The Battle of Jericho 3

July 2245.

After the disastrous first contact between an Earth Force battlegroup under Captain Jankowski and Minbari forces rim-ward of Earth controlled space, Minbari ships have struck at the nearest Earth controlled system; Jericho. Within minutes, the few defending ships and orbital defences around Jericho 3 were eliminated; only a handful escaped to warn of the attack and the ferocity with which it was conducted. With only the barest of intelligence on Minbari capabilities, the 2nd Fleet out of Beta Durani has launched its 4th Division to counter attack enemy forces in Jericho.

Good morning everyone. This past weekend I and a select group played a very interesting Babylon 5 scenario set at the very beginning of the Earth-Minbari War. I have been fascinated by this conflict since the show first aired but have deliberately avoided gaming it due to the force and technological disparity inherent to the two sides. Using only on-screen evidence, only two Minbari warships are seen destroyed in as many years; doesn't make for fun gaming.

However, I decided to try and game the period to see if my suspicions were correct and because I think I came up with an interesting scenario. Gathering the required players, the table was laid out.

Text in italics is instructive rather than narrative and serves only to provide a glimpse at the underlying mechanics at work.

Across 10' of playing space, Jericho 3 was lazily orbiting its parent gas giant. The local jump gate was located ~1.5 light seconds from the moon (below the camera) and the orbital space of Jericho 3 was cluttered with satellites and other infrastructure. With the players gathered around the table they were assigned to their respective sides. Kevin and his son James (his first game!) would take on the role of the Minbari. Myself, Pat, and Matt would wrangle Earth Force.

Earth Force - 4th Division / 2nd Fleet - Beta Durani Sector

Division Command [Vice Admiral Commanding]
EAS Erebus - Avenger Class Heavy Carrier [Gamma Model]
        8xSA-23 Aurora Starfury Squadrons
EAS Hades - Olympus Class Corvette [Delta Model]

Dreadnought Squadron [Commodore Commanding]
EAS Dauntless - Nova Class Dreadnought [Beta Model]
        4xSA-23 Aurora Starfury Squadrons
EAS Maelstrom - Nova Class Dreadnought [Beta Model]
        4xSA-23 Aurora Starfury Squadrons
EAS Crucible - Nova Class Dreadnought [Beta Model]
        4xSA-23 Aurora Starfury Squadrons
EAS Nelson - Nova Class Dreadnought [Beta Model]
        4xSA-23 Aurora Starfury Squadrons

Cruiser Squadron [Commodore Commanding]
EAS Nimitz - Hyperion Class Heavy Cruiser [Delta Model]
        1xSA-23 Aurora Starfury Squadron
EAS Thermopylae - Hyperion Class Heavy Cruiser [Delta Model]
        1xSA-23 Aurora Starfury Squadron
EAS Yamato - Hyperion Class Heavy Cruiser [Delta Model]
        1xSA-23 Aurora Starfury Squadron
EAS Warspite - Hyperion Class Heavy Cruiser [Delta Model]
        1xSA-23 Aurora Starfury Squadron

Missile Squadron [No Flag Officer]
EAS Demeter - Sagittarius Class Missile Cruiser [Beta Model]
EAS Zhukov - Sagittarius Class Missile Cruiser [Beta Model]
EAS Aurora - Sagittarius Class Missile Cruiser [Beta Model]
EAS Pallas - Sagittarius Class Missile Cruiser [Beta Model]

Attached Escort Squadron [No Flag Officer]
EAS Scorpio - Artemis Class Gunship [Gamma Model]
EAS Europa - Artemis Class Gunship [Gamma Model]
EAS Cyclops - Artemis Class Gunship [Gamma Model]
EAS Orion - Artemis Class Gunship [Gamma Model]

Attached ELINT Vessel
EAS Empusa - Oracle Class Scout Cruiser [Gamma Model]

Navy Tactics
Ace Pilots
Fire Discipline
Flak Wall

Star Riders Vengeance Expedition Fleet

Fleet Command [Alyt Commanding]
Dogato - Sharlin Class War Cruiser
        4xNial Heavy Fighter Squadrons
Hylax - Esharan Class Escort Frigate
Tyr - Esharan Class Escort Frigate

Center Wing
Takari - Sharlin Class War Cruiser
        4xNial Heavy Fighter Squadrons

Left Wing
Ingata - Sharlin Class War Cruiser
        4xNial Heavy Fighter Squadrons

Right Wing
Almara - Sharlin Class War Cruiser
        4xNial Heavy Fighter Squadrons

Navy Tactics
Precision FTL
Stand Fast

With players assigned and ships distributed, the two sides formulated their battle plans and deployed their forces. The Minbari deployed their ships hidden on a map as Earth Force would begin the game in hyperspace. The Minbari were restricted in that two of their groups must be in orbit of the moon providing orbital support to the ongoing ground campaign; the remaining two groups could be deployed either in realspace or in hyperspace. Earth Force then distributed their squadrons at the edge of sensor range in hyperspace.

