LANCER: BATTLEGROUP - To Kill the Worthy King

Breaking, Badly

The carrier slams bodily into the giant nickel-iron hunk of space debris, the impact instantly caving in her main hangar bay. The momentum of the blow slams the Arminius right back into the Wagner's crippled starboard quarter. The force of the impact is too much for the Wagner's already tattered hull and the entire starboard quarter of the immense battlecruiser shears away just forward of the bridge.

On Fleet comms, Caspian's hologram winks out.

Both ships are tumbling wildly now. Lights all across what's left of the Wagner go out as the ship loses power. The crash alarms sound, immediately inflating the protective nanofoam crash cushions to try to keep the surviving crew on board alive as what's left of the UNS-BB Richard Wagner caroms out of control, slamming into asteroid after asteroid like a giant pinball.

Her opponent, the Arminius, fares little better as she ricochets off one asteroid after another. Her hangar bay is torn asunder and fires break out across multiple decks as atmosphere vents from damaged systems. The massive carrier, with somewhat more reserve structural integrity slowly claws her way back into some semblance of control amidst the dense asteroid field she's suddenly found herself in.

Captain Lutjens watches the carnage as his frigate's shields flicker on to protect her from the storm of debris.

"Well, there she goes." someone next to him says. He's not sure who it is.

Turning away from the screen he quickly starts rasping out orders. The Björn Járnsíða is intact but how much longer is another matter but while he's still alive and his ship is still intact, he'll do everything he can to ensure that his flagship's sacrifice will not be in vain.

"Prepare to ram!"

10 Single Target Damage to Arminius and 8 Area Damage to its battlegroup. The Arminius is still (just barely) functional, but it has lost its Daggerflight, while the Diluvia is down to 7 HP. The Arminius' Wings are scattered and still alive, since Wings do not take Area damage. But they are about to lose their home and will have to ditch when the carrier is lost.

5 Single Target to Wagner and 4 Area damage to its battlegroup. The Wagner is down to -7, a sundering hit that tears it in two and exposes the crew to space.

Next: This is Fine.
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This Is Fine.

Commandant Almarik, in command of the newly-arrived Ching Shih, is very quietly panicking. It's her first battle. She was told they were winning.

"This is good," she says as her carrier turns to avoid the debris of the Shaka Zulu. "This is fine."

Gopalakrishnan's cool, confident orders have turned to increasingly emotional exhortations to continue carrying out The Plan even as the Richard Wagner and its deadly payload bullied itself into point-blank range.

Gopalakrishnan went from "no, they're not a threat," to "they will get close, but not to worry," to "the lunatic won't stop!" in a short span of time.

Everything Commandant Almarik learned at Purview Interstellar College doesn't apply anymore (except the Karrakin Funeral Poetry course, that's still good). Union using cheap asteroid-tossing tactics like backwater pirates? A sniper ship charging all the way to point-blank? Toss out the Advanced Battlegroup Tactics coursebook! Throw it all out!

She draws upon the last of her military education. "Um," she says, "Richard Wagner / dead in winter / jaunted far / yon and hither. / Lay carnations / orchids, white roses / now peace lilies / And call him Friend."

Her terrified young bridge crew have all stopped to stare at her.

She cracks a sad smile. "They're our brothers and sisters too. Let's keep some sympathy in our hearts for them."

Junior Lieutenant Browning looks incredulously at her. "Are...are we stopping?"

"Of course not," she says with a shrug. "Target the Turenne frigate with the superheavy. Let's clear up the neighbourhood."

A private message pops in for her. Encrypted text from Captain Lowell of the James I. She opens it on her handheld terminal, peeks down surreptitiously. "Oh good. Very good."

She takes a deep breath.

"Browning, hold fire. Let's not be too hasty."

Next: Flourishes

What I find interesting is the statements "We lost one ship, you've lost half your forces" and "you are still woefully outgunned" are both true. They're at a tipping point, but which way?

Is it possible to capture or just neutralize a ship with boarding parties?

