Richard Dewsbery
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robotOpening days of the 1991 Iraq Campaign. I was assigned a total of eight planes to shepherd through the coming days.

Two F-14s (Farmboy, fresh out of flight school, and the skilled pilot Sparky), a sole A-6 driver Mullet, four F/A-18Cs (Lightning and Mustang, both green, and two average pilots, Banzai and Hunter) and Eyes providing assistance in the E2C. Assigned at random, thanks to the iPhone-optimized web link

The opening day of the campaign saw me tasked to shut down a small airfield.

Sparky and Hunter were given the main AtA roles, with Sparky spending SOs to take four Phoenix missiles. I was anticipating a reasonable number of bandits, given that I was trying to break up their happy home, so everyone bar Mullet had at least one AIM-9.

Mustang and Mullet carried a mix of HARMs and dumb bombs - Mustang carried a pair of 1,000lbers, Mullet had two 2,000lb iron bombs.

Intel reprted that the AAA threat in the east, west and south consisted of units that would only pose a threat at low altitude, although there were more potent SAM sites to the north and at the airfield itself.

The plan was to have Sparky clear the skies with an initial barrage of AIM-54s, with Hunter following up using AIM-7s, with the pair providing close air support to the strike package as the airfield launched its alert fighters.

Everyone would fly to the target from the south - high and in formation - taking out the SAM sites with HARMs before dropping to low altitude over the target and pounding it with the bombs.

The chaps were under time pressure right from the start, with circumstances dictating that they could spend only 4 turns on target - and having chosen iron bombs, that meant racing for the target itself and dropping everything in one go.

There was a lucky break though - we'd caught Saddam's finest napping and they wouldn't be able to get a shot off in turn one.

The opening round saw my chaps take out all but one of the major SAM sites and the AIM-54s hit three out of four bandits.

Follow-up consisted of dealing with surviving Migs and the alert planes as they raced towards the target.

The only return fire was from the advanced SAM site that survived the first salvo and took a shot at Hunter, who evaded when his ECM pod failed to defeat the inbound.

Over the airfield itself, Mullet demonstrated why it was he should be considered an AtG specialist, planting both of his eggs plumb on target. Mustang whiffed, twice, which left the airfield aflame but operational.

No time for a second pass - the lads had to head back to the carrier, although Mullet was tagetted by shoulder-mounted SAMs in the woods on the way out he harely noticed.

The mission was a failure. The lads had seen Iraq's air force up close for the first time, and found that it was nothing to be feared, but inaccuracy with some of the oldest ordnance in the arsenal (or a failure to carry enough of it)

meant that the brass were not impressed.

I was pleased that I'd taken about the right number of AIM-54s (four was neither too may - in terms of SO points - nor too few - in terms of actual kills). But the ECM pods were an uneccessary luxury and I had too many Sidewinders - a few extra bombs would have been a better choice.

The mission wasn't demanding enough to be worth taking the E2C, either.

I'm still hazy on some of the rules - and especially the whole days/campaing negth/number of missions bits. I'll need to re-read them this afternoon. The rules seem to say that the target card is now discarded, even though it wasn't destroyed - if it remains in play, I'll be facing more fighters in the next mission.
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Re: My first mission, in my first campaign
RDewsbery wrote:
The rules seem to say that the target card is now discarded, even though it wasn't destroyed - if it remains in play, I'll be facing more fighters in the next mission.


Look on page 5 of the rules under Improvement toward the bottom of the right column. It reads:

"Apply the effect until you Destroy the Target card. If you do not select or Destroy these Target cards, do not discard them. These cards remain available for mission selection, in addition to your Recon Target draws, until Destroyed."

RDewsbery wrote:
if it remains in play, I'll be facing more fighters in the next mission.


Correct!

Thanks for sharing your session report, it was a good read.
 
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Richard Dewsbery
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Re: My first mission, in my first campaign
Thanks! I had read the bit about not discarding Improvements, but later in the rules (page 14) it says that "If the Target was not destroyed, discard it." It should instead say "If the Target was not destroyed, discard it unless it is an Improvement." Five extra words, four of them very short. Ho hum.

