Sons and Daughters – Boarding Actions

   Posted by: Andrew Linstrom   in Sons & Daughters, Uncategorized

Shout-out to Jared for the last-minute inspiration.

When airships clash over the wastelands, they battle with all manner of weaponry, both salvaged from Before and crafted from the ruins. The hydrogen that buoys most airships into the air is ever at risk of combustion. Why send your prize down as a smoking ruin, post-apocalyptic pirates ask, when it could be laden with valuable trade goods and things they just don’t make anymore? The patrol zeppelins of green Deseret, the Mexican Empire, and the formidable Prospero of the former Canadian Forces Air Command are known for their willingness to outright destroy hostile vessels rather than bothering with a boarding action, but the guardians of other communities would rather take an enemy airship intact, particularly if they are confronted over the town or valuable, flammable farmland.

The first phase of a boarding action is to close with the target, preferably as quickly as possible. The longer it takes to close into boarding range, the more time the target has to fire back. The defenders generally have the advantage in firepower, as the attackers will limit their fire to harming the crew and crippling their target’s engines and control surfaces, but defenders faced with boarding as their alternative won’t hesitate to hold back any ship-destroying firepower. Some airships designed for pursuit are equipped with some manner of thrusters to help them close into boarding distance, such as compressed air tanks, kerosene-fueled jets, peroxide rockets, or nitrous injection for their combustion engines. Pirates that can afford the lift for armored plating concentrate it first toward the nose, the better to help survive closing.

The second phase of a boarding action is to actually get the boarding party onto the target. This is a tricky proposition, as envelopes are typically wider than gondolas. Well-equipped raiders use powder, rocket, or spring-fueled launchers to fire grappling lines into their target and reel them in, while those with poorer means must resort to slamming alongside, damaging both craft, and tossing on their hooks. A seasoned raiding vessel can be identified by the rigging allowing its side-mounted engines and other equipment to fold down or swing around to the dorsal or ventral surfaces, out of the way of the smashy-smashy. Another modification popular with vessels expecting to make boarding actions is a level deck built atop the envelope to stage boarders on. If the attackers have a height advantage at this stage, they may have the luxury of lowering boarders down onto the target’s envelope (or upper deck, if the target is so equipped) to fight down through crawlspaces and/or rappel down the sides. If the defenders have the height advantage, then the boarders are forced to climb up, affording the defenders a significant advantage in the ensuing melee. Height advantage is crucial enough that raiders and traders alike often opt to carry extra ballast to chuck for a quick boost of altitude. In the case of the desperate and pursued, the precious contents of their cargo hold–for the truly desperate, their passenger berths– must suffice. Experienced raiders that have height advantage try to bait their targets into dropping their ballast or else wait to ensure their target has none aboard before hovering directly overhead to disgorge boarders. More than one boarding action has been ruined by the quarry springing up to slam into the target’s underside, damaging the gondola and crushing boarders that had already leaped atop.

The third and final stage of a boarding action is the face-to-face fight between the boarders and the target’s crew. The cramped conditions of an airship’s interior favors hand weapons, a subject for which the denizens of the wasteland have no shortage of imagination. Firing guns in or on an airship isn’t as instantly fatal as some believe–as long as incendiary or explosive ammunition isn’t used–and limited small arms exchanges during boarding actions are considered an acceptable risk by most. Blades and clubs, though, have drastically less chance of starting fires that could spread to the hydrogen cells. The wisdom among raiders is to attempt to put boarders onto as many parts of the airship at once as possible. For one thing, it keeps the defenders off balance and makes it difficult for them to coordinate an effective defense. For another, it increases the chance of intercepting any fatalist defenders bent on scuttling the ship. If the defenders have the fighters to spare, they may opt for a counter boarding action, forcing their attackers to reserve some forces to defend themselves, thereby blunting the invading force.

If a boarding action is repelled at this final stage, the game might go into overtime. Both parties may be be weary of the brawl and go their separate ways, trading fire until one goes down or they pass out of range. Or, the defenders may decide that the attackers, having rudely ambushed them and trashed their ship, owe them a new one, and the boarded become the boarders. This usually occurs after pirates find their attack dashed against an unusually tenacious and resourceful crew. This is how some novice crews get their first unplanned upgrade. Sometimes, however, the chase was a ruse and the counter boarding action was the “defender’s” plan all along. Want to know how Deseret traders got their reputation as vessels worth thinking twice before hitting? Imagine pulling up alongside a nice, juicy cloudfreighter and getting your hooks in and your raiders on, only to find out that it wasn’t flying slow and doughy from a hold full of produce, but a hold full of Danite marines.

This entry was posted on Monday, August 15th, 2011 at 6:23 pm and is filed under Sons & Daughters, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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