No, boarding parties represent a pretty small force of saboteurs, not enough to take out a ship just with their own abilities (except in the case of boarders that have damage-inflicting abilities).

However, a player or GM controlling a ship can opt for Nearlight Bolt to escape a battle from the 5th round onwards. And a fleet can opt for surrender at the start of a round. So it becomes a case of roleplaying and negotiation. When there is a specific mission objective in a battle (a Sitrep), one side can choose to end hostilities when it becomes clear they cannot win the objective.

Of course, if I am running a combination LANCER/Battlegroup campaign, I could give a party of Lancers an opportunity to board and capture an enemy flagship during a fleet battle, probably as a multi-part mission! That would be suitably epic.


Forgot to mention that Bukharin takes 3 damage from greywash during Logistics Step. 2 greywash tokens remaining.

The battered Arminius is far from finished. Its flak guns send a hail of explosive projectiles into the Björn's side, shaking it. Meanwhile, its fighters dash out to hunt down the last remaining mercenary mechs, exterminating them ruthlessly.

The Diluvia swarm, while greatly reduced by the devastating asteroid strike, is still operational. Defensive drones take up position to guard the Arminius.

And they aren't the only defenders. In a brilliant flourish, another four Harrison Armory corvettes enter the battlespace from nearlight, crossing the path of Battlegroup Sour Brains to make gun runs on the We Demand Hazard Pay, Facefirst, Fool's Gold and Björn Járnsiđa. Then, the attack runs complete, the corvettes take up a screening position before the Arminius.

Battlegroup Arminius:

1) Mastermind Tactic: Perfect Timing (once per battle). A non-unique Escort jumps in from nearlight, as was planned all along, and joins Battlegroup Arminius. We choose a Daggerflight. It gets to take a free Maneuver or Tactic right away, and chooses to do the Maneuver Battery Fire, dealing 2 damage each to Hazard Pay, Fool's Gold (takes 2 damage back from Point-Defense Kinetics), Facefirst (takes 2 damage back from Point-Defense Kinetics) and Björn.
Daggerflight is now at 6HP, 4HP, 4HP, 6HP.
2) Arminius Maneuver: Flak Batteries at Björn, roll with 2 Accuracy for total of 14, which is a hit for 4 damage.
3) Arminius Tactic, All Wings, Attack! to have two fighter wings do Dogfight (deal 3 damage to a hostile Wing and take 2 damage). This wipes out the last of the mercenary mech wings.
4) Diluvia Tactic: Drone Control, Swarm Wall. Diluvia takes 3 damage and goes down to 4HP. The Arminius is orbited by a series of defensive drones. Single Target attacks against that ship are made with +1 Difficulty until the end of their next turn.
5) Daggerflight Tactic: Draw Fire. The Daggerflight takes up a formation to draw away incoming fire from their battlegroup.

Until the end of their next turn, all non-Charge Single Target attacks made against their battlegroup must target this Escort first. Against Single Target Payload attacks that reach 0 during the Impact Step, you may sacrifice a ship from this Escort group to reduce that Payload’s damage by an amount equal to the sacrificed ship’s HP. If the Daggerflight is completely destroyed, this effect immediately ends.

"More reinforcements. The Mercs aren't going to last much longer," Meade observes worriedly.

Tabitha looks down at the battlescape chart, running the calculations in her mind. The situation is deteriorating rapidly.

"We could proceed with our original plan, Captain." CGO Petrov remarks. "I have firing solutions on the Ching Shih. If we are lucky, we can destroy two Purview ships in one fell swoop before the James I arrives."

"Not on the cards anymore." Tabitha grimaces pointing at the Daggerflights, "They're going to eat our shots. The Undine and Unicorn don't have the firepower to blast through that group."

"Captain, at the rate things are going we're going to be standing up against three Purview capital ships alone." Meade says. "I don't like those odds."

"Neither do I, Elliot. Neither do I. Unfortunately we are fully committed at this point. We just have to make do with what we have left. AEGIS? Send a direct message to Vice Admiral Gentle. Inform her of the situation and advise that unless we have a clear guarantee of reinforcements within the next standard day, I will authorize all forces to strike colors as befitting their situation."

