Shell Case Shorts 12 – Winner 2

The second winner of Shell Case Shorts 12 has written a superb story set in the Dystopian Wars universe but with a far more…domestic twist to it. Enjoy…

The Circus – by Al Phillips

The crack of the gunshot made people scream and scatter in every direction, women scooping up their children and running for the nearest place of safety as the report of the pistol echoed all around the buildings of the Strand. The bullet impacted squarely in the back of the fleeing Prussian spy, pitching him face first on to the cobbled frost covered street with a thud as loyal subjects to the Crown scattering in every direction.

Special Investigator Barclay Pensworth holstered his service revolver his breathing heavy and fogging in the winter air. Pulling his jacket closed, he approached the man lying in an expanding pool of blood, cursing himself for going for the kill shot rather than wounding him. Dead men can’t talk. Wounded men do, especially once the interrogators get hold of them. And the interrogators he knew weren’t the kind of men to let a little blood and a bullet hole put them off.

Crouching down Pensworth rolled the dying agent on to his back. The man, in his thirties, in a cheap tweed suit and messy curled hair took a swing for him but in his weakened state Pensworth batted the fist aside easily enough and pinned the spy down, knee rested firmly on his chest.

‘What was your mission?’ He asked in faultless Prussian. The man didn’t have long left and the analysts back at the Circus had already confirmed his identity, wasting time asking him about it would only benefit the Prussian’s plans, not his.

The agent started to laugh but it degenerated into a hacking, choking cough as blood began to fill his lungs.  ‘We spend half our time looking over our shoulders,’ the agent gurgled in perfectly pronounced English. ‘Convinced that Special Branch is about to spring a trap and kill us all.’ More coughing and blood boiled up out of the agent’s throat and joined the spreading pool beneath him. ‘But you don’t know anything. You think we’re just interested in stealing documents and fucking your secretaries for secrets.’ The spy shook bodily and his face drained of colour, his eyes taking on a glassy look.

Pensworth had seen it a dozen times before and started to stand. The agents hand shot out and pulled him down, bloody hands smearing his shirt with gore.

‘Dies ist nur der Anfang…’ He said before his breath gave out and his body went limp.

Barclay Pensworth stood, his face set with a grim distaste as Clement Barrington arrived on the scene, panting, hands on his knees and sweat seeping through his jacket.

‘What did he say?’ Barrington gasped.

‘This is just the beginning.’

***

Pensworth sat at his desk at the Internal Securities Department, 12 Millbank, London, staring at the coroner’s photo of the dead Prussian spy. The man’s last words were still ringing in his ears as all around him teams of analysts and researchers scrutinised documents, listened to wire taps and deciphered messages from every corner of the Britannian Empire and beyond for some shred of an indication of what the many enemies of Britannia were plotting.

Pensworth knew that there were dozens of spies operating in England alone. Everyone of them hell-bent on learning anything they could about the Britannian war effort and feeding it back to their superiors. Pensworth and his fellow Special Investigators knew this because the Crown had sent hundreds of its own agents around the world to do exactly the same thing. But unlike the thuggish tactics of the Yanks or the sadistic streak of the Prussians, the Internal Securities Department had a remarkable success rate when it came to turning those enemy agents to the will of her Majesty’s war effort.

Setting the photo aside he opened the file that had been hastily compiled as the pieces of the puzzle concerning the Prussian spy’s duplicity had fallen into place. Nothing jumped out at him. Pensworth had learned the man’s real name was Moritz Schweiger, not James Kendal as his impressively convincing counterfeit documents stated. Schweiger it seemed had built a quite unremarkable cover which, from experience, was the best kind.

He had led an unremarkable life as a waiter in some of London’s nicer restaurants, always paid his rent on time, had friends which he visited regularly and even donated money to the Royal War Orphans Trust. He was even seeing a rather pretty young thing, judging by her picture, who was the daughter of the mining magnate Lord Gerald John Richardson the fifth. A veteran of the Crimean and personal friend to Prince Albert, after he was discharged from service he had made his fortune in mining raw materials and after Albert’s death had stayed in close contact with her Majesty.

The funny thing was, Pensworth thought, it wasn’t his connection with the Lord, and therefore her Majesty, that had set alarm bells ringing but Mister Kendal’s parents. The family had, apparently, repatriated from Hong Kong eighteen months ago yet his parents were nowhere to be seen and their beloved son was slumming it waiting tables. Furthermore he would make a phone call every Sunday, regular as clockwork to a West London phone number and, according to the wire taps, spoke to his father. Yet despite the apparent closeness he never once went to visit them or them him which didn’t sit right for parents that would pay hundreds of pounds to transport him from the other side of the world. Pensworth’s instructor when he joined the ISD had always told him; the devil is in the details.

Flicking through the dossier he knew this to be true more than ever with Schweiger. Both the address he had phoned and Schweiger’s home had already been searched. Both locations had turned up very little other than enough transmission and cipher equipment to keep the boys in Technical happy for weeks. Regardless there was nothing to indicate a wider plot beyond the usual espionage and clandestine activities.

Pensworth’s superiors had told him to close the case and move onto a suspected Russian spy network operating out of a Gentlemen’s Club in Soho. The Russians weren’t subtle; it was an easy collar and could wait. Besides these things always went down the same way and he didn’t relish the thought of a protracted gun battle.

But more than that, the dying man’s last words still nagged at him. He took out the photo of the dead man and stared at it once more. He looked past the peaceful expression, the pool of blood, the overly white tooth that contained cyanide that the agent didn’t get the chance to use. He relaxed his eyes and let the entire image sink into his mind.

He blinked as he noticed for the first time a familiar lapel badge pinned to Schweiger’s jacket. He yanked open the top draw of his desk, his hand snaking in amongst the files, half eaten bags of boiled sweets, the cigar tin that contained his last Cohiba as his hand closed around the handle of the looking-glass something heavy slammed into the desk draw, trapping his arm. He yelped in pain and surprise yanking his arm free.

Looking up irritated he saw that the something heavy was Clement.

‘Sorry about that old boy,’ He beamed taking a bite from a sandwich. He leaned over his partner’s shoulder. ‘I thought the Ringmaster had already told you to put Gerry to bed.’

‘He did Clem, but something doesn’t sit well with me.’ He poked the photo. ‘What do you make of that?’ Indicating the lapel badge.

Clem leaned closer, the smell of tuna ripe on his breath. His small eyes, surrounded by a flushed and podgy face, squinted.

‘Looks like the membership badge for the Beefsteak Club on Irving Street.’

‘How on Earth do you know that?’ Pensworth asked. Clement smiled and turned his jacket lining outwards so his partner could see the small round badge.

‘Because I’m a member Barclay old boy.’

‘So how does a waiter, earning three shillings and nine pence per week afford a club membership?’ Clement shrugged as he pushed the rest of the sandwich into his mouth. Pensworth shook his head at his partner. ‘Well grab your coat fatty, we’re going to find out.’

***

The Beefsteak Club was like most of the other up market Gentlemen’s Clubs of London: wood panelling on every wall, tall back leather chairs, thick cigar smoke and burlesque shows three times a day. Had Barclay Pensworth’s mother still been alive she would have been mortified that her eldest son was in such an establishment.

He and Clement walked through the club, noticing fellow members of Special Branch, her Majesty’s crown court and seventeen members of parliament all enjoying the show. Pensworth ignored them all; he wasn’t interested in how the political elite got their jollies, so long as they didn’t break the law in doing it.

It didn’t take long for them to attract the attention of the maitre’d who hurriedly intercepted the pair as the systematically and deliberately opened the door to every private room in the club. By the time the tall, wiry and weasel faced man with slicked over hair caught up with the pair and hurried them into his office they had walked in on four private dances, seven card games or various types, two illicit acts that Pensworth would be referring to the local constabulary and what looked like the shadow education minister lashed face down to a bench and having his bottom whipped by a women clad in a peculiar leather get up. Pensworth didn’t understand it himself but was smart enough to let it lie. Political currency was valuable in his line of work.

‘What can I do for you gentlemen,’ Fussed the maître’d after both men showed him their identification. Pensworth leaned against the oak desk. Like every other room in the club it looked as though a small woodland had been felled to deck out the office. Even the red leather, riveted desk chair was the same cut as those the rich and the fat currently wallowed in. Pensworth nodded at Clement Barrington who dutifully pulled out the photo of Schreiger taken at the scene of his death and handed it to the man.

‘Do you know him?’ Pensworth asked, reaching into his jacket and pulling a pencil and small notepad from his jacket pocket. The man opposite him stared at the photo before handing it back, nodding. ‘That is Mister Kendal, a regular here.’ The man’s tone was disapproving.

‘You didn’t like him?’ Pensworth probed. The maître’d shook his head.

‘He was a common sort, a waiter for a footman if I were to guess. It’s the shoes you see.’ The man cast his eyes down at Pensworth’s own scuffed Policeman specials before continuing. ‘But we had to suffer him as he was a member by another man’s graces.’

Before Pensworth could ask further questions the man continued. ‘And he certainly made use of those good graces. He ran up bar bills into the hundreds attempting to brown nose his way in with our more exclusive members. I even caught him harassing Lord Livingstone Melbrooks-‘

‘Wait,’ Pensworth cut in, ‘Lord Melbrooks as in the new ambassador to the Covenant of Antarctica?’

‘The very same.’ Said the maître‘d.

Suddenly a bad feeling settled in to Barclay Pensworth’s stomach, heavy and brooding.

‘Clem, call the Circus, get as many men as they can spare over to Lord Melbrooks’ residence on Upper Grosvenor, I’ll start the carriage.’ Pensworth darted from the office the door slamming behind him.

