Jon Bryon
England
New Addington
Croydon
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While searching BGG for some new Eurogames, I stumbled across Downtown. As I have long been interested in the Vietnam air war, it became a compulsory purchase and Christmas present from my wife. This is the first wargame I have actually played (I did own Flight Leader as a kid) and maybe the tip of an iceberg (I have already ordered Volumes 1 & 2 of GMT's Combat Commander!).

After playing through a couple of Surfin' Bird games, I had a (solo) go with D2 Beginnings. It was a pretty intense experience. Here's what happened...

I decided to split the attacking force into two strike missions, with 2 A-4C flights (Bronco and Clansmen) and 2 F-8D flights (Milkvine and Corktip) heading NW from entry hex 8, going feet-dry and then turning north to attack Kep airfield. The remaining 3 A-4C flights (Silverfox, Ubangi and Raider), with 2 F-4B MiGCAPs (Rootbeer and Killer) headed due north from entry hex 8 and then struck NW once feet-dry to attack the Vu Chua bridge. The raids were planned to have the Skyhawks over the two targets at the same time and then for both missions to return SE and then S over the Gulf of Tonkin to the ingress hex (entry arrow 8).

As the DRV I upgraded the flak at Kep and placed a medium concentration at Vu Chua. I also put two MiG-17 flights in the air with two dummies, two near Kep and two near Phuc Yen (to improve fog of war, I didn't know which were real until an engagement, when I flipped a coin). The MiGs loitered until the shape of the US attack became clear and then split to intercept the two US raids as they approached their targets. Staying on the deck, the MiGs evaded all detection attempts and bypassed the F-8s on the Kep raid to attack Clansmen flight. The Skyhawks manouvered well and defeated both of the MiG shots (which also depleted their ammo). The Skyhawks aborted [there doesn't seem to be much point in not aborting a bombing flight that becomes disordered, since with negative aggression and no rally hex they can't recover] and the MiGs did also. Bronco, the remaining A-4 flight ploughed onward, undetected until after its bombing run, which totally destroyed the airfield. The F-8s chased the MiG flight silly, but rarely detected it and when they did engage, missed. The MiGs did drag one F-8 flight down on the deck though, and Milkvine lost a plane to flak.

The other strike mission was luckier and saw all three bomber flights make it to Vu Chua. Their aim was well off though, and despite expending all of their ordance, they only managed to slightly damage the target. Their CAP attacked one MiG flight, which also engaged and expended all of its ammo for shooting down an F-4 from Killer flight. The veteran Rootbeer flight gave chase, but like the F-8s, just couldn't detect often enough, and when it did engage, only managed to damage a MiG. The MiGs had a long flight home, since they were hoping to land at Kep, which was destroyed just before they could initiate landing.

To make things worse for the US, poor planning had placed the return leg for one raid close to the Chinese buffer zone and an A-4 flight just slipped into it when leaving the target.

End result was a defeat for the US. Despite totally destroying Kep, the two aircraft losses were too much, and the buffer zone incursion costly. The DRV were also very lucky and the US unlucky - the US consistently rolled very low in the air-air engagements, and consistently high when damaged. The US also failed nearly all visual detection attempts, despite often being in ideal engagement positions, and when they did engage, also rolled low.

Lessons learned:

i) Designate a rally hex for the US flights. In this game, 2 CAP flights went home early, since as soon as they went disordered (pretty likely after air-air combat) and went to negative aggression (also very likely) recovery was impossible.

ii) MiG flights on the deck are pretty difficult for the US to detect, at least in 1965! The detection level for the US was F, which means they had to roll a 20 to detect a MiG on the deck. Visual sighting is also not easy (especially if the CAP is also not on the deck) and the F-4B never gets a chance to use its radar to detect because of lookdown. The MiGs could sail pretty easily under the CAP and go right for the bombers by zoom climbing late and still having a good chance against laden A-4s.

iii) I tried flying some A-4s on the deck/low to see if it made much difference to detection (climbing them over AAA and hexes with small arms fire). This was pretty much a waste of time - there was no advantage to being low, only the disadvantage of being more vulnerable to MiGs on the deck and AAA fire. I guess there may be more advantage when there are SAMs in the scenario.

iv) US Planning needs to be better - especially near the buffer zone. I also had 5 bombing flights which had approached two close targets from opposite directions and needed to make tight turns to clear the target. I only really appreciated the stacking limits when trying to deconflict the flights.

v) Send in the MiGCAP further ahead of the bombers to give them a better chance of engaging the MiGs before they reach the strike aircraft.

