Eisenbach Gap: Scenario 1 – First Moves

Lock ‘n Load Publishing’s World at War series began a few years ago with their first product, World at War: Eisenbach Gap, which is a real gem of a game.  It features platoon-level combat set in a ‘what if’ war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in 1985.

The game is exciting and fun as each side has a host of interesting decisions to make regarding command and control in the face of unpredictability.  Every turn, the players take turn pulling counters or ‘chits’ out of a cup to see who can move their units.  To represent NATO’s greater command and control ability back then, they get two chits in the cup while the Soviets only get one.  But fear not, the Soviet player gets more units to throw at the NATO player, which means that both sides have to use their different advantages carefully in order to pull off a win.

Over the next several days, I’ll be doing battle reports of some scenarios from this game and I hope you enjoy it.

Soviet 1st Tank Division ready to push towards Eisenbach. May 14th, 1985.

The first scenario features a fairly straightforward battle where the Soviet 1st Tank Division must take the town of Eisenbach to the east (yeah, it sounds like the Russians are going in the wrong direction but it works anyways).  The tank division consists of 12 T-72 tanks, which are pretty devastating in their own right.

Soviets approach Eisenbach from the west.  NATO is prepared near the town.

The NATO force, Team Yankee, consists of two M1 platoons, some infantry with anti-tank (AT) launchers, an ITV and an M-113.  I positioned them on the hills near Eisenbach in hopes of getting off some shots as the Russians crept towards the town.

Complete Soviet domination.

By the end of the game, the large Soviet force had utterly defeated Team Yankee and taken Eisenbach.  An American ITV managed to survive the Soviet push but the use of close assault tactics by the Russians sealed the Americans’ fate.

Sixth Fleet: Scenario 5: Aegean Offensive

I reviewed the Sixth Fleet game recently and now I’d like to post a report of a solo play of the game.  I hope you’ll see the appeal of the game system from reading about how it went.  In this intermediate scenario, the Soviets have invaded the island of Lemnos near Greece and the US must get its forces, consisting of two task forces, into the Aegean Sea.

The Soviets are trying to stop the Americans from entering the Aegean and getting involved in the conflict.  The Russians have two task forces and a bunch of submarines with which to do this.  The entire game lasts 10 turns, which is about 3 days.

Day 1:

US satellite came online in the morning and helped track a Soviet task force in the far east and a Soviet sub in the Western Med. On paper, the US Navy should have steamrolled into the Aegean (its final objective) but bad luck and even worse weather really screwed them over.

The US carrier task force launched four full squadrons on a bombing mission versus the Soviet task force. The Soviet carrier’s CAP with a measly group of Yak-38s actually managed to bounce the flights back, causing the bombing run to abort. This happened twice in the same day!

The Soviets managed to sink the USS Thach and the USS Stark as they tried to enter the Aegean Sea.

They also managed to launch a successful Tu-16 bombing raid against the American carrier force, sinking the USS Degrasse.

The Sixth Fleet was lucky enough to have a squadron of B-52s dispatched by the Pentagon to help out. They arrived in Naval Station Rota but a storm in the eastern Atlantic grounded them. A storm in the Adriatic also forced both the Soviet and US fleet to keep their forces in the Central Med zone.

Day 2:

The weather across the Med. settles down a bit. Storms abate in the Atlantic and the Adriatic. The US rejoices as its squadron of B-52s is unleashed. Satellites also come online for the US and pick out three previously undetected subs along with the location of the Soviet carrier task force.

A flight of Tu-16 recon aircraft attempts to find the US task force in the Central Med. but is jumped by American F-16s based in Sicily.

The US carrier task force sends out A6s together with F-18s to hit at the Soviet carrier Minsk and her counterparts. This time they utterly destroy the squadron of Yak-38s on CAP and severely damage two ships in the Soviet task force. The Nimitz steams towards the Aegean and nears the Greek island of Lemnos.

Soviet subs inflict light damage on a second US task force to the west but are largely ineffective. The Russian carrier and cruisers launch SSMs at the US task force but strong air cover and effective anti-air efforts destroy much of the incoming missiles before they land a hit.

The real damage happens when American B-52s from Rota find the second Russian task force and obliterate 3 ships, destroying the task force entirely.

Day 3:

Squalls pour across much of the northern part of the Mediterranean. Soviet satellites identify the US carrier task force very close to the island of Lemnos.

Soviet subs attempt to dispatch the carrier escorts but are unsuccessful. The US manages to destroy almost the entire Soviet task force except for the Kirov-class cruiser and the Kulkov. Utterly decimated, the remaining Soviet cruisers launch tactical nuclear weapons at the US carrier task force. The entire group of ships, except for the Nimitz, is destroyed. The Nimitz is heavily damaged.

The B-52s from Rota are dispatched and destroy the Soviet cruisers that fired the nuclear weapons. The entire Soviet surface fleet is now gone.

The US player moves the remaining task force from the Central Mediterranean into the Aegean Sea along with a small group of submarines and the damaged USS Deyo. Despite attempts by Soviet subs to finish off the wounded Nimitz, they are unsuccessful. The US claims a marginal victory.

Hornet Leader – Mission 2 – Short Campaign (Part II)

Coming back with some stressed pilots from the previous Close Air Support mission, I was hoping that the next day would feature a nice milk run, but it was not to be.

I managed to pull three target cards that were all secondaries, so I was left with pulling one primary card and I got…a weapons factory in northern Iraq.  It was a nasty-looking mission right out the gate with multiple AA sites and SAMs surrounding it, not to mention a nearby airfield with lots of enemy air cover.  I would need every single pilot available to finish this mission successfully and even then some of the pilots were almost certainly not coming back.
Since the target was located far to the north, this meant that I had to sacrifice weapons for fuel.  To make matters worse, the previous mission featured a “Fleet Supply” card, which meant that I would have even fewer weapons to load onto my planes.  I settled mostly on AGM-88s to take out the huge number of SAM sites near the site.  Since the target was heavily reinforced, I packed on more bombs in favor of air-to-air missiles and this would be the fatal mistake.
The flight made it to the target without incident but once having arrived, several extremely dangerous enemy aircraft were present at the site.  SU-27s and Mig-29s immediately engaged my bombing aircraft, which managed to evade their shots but the cost in evading their missiles piled on the stress.  “Cracken”, the A-6 pilot with the biggest load of bombs, was near the breaking point by turn 2.
The fighters (grey counters) are over the target.  The red counters are enemy AAA and SAMs.
By the beginning of turn 3, the AAA, SAMs and missiles had taken their toll on everyone.  The fighter escorts managed to shoot down most of the deadlier MiGs and the SU-27 fighter but they were left with no missiles left for the MiG-23s directly over the site.   The one silver lining is that the newbie, “Banzai”, managed to land a kill on a MiG that had somehow evaded the missiles fired by my more experienced pilots.
Turn 4 and it was evident that we were in trouble.  The pilots had been evading ground fire.  “Cracken”, having had his share of stress, was about to go on his bombing run when Banzai took two hits from AAA fire and was shot down.  Suppression attempts on the ground-to-air defenses seemed to do very little.  An SA-10 near the target site shot at “Cracken” and suddenly, it was all too much.  He jettisoned his weapons and made a run for home.  Although my other pilots could have remained and taken a run at the target, there simply wasn’t enough bombing power to take out the factory.  With stress levels at their maximum and one pilot shot down, I decided to end the campaign on day 2.  The final rating was a measly 4 victory points, which ranked as “Poor”.  
Lessons Learned:  When loading ordnance onto aircraft, never let one aircraft be the “main” carrier of all the weapons.  If it’s shot down by chance, your mission is completely hooped.  Always load enough air-to-air missiles on your fighters.  Refuse a mission if you think your pilots need rest and won’t be able to handle it.  Your VPs may suffer but it’s better than having to end the campaign altogether.

Sixth Fleet: A Short Review

Sixth Fleet by Victory Games

Sixth Fleet is a modern naval wargame published by Victory Games way back in 1985.  As a simulation, I’m not sure of it’s accuracy although a good deal of research and thought seem to have been put into it.  Much of the rulebook contains descriptions of each unit and class of ships along with some theories about how all of this military hardware might work together (or against each other) in a modern conflict. Back in ’85, the Cold War was still raging so there’s a lot of speculation about capabilities and characteristics of Warsaw Pact ships.  Overall, however, the designers seemed to take an honest shot at hypothesizing about them.

As a game, Sixth Fleet is simply incredible in so many ways.  First, the components are excellent. The map is large and colorful and provides key reference tables and charts along the side so as to reduce the burden of looking up rules in the book all the time. The counters are quite standard for 1980s wargames, providing a small silhouette of the unit along with lots of clearly visible information.  They aren’t exactly glamorous when compared to counters today, but they are functional and hey, we could all stand to use our imaginations a little more, anyways.

The mechanics are fairly fluid and they make sense.  Usually, one side will activate a certain unit type (submarines, for instance) and conduct their movements and attacks with those units and then the other player will do the same.  All combat is handled using a six-sided die and then consulting a combat results table.  Having never really played a game using a CRT, I found constantly looking at the numbers and comparing results to be a distraction at first, but I’m slowly getting used to it as I play more often.

The game offers about a dozen scenarios focused on various potential conflicts that could arise in the Mediterranean, usually centered around the Soviet and American forces.  One thing that I really appreciated as a newcomer to the series was the gradually increasing complexity of the scenarios with optional rules that could be used or not used, depending on the whims of the players.  The first few intro scenarios probably take less than an hour to complete but by the intermediate scenarios, a single game could take many hours to complete.

Overall, I really became absorbed with different aspects of modern naval warfare and learned quite a lot from this game.  I did get the sense of being a commander of a large group of units and found myself relishing the sheer destructive power unleashed by sending out an entire carrier air wing on a Soviet surface group and the sickening stomach pit that sticks with you after unleashing a tactical nuclear weapon, knowing that you’ve killed the enemy but also crossed a big line with unpredictable consequences.

Sixth Fleet still holds up today as a great game.  It may be too complex for non-wargamers but anyone who loves the idea of big modern ships should enjoy it.  The game is crying out for an update with revamped counters, a smaller map, and a revision (or perhaps elimination) of a CRT but as for now, it still stands as a great example of ambitious game design from a bygone era.

Hornet Leader – Mission 1, Short Campaign

 Let’s run through the first mission in the great game by DVG, Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations

For the first mission, we end up with “Close Air Support”. This is a tough mission because it’s so close to friendlies that ordnance misses place more stress on the pilots. It also looks like we have two SA-11s near the target with some AAA and an SA-8 in the center.

For this mission, I take five aircraft plus an E2C-Hawkeye. Getting this mission already places 1 stress on the pilots since there’s no time to prepare. It’s basically a scramble.

Besides the 3 escorts and the Hawkeye, I’ve brought along an EA-6 Intruder to help take out the SAMs and an A-6 Intruder to drop ordnance on the target.

On the way to the target, we draw a “Charlie Foxtrot” card (which basically means, “cluster f^*k”), which reduces our time over the target. One of the SAMs gets a shot off at the E2C Hawkeye, who successfully evades the shot. The EA-6 Intruder takes out the three SAMs near the target area plus the SA-8. A Mig-23 flying over the target area is quickly downed by an F-14 Tomcat.

Over the target, there are two ordnance misses with Mk84s, which results in 2 additional stress due to the possibility of friendly fire. THe E-2C pilot is stressed out big time from having to dodge the SAM near the target. 

As we get back, there are problems with fleet resupply, which will limit the munitions available on the next mission. Three of my pilots need rest and time to de-stress over that last mission but I’m not sure there will be enough time for it. Day 1 is complete.