Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Vietnam: Operation Starlite (Part 2)

In my previous report on the Vietnam scenario, Operation Starlite, the US Marines had just uncovered and eliminated a VC political support section near Chu Lai.  With that out of the way, the Americans now have bigger fish to fry as they attempt to hunt down and destroy an entire VC regiment.  Reports have indicated that the unit has pulled back inland towards the more rugged terrain.  The rest of the Marines in Quang Ngai province are about to come down hard on the enemy.

Casualties are evacuated by helicopter during Operation Starlite.  August 1965.

Search and Destroy #2

The US player declares a Search and Destroy operation in which the rest of the available Marine battalions (2/4 Marines in hex 5118 and 1st Marines in hex 5220) and the HQ will participate.  He then chooses 4921 as the Target Hex.  All available support is on call for this operation  - the 4 air points, the cruiser, and the airmobile point.

Marines target 4921 for Search and Destroy mission.

2/4 Marines move from Chu Lai in towards the west, ending its movement in 4921.  We don't have enough available air points for an interdiction mission so the plan is to use it for close air support instead.

The Alert

The VC now get an alert roll.  The roll is 2 and the current terrain modifier is 3, which comes to 5.  The scenario's rules modify the VC movement by minus 2 for a total of 3 MPA.  The VC unit slips into the cultivated hex directly to the north in 4920.  It may be a stupid mistake to have a Marine battalion take on an entire VC regiment but I have faith in air power to help even up the odds a bit here.

The VC regiment is alerted and slips north to hex 4920.


The USMC combat strength is 3 while the VC has a strength of 8 (6 inherent +2 for its artillery).  The combat is taking place in cultivated terrain, which offers no real modifiers for either side.  All 4 points of air power are assigned to help the Marines in their attack (this becomes the equivalent of 2 artillery points due to a non-free fire zone), which boosts the total combat strength of the Marines to a total of 5.  The combat ratio is still at a 1:2, which will result in a -2 modifier on the combat roll.

We roll a six-sided die for the combat results and get a 5, which is modified to 3.  It's time to determine casualties.  We check the combat table and look at the column which corresponds to the combat strength of each side, modified by the enemy's support.  Checking for the Americans, we look under the 4 to 7.5 column and find a "0" on the left side of the slash for the attacker.  The Americans take no casualties.

The VC have a combat strength of 6 modified by 2 (for the American air support) so we're looking under the "8 to 13.5" column and on the right side of the slash, we get a 0 for the defender.  This round of combat ends and no one has taken any casualties.  Interestingly, the Americans have lost one air point in the battle.  I guess some Phantoms got shot down on their way back from the target.

Retreat and Pursuit

Now the VC unit gets a chance (entirely up to the VC player's discretion) to retreat its full Movement Point Allowance (of 4 MP).  It moves into 5020, a cultivated terrain hex.

VC Regiment retreats into 5020 as the Marines pursue.

The 2/4 Marines now get a chance to pursue.  The Movement Point Allowance of the pursuing units is determined by the combat result of the previous battle (which was a zero) and the pursuit allowance modifier for the unit (+3) for a total of 3 Movement Points.  The 2/4 unit moves into hex 5020 along with the VC regiment.  Because this move cost 2 MP of our 3 MPA for Pursuit, the unused 1 movement point can be used to increase the combat die roll for the attacker.  The American player wants a higher combat odds ratio against the VC regiment so we decide to move in the 3/7 Marines from the east.  They move to 5120, adjacent to the VC regiment's hex so it can participate in the upcoming combat.

2/4 in same hex as VC regiment while 3/7 moves in adjacent to help with pursuit.  Cruiser adds in support.

This time, we can throw in the 6 points from the cruiser as support for the Americans.  This results in a 9:8 or 1:1 combat odds ratio with a +1 pursuit bonus modifier to the roll.

The American player rolls a 5, which is modified to 6.  We check out the casualty result by looking along the 6 line and cross referencing each side's combat strength plus enemy support.  The VC regiment suffers 2 hits while the Marines take 1.  The VC have 4 replacement points, so they use two of them to keep the regiment intact.  The Americans use up 1 of their replacement points to cover their casualties.

The turn is over and the VC regiment has managed to survive.   This scenario ends up as a win for the VC.

Some Final Thoughts

This was my very first game of Vietnam 1965 - 1975.  Wow!  There is so much going on here in terms of rules and the fluidity of the operational situation but I really enjoyed it.  The VC are incredibly slippery thanks to their alert movement ability.

By sending out lone battalions of Marines to find and attack an entire regiment, the Americans used a really risky approach to the whole operation.  I was definitely relying on support to be able to even the odds a bit (which it did in the end) but I really needed way more support and ground units moving in there and getting dirty in order to really defeat the VC.

I was hoping to get enough of a pursuit modifier in my first battle with the VC regiment so I could airmobilize the HQ and send it into battle with the rest of the Marines.  Unfortunately, things didn't happen that way and the best I could do was rush the 3/7 Marines in there and call in lots of naval fire support.  Speaking of which, I should have used the naval fire for interdiction in the previous operation and saved the 2/12 artillery for ground support in this one.  That would have brought much more firepower to bear against the VC regiment.

If I had to do this operation over again,  I would have sent in 3/7 with the HQ in the same hex as the VC right away and moved up the 2/4 Marines adjacent in order to help with post-combat pursuit.  With both Marine regiments attacking along with the air support, naval gunfire, and HQ artillery, this may have been enough to defeat the VC regiment.  As it turned out, we had a running gun battle across the province that didn't do much in the end.  I'll have to try this scenario again and see how different approaches might work out.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Vietnam: Operation Starlite (Part 1)

"Operation Starlite" is the first scenario for Victory Games' Vietnam: 1965 - 1975 (1984).  The scenario is based on the historical battle between the Vietcong and the United States Marine Corps in the province of Quang Ngai in August 1965.  It marked a significant point in the beginning of the war as the battle here was the first wholly American effort of this size.  Through some clever planning and careful coordination among air, naval, and ground forces, the Americans held the initiative in the battle and delivered a significant blow to the 1st VC Regiment by the end of the operation.

The Forces

This particular scenario allows the players to examine the "what if" situation where the VC get a little more time to get out of the Americans' way at the start.  The VC player has two units in this short scenario - a Political Section and a VC regiment.  The American player gets the 7th Marines (Regimental HQ and 3/7) along with the 3rd Marines (both the 3/3 and 2/4) and a battalion from the 2/12 Marine Artillery Regiment.

Opening US setup - Operation Starlite

The 3rd Marines with the 2/12 artillery start off in the port at 5118 right near the city of Chu Lai (which would later become a major Marine base in the area).  The 1st Marines start off just north of Quang Ngai in 5220.

