Saturday, January 21, 2017

Gulf Strike - Scenario 1: The Russians are Coming!



It is turn 8 and this is the big enchilada now. WW3 starts this turn as both the Soviets and US are now activated. They have 100 supply points allotted to them. Nothing happens in terms of random political events.

The Soviets get a bunch of reinforcements and I'm left scratching my head as to where exactly these guys should go.

The Soviets get: 7 x Airbases, 6 x Su-24, 15 x MiG-21, and a Tu-126. They also get 6 x trucks, 6 x air defense units, and 9 x airborne regiments, all delivered by IL-76. This is way more than can be delivered by IL-76 in a single turn, even though, as the scenario special rules state, the IL-76 can fly twice per turn for the first 3 turns of Soviet activation. I'm not sure where to put all this new stuff.




The Iranians' main problem right now is re-establishing a secure supply network for its army down in Saudi Arabia. Establishing a supply depot in hex 1046 with a Soviet airbase protecting it, will probably do the trick. As a bonus, the hex can be used to launch some nice shiny Su-24s to deliver their ordnance on Saudi troops. MiG-23s can also be scrambled from here to stop missions aimed at the Iranian supply node.

The next problem will be bringing my supply depots in Saudi Arabia back up north a little bit because they'll be stretched to their maximum 20 MP distance from the new supply depot in Kuwait, leaving them vulnerable to interdiction missions. This shouldn't be too hard as the supply depot on the right flank nearest Riyadh is probably a little too close to the front anyways. Near Al Hufuh on the coast, I will likely end up with a tank division that's stretched to its maximum MP distance from the nearest supply depot, but hey, it's better than having your whole army out of supply.

Since the IL-76 can land in any clear terrain hex, I can immediately fly in an airbase, an air defense unit, and an airborne regiment into 1046. Done! Boom - that's what's it like to be a superpower, I guess.

We slap two Mig-23s and two Su-24s on the airbase. The rest of the MiGs and Su-24s get put in a Soviet border airbase near the border with Turkey just to keep them secure for the time being.

Supply points get added and we end up with:

Bahrain: 5
Qatar: 21
USA: 124
Iran: 26
USSR: 130
UAE: 40
Oman: 53

Unit Assignment Stage:

Since the Americans are involved, I need to assign those F-5s to Intercept mode throughout most of my Iranian airbases. The Soviets place Mig-23s on Intercept on their airbases while keeping ground attack units on Offense. The plan is to use the new Soviet base south of Kuwait City to launch attacks on the Saudis.

The Americans decide to send a Special Forced detachment to attack a truck unit in Saudi Arabia. It's carrying a supply depot and it would be so nice to have it taken out and cause even more logistical headaches for the Iranian army.

Initiative Determination Stage:

Since the Iranians suffered a whopping 27 hits last turn, the Initiative changes to Player B.

First Action Stage:

Both sides roll a 5 and get 2 Naval Movement Points each for this stage.

First Movement Phase:

Now that I have a little breathing room, I decide to reorganize the Saudi defenses around Riyadh. I pull back all the ground units a little bit and try my best to protect the main roads into the capital. This pulls my guys into favorable defensive terrain and encourages the Iranians to move their forces forward to attack and hopefully extend their supply lines further so I can cut them off again. Then I just wait and hope that the Americans can ride to my rescue.


Battle for Riyadh: The Situation Near the Capital City
The US starts to clean up the ocean, starting with the launch of a P-3 Orion from Diego Garcia airbase. It detects a Soviet SS sitting in K-19 and hits it for one damage point. A follow up attack by an S-3 Viking from the USS Kitty Hawk sends it to the ocean floor.

ASW near Diego Garcia. The Soviet SS is sunk shortly after this screengrab.

The Kitty Hawk launches a strike package to hit the Soviet CG in the same hex. Taking four hits of damage, the Soviet ship is sunk. This ship could have done some major damage to my carrier since it gets a +3 attack bonus if it manages first Soviet combat in this scenario. Lucky for the US player, he got initiative this turn and nipped the problem in the bud.

With the danger in hex Q-21 cleared away, the USS Enterprise and the Marine Amphibious ship move north to the hex to join up with the Kitty Hawk. This uses up both naval movement points. The Enterprise launches an S-3 Viking that detects the Soviet SS in N-18 but it fails to score any hits on it.

