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Red Storm: The Air War Over Central Germany, 1987» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Solo Scenario C: HAWK Belt rss

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Dan W
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Ewa Beach
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Solo Scenario C: HAWK Belt

Overview:
Having played a lot of Elusive Victory, about half of the games solo, I was very eager to dive into Red Storm and try out the solo bot. After playing the second solo scenario in Red Storm (Fighter Sweep), I wanted to see how the bot would handle air defenses. One aspect I really like about the solo bot is that it provides some fog of war using fairly simple mechanics. I also was looking forward to trying out the ISR and SEAD pre-mission phases, seeing some of the Warsaw Pact (WP) tech in action, and trying out chaff corridors as well as robust standoff and spot jamming that either aren’t included in Elusive Victory or are nowhere near as available or powerful as in Red Storm.

Scenario:
If you’re not familiar, the scenario has the WP player (me) striking 4x HAWK Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) sites to clear the way for follow-on deep strikes into NATO rear areas. The solo bot controls the NATO defense, which includes additional SAMs and up to 4x 2-ships of NATO fighters with two additional dummy flights for fog of war. The SAM order-of-battle would remain hidden to me until activated by the bot and located by my strikers as they pushed into NATO territory. Unknown to me just yet, the NATO Combat Air Patrol (CAP) ended up being 2x 2-ships of U.S. F-15C Eagles (the best fighters in the game), a 2-ship of Belgian F-16s, and a 2-ship of German F-4Fs. The F-15Cs have tremendous legs (they’re fast and have tons of fuel) and great radars that make them deadly at long range (Beyond Visual Range, BVR), and a generous loadout of some of the most capable air-to-air missiles in the game (AIM-9M Sidewinders and AIM-7M Sparrows). The Belgian Vipers are limited to Sidewinders (no long-range missiles), but their maneuverability will make them deadly in standard air-to-air combat. The F-4F has a respectable radar and solid maneuverability, but also lacks long-range BVR capability.

WP order-of-battle:
The WP strike package included a squadron of MiG-23MLA fighters (3x 4-ships) armed with average weapons and BVR capability. I rolled extremely well when generating the strike package, giving me a squadron of Su-27 Flankers (3x 4-ships of the best Soviet fighter in the game) escorting 3x single MiG-23Ms dropping chaff corridors, 3x single Yak-28PP Brewer escort jammers, and a strike package of Su-24M Fencers (5x 4-ships and a recon 2-ship). The Fencer Ms seem very capable strikers in that they have the best weapons available including Laser Guided Bombs (LGB) and Electro Optical Guided Bombs (EOGB) and Missiles (EOGM). Combined with the Fencer M’s decent Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) and a self-defense deception jammer, I’m thinking the strikers have a very good chance of surviving the NATO defenses and putting bombs on-target. While my sweep aircraft are outclassed by the Eagles, the Flankers will more than hold their own against any of the NATO fighters in the game.

Plan:
My Basic plan is to have the MiG-23s sweep through the target area and keep the NATO fighters off of the strikers. The three MiG-23Ms will follow behind the sweep to create a 5-mile (2-hex) wide chaff corridor at medium and high altitudes that the strike package will then ingress through to the target area. The Su-27s must stay close to the strikers due to their Close Escort tasking, and will defend against any NATO fighters that make it past the sweep. I don’t have any dedicated SEAD for this strike, so my ARM shooters can only hit designated targets and SAM/AAA within 2 hexes of the target; SEAD along the route is not allowed. As a result, the escort jammers and chaff corridor will be keys to the survivability of my strikers.

The strikers will be arrayed in two groups so all strikers arrive over their targets at the same time (two flights need to hit a HAWK site about 10 miles deeper into NATO territory than the other targets, so they are in the lead group). All aircraft will ingress at medium or high altitude to benefit from the cover of the chaff corridor, move as fast as possible, and avoid low altitude IR SAMs and AAA. Weather is a cloud deck at low altitude with 3 breaks. I’ve positioned the breaks to allow use of EOGBs and LGBs on two of the targets. The remaining flights have anti-radiation missiles (ARMs) and cluster bombs. Each flight was given a different weapons loadout so I could see how the different weapons fared against similar targets.

