Michael Allen
United Kingdom
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This AAR describes a solo game based on Scenario K-3: Enter the Sabre. The scenario as listed is a fighter vs. fighter contest pitting four F-86A Sabres against four MiG-15 bis. However, I wanted to see how a mixed bomber and fighter force would fare against MiG-15s, so swapped two of the Sabres for F2H-3 Banshees. I also made slight amendments to the start altitudes of the US force that put 4 000ft separation between the bombers and fighters, which might better reflect the combat formation of an escorted bomber force.

With the arrival of the MiG-15 in Korea the straight-wing Navy fighter-bombers were soon considered obsolete as air superiority fighters, and limited to mainly ground support and reconnaissance roles. In fact, there were no air-to-air combats between MiGs and Banshees during the war. To help simulate this I included a ‘bomber directive’ – in late 1950, after a recent spate of USN fighter-bombers falling foul of enemy AAA, orders were issued that the safe return of bombers was paramount. This meant that wherever possible, air-to-air engagements were to be left to the newer US fighters which were to aggressively defend the bombers when under enemy attack. They were also to act as lures, enticing MiGs away from the precious bombers.

All other parameters were as described in the scenario book, all a/c clean, stratus at 28 000ft and 32 000ft, contrails at 35 000ft. The initial die rolls for attributes went poorly for the Communists, with three of the pilots having poor eyesight, confidence or fitness. The poor confidence was especially important because it impacts on initiative. In contrast, three of the US pilots had excellent eyesight, confidence or fitness. All pilots’ quality was Regular, except for Sabre lead who was a Veteran (he also had excellent fitness and confidence). For the US to win they had to destroy at least one MiG and have more VPs, while the Communists must damage at least one enemy and have more VPs. The game would end after 15 turns regardless of VP attainment.


Start

December 1950, five miles south of the Yalu River, Korea.

Two Banshees are returning from a mission attacking an enemy supply base close to the Chinese border. They are escorted by a two-ship of the newly introduced Sabre fighters, who are in formation a few thousand feet above and in their trail. A flight of MiGs are vectored towards this force, and four silver shapes flash into the US pilots’ view just as they cross the border.




Turn 1

Banshee lead: 400mph, 22 000ft
Banshee 2: 400mph, 22 000ft
Sabre lead: 400mph, 26 000ft
Sabre 2: 400mph, 26 000ft

MiG-15 lead: 350mph, 20 000ft
MiG-15 2: 350mph, 20 000ft
MiG-15 3: 350mph, 20 000ft
MiG-15 4: 350mph, 20 000ft

Due to the MiGs’ near-ideal vectored angle of interception, the US a/c are all disadvantaged so must move before the Communists.

Banshee lead does a level left turn into the flight of MiGs, looking to keep them from his tail. Banshee 2 goes with lead, and being on the inside of the turning circle brings him out of the turn in front of his leader, closer to the enemy four-ship.

Sabre lead anticipates the MiG flight will go en masse after the bombers, and commits his element to a left turn in a steep dive, shedding 3 000ft. The Sabres have to take a slightly wider line in their turns than the other a/c because they are in a higher altitude band.

MiG lead’s orders crackle over the radio – the flight will break into its two constituent elements. Lead and 2 will chase the Banshees while 3 and 4 will guard their tail from attack by the Sabres currently at 2 o‘clock high. MiGs lead and 2 move right then reverse their turn, attempting to gain an advantageous position over the Banshees. MiG 2 closes up the formation to end up in lead’s hex, with both a/c looking to execute a double attack on one of the Banshees next turn.

MiGs 3 and 4 lag behind the lead element, turning right in level flight on an easterly heading in the direction of the Sabres.




Turn 2

Banshee lead: 350mph, 22 000ft
Banshee 2: 350mph, 22 000ft
Sabre lead: 400mph, 23 000ft
Sabre 2: 400mph, 23 000ft

MiG-15 lead: 350mph, 20 000ft
MiG-15 2: 350mph, 20 000ft
MiG-15 3: 350mph, 20 000ft
MiG-15 4: 350mph, 20 000ft

Each of the a/c has padlocked one of the enemy, so all are sighted (the Sabre lead is a Veteran so could have padlocked two, but did not need to this turn).

MiG 4 is the only advantaged a/c so will move last while the others are neither advantaged nor disadvantaged. Therefore, the initiative rolls will play a notable part in the turn, governing the order of play. The US have the edge in initiative modifiers with better national standards of training, and confidence. The Communists roll poorly, so the MiGs move first.