I'll dig it out of the discards for Day 2 then; I might make it my first attempt at a Secondary, as it didn't seem too tough
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Re: My first campaign - updated with my second day's results
Day 2, Mission 2.

That minor airfield was still active, and mobile scud launchers had been sighted along the MSR towards Kuwait. There was real pressure on the CO to deliver.

I stopped drawing as soon as I pulled the scuds from the target deck; with two secondary targets in front of me, it looked like an ideal time to try a primary and secondary mission in the same day - especially as day 1 had been a washout for VPs. The plan was to take out the airfield first (to avoid the extra bandit draw), and hit the scuds on the same day to avoid the VP loss.

Primary Mission

Sparky, my skilled F-14 driver, would go out with Mullet and Mustang, with Eyes in the E2C again. One plane short of the allowance, but I reckoned that I needed the other birds for the secondary mission.

Once again the plan was to overfly the target at high altitude, using Sparky to sweep the skies clear with AIM-54s and this time rain down smart bombs, courtesy a selection of Paveways carried by Mullet. Mustang had a mixed load-out, including Mavericks. 12 SOs spent on ordnance - I wasn't going to make the same mistake as day 1 and skimp on the items that make a loud noise. The ECM pods had proved totally unnecessary on the opening day of the campaign, so I ordered the pilots to load for bear instead today.

There was very light fighter cover for the airfield this time - where were all the bandits? Only a Mig 23 and a Mig 29 over the airfield itself, and the rest of the skies were clear. The flight out saw some radio chatter about promised shore leave - very welcome news, given that everyone was rostered to see some action today. Aerial refuelling as the boys lined up their approach to target allowed a bit of jiggery-pokery to be pulled, with the only two SAM sites capable of causing my high altitude mission being moved to the east side of the runway, in HARM's way but temporarily out of range of the package as they swept in from the west.

Sparky opened up with three out of four of his Phoenix missiles to clear the skies. Turn one saw no alert fighters scrambled from the airfield, Mullet and Mustang each fired off two HARMs at the SAM sites and they were both knocked out. We have a clear approach to the target!

Turn 2 - again, no bandits. Mustang fired his two AGM-65s. One hit. On the toilet block, I think. But the area's clear, looking good!

Turn 3 - where did that come from? A state-of-the-art Su27 appears (I didn't know Saddam had anything so shiny and new), and it was flown by someone who knew his stuff. Sparky let fly with his remaining Phoenix, but the bandit had some serious skills and the missile flew wide. The Su pilot took aim at Mullet, who tried to evade but those old A-6 airframes are no match for the current generation of AtA, and his bird was damaged. I wept as I saw him dump all those expensive Paveways in an effort to get the damaged crate home.

I was left with no effecting AtG ordnance. Dropping to the deck and strafing the airfield was unlikely to achieve 6 more hits, and would open my lads up to abuse from all the low-level AAA they'd avoided on the way in. So I gave the order for them to bug out.

Disaster - we found where Saddam had been keeping the airfield's planes - they were waiting for the boys as they left the target area! They were properly bounced by the bandits. What had Eyes been doing, playing Space Invaders??? It was Mustang's turn to take a mullering, an he wasn't as lucky as Mullet - his F/A-18 was fatally hit, and he popped his canopy while still deep in Iraq. His chute looked good, but nobody had anything left to mark the spot with. Hopefully the boys in the Jolly Greens would find him, but in what sort of shape?

The SAR boys were straight across the border and at the crash site before the rest of my lads were back on the boat, and the news was radio'd in that Mustang was alive - out of the fight, but no need to deliver any telegrams, thank goodness.

So, halfway through day two and we'd put the airfield can out of action, and nothing else. This campaign's going from bad to worse.

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Richard Dewsbery
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Re: My first campaign - updated with my second day's results
Day two - continued.

After the complete charlie-foxtrot at the airfield, it was time to send the B-team scud hunting.