The VC can deploy in either 5219 or 5320.  I've decided to place both units in 5219 to get them a little further from the coast and give them a slightly better chance at escape.

The VC Regiment and Political Section are both deployed in 5219.  

The Plan

The plan here is for the US player to conduct a Search and Destroy operation against the VC. The terrain around here consists of roads and cultivated hexes, which is easy enough to move through (cost of 1 MP for foot).  Over to the west, it starts getting mountainous with some forested hills and a bit of jungle.  If the VC can be prevented from getting into this tougher terrain, the US will probably do just fine here.  The US player has some air (4 points) and naval gunfire (6 points from a cruiser), which will probably be used for interdiction to help keep the VC from getting too far away.

The NLF player simply wants his VC regiment to survive.  The scenario only lasts one turn so this is really a situation where the VC will just be evading the US efforts for as long as humanly possible.  The Political Section may need to be sacrificed to keep the regiment from being targeted.  In this game, the VC playing pieces are kept face down so the US player never quite knows what he's going to find until he hunts down a VC unit and the fight begins in earnest.

I'm going to walk through the opening moves of the scenario slowly because I'm rather new to the game and this will help me to learn it.  It might also help to give you an idea of how the game works if you've never played it.

Initial Phases:  Turn 1

We start off with the support phase and note the levels of support available for the US player.  As stated before, we've got the cruiser, 4 air points, and 1 airmobile point.  We also have 4 replacement points in case we take any losses with our Marine ground units.

Next is the Special Operations Designation Phase where either side can opt to put their units on hold or patrol operations.  Neither player chooses to do so.

After that is the Strategic Movement Phase.  Both sides can choose to move their units very long distances in this phase but since we're focused on one province here, there are no other units to pull in from other areas of the country.

The next step is the Operations Phase.  This is really the heart of the game.  Both players get a chance to assign their units to an operation such as Search and Destroy, Clear and Secure, Bombardment, etc.  The NLF (National Liberation Front) player gets to choose whether he or the US player will go first here.  Since the VC are trying to get away from an overwhelmingly large US force, it would be a good idea for the NLF to go first and try to escape.

The NLF decides to assign the VC to a Search and Destroy operation (assigned to a notional target - this really just gets them moving away from the Americans within the parameters of the game and scenario).  The VC units have only 4 movement points (down from their usual 6 MPs) due to the fact that they are not used to the fast reaction time of the Americans.  One of the units moves to 5019 while the other goes to 5020.  The NLF gives the operations over to the American player.

Unidentified VC units run west from hex 5219.  End of NLF operations.

US Search and Destroy

Now the American player declares a Search and Destroy operation and attempts to find and eliminate the  VC regiment operating in the area. The 3/3 Marines and the 2/12 arty are assigned to the operation.  The target hex will be 5019, since it's closest to our operating American units.  So whatever is sitting in 5019, be it a tiny helpless political support unit or an entire regiment is going to be our target unit.

The first thing the American player needs to do is declare any support that he will use in the operation.  Since we don't know yet what we're really dealing with in terms of enemy unit strength, we'll wait until next round to use the support.

The 3/3 Marines move southwest of their current position and end up in the same hex as the mystery VC unit.  A couple of things now happen and this illustrates the reactive and fluid nature of the game's mechanics.

First of all, the VC in the non-target hex gets a reaction move at its full MP allowance since an enemy unit ended its movement adjacent to it.

VC unit moves from 5020 to forested hills in 4921 as reaction move.
Now the Americans get to add in some offensive interdiction.  The 2/12 artillery fires on the 5019 hex.  The arty has a firepower of 7, but this is reduced to 3.5 because this province is not a free-fire zone.  The result is that an interdiction marker of "1" is placed on 5019.  As a result, leaving the hex will require +1 MP for all units (even friendly ones).

The VC and Alert Movement

The VC in 5019 now get an alert roll, which may allow them to move out of the hex and escape from the 3/3 Marines.  The Movement Points available to an alert unit are determined by a straight d6 roll added to the Movement Point requirement for the terrain in which the unit is currently sitting.  If there were ARVN units involved in the attack, the VC would get a +1 bonus, which is how the game reflects how the VC had thoroughly infiltrated the ARVN units during the war.  We roll a "2" and add it to the "1" for cultivated hex and the final Alert MP is a 3.

Normally, the VC could move out of the enemy occupied hex by paying 2 MPs in 5019 and entering the cultivated hex in 5120 for 1 MP (a total of 3 MP).  However, the interdiction artillery mission tacks on an extra 1 MP to leave 5019, which makes moving away from the American unit impossible.  The VC could disperse at this point, simply evaporating into the surrounding countryside and avoiding a fight altogether but in this scenario, that would mean a US win.  So the VC unit is pinned down and must fight the Americans.

And behind door number 3...

Now we reveal the VC unit in the hex.  I'm playing this solitaire so I'm going to randomly determine which unit it is by just rolling a die.  1-3 is the regiment, 4-6 is the political section.  We get a 6 so the 3/3 Marines eliminate the VC political section.  The operation ends.  The interdiction marker in 5019 is removed.  The 3/3 and the artillery is declared ops complete.

The first Search and Destroy operation is successful and the units involved are declared ops complete.

Now it's time to get that lone VC regiment operating to the west!  I'll be updating shortly with the results.  If any of you veteran Vietnam players see any mistakes, please let me know in the comments!  Thanks for reading.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Gulf Strike - Scenario 1 - Turn 2 (Part 2)

Some readers were curious about how the rest of the turn played out for the Iranians as they attempted to clean out Kuwait and hit out at Saudi Arabia.  Let's do this!

Iranian AH-1 Cobras at the ready in Gulf Strike - Scenario 1.

For the first part of turn 2, Iran's air force hammered on the Saudis, who had blundered by predicating their entire defense plans around their early warning aircraft (which was promptly shot down by Iran at the beginning of the turn).  With Saudi Arabia's air force blinded and the ground units at the front out of supply, the Iranian player licked his chops as the battle on the ground continued.  Here's how things stood before the ground forces engaged.

Turn 2 - First Action Stage

The Iranian player wants primarily to eliminate the remaining Kuwaiti units without any casualties this turn while forcing back the Saudi ground forces from this clearing operation.  The first thing Iran does is send in an armored division and a brigade coupled with a pair of AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters to completely eliminate the Kuwaiti 3rd Mechanized Brigade.  Both Cobra units made their bombardment rolls and the use of artillery to back up the attack against the Kuwaitis sealed the deal and the Kuwaiti unit was gone from the map in short order.

