Airship Dragoon – An After Action Report

Airship Dragoon is a steampunk themed, turn-based. squad tactics game with procedurally generated strategic campaigns, similar in style to the early work of Julian Gollop (UFO/X-Com, Laser Squad, etc). Troops are unique individuals based on six separate classes.   Disclaimer: the author is the developer.

by Steve Acaster, 1 May 2014

Click images to enlarge

Campaign Overview: Dreadnought On The Starboard Bow
Playing as the British Royalists (one of six playable factions), the early part of the main campaign was spent expanding territory rapidly before returning close to my main base to the clear remaining resistance from the indigenous pirates. This early expansion had brought me into contact with the shadowy “People’s Collective”, who soon started eating away at my newly acquired lands far to the south. Though I had managed to check their advance during a previous battle, it was only a matter of time before they returned, and so I swung my lone Dreadnought class heavy airship around and headed on to find it’s opposite number. Someone was going to lose their prize dirigible.

Sure enough we made contact close to where I suspected their main garrison to be, and I intercepted their own heavy dirigible over a mountain range. A victory in ground combat would later allow me the chance to assault their the headquarters and kick them out of the war all together, a defeat would see my forces trapped far to the north, waiting for construction of a new airship whilst the Collective plundered my territories.

airship_dragoon_aar_t0_overview

Anti-piracy operations are suspended to counter the encroaching threat …

Preparing For Battle: There Is No Such Thing As Too Much Ammo
With both regimes using a Dreadnought class airship, the numerical strength of each side would be equal, though after my previous battles I expected that the quality of my troops would be better. I had little idea how technologically advanced the enemy would be but expected us to be fairly matched.

The battle was to take place in the cold mountains (-20% Action Points to those not wearing a layer of armour for extra warmth), visibility would be medium and the randomised objective was to capture the enemies flag. The exact layout of the battlefield would only be determined when the battle started.

I decided to start with a flanking strategy and so split my troops into two groups. A central group would be the support team and engage the enemy at range, whilst an assault group would close rapidly down the left flank and then cut inwards to capture the enemy flag.

airship_dragoon_aar_t0_equip

The assault team was to be made up of close combat Fusiliers with light semi-auto carbines, an SMG equipped Recce to take point (because he can spot hidden booby traps), a couple of heavy infantry
Grenadiers with large calibre, mid-range semi-auto rifles and a lone conscript to make up the numbers.

The support team was made up of four Gunny class heavy weapon troops with a mixture of long range auto-rifles and mortars. A Sapper would make sure the way was clear of IEDs, and he would be supported by three conscripts. Hopefully some of these untested “new guys” would get a mention in dispatches and then be promoted to a proper class and join my veteran core for further missions.

All my veterans wore light armour – for protection as much as to keep out the cold, and everyone carried as aid kits and as much ammunition as possible, having previously learnt that making forays into killing zones to loot supplies from deceased comrades was a bad idea.

Turn One: The Terrain Looks Favourable
Upon arriving at the battlefield, I found that the enemy objective was at the end of a narrow valley that curved round like a hockey stick, surrounded by a high ridge. To the centre right was a large mountain, it’s summit impassable but the upper slopes looked like they would give a commanding view of the valley and objective.

My support group moved out in standard tactics, the gunners heading towards the towering heights of the mountain whilst Sapper Weymouth led the conscripts along the mountain edge where there was cover from large rocks.

The assault team charged forwards down the left flank, concealed from the valley by the high ridge and into a wooded area.

This is also the first time I get to see exactly who the regime has sent me for conscripts, and it includes Paddy and Frederick Uttoxeter. Maybe they’re brothers, twins joined up together to serve King and Country! I split them up, sending Paddy to the assault team and Frederick to the support group. It’ll do them good to meet other people and stand on their own two feet.

airship_dragoon_aar_t1

Looks chilly, hope everyone is wearing two pairs of pants

Turn Two: Contact! Contact!
Recce Devon continues along the left ridge before spotting numerous targets in the open at the end of the valley. Deciding to get a closer look he moves down the valley slope and take cover behind a singular, large rock … and suddenly feels rather exposed and lonely. The remaining Fusiliers keep in the cover of the wooded ridge and move just past him. Grenadier Norfolk breaks the silence with a couple of inaccurate volleys at the maximum range of his Heavy Repeating Rifle.