Farmboy, my newbie F-14 pilot, had 3 AIM-54s and had loaded as many Sidewinders onto his crate as she could carry - after allowing for the ECM pod, of course. Strange how the news about Mustang had given everyone a new perspective on avoiding unwelcome attention. Hunter, my AtA F/A-18 driver, had a HARM but had otherwise had the same thoughts as Farmboy - max out on the Sidewinders and Sparrows. Lightning and Banzai were both configured for the AtG role, with 3 Mavericks each.

On the way out, we heard that the fleet had received a resupply, so there were more Phoenixes available for tomorrow. They had to be reminded that if they didn't look sharp, there might not be any more tomorrows at the current rate of progress.

The scuds were protected by a patrolling Mirage and Mig-23, with a Mig-29 somewhere to the north. Somebody, somewhere was having a sierra-hotel day, because the majority of the AAA threats were wiped off the board before my lads had warmed up a single weapon. Farmboy took out the 29 with a pair of Phoenixes, but the 23 evaded what was a lazy shot.

Turn one - Banzai took out the last remaining credible ground threat. The wisdom of sending the mud-movers in from the west and the AtA specialists from the east was questioned straight away, though, when the bandits split, the 23 facing down the wannabe aces and the Mirage heading straight for Lightning and Banzai. Would this be a repeat of the morning's snafu, with the early loss of a vital AtG asset?

Turn 2 - Banzai launched his three Mavericks, and scored three hits on the launchers. Great, halfway there. Meanwhile Hunter had hit his afterburners to be in a position to suppress both the Mirage and the Mig-23 when they started shooting. Then, when it was time for my lads to shoot, he took out the Mirage while Farmboy polished off the Mig that had evaded him earlier. Go on, Lightning, the target's clear!

Three Mavericks to score three hits - and the first one misses! But the Gods were with me, as the last scud launcher went up with the last Maverick, and the boys were able to head back to the boat with clear skies all the way, looking forward to that R&R they'd been promised.

Tomorrow's the last day of the campaign. There's no point in having another go at that airfield - today's ambush on the way out shows that the Iraqi High Command have it pretty well locked down. Maybe there's something going on there, maybe it's Saddam's exit strategy with a Lear jet parked in a hardened hanger, maybe it's just been bad luck. But we're not going back for more tomorrow. Besides, we need to hit a high-value target and hit it hard, or the evaluation report isn't going to be pleasant reading. As it is, the CO's been chewed out by the Admiral - there was something about getting the priorities straight between doing right for Tel Aviv and doing what the Commander In Chief expects.

Personally, I don't think that it can be done; although after a good night's rest everyone (bar Mustang) will be OK for tomorrow's mission. Mustang's been grounded until someone takes a look at his back; he says that he doesn't care if he's now 1/4" shorter than he was last week, Martin Baker's still his best friend.
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Re: My first campaign - updated with my second day's results
Ouch, tough luck over the minor airfield!
 
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Richard Dewsbery
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Re: My first campaign - updated with my second day's results
I can't grumble. The set-up was pretty sweet - two good event cards, and almost every bandit chit I drew was a blank. I got a bit unlucky with the Su-27 effectively aborting the mission, but that's the danger of carrying all of your eggs in the one basket. I almost split my Paveways between Mullet and Mustang, and I almost bought more of them, but I figured that with Mullet's pluses to hit in AtG he was my best chance of knocking out the airfield in one go. Unfortunately I had to learn the lesson of how to effectively protect the strike package, with ECMs and suppression fire. A lesson I learned and put into effect against the scuds.

This game is bumping along near my upper edge of tolerance for both luck factor and rules that need memorizing (generally I'm a boardgamer; in the past I've only really been interested in wargames if they are (i) simple and (ii) involve miniatures). But what I do like about HL is the strong narrative feel. Writing a session report is simply a matter of recording what actually happened. The luck factor seems high - what with chit pulls, card draws and dice rolls - but not enough of any of them for the luck to average out. It certainly feels like luck seems to play a big roll in my successes or failures; although this airfield mission was a bust because of poor decisions. Overall, I'd not say that my luck was particularly bad - far from it, in fact; the bandit tokens were mostly empty and the events mostly good; what did for me was *one* bandit who I didn't shoot down and couldn't suppress, and one event at the end.
 