MiGs lead and 2 in close synchronisation enter a climbing left turn to match the Banshees’ altitude, using speed brakes to prevent an overshoot, aiming for the rear quarter of the closest enemy bomber. The angle-off and turn rate modifiers for gunnery are not ideal, so the MiGs hold their fire and wait for a better opportunity (at only three full shots, they need to conserve ammo).

MiG 3 enters an easy left level turn in level flight hoping to hook onto the tail of one of the incoming Sabres. After the Sabres move, MiG 4 climbs 1000ft in a left turn to slot in behind Sabre 2. No shot was fired.

Sabre lead descends to match the altitude of MiGs lead and 2, and lining up on their 60 degree angle-off line, opens fire with a low odds shot on lead at 1 hex range and misses (a late reversal means no SSGT mod).

Sabre 2 closes in riding the 60 degree line on MiGs lead and 2, descends to their altitude (free level change) and opens fire at one hex range, then fires again from the same hex as the MiGs. The second shot just misses MiG 2’s right wing (its small target size was a significant modifier here). Sabre 2 declares he is tailing MiG 2.

The Banshees steep dive 2 000ft looking for speed in an attempt to put distance between themselves and the MiGs, which are closing in. (I took this picture prematurely...Banshee 2 should be in 5817).




Turn 3

Banshee lead: 400mph, 20 000ft
Banshee 2: 400mph, 20 000ft
Sabre lead: 400mph, 23 000ft
Sabre 2: 400mph, 22 000ft

MiG-15 lead: 300mph, 22 000ft
MiG-15 2: 350mph, 22 000ft
MiG-15 3: 350mph, 20 000ft
MiG-15 4: 350mph, 21 000ft

No a/c is out of LOS and are padlocked as with the previous turn.

MiGs 3 and 4 are advantaged, while Banshee 2 is disadvantaged. This should give these two MiGs an edge this turn.

MiG lead (the a/c not being tailed by the Sabre) enters a steep dive from a previous climbing turn, and plummets 4000ft in a left turn, attempting to line up on the rear quarter of Banshee lead. Sabre lead follows MiG lead, steep diving down to 17 000ft to match altitude straight along the 60 degree line and fires at one hex range, but misses.

MiG 2 is being tailed by Sabre 2, but already has nose up from the last turn so enters a vertical climb, topping out at 25 000ft, scrubbing off 100mph in 12 seconds. This shakes off the Sabre and puts him behind Banshee 2, 8 000ft below him.

Sabre 2 cannot chase MiG 2 because with nose level he has to spend a HFP as the first FP, which makes him overshoot MiG 2. However, MiG lead is now right in front of him so he enters his hex and steep dives to match his altitude, fires, and hits the MiG which suffers heavy damage, killing the pilot (there is no collision between the a/c).

In line with the bomber directive, the two Banshees decide to bug out and head for the board edge, knowing that the MiGs are not likely to not catch them because they currently have low energy and/or are facing the wrong direction. They continue their steep dive and gain speed quickly; however, Banshee 1 makes a tactical turn which bleeds off some energy and he starts to lag behind his wingman (in part because they are physically smaller than the Banshee, the other a/c types do not suffer any penalty at the tactical turn rate).

Having the advantage of initiative was vital this game turn for the Communists, and MiG 4 attacks Sabre 2 in the same hex, hits, causing heavy damage. MiG 3 descends and enters the hex of Sabre lead, fires, causing 2L damage. There are no collisions.




Turn 4

Banshee lead: Disengaged
Banshee 2: Disengaged
Sabre lead: 550mph, 17 000ft, 2 x light damage
Sabre 2: 500mph, 17 000ft, heavy damage

MiG-15 lead: KIA
MiG-15 2: 250mph, 25 000ft
MiG-15 3: 450mph, 17 000ft
MiG-15 4: 400mph, 17 000ft

All a/c are padlocked (Sabre lead is a veteran and so can padlock two a/c).

Both Sabres are damaged, so continuing the fight with the three remaining MiGs would perhaps not be the best option. The US side is still up on VPs so he and his wingman decide to make a run for it. If they can make it off the west board edge then they can deprive the Communists of any further VPs, and win the scenario. There is some chance of success, with both Sabres currently at higher speeds than the MiGs (damage does not affect top speed, even though acceleration may be reduced). Both a/c types enjoy an equal top speed in level flight of 650mph except at low altitude where the MiG had the edge over the early Sabre, though the MiG also suffers gun instability and poorer manoeuvring at high speeds (Low Roll Rate), and the Communist a/c have limited ammo remaining.

Sabre lead enters an unloaded dive to gain speed from the drop in altitude, and also putting horizontal distance between himself and the pursuing MiGs. MiG 4 chases Sabre lead (via a slide manoeuvre), and despite having a slower start speed than his opponent manages to hit with his cannons at 1 hex range, gaining the first Communist kill (a low odds shot).

