Here’s a short rundown of my recent play of DVG’s Hornet Leader, a game I dearly love and don’t seem to get on the table often enough. One of the reasons I like this game so much is that the cover bears a slight resemblance to the logo for my hometown hockey team, the Winnipeg Jets.
Time is short these days so I chose a 4-day US Navy campaign. I have played the Desert Storm scenario several times and enjoyed it but I wanted something a bit different this time around so I chose the Libya 1984 campaign. I prefer my gaming set in the 1980s as you can see from most of my blog posts here, so this definitely fit the bill for me. I crossed my fingers and hoped that my squadron in Hornet Leader would fare better than the Jets are doing on the ice this season. They stink!
Anyway, let’s choose our pilots:
1 Newbie pilot
– callsign “Tuna” in an A-7 Corsair (choosing this plane also gives us an additional 4 special option points). Not much to celebrate here. He has -2 for both Air to Air and Air to Ground but, on the other
hand, he can handle 4 stress points before he gets shaken. That seems unusually good for a newbie.
2 Green pilots
-callsign “Moon”, an EA-6 Prowler with 4 AGM-88 missiles. I always take Moon with me in my Hornet Leader campaigns. The Prowler offers a -1 from enemy rolls targeting all the friendly planes in the same area and a further -1 for any attacks that target him specifically.
-callsign “Cowboy” in an F/A-18C Hornet. He isn’t great by any means but he does have a +1 for Air to Ground attacks, which is okay. He also has a Cool of 1, which is very good for a green pilot.
4 Average pilots
-callsign “Wolf” in an F/A-18C Hornet. I took him mainly because I didn’t have many Fast pilots and he fit the bill. Although his AtG rating is poor (-2), his AtA rating is a solid zero. It might take him a couple of missiles to down a plane, but he can probably get it done.
-callsign “Eyes” in an E-2C Hawkeye. I usually take “Eyes” because he can ignore events on a high die roll, give situational awareness to other pilots, and gives a bonus on AtA rolls. He can also be added to a mission for free!
-callsign “Camel” in an A-6 Intruder. Took him because I needed a dedicated ground attack plane. He has situational awareness, which can make up for his being Slow. Unfortunately, he shakes at only 3 stress and is unfit at 5 stress. He might not have been my best choice.
-callsign “Talon” in an F/A-18C Hornet. He has a decent +1 rating on both AtG and AtA so he is robust. He doesn’t shake until he gets up to 5 stress, which is pretty good.
1 Skilled pilot
-callsign “Hunter” in an F/A-18C Hornet. Although he is a Slow pilot, he can endure 6 stress before shaking and has a solid +2 on AtA attacks. He will do in a pinch with ground attack too, as he has an
AtG 0 rating.
Overall, the squadron I chose was mostly full of “tough guys” who could take lots of stress. They weren’t the fastest nor even the best fighters but they could endure quite a bit before shaking. Four of the seven pilots have a Cool rating of 1, which I think is unusually good in my experience. Most of my planes were F/A-18 Hornets, so they could perform a variety of missions and switch up roles when called upon. The only real Achilles heel for the squadron was their low Speed rating. Only one guy has a Fast rating (“Wolf”) so it is likely that we’ll need to bring lots and lots of ordinance along on missions for suppression purposes. It also might help to save up my SO points for special weapons to help get the job done. For this reason, I kept the 24 SO points at the start of the campaign and I didn’t promote any of my pilots.
The squadron gets assigned two targets today. The primary mission is close air support just to the east of Benghazi and the secondary mission is bombing enemy troops near the town of Jalu.
Wolf, Hunter, Moon, and Cowboy go for the primary while Talon, Eyes, Tuna, and Camel are sent for the secondary.
During the primary mission, Cowboy – our green pilot – takes 7 stress and is declared unfit for duty. The stress accumulated due to a mixture of ordnance misses and attempts to evade heavy ground fire. Over the target, we drew the “bandits inbound” card and ended up facing a swarm of MiGs over the target area.