The maître’d dropped to his chair startled. Clement smiled down at him.

‘Don’t worry old boy,’

***

The carriage growled and chugged its way through the streets as fast as Pensworth could make it go. Unlike the newer combustion engines now available, Pensworth still used a steam-driven model. It was far better of long distances but perambulating through the cobbled streets of London it was a hateful device and made the 2 mile journey all the more intense for fear the contraption would simply breakdown.

By the time the pair pulled up outside the Lord’s home the sun was starting to set and lights were coming on all down Upper Grosvenor Street. The Melbrook’s residence was shrouded in darkness. Both men disembarked from the carriage, the boiler whistling and clucked as the furnace was turned down to idling, and drew their weapons.

‘Where are the others?’ Pensworth asked. Barrington shrugged. He’d produced a bag of humbugs from somewhere and was cheerfully and noisily sucking on one.

‘They said they were on their way.’ He mumbled.

‘Well we can’t wait.’ Pensworth bounded up the stone stairs of the grand abode and without breaking stride kicked the door in. The black lacquered door splintered from the impact sending splinters of wood in all directions. Before Barrington could stuff his humbugs into his pocket his partner was through the door and sweeping his gun side to side for targets. By the time he’d joined him, Pensworth had already skulked his way through the impressive living room and was now stood in front of the hanging corpse of Lord Melbrooks, in the main dining room.

Pensworth holstered his gun with a curse and surveyed the scene. The body had been there for a couple of days judging by its stiffness and stink. There was a chair over turned below the Lord’s feet and the room itself was largely untouched, the table still set for dinner. Walking back into the main hallway Barrington was the first to break the silence.

‘Looks like the old bugger topped himself.’

Pensworth shook his head. The hallway rug wasn’t straight, something unheard of in a home such as this. Folding the carpet back he could see the parquet flooring was scraped and scuffed.

‘Look,’ He said pointing at the floor. ‘There was a scuffle.’ He turned and walked slowly back into the dining room scanning the floor for more clues. He crouched down next to a drinks table and picked something up.

‘What is it?’ Clement Barrington asked.

‘A small sliver of what I suspect was a crystal decanter. I’d say the Lord put up quite the fight. Little wonder, he was career military and boxed for his regiment.’ Setting the sliver down he moved to a small blood spot. ‘Someone took a nasty sock to the mouth.’

He heard Barrington sigh behind him. ‘How do you know all this?’ He asked.

‘Research, Clem, old chap. When Melbrooks was announced as the next ambassador to the Covenant the Circus did a full work up on him to make sure he wasn’t going to sell all our secrets for his very own snow fortress.’

‘Don’t they all live underground?’

Pensworth rolled his eyes as he pulled himself upright and dusted down his trousers. ‘Come on Clem, we need to report this and make the Foreign Minister he’s going to need a new ambassador.’

Then the window and everything around him exploded. The air was filled with noise, shattered glass and bursting wood. Both men dropped to the ground as the dining room and the hanging corpse of Lord Melbrooks was torn to pieces.

Pensworth and Barrington crawled out of the room, glass and splinters raining down on them from above as the fusillade from outside continued. Making it into the hallway Pensworth risked a glance out of the side window. Three men, nondescript suits, all armed with auto repeating rifles. Military hardware.

Pensworth edged round the shattered door and took aim at the nearest shooter, slowly pulling back the firing hammer with a practised hand. He was about to fire when a hand grabbed him by the collar and yanked him backwards. He span instinctively reversing the grip on his pistol ready to use it as a club on his attacker but it was Barrington pale-faced, his hands held up defensively.

‘What are you doing?’ Pensworth growled, ‘I had a clear shot.’

‘At the first one, yes. But what about the other two? That door affords you no protection old boy, they would have cut you to pieces.’

Pensworth scowled but knew his partner was right. The shooting had stopped and Pensworth spied the shooters jumping into a auto-carriage and sped away. ‘After them!’ He shouted, running down the steps, reaching his own conveyance only to find that the shooters had been thorough and riddled the boiler with holes.

A thought surfaced in his mind but before it could formulate a crumpled bag of humbugs was thrust under his nose. ‘Want one old boy?’ Barrington beamed at him.

***

The following morning Pensworth stood in his best suit and smartest shoes, and ram rod straight as the foreign secretary, Lord Cornelius Blackwood, read his report. It wasn’t much and it was inconclusive at best. Pensworth was unable to pursue the gunmen and so was yet to determine who they worked for or how they knew he and Barrington were there. Only the weaponry was identifiable as a Lee-Enfield Auto-Repeater ARLEIV a British made weapon and one found as a support weapon in every squad, in every regiment bearing the Britannic flag.

Blackwood turned over the last page and folded the report closed.

‘An interesting work of fiction Mister Pensworth.’ Said Blackwood leaning back against his overstuffed chair and steepling his fingers.

‘Pardon me my Lord?’

‘All this nonsense about Lord Melbrooks being found hung.’ He said waving a dismissive hand at the report. ‘A load of poppycock.’

‘My Lord, I saw the body with my own eyes.’

‘Then tell me,’ Blackwood stood and stared out of his window of the Houses of Parliament, staring down at the dirty waters of the Thames, ‘How is it that Lord Melbrooks departed these shores for Antarctica three days ago.’

‘What?’ Pensworth’s surprise overrode his sense of propriety. ‘That’s impossible.’

‘Impossible or not, when plod finally arrived at Melbrooks address all they found were bullet holes and bloody great mess. If you weren’t a Special Investigator I’d have you charged with breaking and entering and criminal damage.’

‘I don’t understand, my lord. Melbrooks is dead and I believe a Prussian spy is behind it.’

‘Enough,’ Blackwood raged. ‘That couldn’t have been Melbrook.’

‘I know what I saw!’

‘You forget you place Investigator! That couldn’t have been Melbrook because the damn blasted fool arrived in Antarctica yesterday and subsequently provoked the Covenant in to declaring war on the Kingdom of Britannia. His body washed to shore on the Falkland Islands this morning.’

Pensworth mind was reeling. Nothing was making any sense.

‘Now if you’ll excuse me, I have Lord Richardson waiting for me in the other room.’

‘Richardson?!’ Blackwood’s irritation was almost tangible at Pensworth’s lack of respect.

‘Yes, Investigator, now we’re at war with the Covenant as well as every other damn fool nation we’re going to need raw materials like never before.’

Pensworth felt numb as he was ushered out of Blackwood’s office.

What did it all mean? Melbrook, Richardson, Schweiger, what did they all have in common?

***

Clement Barrington sat in one of the private rooms of the Beefsteak Club on Irving Street and waited for the showgirl. He liked the burlesque shows as much as the next man but he found it all got a bit awkward when the show got to its racier parts. He’s much rather looking at ladies in a state of undress be a private experience. He reached for the scotch he couldn’t afford and took a long and lingering sip.

The door latch clicked behind him and he smiled. Rose was his favourite, and not just because she offered extras. The door closed and he adjusted, making himself comfortable.

‘Come on Rose my dear, don’t keep me waiting.’

‘I’m afraid Rose will be a while longer. Old boy.’

Barrington froze as he heard the familiar click of a gun cocking.

‘Barclay,’ Barrington said slowly, ‘What are you doing?’

‘I’m doing my job Clem.’ Barrington felt Pensworth move closer but he stayed behind him. ‘Or do you prefer Udo Herzog?’

Barrington let out a sigh.

‘Bravo Barclay old boy, you finally figured it out.’

‘I understand the Prussians wanting to provoke a war between the Covenant and Britannia, we were the only power left that they had remotely cordial relations with, but I don’t understand what Richardson has to do with all this.’

Barrington rose and turned to face his partner.

‘You presume too grand a plan Barclay old boy. Richardson came to us. Gave us the means to infiltrate the Circus. Even offered up his daughter to help maintain Schweiger’s cover.’

‘But why?’ But Pensworth already knew the answer as he said it.

‘Money. Richardson wants to be the exclusive provider or raw materials to the Britannic war effort and a war on another front, especially one as seaborne as the Covenant would hundreds of new warships.’

‘All this over money?’ Pensworth spat taking a step closer to his former friend.

‘Don’t be nieve Barclay. This war will burn out eventually and when it does Richardson will be the only man left standing with any credibility left. And the fortune to silence anyone who knows different.’

Pensworth nodded. He had pieced it altogether after his meeting with Lord Blackwood. He’d subtly investigated Lord Richardson’s holdings and finances and noticed not only aggressive expansion in mines but steel production. He’s also identified Richardson as Schweiger’s benefactor at the club. And for one other.

‘Just answer me this one last question Clem.’

Barrington shrugged, finishing off his scotch with practised ease.

‘Why did you kill the maître‘d?’Barrington smiled. It was a cruel smile Pensworth had never seen on the man before.

‘He gave me up. He didn’t realise it, of course, but as soon as he mentioned Schweiger and the ambassador I knew it would only be a matter of time. I knew my own movements in the club would eventually come to light.’

‘And the gunman outside Melbrook’s house?’

‘Necessary. I had to silence you but when the bullets started flying and they hadn’t killed you in the opening volley I found myself unable to do the job myself. We’ve been through a lot you and I these last two years.’

Pensworth nodded. ‘We have.’ He smiled at Barrington. ‘Which is what makes this so hard.’

The shot was swallowed up by the burlesque music and bellowed laughter of dozens of drunk and happy businessmen. Barrington’s body wouldn’t be found for another three hours by which time Rose had been paid off to say that he’d attempted to rape her and an unknown patron, hearing he screams for help, had shot him in her defence. The constabulary were currently unaware of the shooter’s whereabouts.

