Meanies vs. Sigurds

An Experiment in Stock vs. House Ships

by MXsavant 03/10/05

It began when Lee called me up and said those fatal words: “I need to kill something.” Time for another game of Silent Death. Lee had just painted up some gorgeous Sigurd Archdiocese ships and wanted to give them a run. I didn’t have anything new, so I decided I’d trot out my generic mercenary fleet “The Blue Meanies.” The Meanies are an ongoing experiment. The goal is to create a fleet with maximum combat capability using only stock fighters and gunboats, and the variants listed in Silent Death: Operation Drydock. Sounded like a good test against the Sigurd Moljnirs and Gungnirs and other weaponry that causes damage by being unpronouncable. We agreed to a 1000 point game, which is slightly larger than usual for us.

We went to the local Gamescape to use their game room. Lee’s forces consisted of the following:

  • 8 Hounds
  • 4 Daggers
  • 2 Icebergs

The Blue Meanies consisted of the following:

  • 8 Blizzards
  • 8 Kosmos IIs
  • 4 Night Hawks
  • 1 Epping

While I had a numerical advantage of 21 ships to his 14, I gave away 37 points in total point value.

We set up our fleets along the long sides of a Geohex battle mat. Lee had his Icebergs paired in the center. They were screened by the Daggers. The Hounds flew in front and a little to the outside of the Daggers, four on each side. I put my Epping surrounded by the Night Hawks in the center. There were four Kosmoi and four Blizzards on each flank. We began to close the distance. I sent my Blizzards out wide, then in toward the flanks of Lee’s formation. The Kosmoi moved forward, each group of four maneuvering to get just within missile range of the Icebergs. I considered Lee’s gunboats the main threat and planned to deal with them accordingly.

Cannon fire phase. The only thing that could shoot at this point was the meld lasers on my Night Hawks and Epping, and the quad autocannons on the Icebergs. Lee rolled doubles on the first shot from an Iceberg, which nailed the Epping in the snout. He scored a crit, and I rolled an 8. Chain Reaction; scratch one Epping. Score one for Odin. Combining their fire, the Night Hawks managed to cripple a single Dagger, but things definitely looked good for the Sigurds. That ended turn one.

On the next turn, I launched a carefully planned warhead attack against those hideous Icebergs. The Kosmoi had been given pilots with very high gunnery skills, which paid off. I managed to put four and three salvos of ten missiles each on each Iceberg. Meanwhile, the Blizzards emptied their torpedo racks. Each of the four Blizzards that came in on a flank fired half their torps at the near Iceberg, half at the far Iceberg. The practical upshot of this was to create a much larger kill zone; no matter which way the Icebergs went, they would get hit. Each Iceberg had both missiles and torps set to impact on the same turn (a concept known as “time on target”). Point defenses would be less effective. And since the torps would hit the same turn they were launched, they would not spend a turn all bunched in one or two hexes, making nice targets for the Gauss field weapons.

Since he couldn’t escape the torps, Lee moved his gunboats ahead to keep them in the fight in case he lost drive points due to battle damage. He launched some torps of his own as interceptors, and managed to drop two or three of the inbounds. The rest of the Iceberg’s torps went after the Night Hawks, which struggled to evade while staying in the fight. Lee decided, rightly, that the point defenses would prevent more damage if used against the missiles, so he let all the torps go in. I will say this about the Iceberg; it is one tough mother. Very few gunboats could soak up that kind of a torpedo strike and still be dangerous.

Meanwhile, the fighters were starting to mix it up. Fortunately for me, half of my fighters were on a flanking move that kept them out of the forward arcs of the other Sigurd fighters. Both Blizzards and Kosmoi blazed away with their Disruptor guns. The heavy armor of the Sigurd ships was irrelevant to the Disruptor fire. I would concentrate fire from all my ships on one fighter, and keep hammering on it until it was a spectator or space scrap, then move on the next one (a trick I learned from Lee). Three or four hounds were destroyed or crippled this way. Meanwhile, the Curs of Odin concentrated mostly on my Night Hawks, destroying one and crippling another.

The Warhead Results Phase of turn 2 was spectacular. The torps took their toll on the Icebergs, wrecking several of their guns and causing other damage. Then the missiles hit. We rolled to see where they would impact since the Icebergs had moved that turn. Two salvos hit the rear of the first, and one salvo hit the rear of the second. The other salvos impacted elsewhere. Point defenses were inadequate to reduce the salvos very much. The first Iceberg went out in a blazing Goetterdaemmerung. The second was in very bad shape; most of the rear damage track was wasted with only a few boxes left.

Thus ended turn two.

I began turn three worrying about the three remaining Daggers, which were chipped around the edges but still very much a threat. By now the fight had degenerated into a true furball. The Hounds had Impulse guns, which are nasty, but the Daggers had Gauss field tech, which gives better odds to hit. I had most of my Kosmoi in the right places, so I managed to put at least one salvo of missiles on each of the Daggers. Unfortunately, I now had several Kosmoi with empty missile racks. The remaining Iceberg was still a problem, so I sent two Blizzards streaking around to sit on its six. I lost a third Night Hawk, and some smaller ships. The Blizzards behind the Iceberg combined to put it down for good. My other ships managed to bag another Hound. At the end of the Missile Results Phase, all three Daggers went straight to Hel.

By the end of the third turn, the game was decided. There were three Hounds still capable of movement, and they promptly ran like Hel for their border. Most of my fleet was in pretty good shape, all things considered. My total casualties were about six vessels, with light to moderate damage on a few more. Incidentally, a three-turn decision is not all that unusual; Lee and I play hard and strive for maximum damage in the least amount of time. A game that goes longer than four turns is a rarity for us and usually means we’re doing something wrong.

So, what did we learn? The Sigurd ships are very tough, and this makes them forgiving for novice players. The Gauss field weapons are hard on light ships, so expect to take casualties if you use swarm tactics against Sigurds. On the other hand, by making good use of concentrated firepower and laying down smart kill-zones you can take advantage of the heavier ship’s lack of speed to overwhelm their defenses.

The stock ships and Drydock variants are not superships, but they are relatively inexpensive (so you can use lots of them) and they perform well if used well. The apparent shortcomings of stock ships can be overcome with a vengence if you use good tactics. Concentrate your firepower, plan your attack priorities, and don’t deviate from those priorities unless you have a damned good reason. Disruptor guns rock. They are probably the most under-appreciated weapon in the game.

Meanwhile I plan to build up the Blue Meanies into a 2000 point fighter/gunboat fleet, continuing the experiment. Someday I hope to use them in a campaign just to see how they perform over a long term.