Off the North Cape

Marcus takes us through the set up, models and rules for a clash in the air 1977 style.

I rolled out my sea mat again to do duty as the waters off the North Cape. While it may not have the typical dark grey of northern waters, I am going for a game in the continuous day of mid- summer, at least that is my excuse for using the same sea mat (it is the only one I have, and I like it)
I went for a foundation of the Wings at War rules, with some tweaks of my own.
Aircraft for the game, the TU 128’s and Tu 95 were from Shapeways. The former needed a bit of work with an emery board to smooth off the wings, although one was worse than the other, which only needed a light application. I don’t think the Tu95 required any such treatment. Both aircraft are much lighter than a metal equivalent would be. I have some doubt whether a metal version would work with my ring magnet and ball bearing mounting system. I really wanted to get the Tu128. I love the brutal size and power of it, based as it was on the unsuccessful Tu98 bomber in order to provide the range to defend the vulnerable north of the Soviet Union from bomber incursions. The Saab AJ37 is from Oddzial Osmy, which are available from Magister Militum in the UK.

I understand their models are slightly smaller scaled than those from Tumbling Dice but it isn’t immediately obvious, although I would be cautious about mixing the same type of aircraft from the two manufacturers. The Viggen is an absolute favourite of mine, with the double delta wings and the splinter camo pattern characteristic of the AJ (optimized for attack) version. The later JA (Interceptor) often sported a grey colour scheme which lacks the distinctive character of the earlier scheme. The Yak 28 was sculpted and cast by my friend Stu (he has been waiting too long to see this write up, but more of that later) who has created some lovely models at this size, in particular my “Stingray” collection and some lovely Arado E555 Luft ’46 aircraft! I painted it as a Firebar interceptor. Subsequently I used it as a Brewer E ECM aircraft, and I may just repaint it with the glazed nose from this version. All the other aircraft were from Tumbling Dice.

*Surface search only. ** 2 each of IR and radar homing
I added some adaptations cribbed from the “Phantoms” system, which is based on the Avalon Hill game “Mustangs” but I also owe a debt to Avalon Hill’s “Flight Leader”, notably around the missile and gunfire templates. I also added a radar and countermeasures (C/M) column.

The North Cape 1977:
The object of the game for the FAA was get the Buccaneers off the table and inflict damage on the Soviets. The Soviets needed to stop the Buccaneers and do some damage if possible. I set up the game with the Yak-28 on the northern table edge, and rolled an ace pilot! Two F4K’s came in from the west, with another ace and an experienced pilot. Things began to fall apart for the Soviets as while their ace detected the Phantoms, he was immediately blown up by a Sparrow from the Royal Navy ace. Unfortunately that was Stu’s beautiful model out of the game already! I rolled for reinforcements and the TU 128’s appeared, one green and one experienced.
Along with the Tu128’s, who were unable to spot anything, the Buccaneers also entered on turn 2; spotting their adversaries they dive one level to get into the ground clutter. The F4’s spot the Tupolev’s, but both fail their Sparrow launch roll.
On turn 3 a pair of MiG-25’s now appear for the Soviets and this time the pair are an ace and an experienced pilot.
The green Tupolev pilot detects the F4’s but one AA5 fails to launch and the other misses. I discovered a reference that Soviet doctrine often saw missiles launched in pairs one IR and one radar homing, to increase the chances of a kill. I forgot however, that I wouldn’t be able to use the IR missiles except at very specific angles and treated them all as radar guided. Meanwhile the Tupolev lead also fires a pair and gets one hit on the FAA ace. This is unfortunate for the Soviets as the AA5 is a big missile and more likely to get a kill from a hit. Meanwhile, the ace Foxbat pilot fails to detect anything, but his wingman spots the Phantoms. Unfortunately, the AA6’s fail to launch. The experienced F4 pilot gets off a sparrow shot at the Tupolev, but it misses.
The MiG leader detects the Buccaneers powering across the table at low level but can’t get a lock. They are too low and the angle is too difficult.
The lead Tupolev finally gets a lock on an F4 and launches getting a hit and destroying the F4 wingman. The ace returns fire but misses.
Now another pair of F4’s join the fray, one ace and one green.
At the end of turn 5 the Soviets have scored two Phantoms and the FAA have destroyed a MiG 25 and a Yak 28, but the Buccaneers got off the table too.
Turn 6 and the lead Tupolev has no missiles left and dives, but his wingman detects the remaining ace from the original flight of F4’s and hits with two AA5’s, destroying the Phantom. The newly arrived Phantoms pick up the MiG-25’s; the ace fails with one launch but the second is successful and destroys the MiG. His wingman sees two sparrows miss.
On turn six the remaining MiG can’t make a detection, and the F4 ace tries to get around onto his tail, but unsuccessfully. His wingman turns south. Both Tupolev’s try to evade with the lead turning east on full power at level two.
Turn seven and the ace F4 goes for a sidewinder shot on the second Tupolev but misses, while the other F4 goes after the lead Tupolev. And in turn eight gets a hit, but this only damages the big aircraft, which flies off to the east. His wingman however gets on the tail of the trailing Tu128 and on turn nine manoeuvres with a barrel roll and a sideslip to launch a sidewinder, destroying it. Not bad for a rookie!
Finally in turn ten, the remaining MiG, the last soviet fighter on the table, launches against the F4, which has turned north-east after destroying the Tupolev, but its two AA6 miss.
The Soviets destroyed two F4’s while the FAA scored a MiG, Yak 28, and a Tu 128 with another damaged. The Buccaneers escaped to make a strike on the Northern Fleet. Now you are wondering what happened to the Saab and Tu 142? Initially some things about this game made me think that I wouldn’t write it up and I set up a second game which included these aircraft, and the Yak 28 as the ECM Brewer E.