The following day the papers ran a headline story about mining magnate Lord Gerald John Richardson the fifth being tragically killed in an automotive accident whilst travelling to his country residence. He had been planning on spending time with her daughter following the shooting of her gentleman friend by muggers barely two days before.

Eye witnesses reported hearing what sounded like a gunshot before the auto-carriage lost control and collided with an oncoming lorry but they were unconfirmed.

Lord Richardson’s business holdings were currently frozen by the treasury while a will is found. However, due to the looming threat of war with the Covenant, sources close to the PM suggest that the assets may be nationalised until the crisis of war is over.

Pensworth folded the paper and tucked it under his arm tossing coins on to the news stand before joining the rest of the commuters on their way to work.

Covenant of Antarctica 5th Fleet Reinforcements

As promised, here’s the background for the new additions to the Covenant of Antarctica 5th Fleet which I first chronicled here.

The Department of Time Manipulation and Displacement is the only part of Covenant society that operates with any kind of secrecy in what is an otherwise open and Utopian society. Founded in 1865 whose founders, combined with the knowledge in the great repository,  were fascinated with science fictions writings by the likes of Jules Verne who played around with notions of multi-dimensionalism and the accepted natural order of the world.

Within the year the first Dimensional Transmogrification Emitter was built and tested with mixed results. Professors Pendleton and Kline having pioneered the field of time and space manipulation had attempted to teleport a bowl of fruit 6 metres, from one side of the laboratory to the other. They, instead, teleported the bowl of fruit 6 hours into the future, the bowl reappearing right where it had disappeared in shower of tachyons as Pendleton and Kline stood arguing over who had made the fatal miscalculation.

Further experiments were met with similar results with very little being achieved in way of instantaneous transportation – the military application of which would have granted the Covenant and insurmountable tactical advantage. Despite months of testing and the destruction of their original lab (and the surrounding facility) the professors were forced to admit defeat. Instead they focussed their energies on the areas that had met with some success. Specifically the ability to impact upon the flow of time on an object or objects.

Pendleton and Kline discovered they were able to project and sustain temporal distortion fields that would alter the flow of time, allowing objects to seemingly speed up or slow down depending on the polarity of the field. In essence a time dilation field, as they would become known, could alter the flow of time around an object to allow it to skip ahead or slow down to a stand still.

By the time Jules Verne himself had fled to Antarctica to pursue his life as a writer free from persecution in his native France the art of time dilation had been all but perfected. When Pendleton and Kline heard that Verne was the Covenant’s latest refugee they immediately descended on the writer with bottle of brandy. It was during this raucous, alcohol fuelled, meeting that a break through was made. Verne proposed that the problem was they were trying to move mass through space rather than trying to move space to allow the object to pass through it.

The resulting experiments resulted in success, albeit limited. The power output required to bend the fabric of space was tremendous and meant that the generators were few in number and excessively large for a relatively short-range. It forever laid to rest the hopes of Pendleton and Kline for an effective transportation system beyond supplies being moved more effectively across the Empire of Ice. Militarily Time Dilation Generators could be deployed to allow units to be rapidly redeployed as needed as well as afford nearby ships or armour protection from incoming fire. Although temperamental to the point of fatal, their potential gains were enough for the Antarctica generals to petition the Department of Time Manipulation and Displacement to allow them to deploy the time dilation orbs in theatre of war.

The Department recognised the advantage the generators would provide and so designed an articulated chassis to house the generators for field operations. However, the Department of Time Manipulation and Displacement, which had grown to a staff of hundreds with Pendleton and Kline at its head, shrewdly refused to allow themselves to co-opted into the Covenant military. To this day this has meant that a commanding officer wishing to use a time dilation orb must petition the department in writing who may refuse or recall their assets at any time.

The additions of the CATDO Jules Verne and Thomas Kuhn to the 5th Fleet was as much a surprise to Commodore Stone as it was to his command staff as he had put in his request to the Department of Time Manipulation and Displacement when he was first given command. Something bordering on tradition, most fleet commanders requested a time dilation orb as a matter of course.

So it is with much rancour from Stone’s detractors in fleet command that he was assigned to by the mysterious department. Completely autonomous from the admiralty they were powerless to prevent it and going against the whims of the Department and the last ranking officer to decry them to the Covenant council found himself commander of a fishing scow.

Stone is yet to use the Verne or the Kuhn to their fullest potential, the tactics required forcing a commander to think in 4 dimensions rather than the standard 3 but already he is realising the potential of catapulting his battleships forwards to deliver a hammer blow before teleporting them back to the safety of the line.

To serve aboard a time dilation orb requires the utmost bravery. Aside from being a primary target for the Covenant’s enemies, rending the laws of space and time is a risky affair. Any time a glitch causes a vessel to be trapped in space/time the potential disaster on board a time dilation orb is immense. Crews are fortunate if a catastrophic malfunctions results in the destruction of the orb. If they are unlucky they can be catapulted through space and materialise inside bulkheads, generators or even gun barrels of nearby ships or teleported to unknown point in time never to be seen again.

When the 5th fleet returned to the New Halley docks for repair and resupply, following a successful campaign in the North Pacific against the Russian menace, they found, on the South Halley Aerodrome, the Daedalus Class Apollo and the imposing and revered Epicurus Class Sky Lord commanded by Wing Commander Francois Audet, being repainted in the distinctive 5th fleet colours. An imposing and dour man, Audet was a ruthless fighter pilot in his youth and an intractable and deadly sky captain since fleeing France at the head of an entire air division, every man under his command defecting to the Covenant cause.

Audet’s decision to defect was for no love of the Covenant’s way of life. Indeed he finds much of its reckless need for discovery distasteful but not as distasteful as the what the Republique of France had become since Prussian oppression had set in. Sent to bomb civilian targets in Poland Audet instead took his airman South leaving France behind them. Although he knows his decision to be the righteous course of action he carries the burden of condemning those under his command to a lifetime exiled from their families, never able to return home to the country they loved and served.

To add further insult to injury, Audet and his airman are enemies of the French state with great bounties on their heads making the French military fight all the harder whenever he or the other defectors are identified in theatre.

Whereas Stone relishes the opportunity to bring the fight to his former nation, Audet regrets every French life he is forced to take in his duty as a commanding officer and a Wing Commander of the Covenant of Antarctica. This simple ideological difference was enough to make Audet distrust Stone and wary of his growing renowned within the Covenant. It was no accident that Audet and Captain Emile Rodin and their sky ships were assigned to Stone’s command and beyond professional courtesy the two men disliked each other immediately and in the short time serving as part of the 5th Fleet both Audet and Rodin have clashed with Stone on several occasion, usually over his overly aggressive tactics.

Indeed Stone seems quite intent on the destruction of the Apollo and the Sky Lord thrusting them into the thickest fighting but in reality his acute understanding of Covenant technology and the superlative tactics couple with the command ability of his sky captains means that his air elements always win the day, albeit bloodied enough that they much rely on the rest of the fleet to tend to their wounds.

How long this flimsy and fractured relationship will last can only be guessed at but for now, at least, Audet and his airmen are helping win the 5th fleet greater victories and ironically Stone the fame that Audet so deeply detests.

Covenant of Antarctica Reinforcements

Just when I thought my Covenant fleet was completed Spartan Games have gone and released a preview of two new units including a submersible. It looks like the 5th Fleet will be getting a submariner detachment…

The Fresnel Class Support Cruiser is a new and terrible weapon that has only recently been encountered amongst the fleets of the Frozen South.

The warship is, in most respects of a conventional design, if you can ever call a ship of the Covenant Ghost Fleet in any way conventional. However, the rather considerable exception to this is the energy weapon mounted atop the its spine.

From what can been gathered from photographic aeroplanes, this weapon is far more than a mere up-scaled energy weapon. Upon closer inspection one will see that the objects along the broadsides are not the unusual gun-spheres, but some kind of strange electrical apparatus. Likewise, the great turret atop the ship is not as it appears, whilst it has clearly been seen firing beams of radiant energy, it is not an energy turret, but a great, articulated assembly of lenses.

The only rational conclusion that can be drawn with these facts is that the Fresnel is nothing less than a water-borne focusing array for Covenant Energy Weapons. The beams fired from other vessels entering the ship by its sides, before being focused, refined and amplified into a single attack, far more powerful than the sum of its parts.

Annonnax Class Submersible

The Annonnax is without any doubt one of the strangest, most inconceivable and technologically advanced machines yet seen to come out of the Covenant of Antarctica.

The fighting machine’s existence has only been confirmed in the past few weeks, with multiple sightings of its use in combat along the northern cost, however for several months now there has been reports of weapons shipments coming under fatal attack from supposed ‘sea monsters’.

From the information that has been gathered, and from ample speculation by the scientific community, the following has been established. The Annonnax is a submersible, yet able to come aground and move like a writhing snake – making it equally at home travelling overground or underwater.

Although details are still uncertain, it appears that the great machine strikes at its prey – be it a warship or a tank – by ramming it and attacking with its great mechanical maw.

It also appears to have some kind of powerful energy weapon, although any exact details of this are unknown at this time, as regrettably, no one who has yet encountered the weapon at close range has survived to report back.

Annonnax Class Submersible

Annonnax Class Submersible vs. Ika Class Mechanical Squid

Covenant of Antarctica Flyers – A Review

A few weeks back I wrote an article about my fully painted 5th fleet for the Covenant of Antarctica. In it I made a note about the request made by the fleet’s Commodore for a Daedalus Class large flyer. Well it looks like the Admiralty was feeling generous as they not only assigned the Daedalus, but an Epicurus class sky fortress too.