Cue the music!

In Metaverse Second Edition, if a fleet utilises the FTL drive type Dimensional Drive, a second play area exactly 1/10th the size of the primary area is utilized. Starships move about the primary and secondary areas and can transition back and forth. Identification is impossible in the secondary play area and combat is forbidden. It is also forbidden to perform any pre-measurement making the relative positions somewhat guesswork. For my games I have printed out hyperspace pages corresponding to my mat sizes. The blue border is exactly 1/10 of a 10' x 6' play area. The white tokens are Earth squadrons, the red token is a Minbari squadron, the X is the jump gate beacon. Second Edition has no mechanics for jump gates in the text; the marker for the beacon is something I created for the scenario. I believe players are free to modify rules to match their desires/expectations.

Earth Force entered sensor range of Jericho 3 on a broad front expecting to cautiously scout local space and enter realspace in a manner of their choosing. However, sensors reported a contact beyond the local beacon; the Minbari had left a scout in hyperspace meaning any pretense of hiding movement in hyperspace was gone. Earth Force threw caution to the wind and decided to go in hard.

I don't as of yet have a jump gate model painted; this unassuming station would have to stand in.

Performing a reconnaissance in force, the attached escort squadron exited the jump gate scanning local space, ready to relay enemy positions to the 4th Division still in hyperspace.

Slowly orbiting Jericho 3 were four Minbari warships, two Sharlin War Cruisers and two smaller frigates. As they circled the world, they rained down green beams of destruction to aid their landed warriors. Cluttering the orbit  were a few intact satellites that had not yet drawn the Minbari ire and clouds of debris from destroyed Earth ships.

In high orbit of the parent gas giant was a lone Sharlin ready to pounce on any intruder. With nearly 1.5 light seconds separating the Minbari from the Earth gunships there should be plenty of time to coordinate a plan of attack.

However, Minbari range and technology is unparalleled; the Escort Squadron was quickly intercepted by four squadrons of Nial Heavy Fighters. Additionally, the Sharlin around the gas giant reached out across the void and introduced the EAS Scorpio to the neutron laser cannon. Within seconds of exiting the jump gate the Scorpio had a hole pierced through her hull from one side to the other. The Orion, Cyclops, and Europa had their hulls pockmarked and blackened by a cloud of Nials. All four ships received heavy damage and were lucky not to have lost reactor containment.

But the Minbari were not the only ones with technological secrets. Prior to the Dilgar War, Earth had discovered an ancient weapon system on a long dead world that they developed into the Interceptor Grid. Highly accurate and effective point defense along with the E-Web, a defensive EM system built into the hull, made Earth ships extremely tough, a fact that helped them win the Dilgar War. Activating their tactic, Flak Wall, the four leaking Artemis Gunships took down the Nials over the next minute, though this did strain the defenses to their limit.

Tactics are a method to add flavor and tactical choice to fleets. They are chosen at the navy level, so every fleet in that navy receives that tactic. Players may use the command points generated by their command rolls each turn to activate their tactics.

As the Artemis Gunships streamed away from the jump gate leaking atmosphere, debris, and bodies from their broken hulls, the facing Sharlin gracefully moved towards them looking to finish the job.

Yet, the Escort Squadron was not alone. Moments later the jump gate activated again and the Missile Squadron streamed into realspace. Four Sagittarius Missile Cruisers hoped to help their battered brethren but secretly hoped the damaged gunships would also screen them from the massive Minbari warships. The Minbari did not respect that hope and the closest Sharlin speared the EAS Demeter seconds after it jumped leaving the missile cruiser dead in space. Apparently they no longer considered the little gunships a threat.

The Sharlin facing the jump gate would have to continue that part of the battle alone. Near Jericho 3 itself, the Dreadnought Squadron jumped into high orbit with the ELINT vessel trailing them. Their jump could not have been luckier having landed just outside the nearest Sharlin's forward arc and therefore out of the Neutron Cannon Danger Zone TM. The four Dreadnoughts were surrounded by 16 squadrons of Starfuries, a formidable force even for the Minbari.

