Echoes of the Spanish Main
Chapter 3 - Fury at Sea
In the months following the Age of Exploration, the English had shown why the Royal Navy commanded the seas like no other force before them. Their accurate gunfire hampered plans of Spanish expansion early, then turned around and crippled the Pirate Confederation's fleet of small, speedy ships. The rest of the fleet turned into a trade machine, efficiently banking money to ensure that regular repairs could be made to ships, and that high-profile ships and crew could be adequately maintained in the area. After 50 rounds, the English presence cast an imposing shadow over the archipelago it had once peaceably shared with the world.
HMS Lord Cauldwell
, with Lieutenant Henry Ducie Chads
, with Captain
, with Captain and Helmsman
HMS Ark Royal
, with Thomas Gunn
and Hermionie Gold
After an early series of setbacks sent them reeling, the Spanish seemed mere moments from surrender. The Napolitana
, their only remaining ship in the area, had a record in combat that read like an ode to futility. Feeling the pressure of failing their own homeland, the crew of the ship worked with a reckless abandon to make up for the loss of her sister ship, El Picador
, and in time, manged to bring her nation's fortunes back from the brink. Now, sporting three gunships, the Spanish navy has one goal - rise from the ashes as though a phoenix, and repay the English for the injuries suffered at the end of the Age of Exploration!
, with Captain
, with Captain and Helmsman
, with Captain and Helmsman
The English, hoping to bait a Spanish assault by sending half their force on an expedition, deploys the Antelope
and Lord Cauldwell
, escorted by the Gallowglass
. The plan seems to be going well, as the Lord Cauldwell
, in particular, displays a speed not seen from her in previous voyages in the area. The Resistance
, and her new companion gunship, the Ark Royal
, make stops in the ports closest to the English home port, doing modest trade and making a splendid show of strength to any who'd had doubts of England's devotion to controlling the region at all costs. With the Resistance
banking 2 gold in Round 54, eager eyes in the Royal Navy's employ gaze southward, waiting to see the trap sprung upon their unwitting adversaries.
In the 53rd round, La Resolucion
brings in a haul of 6 gold from the Coral Triad, but also some surprising news - three English ships are heading to the Triad for the purposes of establishing a trade agreement! Seeing an opportunity to strike the English while at less than full strength, the Leon
are dispatched to the southwest island, under guise of usual commerce. In reality, the island's position and proximity to the Spanish home port will allow the pair a chance to both verify the intelligence report on English activity, and join up with La Resolucion
shortly after. Indeed, two rounds later, a signal is sent to the Spanish Headquarters - three English ships, heading WSW. Prepare to attack!
As the English expedition to the Coral Triad reaches its halfway point, activity is spotted from Spanish gunships on the horizon, far enough away from their home port that it can safely be assured they were there with the intent of gathering intelligence. Upon their departure from the island, the Gallowglass
, England's first patrol ship in the area, is ordered to head back home and assist the waiting Resistance
and Ark Royal
in their defense. The Captain of the Gallowglass
, not wishing to return empty-handed, stops by the northwest island on the return trip, loading 2 gold that would be banked in the 55th Round.
The Spanish, not wishing to delay the attack for fear of English ships returning too soon to port, put their plan into motion. La Resolucion
starts heading due north, but at 2/3 speed, allowing time for 3 more gold (2 from the Napolitana
, 1 from El Leon
) to be added to the Spanish coffers. With the gold banked, the Leon
race to catch the 4-master in it's northward charge. However, despite seeing the two allies running to catch her, La Resolucion
's Captain keeps her pace deliberately slower. Only when the two smaller gunships flank her and take a lead of 1/2 her own length does the 4-masted warship move at her full pace.
Impatient for action, and fearing the Spanish were onto their ruse and were going to assault the undersized expedition in the Coral Triad, the Ark Royal
split up to search for signs of Spanish activity. Upon returning to an empty Home Island, the bewildered crew of the HMS Gallowglass
heads back west, in an effort to ensure the safe return of the expeditionary force.