So let’s kick off with the Daedalus Class.

I looked at the Daedalus when it first came out back in October 2011 and it was this model that convinced me to collect the Covenant in the first place. It’s little wonder, then, that I love this model. I love its elegant galleon-like design and how it clashes with its obviously scientific and industrial construction.

It’s vaguely reminiscent of a paddle steamer with its large, wheel-like, positional thrusters on the sides of what is, ostensibly, a ships hull.

As usual, it’s got lots of lovely detailing, although mine was slightly miss cast so home of the detail around the base of the smoke stack housing is a little vague but once it’s painted black it won’t really matter.

In game terms she’s a bit of a beast. As hard to damage rating as a battleship and a critical rating of an armoured cruiser, she’s a toughie to be sure. Combined with an extra point of speed and the Daedalus is formidable and just fast enough to be a pain in the arse. Armament wise it’s really only at its best once it’s in the thick of the fighting having just forward and aft turrets and broadsides. However 3 shots at range band 4 does mean it can start sniping at smaller vessels right from the word go.

Once it closes to range and gets abeam of something then pain will ensue. At range band 2 it’ll be lobbing 10 dice from the turrets and 6 from the broadsides at you. And then dropping mines on your head. Although I kind of feel this design was intentional by the chaps at Spartan. In my mind’s eye the Daedalus would cut an elegant but threatening shape through the sky, weapons batteries loosing as all around it the sky is filled with flak and exploding shells all the while seafaring vessels below slug it out. Which is all very cool.

In reality you wouldn’t want it to be on its own for long because it would get torn to bits but, hell, it’s certainly make for a dramatic game, the elegant curving hull swooping into view amongst a hail of enemy cannon fire before laying waste to all brave enough to steer too close…

That’s when the Epicurus Class Sky Fortress would rock up and things would get really unpleasant. The Epicurus Class Sky Fortress is an absolute monster of a model. Really huge.

In many ways to relates back to my original review of the Covenant starter fleet when I made the comparison between the energy turrets and the Death Star in Star Wars. Well the Epicurus is the Death Star. It’s big, it’s round, and it has a massive gun bolted to it. Although in the Epicurus’ case it isn’t a planet destroying laser but a launch turret that, if you wonder too close will fire 9 drones at you. Which is just fantastic. It also reminds me of the ‘tripods’ from the 1953 film adaptation of The War of the Worlds. So like other elements of the fleet it’s an homage to science fiction of all stripes.

In the game it is an homage to pain. As tough as a battleship and nearly as well armed, it’s quite the adversary. As with the Daedalus, it’s going to be most effective in a broadside actions but it’s Launch Turret means that if anything strays too close it’s going to get taught a harsh and short lesson. Left to drift alone on in a game I’m sure it’ll make good account of itself but put it at the heart of a flying formation and it all gets a bit unpleasant as it also has 6 tiny flyers too. Throw in your 10 freebies and the fact the drones never run out of fuel and actually you’ve got a pretty horrible formation that has range, lots of guns and enough tiny flyers not keep an exclusion zone around your big stuff. To coin a phrase; I love it when a plan comes together.

Once I’ve got these two monsters painted I shall write an additional fluff post to go with the 5th Fleet explaining their background and how they became attached to the Night Watch.

The Covenant’s 5th Fleet – The Night Watch

With my Covenant fleet painted over a 15 day period and finished (for now) here’s the full background for them, as promised, and complete with shiny pictures.

Commissioned in 1860, the 5th Fleet was charged with patrolling the dark waters surrounding the Covenant’s domain. Initially little more than a task force made up of cruisers and frigates, coordinated by the battleship CSS Stalwart, the fleet was forced to spend prolonged periods of time isolated from one another as they plied the vast stretches of waters surrounding the ice floes for raiders or other threats to the Covenant’s sovereignty.

Before the renowned Commodore Aldus Stone took command, the 5th saw little action beyond clashes with the Kingdom of Britannia’s Falklands units that strayed too close to the Covenant’s borders, but these were little more than pot shots. Stone changed all that. A dour man hailing from the home counties of England he made a living as a game keeper in the employ of the Earl of Wessex. A tracker of superlative skill, a master of the silent kill and lethal with an elephant gun. Working for the Earl man and boy it was believed he was destined for great things. However fate had other ideas when the Earl’s eldest son drunk and in a rage with his father accidentally shot and killed Stone’s wife, the Earl’s housekeeper. Were this great tragedy not enough but the Earl utilising his significant influence had the entire matter swept under the carpet. Stone, realising his true place in Britannian society, was a broken man. Tired with toiling for a man whose sole interest was growing fat on the blood and sweat of the people, Stone made the long and dangerous journey South to the Covenant of Antarctica looking for a life with purpose.

Stone was not idle for long, being drafted into the Covenant armed forces in 1862. To his surprise, Stone was assigned to the navy and the 5th fleet rather than the army. His self-sufficiency and innate ability for the silent kill made him perfect for the dangers of patrolling the Covenant’s waters. Initially assigned to the frigate Too Quiet Stone impressed his superiors with his hit and run defence of the Western ice floes against a FSA raiding party. Although his ship was crippled, and eventually sunk, he delayed the FSA long enough that the rest of the 5th fleet was able to surround the FSA and destroy them utterly.

It didn’t take long for Stone to ascend the ranks and find himself at the head of the 5th fleet off the back of a string of daring actions keeping the Covenant’s borders safe. He achieved the rank of Commodore after he led the 5th fleet into the heart of Port Stanley, the Falkland Islands, on an unauthorised but successful rescue of Covenant POWs without a shot being fired in 1867. His first order was to have the fleet painted raven black to reflect the Night Watch moniker the fleet had earned in their many night sorties and defensive actions.

Although a lonely man with a solitary and single-minded command style that sat ill with the Covenant hierarchy, there was no denying that the 5th was clearly wasted as a patrol force and was pressed into front line service as the Covenant’s warmachine took the fight to the rest of the world in 1869. Under Stone’s command the 5th fleet won a score of victories against the great powers of the world,with more and more assets being assigned to the fleet to extent that Stone’s flag now resides aboard the dreadnought CSS History’s Judgement.

Despite the 5th Fleet’s many victories, Stone’s naturally cold nature combined with his unflinching belief in the Covenant’s cause, has seen several instances of excessive force by the vessels under Stone’s command. There have even been reports of executions of enemy sailors stranded at sea. However the fleet seem to reserve their worst brand of violence for the vessels of the Britannic navy. No one knows why this is, not even the crew of the Night Watch itself, but all sailors of the Kingdom of Britannia know that if they spy a black ship on the horizon they should beware. The condemnation of his superiors is never far behind the 5th Fleet but if Commodore Stone cares he gives no sign.

However, Stone’s popularity at home and infamy abroad has made it difficult for any meaningful sanction to be levelled against him or the captains beneath his command. Indeed there are many within the fleet that believe themselves untouchable, and even above the rest of the fleet. To many Stone is a hero. Others see Stone and the 5th as a rogue element that sooner or later will either turn on their own or be brought to task. Which ever the answer be, none can deny that Stone and his fleet of raven black ships are a powerful force both at home and abroad.

The battleships of the 5th fleet share a rivalry that borders on the reckless. The Sword of Truth has a long and illustrious history formerly at the hands of Commodore Stone and now with the firm hand of Captain Jacob Harris. The Shield of Reason however had only just been commissioned 2 years previously. Captain Oscar Ashwind, a native to the Polar South, is determined to see his vessel recorded in the annals of history no matter the cost.

The Sword of Truth was once known as the Stalwart, the flagship of the 5th Fleet prior to the commissioning of the CSS History’s Judgement. A proud ship with an illustrious and bloody history. It was the Stalwart, under Stone’s command, had sailed into Port Stanley during the daring raid to rescue Covenant POWs. When command passed to Captain Jacob Harris there was much pomp and ceremony as few ships in the Covenant navy had seen as much combat as the Stalwart. Captain Harris was one of Stone’s prodigies and was almost as angry and bitter with the world having come up through the ranks listening to Stone’s rhetoric.

Although Harris had every right to be bitter. Hailing from Boston in the FSA and raised Irish Catholic he had a successful fishing business, a well-regarded family and was betrothed to a lady of good standing and better breeding. And all at the age of twenty-two. Harris was a keen boxer and had a weakness for cards although a sixth sense kept him from losing either that often. But his real weakness was the comfort he found in his fiancée. Both were raised as devout Catholics and knew the risks of indulging in carnal desires but neither cared. Until his betrothed fell pregnant.

Buckling under the weight of responsibility, despite the mutual familial support, he fled to the ocean on-board one of his fishing steamers. It didn’t take long for him to realise his cowardice and brought the boat about. However fate intervened and a storm crippled the vessel before it could make port. Set adrift it took a month for Harris to coax the boat home. In his absence his assets had been seized by his fiancée’s family to support her as she was now all but outcast. Ostracised and destitute Harris stole one his former vessels and headed South.

Assigned to the 5th Fleet as a rating his seamanship skills were quickly noticed and quickly ascended the ranks. He saw Stone has a kindred spirit and proof, if any were needed, that a broken man need not stay broken and his could visit his vengeance on those wronged him. Harris was far better at concealing his anger at the world and his promotion to Captain was quickly affirmed. He wasted no time renaming the Stalwart as much to symbolise the passing of a torch as to represent the righteous history the ship had. Her hull black as night, she was a true predator of the oceans and had the kill count to suit.