Target area
– Targets are marked in yellow, the pink outline the play area, the green are ingress waypoints, and blue are egress waypoints. Each HAWK site has 3 sub-targets: a command bunker, launchers, and fire control radar. Note: The scenario takes place on the north edge of the map, so south is “up” and north is “down”. I also accidentally cut the northernmost HAWK target site out of this picture; it will be targeted by EOGBs, hence the IP 8 hexes from the target.



Green arrows show ingress, blue arrows egress



The mission

Ingress:
An early random event gives WP a SEAD strike, which I use against the PATRIOT radar which is co-located with the northern-most HAWK that I must strike. The PATRIOT is also the most capable NATO SAM in the game, so I’m very happy when the SEAD strike suppresses the PATRIOT for 10 minutes. The aggressive timing of my strikes means the PATRIOT will be suppressed until just before my strikers reach the target area, allowing my ARM-shooters and jammers to focus on the HAWKs without interference from the PATRIOT.

The picture below shows my sweepers approaching the target area. Their high-altitude ingress takes them safely over a lone Roland 2 SAM site, Gepard radar AAA, and light AAA concentration along the strike route. Notice the spot jamming paving the way for the sweep. Flights LL, WW, and YY are MiG-23MLAs (sweep), while flight R is a lone MiG-23M expanding the single chaff corridor dropped pre-mission. Even though I’m playing solo, I chose to use the generic counters to practice the VID rules, not in a vain effort to outsmart the solo bot…



The next picture shows the entire strike package ingressing. Notice how the entire wall of sweep and chaff droppers are getting lit up by NATO air defenses.



Below, the sweep makes it through the target area unscathed. Standoff jamming results in all SAMs missing. One flight of MiGs uses anti-radar tactics, diving from high altitude to the deck and escaping SAM acquisition.



Alone and unafraid, a Yak-28PP Brewer jammer safely overflies a Roland 2 that is tracking it. The Roland cannot fire on targets at high altitude.



NATO comms failure – It couldn’t happen at a worse time for NATO. A communications failure further degrades NATO’s poor detection capabilities. As a result, much of the strike package will switch from detected to undetected over the next 3 minutes (3 turns) and will not be detected again until they emerge from the chaff corridor only miles away from their targets.



Below, WP MiG-23s engage Belgian F-16s in air combat. No kills are scored by either side, but the WP fighters have achieved their objective in holding the attention of the NATO CAP. Meanwhile, the strikers continue inbound and the first MiG-23 turns for home having established the full chaff corridor at medium altitude. The two MiG-23s leading the strikers will fly the same route, establishing a high altitude chaff corridor as well.



Another flight of MiGs tangles with the 4 x Eagles (Cobra and 401 flight). Several missiles are fired with no result. Dolina Flight will run south toward the safety of the mountains, hopefully drawing at least one 2-ship of Eagles with it and away from the strikers. The orange markers are used to track which flights have moved so far in the turn.



Where’d they go? – The chaff corridor worked extremely well in shielding the strikers from detection and SAM acquisition. All but one of the strikers in the chaff corridor is undetected while NATO radars are still tracking half of the tail end of the strike package that has not yet entered the chaff corridor.



Splash one! – A MiG-23 falls to AIM-9Ls while another is crippled by the German fighters. Budarin flight is done for the day. The crippled aircraft will later crash shortly after it crosses into WP territory (random event). Argeyev (MiG-23) and Saison (F-16) flights will withdraw to their rally points to reorganize and attempt to get back into the fight.



Dallas flight (2xEagles) breaks away from the MiGs and takes on the strike package all by itself. The Flankers at high altitude get the jump on the Eagles, although they successfully dodge 2x long-range AA-10 shots.

