02 August 2012

Another Artemis Play Session

So, the bi-weekly bunch of Artemis-players met up again the other week to play the game once again. And we decided to get the difficulty to max. Well we did have a Dreadnought. And basically expected to die. What followed was some of the most epic and intense role-playing/video-gaming experiences I have ever had...

So difficulty ten. Space to "interesting" (as "very interesting" tends to litter enough black holes and mine-fields as to seriously obstruct the AI invasion). We in the mightiest of the ships that players can have, the intimidating Dreadnought-class. We had enough people for all stations. And I was the captain. I didn't really expect us to get far. Difficulty 8 had killed us quickly enough before. It was just a matter of doing things with our backs against the wall.

We came into the battle guns/nuclear torpedoes blazing, quickly wiping out the first few of the vast waves of enemy ships. Docking with one of the stations, we re-supplied. Looking at the incredible number of enemy fleets on the long-range scanner, I decided that we couldn't defend all of the stations and would concentrate on one of them, in order to keep things going for as long as possible. Having stocked up on ammunition and fuel, we engaged the nearest waves of enemy ships.

The first one went well, as we used ECMs to take out shields and then followed up with nukes, pelting the flottilla with heavy fire-power until it was over. The second wave got us without heavy weaponry though and the station was too close to the battle to be docked with. Well, the Dreadnaught does have its main beam weapon, a powerful ray-cannon taking out smaller ships with ease. At this point we had a wholly different problem: We were running out of energy. To conserve fuel, I ordered the shield shut down and all sytems lowered as far as possible and then drag the ship back to the station. That was when the Bird of Prey Skaraan Enforcer uncloaked and opened fire.

Now we knew that the overall situation was horrible. At this point, the other stations were under attack and/or being destroyed, as our comms-officer told us constantly, while we were damaged, with barely any shields left, locked in combat with an enemy that could cloak at will, while other enemy fleets were on their way towards us too. None of us expected to actually survive at this point but we were going to go down fighting. Converting whatever torpedoes we had left to energy, our shield damaged and off-line and with not much fuel left, we kept the fight going. The fight between us and the Skaraan ship was tense and long. For several minutes, they would cloak, come at us from a different angle, while we would divert power sometimes to impulse drive, sometimes to maneuvers, sometimes to the main-beam weapon, whilst also dropping some mines in the hopes of the enemy flying into them. It was me, pacing back- and forth infront of our beamer-powered main-screen, the helmsman holding on to his joystick, engineering constantly diverting power and repair-crews, science remarking on incoming enemy reinforcements, our gunner becrying more energy for the main-gun and comms annoying everyone by reminding us that the other stations were currently dying. It was a scenario of two battered ships slugging it out with slow maneuvers, deception and all they had left in their broken hulls, worthy of The Wrath of Khan or the like. Then, after six minutes of combat, the enemy ship got one last hit from our main beam-weapon and exploded.

We cheered, as the tension had been incredible and our team-work under harsh circumstances had triumphed. For all of us, we could have lost the game right then, it wouldn't have mattered, defeating that one ship had been the most epic battle we had ever fought. We docked with the station just in time to restock before the next two waves of enemy ships came close. They were no real problem as the station had manufactured a nuke for us and we were repaired and re-fueled fully. At this point, the station was the last one on the map. When we came in for another re-fuel, the station was attacked by Arvonian fighters sent from a fleet of carriers coming through a nearby nebula. While undocking, we ran into a mine our weapons-officer had dropped earlier in order to change our load-out. The fighters swooped in and started doing real damage to our ship. Firing our last nuke at the incoming carriers, I ordered a desperate emergency jump, somewhere far, far away. Mind you, at the time I thought that with our last station falling, the mission would end. Engineering, who was actually busy devising a way to self-destruct the ship, gave energy to the jump drive which, incidentally didn't have enough fuel left to jump as far as I had ordered. I told helms to jump as far as possible and we did, as I thought that in the real world that is what I would do as a captain: Try to get the ship to safety from this hopeless situation. We jumped into a nebula, where we sat like a rock.

The ship was crippled. The status report was all red, only our drives were functional. We were completely out of fuel. We had three torpedoes stuck in the tubes, which were inactive. The screen was flickering. Of our damage-control teams, only six people out of originally thirty were still alive. Somewhere far away, the station was destroyed by the enemy armadas, now all converging on their last target on the map: Us. I had engineering give us enough energy on the scanners to give us a tactical overview of the situation, to take stock of what we had and what we could do.

There were several enemy groups on the map, converging towards us. We had a heavily damaged ship but with all systems down, we were producing more energy than we were using, thus slowly refilling our capacitors. We had a total of six torpedoes, a few ECMs and mines but no working launchers at the moment. We were in a nebula, which I considered an advantage. I looked at the map. I had an idea. It was not over yet...

I told everyone to be quiet, as we were in Schleichfahrt now. I told helms a direction to go to. We were going to go across a quarter of the map to hide behind a mine-field. Let the enemy battle-groups destroy themselves in it. On the way there we would repair the jump-drive and refuel ourselves. Whatever was left after the mine-field would try to get through and then see us jump away, behind a black hole on the other end of the map, luring any enemies left into it. That was the plan. There were obstacles though. We had barely any energy, so we had to divert power first to maneuver-drive (at 10%) to aim in a direction and then turn those off to have power for the thrusters to get us moving. We dragged our ship towards the mine-field at a speed that was just enough to get there before the enemies but not so much as to actually diminish our slowly replenishing fuel-supply. Meanwhile, the surviving repair-crews started repairing out systems.

It went to plan. We got to the mine-field before the first enemy fleet, with almost all systems back to function. The ability to convert the remaining torpedoes to energy gave us the option to do the far jump behind the black hole. When the first enemy fleet got into range on the other side of the mine-field, we hit them with an ECM, to lower their shield and get them more vulnerable for the mines. We did so with the other fleets, some of which were ready to surrender after getting hit with the first mines. We did get hit by a single enemy torpedo that slipped between our beam-arcs right in the dead-angle, while we were trying to pace to a different position behind the mine-field in order to lure the next enemy fleet through a portion of the mine-field that wasn't diminished yet. In the end, the jump beyond the black hole didn't become necessary. We'd done it. We'd beaten difficulty 10, with our ship getting crippled twice and no other friendly contacts surviving in the sector. We had a Kirk vs. Khan-style ship duel. We had Das Boot style evasive and sneaking around. We had overcome incredible odds. It was awesome.
 Notice the number of surrendered enemy vessels. Count these as 'kills' for the communications-officer...

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