To list its successes under Stone would take time but arguably longer under Harris’ command. Volunteering the Sword of Truth for any and all covert or surgical strike missions to test the mettle of his ship and crew. The Sword made headlines world-wide for infiltrating and laying waste to the naval yards at both Boston and New York city before slipping off into the night. The attack was condemned by the FSA and her allies for the loss of civilian life and although the Covenant didn’t agree with Harris’ methods, like much of the 5th Fleet, they couldn’t argue with the results.

The Sword of Truth would continue its reign of terror in the Atlantic Ocean both as part of wider fleet actions and on its own attacking supply ships and patrols with impunity, each attack more ruthless than the last as Harris and his crew became every more proficient at their craft until fate once again intervened. The FSA, frustrated with the constant loss of their supply ships laid a trap, arming the supply ships with turrets and concealing torpedo bombers where possible. As the Sword of Truth sailed silently amongst the supply ships all but submerged, it took its first ranging shot. However instead of scattering vessels, the ocean lit up with explosions as turrets responded all around the noble battleship.

In the same moment bombers took to the skies, the air filling with whizzing tracers and the howl of prop engines. Harris, furious at the FSA’s deception ordered all weapons to fire as the battleship fought free of the supply ships that were slowing encircling it. As explosions blossomed in the night sky the bombers dropped their payloads, torpedoes surging towards the Sword, ripping gaping wounds in the ship’s hull. Fires broke out across the Sword as she fought with all her worth to break out. Harris realised he stood at the edge of his undoing and was ready to give the evacuation order when explosions tore through a vessel on the Sword’s port side. A moment later another supply ship blew apart, its hull snapping in two and dropping beneath the waves. In the half-light of burning fuel Harris and his crew could make out the forms of jet black Covenant frigates as they dipped beneath the waves to unleash deadly torpedo salvos.

Seeing his opportunity Harris ordered the Sword to surface and make a break for it however a heavy transport blocked her path, a 36inch cannon mounted on her prow slowly rotating for a killing shot. Harris did not hesitate, ordering the use of the particle cannon. The force of the shot destroyed the transport utterly but the strain on the Sword was almost too much, blowing out systems and relays and all but crippled the ship.

It took 2 months for the frigates to tow the dying ship back to friendly waters, once again giving Harris plenty of time to consider his actions. That was twice his compulsive nature had almost gotten him killed and resolved to do better. Stone saw the change in him and knew he had become the officer that the Covenant needed him to be. It took a further 6 weeks for the Sword of Truth to be fully repaired. Once again a part of the 5th Fleet she has been restored to a position of fear in the hearts of her enemies and pride in those of her allies.

The Shield of Reason although visually identical to the Sword of Truth is the superior ship. All but brand new the Shield has the most sophisticated technology available to it including the type 2 range finders for faster target resolutions as well as the latest IFF device that allows the Covenant to identify its ships in the tumult of battle.

Captain Oscar Ashwind is as new a senior officer as his ship has rolled off the production line. Brought to Antarctica as a child by his South African parents amongst the first wave of travellers seeking a new life, Ashwind is as close to first generation Antarctican as can be. Growing up with his three brothers they were schooled in the discoveries that were being made on almost daily basis. All three excelled at their studies and all were destined for a life at the forefront of Covenant science. That was until the Covenant mobilised for war. Of the three, Oscar was the only one who felt an obligation to serve his adopted people in the coming dark days. Ever the idealist he joined the navy and bade his brothers farewell for what would prove to be the last time.

During his basic training Oscar received word that his two brothers had been killed aboard a science ship that was heading for a small chain of islands South East of the isle of South Georgia by whalers who mistook them for a military vessel. Distraught Ashwind threw himself into his career determined to make his brothers proud despite their misgivings about the armed forces. Oscar Ashwind was bright and eager and his scientific knowledge saw him spend much of his early career in engine rooms or in the R&D division. Ashwind’s potential, however, came to the fore when serving about the Stargazer, a Plato Class cruiser of the 9th fleet, as chief engineer.

Whilst on routine patrol the Stargazer was ambushed by a French flotilla. The initial volley struck just below the bridge, killing the senior staff and sowing disarray through the ship. Realising he was the most senior office on board, Ashwind took command of the vessel. He ordered a general distress call to be sent and then sent the Stargazer all ahead into battle. Through a series of daring scissor actions and hit and run attacks the Stargazer crippled two of its attackers and sunk a third all the while leading the French on a merry chase around the South Atlantic. Ashwind understood the odds all too well but was determined to reap a heavy toll for the craven acts of the French. Ashwind never got his chance as just as the French surrounded the battered Cruiser ready to deliver the killing blow the remainder of the 9th arrived and tore the French to pieces.

Upon his return home he was hailed as a hero and promoted. His actions against the French caught the eye of Commodore Stone and offered him the bridge of the Shield of Reason. The decision rankled his other officers, none more so than Harris of the Sword of Truth. But Stone cared little for their opinions and enjoyed sparking healthy competition as they strove to earn his notice. Stone had chosen Ashwind for his guile and determination under pressure. Not to mention it made an undeniable amount of sense for the most advanced vessel in his fleet to be commanded by a former chief engineer.

Between Harris and Ashwind relations are cordial. Harris loathes the young upstart for his meteoric rise through the ranks and the fame its brought him, not to mention a string of successful naval engagements that will only help his chances of further advancement. Ashwind looks up to Harris and takes his ship into the heart of the fight in the hope of winning his fellow battleship commander’s approval, unknowing that every victory and act of valour drives a great wedge between them.

In contrast the Olympia is one of the oldest ships in the Covenant armada. Of course in reality the Olympia has had just about every component and deck plank replaced for one reason or another by the ships soul remains pure. Before the war broke out the Olympia and all carriers were designed to be exploration vessels, the drones to be used to map vast areas of land, rather than instruments of war. Needless to say the fate of the Olympia took a different path.  The Olympia has been attached to, at one time or another, four different fleets. Prior becoming the only carrier of the 5th fleet it belonged to the 1st fleet. Revered by every serving member of the Covenant military and civilians alike the 1st fleet were at the spear tip of the Covenant warmachine and the Olympia was a grand a proud part of that.

Covenant carriers are tough by the standards of most battleships and the Olympia was no exception. Often found where the fighting was thickest, its drones flinging themselves into the hulls of enemy ships, she had as fearsome reputation as any warship in the warring world. However, one fateful day, during a prolonged and bloody engagement with the Prussians in the mid Atlantic the Olympia was surrounded and set upon by a unit of frigates. With little crew to defend itself the Olympia quickly fell with little crew to defender her.

Beset on all sides the 1st fleet were in danger of being destroyed. Only the timely intervention of a relief force consisting of elements from the 2nd, 5th, 8th and 9th fleets, including the 5th fleet frigate squadron The Coppertails prevented a complete disaster. Lieutenant Sampson Earl of the frigate Clever Girl spotted the Olympia running Prussian colours. Moving the rest of his squadron in position using the rough seas to cover their advance the crews attacked en masse. The Prussians lacked the numbers to make a concerted defence and within minutes the Olympia was once again in Covenant hands.

With the Prussians driven off the 1st fleet was escorted back to Antarctica for refit and repair. The Olympia’s fate however now rested with the 5th as it was Lieutenant Earl that rescued the carrier and was his to command. Being granted a promotion to full Commander, Earl is the most junior officer in Covenant history to command a carrier, but does so with great skill, putting the carriers fearsome weaponry to as great a use as its drones.

The Olympia is not the only ship to have been absorbed into the 5th fleet. Indeed the Titan, Deimos and Phobos were survivors of the Midway disaster in which elements of the 2nd, 7th and 10th fleets were ambushed by the FSA. Surrounded on all sides the Covenant fought valiantly against a vastly superior force.

The squadron of armoured cruisers moved as one, their co-ordination going far beyond the IFF that the Covenant have blessed their ships of war with. Hunting as a pack they punched holes in the FSA formations allowing their comrades to break out. Ultimately it was for nought and few made it beyond the range of the FSA’s guns. Only the Titan, Deimos and Phobos made it home.

Although officially still attached to the 7th, Stone recognised in their captains and crew the same thirst for revenge that burned in his heart and he gave them that chance. Leaving the Antarctic, Stone took the 5th fleet along the pacific coast of the Americas and, under the cover of darkness destroyed the FSA flotilla at anchor in Pearl Harbour. The destruction wrought by the armoured cruisers’ particle cannons was the stuff of nightmares. Such was the destruction the base was crippled for a full year and even now cannot hold a full battle group within its waters. Branded an act of cowardice by the FSA they placed a bounty on the heads of the captains of the Titan, Deimos and Phobos much to the amusement of them and their newly adopted fleet, earning them the nickname The Wanted.

So fearsome are the ships and crew of the squadron they are rarely found far from History’s Judgement when deployed, lending their strength to hers and leaving nothing but destruction on their wake.

The cruisers of the 5th fleet are its solid, immovable, core. Of all the changes experienced by the fleet, the cruisers of Orion Fornax squadrons have endured them all. Before Stone’s ascension to command the cruisers were the mainstay of the 5th fleet. Indeed when it was first commissioned the fleet was commanded by the cruiser  Galileo of Orion squadron. Superlative sailors to a man, the crews plied the icy waves with the ease of men and women born to it.

It was these mighty cruisers that rescued Stone and his crippled frigate from the clutches of the FSA, the cruisers utterly surrounding the American forces to catch them in a deadly cross fire of turret fire and broadsides. Ever since then the Galileo, Pegasus, Constellation, Ganymede, Griffin & Cassiopeia  have been at the heart of every action the 5th fleet has been apart of, both officially and unofficially.