Now it's time to start whittling down the Soviet bases outside of the USSR. The B-52s are unleashed on base 805 sitting in Yemen. They are detected by a Tu-126 AWACS unit and intercepted by MiG-23s once they reach the same strategic hex. One MiG manages a single hit causing one bomber to abort. The other drops its payload and inflicts 2 damage on the Soviet airbase, which is assigned to two MiG-23s. A Special Forces detachment helps out by "lasing" the target and guiding the bombers in, gaining a +3 to the unit's bombardment strength (bringing the B-52s bombardment rating up to a mind-numbing 13). This basically ensures that I'll score 2 hits with each B-52 strike. At 2 damage, however, the base is still operational. The other base in the same strategic hex is also left untouched. Not what I was hoping for but I'll take it.

During the First Reaction Segment, the Iranians start off with sending their C-130 from Iran loaded up with a supply depot and transported to the Soviet airbase in hex 1046. I have learned my lesson from last turn and I have decent protection for the depot with an AWACS, air defense, and two Mig-23 squadrons ready to defend it). This puts the guys near Riyadh back into supply but the Iranian divisions near the coast are still out of supply. I'll need to either pull them back or let them soak up more hits. The Soviets don't do much except move a couple of subs towards the south.

There is no declared combat but there is the matter of the US Special Forces raid on the Iranian truck in hex 1354. We roll a 6 with a modified plus 3 because the target is a truck. The result is a 9 and three hits are inflicted, destroying the truck. Since this has a supply depot on board, it is also destroyed. It looks like those Iranian guys along the east coast are going to be out of supply for the rest of the turn.



Second Action Stage

The US only gets 1 NMP this stage while the USSR gets 4.

Second Initiative Movement

US player sends out a P3 Orion from Diego Garcia and it detects a Soviet SSGN in H-17, just off the coast of Somalia. It makes a successful detection attempt and attacks the sub for 3 damage. An American SSN in E-22 moves up and finishes it off.

Next we get two S-3 Viking squadrons launched from both carriers. They take on the Soviet SS in K-19 but both attempts fail.

That's all for that. Time for the Second Reaction Segment.

The Soviets launch their Su-24s from their airbase in southern Kuwait. Both attack planes hit the Saudi ground forces defending near Riyadh. The Saudi Mechanized Guards Brigade takes a hit and is flipped over to its reduced side. The 4th Mechanized Saudi Brigade is also hit and reduced. Nice work, Russkies! Two hits are allocated to Player B on the game track.

Soviet Su-24 Fencer

I see that Player B's victory conditions involve either controlling or disputing the Straits of Hormuz. The strait can be disputed by dropping mines in strategic hex J-09 but I can't find a way to do that without being shot down by the Omani Air Force. I decide to use an NMP to activate a Soviet SSN and move it to M-10 so hopefully it will survive long enough to enter J-09 and lay some mines.

There is no ground combat this stage so we move to the:

Third Action Stage:

Naval Movement Determination;
Player A (Iran/Soviets); 4
Player B (USA/Gulf Council states): 1

Third Reaction Segment allows the reaction player (Player A at the moment) to finally move his ground units assigned to Frontline mode so things are going to get interesting.

The Iranian 1st Armored Division nearest the Saudi port of Damay is pulled back to 1553 and put back into supply.

Iranian 11th Armored Brigade w/ HQ is pulled west along the roads to  1658, which brings it into supply. A truck unit with an infantry brigade is pushed east into the same hex just to give it some kind of protection from the onslaught of airborne special forces raids. Not a good sign. As with any game, you know that when you're making decisions based on fear that things are not going well.

I get all the Iranian 8th Infantry brigades into the same hex (0456) and decide to recombine them in the next turn's Unit Assignment Stage.

The 2nd Armored Division near Al Hufuh airbase changes to Movement to Contact formation to save on supply costs and declares the Saudi airbase as its target for ground combat.

Now to get to Riyadh:

The 5th Armored Division moves down the road to hex 0560 and changes to Hasty Assault. Combat is declared against the remnants of the shattered Saudi 2nd Mechanized Brigade in 0561.

The 4th Armored Division switches from Hasty Assault to Movement to Contact formation and trundles southwest into 0459 to face down the elite Saudi Mechanized Guards brigade - a shadow of its former self with only 1 hit left before destruction.

My guess is the 2nd Brigade is about to get whalloped while the Mechanized Guard might just make it out of this one more time. At this point, it has more lives than an entire herd of cats.

With only a meager 25 supply points for the Iranians, I'll be depending on my Soviet comrades to provide some Close Air Support in the Combat Phase.