I have to say I am loving this game. I'm taking it pretty slow, but looking forward to adding in the SAMs, Fire Cans, Jamming, etc. Against another live player it must be awesome, but I doubt I'll get the chance to find out (I live in China - not many wargamers here, and I'm only just starting!).


Jon
 
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Ricardo Madeira
Portugal
Porto Salvo
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Very nice, thanks for sharing!

It's getting me worked up to give the game a few plays.
 
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Ricardo Madeira
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Oh, and if you're looking for opponents, try giving Vassal a chance (www.vassalengine.org).

You can play real-time (or PBEM) with opponents from anywhere in the world; plus, if you use Skype or another Voice over IP option at the same time, it's just like like playing face to face.
 
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David Brown
United Kingdom
STOCKPORT
Unspecified
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This is your first wargame...I'm impressed.

I got The Burning Blue for Christmas, which, I understand is Downtown re-done for the Battle of Britain.

I've owned a played a great many wargames but I'm struggling with this game. I don't think there is anything wrong with the rules it just seems very complex.
 
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Jon Bryon
England
New Addington
Croydon
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Ricardo,

Thanks! I do intend to give Vassal a go in the future. I need to become more au fait with the rules though, and figure out some tactics, to prevent making a complete fool of myself. I suspect the biggest problem will be the timezone - I am at GMT +8 - and thus PBeM may be the best option. Doing it via Skype would be cool though (and will have to wait until the internet connections to Asia are fixed!).

David,

The game is quite complex. It helps that I am familiar with the technology and terminology, so it's just a question of learning the rules. They are very well written and presented and there is a good instruction programme to introduce more complex rules as you play more. I am not really interested in TBB (but I am interested in Elusive Victory), but if it's like Downtown, I guess you just have to set aside the time and play through with frequent reference to the rules. I am learning that multiple reading of the rules pays dividends (and that is pleasurable when they are as well written and informative as these). For example, in the scenario above I did not expend fuel points correctly as I missed the rule in the Fuel section that says fuel is used in air-air combat, not just when travelling at dash.

Cheers

Jon
 
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Ethan McKinney
United States
El Segundo
California
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Try the solitaire rules. They're available on Lee B-W's site www.airbattle.co.uk. They're in the Downtown section on the Downloads page.

TBB is not Downtown re-done for the Battle of Britain. They are quite different games.
 
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Ricardo Madeira
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jonbryon wrote:
Thanks! I do intend to give Vassal a go in the future. I need to become more au fait with the rules though, and figure out some tactics, to prevent making a complete fool of myself.


Oh, don't worry much about that. You're sure to find a friendly opponent willing to help you with the rules and teach you the ropes for a couple of games before trying to shoot you up for real; or maybe you'll find a novice just as yourself and you'll both learn together game by game, so... don't sweat, just do it as soon as you can.
 
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Ricardo Madeira
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thirts wrote:
I got The Burning Blue for Christmas, which, I understand is Downtown re-done for the Battle of Britain.

I've owned a played a great many wargames but I'm struggling with this game. I don't think there is anything wrong with the rules it just seems very complex.


There's nothing like playing it. Sure, you'll forgot this and that, and get this and that wrong, but that's just how it is with these games.

And you'll find that you only have to learn well half the rules for your first game or two, because the rules (and the game itself) are mostly different for each of the players. Plus, if you're on the german side, things do seem a bit more complex... until you remember that but most of your work will be done before the game "starts", because after those planes are up in the air following the plan you drew, you only have to manage their behavior according to a small set of strict rules.

Or that's my impression of the game, at least, after an incomplete first play through Vassal with a friendly guy from Ireland who had a game or two of TBB under is belt already.
 
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Robert Wilson
Canada
Riverview
New Brunswick
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Nice AAR

thanks for sharing
 
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