For all the haste the Lord Cauldwell
made getting to the west most island in the Coral Triad, records aboard the ship indicate that the return trip was some of the slowest going the ship has experienced in her service. As the ship faded further and further back, the Antelope
's crew pondered whether or not to slacken her own pace, so as not to abandon her sister ship. In the end, and in large part due to her knack of shaking off aggressors in even combat, the decision was made to press on at full speed, in case the battle had begun...
And, Begun it had!
in Round 60, the Ark Royal
had found itself in a prime position to strike the emerging Spanish trio! Using her maneuverability to position herself at the very edge of her own cannon ranges, the Ark Royal took three shots at an exposed Napolitana
. Incredibly, and in due contrast to the record of uncanny accuracy the English had gained thus far in the region, all three shots erred, allowing the Spanish to swarm the vessel and sink her!
, hearing the commotion, flew back in the hopes of joining the fight before all the glory was taken. What she saw astonished her - three unharmed Spanish warships, with no English boat in sight! Only in range for a pot-shot at El Leon
, the English saw their fourth consecutive try to hit the charging Spaniards splash harmlessly in the ocean, proving to be a fatal error on behalf of the storied English 3-master. On the ensuing turn, the Napolitana
(1 hit) and La Resolucion
(3 hits) sent their English nemesis to the deep!
The 62nd Round saw the return of the English expedition, less the sluggish Lord Cauldwell
, who had only recently caught back up to sight range of the group. Normally, such a return would have prompted revelry and celebration. Instead, they were greeted with two sights that would be burned into the mind of the locals for years to come - Spanish ships assaulting the Royal Navy within little more than a stone's throw from the English home port itself, and the Ark Royal
seemingly smashed beyond practical salvation, in the harbor and under repair. While in harbor, Hermionie Gold was allegedly questioned by a returning Lt. Chads as to how her crew had made it back to port in a ship in such state, all unharmed, Gold is said to have smiled and said something to the effect of 'Ducie, if I knew how to do that, do you think I'd still be in this pit?'
The Spanish rampage would continue the following turn as, in the 63rd Round, a returning HMS Lord Cauldwell
was caught squarely by a ram from the charging El Leon. Though the Leon
had failed to shoot the small English vessel, she did manage to debunk her rumored invincibility, causing serious damage on the ram. As close-quarters combat ensued between the ships, the first blow to the Spanish cause had been suffered in the battle thus far. Angel 'Lucky Boy' Diaz, Helmsman aboard El Leon
, was killed in a failed boarding attempt on the Lord Cauldwell
The English, desperate for time while the HMS Ark Royal
was still undergoing repairs, devised a new tactic. It would be incumbent on the smaller ship to clog up the lines of travel, running into the very bows of the Spanish if necessary, until the Royal Navy's 'ace in the hole' could re-enter the fray. Knowing the stereotypical superstitious nature of sailors, and furthermore thinking their own gunship might be demon spawn, the English command in port wager that the sight of a full-strength Ark Royal
should paralyze even battle tested Spaniards in their tracks. Allowing the repairs to take place was of paramount importance! No signs of the Spanish onslaught's delay were to be found in Round 64, as the HMS Gallowglass
, once left derelict by pirate gunships only a few knots from her current location, was riddled with holes and laid low by La Resolucion
, who assailed the English with the deadly accurate gunfire the Royal Navy itself laid sole claim to.
Just when control of the region's waterways and trading ports seemed to have slipped out of England's grasp, its final hopes rose in the visage of Captain Thomas Gunn, standing at the bow of the newly repaired Ark Roya
l, eyes fixed upon the smoke rising from just past the harbor. The HMS Antelope
, who'd enjoyed a 47 turn reprieve from combat with hostile ships, willingly rejoined the fray. With sights set on the Napolitana
, orders were given for all men to brace for impact - a ram was imminent. The Antelope
, changing momentarily from treasure runner to projectile weapon, struck her target true. Even so, the sound of to ships colliding was only the second loudest boom in the theater at that moment. The Ark Royal
, seeking to avenge her own embarrassing exit from the fight earlier, pulled alongside La Resolucion
, and, with the deafening blast of her full compliment of cannonry, broadsided the might Spanish ship to little more than a smoldering barge!