In the Initiative Segment, the US player licks his lips at the sole Soviet SS sitting on the Strategic Map and blows the hell out of it with an S-3 Viking launched from USS Kitty Hawk. The Indian Ocean is now clear of Soviet subs. Now we just need to get rid of those Soviet client-state bases and we're on our way with the Marines.

During the CAS segment, the Soviets launch the same Su-24s from last stage and assign the combat units based near Riyadh as targets to each of them. Both planes hit their target for CAS.

Ground Assault resolves as follows:

1.) Iranian 2nd Armored Division vs. truck unit at Al Hufuh airbase: 6 - 1
Attacker Combat Strength; 6
Defender Combat Strength; 1
Armor vs. Non-Armor: 2 column shift right
Supply Cost: Iran - 3 / Saudi - 1
Roll; 2
Result: 0/3
A support unit not stacked with an assault unit is forbidden to retreat so the truck takes two hits and is gone. As for the airbase, it should take a hit here. I also realize that the airbase has probably been out of supply for at least two turns so I'm going to give the Iranians a mulligan (boy do they need one) and eliminate the airbase too. The 2nd Iranian Armored Division captures Al Hufuh.

2.) Iranian 5th Armored Division vs. Saudi 2nd Armored Brigade: 3 - 1
Attacker Combat Strength: 5
Attacker Formation Hasty Attack; x 2
Attacker has CAS; +2 DRM
Attacker has Artillery: +2 DRM
Defender Combat Strength; 1
Terrain Defense Multiplier - Armor: 1.5
Supply Cost: Iran - 7 / Saudi - 1
Roll; 8
Result: 0/2
The Iranian 5th Armored Division eliminates the Saudi brigade and advances into hex 0561. Riyadh is in sight but there seems to be always one more headache to contend with. In this case, it's the Saudi 4th Mechanized Division in 0661.

3.) Iranian 4th Armored Division + Infantry Brigade vs Saudi Mech Guards: 1-2
Attacker Combat Strength: 6
Defender Combat Strength: 1
Defender Formation; Hasty Defense -> x2
Terrain Defense Multiplier - Other: 2
Troop Quality: Defender: Elite -> 3 column shifts left
Defender has Artillery: 2 column shifts left
Attacker has CAS; +2 DRM
Supply Cost: Iran - 4 / Saudi - 3
Roll; 6
Result: 1/0
The 4th Armored Division absorbs a hit and the divisional commander shakes his head as memories of trench warfare against the Iraqis start to dance in his head.





I've learned a couple of important lessons this turn. The most important is that of having a reserve force. If I had an HQ close enough to Iran 3rd Mech Division, I could have put it into reserve at the start of the turn and then let it follow up these third action stage attacks at the start of the next turn. Now because I haven't done that, the Saudis will get a chance to regroup and form another line of defense. I'm guessing the Mechanized Guard unit will pull back and present another problem for the Iranians.

The other thing I've learned is the importance of air supremacy. Having control of the air over Saudi Arabia allowed Iran to stretch their supply lines to the limit without fear of interdiction. Clearly, taking out the airbase in Riyadh last turn was a bigger deal than I actually thought. If the enemy can get even one airplane up, it presents a potentially serious hazard to supply lines and must be taken account of. This is the difference between air superiority and air supremacy.

It's incredible that such small forces can use rough terrain to their advantage to keep the Iranians off-balance and reacting to their moves. Obviously, if I had better supply systems, the Iranians could outflank them but with the terrain and the limited number of roads, it's difficult to get the logistics to work right.

During the End Stage, the Iranian 2nd Armored Division in Al Hufuh is marked out of supply and takes a hit. That's okay because this hex gives us an airfield for the Soviets to work out of next turn. The Iranians purchase a Supply Depot and place it in Tehran where I have my trusty C-130 sitting on the airfield waiting to take it somewhere. I also purchase a supply depot for the Soviets.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Yaah! 8 - A Look Inside

Late last year, I had the pleasure to fill in as a guest editor for Yaah! magazine, the No-Holds Barred badboy of the gaming world. Mark H. Walker, the head honcho of Flying Pig Games and Tiny Battle Publishing, was kind enough (or crazy enough) to let me at the controls of his baby and he gave no quarter, throwing me in the deep end on the first day. I had a blast!

