Mark came over today for our regular FtF session. It was his turn to pick, and he went for There Must Be a Victory from Against the Odds. It’s about the naval portion of the Seven Weeks War between Austria and Italy.

Mark took Italy (who ended up doing well from the war, getting Venice from France, who got it from Austria, but the actual fighting was a disaster). We only got through a small part of the game, but there was plenty of excitement to go around.

The main part of the game is on a small area map of the Adriatic, with battles going down to a tactical system with ships maneuvering around firing gunnery and ramming. Both sides have to roll to activate forces to move them around. Austria starts with a decent mobilization rating (desperate to fight to a conclusion quickly), but this goes down as the game progresses (as the war goes well against Italy on land, there is less reason to risk the expensive fleet). The Italian navy is hampered by lack of political will (not willing to risk the expensive fleet), going up as things go poorly on land, and hampered by their own admiral (amazingly over-cautious, apparently went to the McClellan School of Commmand).

In the event, the first turn consisted of Itally re-basing the main fleet from Taranto to Bari, while the Austrians besieged and bombarded Ancona. The second turn culminated in the Battle of Ancona, as the Battle fleets of both sides clashed. The rest of my forces had retired to resupply, and Mark’s had failed to move. The weather foul, which had a serious effect on the combat. Everything is at an extra -3 to do (on a d10), and maximum visibility was 3 hexes (generally goes down in battle as smoke from all the canons obscures vision).

We both started in line ahead formation, and the opening salvos were completely ineffective (-3 weather, -~7 defense, -2 range, plus gunnery of 3, not happening). Mark made the decision to ram my flagship with his. That was well and good, but the next ship in my line was also an ironclad ram, and it rammed his flagship. This ended up with both flagships going down and the entire combat immediately degenerating into a free-for-all mess. I did better, ramming another good ship of his almost immediately, and getting my first ram out of the way before he could fall victim (covering him with another ship for counter-ramming also helped).

Mark ended up losing three good ships (only one ironclad) and scuttling a fourth when she had to be abandoned, while I only lost my flagship (poor Vice-Admiral Nameless, he shall be missed). This got me 30 VPs compared to his 12 (and 4 for the earlier blockade). The bad news of course, is that three of my ships were pretty battered, especially the steam ship-of-the-line Kaiser who had been in the thick of the fighting and performed 2-3 rams despite not really being meant for that kind of service. I had gone in with one less ship, and the quality was slightly on his side, but I got a crew quality bonus (+1) that really made the difference.

Turn 3 saw Mark get a random event which forced him into further inactivity, while I repaired the Kaiser and blockaded Ancona and Bari. I also bombarded Ancona again, which did far better than the first try, with fewer ships. We had to call it during turn 4, which was shaping up for the Second Battle of Ancona, this time with much more of both side’s fleets present. I would have had more ships overall, but the bulk of them were fragile gunboats. With clear weather the gunnery battle would be much more important, but I’m not sure I would be able to make it work.

Final VPs where we left off was 38 to 12 in my favor. If the new naval battle didn’t break me, I was still in a position to dominate the war for the next few turns, but my ability to dictate activity would slowly erode. I think I was in position to win, but it is hard to say for sure. Of the AtO games we’ve played it is by far my favorite, and I hope we can try it again. In the meantime, I’m planning on Stalin’s War for our next adventure.