Kuwait's 2nd Armored Brigade had been protecting the road to the west of the capital for the past two days and its efforts at defending against both an Iranian armored and mechanized division were Herculean.  But luck could only hold out so long as the Iranians repositioned their forces for a deliberate assault against the proud but badly damaged Kuwaitis.  A huge combined push at the cost of over 20 supply points helped the Iranians deal out the defenders and by the end of the First Action Stage, the road to Kuwait City was wide open with only an HQ and an MP brigade to defend the capital from Iran's onslaught.

With the Saudi ground forces out of position, Iran took advantage of the situation by shoving an armored division straight south towards the Saudi 2nd Armored and 4th Mech Brigade stacked together right near the Kuwaiti border in hex 0547.  A hasty attack by the Iranians resulted in 2 hits to the Saudis, which was negated by withdrawing the unit further to the south.  The Saudis were happy to pull back their unit as this put them back in supply.  The attacking Iranians, on the other hand, made a half-hearted pursuit as they were now stretched to the limit of their own supply lines.

Aftermath of attacks in Turn 2:  General position and situation of units at end of turn.

The immense cost of all this combined air and ground offensive in the early stages of turn 2 was nearly 30 supply points, depleting the Iranian supply reserves to dangerously low levels (around 10 supply points).  A transport truck unit was used to move the Iranian supply depot from Basra towards the border with Kuwait but it was going to take until next turn for Iran's military to reconfigure its supplies to deal with the unexpectedly rapid advance south.  The Iranians had little choice but to wait for supply to catch up and spend the rest of the turn helplessly watching as the Saudis pulled back the rest of their forces towards their supply depot to the south and towards more favorably defensive terrain.

If I had to project ahead a bit, I would say things are going to probably continue to go well for Iran for the next several turns depending on the luck of its air force to keep neutralizing the enemy's ability to counterattack.  With very few losses in the early stages of the game, it will really be up to the Americans to prevent an Iran/Soviet victory here.  Most importantly, the Americans (who will enter the game on turn 7) will have to contend with keeping their carriers safe from Soviet Backfire bombers while at the same time using offensive air power (B-52s and A-6 Intruders) to keep Iran from pushing over the rest of the dominoes on the Arabian peninsula.  It would be a very tough job for the US but made slightly easier by the fact that the Soviets are currently tied down in Afghanistan and will have fewer sorties available with which to hit the US carriers and supply head.

From here on out, I'll be putting quite a bit of energy into learning and talking about Vietnam: 1965 to 1975 although some day, I'll definitely come back to Gulf Strike, which I've grown to admire and enjoy immensely.  Once you experience how nicely everything works together in the system, you can really see Mark Herman's gem of a game shine through.  Thanks for reading and if any of you Gulf Strike players out there see any mistakes I've made, please feel free to let me know.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Gulf Strike - Scenario 1 - Turn 2

Last turn, the Iranians pushed into Kuwait and eliminated the Kuwaiti 1st Armored Brigade while the 2nd Armored Brigade put up a surprisingly stiff defense against overwhelming odds.  The Kuwaiti player, with his air force completely obliterated, had no chance of holding out much longer against the Iranian armored divisions that were quickly knocking on the doorstep of Kuwait City, help by a single regiment of Kuwaiti Military Police and an HQ unit.  The Kuwaitis moved their 3rd Mechanized Brigade up north to help delay the Iranian 6th Mechanized and 4th Armored Divisions.

Turn 2 began and the Gulf Council nations were now in the game.  In the Global Political Phase, I surprisingly managed to roll a "10" and an event occurred.  Rolling a "7", the table result showed that the Soviets were having major problems in Afghanistan right now and this would drain their supplies each turn from Supply Source "C", which didn't affect anything because the Soviets draw through Supply Source "D" (representing Iranian cities) for this game .  Of more concern, however, was that the Soviet air bases in Afghanistan would have their number of available sorties halved until a division was sent into Afghanistan as a garrison .for the rest of the game.  Unfortunately, I won't be able to fix this mess until the Soviets are activated in Game Turn 7.

The Saudis set their special forces units to the west in reserve mode and set their air force on interception missions.  The Saudi AWACS was sent up in hex 1259 right between the Saudi air bases.  The Saudi ability to detect Iranian aircraft could be the crucial difference between a successful defense or becoming just another Kuwait.  The Iranians didn't change up too much in the early stages, putting a mechanized division and an armored division in reserve and keeping the bulk of their air force on offensive missions.

Ground forces setup near Kuwait/Saudi border

In the Naval Movement Determination Phase, the Iranian player got 4 Naval Movement Points and the Gulf Council player got a measly 1 point.

The first act of the Iranian air force is to attempt to shoot down the Saudi AWACS.  Given the superior detection ability of the AWACS and the ample number of F-15s in the Saudi arsenal, I put up the Iranian fighters with faint hope of an early victory.  Two F-4 units took off from Basra and headed straight south.  The AWACS attempted a detection at 21 hexes away and rolled a 9 - no luck.  The Iranian F-4s pushed on towards the AWACS, which got another attempt to detect at 15 hexes but a roll of 10 meant that the Iranian air units were still undetected.  At 5 hexes away, the Saudi AWACS finally detected the incoming planes but it was too late.  I had positioned the AWACS one hex too far to the north.  A pair of F-5s units were scrambled from Al Kubar air base and rushed to intercept.  The Iranian F-4 units arrived in the AWACS hex and shot it down.  The Saudis get another AWACS in play next turn but for now, their detection capability is severely hampered.

Iranian F-4s about to shoot down a Saudi AWACS as F-5s arrive too late for an intercept.
After the AWACS was shot down, the F-5s decided to engage the Iranian Phantoms anyway. Both sides detect each other but no one scores any hits in the combat and the planes return to base (the Iranians need to land at Bushehr because of low fuel).

An F-4 unit takes off from Shiraz and heads straight for the Saudi coastline.  A Saudi frigate parked at Ras Tanura detects the enemy plane at 8 hexes out after rolling a "1".  The Saudis now have a choice to either intercept or let the plane go. One of the great things about Gulf Strike is that you're never sure what kind of  mission an incoming enemy plane is on.  Players secretly place mission markers underneath their plane so there's a guessing element as to whether you're intercepting a strike package or if you're sending your fighters into a trap meant to lure them out.  Since I'm playing this thing solitaire, I make a roll in these situations to determine whether or not any intercepting planes are scrambled and what kind of mission the enemy is undergoing.

The Saudis decide to try and intercept the incoming F-4 with a Lightning.  The F-4 detects the Lightning and the mission is revealed - it's a strike package.  The Saudi Lightnings get a free shot at the Iranian Phantoms and a "6" is rolled.  It's a miss and the Lightnings return to base.  The Iranian Phantoms continue their mission and attempt a bombing run on the Saudi frigate at Ras Tanura.  The anti-air defenses fail to down the aircraft and the Phantom gets a successful Bombardment roll of "2".  The frigate fails its ECM check and takes the hit.  What a mess for the Saudis so far.