The first thing that caught me by surprise was just how much work goes into a single issue. With so many articles coming in and so many requests for articles going out at the same time, I was overwhelmed in the first week or so before I finally got my sea legs and managed to figure out where I fit in with all the chaos going on around me. The second thing that struck me was just how much talent I had to work with. Each writer had their own strengths and unique voice - this issue featured articles from all over the world - we had writers from Europe to North America to Asia.

This issue's feature article is from the talented Ania B. Ziolkowska, who went to Essen, Germany to cover Spiel 2016 in late October. Her story was an exhaustive days-long tour of the Messen Halls, showing her impressions about certain games, giving details about what she played, and gauging the overall health of wargaming at the convention since her previous visit four years prior to writing the article. As you read through it, you get a real sense of what it's like to visit THE gaming epicenter of the western world for a few days each year. You also find which way the wind is blowing for the future of wargaming and it's surprisingly positive news. This was a major article for Yaah! - the longest (14 pages) that has been run in its short history.


Of course, I would be remiss to leave the game unmentioned. Hermann Luttmann's Race to the Sea 1914 uses a very unique game system that he has designed as a labor of love. The game, which focuses on the last real mobile battles of the western front in the early days of World War I, uses cards to resolve combat between two sides. The result is an interesting system that turns the traditional "roll dice - consult CRT - apply hits" approach on its head. In Race to the Sea fire combat, the attacker tries to inflict hits on a target unit and the target unit will try to reduce the number of hits scored. This is all done smoothly by both sides flipping over their combat cards and checking the "Fire Combat" section of the card. Pretty cool. In assault combat, both sides' units attempt to score hits on the other side. Again, this is done by flipping combat cards and checking the assault combat section. There is no need to calculate odds here - the whole design is oriented on keeping the players' attention riveted on the map rather than on a CRT.

Hermann Luttmann's Race to the Sea 1914.


There were so many other great articles in this issue. Fred Manzo's article about Dead Reckoning strategies is a must-have for anyone curious about the game. Heck, I had no idea about it until I read the article and now this game is on my wishlist. I should note that Dead Reckoning is a Hermann Luttmann design so if you can't get enough of Herm's stuff, you'll certainly enjoy this issue. Fred and Hermann also designed a scenario for DR that's included in this issue. "The Alamo in the Rockies" is all about getting as many human refugees off the map as possible before the inevitable zombie hordes crash through the gates and feast on your brains.

I had the great pleasure to interview the designers of Days of Ire: Budapest 1956 for this issue. Katalin Nimmerfroh, Dávid Turczi, Mihály Vincze are three young game designers and artists who designed this game based on the Hungary Uprising in October 1956. The game is heavily inspired by classics Twilight Struggle and Pandemic. This interview serves as close-up into one of the games Ania talked about in her feature article from Spiel.

Deborah Malmud is a rock star writer and game reviewer. She has a terrific talent for conveying her sense of humor, game-related frustrations, and turn-by-turn victories in her articles. This issue is graced by her review and AAR of D-Day at Peleliu. If you have played any of John Butterfield's other solitaire D-Day designs, you'll get a very good idea of how this one is different from the others and why it's so good.  She also wrote about White Dog Games' 2015 release Don't Tread on Me, another solitaire game that puts the player in the shoes of the British trying to put down those pesky Americans during the Revolutionary War. She has a nice way of skipping through the tedious parts of games (something I could probably learn from) to showcase the game's main action. Her AAR of the game reveals why she says this is a must-have for solitaire gamers.

Deborah Malmud's review and AAR of D-Day at Peleliu.


Matt Foster looks at a game called Tannenberg from Schroeder Publishing. As a part of the larger Der Weltkrieg series,  Tannenberg is a small but intriguing addition. This system has been around for about 20 years but it still seems to be going quite strong as Matt talks about the game's core rules that help to simulate a lesser-known eastern front battle in World War I. Matt shows how the game provides an interesting challenge for both players despite the Russians' disastrous invasion of East Prussia.

You also get scenarios with this issue and we've got two for MBT. Norm Lunde, who also reviews MBT in this issue, contributed a great big scenario based on a chapter from Mark H. Walker's new Dark War series novel Retribution (of which there is an excerpt to be found in this issue). This one pits two troops (tanks, CFVs, infantry with AT) versus a whole whack of Soviet T-72s and T-80s with some Su-25s for good measure. The other MBT scenario is from me. I based this heavily on the premise of (West End Games, Jon Southard) Fire Team's Reconnaissance on the Nuremberg Highway. This is a straight up brawl between US infantry lodged in a small town with some Stinger missiles and a PIVADS versus a light Soviet recon platoon and some Hind helicopters. I wrote this one to help anyone who wanted to try out the helicopter rules in the game but didn't want a huge scenario to start with. Of course, there are other scenarios in here for everything from Heroes of Normandie to good ol' Air Superiority, the latter of which I wrote with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Norm Lunde reviews MBT and writes a great new scenario.