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Re: My first campaign - updated with my second day's results
I'm 10 missions and 7 days into a long Iraq campaign. The rules don't seem too complex or involved anymore. I remember the first half dozen missions or so saw me frequently referencing the rulebook. I don't think I've looked at it at all the last couple of missions. The game turn flow chart printed on the right side of the tactical display really helps out.

There is a lot of luck, but that is necessary to a certain degree for a solitaire game, I believe. In my experience, my bad runs are mostly caused by me pushing my luck; pressing for a secondary mission when I should rest my pilots, pushing aircraft and pilots not suited to an assignment to get the secondary mission VP after my best pilots were committed to the primary, and poor selection of weapons.

I did lose an aircraft on my very first mission due to an unlucky series of rolls. The pilot was recovered three or four missions later with an event card. Needless to say, that was a tough introduction to the game.

I really agree with you about the narrative feel. I could squeeze in a few more plays if I didn't take as many notes during each mission. But that's the geek/writer in me showing itself.

Looking forward to your next mission.
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Richard Dewsbery
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Re: My first campaign - updated with my second day's results
I need 3 VPs today for an "adequate" evaluation. Not normally the sort of accolade I aim for, but given how the first two missions went, it's the best I can realistically get now Mustang is out of action, just six combat-worthy planes left and only 7 SOs.
 
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Chris Severs
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Re: My first campaign - updated with my second day's results
Just a quickie - you said you targeted the airfield first to avoid the extra bandit draw on the scuds - you still get the extra draw even if you destroy the airfield, it lasts all day, as with all other improvments.
 
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Richard Dewsbery
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Re: My first campaign - updated with my second day's results
Ah - right. Not sure I'd spotted that. So far I've found the player reference sheet pretty useless, as the bits that I keep needing to refer to in the rules - like the effects of various types of target - aren't on there. What's with the "Fixed" designation? If I read it right, it simply means that for certain years, JDAM's are no use - but I can still flatten a Fixed target with other ordnance, right?
 
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Richard Dewsbery
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Re: My first campaign - updated with my second day's results
Day 3 - my final chance to redeem myself. And knowing that, I gamed it somewhat.

The minor airfield was still in play, but so far I'd come home with unused AtA weapons in every mission, so apart from the risk of them taking out an important plane, I wasn't worried about the airfield. Plus having hit it twice and failed twice, it was time to try something different.

I used two out of my three draws and got a convoy and a lab. The convoy was a low-value target, and with only 6 combat-ready aircraft I wasn't really in a position to take a crack at both targets. No, the priority would be the lab - partly because it was worth the necessary 3VPs and partly because we knew that Saddam had been brewing up some nasty stuff, and here was a chance to take out one of the places he might be basing his chemical weapons. There would be an additional stress penalty on the pilots after the mission, but this was the last day that combat operations had been mandated, so the extra stress wasn't a worry.

The target was protected by an SA-6 to the north and another to the south, a Zu-23-1 in the west and an S-60 to the east (I really must look all these numbers up and stick them on a card, so I know what they actually are). The lab itself was protected as befits a high-value target - a Zu-23-1, KS-19, SA-8B and an SA-11 - though intel suggested that the most dangerous of these, the SA=11, had been disabled.

The lab was pretty deep into Iraq, so there would be a significant weight penalty on my planes as they loaded up with fuel instead of bombs (-2WP). I had 7 SO left - so tanker refuelling on the way in was one option. The other was to spend those SO on AIM-54s again. I elected to take the Phoenix missiles - six of them, and load up Sparky's plane. Farmboy would sit this one out, along with the recovering Mustang; Sparky's F-14, my four other F/A-18s and the lone A-6 would be accompanied by Eyes in the E2C again (as he didn't count towards the mission's six-plane limit).

