Following my solo run through of Beginnings, I set up the next scenario in the introduction programme: Respect. This scenario looked very interesting. It pits an RF-4C flight of two aircraft against SAMs, Fire Cans and AAA while on a long recon run (the US player gets a choice of two targets: either 31 hexes of railway running NW of Hanoi or 11 hexes of railway running east-west north of Hanoi). The scenario allows for the US player to provide an F-4 CAP for the recon flight, in which case the DRV player is entitled to some MiGs as well. I decided to use this option, as I was playing solo, to get more practice at the air-to-air side of the game. The RF-4s need to fly at medium altitude over 90% of the target hexes without turning more than 30 degrees, changing altitude, executing anti-radar tactics or performing SAM avoidance.
The DRV planned their defences first, setting up 6 SAMs: 4 along the longer railway target, 1 in the centre of the shorter target, and 1 between the eastern ends of both targets. Two of these SAMs were dummies (but I hadn't decided which at this point). Medium AAA with Fire Can was placed along the eastern half of the shorter railway, another (also with Fire Can) towards the western end of the longer route and a Light AAA installation at the opposite end. The recon flight was going to run a veritable gauntlet of AAA, Fire Can and SAM fire placed along the axes of the two railways.
The US randomly selected the shorter railway as the target. This target, while shorter, is more difficult to get to. A route was selected with the recon and CAP flights entering from the Gulf of Tonkin (entry arrow 8) heading north and turning west north of Phantom Ridge, when they would descend from High to the Deck. (The US wanted to start high to force any DRV MiGs to come up high if they wanted to fight.) After a short run west they would make a small turn north and run down the length of the railway, turning west at the end and heading out fast and low direct to entry arrow 1.
Early Warning resulted in the DRV knowing the general direction of the incoming mission and being able to start with a flight in the air. They put a 2-ship flight of MiG-17Fs ready at Kep, and a single MiG-21PF in the air near the northern orbit point. The idea was to get the MiGs out east to intercept early, leaving the SAMs further west to pick up any aircraft that got through.
The US did exactly as planned and sent the RF-4Cs ('Chevy') north along with a CAP of 2 F-4Ds ('Fletch') flying close by. The MiG-21 waited to see what the flight path would be and slowly headed south to try and get behind the US planes, while remaining on the Deck. The MiG-17s took off and headed north of Phantom Ridge. The first air-air engagement took place just north of said Ridge, when the US flights had descended to the Deck to avoid SAM acquisition and the MiG-17s found themselves head-on with Fletch. A quick and dirty engagement took place, with neither side obtaining surprise but the MiGs managing to get three shots in to the F-4s none [curse fluid four!]. Fletch got away with a crippled #2 and, disordered, ran for the Rally Point designated at the western end of Phantom Ridge. The MiGs, unsurprisingly, depleted all their ammo and bolted NE for China. Chevy ploughed on unaffected.
Fletch rallied and struck out for the MiG-21, which was having difficulty catching the RF-4s. By the time Fletch got in range, the DRV Controller's nerve had failed and the MiG-21 had aborted for Gia Lam. With no MiGs left to chase, Fletch headed home the long way, SW and then NW to avoid AAA and SAMs.
Meanwhile, Chevy had reached the eastern end of the railway at the correct altitude and heading. Two SAMs had partial aquisition when one fired. It missed, but the consequent SAM avoidance manouver rendered the recon run void from the first hex and put the RF-4s north and too low. Chevy was now in a world of trouble, taking fire from 2 medium AAA barrages and a Fire Can unit, as well as being partially acqired by another SAM. They manouvered hard to reverse direction and head for the IP again, managing to remain within two hexes of the target the entire time but taking a lot of ground fire.
A Fire Can found its range and damaged one RF-4 and then a SAM was fired. Chevy continued its bad luck by making another SAM avoidance manouver to avoid a SAM that would have missed anyway and having to claw back altitude as it turned for the IP hex. The Fire Can scored a second hit and damaged the other RF-4. Things were not looking good. Nevertheless, Chevy ended back in the IP hex, turned hard, climbed and then began the recon run all over again. With burners engaged, the recon run was completed without incident and the recce birds dived for the deck to evade acquisition by the SAMs still to the west (hopping over Thud Ridge on the way). AAA fired without effect until Chevy, screaming along the deck at dash throttle, was hit by (very lucky) small arms fire when crossing the railway at the Red River, damaging(and thus crippling) one of the RF-4s. It was too little, too late. Down in the rough, it remained undetected and unacquired and flew over the remaining Fire Can too low to be attacked. Chevy made it west with one crippled and one damaged aircraft, but the recon film intact. Fletch joined them later.
A US victory, but pretty lucky!
The game continues to be emotionally draining. I was gutted by the SAM avoidance manouvers (rolled 9 twice for SAM defense!) and find myself urging CAP flights to try and get a visual on the MiGs! I think I am an instinctive US player, wanting them to win, but it's hard work! I made some mistakes while playing this game. I positioned the SAMs on the railways, which was a mistake since they can't attack aircraft within 1 hex, so I should have moved them 2 hexes away from the target (not that it mattered, since they only get one shot in this scenario). I would have moved the MiGs differently as well. It was interesting to see that when the RF-4s were egressing the target on the deck they were impossible to target using SAMs and Fire Cans, and the AAA was not too dangerous [easy to say now!].
I made several procedural and rules mistakes as well: playing random events (which were harsh on the DRV, since the Red Crown/Disco Operators gained the upper hand and a DRV controller lost his nerve); forgetting Morale checks when the US were hit by AAA/Fire Can; and I've just realised I flew the Phantoms too fast when they were at dash on the deck. So the US victory ought to be taken with a pinch of salt, but concluding my second 'proper' attempt at this game was pretty satisfying. Total 'in-game' time was 22 mins. Total time for me to plan and play was around 4 hours (pretty slow, but I'm still figuring it all out!).
Thanks for reading.
Thanks for the session report
If I can get away from Arkham Horror ( another good solitaire game)
Im going to give this a go next with some f104s...
Excellent AAR. Keep 'em up!