This week, I had some time to sit down and play two great games from 1987, Air Superiority (GDW) and 7th Fleet (Victory Games).
In the Air Superiority game, I tried the scenario out for the “Gulf of Sidra” dogfight between two Libyan Su-22s and 2 American F-14s. The Gulf of Sidra scenario recounts the August 19, 1981 incident where a pair of Libyan Su-22s fired on two Tomcats. The F-14s subsequently shot down both Su-22s and it was not until 1989 when the Libyans would try again (and fail again) to shoot down American fighters in the area.
|Fast Eagle 102 – one of the Tomcats involved in the incident.|
Since I haven’t played a great deal of Air Superiority before and I found the steep learning curve intimidating on my first try, I decided to take it slow and played a couple of turns each night during the previous week. Most of the time was spent looking up rules rather than moving around my fighters but I felt a step closer to getting the system down.
The F-14s did not have much luck trying to outmanoeuvre the Su-22s at close range although one Tomcat did manage to make a gun attack (which missed spectacularly) on one of the Libyan planes. The Su-22s could not find any joy either, unable to get the F-14s in their limited radar arc.
The Tomcats finally decided to play a game of “bait the hook”. One F-14 headed north on afterburner, providing a juicy target for both Libyan pilots. In the meantime, the other F-14 locked up both targets and shot down one of the Su-22s. The other Su-22, with an AIM-9L heading for its tailpipe, got close enough to the bait Tomcat and managed a kill with guns before it went down in flames. I made lots of mistakes while playing this scenario but it was good fun.
In 7th Fleet, I played the scenario “The Invasion of Hokkaido” where the Soviets decide to send some regiments to capture the northernmost main island of Japan during a territorial dispute. The US needs to get Marines and supplies to northern Honshu/southern Hokkaido and the Soviets try desperately to stem the Americans from reinforcing the area.
|Task Group 1 and Task Force 3 make their way to friendly port in Japan while Soviet subs look on helplessly.|
This was a fantastic scenario, incorporating all the different unit types (submarine, surface, and air units) together. It had been a while since I had played a scenario of this scope but the design of the scenario was extremely good. Early American successes with cruise missile attacks on Soviet airbases effectively shut down much of the offensive air capabilities of the Soviets. However, the Russians did manage to use their remaining air units early in the game to destroy one of the Marine ships.
The Americans shot down enemy combat air patrols protecting the Soviet main task force and sent in waves of F-18s and A-6 intruders to destroy their key ships, including the pride of the Soviet fleet, the cruiser Riga. Soviet subs managed to whittle down one of the task forces with supply ships but could not destroy it completely before it got under American carrier air cover. With few Soviet interceptors left to challenge the US carrier’s F-14 Tomcats, the Soviet bomber and attack planes quickly became useless and the Soviet commander was not quite desperate enough to send his men out on suicide missions.
One of the Marine ships got through to their destination in Hakodate while all of the supply units (although 2 of them were damaged) managed to get to friendly port as well. Tactical coordination with submarines and surface units managed to result in the decimation of the Soviet fleet. This scenario teaches one of the fundamental lessons of the Fleet series – defensive air power is hugely decisive and the sooner you can get your guys under the protection of fighter aircraft, the better off you will be. The Soviet player needs to find ways to hit at the American ships early in the game before they can find air cover. The decisive US victory made up for the earlier thrashing of the Americans by the Soviets in an earlier game of the previous scenario “Return of the Dreadnoughts”, whereupon the Russians reduced two American task forces to scrap metal near the tip of northern Hokkaido.