The captains of these fine warships were at first resentful of Stone’s rise to command. Most of Captain Hendrik Boettcher, the junior of the 6. When Stone was given overall command, prior to the commissioning of the Relentless (Sword of Truth), he was given command of the Constellation, forcing him to take overall command of the frigates. In truth it was the best thing Captain Boettcher could have done. So use to fighting on his own against small raiding parties or single ships it reminded him of the importance and benefits of coordinated attacks at a time when the 5th fleet was beginning fleet sized actions.

After the Relentless had joined the fleet and Stone had moved his flag aboard, Boettcher once again took command of the Constellation, bringing with him a wealth of ideas of how the mainstay of the 5th fleet should operate and although Captain Theodore Bern has overall command, Boettcher’s insight into squadron tactics are invaluable.

Bern is a tough man to impress. Formerly of the Britannic navy and an instructor at the Portsmouth naval academy, Bern resigned his commission in protest over a suicide mission into Russian waters to steal the Whit Navy’s experimental glacia generator technology. His firm hand natural teaching ability has made him the ideal candidate to temper the wilder impulses of commanding officers that have graduated from the Coppertails. Those that don’t heed his lessons either find themselves demoted or killed.

Despite his British noble and naval background Stone respects and trusts Bern completely having proved himself time and time again both defending the Antarctic coast and in the open waters in the thick of the fighting. Indeed since taking command of the 5th, Stone has relied n Bern’s council and has become one of his most valuable and trusted advisors and has been granted the honorary title of master of the armoury. An outmoded idea but a sign of respect between the two men, both of whom were native to England. Bern is a master tactician. Indeed having a defector in your midst can certainly provide advantageous tactics and fleet deployments.

Although not as powerful as the larger capitol ships in the fleet they make up for it in adaptability and possessing shield generators makes them a very tough nut to crack, something that the captains take full advantage of. Indeed it is not uncommon for the vessels of Orion Fornax squadrons to sail into the heart of enemy formations, shields flaring, to unleash the full potential of their broadsides and turrets.

Both squads have served Stone with distinction since he took command taking part in the raid on the Falklands Islands, the Olympia rescue, Auckland schism and battle of the West Sturgeon Straights. They wear their black livery with pride acknowledging the achievements of Stone and the 5th fleet as a whole. Going from coastal patrols to full pitched battles in the open ocean was a gear shift that some of the crew struggled to make.

Up until recently the cohesion within the cruiser squadrons has been second to none. However, after Ashwind’s promotion and assignment to command the Shield of Reason tensions have grown between the senior staff as each captain fancies themselves in with a chance at commanding that mighty battleship. All the Cruiser captains covet the Shield and Sword equally and have begun to keep tallies of their kills and their after action reports submitted to Stone have become increasingly florid.

Fortunately for Stone, when in combat the crews of the Galileo, Pegasus, Constellation, Ganymede, Griffin & Cassiopeia conduct themselves with the utmost discipline. They save the bragging for after.

However few are more blohard than the Coppertails. 

Officially designated 109 squadron, the ‘Coppertails’ represent the light element of the 5th fleet under Commodore Aldous Stone. Made up of 12 Diogenes Class frigates it is rare for a Covenant fleet to favour a particular class of support vessel over others so overwhelmingly. However, the composition of a fleet has as much to do with the commanding officer as it does the Covenants ministry of war and Stone’s history with the vessel makes it a staple choice.

Painted black like all other vessels of the 5th Fleet, the Coppertails earned their moniker because of the copper plating encasing the rear or the ships. This was as much an aesthetic choice on the part of Commodore Stone as to improve the signal broadcast by the Covenant’s rudimentary IFF transmitter. The technology still in its early stages, the 5th fleet rely heavily on it due to their preference for night operations as it allows them to co-ordinate their attacks with unerring accuracy.

The crews of the Coppertails squadron are renowned in the Covenant armed services for their cavalier and bragging behaviour, prone to outrageous boasts and wagers amongst themselves and other personnel. This devil-may-care attitude has been carefully encouraged by Commodore Stone recognising the benefit of war hungry crews on board such small ships. Their bravado is born of those that have a considerably shorter life expectancy than almost any other element of the 5th fleet.

In the water the commanding officers of the Coppertails band together in three flights of 4, operating as a pack and isolating much larger vessels and harrying them to destruction with withering torpedo attacks. And boasting rights to the captain delivering the killing blow. Their boisterous and arrogant nature isolates them from their fellow officers, especially those in the 5th fleet who look upon them with mild shame as all officers in the 5th fleet start their lives as officers in the Coppertails and all were as insufferable as their junior fellow officers.

Commodore Stone started his career aboard a frigate and won much fame stood on its bridge. As well as some hard lessons. He sees to it that every newly commissioned officer assigned to his fleet serves with the renowned Coppertails. Some see it as a punishment, others as a test. In reality it’s both and about learning some valuable lessons. The crews of the Coppertails are exceptional having survived life aboard a frigate and in the hands of unproven and arrogant officers. The good officers will listen and learn, the bad ones will get themselves killed one way or another.

Despite this Stone does all he can to stir up competition between the officers of the squadron, offering rewards and plum assignments for valour and confirmed kills. But this too is a lesson; to help them understand the difference between arrogance and confidence and command and leadership. Those that fail to learn these lessons either end up dead, along with the men under their command, or spend their careers as boorish sea dogs taking ever greater risks to win glory and their Commodore’s praise although neither are forthcoming. Stone will never put these poor souls out of their misery as he recognises that a driven and reckless officer has its uses.

These disparate personalities can sometimes mean that the squadron lacks cohesion and will often follow their own objectives but this too has its benefits, quickly highlighting to Stone which are able to bring their flight or the squadron under control for the greater good.

This would normally sow confusion amongst the rest of the fleet but Stone’s will is absolute and his officers know to trust his command. And Stone is quite happy for his Coppertails to engage the enemy on their own terms as this only further benefits his plans. If anything their apparently haphazard approach to war can be a boon, their aggression and speed saved the lives of the Sword of Truth following a FSA trap.

The newest element of the 5th fleet is escort groups Skyshield and Sentinel. How they came to be attached to the 5th fleet is most unconventional and speaks of Stone’s strength of will and influence within the Covenant and the wider world.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbour and the bounties placed on the heads of The Wanted Aldus Stone began to receive death threats that indicated an assassin was within the Covenant. The admiralty immediately assigned bodyguards to keep Stone safe however the man was a cult of personality and as such refused to be seen so weak.

The six men charged with his protection were some of the finest marines ever produced by the Covenant but even they struggled to keep track of Stone. They even found themselves left behind after Stone had managed to slip aboard the Judgement and mobilise the fleet without telling a soul.

In a heated exchange with the admiralty he continually refused to acknowledge the need for protection but his superiors would not be dissuaded. In a fit of frustration he was recorded to have bellowed ‘If you want them to watch my arse, give them some escorts and put them to some real use.’ So they did. Each marine was prompted to Commander and charged with the protection of Commodore Stone. Although now a part of his fleet Stone still doesn’t make it easy on his protectors, choosing to assign them to his battleships rather than be chased around the waves by guard dogs.

This isn’t to say the escorts aren’t put to good use. Indeed the crews have flourished under the command of such hardened soldiers, drilling them to peak efficiency. Working seamlessly as squadrons these plucky escorts go after any threat without a second thought, filling the air with walls of lead or harrying ships much bigger than their own with weapons fire. How they have survived every without loss or serious damage after all this time is miraculous.

The final element of the 5th fleet is the 82nd bomber squadron the Night Furies. In truth Stone dislikes the use of aerial elements but can’t deny their effectiveness in battle. Especially with their extraordinary manoeuvrability allows them to strike and then withdraw with almost supernatural speed.

The 5th fleet’s penchant for night operations combined with their black colour scheme not only gives the Night Furies a tremendous advantage not only when making their attack runs but also their survivability quite at odds with the average life expectancy of similar squadrons in both the covenant and the wider world.

Despite this fact Stone generally prefers to leave the Night Furies in reserve seeing them as a liability due to their relatively limited range. One he commits to the hunt he is relentless and having to hold on station and await refuel for his bombers rankled him and has left them behind on more than one occasion.

For all their kills and valour in combat they remain an all but unused element of the 5th fleet but even Stone admits this must change with his foes relying on air elements more and more and has even requested a Daedalus class to be permanently attached to the fleet to bolster his air arm for when he inevitably needs it.

Dystopian Wars Battle Report

Yesterday evening me and Jezza of The Chaps had a 1500(ish) point game of Dystopian Wars. The mighty and (mostly) painted 5th Fleet of the Covenant of Antarctica verses the mindless subjects of Queen Victoria.

My fleet consisted of a dreadnought, a fleet carrier, 2 battleships, 2 armoured cruisers, 6 cruisers, 6 escorts & 3 frigates plus free tiny flyers.

Jeremy’s fleet was made up of a dreadnought, a fleet carrier, a battleship, 3 cruisers, 3 gunships, 3 destroyers, 9 frigates, 6 corvettes, 2 bombers and free tiny flyers.

Now, Jezza didn’t have a board quite big enough but his dining table was a solid 8x3ft. So, to prevent our models being within range band 3 on turn one I devised a diagonal deployment zones starting 26 inches in on long edge going across to the corner of the narrow edge. This meant that at the furthest point there was a 36 inch gap to the opposite points of the enemy deployment zone.

The result was two fleets that looked for all intents and purposes like they were both advancing into an area in a staggered formation. It looked way cool. Chuck in a couple of the smaller islands from the Amera set and we were ready to rock. We rolled for missions. Jeremy rolled a 6 meaning he had to take out my dreadnought. I got a 5 which meant I had to wipe out at least half of his fleet.

