Summer grasses / All that remains / Of soldiers' dreams. - Basho.
Yesterday in a burst of enthusiasm for the game, I played one face-to-face game and three solo games of Wing Leader.
V03 Session 1, Head-to-Head against Kozure jr.
We set up with me as the Russians and my 10-year old son as the Germans. He immediately noted that it was "pretty dumb" that the transports were so far apart and there was only one flight of 109s to cover them. He thought it unfair that he had to defend both transports with four planes against almost five times as many fighters. I had to agree with him on the separation of the transports, but noted that sometimes in war things don't pan out perfectly. He actually cagily asked if it was OK for the lead transport to circle while the trailing one caught up. Rules say no, kiddo; sorry for your luck.
I had the Yak-1 formation (important to note it was a formation - I almost had them set up to attack from both sides until I noticed that specific set-up note) attack the lead He111 head on. He opted to go for the tally instead of waiting to react as an escort and barrelled into the first Yak-1 (I realized afterwards that it was smart that he did, because you can't react to a head-on attack!). They mixed it up for two rounds of combat and then both the escorts and the embroiled Yak squadron disengaged, leaving the second squadron to pick at the He111 uninterrupted. Fortunately for him, the Green pilots of the Yak squadron only managed to get three bombers total before becoming broken themselves.
He ended up winning after getting both bomber/transports off the map and taking two Yak-1s down, in exchange for me getting three bombers and a straggler. VP Total = 8 VP for Germany.
Scenario commentary: There's only two real decisions to be made by the Russians in this scenario - which side to attack from and how to vector your flights - together or separately against the same transport squadron or two different ones. The German player's only real decision is to try to tally and engage the Yak-1 first or just react (which is only a decision if the Yaks attack from the rear). As a result, this is pretty straightforward and quick to play, but it does successfully highlight the extreme differences that pilot quality and having an Experte can make to the effectiveness of even a single flight in driving off attackers.
My son was pleased that he won, but the fairly basic nature of the scenario didn't impress him, so he padded off to play something else. I'll have to find another scenario which will appeal more.
V03 Session 2, Soloing and Testing Strategy
I played Stalingrad Airlift again solo, feeling that it was a tough egg for the Russians to crack, but I was going to give it a shot.
Again the Yaks attacked head-on, though this time I vectored them so that the second Yak would engage the second He 111. This time the Russians got only two bombers kills total, as the first Yak-1 squadron beat feet after a single combat round (they did bag one He111 while forcing the escorts to bug out too), and the second squadron did the same after two nearly fruitless passes at the trailing He 111 squadron (one kill in two passes). Both bombers got through. Again, 8 VPs for Germany. No losses for the Russians, so there's that...
Because of the impossibility of the German escort reacting to the head-on attack, the Russians will at the very least get through to the bombers. Furthermore, the escorts broke after only a single round of combat. Not so hot, JG 52!
Scenario commentary: This one is tough for the Russians, and probably intentionally so. As a scenario, it's actually simpler than V02. V02 is probably still the better HtH learning scenario, because you make more decisions and there's a modicum of altitude in that one.
V04 - Penny Wise and Pound Foolish
Decided against trying V03 for the third time in a row and switched to V04 "Penny Packets"
The various interceptor squadrons hit the bomber stream in penny packets, as advertised. I did get lucky in having the trailing Hurricane make an early tally and maintain it as it followed along. I was careful to take advantage of the tactical flexibility of the Germans and break off flights to engage (and, wherever possible, dogfight) the interceptors. They kept on trying, but usually the flights broke or were unsuccessful. That said, it was bloody difficult getting to the bombers with the interceptors, with German escorts peeling off to hit them as they came on, and then tangling them up. The late entry Spitfire did the most damage (as expected) managing to get two out of the three bomber kills in one vicious +4 attack diving out of the sun bounce. Fairly unexpectedly heavy casualties in the lower Spitfire squadron - the 109s are cagey opponents, especially when they have a height advantage!
Just managed to eke out a draw for the Brits by shooting down three Heinkels and two 109s, at a loss of three Spitfires and two Hurricanes.
18 VPs for the bombers going through, +5 for UK fighter losses, -6 for bomber losses, -2 fighter losses = +15, draw.
Scenario Commentary: More decisions to be made here than in V03. The placement of intercept vectors is very important, because if you place them incorrectly or not effectively, the GCI isn't so hot at moving them.
The Jerries have to take advantage of Tactical Flexibility here to fend off the four squadrons. If you're playing the Germans, don't forget about the -1 speed/turn modifier to the British combat speed/turn for Rigid Doctrine. It makes a big difference.