Gunny Liverpool is the first of the support team to get into a firing position on the lower slopes of the mountain and engages the enemy with suppressing fire. Two of the other gunners move into firing positions higher up the mountain whilst Sapper Weymouth leads the rest of the group forwards, using various large rocks for cover.

airship_dragoon_aar_t2

Enemy to the front, assault group to the far left

Enemy Phase:
A rocket grenade or mortar round streaks out of the valley in response to Norfolk’s long range attack, impacting on the slope in front of him, the lip of the ridge deflecting the blast. Fusilier Scarborough’s cover on the ridge clearly isn’t good enough as he draws the attention of a couple of volleys of inaccurate large calibre rounds.

Turn Three: Man Down!
Feeling somewhat alone and exposed behind his lone rock, Recce Devon moves back up the slope to rejoin the rest of the assault group. With the defenders now alerted to the presence of my troops he comes under considerable heavy rifle fire but manages to make it to the safety of the ridge unscathed.

Fusilier Sheffield is now leading the assaulters, and at the end of the wooded area spots two defenders over a small rise. He engages with his small calibre carbine, and failing to score a hit, hides behind a tree. Scarborough and Lancaster move up to cover him. Grenadiers Halifax and Norfolk stay back to fire into the valley at maximum range.

The most senior member of the support group, Lieutenant Harry Stirling, reaches the highest accessible point of the mountain and joins Liverpool in putting down suppressing fire from upon high.

At the base of the mountain, Sapper Weymouth spots a host of IEDS – the enemy had clearly set up to defend against a frontal assault. Coming under fire he heads to the safety of a far rock.

Conscript Frederick Uttoxetter moves up behind him and becomes the first fatality of the mission, struck in the head by a large calibre tracer round from an enemy Heavy Repeating Rifle which was fired from a patch of rough ground to the end of the valley’s dogleg.

The Conscript Bangor attempts to reinforce Devon, but not wearing armour to stave off the cold runs out of action points just short of safety and is left dangerously exposed.

airship_dragoon_aar_t3

The furthest and now most dangerous point of the advance

Enemy Phase:
Conscript Bangor comes under fire from heavy rifles and a lone mortar round lands close by … but the intensity of the attack is much less than I had expect. Even so, with the enemy phase over, he shows a shameful lack of morale fibre and turns in panic to flee back towards his deployment area. Paddy Uttoxeter takes the death of his sibling stoically and remains at his post.

Turn Four: The Award For Worst Marksmanship Goes To …
I had hoped to draw the close range enemies on the left flank out into the waiting guns of my other troops but they had declined to take the bait. Having twice the number of attackers as defenders in this area I decided to launch a speedy, clinical assault. Devon, Sheffield, Scarborough and Lancaster all break cover, pouring round after round at the nearby defenders. Devon scores a wound with his SMG but everything else misses in a most embarrassing manner.

airship_dragoon_aar_t4

My planned attack goes somewhat off target …

Behind this shambles Halifax and Lancaster continue to send heavy rifle fire into the valley without result. Conscript Paddy Uttoxeter tries to get into the battle, moving in cautious tactic (kneeling down, smaller target, better accuracy) he peers over the edge of the ridge. Drawing reaction fire from the valley floor he is no doubt disappointed to find that his aggressors are out of the range of this medium calibre, standard issue rifle. Instead he moves up to help the floundering attack at the head of the flank.

At the edge of the valley, Sapper Weymouth spots two more booby traps and bravely sets out to try and diffuse some of them. Coming under withering fire he quickly backtracks to hide behind his rock and shoot a few rounds vaguely in the enemy’s direction.

The support troops are somewhat more successful and amongst their automatic fire Lt Stirling scores a hit but is dismayed to see it deflected by his opponent’s armour. Sergeant Archie Bangor shows the enemy how to use a mortar correctly and scores a direct hit on a defender next to the flag to record our kill in the battle and equal the score. An eye for an eye. The remaining support troops pepper the enemy positions with bullet and bomb.

airship_dragoon_aar_t4b

Revenge is a dish best served with high explosive

Enemy Phase:
With the core of my assault team exposed on the left flank I fear the worst … but in the end the two enemy defenders agree to join my troops in the competition for “worst marksman in the battle” and fail to score a hit.

