Uncharted Seas: The Battle of Skull Island

Uncharted Seas banner image copyright Spartan Games

An Epic Battle in Small Scale REPLAY from the Guns of August Convention, Saturday 13 August 2011

I ran a game of Uncharted Seas, one of my favorites, at the Guns of August convention on Saturday.  Mr. LaRochelle was kind enough to document a good portion of the action of the event and unless otherwise stipulated all photo credits are courtesy of Mr. Dewey LaRochelle.

Gar Helps load the game

Setting up: As previously mentioned, the Guns of August convention is a fun smaller sized convention that covers the waterfront from miniature wargaming to roleplaying with everything in between. There were events going on all over the con and as I had only committed to running a game a mere week before the con, I wasn’t expecting a nice space, but got one anyway. We got two 4 by 10s (I think) that I positioned nose to nose and covered up with three water patterned battle mats. The scenario I had in mind was truly ad hoc, just a free for all among fleets. I like to add a little terrain bits to break up line of sight and add something to hide behind.

Garrett pimping the game to passers-by.

Setting up fleet sheets.

I gave each corner of the table a signficant island and added a beauty of a piece I got from Howard Whitehouse, a “Skull Island” which I put in the middle, more or less. This permitted the fleets to enter the battle space with some protection against immediate long ranged attack.

The Battle Map

Fleet Selection: Dispositions were as you see on the map above.  There’s a very specific formula for balancing on-table forces in Uncharted Seas. I usually ignore this for the coolness factor. Thus, I have some very unbalanced fleets that are a little overpowered. For instance, the Orcs, my favorite fleet. I have bought every Orc Raider upgrade ship produced by Uncharted Seas so far. Why? Because they look cool. I have bought extras in every fleet, but some fleets are better than others for sheer numbers. For instance, a very happy flea market find netted me an extra human fleet and an extra Bone Griffons fleet. I’m not going to just leave these unpainted– but the net result is an abundance of that kind of ship. My strongest fleet for ramming and boarding purposes is probably the Orcs, for overall survivability the Humans, for Defense and Smashing power, the Dwarves. We decided against the humans and just for a lark I chose the weakest fleet– the Elves. Or to put it properly, “those lute-playing, tree-hugging Elves”..  Garrett chose the Dragon Lords (his favorite) but was whining about not choosing the Dwarves because of their cool big red airship, a recent addition to their fleet.

Summarizing Fleet Strengths and Weaknesses:

  • The Elves: Mediocre hitting power but fast speed with the wind behind them.  Also a small detachment of non-wind powered Destroyers to add to the mix.  Not a pushover, per se, but more fragile than other hulls.  The Elf Admiral will have to be on the move at top speed during the upcoming battle, just to stay alive.
  • The Orcs: A wide variety of capital ships designed to fire forward, Ram, and Board.  The downside is that the ships, with one exception, only fire directly forward.  Their advantage is in the larger crew sizes on almost every hull in the fleet.  If any fleet will be capturing prizes, it will be the Orcs.
  • The Dragon Lords: Decent movement and hitting power, with the advantage of having a Dragon Carrier along to launch small fighter-like Naugra Dragons.  Alas, not a fleet with as much depth as others so somewhat fragile overall.
  • The Dwarves: The most technologically advanced fleet on the board, but not the fastest by a long shot.  Ships favor the broadside.  Has maybe the best ship on the board during this battle, the Dwarven Heavy Cruiser.  This is another “over purchased” fleet that has had a lot of releases with an obvious cool factor, and I’ve bought a lot (but not all) of them– the Kraken Submarine, the Dwarf Airship, the Heavy Cruisers.  This probably is the best fleet on the board for long distance gunnery and overall survival factor.
  • The Bone Griffons: For starters, this is two starters.  Sets, that is.  Thus, the Bones, who have a decent amount of hull types, have a larger number of capital ships than any other fleet on the board.  However, those capital ships are fragile and rely on the wind.  The Bone Battleship has a customizable element where you can choose catapults that fire at an arc or direct firing arbalests firing broadsides.  I think the fire support possibilities are outstanding and have rigged the models for five catapults between two battleships.