I’d learned from past experience that the Covenant are at their best keeping them together with overlapping fields of fire and able to respond en masse to flanking actions. I kept the slower, biggest ships at the furthest point with the faster ships at the narrower end. Jeremy adopted a ship-of-the-line formation for each of his units, alternating support ships and Capitol ships so, for all intents and purposes, for every unit of big ships he could support it with up to two units of smaller ships. And as there was so many of them the sea was very full compared to my side of the board.

I won the initiative and kicked off with moving off my dreadnought. Moving at full speed I was able to close to range on Jeremy’s lead cruiser deployed opposite. Thanks to some truly prodigious dice rolling the cruiser was destroyed completely and sunk below the waves. As the fleets closed I found myself quickly beset on all sides by Jeremy’s support vessels forcing, me to concentrate my fire on those otherwise hampering my movement but leave me clear lines of sight to Jeremy’s cruisers.

Jeremy in turn concentrated fire on my starboard armoured cruiser, pummeling it mercilessly, inflicting 3 points of damage and causing chaos and disarray. It didn’t help that I forgot to roll for my shield generators. Fortunately a well time S.T.A.R card allowed me to repair the worst of the damage.

However, for all the hassle his corvettes and destroyers were causing me, it wasn’t nothing compared to what his frigates were doing to his own ships. In the middle of his lines they were obstructing his carrier and dreadnought, forcing him to move them out into the midranges making them vulnerable to my fire. He even managed to accidentally plough on into the side of a corvette taking a point of damage off both.

Bogged down as he slower ships were, his support ships were doing the bulk of the work and proving quite the irritation, forcing me to cut may way through rather than have them harass my flanks and rear with impunity as I closed with Jeremy’s main line. Of course, my fire-power was severely limited because everything I was targeting was small. It was that fact alone that kept them alive.

Meanwhile the skies above were alight with tracers and blossoms of fire as fighters did battle and Jeremy’s Doncaster bombers were ripped from the sky with a combination of ranged shots from my battleships and brutal strafing runs by my drones.

Torpedo volleys criss-crossed the churning seas but concussion charges prevented them from doing any real damage I took a second cruiser to two points of damage and took out the destroyers thanks to some awesome rolling using my frigates.

This was a tough lesson learned. Although the Covenant cruisers are awesome and come with free shield generators, support ships are important if for no other reason than to deal with their opposite numbers in the enemy fleet.

Turn three tipped things in my favour very quickly. I drew the Tally Ho! card allowing me to activate two units, one after the other. My battleships closed on Jezza’s dreadnought, unleashing their particle cannons and turrets inflicting two critical hits and causing navigation lock and a fusion leak. Now with Jeremy’s dreadnought’s critical rating reduced to only 7 I unleashed everything I had at it. My dreadnought and armoured cruisers closed unleashing a torrent of fire taking Jeremy’s up to 8 points of damage however the dice weren’t completely with me, just falling short of finishing the beast off.

On my port flank Jeremy’s gunships continued to plod towards me, skirting round the island on the heels of his corvettes who broke cover to harass my painted battleship and escorts inflicting minor damage. I responded, moving my port cruiser unit to intercept, destroying 2 of them and breaking the third. This left them poised to assist the battleship that would have otherwise been decimated by the approaching gunships.

His dreadnought closed and returned fire and despite the damage it had sustained it was still able to give my dreadnought a pounding, inflicting 3 points of damage and knocking off 3 assault points thanks to a hard pounding. However, it was at this point that Jeremy’s deployment properly bit him in the arse. He activated his remaining two cruisers and ended up sailing the damaged cruiser into his dreadnought. The cruiser was utterly crushed, however, thanks to the fusion leak and the best rolls Jeremy had made all game, the dreadnought, too was destroyed and consumed by the deep.

That fortuitous and hilarious turn of events gave me 290 points taking me to 80 odd points shy of my 50% target. Well aware that Jeremy would have almost certainly repaired that damage I knew exactly how lucky I was.

Winning the initiative on what would be the final turn I activated my dreadnought, ploughed it straight through a corvette and then promptly annihilated every support ship within range before finally inflicting 3 points of damage on Jeremy’s carrier and causing a navigation lock. This took me comfortably over my points target and won merge game.

By the end of the game I had wiped out Jeremy’s 2 cruisers, 2 bombers, his dreadnought and all but 4 of his support ships. In return I’d taken 7 points of damage across 5 ships. Between Jeremy’s deployment, a narrower than normal board and poor long ranged fire-power Jeremy struggled to gain the advantage. Although his support ships are lethal and even with concentrated fire I struggled to deal with them. His ship-of-the-line deployment saved me on more than one occasion as he wasn’t able to bring all his weapons to bear. And only by moving just within range band 1 was I saved from withering close range torpedo attacks.

I think we both learned some valuable lessons by the end of the game. I need to put more faith in support ships and Jeremy needs to not crash things into his dreadnought.

5th Fleet – The Story So Far

Back in May I wrote some fluff surrounding my Covenant of Antarctica fleet – The Night Watch. My intention was to give my fleet an identity but also inspire me to actually paint something. Well it must have worked because last Saturday I actually painted something.


The Battleship known as Sword of Truth which I wrote about here. I half expected myself to run out of steam and paint nothing more. But something quite remarkable has happened which is that I’ve kept painting!

Next I painted 12 frigates, known as the Coppertails. I wrote about them here.

Now, I subscribe to the pleasure/pain principle of painting which is for every regiment/large unit I paint I reward myself with painting something more elite or a character. That way I’m incentivized to get the big units, and therefore most of the force, done in a relatively short space of time.

Following on from those, on Friday night I got my Cruisers painted (fluff post to follow).

It was very rewarding getting these models done as they form the backbone of my fleet. Completing them made me feel like I was making real headway.

Next up were the Escorts which I painted late on Saturday night. I’m pretty sure at one point I fell asleep. I couldn’t see any brush strokes that had gone awry. I blame entertaining my young nephews for the day. And trying to write my Prussians blog post at the same time.

So Skyhammer and Cold Reason squadrons are both ready for deployment. And, again, a fluff post will follow.

And finally, I’ve been working on four bombers this evening. All I’ve got left to do is give the black parts and ink and a highlight and then they’re done.

As with the rest of the fleet I’ve tried to keep Nighthawk squadron’s colour scheme nice and simple. Simple isn’t bad though. Simple has meant that I’ve managed to get a big chunk of the 5th fleet done, leaving only 3 armoured cruisers and 3 large captial ships.

I can’t promise that I’ll be able to keep up with the painting, but I’ll do my best. I’m certainly enjoying it. And I may have even done enough this week to earn myself one of DocBungle’s blue badges. A painting one, not a disabled one.

 

 

 

 

Coppertails

Continuing on from my other fluff posts chronicling the units and crew of the Covenant of Antarctica 5th Fleet I give you the Frigate squadron known as the Coppertails.

Officially designated 109 squadron, the ‘Coppertails’ represent the light element of the 5th fleet under Commodore Aldous Stone. Made up of 12 Diogenes Class frigates it is rare for a Covenant fleet to favour a particular class of support vessel over others so overwhelmingly. However, the composition of a fleet has as much to do with the commanding officer as it does the Covenants ministry of war and Stone’s history with the vessel makes it a staple choice.

Painted black like all other vessels of the 5th Fleet, the Coppertails earned their moniker because of the copper plating encasing the rear or the ships. This was as much an aesthetic choice on the part of Commodore Stone as to improve the signal broadcast by the Covenant’s rudimentary IFF transmitter. The technology still in its early stages, the 5th fleet rely heavily on it due to their preference for night operations as it allows them to co-ordinate their attacks with unerring accuracy.

The crews of the Coppertails squadron are renowned in the Covenant armed services for their cavalier and bragging behaviour, prone to outrageous boasts and wagers amongst themselves and other personnel. This devil-may-care attitude has been carefully encouraged by Commodore Stone recognising the benefit of war hungry crews on board such small ships. Their bravado is born of those that have a considerably shorter life expectancy than almost any other element of the 5th fleet.

In the water the commanding officers of the Coppertails band together in three flights of 4, operating as a pack and isolating much larger vessels and harrying them to destruction with withering torpedo attacks. And boasting rights to the captain delivering the killing blow. Their boisterous and arrogant nature isolates them from their fellow officers, especially those in the 5th fleet who look upon them with mild shame as all officers in the 5th fleet start their lives as officers in the Coppertails and all were as insufferable as their junior fellow officers.

Commodore Stone started his career aboard a frigate and won much fame stood on its bridge. As well as some hard lessons. He sees to it that every newly commissioned officer assigned to his fleet serves with the renowned Coppertails. Some see it as a punishment, others as a test. In reality it’s both and about learning some valuable lessons. The crews of the Coppertails are exceptional having survived life aboard a frigate and in the hands of unproven and arrogant officers. The good officers will listen and learn, the bad ones will get themselves killed one way or another.

Despite this Stone does all he can to stir up competition between the officers of the squadron, offering rewards and plum assignments for valour and confirmed kills. But this too is a lesson; to help them understand the difference between arrogance and confidence and command and leadership. Those that fail to learn these lessons either end up dead, along with the men under their command, or spend their careers as boorish sea dogs taking ever greater risks to win glory and their Commodore’s praise although neither are forthcoming. Stone will never put these poor souls out of their misery as he recognises that a driven and reckless officer has its uses.

These disparate personalities can sometimes mean that the squadron lacks cohesion and will often follow their own objectives but this too has its benefits, quickly highlighting to Stone which are able to bring their flight or the squadron under control for the greater good.