Saudi Lightning about to attempt an intercept on incoming Iranian F-4 Phantoms on a strike mission vs. frigate (hex 2055)
The Iranian Air Force decides that now is a good time to start eliminating other countries' naval capacity now that they're all in port and unable to do much right now.  An F-4 is dispatched from Bushehr air base and it attacks the sole Fast Attack Craft unit docked in a Bahrain's port.  The unit detects the incoming air unit but is unable to do much about it.  The Iranian Phantoms score a hit on the FAC and it is sunk.  So much for Bahrain's navy.

With Saudi air detection gone, it's time to weigh our options for the coming ground attack on the frontline Saudi units.  We have four Iranian air units left on offensive air missions - a pair of F-4 units and another pair of AH-1 attack helicopters.  We could opt to directly bomb the ground units at a slight risk to our aircraft.  We could also try to directly destroy their supply depot sitting vulnerable (with only a transport unit to defend it) in hex 0755.  It's not a bad option either and it might work well in delivering a considerable blow to the Saudis.  However, an even better option seems to be sending a pair of interdiction missions to bomb the road just north of the depot, which would put the armored divisions in 0947 and 0547 out of supply range (beyond 20 MPs).  It's a risk-free option since there are no air defense or ground units in either hex so a pair of F-4s are sent out from Ahvaz and one hits 0753 while the other hits 0754.

Iranian F-4 Phantoms run interdiction on the road north of the Saudi supply depot.  Several Saudi ground units are SOL.
Now that the Saudi ground units are out of supply, they face several negative consequences.  Their combat strengths are halved, they cannot declare combat nor can they be repaired.  Out of supply units also suffer one hit during the End Stage of the turn (unless this would eliminate them).

That's it for all the air I want to throw in right now.  All of this has cost the Iranians 8 supply points.  Since we received an extra 20 supply points at the beginning of the turn, we still have plenty left right now (44 supply points total).  We're still in the First Initiative Segment and the Iranians have moved some naval forces and the bulk of their air force.  The only thing left to do is to get the guys on the ground moving and declaring combat.  We'll take care of that in a future post.

Wow, what a total fiasco for the Saudis!  The problem was that I got way too arrogant with the AWACS and built my entire defensive strategy around the presence of early detection and the ability to scramble lots of aircraft.  Unfortunately, the AWACS failed some pretty crucial detection attempts (with some desperately bad rolls) and was placed just a bit too far in the danger zone.  The Iranian player managed to take it down and the rest of the segment was basically a turkey shoot for the Iranian Air Force, which could hit targets with impunity.  The most punishing blow for the Saudis was the interdiction mission that put pretty much their entire ground force out of supply!

Next up: The Iranian ground forces attempt to mop up in Kuwait and the invasion of Saudi Arabia begins!

Saturday, August 16, 2014


"Goooooooood morning Vietnam! It's 0600 hours. What does the "O" stand for? O my God, it's early!" 
-Robin Williams as Adrian Cronauer, Good Morning Vietnam

Well, this thing just arrived the other day.

Nick Karp's Vietnam: 1965 - 1975 was published by Victory Games and released in 1984.  Although I've never played it and I haven't really even done more than scan the rulebook, I've read lots about it.  The game is a faithful attempt to model the political and military involvement of the United States during the entirety of the American major involvement in the Vietnam conflict and it features a huge monster of a campaign game (although there are smaller scenarios in there too).

Mr. Karp started out as a playtester for SPI in his youth and went on to design this game during his university studies (Holy crap, now I realize that I have done NOTHING with my life).   If that doesn't impress you enough, the game won the 1984 Charles S. Roberts Best Twentieth Century Game award.  The artists, Ted Koller and James Talbot, did a wonderful job with the game's presentation and helped the game to garner another Charles S. Roberts award for Best Graphical Presentation.

What I find even more amazing about this game is that it was one of the first of its kind to try and deal with the overarching military and political complexities of the Vietnam War - a complex and controversial topic, to say the least.

"You know if we'd lost here in Vietnam, I think it might've driven us crazy. Y'know, as a country." - Eddie Blake, Watchmen 

This game came out right at the same time as the Vietnam War was being reappraised in American media, politics, and popular culture.   Despite the release of a few games about Vietnam prior to this one (Grunt and Year of the Rat, for example), I don't think Nick Karp's Vietnam 1965 - 1975 would have seen the light of day - never mind win two major awards - if it had been designed in the late 1970s.  This was a much more extensive and sobering look at the grim complexities of fighting a ten year long war in Vietnam so the game and its cultural context are inseparable.

The game's release was just one of many signifiers that enough time and emotional distance from the war had made it possible for a study of the topic matter through games, movies (Platoon, Full Metal Jacket), television (Tour of Duty, China Beach), comics (Marvel's "The 'Nam"), books (Stanley Karnow's Vietnam:  A History), and novels (Leonard Scott's Charlie Mike).  Sure, some of these attempts to deal with the war were clumsy but it was a start.  Karp's game, however, was anything but ham-fisted in its examination of the war.

"I don't know why. You don't know why.  Most likely god don't know why either. It's just government business, that's all."  -man-in-the-street interview concerning Vietnam, circa 1967

Vietnam 1965 - 1975 was a very unique wargame at the time of its release.  A large part of the game deals with not only fighting your enemies but also winning and retaining the "hearts and minds" of the Vietnamese people.  With this in mind, the player's attempts to resolve political and military dilemmas are a huge part of the game.  For example, you can declare an area as a "Free Fire" zone for your artillery and air missions and it will help immensely in combat situations but with the drawback that you will likely lose the support of the hapless civilians who get caught in the midst of all that massive firepower. Games like Fire in the Lake and Hearts and Minds are more recent examples of this kind of approach although I haven't played them before so I have no idea as to whether or not these attempts were successful.

The campaign game features things like coups and attempts to loosely model ARVN leadership through individual ratings for each South Vietnamese general.  You may get a general who is extremely loyal to the American cause but totally ineffective at leading troops or you may have the opposite.  Which kind of leader do you hang on to?  This will have huge effects on your operations.  Do you authorize the bombing of North Vietnam in an unrestricted manner and take a morale hit across the board?  Do you throw in massive amounts of supplies to build a series of walls and listening posts as part of the McNamara Line?  It could be a complete waste or it might actually help turn the tide in your favor.

I'm looking forward to eventually getting this thing out and playing it in the near future.  I played through a couple of examples tonight but to be honest, my brain feels a bit overwhelmed at the moment after having just learned the very basics of Gulf Strike.  However, I hope to have something about Vietnam to you in a short time so please stay tuned.