The Dwarven Fleet. Note the cool factor of a Dwarven Zeppelin.


The action followed a sort of circular around the board pattern. The Bone Griffons sailed for the center, in two largish groups of three squadrons. They had a lot of ships to move. Their left wing gradually contended with the Orcs and their right wing almost immediately was fighting with the Elves (er, me). The Orcs seemed to lay off the Dragon Lords (directly behind and to their left) and instead advanced to take on the Dwarves and the Elves, then the Undead. The Dragon Lords contested with the Dwarves but seemed to think better of it after taking a lot of losses. The Dwarves fought the Elves to their left but also the Orcs and Dragon Lords, and didn’t lose a single (floating) hull.


The Elves, you might have noticed, were the common denominator in a lot of those attacks. Being fast but fragile, losses started piling up. I’d say the Elves were more reckless than most, but at least made good use of masking terrain. The Destroyer force came into contention with Bone Griffons very early and was lost to a man.. er, elf.

Elves on the move

The Dwarves on the right could pick and choose targets and had a great amount of reserve firepower to draw upon, plus some keen weapons platforms– I was eager to see their newest secret weapon, the airship, at work.

Dwarves chug out.. slowly.. to encounter the Dragon Lords, then the Orcs. With some Elf action too.

Alas, there were no grand donnybrooks on the right flank– the Dragon Lords player (Garrett) essayed out and tried to lock horns with the Dwarves, but lost a lot of smaller ships quickly, which made him shy of bringing on Armageddon.

That’s a lot of broadside.

The Dragon Lords player had some terrain advantages, being behind some giant rocks at start, and also didn’t have wind restrictions like the Elves, Orcs and Bone Griffons. But he needed to get his fleet into a position to use the broadsides of his larger ships to be effective, and his deployment didn’t support it. Dragon Lords isn’t large enough to cover two threats at once in depth, and his hitting power was decreased on both sides.


The Bone Griffons and Elves mix it up early on and the Elves lost their Destroyer squadron (you can see some of this in the photo below). The Bone Griffons played very well indeed, in accordance with their strengths.. large numbers and the fire support capability of the Battleship’s catapults.


Because the wind was against them for most of the game, they were delayed entering into a general donnybrook, and that is what allowed the squadrons the opportunity to position to support each other so effectively. Here we are, figuring out the firing arc for the Bone Griffons player, Mr. Dan Beattie.

PhotobucketAt roughly 17″ of arc that is most effective for damage at the third range band, the Battleships were very effective indeed.

The Elves did not fare very well. My strategy, such as it was, was to fend off hammer blows and try to conduct “sail by shootings” on targets of opportunity.

PhotobucketGetting Skull Island between the Elves and some Bad Guys.

At this stage The Elf fleet scored its greatest victory of the game, shooting down the Dwarven Superweapon, the Zeppelin bomber. Needless to say, this did not endear them to the Dwarves.

PhotobucketThe Humanity! the Humanity! or is it the Dwarfamity?

The Elves couldn’t buy a break in this game, and possibly that is because I don’t really have many specialty ships or haven’t figured out good tactics to use with this fleet. After losing the Destroyer Squadron on the left flank, I tucked into the Orcs in the center. This is usually a bad idea facing them head on but can be a doable do if you approach from the flanks, where you won’t be caught in the broadside. However, there was little room to maneuver in the center, and once past the Skull Rock I was exposed to fire from all sides. And fire they did!

PhotobucketDashing out amongst the Orc fleet in a fit of defiance.

I kept my heavies back to shoot at long range (the most notable victory being against the Dwarven zeppelin), and sent the frigates out like the speed bumps they are.  Predictable results versus the orcs: many of the Elf frigates were instantly blasted to kindling.

