The Final Battle
The fight to control a port has evolved since the early days of the design. In this devlog, I’ll briefly outline the final battle mechanics and take a look at the first four final battle maps that will be available.
Final Battle: Mechanics
There are two ways for an attacker to capture a port. First, they can defeat all the defending ships. When there are no defenders left, the port is lost. Second, they can assault the port itself, landing and attacking in hand-to-hand combat.
On the maps that follow, the port is a green dot labeled ‘P’. Near every port is a gun emplacement that will fire on any attackers that come near. If the emplacement is active, the port is locked to both attackers and defenders. As soon as the emplacement is destroyed, a timer begins; 30 minutes after its destruction, both sides can enter the port and fight for control of it.
The port is also guarded by a fortress, marked on the maps as a green dot labeled ‘F’. This fortress is nearly invincible to ship cannon fire, and can deal out a serious beating to any attacker that comes into its range. Fortresses can be defeated in only one way: by landing and attacking their garrison in hand-to-hand combat. Like the towns, fortresses are also guarded by a gun emplacement that must be destroyed to allow access to the fortress. Unlike the towns, there is no timer; once the emplacement is destroyed, the attackers can begin their assault.
In every battle, there are many different advantages that both the defender and the attacker can unlock through contention points. The more contention accumulated before the battle, the more benefits that side receives. One of the most basic benefits is the positional benefit. Normally, all attackers and defenders enter the battle at a single point; on the maps, this point is marked with a ‘2’ (red for the attackers, and green for the defenders). This is not always the most advantageous position, though. By accumulating contention points, both sides can unlock the other two starting positions (marked ‘1’ and ‘3’ on the maps), and divide their forces between them however they like.
Wind is always a factor in any ship combat, and by default, the wind is set in each final battle room to not particularly favor either side (though, just due to the size and complexity of the maps, there will always be certain areas where the wind favors one side; overall, the wind favors neither). Another contention advantage, available only to the attackers, is the ability to shift the wind to a more favorable position.
Some of the other benefits available include additional crew morale, additional personal initiative, increases and decreases to the effectiveness of the gun emplacements and fortress, and allies for the attackers in the swashbuckling portion of the port battle. No single advantage will win the battle for an outmatched nation, but taken together they provide a powerful extra punch for a side willing to spend the time to unlock them all.
I’m going to go through each of the final battle rooms, and briefly describe them. Keep in mind that while I’ve thought about how battles in each room are likely to flow, I’m not actually spending the many hours in these maps that the players will. The tactics I describe may have nothing to do with the actual tactics the players end up using, and are mostly just an insight into what I’m thinking as I lay out the starting positions and towns.
Final Battle: Havana Harbor
Havana Harbor is called that because long ago, before many revisions to make it more friendly to large-scale ship battles, it was based on a map of Havana. Nowadays it bears very little resemblance to the historical harbor, but I kept the name out of nostalgia. It’s 10km across east-to-west, but much of that space is taken up by the rocky islands that clutter the map.
The primary feature of this map is the narrow channels near the fort, in the center of the map. Attackers arriving at positions 1 and 2 are funneled into these small areas, where there’s little room to maneuver. The eastern approach at position 3 is more open and accessible, and avoids the guns of the fortress, but is a longer route overall, giving defenders more time to prepare for the attack.
Defender position is largely irrelevant in Havana Harbor, because of the restricted avenues of approach. If the defenders are certain the attackers will come through the channel, they can quickly form up a defensive line at position 1 or 2, but even if all the attackers come from the east, the defenders can still move to intercept them easily.
By default, the wind blows from the northeast. If the defenders gain the wind advantage contention benefit, the wind shifts to blowing from the northwest.
Final Battle: Stingray Island
At 24km across, Stingray Island is the largest final battle map, dwarfing even the massive Wild Keys. It features alternating large land masses and large areas of open water. The narrow channels in this map are not very narrow at all, allowing larger forces to move through them. They still provide defenders an excellent bottleneck at point 1, but on the eastern side of the map, two entrances into the port area make defense more difficult.
Defender position is, due to the size of the map, far more critical than in Havana Harbor. If the attackers mass in the east, they can be in the inner waters within just a few minutes, while the defenders scramble to reform their battle lines. The eastern approach also, as in Havana, bypasses the powerful fortress guns, giving swashbuckling-minded attackers early access to the town’s defending gun emplacement.
By default, the wind blows from the south-southeast. If the attackers gain the wind advantage contention benefit, the wind instead blows from the southwest.
Final Battle: Wild Keys
Just over 20km across, Wild Keys is second in size only to Stingray Island. The land looks small because the scale of the map is so enormous. Open sea battles are likely if the attackers approach from positions 1 or 3, and even if they approach from position 2, it’s just as easy to circle the long sandbars as to go through them into the inner waters of the keys.
Defender position is less important here than in Stingray Island, simply because from position 2 a defender can easily respond to an attack from any direction. Attacker position is therefore a matter of preferred approach; do the attackers want to be shielded by the land, or engage immediately? The openness of the map gives the attackers significant flexibility.
By default, the wind blows from east-northeast. If the attackers gain the wind advantage contention benefit, the wind shifts to blow from the west.
Final Battle: Arch Coastline
Arch Coastline is not actually a lake; the southern part of the map is open water, but is not navigable. This is the smallest of the maps at about 7km across the long axis, with only a few thousand meters between the attackers and defenders at the start of the battle. In many ways, this map is ideal for a less-organized group; you’re certain to be near the action no matter which position you start from.
That said, the defender position 3 allows them to shield behind the land, forcing attackers to engage at closer range on an approach from the center or eastern flank. On the west, the fortress guns cover about half the waters before the port; they’re avoidable, but restrict attacker maneuverability.
This is the map most likely to lead to formal ‘battle lines’, as there’s little distance to cover in formation, so that even an undisciplined group can form up a line on approach. It also features very few places to hide, making it a fast, action-oriented map.
By default, the wind blows from due east. If the attackers gain the wind advantage contention benefit, the wind shifts to blow from south-southwest.