For an excellent interview with Mr. Karp about Vietnam 1965 - 1975, please check out this episode of Guns, Dice, Butter.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Learning Gulf Strike - Scenario 1: The Invasion of Kuwait (Part 2)

In my previous post, I talked about the general setup for scenario one of Gulf Strike, which involves Iran going to war against the Gulf Council nations in the mid-80s.  Iran started off the game with plans to invade Kuwait.  Three groups of ground forces were assembled near the Iraq-Kuwait border (Iran has taken over Iraq and made it a vassal state after winning the Iran-Iraq war).  Before their troops rolled in, however, the Iranians sent three strike packages of F-4 Phantoms in to bomb the Kuwaiti air base.  Although it met some light resistance, the Iranian Air Force pulled off an outstanding job and completely eliminated the base.  With the Kuwaitis grounded, it was time to begin the ground war.

Kuwait has assembled its forces into positions around Kuwait City in an attempt to delay the Iranians as long as possible on their way to invading the rest of the Arabian Peninsula.  Although I'm not planning to fight and report on the whole campaign here, I'm just trying to give readers an idea of how the game plays.  Currently, we're in the beginning of turn 1 in the Initiative Player (Iran) movement phase.  So let's get the party on the ground started.

Formations and Movement in Gulf Strike

In Gulf Strike, ground units can move in different kinds of formations.  Some formations are better for moving while others are better for fighting.  For example, a unit in travel formation can move very quickly but fights at only 1/4 of its strength.  On the other hand, a unit in Deliberate Attack formation gets its combat strength multiplied by 3 but the cost of movement through terrain is four times as much as the terrain movement cost.  There are several other formations that fall in between these two and a good player has to figure out the optimal balance between movement and attack in order to achieve his objectives on the ground.  Movement formations all have different supply costs as well and these also need to be factored into ground strategy.  Units can change their formation on the go but this costs movement points as well.

Iran 2nd Armored prepares to move south one hex.

The first thing we'll do is move the 2nd Iranian Armored Division (6 Strength, 8 Movement Points) in hex 1141 south one hex to 1142 so that it's adjacent to the Kuwaiti 1st Armored Brigade (3 Strength, 8 Movement Points).  Since all units start off the game in Movement to Contact formation, we could simply move the unit (at a cost of 2 MPs for road movement) in its current formation one hex south and declare combat at a 2-1 ratio.

However, because we have six MPs left for the armor division after moving it along the road, we could spend 4 of its remaining MPs to change its formation to a Deliberate Assault, which would triple its combat strength from 6 to 18.  We also move the HQ and the artillery that was stacked with the Iranian armored division and do the same.  We place a Deliberate Assault marker on the stack and declare combat, which will be resolved later in the turn.

Iranians stacked in 1142 prepare a deliberate assault against Kuwaiti 1st Armored Birgade in 1143.
The Iranian 1st Armored Division moves from hex 0841 along the road southeast into Kuwait.  It has spent 4 MPs moving along the two road hexes and spends its remaining 4 MPs switching its mode to Deliberate Assault before declaring combat against the 1st Kuwaiti Armored Brigade in hex 1143.

Iranian 1st Armored Division in hex 1042 cozies up adjacent to Kuwaiti 1st Armored Brigade in 1143.
Now to take on the Kuwaiti 2nd Armored Brigade.  The Iranians send the 11th Armored Brigade (stacked with the 4th Armored Division) along the road into 0843 for 2 MPs and then southeast to 0944 for 3 MPs.  With 3 MPs remaining, we don't have enough movement points left to switch to a Deliberate Assault formation so we switch instead to a Hasty Assault, which doubles an attacker's combat strength.

Iranian 4th Armored Division and 11th Brigade move adjacent to Kuwaiti 2nd Armored Brigade in hex 1044.
The Iranians have the 10th Infantry Brigade in 0643 and the 7th Infantry Division in 0544 and although I would love to move these guys in to support the attack on the 2nd Kuwaiti Armored Brigade, there's no way to make this possible since infantry units cannot use the Travel formation to move.  Keeping them in "Movement to Contact" formation, I spend the 10 Infantry  Brigade's 4 MP to move from 0643 into Kuwait and leave it in hex 0844.  The 7th Infantry Division moves to hex 0745.

Iranian 7th Infantry Division and 10th Infantry Brigade move into Kuwait.
An Iranian mechanized division and artillery brigade were stacked with the 10th Infantry Brigade in hex 0643 before this move so now it's time to move those guys.  The mech infantry and arty have 8 MPs and they move along the road to 1043 at a cost of 2 MPs per hex.  They declare combat against the Kuwaiti 2nd Armored Brigade.

Mech infantry move adjacent to 1st and 2nd Kuwaiti Armored Brigades
After realizing that I had made a mistake with the number of units I could place in reserve, I fix up the problem a bit and move some units that were sitting to the rear.  It's nothing that should seriously affect gameplay and I'm playing solo here so my opponent doesn't mind.

Iranian ground movement is complete.

Some Afterthoughts

So the Movement portion of the First Action Stage is largely complete here and hopefully I didn't make too many rules errors.  I can see that I probably made some mistakes in planning with the initial Iranian ground setup.  It would have made more sense to place infantry on the northern border so they could reach the enemy faster.  An extra division of tanks and a bit more artillery on the western flank would have been nice too. As it is, I think I can deal some serious damage to the Kuwaitis on the first turn, especially the 1st Kuwaiti Armored Brigade.  With the Kuwaiti Air Force destroyed, the Iranians will be free to throw some air support in the form of helicopters at the 2nd Armored Brigade to help deal out some more damage.

In Supply terms, the expenditure for this is immense.  It will cost more than 30 supply points total for these attacks (which is incurred after the attack is resolved). This cost is extremely high for the Iranian player and will almost certainly hurt him later in the turn when he wants to carry out follow-up attacks.  If I were playing this thing through to the bitter end, I would probably have only one of the Iranian armored divisions make a deliberate assault against the 1st Kuwaiti Armored Brigade.

If I really wanted to go all out, I could also try and hit Kuwait from the sea by carrying out bombardment attacks on Kuwait City or by using any or all of my three Iranian Marine brigades to amphibiously assault from the east.  This would cost even more supplies, however, and would further limit the Iranian player's options later on in the turn so we'll leave it for now.

First Reaction Segment

Now that the Iranians have attacked with their air units and moved their ground units into position and declared their attacks, we move on to the First Reaction Segment.  I already have the Kuwaiti player's forces in defensive formations.  The 1st and 2nd Armored Brigades are in a Hasty Defense formation for an expenditure of 2 total supply points.  I would have preferred to put them into a stronger Deliberate Defense but this formation is prohibited in Clear Terrain.

