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Subject: Last Survivor of the Nile: Breakout from Malta rss

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Chad Marlett
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Breakout from Malta is the attempt of the French 80-gun Guillaume Tell to escape from the clutches of three British ships; 36-gun Penelope, 64-gun Lion, and 80-gun Foudroyant.

This is a description of two different escape attempts. Note that there is another session report of a "what-if" variant of this scenario that includes two additional French frigates.

On the surface, this seems like a British cake-walk, since all of the British ships are faster than the Guillaume Tell, and the VP balance is more than 2:1 (202 to 90). Playing the scenario, however, is a very frustrating experience for the British. First, the Lion doesn't come in until turn 5, and the Foudroyant doesn't come in until turn 9, at which point the Guillaume Tell could be 2/3rds of the way home. Second, the Guillaume Tell is a monster that can absorb (and deal) alot of damage. Finally, the initiative is really with the French because they can choose to fight (get 45VP) or flee (automatic victory), giving the French the option to 'Crazy Ivan' and take out a too-hasty pursuer.

Battle 1 - Warrior Guillaume Tell

In this battle, the French captain apparently wanted to escape by lightening his ship of all of those weighty cannon balls. At the end, Guillaume had fired 24(!) times in 30 turns.

Penelope skated windward and shot ahead of Guillaume Tell to try to dance in front of her to slow her down and possibly damage some rigging. Due to canny moves by the Guillaume, Penelope's rigging went about 50% down, while Penelope missed a number of 50/50 shots. Penelope is really in a bad spot at the start of this scenario - she is only a few hexes from an 80-gun SOL. I think the only good move to make at this point is to do the windward run. While you could risk staying downwind to shoot, a good guess by the French will leave you with a wrecked ship.

As Penelope dropped out of the battle to repair rigging, Lion caught up. Lion was very quickly pounded upon also, again due to several good French maneuvers. This experience really pointed out to me how the French hold many of the cards in this scenario. If you attempt to close, a turn by the French gets you a bow rake. If you attempt to turn to clear your broadsides, the French can run and get good separation. The Lion is also undermanned in this scenario, which the French nicely compounded by getting a reorganization critical. While Lion finally succeeded in doing some good rigging damage and slowing Guillaume, she dropped out of the fight with too much rigging damage to continue. She never got a chance the drop out of plain sail, and the bonus rigging hits were brutal.

At this point, Foudroyant finally came into the battle. This was about turn 20 or so, with Guillaume only 15 hexes or so from the map edge (out of 100 at the start of the scenario). Not much time with Guillaume still making 3 hexes a turn, with plenty of boxes to absorb damage. Foudroyant also needed to back out of plain sail to avoid Lion's fate.

The streak of good French moves finally came to an end at about this time. Guillaume probably could have made it if she had just gone for it, instead of shooting back at Foudroyant. However, this was the Warrior Guillaume, so 'eat hot death' it was. Foudroyant actually took some damage, but Guillaume's rigging really started to drop.

The final moment of truth came with Guillaume 3 hexes from the map edge. Foudroyant decided to cut across Guillaume's bow for either a rake or a ram. The French captain did see this coming, but his only option was to turn close-hauled, netting a speed of just 1. He did fake out Foudroyant, which ended up a bit out of the fight, drifting along the map edge and downwind.

This move finally allowed Penelope to catch up. While Penelope had a good bit of rigging damage, her guns were fine and her starboard initial broadside was still ready. She unloaded this into the stern of the Guillaume at point blank. Game. Set. Match.

Guillaume was on the board edge at turn 30, with 39VP, versus the 45VP victory threshold. Obviously, Warrior Guillaume had a good chance. Victory would have gone to the French if they had either gone all-out combat or all-out escape a few turns earlier.

Battle 2 - Finesse Guillaume Tell

While also tense, the second attempt (with a different French captain) was a bit less dramatic.

Penelope again shot forward, getting a bit more success with less return damage than the first battle. Guillaume responded in an unexpected way, by sailing close hauled to starboard, heading upwind instead of running straight for the map edge.

Lion and Penelope had not anticipated this, and ran too far downwind for effective gunfire. Guillaume, on the other hand, got the infamous reorganization critical on the Lion's crew, knocking her out of the fight for a bit.

Guillaume now confounded the British further by gearing down to fighting sail and started repairing rigging. Lion and Penelope followed suit, and tacked towards Guillaume for a fight. Guillaume then raised sail again and took off, leaving Lion and Penelope again out of the battle. The British were really starting to consider letting Guillaume get away and reporting that a sudden fog came up!

The turns were flashing buy, but Guillaume was making very slow progress towards the map edge, and Foudroyant was coming on fast. Foudroyant stayed in plain sail the whole battle, using her undamaged rigging to pull ahead of Guillaume.

I am not completely sure what the French captain had in mind now, as Guillaume turned into the wind to run AWAY from the map edge. It may have been a ruse to wear around and try to fox the Foudroyant, but the world will never know because during the tack, Foudroyant shot away the Guillaume's first rigging section. Guillaume failed the tack, leaving her in-irons, drifting stern first towards Foudroyant, with only a 10%-per-turn chance of pulling out of it. With, of course, a flustered Penelope and Lion also getting into range. Guillaume surrendered with only 4VP to her name, still almost 40 hexes from the map edge.

This 27 turn battle was still fairly fun, and Guillaume certainly surprised the Lion and Penelope into making some bad moves. Too bad (for the French) that Foudroyant didn't fall for it.
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Daniel Berger
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Nice writeup. I was the French captain in Battle #1. So close, yet so far!
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