There are tons more articles in this issue (a whopping 84 pages total) - so many that I can't mention them all in one go (and hey, I wouldn't want to spoil all the surprises, now would I?) but I urge you to check it out if you have the slightest interest in wargaming. I feel it was a top-notch effort from everyone involved. Here's the link to get your copy.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Enemy Coast Ahead: The Dambuster Raid - The Campaign

I just finished my first full campaign game of Enemy Coast Ahead: The Dambuster Raid 1943. . Although I had played the first five scenarios of the game that focused solely on the bombing runs, I was excited to try the full campaign game that features a planning phase, flight phase, and the bombing runs. It was everything I thought it should be - it was tense, exciting, and full of decisions with consequences that rippled their way through the entire affair. I also should mention that I failed spectacularly and I still loved the experience. Here's how it went:

Planning Segment:

Throughout my three planning turns, I tried my best to allocate most of my resources on getting my aircrews, upkeeps, and ground crew ready for the raid.



On the first turn, I requested an additional 30 RP on my first turn (for a total of 90 RP), which allowed me to get about 10 bombers, 7 upkeep, and 22 crew, about half of whom were veteran and the rest seasoned. This was a bad idea. With less than half the number of bombers as aircrews, the consequent -1 training modifier really hurt me in the end, causing quite a few damaged and crashed bombers.

Although I didn't lose any aircrew, I didn't get my seasoned or veteran crews advancing very fast, except in the navigation box. I did get a few elite crew members out of these training incidents but I also ended up pulling a Spy marker out of the cup too. I would either need to live with the possibility of a very high security risk or use extra RP in the next turn to try and get rid of the spy. I didn't have the groundcrew I needed to work on the Lancaster modifications and I didn't want to fatigue anyone on the first turn so I let them wait for the next turn.



On the second turn, I got a few extra groundcrew and 10 additional bombers and 12 upkeep markers. I again requested 30 additional RP for this turn, which raised my security risk higher and pretty much mandated that I use RP to get rid of the spy marker, which I did by using the Transfer the Barmaid option. All was well again in 617 squadron now. Training recommenced and with only a couple of damaged Lancasters this time around and several great rolls on the navigation and altitude & speed track resulted in several elite crewmembers getting drawn. Unfortunately, my bad luck prevailed with the chit pulls and this time I pulled a Jinx marker. Guy Gibson's dog is run over and the squadron takes it as a bad omen.

I decide to keep my groundcrew fresh for next turn, when I plan to launch the raid. One groundcrew gets assigned to the Aldis Lights modification box and although I spend several RP trying to get two sixes, the best I can get is a single roll result of six. Next turn will be the one where I need to dedicate some serious effort into getting the modifications done.



By this point, I have reconned the Mohne Dam and the Sorpe Dam and came up with some alarming findings. It seems the Germans have gone ahead and built flak towers to protect both dams. In the case of the Sorpe, it appears the Germans also have taken the precaution of placing balloons and searchlights. Many of the other dams appear to have some kind of defense as well.

On the third planning turn, I decide to use my remaining RPs to requisition additional groundcrew. I'll need to repair damaged Lancasters, train up my aircrews, make modifications to Lancasters, and then do flight prep. So much work and no time to do it in. I could wait another turn to get all this done but I'll lose the advantage of moonlight during the raid.

All goes well enough in training and we suffer only 1 damaged Lancaster. The seasoned and veteran aircrews are doing extremely well in their Navigation skills. with the seasoned crew up to level 4 and the veterans at level 5. The veterans get 3 chits for altitude and speed checks while the seasoned crews get 2 and the greenies get only 1. At combined training level of 11 total, we are just one level shy of the Wallis bonus, which allows for the Upkeep bombs to always do the maximum damage when they hit a dam. The worst training results, as always, are in the bomb aiming and release training. This has been poor all three turns and as a result all our crews have a +1 bonus only.