The Kuwaitis have no air or naval units to move and their 3rd Mechanized Brigade is not in Reserve mode so it may not move.  If units are in a Reserve mode and in the ZOC of an enemy, they can try to withdraw from some combat situations.  With no further options left, the Kuwaiti player passes and the Reaction Segment ends.

First Combat Phase

The First Combat Phase begins.  It has two parts to it:  the Close Air Support Segments (Reacting Player and then the Initiative Player) and then the actual Assault Segment where ground combat is resolved.

Without air support for the Kuwaitis, the Reacting Player must pass and the Iranians now get a chance to throw air support into the mix.  The Iranians have some AH-1 attack helicopters over on Khark Island so they send them over into Kuwait to hit at the 2nd Kuwaiti Armored Brigade.  They don't have enough fuel to land back on Khark Island Air Base after the strike but they can be landed at the air base in Basra.

Iranian AH-1 helos take off from Khark Island and head for Kuwait.
As the helos reach the 2nd Armored Brigade, the Kuwaitis get a chance for detection and make their roll, getting a result of "1".  The helos are detected by the ground unit and they fire at the helicopters, getting a "7" and missing.  Both AH-1 units get to fire now and roll against their Bombardment rating, which is a "5".  Both rolls come out as "8" and the units miss and fly off to Basra air base.  The Close Air Support Segments are now over and it's time for the Assault Segment.

The Assault Segment

First, we'll figure out the attack on the Kuwaiti 1st Armored Brigade.  The Iranian 2nd Armored Division has a combat strength of 18 while the 1st Armored Division has a strength of 21.  The Kuwaitis have a combat strength of 3.   The combat odds are 13 to 1 but the table only goes up to 8 to 1 so we use this column.  Now we take in the modifiers.  The formation for the Kuwaitis is Hasty Defense so this takes our combat odds column down to the 7 to 1 column.  The presence of Iranian artillery, however,will add 2 to the attacker's roll.

We roll a d10 for the combat result and get a "5" for a modified die roll of "7".  The result is a 0/4 so the attackers take no hits and the Kuwaiti 1st Armored Brigade takes four hits.  The hit capacity of a brigade is 3 hits so it is eliminated.  Normally, defending units can nullify some hits by retreating but there's really nowhere to go except hex 1243, which would eliminate only one of the hits.  With the Kuwaiti 1st Armored Brigade wiped out, the Iranians send one armored division into the enemy hex after switching its formation to Movement to Contact at no cost.

The Kuwaiti 1st Armored Brigade is eliminated and the Iraqi 2nd Armored Division moves into hex 1143.
Now to take on the Kuwaiti 2nd Armored Brigade.  The starting combat odds are a 19 to 3, which comes to a 6 to 1.  Since the Kuwaitis are in Hasty Defense formation, the odds table is shifted left to the 5 to 1 column.  The Iranians again have artillery in this battle so there will be a +2 to the attack die roll.  We roll a "1" and it's modified to a "3".  The Kuwaitis take one hit.  They could retreat one hex and nullify the hit but the Iranians would probably pursue them all the way to Kuwait City.  Better to take a stand, suffer the hit, and keep the Iranians at bay.  The Assault Segment ends and the Second Action Stage begins.

That's as far as I wanted to show this time around for Gulf Strike.  I hope this gives you a good idea of how much interaction there is in the game and all of the options available for players as air, ground, and naval forces interact with each other and the other player's forces throughout each game turn.  It's not an extremely complex game in terms of rules but there are a lot of moving parts to the game and it can seem like there is an overwhelming number of choices for new players.  That being said, I'm sure I made some mistakes in here as I'm still really learning the rules!  Thanks for reading and if you have a copy of Gulf Strike, I hope this encourages you to get it out on the table (or loaded up in Vassal) and start playing.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Learning Gulf Strike - Scenario 1: The Invasion of Kuwait (Part 1)

For the past few days, I've been attempting to learn Mark Herman's Gulf Strike (1983, Victory Games) and it's been a real challenge.  One of the biggest challenges of learning the system is not rules complexity but the fact that there are so many things happening in a single turn of Gulf Strike and the options left to each player are so numerous that it can all feel more than a bit overwhelming for a new player.  In my previous post, I went through the early part of an introductory scenario (scenario 5) and after a couple of ill-fated resets, I decided to go ahead and try out scenario 1, which takes place on both the operational and strategic maps.  Rather than give a blow-by-blow account of an entire scenario, I'm going to write about the first few moves of the game just to give you an idea of how it plays (or at least my limited understanding of it by this point!).

The Setup

In the first scenario, the Iran-Iraq war ends in victory for the Iranians in 1984.  Iran spends one year consolidating its gains and preparing for a military campaign against the Gulf Council members (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, etc.).  In June '85, Iran begins its war of revenge and the stage is set for a superpower conflagration as the US and the USSR prepare to become involved in the conflict.  The USSR places its bets on Iran to win while the Americans support the Gulf Council nations.  With an expected play time of 21 hours to completion, the scenario awards victory to the player who controls the Straits of Hormoz and /or occupies certain victory hexes by the end of turn 14.

In the first turn of this scenario, Iran's ground forces are poised to strike across the border into Kuwait - the first victim in Iran's war of revenge in the Middle East.  The other Gulf Council nations are not allowed to attack Iran or participate in the war in the first turn unless they are attacked.  After turn one, however, they are free to fight back against Iran.  A particularly brave Iranian player might choose to take on both the Saudis and the Kuwaitis at the same time in turn one. Not wanting to take too many chances, I decided to focus entirely on defeating the Kuwaitis before attacking Saudi Arabia.

The Kuwaitis are set up in a "Decent Interval" defense position, which is centered around delaying the Iranian ground forces for as long as possible.  There's no doubt that Kuwait will eventually fall but by arranging a tight defense around Kuwait City (a victory hex) and providing the Iranians with limited invasion routes into the country, there's a chance that the tiny country can hold out longer than simply sitting at the border and getting quickly overrun by more powerful forces.  I'm basing the Kuwaiti defense around an excellent article from Mark D. over at the Boardgaming Life.

Iranian plan of attack - start of turn 1

The plan here for the Iranians is to send in three groups.  One group (a mixture of armor and mech. infantry) will head straight south from Basra and strike at the Kuwaiti armored brigade to the north of Kuwait City.  Another group to the west (armor and infantry) will strike east towards the Kuwaiti armored brigade to the west of Kuwait City.  Two divisions will be kept in reserve to follow up with attacks to exploit any gaps in the Kuwaiti lines.  No one will enter the Neutral Zone or Saudi Arabia.  The hope here is for the Iranians to not only defeat Kuwait but also to have an intact army with little to no casualties before facing the next much bigger step - the conquest of Saudi Arabia.