Up on the mountainside the support team comes under heavy fire from repeating rifles and mortars. It’s all too much for Conscript Manchester who loses his bottle and flees back to the deployment area, to join Conscript Bangor who steadfastly refuses to return to combat. At this point in the proceedings, Sergeant Archie Bangor, Gunny, multiple career kills and veteran of several missions, would like to make it clear that this conscript is of absolutely no blood relation …

Turn Five: The Tide Turns
Back on the left flank the assault team finally remember their training on the range. Both defenders are wounded in a hail of small calibre bullets, initially saved by their armour before Sergeant-Major Lancaster records a double kill. The flanking assault is no longer held up.

Uttoexeter moves into range of the enemy and engages. Grenadier Halifax scores a kill down in the valley. Both he and Norfolk are down to their last two magazines.

Somewhat stranded out front, Sapper Weymouth continues the rumour that Sapper’s are chosen for skills other than their marksmanship, as he leans out from behind his rock to empty a full magazine at nothing much in particular. Stirling and Liverpool are much more accurate in their support fire, and Berkshire manages a kill with his mortar.

The commanding view of the support team

The commanding view of the support team

Enemy Phase:
The sudden deaths and increasingly heavy suppressing fire cause havoc in the enemy’s ranks. Many turn and flee, others spray bullets wildly in panic to no avail.

Turn Six: Standby, Standby
The short range members of my assault group now moved parallel to the enemy flag, just out of sight at the end of the ridge, whilst the others sniped at the remaining enemy and began to enter the valley.

On the far side, support troops rained fire down at the handful of defenders who had not fled. Sapper Weymouth decided now was the time to break cover and rushed out to defuse three of the many booby traps. During a previous battle I had simply manoeuvred around a number of IEDs and left them in place, but a surprise counterattack had panicked my troops, sending them fleeing blindly into waiting explosives. Now I took precautions to make certain that this wasn’t about to happen again.

My two panicked conscripts had regained their composure and with words such as “court martial” and “firing squad” ringing in their ears, they rejoined the fray.

Fire support continues as the left flank breaks through

Fire support continues as the left flank breaks through

Enemy Phase:
Sapper Weymouth comes under some panicky gunfire but is undeterred until a rocket grenade narrowly misses him and lands next to a close by IED. A little nearer and the whole area, including himself would have gone up. Having a momentary loss of enthusiasm, he panics and flees for cover.

Turn Seven: The Final Assault Begins
With only a handful of defenders left in the valley, the assault team breaks cover and moves down the slope. Recce Devon finishes off the only remaining defender between them and the flagpole. Over on the mountain, withering fire is launched at another, Gunny Liverpool recording the kill. All non-support gunners move up.

Recce Devon leads the assault

Recce Devon leads the assault

Enemy Phase:
Enemy forces are routed, numerous figures break cover from the right flank to flee over the far ridge. Only one defender dares to remain in the valley, defiantly but fruitlessly returning fire. Amongst the disorder two defenders attempt a counterattack and move to the valley edge above the flag.

Turn Eight: All Over Bar The Shouting
The shortest counterattack in history fails as Sheffield kills one and then Sergeant-Major Kai Lancaster records his third kill of the battle. Hat-trick! He moves up towards the flag, covered by the rest of the assault team.

A lone enemy still remains in valley, far to the right flank. Conscript Bangor seizes the opportunity to make up for his earlier lack of morale fibre and successfully scores the kill. A mention in dispatches, promotion and recruitment to my core of veterans awaits! The remaining members of support troop hold positions, whilst after a quick swig from his hip flask, Sapper Weymouth rejoins the battle.