"I'm not going to power down anything in the face of these scum," Captain Gunther Lutjens snarls over fleet comms amidst the explosions wreathing his ship. "You've seen what they're willing to do!"

"Captain, I understand the sentiment but at this point we will be throwing more good lives after bad. We can, perhaps, deal with the Ching Shih once we've finished off the Arminius but we have the James I coming in next and once she enters the fray, I don't think we have enough firepower left in our fleet to take her down."

"I have my ship!" Lutjens nearly yells back.

Next: Get rough

This Will Be Rough, Part 4

"Captain, I highly doubt your ship is going to survive the next series of shots from either side. I'd strongly advise that you prepare for that eventuality. I'd order you to strike your colors right now but I don't want to give up on the slim chance that the Purview forces will power down first."

"That's a very, very slim chance," Captain Evans observes sourly as Lutjens subsides into unintelligible muttering. "Everytime it seems like we might establish superiority, they bring more firepower to the field. Are you really going to ignore the Ching Shih?"

"I don't have a choice, Jac. The point still stands - we must reduces the number of ships able to coordinate against us and the Arminius is the easiest kill. Its a chancy shot against the Ching Shih at this point, anyway. I would rather wait until we are closer in to guarantee a kill if it comes to that."

"Assuming you survive that long," Meade observes quietly.

"Assuming we survive that long." Tabitha nods grimly. "Helm, take us in close! All stations fire at will!"

Then, like an avenging angel wreathed in fire and smoke, the Nikolai Bukharin and her escorts storm forward through the deadly void once blocked by the pulse-pack barrage from the Titania, their guns barking defiance at the enemy fleet.

First to fall is the Roy, torn asunder like its brother the Siegfried by the hail of fire from the advancing Union battlegroup. Then the Unicorn and Undine advance rapidly, their guns still firing as the Nikolai Bukharin swings around behind them, her fully charged main guns pointing menacingly at the Ching Shih.

The two escort flights scream towards each other, their plasma trails bright in the frigid darkness. The Daggerflights open fire first, rounds searing towards the two Custodio-class sublines. In response, in a planned maneuver, the Undine arcs downward below the Unicorn as she swerves across her inital trajectory and lobs a wide spread of Snapflights at the surprised Daggerflights. Neither Destroyer slows down and they both streak past the wildly evading Daggerflights towards their quarry. A series of explosions behind them, followed by the blinding flash of a reactor core detonating signifies the death of one of the Daggerflights.

The surviving Corvettes swarm after the two destroyers like angry hornets. The Unicorn is weaving wildly behind firing off Snapflights at their pursuers, forcing them to repeatedly shift their angle of attack and, in doing so, fall further and further behind. The Undine on the other hand, just keeps accelerating altering course only to avoid the massive chunks of space rock - some the size of a suburban neighborhood - still drifting around in the area.

On board the Arminius, the little point of light begins to grow. Smaller pinpricks streak towards it. Captain Ki, however, is thoroughly enjoying herself as her diminutive escort screams towards the stricken carrier, swerving only to blindside an unfortunate Purview fighter into an asteroid as she streaks past them, their tiny pulse cannons desperately seeking her.

Flak guns open up, streams of fire steaking past. A wolfish grin crosses the little Asian captain's face as the Arminius looms in her screen. With a look of triumph she yells at her bridge crew - "Present broadside! Give her everything we've got!"

The little destroyer swings broadside on to the titanic carrier and her guns blaze sending a barrage of shells into the hangar bay and strike craft elevators of the Purview carrier exposed through the gaping hole punched by the Wagner's final defiant strike. The tiny shells, normally of little concern to a fully operational capital ship now find soft innards to feast upon.

Detonation follows detonation as the Undine completes its gun pass and swoops off to rejoin her sister, plowing through what's left of the Diluvia swarm on her way out splattering drones across her bow like bugs on a windshield. The two destroyers retreat back to the safety of the Bukharin as, behind them, the lights wink out on the Arminius. Her core fatally breached and emergency generators completely destroyed, the Purview carrier fades quietly as her crew are left to contend with increasingly uncontrolled fires aboard a dead ship drifting in the void.