In addition, the better overall quality of the German escorts makes for a deadly affair for 11 Group, as can be seen from the lop-sided fighter casualties.
All told, however, I think it's a bit of a moral victory for the British to get at least the draw in this scenario. Feeding penny packets in is, as the saying goes, "pound foolish". I think this one feels tipped a little in the Germans' favour, but lucky dice might allow a better result than I got, especially since, if I had forced an abort on one of the bomber squadrons, it would have been a British victory.
V05 - Haway the Lads
Set-up was interesting with this one, with one Spitfire squadron basically guaranteed a quick tally and engagement by the set-up rules. The beleaguered Bf110s almost pulled it off, driving away a Spitfire and a Hurricane squadron after taking losses themselves and breaking, but the last Spitfire just ripped through the trailing He111 squadron.
I set-up the Bf110s with one ahead and above the lead bomber squadron, and the other above the last He111 in the stream. Having read in the past that close escort was not historically very successful, I opted for a looser escort positioning for the 110s.
The high front Spit squadron engaged the lead bomber, with the 110 reacting late. Fortunately for the He111s, it didn't do well. The second Spitfire squadron jumped in at this point. It looked like it was going to be bloody, but then the Bf110 miraculously managed to engage both Spitfire squadron in a dogfight. I saw something new and unexpected in this play; the lead Bf110 escort managed to force a dogfight with both Spitfire squadrons, buying the He111s some time, AND got the raider move roll for the dogfight, moving it one square down and back from the bomber stream, but they were quickly broken in the turn following and the Spitfires just had to spend a couple of turns catching up. Their cohesion results were good and they stuck around despite low or depleted ammo. Having veterans helps a lot.
The trailing Bf110 got some lucky rolls which lead them to beat up and drive off the stern-chasing Hurricane squadron with little loss in return, but when it tried to come back to chase the Spits off the lead bomber, it broke up after one round.
As noted above, once the second Bf110 was driven off, the remaining Spit (with an Experte) just ripped up the last He111 over several turns - and managed to continue to roll high for cohesion despite depleted ammunition.
Fortunately I broke the He111 squadron on the last round of combat (in which the Spit broke off as well) or the difference would have only been +9.
German Losses 4 x Bf110C (4 VP), 4 x He111 (8 VP), both Bf110 squadrons broken and driven off, one He111 broken and driven off.
British Losses 1 x Spitfire, 2 x Hurricane I (3 VP), one Hurri and two Spit squadrons broken
German VP total = 12 VP (2 x successful bombing squadrons) + 3 VP (3 fighter kills) = 15
British VP total = 12 VP
15 VP - 12 VP = +3 - (Decisive) British Victory.
Scenario Commentary: Not having Tactical Flexibility really hurts the escorting Germans in this scenario and highlights the advantages of splitting off escort flights when played in rapid succession after V04, where the 109s can (and should) use tactical flexibility. This being paired with the already poor Bf110s being saddled with drop tanks they can't drop, I think this one tilts in favour of the Brits. Good thing both Spit squadrons rolled well on cohesion, though, or it might have been another story.
The Brits need to come through the Bf110 screen intact AND get good rolls on the He111 attacks.
Decisions for the Brits here are where to place the low Spit squadron that's allowed to be placed anywhere more than two squares away at altitude 8, and whether to concentrate on one bomber squadron and go for enough kills to get a cohesion break, or hit multiple squadrons and break up the escorts. Vector placement, as always with intercept missions, is very important.
The main decision for the Germans is how to place the escorts (one trailing escort seems to be the way to go) and whether to attempt tallies or wait to react. With the (undroppable by SSR) drop tanks forcing terrible speed ratings you're unlikely to do well. Also, go for the forced dogfights, even though you'll eventually lose. Every turn you can hold up the interceptors and/or chew through their ammo is a turn that the bombers get further away.
- Last edited Mon Aug 3, 2015 1:58 pm (Total Number of Edits: 3)
- Posted Mon Aug 3, 2015 3:48 am
Thanks for the reports, Christopher. They're interesting, with the appropriate level of detail and insightful comments. One thing about your playing of V05: The Brits did even better than you think, with 4 Bf110 losses yielding 8 VP. You inspired me to play through the scenario solo. The Brits won at +6 net VP, in part because one of the escort squadrons took a long time to notice it was in the middle of a fight.
Just played this one. Brits killed!
5x bf-110s 9x he-111s for the loss of one Spit.
I think the Brits should not get 2x Veteran and an experte. Why would 13 group have that many experienced pilots?
Gonna try again with one Vet and no experte.