Under the watchful gaze of the support team, the assault group advances

Under the watchful gaze of the support team, the assault group advances

Enemy Phase:
From somewhere far behind the flag, the occasional stray tracer round streaks across the sky as routed enemies shoot wildly at unseen phantoms. A single defender, no doubt wracked with shame at the debacle which their defence had turned into, mounted a lone charge. He made it through a barrage of tracer rounds, but only to the edge of the ridge before Lesley Sheffield put two small calibre rounds into his head. “C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre.

Turn Nine: Bittersweet
With no enemy in sight, it’s time to finalise my victory. Sergeant-Major Kai Lancaster Fusilier is nearest and so walks up to capture the flag. It turns out to be his last action … the flag was booby trapped … and as he wins the battle for us he is killed. If only Recce or Sapper had done it, they’d have spotted the danger before it was too late.

Nooooooooooooooooo!

Nooooooooooooooooo!

And so, Sergeant-Major Kai Lancaster, top scorer in the battle, my top veteran, longest survivor at 9 missions with the highest tally of 16 confirmed career kills, fell in battle. Carried away by the blast, still holding his prize of the enemy’s vile rag, dying with his sweetheart’s name upon his lips … or at least some local floozy’s who’s virtue could be bought for a few small ales that he’d met on campaign … not that that would be going into the letter the CO would be writing to his wife, of course.

Post Battle:
As for lessons learned, I feel that I had been quite correct in the summary of the enemy strength, their veterans were inferior to mine. Taking multiple casualties in a single turn was always going to shake their morale, though having said that I’m not sure how much different the effect would have been on my own troops if we had suffered the same.

My plan of central support and left flank assault had been immensely helped by the nature of the terrain, allowing my troops good cover from which to fire down upon the enemy and manoeuvre around unseen. The enemy had only covered the left flank with a two man security detail whilst reinforcing the right flank more heavily – the flank I never attacked and the only time I saw the troops there was when they fled across the far side of the valley. In effect I was fighting with superior numbers due to this. If the randomisation of battlefield positions had been different, it could have been my troops having to traverse the open terrain whilst they owned the high ground and better cover.

The enemy had made their dispositions expecting a frontal assault and laid some nine hidden booby traps to this effect. Even with my flanking move I still had five troopers (three conscripts, one of whom was my only fatality from open combat) move steadily forwards down the centre and there could have been carnage without my Sapper there to spot the many IEDs.

airship_dragoon_aar_end1a

Recce Devon was commissioned to officer, Berkshire now gets to dine in the better mess as a Sergeant, and Sapper Weymouth earned a second stripe for his sterling work of defusing booby traps under fire. Conscript Owen Bangor received a promotion and the class of Gunny … which now makes my veteran force a little support heavy.

Neither Paddy Uttoxeter nor David Manchester showed sufficient promise to join His Majesty’s Airship Dragoons and so were both returned to the pool of conscripts. I imagine Paddy would be given an honourable discharge after the loss of his brother so he could take care of their dear mother in her twilight years, whilst Manchester would be sneered at in the mess hall for returning with soiled britches by those who yearn for the pride and honour in the veteran service.

airship_dragoon_aar_end2a

The enemy had been decisively beaten. I’d lost my best soldier but captured the enemy’s heavy airship and also opened a path to launch a direct attack no their headquarters, handing me the future opportunity of kicking “The People’s Collective” out of the war once and for all, which would be one down five to go! So … not quite a Nelson at Trafalgar moment, the cost of victory in the end very acceptable.

Former bohemian artist out in the sticks at the edge of the Middle East, who returned to the UK and traded his paint brushes for computer game design. After falling asleep in an interview for the post of mission scripter in Call of Duty 5, he decided to go it alone as an indie and make the sort of strategy games he played in the ’80s and early ’90s. Entirely self-taught, jack-of-all-trades and possibly the master of a one and a half.


Discuss this AAR in our forums >>

3 Responses to Airship Dragoon – An After Action Report

  1. DennisS says:

    This is very nice looking game. I really like what has been to randomize the campaign. This is a purchase for me, and soon!

  2. Boggit says:

    @DennisS
    It is on sale as I write @Gamersgate.co.uk I’ve got it already – great game!

  3. [/blatant_self_publicity]
    On sale direct from the dev until 8 May
    http://www.yorkshirerifles.com/webpages/store.html
    [/blatant_self_publicity] 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *