Casus Belli is an old French wargaming magazine that was a pleasant mixture of articles and scenarios on many different games. In 1988, they published a scenario based on the idea of a war between France and Libya. It was called “Operation Minotaur”.
I like this scenario because it fills a gap in the scenarios from the original Sixth Fleet core rules. With so many different nationalities included in the game’s counter mix, it was practically begging for a scenario that didn’t feature the US Navy. Although I love Sixth Fleet dearly, it was so totally focused on Cold War matchups that it felt like it was missing out on potential scenarios that featured local conflicts between powers in the region. This scenario helps to tilt back the balance a bit.
In “Operation Minotaur”, we have a similar setup to what was featured in the “Libyan-American War” scenario but instead of the Americans this time, it is the French who are angry at Libya (3 guesses as to why). The name of the operation seems pretty clever as Libyan-backed terrorism is seen as the minotaur that kills innocent young men and women while the French are set up as Theseus, who will finally slay the monster. Maybe I’m reading too much into it though.
In any case, the Libyans must have done something real bad to anger the French because they have just dispatched a carrier (the R99 Foch) and its task force along with several submarines. The French objective is to bomb targets in Benghazi and Darnah. The more hits they can get on these two targets, the more VPs they score. Hitting Tripoli, for some reason, is worth zero VP. I have a feeling this was done for balance issues but maybe the scenario notes help explain the logic behind this.
|Foch-ing Cool: The Clemenceau Class Foch (R99)|
Although the Foch is an impressive piece of military equipment, it isn’t rated quite the same as the Nimitz in this game. Indeed, while the Nimitz had a whopping 9 hit capacity, the Foch only has 5. Whereas the Nimitz carried a wide assortment of planes to do its business, the Foch has two squadrons of Super Étendards, an Alizé (an AEW version) and a squadron of F-8 interceptors. Still, this seems like more than enough to get the job done.
|Les Super Duper Étendards in mid-flight|
The Super Étendards fly at low altitude and high speed, so each time they get within range of Libyan CAP missions, the Libyan player must roll a “1” on a six-sided die to intercept. Another interesting special rule is that the Libyans might get advance intelligence of a French attack. Each time the French try to hit a base hex, the Libyan player rolls a six-sided die. On a “1” result, his CAP strength and base anti-air strength are increased. Another special rule states that the French get a +1 bonus to attack Libyan subs as they are noisy. The odds are very much stacked against the Libyans but it seems like the scenario designers were trying to go for some realism with these options.
The setup for the Libyans has a Mig-23 and an Su-20 each in Tripoli and Benghazi. There are two Libyan subs (Fateh and Albdr) starting off near the coast. Two PCS boats are in Tripoli and two are in Benghazi with a final one sitting in Darnah.
The game is 9 turns long. The Libyans score VPs by damaging or destroying the French forces. If they can damage the Foch, they score 20 VPs and if they destroy it, they get 100 VPs! The game goes to the side that can score the most VPs by the end.
I was warned that this scenario was a fairly one-sided affair for the French so I decided to try and see if I could finish the scenario without any French losses. On the other hand, I decided to play the Libyans as aggresively as possible. They will try to use their submarines to detect the French task force arriving in the area and then send a swarm of PCS ships to attack the French all at the same time. It is a big gamble but if it pays off, we might be able to sink the Foch!
Strat Air Allocation:
The French want to find at least one of those Libyan subs before they can detect or do any damage to their task force. They assign one Atlantique recon plane based in Nimes to scour the waters near Libya. The other Atlantique is assigned to Tactical Coordination in The Tyrrhenian Sea .
In the CAP phase, the Libyans put up a Mig-23 and Su-20 in Benghazi. They keep the MiG-23 and Su-20 off CAP in Tripoli. Hopefully, the subs can detect the incoming French and the Libyans can scramble their air force from Tripoli to hit their fleet as it comes south.
The French put the F-8 interceptors up on CAP with the Alizé over the Foch. There is only one F-8 squadron but having an AEW unit really helps to make interceptions more effective.
Both sides jostle for position this turn. The Libyans send their subs up on a course to intercept the French carrier task force when it passes west of Sicily. The French send their task force south and the two frigates are used to screen. The Libyans also send the Asawr and PCS1 north to 0722. With a 5 movement rating, they will be able to swoop in and attack once the Libyan subs detect the French surface forces.
|End of Turn 1|
The French started off the turn by activating their subs. They moved them on an intercept course with the Libyan subs, which were themselves on their way to set up a picket near Sicily. The decision was whether or not to have the Rubis attack the Albdr but that would have left the French sub detected and in the midst of hostile waters alone.
The Libyans activated their subs and kept them moving. The Fateh moved to 0923 while the Albdr arrived in hex 1024.
The Libyans could do nothing with their air so they passed in the second action phase. The French activated surface ships and moved Task Force 1 to 1224, hugging the west Sicilian coastline and trying to stay out of Albdr’s limited detection zone.
The French activated their air but there was no point to hitting Tripoli and Benghazi was just out of range. The Libyans decided to go for broke and activated their surface patrol boats in Darnah and Benghazi. PCS4 &5 stacked together and arrived in 1929 while PCS1 was in 0631 by the end of the turn. If only the French were foolish enough to hurry into the Central Mediterranean and be detected, the Libyan surface fleet could swarm them.
|End of Turn 2|
The French are frustrated at their inability to get their carriers moving south into striking range of Benghazi. It is time to hit the Libyan subs. All three French subs attack the Albdr but only the Daphné manages to damage it. The Libyans activate their own subs and attempt revenge by attacking the Daphné in return but fail to score any hits.
