When the scro made their presence known, and the second Unhuman War erupted throughout the spheres, the Imperial Elven Navy found that their ships were being lost far more quickly than new ships could be grown to replace them. One solution to this problem was the Radiant Ship, which freed up many elven ships from support roles so that they could be used as combat ships instead. This helped somewhat, but the elves still found themselves short of combat vessels.
The Ship of the Line is a hastily-constructed vessel intended to fill out the elven line of battle. These vessels are constructed in the familiar butterfly-shape of most elven ships, however this is purely for aesthetic (and morale) purposes, since the Ship of the Line is not grown from the starfly plant like most other elven ships. Instead the Ship of the Line is built from wood to avoid the lengthy process of growing a large ship. Intended to replace damaged and destroyed Men-o-War as well as Armadas, the Ship of the Line is midway between those craft in size. While the Ship of the Line met the admiralty's requirements for maneuverability and ease of construction (the two primary considerations in the design), it has proven to be a very poorly-armoured vessel.
For maximum flexibility, the decision was made to mount a large number of medium weapons on the Ship of the Line rather than a smaller number of heavy weapons. The intent is that this will allow the Ship of the Line to fire a large number of shots at an enemy ship, while remaining out of range of any heavy weapons that might be brought to bear against its vulnerable wooden hull.
While the admiralty is well aware of the fact that the Flitters aboard an Armada are often the most effective weapons of that ship, the Ship of the Line was not designed to carry a large number of Flitters. This is largely because the Imperial Elven Navy has been unable to keep up with the demand for Flitters, even though they are grown much more quickly and easily than larger ships. Ships of the Line will typically carry 6-12 Flitters docked alongside the upper flight deck. If more Flitters are available, they can be crammed into the cargo holds, but cannot otherwise be carried.
Unfortunately for the performance of Ships of the Line, they are more likely to be manned by green crews than almost any other ship in the Imperial Elven Navy. This is because experienced crews have not been transferred from more traditional elven ships, but rather the crews have been formed from new recruits. These raw crews have been bolstered by experienced elves who have survived the loss of their ships. These hardened veterans are usually made officers of Ships of the Line, even if they were previously mere crewmen. The highest-ranking officers aboard Ships of the Line are typically junior officers from Men-o-War or Armadas who have been recently promoted to fill this need. The captain of a Ship of the Line is often overwhelmed by this new responsibility, which can either result in a captain who is hated by his crew because he rules with an iron fist, or who is not respected by his crew because he is too lax with discipline. The most successful of these new captains are those who rely heavily on their few veteran officers. Some Ships of the Line in which the captain has wisely relied on his experienced junior officers have quickly become terrors of wildspace, as the junior officers are quickly able to teach the recruits the realities of combat. Any recruits who survive their first battle aboard such a ship are usually well prepared for their next battle. A Ship of the Line usually operates with a full complement of 85 elves. In combat as many as 20 of these elves will be assigned to the ship's Flitters, while the rest will maneuver the vessel or man the weapons. A Ship of the Line operating with less than this full complement will usually fare poorly in combat, particularly given the inexperienced nature of their crews.
Ship Uses Edit
Warship: The Ship of the Line was specifically built as a warship to bolster elven forces in the face of the scro threat. Intended for fleet actions, Ships of the Line rarely operate independantly, and will instead be found rounding out fleets made up of Armadas and Men-o-War. Often Armadas and Men-o-War will actually be replaced with Ships of the Line in such fleets, so that those more flexible vessels can be freed up for independant patrols. In some cases admirals have assigned Ships of the Line to patrol in pairs. So far this has proved relatively successful, however a single Armada is still able to patrol more effectively than a pair of Ships of the Line.
Supply Ship: A significant number of Ships of the Line are serving as supply ships. These vessels can carry a great deal of cargo, and they serve double duty as escorts for other supply ships traveling in convoy. In this usage, a Ship of the Line will typically only carry 1-2 Flitters to serve as light shuttles, and will frequently remove the jettison and four of the ballistas to allow more cargo space (a total of 52 tons of cargo can be carried by such a ship). A Ship of the Line being used as a supply ship will typically only carry 50 elves; just enough to put up a credible fight if the vessel's convoy is attacked. The Imperial Elven Navy does not expect that such an undermanned Ship of the Line can fight off an attacker alone, but in concert with the armed merchantmen that make up the rest of the convoy, it should be able to adequately defend itself.
Other Configurations Edit
The Ship of the Line is too new to see any significant other configurations, other than the reduction in weaponry which is sometimes performed for vessels operating as Supply Ships. In addition, the Ship of the Line is poorly suited to most modifications. The vessel's thin, poorly armoured hull cannot be stripped to allow better maneuverability, and cannot be gutted to allow more cargo space, since either modification would result in a fragile vessel which would be unable to support its own weight. Armour plating would cause damage to the hull of a Ship of the Line, unless the hull was first thickened, and topping out is not generally considered a good option, since the vessel would then require an overly large crew.