A long-range KH-58 ARM puts the HAWK battery next to one of the primary targets (HAWK #34) out of action for the rest of the mission. The HAWK site had taken a SAM shot, so was unable to shut down its radar, making it an easy target. KH-58s are pretty nasty in that they combine long range with a positive modifier when rolling for damage.



Kharkov flight (4x Flankers) races in to engage the Eagles. Kharkov flight damages Dallas-1 with an AA-11 shot while Kharkov-3 is downed by a Sidewinder. The pilot bails out and is later rescued.



Strikers split at the release point. For the loss of 1 x MiG-23 and 1 x Su-27, the sweep has preoccupied the NATO fighters and the strikers split up to approach their individual targets. As the Yak-28PPs bravely accompany the strikers, the close range barrage and spot jamming prevents the HAWK batteries from getting into the fight with anything but low probability Lock-On After Launch (LOAL) shots.




Bounced! – Saison flight (2x Belgian F-16s) rally and race past the fleeing MiG-23s to jump a flight of Su-24 Fencers. Spotting the Vipers, Mitusov flight jettisons their bombload (they had already fired off all 4 of their KH-25 ARMs). Saison flight fires off all their AIM-9Ls, but doesn’t score a hit. Either way, it’s a mission kill and Mitusov will turn for home, as will Saison flight (disordered and aggression now -3). Luckily, Mitusov was one of two flights assigned the same target, so I still have a chance of hitting all 4 HAWK sites.



Leman Flight (Generic flight O, 4 x Su-24M) finishes the job for Mitusov, delivering their complete load of cluster bombs on target. Kharkov-3 (Su-27 downed earlier) gets quite a show as he drifts to earth. Note: I forgot that Leman flight would be VID'd over target, so I should have replaced the generic counter with Leman.



Weather change – A random event degrades the weather, closing all breaks in the clouds. The EOGBs are now useless as they cannot be dropped from medium altitude through the low deck (no line-of-sight to target). Krylov flight aborts while the two flights armed with LGBs dive through the clouds to attack at low altitude.



WP Comms failure and Command confusion – As the strikers arrive over target, WP Command and Control breaks down, leaving the WP with degraded detection and unable to initiate air combat for the turn.



Kaiser flight, undetected, breaks through the escorting Flankers and attempts to jump a Yak-28 jammer and clear up the radar picture for the HAWK operators. However, Kaiser fails to engage and Karpov escapes.



Kaiser’s failure to engage is a deadly mistake as they are immediately jumped by Vilnius flight, 4x Flankers with +2 aggression that down both F-4Fs. Only the pilot of Kaiser-2 bails out and will be rescued. The targets are being hit hard.



Meanwhile, Rostov flight prevents Cobra from threatening the strikers. One Eagle is damaged, Rostov-3 is downed, and Rostov-4 is damaged. Rostov-3 is quickly captured by NATO forces moving along the mountain road that he lands nearby.



Off target – All strikes complete, 5 HAWK sites have been hit hard along with a Rapier site… the Su-24MR completes the recon run at high altitude to assess the damage.



Assessment

Targets: 3 of the 4 HAWK sites were heavily damaged for 10, 6, and 7 VP

SAM sites heavily damaged or destroyed: 7 VP

Aircraft losses:
- NATO:
o Shot down: 2x F-4F (8VP) (3x crew KIA, 1x rescued) (3 VP)
o Damaged: 3 x F-15C (3VP)
- WP:
o Shot down: 3x MiG-23MLA, 2x Su-27 (15 VP) (2x crew KIA, 2x captured, 1xrescued) (4VP)
o Damaged: 1x Su-27 (1VP)

Total: 24VP for WP Victory

Observations/Thoughts

Solo bot – Very enjoyable for some fog of war, to learn the rules, and to focus on playing one side. Cons are that the solo bot doesn’t maximize the long-range capabilities of the more advanced fighters, like the F-15s or specifically targeting strikers or jammers. There were a few situations where I overrode the bot’s actions to force an engagement when the bot would’ve passed up a good opportunity (such as going after the jammer, although that ended up ending badly for Kaiser flight through poor rolls…). The SAM/AAA bot is fun because it provides fog of war. I am going to start letting the bot take salvo shots (bot states it will not take salvo shots) on high priority targets such as jammers and aircraft on their bomb run. Salvos are probably best achieved through another die roll (odd = salvo fired, even = single shot). Overall, the bot is great for a break from playing both sides and to add some fog of war, so it’s a much appreciated addition!