Things go haywire while trying to get modifications done. All six groundcrews are thrown into repair and modifications and all but one are flipped over to their fatigued side by the end of the planning phase. Although all Lancasters are repaired and we successfully get VHF communications, we get neither the Aldis Lights or the Dann Bombsight, which will have significant impacts on our aircrews during the raid. Without Aldis Lights we are unable to draw Altitude chits.

During the Flight Prep, things go very well. One aircraft is grounded and a lucky roll of 12 results in no ordnance being grounded. Only two aircrew are grounded, which means that pretty much everyone can fly except for two Green aircrew that I hold back.



Final Recon brings the Flight Map recon in the Ruhr, Weser, and Dutch Coast to level 2. I spend the remaining RP on checking out the dams. The Mohne and Sorpe Dam go up to recon level 2 while the rest of the dams are brought up to level 1 if they haven't been reconned already in previous turns. Things look tough as most of the dams have at least one kind of defense. None of the water levels are full on any of the dams.

The final security risk comes out to a high level. Despite not having a Spy marker anymore, I have made enough noise with the extra requisitions, the round-the-clock work by the groundcrews, and the presence of veteran aircrews that people have become curious and rumors are spreading around town. Not even the rumor I have spread as commander of 617 squadron (the Tirpitz Rumor marker denotes that 617's target is the German battleship is our rumored target) has done much to stop unauthorized people from prying.

I arrange the aircraft into three waves. There's no real reasoning behind this other than I am new at the game and decide to play it safe by following the historical raid setup. Gibson leads the first wave with five bombers while Ottley leads the second with his five. The remaining wave is led by Brown and the Jinx marker is placed on one of the bombers in his wave.The major difference here between history and the planned attack is that the third wave will not be a reserve force sent in after the Germans are already alerted by the first attacks but will be given its own set of targets to attack at the same time as the first and second waves.

The bombers take off into the night sky. What will happen? Who will come back? I have a bad feeling about this and it's not just that Jinx marker that's causing it. I should have pushed harder to get at least the Aldis Lights done. Without them, hitting the dams will be very tough. It may have been worth spending another turn just to get that modification done. The abundance of flak and balloon markers on the Flight Map also makes me queasy. These guys look to be flying into a death trap.

Flight Segment:

We have enough groundcrews to sortie everyone at the same time so at least we have a cohesive raid package going out.

Primary and Secondary Targets are assigned as follows:

First Wave: Primary - Mohne Dam, Secondary: Bever Dam
Second Wave: Primary - Sorpe Dam, Secondary: Eder Dam
Third Wave: Primary - Eneppe Dam, Secondary: Eder Dam
Target of Last Resort: Lister Dam



The Mohne has a flak level of only one and no other defenses. Its water level is high and it has the second highest rv (reservoir value) on the map (8 rv) so it's my first obvious target. The Sorpe is worth a considerable 5 rv and it is also the only dam on the map that has a full water level. Maybe I can take it out. The Eneppe Dam is worth only 3 rv but it's lightly defended and in the Ruhr flight zone. The Eder Dam has the highest rv of all the dams (9 rv) but it's in the Weser flight zone, a very hazardous location to fly. It still might be worth a shot if the raid on the other dams go well enough so I assigned it as a secondary for both the second and third wave.

Things go smoothly enough for the first couple of flight turns although we suffer a faulty controls and an unfit aircrew marker on our Jinx plane in the third wave. Things get much more serious on the third flight turn when a crew in the first wave suffers a Compass Card marker and a plane in the second wave is shot down by flak. By the time our men reach the Ruhr, we've lost another plane to balloons in the third wave. We also have two map errors in the same wave and our formations keep getting compromised.

The Attacks:

The first wave acquires the Mohne Dam and makes an uncoordinated attack with Gibson going first and getting damaged by Flak on his first attack run. On the second run, he dodges the flak and everything looks okay but a roll of 4 on the release causes a concussion damage to his Lancaster, which destroys the plane and the crew. The remaining bombers make their attempts. One plane is destroyed by flak and two others are damaged and miss with their Upkeeps. By this time, however, the Flak marker has been reduced to zero so the final plane goes in and makes a beautiful release, managing 6 damage on the dam. If the Mohne had been full, it would have caused a breach. Since it is only at Rising level, however, we'll need 2 more damage points to do the trick.



