Raid on Key West by Gaslight - Introduction and Scenario
By Dave Markley
Kapitan Heinz von Mertz, Commanding Officer of the Luftschiffe Z-7, peered into the night sky then looked at the engine control panel next to the helmsman. The starboard engine was running hot so the engineer would need to check the air cleaner when they reached Schlüsselwesten. Glancing aft, he noted the elite Luftschifftetruppen sleeping wherever space permitted on the deck. This was his cargo and the reason for the rare night flight. The General Staff had ordered a new series of attacks on the hideouts of the Texas rebels and the Luftschiffetruppen were to be a key element of the mobile attack force. Instructing the Deck Officer to waken him when the Schlüsselwesten landing beacon was in sight, Kapitan Von Mertz returned to his quarters for another hour of sleep.
Major Sam Bridger, armed forces of the Resurgent Republic of Texas, was a man in a quandary. On the one hand, the upcoming operation offered a chance to strike a blow against a hated invader. On the other, he needed to convince his former American colleagues that Texan forces would be willing to bear their share of fighting in the months to come. These bluebellies may be a little stiff, he thought, but they sure have the spirit for this sort of thing. As he moved his large frame through the narrow hatch of the USS TOLEDO he noticed his company of Texans, readying the Sweetheart of the Rodeo to be swung out on the pontoon raft that had been constructed for it to be towed to shore on. Captain Meechum, the crew chief, was polishing up the giant spherical copper battery suspended from the rear of the ungainly vehicle. Bridger grinned. He had noticed that even vehicles as ungainly as the Sweetheart could evoke a sense of pride, even love, from their crew. “You ready to give them Prussians some pepper today, Hugh?” said Bridger, rocking gently on his feet with the swell, which was picking up with the tide. Meechum spat a long stream of tobacco juice into the scupper, an action that earned him a dirty look from the sailors working the winch. “I reckon we’ll kick those Proosians all the way back to Heidelburg, suh!” said Meechum, grinning through a tobacco stained teeth. Meechum’s comment started a buzz of excitement from the Texans on the deck, most of them nodding and patting their Bowie knifes as if seeking consolation. “Just don’t get stuck in the open boys. Keep moving, and whatever you do, close with the enemy. Take my word on it, those boys out there are not expecting us. The faster you get up close to them, the faster they feel a bayonet in the guts, the easier it will be for all of us. We need to go fast, and we need to go quiet. Understood?” The men broke into grins and continued their preparations—some notching their bayonets, some sharpening their Bowie knives to a murderous edge. Bridger smiled to himself again. He wouldn’t want to be in the boots of any Prussian sentry out there this night.
Major Hiram Digby, United States Marine Corps, looked through his binoculars at the silent beach ahead. So far, so good he thought as he shifted his gaze to the whaleboats of the first wave of the assault. As long as we have the advantage of surprise the raid should go well. His mission was to eliminate the Prussian undersea telegraph station and destroy the Zeppelin landing facilities. Under his command were two platoons of Marines from the monitor Scioto and cruiser Toledo along with two landing parties of sailors. He sighed as he thought about his Texas allies. The Texans were good men in a scrap, but he was concerned that their exuberance for combat might cost him the element of surprise. But at least the Texans had brought two of their strange fighting vehicles. The steam wagon Texas Tempest he understood readily enough, but that “galvanic war wagon”, the Sweetheart of the Rodeo was another story. Power from Galvanic activity, what would they come up with next? Shifting his glasses back to the beach he swept the shoreline looking any sign of enemy activity.
Soldat Pieter Schmidt gazed out the horizon and wished his watch was over. Standing sentry duty along the beach was tough. The quiet waves and star filled sky always made him sleepy. In six months his tour of duty would be over and he would return home. At first joining the army and getting posted to the Sudwestamerika troops fulfilled his expectations. However, two years in the desolate desert of Prussian Texas had ended the romance. The dust and hot days made him long for the crisp nights of the Scwarzwald. As he walked his post along the pier, Pieter looked east where soon the sun would bring a new day, but Pieter did not know that he would not see the dawn that would end his quiet watch.