The French hope to detect the Libyan surface fleet in 0722 and attack next turn so they move into position in 1122 and stack together. Let’s see if we can draw off the Libyans or destroy them.
The turn ends with the Libyans moving PCS3 from Darnah closer to the Task Force. It arrives in 0728 so now the Libyan boats are all within closing distance of the Foch and her escorts. Although the real fighting has not yet begun, the tension is thick.
|Sub battles just south of the French task force near Sicily. Turn 3.|
Everything explodes in turn 4. In the strategic air allocation phase, the Libyans send their Su-20 in Tripoli up on a recon mission to find the French carrier task force and the two French frigates stacked together in 1122. Meanwhile, the French send up their Atlantique planes on recon missions in The Tyrrhenian Sea and Central Mediterranean to detect the Libyan surface forces.
The Libyans can’t penetrate the submarine screen around the French task force but they can definitely hurt the French elsewhere. PCS1 and Asawr move to 1022, adjacent to the French frigates, and launch their SSMs. They sink the Moulin and damage the Drogou. The Libyans gain 6 VP.
Well, so much for my plan to keep the French from getting through this ordeal without any casualties. Time for revenge.
The French activate their air units and start to erase the Libyan surface fleet. One Étendard destroys the Asawr and PCS1 in 1022 while the other takes out PCS4 & 5 in 0929. The French have 19 VP.
In the second action phase, the French get their submarines going and the Rubis sinks PCS3 in 0728 for 4 VP. The Agost sends Albdr to the bottom of the sea for 3 more VP.
As an encore, the French task force damages the Fateh and moves to 1027. From next turn, it will be able to launch air attacks against Benghazi.
In return, the Libyans decide to finish the job of taking out the French frigates. They send their MiG-23s from Tripoli out to bomb the Drogou and score a hit, sinking it.
Wow. What a turn. Everyone got hurt but the Libyans came out worse for wear. France has 26 VPs and the Libyans have 10. Libya is going to need some serious luck to try and recover from the near entire loss of their fleet.
|End of Turn 4: The Libyan fleet is nearly destroyed.|
And so it begins. The French start off the turn by sending off both squadrons of Super Étendards into Benghazi. The Libyans fail to intercept with their CAP and the French score 6 hits on the Libyan city. The French gain 10 VP.
The Libyan sub Fateh tries in vain to hit the Daphé and then moves east. It’s all for nothing though because the Agost intercepts and sinks it shortly thereafter. The turn ends with the French moving their carrier task force east so the air units can hit Darnah.
Figuring that the CAP over Benghazi is largely useless, the MiG-23 and Su-20 are brought in for a landing during the CAP landing phase. Maybe they can score a lucky hit on the French task force next turn.
|Super Étendards lash out at Benghazi for the first strikes.|
The Libyans get their MiGs and Su-20s up in the air at the start of the turn and try for a hit on the Foch. However, the French F8s manage an intercept and score a hit on the incoming raid (taken on the Su-20s). The Libyan air units return to base.
French air units bomb Darnah successfully and score another 10 VP. Things look pretty bleak for the Libyans.
|The Libyans mount a desperate air raid from Benghazi against the French carrier task force|
The Libyans decide to shift back to CAP intercepts so no one is sent out on strategic air missions. The French are unrivalled at sea right now so the Atlantique recon pilots sit in Nimes and twiddle their thumbs.
France sends out one group of Étendards to hit Benghazi while the other hits Darnah. Libyan CAP cannot intercept them and the French collect another 12 VP this turn.
The French hit Benghazi and Darnah again. They now have 74 VP.
On the final turn, the French hit a minor snag when Libyan intelligence gets advance warning of their raid on Benghazi. Although CAP fails to intercept, the AAA value of the base hex is doubled. It still fails to score any hits on the French planes and they score 3 hits on the city. Darnah is hit again too.
The French total VP for the game is 82 while the Libyans have scored 10.
|The Minotaur is dead. A look at the map at the end of the game.|
Wow. I’m not sure the Libyans ever really had a chance. The ineffectiveness of the CAP, although probably realistic, might be causing some balance issues with his particular scenario. That being said, I did really enjoy the first part of the game where I was hoping for the French task force to make a misstep and get swarmed by the Libyan surface fleet. Task force 1 was bottled up near Sicily for nearly half the game, which is kind of impressive for the Libyans to pull off on its own.
Thinking back on it, I probably would have sent the Su-20 out on recon during the first turn Strat Air Allocation phase in order to detect the French carrier group. I could have then waited until the French got close enough to the Libyan coast to try and hit them all at once. The MiG-23 in Tripoli should have gone up on intercept to keep the French Atlantique planes from detecting any submarines. I think the Libyans can manage to do better than I did if they spread out their surface fleet as much as possible. Keep the French submarines chasing them while they close in and fire missiles every so often at the task force escorts. I would like to try this again with more “guerilla” style tactics employed by the Libyans. Here, I was trying to use swarm tactics but that doesn’t really work if you aren’t playing as the Soviets. In any case, I really enjoyed this scenario and I am sure that a crafty player can figure out how to get a hit off on the Foch somehow!
I want to say a big thank you to the good Docteur for kindly translating the scenario rules and sending them to me. Merci à vous!