This would normally sow confusion amongst the rest of the fleet but Stone’s will is absolute and his officers know to trust his command. And Stone is quite happy for his Coppertails to engage the enemy on their own terms as this only further benefits his plans. If anything their apparently haphazard approach to war can be a boon, their aggression and speed saved the lives of the Sword of Truth following a FSA trap.

Sword of Truth

Following on from my post about the Covenant of Antarctica’s 5th Fleet I thought I’d write some fluff surrounding the Sword of Truth, the battleship I painted over the weekend.

The Sword of Truth was once known as the Stalwart, the flagship of the 5th Fleet, prior to the commissioning of the CSS History’s Judgement. A proud ship with an illustrious and bloody history. It was the Stalwart, under Stone’s command, that sailed into Port Stanley, during the daring raid to rescue Covenant POWs. When command passed to Captain Jacob Harris there was much pomp and ceremony as few ships in the Covenant navy had seen as much combat as the Stalwart. Captain Harris was one of Stone’s prodigies and was almost as angry and bitter with the word having come up through the ranks listening to Stone’s rhetoric.

Although Harris had every right to be bitter. Hailing from Boston in the FSA and raised Irish Catholic he had a successful fishing business, a well-regarded family and was betrothed to a lady of good standing and better breeding. And all at the age of twenty-two. Harris was a keen boxer and had a weakness for cards although a sixth sense kept him from losing either that often. But his real weakness was the comfort he found in his fiancée. Both were raised as devout Catholics and knew the risks of indulging in carnal desires but neither cared. Until his betrothed fell pregnant.

Buckling under the weight of responsibility, despite the mutual familial support, he fled to the ocean on-board one of his fishing steamers. It didn’t take long for him to realise his cowardice and brought the boat about. However fate intervened and a storm crippled the vessel before it could make port. Set adrift it took a month for Harris to coax the boat home. In his absence his assets had been ceased by his fiancée’s family to support her as she was now all but outcast. Ostracised and destitute Harris stole one his former vessels and headed South.

Assigned to the 5th Fleet as a rating his seamanship skills were quickly noticed and quickly ascended the ranks. He saw Stone has a kindred spirit and proof, if any were needed, that a broken man need not stay broken and his could visit his vengeance on those wronged him. Harris was far better at concealing his anger at the world and his promotion to Captain was quickly affirmed. He wasted no time renaming the Stalwart as much to symbolise the passing of a torch as to represent the righteous history the ship had. Her hull black as night, she was a true predator of the oceans and had the kill count to suit.

To list its successes under Stone would take time but arguably longer under Harris’ command. Volunteering the Sword of Truth for any and all covert or surgical strike missions to test the mettle of his ship and crew. The Sword made headlines world-wide for infiltrating and laying waste to the naval yards at both Boston and New York city before slipping off into the night. The attack was condemned by the FSA and her allies for the loss of civilian life and although the Covenant didn’t agree with Harris’ methods, like much of the 5th Fleet, they couldn’t argue with the results.

The Sword of Truth would continue its reign of terror in the Atlantic Ocean both as part of wider fleet actions and on its own attacking supply ships and patrols with impunity, each attack more ruthless than the last as Harris and his crew became every more proficient at their craft until fate once again intervened. The FSA, frustrated with the constant loss of their supply ships laid a trap, arming the supply ships with turrets and concealing torpedo bombers where possible. As the Sword of Truth sailed silently amongst the supply ships all but submerged, it took its first ranging shot. However instead of scattering vessels, the ocean lit up with explosions as turrets responded all around the noble battleship.

In the same moment bombers took to the skies, the air filling with whizzing tracers and the howl of prop engines. Harris, furious at the FSA’s deception ordered all weapons to fire as the battleship fought free of the supply ships that were slowing encircling it. As explosions blossomed in the night sky the bombers dropped their payloads, torpedoes surging towards the Sword, ripping gaping wounds in the ships hull. As fires broke out across the Sword as she fought with all he worth to break out. As Harris realised he stood at the edge of his undoing explosions tore through a vessel on the Sword’s port side. A moment later another supply ship burst blew apart, its hull snapping in two and dropping beneath the waves. In the half-light of burning fuel Harris and his crew could make out the forms of jet black Covenant frigates as they dipped beneath the waves to unleash deadly torpedo salvos of their own.

Seeing his opportunity Harris ordered the Sword to surface and make a break for it however a heavy transport blocked her path, a 36inch cannon mounted on her prow slowly rotating for a killing shot. Harris did not hesitate, ordering the use of the particle cannon. The force of the shot destroyed the transport utterly but the strain on the Sword was almost too much, blowing out systems and relays and all but crippled the ship.

It took a month for the frigates to tow the dying ship back to friendly waters, once again giving Harris plenty of time to consider his actions. That was twice his compulsive nature had almost gotten him killed and resolved to do better. Stone saw the change in him and knew he had become the officer that the Covenant needed him to be. It took 3 months for the Sword of Truth to be fully repaired. Once again a part of the 5th Fleet she has been restored to a position of fear in the hearts of her enemies and pride in those of her allies.

Dystopian Wars Tactics

Following the game I had with Lee and ahead of the one I have with Ian both of The Chaps I’ve been thinking about tactics in Dystopian Wars both general and force specific.

So here’s what I’ve come up with.

Use Size to your Advantage

The rule surrounding line of sight can be a bit of a pain in Dystopian Wars. If you don’t pay attention to what you’re doing you can find your battleship blocking line of sight of your dreadnought. However, this works both ways. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve you can use ships to protect other elements of your force until such time as you’re ready to unleash them.

For example, a Dreadnought can screen cruisers. This is especially handy if your cruisers are a little on the soft side or, in the case of CoA armoured cruisers, expensive and specialist. Equally, a battleship is large enough to obstruct the view of a dreadnought. Having two, in larger games, means you can keep your dreadnought safe until such time as you’re ready to bring its might to bear.

Unit deployment

To a point this links to the previous comment as sensible placement of units can mean screening your smaller, vulnerable units from the big guns. However the distance between ships in that unit is important to consider. By keeping your ships relatively close together you are able to share Ack Ack and concussion charges. This can leave them vulnerable to mines etc but combined with the added bonus of it makes it harder for the enemy to get amongst you it’s worth it.

Escorts are Deadly

Granted the effectiveness of escorts varies from fleet to fleet, but they are designed primarily with Ack Ack and Concussion Charges. The obvious tactic is to assign them to your big ships. However, because escorts have solid Ack Ack, if sent off in packs they can hold up or even wipe out flanking tiny flyer squadrons. Coupled with the fact that they’re small and evasive makes them a bastard to sink.

Don’t Underestimate Corvettes and Frigates

Although cheap and easy to blow up, their speed and large unit sizes means that they can go screaming across the board and mob carriers, particularly a soft touch like the FSA’s. They’ll almost certainly be destroyed but at the cost of diverting enemy assets to deal with them. A CoA unit of 5 Corvettes will cost 100 points and at range band one can unleash 13 dice. That’s more than a CoA Dreadnought’s particle accelerator at the same distance. But for 175 points less. You don’t need to be a maths whizz to see the advantages of smaller vessels, especially when looking at mass fire power. The Prussian frigates are especially tasty on that front and, en masse, are a bigger pain in the arse than their cruisers.

Use the Psychology of Big Ships to your Advantage

It’s no surprise that battleships and dreadnoughts attract a lot of fire. They’re big and scary and have many many many guns. However, if you can get your deployment right and are able to hold your nerve you can use this to your advantage, holding back enough ships that when you sail your large/massive ship into the teeth of the enemy and they attempt to surround it, you have elements on station ready to counter attack. And providing you don’t leave the capitol ship on its own for too long it should be able to soak up the worst of the punishment whilst your ships get there.

Fleet Tactics

These are some tactics I’ve observed in the fleet lists I’ve had experience with.

FSA – Encircle and overwhelm. The FSA have the best ranged firepower in the game. They can afford to hover at range band 3 with a mixture of Battleships, Cruisers and Gunships and pound their enemy to splinters, with frigates and other support vessels watching flanks and running interference. More over a coordinated strike between rocket batteries and tiny flyers can overwhelm even the most concerted defences.

Prussians – Corral and Capture. The Prussians are fast but light on armour. But they are also devastating at boarding actions. Prussians can use their superior speed to isolate vessels and then use scissoring maneuvers with the larger vessels to weaken and ultimately board & capture the target vessels. But keep on the move. Withdraw out or range or make use of cover. Getting bogged down in prolonged exchanges of fire will not end well.

Covenant of Antarctica – Taking the Fight to the Enemy. The CoA ships are solid all rounders. They are the Space Marines of the Dystopian Wars universe. However, their particle accelerators are devastating when fired. However the 12inch range makes the opportunity difficult to exploit. The Covenant work best in a fighting wedge. Their armour isn’t thick enough to take a prolonged pounding but bringing enough force to bear on a thing point and the CoA can break through, before opening up with broadsides and laying mines.

Kingdom of Britannia – Hold Fast. The KoB are actually a bit shit at the shooting game. Their gunnery at range is incredibly poor and only average at the closer ranges. However they don’t lack for guns and they’re not short of torpedoes. They are by far their most effective at keeping their distance, using frigates and submarines to deter attackers, and softening the enemy up with relentless torpedo attacks. Once weakened or thinned out a bit close as quickly as possible to take advantage of the increased dice at range bands 1 & 2.

Empire of the Blazing Sun – Combined Arms. I’m not too experienced with the EotBS but from what I’ve observed they are all round pretty tough ships and work best in task forces of combined arms with a healthy blend of naval and air elements. This can make them vulnerable to attack but their high critical rating will mean that enemies can only chip away at them and making sure a healthy air presence will give them the edge.

Hopefully this has been helpful and as I dream up more I shall post them up.