Battlegroup Eland:
Maneuver - All Ahead Full! Move to range 3.
Fire on the Brothers in Arms - Roll: 18, Damage 9, destroying it.

Tactics: Destroyer Command - Cannonade, Target the Arminius, Damage 3, reducing it to 0. Diluvia is destroyed as a bonus escort kill.

Wolfpack Tactics: Destroyer Command - Snapflight Torpedoes, Target full HP Daggerflight, Damage 6, destroying it.
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The mood on the Hannibal's bridge is bleak. Captain Ashanti watches helplessly as Strike Captain Gopalakrishnan's image vanishes from the display. Aelita's voice sounds faint and hollow as she loses her fleetmind connections with Battlegroup Arminius. "Sir, you have fleet command. Orders?"

"Maintain bearing, keep firing," she snaps. Ashanti remembers Bannon's last order. Hold the line, reinforcements are coming. The Hannibal's hull plating will hold. The enemy is running out of momentum.

At least, that's the narrative she needs.

The Hannibal's guns continue to fire at the enemy flagships, but the Mirrorsmoke marines have hacked into kinetic gunnery guidance. CGO Ivanov has resorted to placing spotters on the surface of the hull to provide manual corrections. It's not enough. The intimidating bulk of the opposing Thoreau Class Battleship enters scope range, and the Hannibal fails to land a hit. The mercenary carrier is getting closer still, but so far its zigzag approach has kept the worst of the barrage from hitting it.

The obstinate resistance of the mercenary boarding parties is proving a major problem. Armory marines are clawing back control of the ship one bloody compartment at a time, but the Mirrorsmokes just fade only to hit again somewhere else. It's a big ship.

1) Maneuver: Heavy Kinetic Battery Fire at Nikolai Bukharin, roll 10, Difficulty roll 2, 2, miss. Fire at We Demand Hazard Pay, roll 9, Difficulty roll 5, 5, miss.

Rolling to repel boarders: 9, 3. No luck, the Mirrorsmoke marines continue to run rampant below decks.

Captain Ashanti could take damage to unjam control of the Ace. She could cease fire to spend a Maneuver and purge all decks, get rid of boarders. But she's conservative and won't take risks. Bannon said to hunker down and wait.

Next: Danger Close
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Firing In Anger

The We Demand Hazard Pay has lasted remarkably long for a carrier charging under the guns of the lumbering Turtleback. Crew chiefs all across the ship watch the readouts, tense and sweaty. The mech wings have gone silent, one after another. The Wagner is gone. The night is full of enemy mechs.

But a tone sounds across gunnery stations. They're in effective range. All the long weeks they drilled for this, and now their mass accelerators are being fired in anger for the first time.

"Incoming fire, danger close!" signals Major Mahayhay to the marine boarding teams on the encrypted fleet legion channel. Maybe they can hear her, maybe not. At least she's tried to give them a heads-up, wherever they are.

A torrent of hyper-dense munitions carves white-hot rents into the Hannibal's ventral armor. From the outside, it doesn't seem to have made a difference. But on the inside, capacitor banks are blowing, critical thrust systems are bleeding gas, and hundreds of Rittermeer spacers are dead or dying.

"Deploy magnetic chaff clouds," orders Colonel Milch. He doesn't have the luxury to enjoy the blow his ship has struck, not even for an instant. "Reload the accelerator carousels, she's going to need another volley before she goes down!"

The Hazard Pay swiftly becomes obscured behind an expanding field of defensive measures, launched from silos all along its length.

Battlegroup Sour Brains:

1) Maneuver: Scrapcaster, using banked +1 Accuracy. Total roll is 12, hit for 4d6 Overkill damage. After rerolling 1s, final damage is 13. Hannibal is knocked down to 19HP.

Until end of its next turn, Single Target Attacks against the We Demand Hazard Pay are at +1 Difficulty.

Place 2 Reloading counters on Scrapcaster.

Next: Survival
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