Turn 1 Begins

First off, we roll for Global Political Events to determine if crazy stuff happens and other countries jump into the conflict.  We get a "9" and nothing happens.  Next comes the Unit Assignment stage, where both sides determine what their forces will be doing in the coming turn. The Iranian player puts one group of mechanized and armor units just north of the Kuwaiti border in Reserve mode, which will allow it to move and attack later in the turn.  The rest of the Iranian ground forces are kept in Frontline mode so they'll be entering battle right away.  The Kuwaitis keep all of their forces in Frontline mode, knowing that everyone on their side will be standing and fighting in the very early stages of the turn.

The Kuwaitis have only one airbase and they place a Mirage unit on interception and two A-4 Skyhawks on offense missions. Iranian air strategy is simple.  F-5 units are kept on interception missions at each of Iran's air bases while F-4 Phantoms stationed at the bases nearest the Kuwaiti border are put on offense missions.  The Iranians put up an F-14 Tomcat on an Early Warning mission slightly north of the border with Kuwait just to keep tabs on any potential Kuwaiti air activity.

Next up, we enter the First Action Stage.  The first step is the Naval Movement Determination Phase. Both sides roll to find out how many naval units they are eligible to move and fight with during the first action stage of the game turn. The Iranians get 4 points and the Gulf States get 1 point.

With naval movement determined, it's time for the First Movement Phase.  This consists of the First Initiative Segment, where the initiative player (the Iranians) moves his ground, air, and naval units.   After that, the First Reaction Segment occurs wherein the reacting player (Americans and Gulf Council nations) will do the same.  Finally, the Combat Phase begins and this is where ground combat is resolved (close air support strikes can happen here too).  This entire process (from Naval Movement Determination Phase onwards) is repeated again in the Second Action Stage and then finally the Third Action Stage (where the reaction player gets to go first instead of the initiative player).  In the End Stage, supply points are calculated and units have the chance to repair before the Game Turn marker advances one space.

The First Air Strike

The Iranian player's opening move in the First Movement Phase is to take out the Kuwaiti Air Force.   This is vital to the Iranian war effort because the Kuwaiti player has two full squadrons of A-4 Skyhawks assigned to offense missions, presumably close air support for the coming ground war.  The Iranians have three strike packages of F-4 Phantoms ready at the air bases nearest the Iraqi-Kuwait border. The Iranian plan is to neutralize Kuwaiti air by either bombing the sole Kuwaiti air base in hex 1046 (3 hits on an airbase eliminate it) or luring out the Kuwaiti planes and destroying them in the air.  Complicating matters slightly is the fact that a Kuwaiti mechanized brigade is stationed in the same hex as the air base and although its air defense capability is limited, it could still pose a threat towards Iranian strike packages.

The Iranian player sends out a strike package consisting of two Phantom units (one configured for strike, the other for escort) from Ahvaz air base.  The Iranian Phantoms enter Kuwait undetected and arrive at hex 1046.  For the Kuwaiti air base and mechanized infantry unit in the hex, detecting enemy planes in the same operational hex requires rolling a "7" or less on a 10-sided die.  The Kuwaiti player rolls and gets a "9" and "10" so the Phantoms enter hex 1046 completely undetected.

Without fear of interception, the Iranian escorts take a break and enjoy the scenery while the other F-4s attempts to bomb the airbase.  Hits are scored by rolling equal to or less than the Phantom's Bombardment rating of "5".  The Iranian player rolls a "2", which results in a hit on the base.  The base is hit and the Kuwaiti player must also assign a hit to one of the air units at the base.  Hoping to preserve offensive air capability for close air support later in the turn, the Kuwaiti player assigns the hit to the Mirage unit.  The air base defenses and the mechanized infantry brigade, fully alerted now, take parting shots at the F-4s.  The Kuwaiti ground units' anti-air defense ratings are both a measly "2" so there's not much chance for them to score a hit.  The rolls are a "5" and a "7" so the Phantoms escape unscathed.

Iranian F-4s bomb the Kuwaiti airbase in 1046. 
The Second Air Strike

But we're not done yet with our strikes on the base.  Another pair of F-4s is dispatched, this time from Basra, to hit at the Kuwaitis.  Threading the needle between the other Kuwaiti ground units and the Saudi border once more, the Phantoms nearly make their way to the base hex undetected but when they arrive in the airbase hex, the Kuwaiti defenses are ready for them.

What's left of the Mirage fighters are sent up to intercept the Iranian F-4 Phantoms.  The Iranian player rolls to see if the F-4 units detect the intercepting Mirage fighters.  To do so, we check the Air Range Detection chart and find that an F-4 detects an enemy air unit in the same operational hex at a "5" or less on a d10.  The Iranian player rolls two dice (one for each Phantom unit in the strike package) and gets a "9" and a "1" so one of the units fails the detection roll but is alerted about the Mirage fighters by the unit that succeeds. The Phantom escorts get ready to take on the Kuwaiti Mirage fighters in air-to-air combat.

Kuwaiti Mirage fighters take off to intercept incoming Iranian F-4 Phantoms

Because both sides have detected each other prior to combat, the resolution here is simultaneous.  Let's roll for the escorting Phantom's first.  We check the Phantom anti-air rating, which is a "6".   The Iranian player needs to roll either equal or less than this rating to hit the Mirage.  The Iranian player rolls a "6" and this means that we have potential hits on the Mirage fighter.  There is zero difference between the roll and the anti-air rating, so we put the combat marker in the "zero" box on the far left of the air/naval combat resolution track.

Air Naval/ Combat Track:  Attack Rating minus Die Roll determines potential hits (air hits are top, naval hits are bottom).

The next step is to determine whether the Mirage unit is able to evade the hit.  So we roll a single d10 against the Mirage's ECM rating.  In this case, it has an ECM rating of "4" but because it has already taken a hit from the bombing raid earlier in the turn, all of the Mirage's ratings (except movement) are reduced by one.  The Kuwaiti player rolls a d10 and gets a result of "6" on the die.  The Mirage fails to cancel out the hit and must abort its mission and return to base.

Since both sides detected each other going into this fight, however, combat is simultaneous. Consequently, we still have to check if the Mirage units actually did any damage to the F-4 Phantom escorts.  We roll a d10 against the Mirage fighters anti-air rating of "5" (reduced by one from "6" due to the bombing hit).  We roll yet another "6" on the die and since this is above the Mirage's anti-air rating, no possible hits are scored on the Iranian Phantoms.