Wolf and Hunter suppressed the enemy fighters and Moon managed to keep the ground defenses busy. Hunter assigned Cowboy his Situational Awareness counter over the target and he dropped Mk-20 cluster bombs for 7 total damage. The bright spot is that we managed to do this in 4 turns, which is great because we had pulled a Charlie Foxtrot card en route to the target and had one less turn to complete the mission (in exchange for 1 XP).
|Primary Mission – over the target in CAS. Mk-20 cluster bombs hit for good effect.|
On the way back home, the flight got a “Good Briefing” card and we moved the Intel counter to the right. Everyone is more or less okay, except for poor Cowboy, who will probably be unfit for flight for the next couple of days.
|A look where we stand after the first mission. Intel is very good.|
The next mission was the secondary target for the day. Enemy troops needed to be bombed somewhere around the town of Jalu. Tuna, Camel, and Talen were sent along with Eyes to the target area. Tuna was assigned weapons for ground target suppression (AGM-88s and rockets). Camel got the Mk-20s for the main target. Talon was loaded up with AIM-9s and -7s to keep the enemy fighters at bay. Eyes was assigned as flight leader with 2 situational awareness points to hand out to anyone who needed them.
Everything was going smoothly and the mission looked like a cakewalk at the start. We pulled a card over target for an extra center site but Eyes rolled an 8 and ignored the event. The Intel counter let us remove 1 center site so we were left with pretty light ground defenses (just an S-60 AAA gun) on the target. Tuna even managed to take out an SA-11 site to the south of the target on the second turn. However, a missile from an SA-10 site managed to damage his A-7 aircraft and he was forced to hang back in the standoff area with Eyes.
Meanwhile, Talon and Camel pushed on towards the target. Talon scored a hit on a MiG-25 but tragedy struck soon after. The same SAM site that had previously hit Tuna’s plane managed a hit on Camel. This was very bad because his A-6 Intruder was carrying all the AtG ordnance for the mission. Oops!
|Turn 3 and the flight has lost its AtG ordnance. Time to head home.|
With two planes damaged and no weapons left to hit the target, the flight skulked back home. To add insult to injury, we pulled a Radar Contact! Event Card on the way but Eyes managed to dismiss it with his special ability (ignore events on 7+). With half my pilots feeling the heat, I decided to spend 9 SO points for mandatory R&R and reduced the squadron’s stress by 2 for each pilot. It seems rather lavish for just the first day of the campaign but I have some SO Points burning a hole in my pocket.
As it stands, we now have 3 victory points (a rating of Dismal) and stress for mission 1 (M1 column) and mission 2 (M2) as follows:
|Pilot||Aircraft||Level||Promoted XP||XP gained||Cool||M1||M2|
On the second day of the campaign, we get two new mission cards, both of them secondary targets. First, we pull a “Fighter Sweep” card and then we get a “SAM sites” target card. I decide to make the Fighter Sweep the primary mission and the SAMs as the secondary.
Hunter, Talon, Eyes, and Tuna suit up to take on the MiGs. The idea is very simple. Hunter and Talon will move in for the engagement while Tuna hangs back with Eyes in the standoff area. If either Hunter or Talon get in trouble, Tuna will be brought up to help out. This is because Hunter and Talon are both Average pilots in F-18 jets while Tuna is a Newbie in an A-7 Corsair. He can only carry two AIM-9s so he is really of limited use here. Eyes is along in the E-2 Hawkeye to help with the air to air bonus and to lend situational awareness.
The mission took place deep inside Libyan airspace so I chose the aircraft refueling option in order to take the full amount of ordnance instead of the normal -2 penalty. Without any F-14s in my squadron, there were no planes able to carry the AIM-54 Phoenix missiles to take on the MiG-25s at very long range. Instead, the flight got into a furball from the very start and got shot at left and right in the first two turns as they closed in on the MiGs. Almost none of my ECM rolls worked out here, which was infuriating.
|Hunter is feet dry over the Libyan coast.|
Hunter and Talon both accumulated 6 stress by the third turn although they both managed to whittle down the number of MiGs from 7 to 4. In the fourth turn, Tuna was brought up to help out as Talon was already shaken. Low on ordnance, the three fighters took out three planes and faced a lone MiG-23 without any ordnance. A gunfight ensued in the fifth turn. Talon evaded a missile from the MiG and Hunter engaged with guns, rolling an “8” (modified to 12) and shot down the final enemy plane. I sure was glad to have chosen that refueling option at the start of the mission because there was no way it would have been successful otherwise.
It was great to see that most of the guys on the failed secondary mission from yesterday picked themselves off the floor and went back in fighting. Too bad my best guy, Hunter, is now shaken. I’ll need to take him out of the mission rotation until he is better. Talon is unfit for duty and needs some major rest. Tuna is also near the breaking point.
|Pilot||Aircraft||Level||Promoted XP||XP gained||Cool||M1||M2||M3|
|Pilot||Aircraft||Level||Promoted XP||XP gained||Cool||M1||M2||M3||M4|