The last SO was spent on an AMRAAM for Hunter, who mounted 2 Sidewinders, a Sparrow, one 500lb bomb and an ECM pod. The plan was to have Eyes and Sparky spot for bandits and clear them out from long range (which might have been risky had the SA_11 been operational), and let the F/A-18s go in with the A-6 to take out the target. Hunter would provide anti-air support in case things got hairy, and he carried the back-up bomb. If the last two days have taught me anything, it's that you can never have too many bombs.

Mullet was again designated my heavy hitter, with 2x 2,00lb bombs, a 500lb bomb, 2 HARMs and an ECM pod. But not wanting to rely on just the one bomb carrier again, Banzai had 1x 2,000lb bomb, 2 HARMs and an ECM pod, and Lightning had 1x 1,000lb bomb, 3 rocket pods and an ECM pod - his job was to suppress any ground targets that the HARMs missed and perhaps put an extra hit or two on the target if things didn't go to plan.

The outbound event was SAM missiles - Eyes hadn't spotted them launching, Lightning expended two rockets to reduce the incoming attacks to two, and the remaining missiles caused Eyes 2 stress and Lightning 1. That could have been worse. (There are no rolls for ECM pods versus events, right?)

The strike package came in from the south. Eyes and Sparky were to stand off and take out any bandits at maximum range, Banzai and Mullet would start out at high altitude and use their HARMs, while Lightning and Mullet stayed on the deck. All four of the strike planes would group up at low level over the target to deliver the iron bombs.

Bandit-wise, there was a Mig-21 to the north, a Mig-25 to the east and another dangerous Su-7 over the target.

Eyes negated the Over Target event (SAM vehicles, which would have messed with my plans somewhat), and Sparky cued up all 6 Phoenix missiles on the three bandits (figuring that if any more air threats showed up, or any of the current threat avoided this salvo, Hunter was up to the task). One phoenix at the 21, two at the 25 and three at the 27. I needn't have worried - the first AIM-54 hit each target, so I'd "wasted" the other three SO points (Sparky with a +2 AtA skill and an extra +1 from Eyes meant that I was hitting on a roll of 3 or better, even at the Su-27).

Turn one - Banzai took out the southern SA-6 with a single HARM in the fast phase. Some situational awareness from Eyes meant that Banzai could shoot again in the slow phase, and took out the northern SA-6. Mullet killed the SA-8B that was parked outside the target with a single HARM. Good shooting - with the clear skies, these kills meant that there was nothing in range to return fire in turn 1 or 2. The strike package swept into the pre-approach area, with Sparky and Eyes remaining -station where they were.

Turn 2 - nothing to shoot at/with in the fast phase. Mullet used his HARM on the Zu-23-2 and took it out, leaving the KS-19 as the only enemy unit capable of doing any damage with eh current flight plan. All four strike aircraft moved onto the southern approach, with Mullet and Banzai now dropping to low altitude to join Lightning and Hunter.

Turn 3 - again nothing to do in the fast phase. Lightning fired his remaining rocket at the KS-19 and scored hit. That's the target clear for the low-level bombing run!

Turn 4 - the bombing run. Banzai's 2,000 pounder scored three hits. Lightning missed with his bomb (well, he's still a bit new at this), as did Hunter (who after all was really along to deal with AtA threats). I needed six hits from Mullet's iron bombs. 1st bomb - 1 hit. 2nd - 3 hits. 3rd - 2 hits. Done it - just! All the AtG had been spent, I'd have been down to cannons and harsh language if I'd scored just one fewer hits. The whole team bugged out, leaving the lab in flames.

The home-bound event was AAA vehicles - again, Eyes had failed to see it, and with no AtG left I had to take my lumps. Mullet took some flak, but only enough to put his tress up by one.

