aid in our moment of need! I could see a squadron of Hawkships on the horizon and further east was an Eagleship! We might survive this day after all!

Our good fortune quickly turned to doom as one of the most terrifying sites you will ever see appeared out of the mist... an Undead Floating Necropolis! I had only heard stories of such ships when I was but a small child. A Floating Necropolis is a small city afloat, a repository of all that is unholy and evil. I now knew where all the missing crews had ended up from those earlier merchant attacks – no doubt they were now aboard the Necropolis, serving their new lord without any life coursing through their dilapidated bodies. I had friends on some of those ships… would I encounter any of them in the next few hours? It was a thought much too painful to consider. The Necropolis seemed to eerily float across the waves as it went directly into the wind and towards the High Elf fleet. Definitely, not a good sign.

Again, I heard cheering and far off could see the unmistakable outline of a High Elf Dragonship. Impossible! Dragonships are seldom seen at sea and even then they are only sent in times of war as no more can be built with the loss of the great Starwood forests from which they were made. I wondered if the stories of the great Dragonblades mounted on the twin catamaran hulls were true – was it actually possible to slice right through an enemy’s ship? I may get a chance see that for myself!

When the Great Black Ark of Naggaroth appeared, I thought I might actually go mad. It was nearly too much to take in at once and the maze of spells protecting it made me grimace in pain whenever I even as much as looked its way. This was insane. How could our small fleet of ships destroy this unholy alliance? My courage was shaken to its very core and I wondered (not for the first time of the day) if I would even see the sun set that night.

Apparently the Dwarf fleet was also concerned with these new developments as the Monitor squadron closed directly onto the Black Ark! Either they were very brave or very stupid. As each ship fired its single cannon, none of the attacks made it though the maze of spells as the Ark appeared distorted and misplaced to the crews of the Monitors.

From behind the Black Ark came another foul creature, a Dark Elf Death Fortress. Picture a Sea Dragon that is carrying a large castle strapped to its back and you’ll have some idea of what these incredibly large creatures look like. It quickly swam towards the nearest Hawkship and unleased its Reaper batteries against it. Although hitting the small and frail Hawkship 3 times, no damage was sustained and the Hawkship sailed on.

The Dwarf Monitor squadron fired upon the Black Ark as it had begun to head right at them and there were hopes of a lucky shot or two taking the foul ship down in a flash of burning glory. Unfortunately, not a single shot hit home, as some of the crews were confused by the protection spell and other successful attacks were just ineffectual against the Dark Elf armor.

Seeking revenge, the Black Ark sailed boldly into the middle of the Dwarf fleet as if to taunt them. “Here I Am” it seems to say, “Come and make what efforts you think you can.” All 4 shots against the Monitors hit their targets, but the heavy armor of the ships proved to be too much for the Reaper Batteries and once again, things appeared to be going our way.

Under any other circumstances, it would be a magnificent sight to see an actual Dragonship at sea. Today was an exception. I didn’t want my only memory of one to be that of it going down in a hail of enemy fire. I hoped all would go our way and my spirits lifted as the Dragonship attacked the nearby Death Fortress, nearly killing the crew that controls and trains the great beasts themselves.

To be continued...

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