Asleep in the jungle enclosure, he stirred in the cool of the pre-dawn air. Soon it would be daylight and with day the sun brought the chance to hunt, to kill….
Thus the stage was set for a Gaslight game I ran two weeks ago. On a rare game day, a group gathered in my basement for some gaming. Present were Walt O’Hara (of Le Grand Cirque fame), my brother Bruce, son David and one of his D&D buddies Steve Wolf. The game was set in Walt’s alternate history world where the Prussians had allied with the ex-Confederate States and established a colony in eastern Texas and western Louisiana. Although Walt’s campaign starts around 1870, to coincide with the Franco-Prussian war, the scenario takes place several years later (around 1885). My colonial figures are Boxer Rebellion period so the later date makes them more appropriate and it also gives more time for VSF technology to mature. I postulate a lot of early gasoline powered and fuel oil (coal gas) fired steam vehicles.
The actual scenario was a raid on the Prussian base on the island of Schlüsselwesten or Key West by an allied force from the United States (Union) and the Texas Republic. Here the Prussians had a telegraph station connecting via underwater cable to Texas and the Prussian holdings in the eastern Caribbean. Also was a refueling stop for the Prussian Zeppelin fleet, a major source of transportation for the Prussians. The objective for allies was to destroy the Zeppelin base and the telegraph station. The Prussians objective was to prevent an allied victory.
The terrain was set up so the allies would move (south) down the length of my table (see map) and used a 4 X 6 foot area. The allies would land on a beach then cross a line of low hills to the Prussian building complex and airfield behind the hills. On the eastern and western most hills were two coastal artillery positions. In the center was a water tower with a sandbagged observation post on top. Behind the western gun battery was an area of heavy jungle, which actually concealed a fenced enclosure containing, Doktor Mueller’s experimental dinosaurs.
United States Navy Expeditionary Force
Major Hiram Digby, USMC, expedition commander (Adventurer)
Gunnery SGT "Red"
1LT Medgar Hedley, USMC, OIC of USS Toledo Marine detachment (Leader and 9 extras)
1LT Simon Bolivar Buckley, USMC, OIC of USS Scioto Marine detachment (Leader and 9 extras)
Ensign Jupiter Dokes, USN, OIC of USS Toledo landing party (Leader and 9 extras)
Ensign Wesley Jerome, USN, OIC of USS Scioto landing party (Leader and 9 extras)
LTjg Frederick “Hummingbird” Jones, pilot USS Scioto Curtis Rotary Conveyance (small gun)
USS Scioto , two turret monitor (counts as heavy artillery with special rules)
USS Toledo , cruiser (reassigned to patrol east of the island of Key West)
Reconstituted Texas Republic Armed Forces
Texas Leader: MAJ
Samuel "Big Sam " Bridger (Leader and
CAPT Hugh "El Loco" Meechum, pilot Sweetheart of the Rodeo (galvanic vehicle with lightning gun and medium quick-fire cannon)
LT "Cautious Joe" Dreyer, pilot Texas Tempest (armored steam wagon with gattling gun turret and 3 inch gun (medium))
CPL "Dangerous Dan " O'Higgins, driver fuel truck (unarmored diesel vehicle)
Hauptman Johan Kruger, Commanding Officer
Feldwebel Otto Dunklebrow, (Leader)
Leutnant Fritz Dorfmann, OIC Sudwestamerika Company, (Leader and 9 extras).
Leutnant Hans Seelowe, OIC Sea Battalion, (Leader and 9 extras).Oberleutnant Manfred Stadtplan, OIC Artillery (Leader and 12 extras), (1 Krupp 7.5 cm gun (medium), 2 Krupp Tri-barrel coastal guns (heavy)).
Leutnant Karl Merkle, OIC Luftschiffetruppen, (Leader and 9 extras).Kapitan Heinz von Mertz, Captain Luftschiffe Z-7, Bayern, (1 revolving cannon (small))
Herr Doktor Mueller, mad scientist, (Veteran and 1 adolescent, 3 young Tyrannosaurus Rex)
The Prussian Force is mostly asleep when the scenario opens. There is a lone sentry on the pier and a pair of sentries on top of the water tower, but they are far from alert —each has to roll his shoot score to alert the garrison.