The second wave arrives at the Sorpe and things go bad immediately. The Germans have improved their defenses and while the Flak level remains at 1, the balloons marker is set to level 3. There are also Searchlights here at level 2. The Close box and the Climb box get one balloon maker each. The wave leader makes his attempt and is damaged by the Flak and then destroyed by balloons. I should have just aborted at this point but I thought my gunnery would be lucky enough. However, none of my planes from the second wave survived the attempt. The planes were destroyed either by the balloons, the flak, or a concussion from releasing the Upkeep with such heavy modifiers from the spotlights. No one made it out alive and although one plane managed a release from the far zone, nothing hit the Sorpe at all, much to my frustration.



At this point, I was horrified by my own losses and worried that I would not be able to breach any dams by the end of the game. I decide to use the wireless phase on the next turn to send my third wave to the Mohne instead of the Eneppe. Luckily, the planes pass their roll and on they went to the new target. Only two planes still survived the third wave, one of whom were the Jinxed aircrew with piles of negative modifiers like a plague of locusts stuck to their plane. Of course it missed the dam and was damaged by the concussion after releasing its Upkeep. My other veteran aircrew in the wave managed a nice 3 chit pull of both airspeed and altitude markers (got the altitude marker after exchanging it for a dummy run) and the result was +8 modifier on the release. A roll of 11 sealed the deal and the Upkeep hit for 4 damage. At 10 damage, the Mohne was breached.

The Mohne Dam breached - note the balloon defenses set up after the attack.


The Aftermath:

Things did not go well when checking for RTB. Most of my Lancasters had been damaged and afflicted by hazard markers (I should say here that I missed out on the rule of discarding the remaining hazard markers after a plane is destroyed in the Resolve Hazards phase, which could definitely have skewed the result here). The result was that only two Lancasters made it back to Scampton. The rest were damaged and then destroyed by the reroll of 1-4 on the Missing table. I rolled very poorly during this check. The end result was a total VP of zero. A court martial was held and the squadron commander took the blame for the failure (adding insult to injury, since he died in the raid!).


Conclusion:

I really enjoyed this game and I thought it was excellent the whole way through. In many ways, the planning and flight segments are just as exciting as the actual attack. Having to make key decisions about how to allocate resources and when to push your groundcrews to their limits is just as important as weighing the need for security. It is a difficult balancing act. The next time I play this, I would requisition more groundcrew in the second planning turn and set them loose on modifications. You absolutely need to have the Aldis Lights going to make a successful run. The lack of them really hurt me here. I would also have changed my targets according to survivability of the aircrews. If there are balloons at a dam, I would seriously reconsider whether it's worth the probable loss of at least one or more bombers to score a hit. Add in searchlights and flak to the target and you've got a non-starter. Don't even think about sending your men there or you'll have a bloodbath on your hands.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Enemy Coast Ahead: Attack on the Ennepe Dam?

On May 17, 1943 a lone bomber codenamed AJ-O piloted by Flt. Sgt. Bill Townsend was circling the dark skies over Germany awaiting orders. In the early morning hours, the aircrew finally received the message they were waiting for. Their target was the Ennepe Dam. In the fog and darkness, the pilot and navigator finally arrived near what they thought was the Ennepe Dam and circled around to pinpoint it on the ground. After making several passes to get the altitude and trajectory right, the custom-made dam-busting bomb codenamed "Upkeep" was finally dropped. With the other men of 617 already having made their bombing runs on the other dams in the Ruhr, Townsend decided to head home to England.



What really happened that night is still not really clear. Years later, eyewitnesses reported that another nearby dam (the Bever Dam) was attacked. Reports from the aircrew of what they had sighted on the ground are consistent with landmarks near the Bever Dam. In the fog and darkness and confusion of the night, it seems that Townsend may have mistakenly hit the wrong dam.



Scenario 5 from Enemy Coast Ahead is a beginner scenario that features a lone bomber attacking Ennepe Dam (the ambiguity is removed for the sake of newbies) in clear weather (also changed to help out the newbies) with a veteran aircrew. There is also the choice to take off the training wheels and have the scenario setup much closer to its historical realities (fog, green aircrew, uncertainty over which dam is being attacked).

As a new player of ECA, I found this scenario was an excellent starting scenario for me. It shows you how to procedurally go through each step of an attack run through to release and return to base. I'm providing this article to anyone who is curious about how this game plays. An an aside, you'll have to forgive the unclipped counters - my kid decided it would be a gas to hide the counter clipper on his old man!


The biggest factor here working for us is the skill of the crew. For newbies, we get to start with a veteran crew, which gives significant bonuses to everything from navigation to altitude & speed as well as bomb-aiming. Green crews use the "2" spots for these tracks, which give far less of an advantage.