I subsequently set up another game with a Kashin Mod. FFG covering an amphibious group in the Skagerrak area, allowing intervention by the Swedes. It became apparent to me, certainly as the latter game unfolded, was the lack of Soviet short-range missiles on these aircraft (although subsequently MiG 25PD’s were fitted with AA-8, introduced around 1979). In these games they were all fitted out as interceptors and didn’t have any. In addition, I had given the MiG a wider turning circle. The radar rules seemed a bit restrictive too, and in fact the next game saw six turns of action with only one sidewinder shot, which missed. The Buccaneers failed to get a missile lock on the Kashin Mod. FFG (which also failed to lock on them) and then…I was told it was time for dinner and I had to pack up an unsatisfying game at an unsatisfactory point, especially since this time I had taken the trouble to label each stand with pilot quality markers. I had even named each pilot ready for the report!
More thought about the system will be required before I venture out to the North Cape again. And in the meantime I need to paint some Tu22M’s, get some decals for the flight deck of the Moskva and base both it and the Kashin. But I did nevertheless get some nice pictures of the second game.
On the horizon for my next game is to try WW2 Check Your Six, but I also have some ships to paint for Guadalcanal, so alternatively you might see those appear here next.

Gulf Clash

Marcus eschews the beach and goes Top Gun instead.

We recently decided to have a virtual club meeting, and I decided that I might play “Full Thrust” or an aerial war game with my sons. However, they proved ambivalent on the day, preferring the beach…

Now, I do have a beautiful mountain mat from Deep Cut Studios intended for Korea. I think it may also work for Indo-Pakistan and possibly Iran-Iraq along the northern Iranian border, but at 6 x 4 it is just too big for my current table.

Since it is a plush rubber backed version I can’t hang it over the sides either. Until I find a solution, I unrolled my reversible, home-made sea/space mat, which I thought could serve as the Persian Gulf (that’s the sea side above).

I have long been interested in the Iran-Iraq War. Perhaps there is something about history that happens in your own lifetime. Now more than ever, I am far more interested in the Cold War than any other period, although I have only really ever gamed it at sea and in the air. I had painted up some aircraft for Iran-Iraq a year or so ago having read the superb “Iran-Iraq War In The Air” by Tom Cooper and Farzad Bishop. I decided this was now the time to bring them to the (3 x 5) table, where the mat could hang over the edge.

As for rules, I have been waiting a while for further editions of the Check Your 6 Jet Age campaign books, which promise Iran-Iraq sometime.

However, I must confess that I haven’t played CY6 yet, despite having a few of the Jet Age books. I have played the Tumbling Dice Wings At War rules however. I have tried Thud Ridge and had tried a home brew Arab-Israeli variant a while back. Given that the F4 is featured in Thud Ridge, along with the F5 and MiG-21, I thought that gave me a rough baseline, although in the end, the F5s didn’t get on and I don’t have any Iraqi MiG-21s.

Wings at War uses a deceptively simple energy/action system. You must use all your generated action points through the turn. The actions you use affects your “energy” subtracting or adding to your turn start action point. The net result gives the action point total for the next turn. The majority of my aircraft are from Tumbling Dice, and all of those used in this game.

The figures in the table were a rough guess after a bit of further research. I think the Mirage is a bit low on countermeasures and I am not sure if the MiG 23 is a bit too well rated. The MiG-25 unfortunately never made it onto the table with an ace pilot.

I should mention that in Wings At War Thud Ridge, there is a column for afterburner and height. All the aircraft has an afterburner and I didn’t think I needed a maximum height. I added some adaptations cribbed from the “Phantoms” system, which is based on the Avalon Hill game “Mustangs” but I think also owes a debt to Avalon Hill’s “Flight Leader”, notably around the missile and gunfire templates. I therefore added a Radar and countermeasures (C/M) column.

I seemed to recall reading that on introducing the Mirage F1EQ, the Iraqis had tried making attacks on the Iranian F14s by making a low approach and climbing from underneath to find a firing position. My hazy recollection lead me to deploy a pair of F14s armed with Sparrow (radar homing – RH) and Sidewinder (heat seeking – HS) missiles against a pair of F1EQs, with one Super 530 (RH) and two Matra Magic (HS) missiles.