The Iranian escorts have successfully done their job and the strike package goes in and now faces air defense fire from the air base.  The air base has an anti-air rating of "2" so we roll a d10 against this number and get a "5" on the die.  The mechanized infantry unit in the hex also gets a shot against the Phantoms.  The Kuwaiti player rolls a "9" and it's another miss.

Clear of the enemy fighters and air defenses, the F-4 Phantoms attempt to bomb the Kuwaiti air base.  The Iranian player rolls against the Phantom's Bombardment rating, which is a "5".  The Iranian player rolls a "9" on the d10 and the bombs miss completely.  The strike package and the escorts return to base.

Air Strike #3

Despite the unsuccessful raid on the Kuwaiti air base, the Iranians try once more and send out two F-4 squadrons from An Nas Ryan.  They arrive at the Kuwaiti air base and we need to roll for detection.  The Kuwaiti player rolls a dreadful "8" and a "10" for detection and the Kuwaiti units in 1046 are unaware of the incoming Iranian planes.  No interceptors can be sent up so the Iranian escorts do nothing while the other Phantom unit attacks the Kuwaiti air base.  The Iranian player rolls against the Phantom's Bombardment rating of "5" and gets a result of "1" on the die.  This die result is 4 less than the Phantom's Bombardment rating, so the air base takes 2 hits this time.

The Kuwaiti air base has now suffered a total of 3 hits and has reached its hit capacity so it is completely destroyed along with all the air units (the Skyhawks and the Mirage) stationed there.  Since they have used their Bombardment capability, the Phantoms are now automatically detected.  The Kuwaiti Mechanized Infantry brigade in hex 1046 fires at the Phantoms as they escape and the Kuwaiti player rolls a "10", which is a miss. The Iranian pilots triumphantly return to base.

Next: the ground invasion of Kuwait begins.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Gulf Strike: The Horn of Africa

I seem to be stuck on Victory Games products lately so why not do a round of Gulf Strike?  Designed by the venerable Mark Herman, this game was published by VG way back in 1983 - more than thirty years ago (don't you feel old now?).  Gulf Strike was an interesting attempt to deal with land, sea, and air combat in a major war in the Middle East during a time of growing tension between the superpowers.  As the decade wore on, Gulf Strike players were treated to a 1988 update as well as a Desert Shield expansion in 1990 after Saddam Hussein brilliantly decided to invade Kuwait.  It's worth noting Gulf Strike and its designer's role in the actual predictions and planning involved in the real Gulf War in 1991 and you can read more about that here.

One of the things that I really like about this game is how it attempts to deal with how these various forces interact together in any conflict.  Although I will always love the Fleet series, I have to admit that separating the various elements of naval combat into distinct phases (air, surface, and subsurface) and the turn order sequence of "Player A moves and attacks with his units and then Player B moves and attacks with his units" doesn't seem all that realistic sometimes.    

Anyway, Gulf Strike tried to get around this problem by having a series of action stages where players are allowed to move and attack with different kinds of units while the opposing player might be able to react to these moves with attempts at detecting incoming enemy units and intercepting them.  There's sort of a twisting series of back and forth decisions that both players can make throughout a standard game turn. Although only one player's decisions are truly driving the action during the parts of each turn, both players are fully engaged with gameplay decisions throughout.  It's a cool system.

One of the introductory scenarios for Gulf Strike is the fifth and final scenario presented in the first edition rulebook.  Scenario 5 is based around a conflict between Ethiopia and Somalia that gets out of hand and drags in both superpowers.  Played on the strategic map only (1 hex = 280 kilometers across), this centers on the US efforts to support the Somalians by bombing the heck out of the two Soviet-backed Ethiopian army units on the border.  Complicating matters slightly, the Soviets have a carrier group in the region along with four submarines and quite a few Backfire bombers located in their bases in Afghanistan.  The Soviets also have several squadrons of MiG-23s stationed in Ethiopia.  

The Americans have two B-52 bomber squadrons, a carrier group (CV-63 - the USS Kittyhawk), a destroyer and an airbase in Diego Garcia that houses both an F-15 and a P-3 squadron.  The US needs to inflict 3 hits on several Soviet-friendly ports in the area  (two near Dijbouti and one in Socotra) before the end of the scenario (end of turn 7) while preventing the Soviets from achieving any victory level whatsoever.  The Soviets have multiple levels of victory.  They can simply opt to capture the Somalian hexes or they can up the stakes by trying to sink two US carriers (another US carrier arrives later in the game as a reinforcement) and eliminate the Diego Garcia airbases.  

The US player sets up his carrier group northwest of Diego Garcia.  A friendly sub is placed further north.  The Soviets then set up their subs near the US carrier group and then places their Tu-126 on the border of Somalia and Ethiopia to detect incoming enemy planes.  The Soviet carrier group is placed on the north coastline near Somalia.  It's not very effective at delivering air strikes but it has some ability to intercept enemy planes and fend off US subs.  The Soviets get one ace in the hole here - they have a cruiser that's shadowing the American carrier task force and it gets a bonus to its attack rating if it fires the first shot when hostilities begin.  The US player is unable to attack any Soviet units until his forces are attacked so there's nothing the CV group can really do about the tailgating cruiser at the start of the game.

Scenario 5:  Setup

Naval Movement rolls are made and the US gets a 2 while the Soviets get a 1.  The US starts off by sending its carrier group (and the destroyer that it's stacked with) west towards the African coast.  The Soviet cruiser immediately fires on the carrier, inflicting 1 damage.  The US carrier fires back at the cruiser and sinks it.  The US carrier has taken a hit on one of its air groups so the A-7 Corsairs are assigned the hit, which puts a small dent in the CV's offensive air ability.

Next, the B-52s roll in from off the map.  One of the B-52s reaches hex C14 and is detected by the Soviet air defense regiment.  A squadron of MiG-23s are launched from the airbase to the north but fail to successfully intercept.  The B-52s bomb the hex, scoring two points of damage.  

Another squadron of B-52s hit hex B13 and another squadron of MiGs is sent off to shoot down the bombers but they fail to inflict any hits.  

The Soviet player spends the reaction phase moving his bombers from Afghanistan to Yemen, where they'll have enough range to hit at the American carrier group in the following action phase.  

First Action Stage is over!  The US has managed to do alright here but I fear the Backfire bombers might be able to cause some serious damage to the US before reinforcment squadrons of F-15s can be deployed in turn 2.  The F-14s on CAP can definitely hold their own but it would be nice to have the additional safety of being under the umbrella of the F-15s at Diego Garcia.  Unfortunately, the Kittyhawk has traded speed for safety and is now out of F-15 air cover.  On the other hand, the B-52 strikes have been devastating and the US player has been quite successful in its bombing efforts.  The USSR seems to have no problems detecting when its units are going to be bombed but can't seem to do much about it.