Our veteran aircrew is attached to AJ-O Lancaster, piloted by Townsend. Luckily, we have a good bomb-aimer, Sgt. C.E. Franklin, on board.


And here is the portion of the map we'll be using. As you can see, each square of the map is meant to show the plane's relation to the target dam. Our plane starts in the circling near box and then makes its run by going into the Far box. We can decide to release anywhere along the track - either close, near, or far. Once we decide to release Upkeep, the bomber goes into the release box and the release procedure commences. Finally, the bomber climbs and then circles near in order to find its bearings and head for home. This is a basic rundown of the attack part of each turn.



AJ-O starts off in the circling near box with its Upkeep marker. The reverse side usually has two numbers on it, representing possible damage done to the dam if the bomb hits it. We will have no idea what the reverse side of this marker says until the Morning Reconnaissance is performed in the morning.

AJ-O then makes its run and moves into the far box. We roll a six-sided die to determine how many chits we get to pull for altitude and speed. We roll a "1" and cross-reference this number with the chart to find that the number of chits we can pull for speed reduced by 2. Since our veteran crew can usually pull 3 chits, this means we can only pull one speed chit. We get to pull our usual number of altitude chits (3).


For speed, we are doing 231 mph and we can choose one of our three altitude chits. Of course, we want the one that will let us pull more chits later on for when we release so we pick the 60ft chit and put the other two altitude chits back in the cup.

I could opt to release now at this point. I would pull four chits from the cup and hope that the release bonuses they give me would be enough to help contribute to a successful release. However, I've decided that I want a really good number of chits. Since the dam has no defenses, there is nothing really stopping me from moving closer and trying for a better altitude so I go for it. I put the plane into the near box and exchange the 231mph speed chit for a 220mph speed chit. This will give me 3 chits to pull for the release instead of just 1.



I decide that things are not going to get any better for my aircrew. We're at pretty much the optimal altitude and speed so its bombs away! We try to release Upkeep and now we pull our 6 chits from the speed and altitude cups (3 chits each).



We take the best altitude and the best speed chit and get (did I pull four altitude and two release chits by mistake? - whoops, looks like it. Oh well.) one chit with a +4 and another with a +3. We roll 2d6, add our release modifiers, and crew skill modifiers. The die result is a 6 modified by release chits to a 13. We add +1 for our bomb aimer to make 14 and the crew skill level adds 2 to the release roll for a final tally of 16. Since we need 15 or greater for a successful release, our Upkeep is dropped and hits the dam.

There are no other planes circling to assess damage so we put the Upkeep marker face up on the dam's damage track and we will turn it over later after the Morning Recon is performed.

In the meantime, it's time to get the hell out of Dodge. AJ-O goes to the climb box. The visibility table is consulted after rolling a "5" on 2d6 and we get fog. The plane goes into the Circling Near box and we roll to see if there are any German nightfighters spotted. Lucky for us, we roll a "10" and there are none nearby. AJ-O attempts to return to base. We roll an 8 and the plane lands safely at Scampton just as the sun begins to rise over England.




It is time to see what kind of damage we have done to Ennepe Dam. We flip over our Upkeep counter to find it has a 5 on one end and a 4 on the other. If I roll even on a d6, the dam takes the four damage. If odd, it takes 5 damage.

I rolled a 1 and the dam takes 5 damage. Astonishingly, we have a chance to actually breach the dam. As per the track on the map sheet, the dam is breached at 6 damage when it is at full water level. I need to roll a final d6. If the roll is a "1", the final damage is reduced from 5 to 4. If the roll is a "6", the final damage is increased from 5 to 6 and we're suddenly heroes.

I roll a d6 and get a "2". Ennepe Dam is heavily damaged but not breached.

According to the mission result in the scenario, we get a result of "good show". Townsend is awarded the DSO and the confusion over what really happened that night remains long after the war as it did in real life.

It is incredibly hard to breach the dams, just as it was in real life. I have played through most of the scenarios several times and can't ever remember scoring a breach - though I have come close. Sometimes you can have the best rolls on the attack and release but the Upkeep just doesn't have enough oomf to get the job done. The scenarios with multiple planes are a bit more interesting as each crew takes its run at the dam and hopes for the best. Although I haven't yet tried the full campaign yet, I suspect this is where the game really shines with more decisions to make early on that ripple down through to the actual attack run.