Suddenly, with the re-emergence of the Ark Royal
and the sudden dereliction of La Resolucion
, the tide of battle looked to be shifting to the English. To their credit, the remaining Spanish ships battled on undeterred. The Napolitana
answers for the damage incurred her by the Antelope
, knocking a mast clean of the English runner. The Leon
uses her proximity to the Lord Cauldwell
to the fullest, managing to derelict her in the shadow of the Ark Royal
, who'd quit the battle for a moment to carry her prize - the derelict Resolucion
, to the English home port for repair!
While the Royal Navy's newest spoil of war undergoes repair, the battle continues in the waters just outside the harbor. The Napolitana
, who'd once been the hallmark for futility in service, derelicts the HMS Antelope
, and in doing so, becomes the only active vessel of the 6 starting ships! Again, when things seem to be turning back to Spanish favor, the Ark Royal
's returning presence dampens hopes of an improbable upset. With a triplicate roar of cannon fire, the English warship derelicts El Leon
, and turns its eyes on her only opposition standing.
With a silent nod, the Captain of the damaged Napolitana
makes peace with his fate. He raises his hand, and with a forward motion, orders this ship to make a direct line for the HMS Ark Royal
! In the 68th Round, the Napolitana
successfully atones for any previous shortcomings left unaccounted for. She crashed into the side of the Ark Royal
, eliminating one mast with her sole remaining cannon shot and another on a ram. Adding to the carnage, the Napolitana
fiercely boards her foe, eliminating Hermionie Gold as well!
If ever there was an ending fit for a tale of glory, it would've been of the Napolitana
. A ship too slow to bank early gold, too fragile to rescue its sister ship from the clutches of foul piracy... only to run recklessly for the gold necessary to build up a fleet able to challenge the English Juggernaut... and, after challenging said Juggernaut, bravely fighting though the teeth of the enemy fleet, even as the very ships it brought to its aid had fallen... yes, that would be a heroic ending, for certain!
If ever there was a ship who couldn't care less for such endings, it would be the HMS Ark Royal
To start the 69th Round, the English Resolucion
Shoot action from the Ark Royal
. Target, Napolitana
The original plan was to use a system previously proposed to me by a7xfanben to score the game with each faction's total score being the sum of gold banked and point values of surviving ships at game's end. Doing so would result in the following scores:
ENGLISH - 53 pts
HMS Ark Royal
, 14 pts
, derelict, 5 pts
HMS Lord Cauldwell
, derelict, 10 pts
, 13 pts
Gold Banked: 11 pts
SPANISH - 29 pts
, derelict, 10 pts
, derelict, 9 pts
Gold Banked: 10 pts
PIRATES - 12 pts
Gold Banked: 12 pts
Though it almost cost them two of their finest warships, the English had gained control of the region from a military and commercial standpoint. Lt. Henry Ducie Chads was credited as orchestrated the victory, and earned a commendation for valorous service. Some years later, when a reporter was asking a retiring Chads about his motivations to take such bold action in the face of the frenzied Spanish attack, Chads was said to have sighed heavily, looked into the reporter's eyes, and replied something to the effect of 'Lad, if I could remember that, do you think I'd still be in this pit?'
, considered a war prize by the English, was renamed the HMS Resolve
and patrolled the Coral Triad for two years, before being returned to Spain as part of a trade deal. The Spanish, who's maintain their southern port even under British control, helped facilitate commerce between the trading ports and Europe, bringing exotic spices into the mainland and increasing the potential profits for both sides of the equation.
Almost no records could be found of many of the members of the ill-fated Confederation of Pirates. Though Pirates still lurked in the waters, no real attempts at organization on any scale were made in the following years.
Still, five years later, an American merchant, claiming to have been born in the area, arrived at the English checkpoint set up in the old Pirate Harbor town. Among his possessions, two pieces of paper stood out - a deed to the mansion overlooking the pier, with 114 acres attached, and a weathered Letter of Marque, signed by the former military governor for the English in the region...