A distinct squadron of starships fly together using one plot and all measurements from and to the squadron are done from one model. The component ships are assumed to be flying in close formation, in this case the entire squadron is located at the foremost flight peg, the remaining models are simply placed as they are for casualty recording and because it looks cool. Metaverse Second Edition assumes a "ground scale" of 3000km per cm (although players are free to modify this). If the Novas are within a few kilometers of each other then they functionally are on the same point. In this case the foremost flight peg is just outside the Sharlin's forward 60 degree arc.

To the Sharlin's port-aft, the Cruiser Squadron also exited hyperspace though at a much longer distance, a serious problem as the Delta Model of the Hyperion is primarily armed with plasma cannons and pulse guns.

Correctly predicting that Earth Force would choose this moment to jump their fleet, the remaining Sharlin jumped from hyperspace to add its firepower to the fight. On the opposite side of Jericho 3, the Minbari flagship and its escorting frigates arrested their orbital momentum but faced the wrong direction. Had Earth jumped to the opposite side of the moon, they would have been boxed in; as it stood, a lone Sharlin would face four Nova Dreadnoughts, four Hyperion Heavy Cruisers, and an Oracle Scout.

Very quickly after exiting their jump points, Earth Force began their assault on the lonely Minbari warship. The Hyperions to the Sharlin's port opened fire at long range and predictably missed with every shot. The hail of plasma and pulse rounds were followed up by four squadrons of Starfuries.

To the Sharlin's starboard-bow, the four Novas unloaded a combined total of 48 medium laser/pulse arrays and 144 missile tubes, a storm of gunfire that just a few years earlier decided the Dilgar War. Against the Minbari, this hurricane of death was downgraded to merely a tropical storm of hate. However, the Oracle Scout to the Nova's rear, improved the odds just a bit. Using every watt from her EW systems, the little scout ship directed the Nova's fire and managed to get the hit rate up to ~10%. Just enough pulse rounds and missile warheads hit the side of the mighty Sharlin to compromise its facing armour, but not kill it.

Following behind the torrent of firepower were 16 squadrons of Starfuries plus four squadrons from the Hyperions in the opposite arc. Six squadrons of Nials stood in their way. Choosing to protect itself rather than obliterate a Nova, the Sharlin dedicated all its facing fusion cannons to wiping out enemy fighters. The approach to the Minbari ship cost two and a half squadrons of starfuries. As the Starfuries closed the Nials exacted their own heavy toll, losing only one squadron of their own, but the Earth pilots were undeterred.

Mostly ignoring the withering defensive fire and deadly Minbari fighters, nearly 90 Starfuries poured their pulse guns into the structurally weakened flank of the Sharlin. Even the mighty Minbari succumb to physics. The Tyr broke apart into crystalline fragments.

Suddenly Minbari superiority had been shattered. However, it had taken four dreadnoughts, four heavy cruisers, an ELINT vessel, 20 squadrons of fighters, and an un-repeatable perfect hyperspace exit to achieve. It was unlikely to occur again. The Minbari confidence had been weakened in the face of untamed ferocity and luck, but for the moment their nerve held.

A fleet in second edition has a morale chart where the player records their losses. Each starship and starfighter squadron has a morale value (their percentage of the fleet's cost) that is recorded on the chart when they are destroyed. A navy has a morale level (inherited by every fleet designed in that navy) determining the size of each morale threshold in the chart. As the fleet records losses and completes thresholds it is in danger of losing. When the flagship rolls its command dice at the turn's beginning, if the roll is equal to or lower than the number of completed thresholds, the game is lost. In this instance, the loss of the Sharlin and the Nial losses thus far incurred, put the Minbari in danger of losing, but the command roll this turn did not fall under the current losses. I designed the Minbari with a much smaller morale threshold than Earth due to their unfamiliarity with losses and Earth's professionalism coming out of the Dilgar War. Other players are free to design the Minbari how they like.

Somewhat surprised by their early victory, Earth Force moved to 'capitalize' on it by hiding in the shadow of Jericho 3. The Earth flagship, an Avenger Heavy Carrier, jumped into the battle and loosed its compliment of Starfuries.

Intending to use the moon as a shield, the Novas accelerated around Jericho 3 to bring them about into short range of the Minbari flagship. The Oracle pushed for all it was worth to keep up. Circling the remains of the once proud Sharlin War Cruiser, a nasty dogfight had developed. Although the Nials were heavily outnumbered, the calculation still put them well ahead of the numerous Starfuries.