As the picture below depicts, with the fleets so close to each other on the table, maneuvering was tight and some ad-hoc negotiations were witnessed.  I’m not sure what transpired between the Dragon Lords and the Dwarves, but the went from shooting each other to avoiding each other.


The Dragon Lords and Orcs contested with each other and I did witness a successful boarding and capture by the Dragon Lords, believe it or not. Unfortunately the DL fleet was so widely dispersed it could not support attacks very well.

PhotobucketOrc Attacks

For his part, I think the Orc player was hesitant in his attacks and didn’t commit his strengths.  I would have sent out my big capital ships to engage the enemy closer and not worried about the flanks so much.

The Undead Player, the Bone Griffon’s “Admiral” was Dan Beattie, and he played his position well, attacking and doing surprisingly well with his undead Orca host.  Besides the Destroyer squadron, he also nailed a frigate or two and a Cruiser using long ranged fire.  Very sensible use of the Battleship Catapult platforms.


Here, the Elven Battleship squadron makes a run for Skull Island, to get it between them and the catapults of the dead.



Later in the battle, the Dragon Lords and the Orcs engage and get involved in a couple of ship to ship melees.


As you can see, the battlefield is getting crowded…


The boarding action is about to take place in the top right in the photo above– Dragon Carrier versus Dwarven assault barge. The Dragon Lords will win.

Later in the game, Garrett tries another sally into the area contested by the Dwarves with his “one spot” squadron.


And the Ram & Board action goes off! Both sides fight for two turns of melee and take appalling losses, but the Dragon Carrier started with more crew and therefore was doomed to win this one!

Borders Away!


The Dragon Lords encounter the Dwarves
The Last Great Fights..

By the time the Dragon Lords and Orc Raiders were fighting in earnest, the battle had been ongoing for about two hours plus. The Elves had taken terrible losses due to their “constant movement strategy” and the Orcs had taken a bit of a beating. The Dragons were down to three capital ships, the Elves two. The Bone Griffon’s large fleet was somewhat intact, having lost a cruiser or two and many undead whales, which he can always afford. The Dwarves were almost untouched except for the Zeppelin. Had we continued to play, we would all have been observors for the inevitable Zombies versus Dwarves on the High Seas battle that was building. Instead, we called the game and made it a draw (minor victory) between the Dwarves and the Bone Griffons.

Summary: A great game, somewhat flawed at the beginning by not having played it in about 8 months, and thus had to remember a lot of niggling (but easy) points on the fly. Fortunately the crowd was forgiving and we managed to have a great time. This game made me decide to invest in expanding the Elf Fleet which is woeful compared to the firepower evident in other fleets. I shall make a greater effort to balance future battles, at least along point cost guidelines.

The Various Fleet Commanders Celebrate

I loved running this game and it came together very quickly and painlessly for me.  Mostly because I had done the legwork for it two years ago and know how.

Dead Ships Pile on Dead Ship Island

“And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.”

— Book of Revelations, King James Bible


3 responses to “Uncharted Seas: The Battle of Skull Island

  1. Thanks for taking the time to make this detailed post. I had not heard of Uncharted Seas, but having looked at the world map I really want to run an AD&D campaign there now! So many published worlds and maps don’t contain enough seas and oceans for my taste.

  2. barrataria: you will like the work that’s gone into the Uncharted Seas world. There’s a lot of depth there. You can find out more about Uncharted Seas here: http://www.spartangames.co.uk/games/uncharted-seas

  3. Dewey LaRochelle

    Actually the dwarves and the dragon lords came up with a truce for a time, but the dwarves, got bored and ended the truce rather spectacularly by sinking most of the dragon lord fleet in a couple of turns, helped by a critical hit on the dragon lord capital ship which kept it from firing for a turn. The dwarves had also figured out combined fire, which became truly a ship eraser (actually squadron eraser) when it was finally employed. Great time. Next time I fear Garrett will not be so trusting.