Jamming/Chaff Corridors/SAMs – Detection was a challenge for NATO from the start. The degraded NATO detection was just lucky, but caused a huge increase in lost tracking by moving from detection level E from D. NATO’s degraded detection and tracking were huge for me with my aircraft staying at medium to high altitude where they generally are easier to detect than low or on the deck. The combination of jamming and the chaff corridor worked well in protecting my strikers. The chaff corridor provides some defense against normal detection (-2 modifier), but it really protects against SAM acquisition. The average striker in the chaff corridor benefitted from a -2 to -6 modifier for standoff or spot jamming, -3 for deception jammers (which the game doesn’t allow SAMs to burn through at close range), and -5 for the chaff corridor for a total of a -10 to -14 modifier! Those SAMs that did trigger a damage roll were again affected by standoff and self-protection jamming. It also helped that I rolled really poorly when trying to acquire or for damage. Of a total 38 SAM shots, only about 5 caused potential damage, and those rolls only resulted in 2 SAM avoids, zero damage or kills.

Overall – The scenario was a lot of fun both to plan and play out. Total playing time was about 12 hours over two sessions to simulate 18 minutes of real time. The game provides a slew of meaningful decisions from beginning to end, and the narrative is great. I use the random event house rule where you only have a random event on a D10 roll of 1, modified -1 for each 10 flights in play (dummies and real). Even with this rule, the random events provided friction that felt realistic and the random event closing the breaks in the clouds was a perfect way for Murphy’s Law to frustrate my plan. Red Storm provides a very deep gameplay experience. I’m looking forward to trying the remaining solo scenarios and diving into the rest of the game both solo and face-to-face!
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Douglas Bush
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Terrific AAR! The flight bot was tricky to "program". I wanted to keep it streamlined so players didn't have to roll 5 time for every move, but as you note that does bias the bot flights to the closest flight, even if it isn't always the "right" one. Making little bot override calls sometimes makes sense.

Doug
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Dan W
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Thank you. I really do appreciate the simplicity of the solo bot. Red Storm is already a complex game (which is one reason I enjoy it), so an incredibly detailed solo system similar to Carrier or Tokyo Express would probably not be very enjoyable to play. Pushing the bot to achieve a more realistic outcome is easy, especially compared to playing both sides solo. Thank you for including it and I’m really enjoying the game!
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Allen Dickerson
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Indeed, that was a great AAR!!! A *little* hard to follow as I've only cracked open the rule book... but I could follow the written narrative pretty well, even if the colored circles on the maps might as well have been more chaff

Keep these coming, if you need any encouragement! If you've got the game designer applauding your efforts, surely you're on the right track!
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Dan W
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Thank you, Allen. I hope you enjoy the game! The effort is well worth it and the procedures get easier once you've stepped through them a few times.
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Nice job, Dan.

Way to take out the HAWKs (Homing All the Way Killer).
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Dan W
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Good times. We need to get a Vassal game going...
 
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jb jeanba
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This is an excellent AAR and it gives a good idea of the game.
Do you think that the solo rules can be adapted to EV ?
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Douglas Bush
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jeanba wrote:
This is an excellent AAR and it gives a good idea of the game.
Do you think that the solo rules can be adapted to EV ?

I hadn't considered that but in general yes, you could use the solo bot behavior rules in EV for Flights/SAM/AAA. Not as many aircraft have BVR capability in EV, but otherwise the flight bot should work for aircraft doing CAP/QRA missions.

Doug
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