Still over a light second from the nearest Minbari vessel, the heavily damaged Escort Squadron pushed their engines to the limit but were mostly ignored. The Missile Squadron, however, currently numbering three and a half ships continued to be picked off by the Minbari with another of their number falling to long range neutron cannon fire. Over the course of the battle, the missile tubes of the squadron, so reliable in the last war, achieved less than a 5% hit rate.

Sensing that the Minbari might only need a little shove to break, the flagship unleashed its entire air wing, eight squadrons of starfuries loaded with missiles and nuclear torpedoes at the Almara. The Minbari, believing this was an attempt to finish another of their capital ships, dedicated all their remaining squadrons to intercepting the attempt.

When designing a starfighter squadron in second edition the squadron can have integrated weapons and mounted weapons. An integrated weapon is always with the squadron, in this case the Starfury's pulse guns. Mounted weapons are optional and can be purchased, in this case missiles and torpedoes loaded on the Starfury's external racks. Starfighter squadrons have a hardpoint rating that determines the number of mounted weapons the squadron can load. Mounted weapons can be safely ignored; a player could simply design a squadron with only integrated weapons and no hardpoint rating, but for those who want some granularity they are a way to model Proton Torpedoes, Anti-Fighter Missiles, Nukes, etc, that have a limited ammo supply.

Yet, Earth Force it seems had another objective in mind. With all the unengaged Nials racing to save the Almara, those squadrons still in the furball near the Tyr's wreckage would have to fight it out on their own. Outnumbered only three to one, the Minbari pilots were confident in success. This was soon dissuaded by the activation of another Earth tactic, Ace Pilots. The ensuing dogfight mangled the Starfury squadrons, their numbers dwindling rapidly. However, the experienced Earth pilots utilized their numbers to great effect and devastated the Minbari fighters.

The tactic Ace Pilots allows the player to select a Furball and spend two command points. All friendly squadrons in that Furball increase their Furball ratings by one until the end of the turn. This tactic can be repeatedly activated to increase the odds of success in a dogfight which Earth Force did by spending the majority of their command points for the turn on one combat.

The victorious fighter battle was only achieved through the sacrifice of the other mission. It must be asked if the squadrons dispatched to engage the Almara were told they were doomed? Of the eight squadrons that were sent, half a squadron made it to firing range, victims of precision fire from two Sharlins, two frigates, and six Nial squadrons. Almost as an afterthought, the four Hyperions were targeted at long range with three being cored from front to back and rendered destroyed or drifting.

Thus far in the battle, the Minbari had lost a Sharlin War Cruiser and half their Nials. Unaccustomed to losses, the Minbari commander ordered a retreat and the blue ships exited to hyperspace.

The losses the Minbari had suffered, while appearing light, amounted to six morale thresholds. The commander of the Minbari fleet was a level two commander (rolling two dice) but was a poor commander (rolling D4s). At the beginning of the turn the commander rolled their 2D4s for their command points and rolled six or less signaling their loss.

For Earth Force this was both an unexpected victory but also a hollow one. The Starfury compliment of the fleet was devastated. The Artemis Gunships were, as a whole, useless in another fight, being held together by chewing gum and bailing wire. Two of the Sagittarius were drifting hulks. Two of the four Hyperions were composed more of neutron cannon sized holes than metal with a third having been incinerated by a reactor breach. Even the Oracle Scout was a blackened mess. Only the Novas and the Avenger were untouched.

If the Minbari were to return in short order the Earth ships would be destroyed with little effort. The gathered players agreed that this was likely what the Minbari Alyt was intending; a tactical retreat to hyperspace, regroup, and attack from a better position. It was unlikely that Earth Force could repeat their success with their battered forces at hand.

I would like to thank Kevin, James, Pat, and Matt for a most excellent and supremely narrative scenario. This game proved that in the right circumstances and with a little luck, Earth can take down a Sharlin. I'm not sure what they're supposed to do about the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Sharlin though.

This game was played using Metaverse Second Edition which will be released imminently. Anyone who reads this post can access an early release version of the rules from Google Drive here.

First Edition can be found here.

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  1. Fantastic writing. Really conveyed the atmosphere of the early part of the Earth-Minbari War.

  2. Very cool - it's nice to see people still running B5 games!

  3. Very exciting! Hopefully this does not make Earthforce overconfident?

    I assume this was played with your "non-scale" B5 stuff, rather than /1700 ships?

    1. Yes, my project to do B5 in 1/7000 is a long term one.

  4. Well done after action report. Good to see EM War action.


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