MiG 2 exits the vertical climb he previously employed to evade Sabre 2, and using the half-roll and dive manoeuvre (split-s), attempts to line up on Sabre 2.

The US are now down on VPs so Sabre 2, although heavily damaged, decides to chase MiG 4 and avenge Sabre leader’s demise. However, his limited manoeuvrability means that he cannot line up for a shot this turn. His speed remains good, however.

MiG 3 sees the danger to his wingman and chases the damaged Sabre 2, hits from 1 hex range, but with a very good chance of a kill throws high on the damage table, inflicting only 2L.

The Banshees have successfully disengaged (as per the bomber directive) and head home to the carrier, knowing they cannot be caught. They continue to descend and hit their top dive speed of 700 mph (despite experiencing High Transonic Drag).




Turn 5

Banshee lead: Disengaged
Banshee 2: Disengaged
Sabre lead: KIA
Sabre 2: 500mph, 15 000ft, heavy damage

MiG-15 lead: KIA
MiG-15 2: 250mph, 21 000ft
MiG-15 3: 450mph, 15 000ft
MiG-15 4: 500mph, 12 000ft

MiG 4 is disadvantaged with the Sabre to his rear, so moving first he dives to 6 000ft in a descending tight left turn, knowing that the damaged Sabre cannot keep up. The Sabre follows MiG 4, ending up 5000ft above him, well out of shooting range.

MiG 2 has completed his aerobatics, is still at 250mph at altitude, and continues to gain energy by vertically diving towards the remaining Sabre.

MiG 3 lines up a good odds shot from one hex range on the Sabre’s 0 degree line and gains the final kill of the game.


Result: Communist win.




Postscript

Playing this scenario reminded me of the importance of gaining and then keeping the initiative when playing The Speed of Heat. For example in turn 3, acquiring advantage proved instrumental for MiGs 3 and 4 since they were able to line up for damaging shots on the Sabres, who were focused on chasing the other two MiGs. A further example is MiG lead’s demise, which was down to him moving before Sabre 2 who could then simply fly into his hex and fire a killing shot. I have learned that you need to look one turn ahead (at least) and try to position your a/c so as many as possible are advantaged for next turn. Part of this is predicting where all the a/c will end up once the current turn is over, which includes trying to second guess the enemy, which of course is difficult when playing solitaire.

Another thing that was brought home to me was the fact that diving for speed was the only real way to gain good acceleration in these early jets. For instance, with a Sabre in level flight it takes four turns to accelerate an additional 100mph. I have played scenarios with this game system using later a/c types equipped with afterburner, which makes a real difference; e.g. the F-104 Starfighter in clean configuration at subsonic speeds can accumulate enough accel points equivalent to a 75mph increase in a single turn.

In this game the general tactic of the Communists worked ok I thought, i.e. having two MiGs speed immediately into the fray after the bombers, and having an element lag back to watch their 6 o’clocks. This tempted the two Sabres to dive in to defend the bombers and go for early MiG kills (and VPs), which left them open to attack from the rear MiG element. In retrospect I might have had the Sabre wingman hang back to protect lead and then attack the rear MiG element in turn. However, this will have meant that the Sabres were outnumbered and one of the lead MiGs could potentially have shot down one or both bombers, instead of defending himself against Sabre attack. What actually happened was that although MiG lead was lost to the Sabres because he was focused on catching one of the bombers, MiGs 3 and 4 were watching his tail and so were able to have successful hits on the two Sabres, which more or less decided the game.

As a final comment, in this scenario swapping two Sabres for Banshees likely altered the balance of the scenario in favour of the Communists. When I play this in future, I’ll try to make it a closer contest e.g. by increasing the escort to a Sabre three-ship force.

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Dave Crater
United States
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This was a stellar after action game report. As a fan of this wargame simulation and its' brothers and strike and superiority, your report makes me want to get it out. It was ahead of its time and looked gorgeous set up.
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Allen Dickerson
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+1 with the first comment. Bonus points for editing the photos with directional markings that describe the flight paths.


I am just learning the system, and being able to "keep up" with the game play flow by reading this account makes me think I'm "getting it" quicker than I thought.

Bravo.
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Michael Allen
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jubjub wrote:
...your report makes me want to get it out.

Sounds like a plan... There only seems to be a select few still playing, so the more the merrier in my book.
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Michael Allen
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Stiglr wrote:
I am just learning the system, and being able to "keep up" with the game play flow by reading this account makes me think I'm "getting it" quicker than I thought.

I've been playing on and off for about four years now and still see myself as at the beginner stage. I definitely think though that this is a game where what you get out depends on what you're prepared to put in.
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