Central America: Scenario 4: The SS-20 Incident

I received a beautiful used copy of Victory Games' "Central America" in the mail the other day and I've been grappling with it since then.  It's an extremely complex game with lots of little rules that don't immediately click until you've done a lot of reading and re-reading of the rule book.

I've been playing the Introductory Scenarios recently and I finally felt confident enough about my rules knowledge to post an AAR for it.  I'll be writing up a review later so hopefully that will answer any questions for those who aren't familiar with this lovely gem published back in 1987.  I've recorded the play in Vassal so as to make screenshots a little easier to understand since there is so much stacking of units in the game.

The Setup

"The SS-20 Incident" is the fourth scenario in Central America and it is based on a "what if" situation where the Nicaraguans get a hold of a Soviet SS-20 intermediate range nuclear missile.  Reagan decides not to put up with it and orders airstrikes to capture and destroy it.

Today's Objective:  SS-20 Intermediate Missile

This scenario is only 1 turn long but it sure shows off the sheer destructive power of concerted air attacks.  

To set the stage properly, I will first detail the types and locations of units.  The Americans have 2 carriers based in the Pacific with the following squadrons:

  • F-14 Tomcats (x4)
  • F-18 Hornets (x4)
  • A-6 Intruders (x2)
  • E-2C Hawkeyes squadrons (x2)
  • EA-6 Prowler squadrons (x2)

The USAF is located at three key bases to the north in Honduras with:
  • A-10 Warthogs (x3)
  • F-15  Eagles (x5)
  • F-16  Falcons (x5)
  • E-3 AWACS (x1)
  • B-52 Stratofortress (x4) -  (these are based off-map, presumably in the States)

The USAF also has several C-130 aircraft.  US Army Rangers are located at Tegucigalpa, Honduras and US Army Special Forces are located in Costa Rica at La Cruz waiting to be dropped into Nicaragua.

The SS-20 missile is located at the very large Punta Huete airport near Managua. There is a SAM site there as well as troops in heavily fortified positions.  

The SS-20 missile at Punta Huete, protected by SAMs and a battalion of Nicaraguan troops.

South of this position is the Masaya GCI (ground control intercept) and early warning station built by the Soviets in 1983.  The Masaya radar station is quite impressive and has a long range for detecting incoming American aircraft.

The Nicaraguans have their air force spread over a handful of airports in the area.  Soviet advisors in MiG-27s and Cubans with Mig-23s have beefed up the air defenses.  

First Moves

All of the following takes place during Turn 1, the only turn in the entire scenario:

The U.S. player decides to blind the Nicaraguans and sends two flights of B-52s south through Honduras where it picks up two F-15 escorts from the base in Tegucigalpa.  As soon as the flight crosses south over Nicaraguan airspace, the Masaya radar picks them up and scrambles a flight of four MiG-27s to intercept the raid.  A flight of F-15s take losses and so do the Soviets, who are forced to return to base.  

The B-52 strike arrives over the Masaya GCI and Nicaraguan regulars use handheld SAMs against the raid, causing another step loss for the Americans.  I wanted the bombers to be as effective as possible so I assigned the hit to the escorting fighters.  The B-52s hit (rolled a 6!) the complex and destroy it.  The Nicaraguans are now blind.

Next, I assigned the remainder of the B-52s to take out the air defenses located at Punta Huete airport.  This time, I sent another pair of B-52s and team them up again with some F-15s.  The presence of AWACS and the loss of Masaya meant that the raid penetrated quite deep into Nicaraguan airspace before it could be intercepted.  

A second raid of B-52s attacks the SAM defenses at Punta Huete.

The Soviets and Cubans scrambled from Punta Huete and suffered severe losses before heading for home.  SAMs took out an escorting F-15 but the bombers unleashed and completely destroyed the SAM site. Now Punta Huerte was hurting very bad and all I had left to do was take out the ground forces protecting the SS-20 and then drop the US troops on top of it.

I thought this might be a good time to unleash the Navy so let loose a pair of F-14 squadrons to escort A-6s and F-18s for a ground strike.  Again, the Nicaraguans were very clever with their use of aircraft to coordinate early warning in the place of the now defunct Masaya radar station and the flight got jumped just as it was over target.  One flight of F-14s was destroyed and the rest of the raid turned back.  Large numbers of MiG-23s and MiG-21s seemed to be somewhat effective.  

The Navy took another shot at the target, this time sending in a similar strike package.  The Soviets sent up a token bit of resistance from Punta Huete.  MiG-19s were all shot down but the strike package missed their target completely and the Nicaraguan troops guarding the SS-20 were just fine.

The Decision

I had a real dilemma as the US commander.  I had been saving my A-10s for close air support when the Rangers and Special Forces arrived on target but I decided to soften up the enemy troop positions before dropping the paratroops.  I sent in my remaining A-10s with what little escort I could still muster (a handful of F-16s) and the Nicaraguans put up a flight of Yak-38s.  The F-16s took them down rather swiftly and the A-10s managed to wreak havoc on the enemy troops below. 

My remaining F-16 escorted the C-130s with the 1/75th Rangers and they dropped on target without a hitch.  The Special Forces guys weren't so lucky, however, and took on some heavy enemy fire when they dropped on Punta Huete, forcing them to spend some time regrouping before they could attack.

Both C-130s successfully drop the troops.  The Rangers make it but the Special Forces take heavy fire.

With no close air support, the Rangers were facing an enemy in greater number and in fortified positions.  Everything came down to a single die roll.  If this failed, then everything else had been for nothing.  A "6" came up and the Rangers took out the Nicaraguan ground forces and captured the SS-20 at Punta Huete.  Very exciting stuff.  I'm not sure I played it correctly but I sure had a lot of fun.

The Result

I wasn't paying too much attention to the victory conditions of the scenario but first and foremost, the Americans must seize the SS-20 to avoid completely failing the mission. The final tally was:

  • 5 VPs for destroying the Masaya radar
  • 4 VPs for hitting the SAM at Punta Huete
  • 4 VPs for taking out the infantry 

That makes it a total of 13 VPs.  However, with all those US aircraft losses, the VP count comes down to 10, which is apparently a decisive victory for the FSLN!  I certainly don't feel like I lost that one but I suppose next time, I could spread out the damage rather than focus too tightly on the SS-20.  In any case, I'm sure the Gipper would have been happy with the result.


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