So the boys all came home, to be greeted by Mustang who had recovered enough to be rated as "shaken" and cleared for flight duties had the campaign continued (he'd gone from green to average in his time off, as well). Farmboy finished in "OK", but remained a newbie. Sparky finished on 5 stress - still OK, and now a veteran. Lightning was on 4 stress and now average, Banzai on 3 stress and OK, Hunter had become "skilled" (and had 5 stress - still OK), Mullet was now "skilled" (at some point I'd forgotten to count his Cool, so he finished the campaign on between 4 and 7 stress points). Eyes was the only one deeply affected by his combat experiences - although he'd improved his rating to "skilled", flying hazardous missions on every day of the campaign meant that he was now unfit for further flight duties until he'd had some rest.

The important part was that the three VPs for taking out the lab meant that my total at the conclusion of the campaign was five - enough for an "adequate" evaluation. Not what I hoped at the start of day one, but it's been a learning experience. The chief lesson being "you can never have too much AtG".

But that lab will probably turn out to have been a powdered babymilk factory.


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Dan Verssen
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Re: My first campaign - "adequate"
Excellent campaign summary!

Thank you for taking the time to write-up your missions!
 
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Judy Krauss
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RDewsbery wrote:
Ah - right. Not sure I'd spotted that. So far I've found the player reference sheet pretty useless, as the bits that I keep needing to refer to in the rules - like the effects of various types of target - aren't on there. What's with the "Fixed" designation? If I read it right, it simply means that for certain years, JDAM's are no use - but I can still flatten a Fixed target with other ordnance, right?


I keep having to make reference to the rules, too, and check things here...

As far as I can tell, you are right about the "fixed" Targets. It only affects the use of JDAMs (unless there is an Event card that uses it?).
 
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Rui Serrabulho
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RDewsbery wrote:

Eyes negated the Over Target event


I don´t understand how "Eyes" negated the event.

RDewsbery wrote:

The home-bound event was AAA vehicles - again, Eyes had failed to see it, and with no AtG left I had to take my lumps. Mullet took some flak, but only enough to put his tress up by one.


Can you explain me the rule how can we negate the events.
Thanks in advance.
 
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Richard Dewsbery
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Eyes is the callsign for one of the E2C Hawkeye early warning planes.

The E2C carries no weapons, but (at Average skill level) Eyes gives a 7+ roll to avoid any events after they have been drawn, has 2 SA that can be spent on any pilot, and gives a bonus +1 to AtA rolls (which I assume stacks with any other bonuses). And although he counted towards my 8 aircraft on the campaign roster, he doesn't count towards the mission limit. A handy fellow to have around.
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Re-reading the rules again, I note that I forgot to take the -1 VP hit for having an aircraft destroyed. So I ended up as "poor" rather than adequate.

Ah well. Redeemed that somewhat tonight by getting "good" after a three-day Marine campaign over Iraq.
 
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RDewsbery wrote:
The outbound event was SAM missiles - Eyes hadn't spotted them launching, Lightning expended two rockets to reduce the incoming attacks to two, and the remaining missiles caused Eyes 2 stress and Lightning 1. That could have been worse. (There are no rolls for ECM pods versus events, right?)


Yes you may roll for the ECM to negate the event card.

See this post or read page 21 of the rulebook under ECM use.

E-2C and ECM negation of Events
 
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Maybe it would be unfair to count that first campaign as a "poor" evaluation after all, then.

I played a second campaign, again a short Iraq, but this time as Marines, last night.

I played it as a co-op session, doing four missions over the course of about 2 hours, explaining the rules to another player as I went along (letting him make many of the decisions).

It was a cake-walk. Perhaps because it was "short" (so the Harriers' small weight allowance didn't start to count against it in missions further afield and because it's easier to manage stress in a short campaign - and easier still when so many Marine pilots have Cool), but a big part of it was all those SO points to spend. The "drawback" of having to use Harriers was more than made up for by being able to pick weapons like AMRAAMs almost without restriction - and that was after having promoted three pilots right from the start. OK, we got lucky on our ECM roles (the majority seemed to be misses for the bad guys), and lucky on the bandit chit pulls (one mission getting one bandit out of ten counters), but it still felt pretty straightforward. Hopefully I haven't "outgrown" Iraq; I'l try a "long" Navy campaign there next, I think.


 
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