I rolled the Iranians coming in from the east at height 3 (one ace and one experienced – the Iranians were much better trained), and the Mirages from the west at height 2 (one experienced and one green). I also had a system for rolling reinforcements. At the end of each turn I rolled a D6 for each side. if the roll exceeded the number of aircraft on the table, I rolled for the type of aircraft to come on.
A word of note on the photos. The green dots on the Mirages indicate the inexperienced pilots. The blue dot on the F14 indicates the ace.

Turn 1
The Iranians came in and went onto a shallow dive to height 2 having detected the Iraqi Mirages. The Mirages also detected the Iranians and the leader launched his Super 530, which the Iranians failed to avoid and which damaged the Tomcat to give the Iraqis an early advantage. The Iraqis rolled for another Mirage flight.

Turn 2
The Iranians again had the first move, detecting the second Mirage and both F14s fired Sparrows. The leaders Sparrow failed to launch, possibly as a result of the earlier damage. The wingman successfully launched, but the target evaded. The Mirage leader dived for the deck, but his wingman went for an optimistic (and unsuccessful) head on shot at the incoming F14 wingman before following his leader down. The second pair of Mirages at height 3 dived to level 1 also.

Turn 3
The first Iraqi element tight turned to the north and west. Iranian reinforcements, a pair of F4s now entered from the east. The F4s detected the second Iraqi element. A sparrow destroyed the Iraqi leader and another damaged his wingman. Both Tomcats pull a tight turn, but it is the damaged leader who lines up for a Sparrow shot. This time he launches successfully, but it misses. His prospective target, the lone Mirage has spotted the F4s and climbed to height 3.

Turn 4
The first Mirage group turns to face the F4s, who attempt another Sparrow launch, but this fails. The Iranian leader tries to launch another Sparrow, but fails again. That damage is playing havoc with his electrics!

Turn 5
The F14s move first and the leader now goes for a heat seeking sidewinder shot, but misses! The Mirage pair turns after the F4s, but can’t get on their tails and pass them as the Mirages head west. The F4s heading north will try to turn after them…

Turn 6
The damaged Iraqi Mirage turns east with the F4s turning after it and the second Mirage group, who have pulled away after the F14 leader, who hasn’t spotted them. The Mirage leader launches a Magic heat seeker at close range and brings down the already damaged F14. However, the F14 wingman closes in behind the Mirage leader and destroys him with a sidewinder.

Turn 7
The Iraqi’s wingman now attempts the same on the F14, but he evades the heat seeking magic, the F14 then turns south and dog-legs for home on afterburner. The F4s try for a sparrow shot and the leader launches successfully. He gets a hit but only damages the retreating Mirage which also turns south on afterburner. His wingman picks up the second Mirage, but his sparrow fails to launch.

Quite an exciting last couple of turns, even playing solo. The Iranians lost one F14 with an ace pilot but the Iraqis lost two Mirages and a third damaged. Overall, the Iranians were more experienced, so the result isn’t too surprising. The rules worked reasonably for a cobbled together variant. There are some issues with playing Wings at War with a hex mat, as it isn’t designed for one, but I managed to get around those (you definitely need to add a sideslip maneuver!). The chrome add-ons worked pretty well, although I would have to codify them a bit for head to head play. I am tempted to read Cooper & Bishop again, and make a mini campaign out of it!

Now, I just need to finish off my Fleet Air Arm Phantoms and Buccaneers and I can do a Cold War gone hot in the North Atlantic 1972 scenario…more variants!

AGM 2020

The first meeting of the year is when we hold our AGM – we try to keep it brief, and no more formal than is absolutely necessary. It’s generally a good meeting since we get more attendees than normal and this more games are put on. So rather than dwell on the thrills of the treasurer’s report on the club’s finances (healthy, by the way), here’s a gallery of the gaming highlights of the day.

Photos by Tony Francis and Andy King

During the AGM, John Legg collected the trophy for last year’s Field of Glory tournament from Paul Lymath, the 2018 winner.

Alan Kirk hosted a large 1940 Chain of Command game.

Tony Francis and Jeremey Claridge put on a Celtos game (but didn’t play in it themselves…)

Instead, they both took part in some aerial combat over the Sinai desert in 1956

As always, there was a Field of Glory game going on – the first of the 2020 tournament

And Jon Roche and John Lambert took to the seas in some ancient galleys

The Flying Musketeers

Tony F goes aerial with his planned Open Day game.

Operation Musketeer was the codename given to the joint British and French plan to occupy the Suez Canal zone in 1956. The conflict also involved Israel which invaded the Sinai peninsula, forming part of the second Arab-Israeli war.

MiG-17s overfly a coastal town.

My game looks at the conflict in the air. It was one of the last air wars to be fought entirely with guns, before the advent of the missile age. It also involved a wide range of aircraft, from WW2-era prop planes such as the Mustang and Mosquito used by the IAF, to the latest jet fighters. Egyptian pilots flew the MiG-15 and MiG-17, the RAF deployed Hunters, Venoms and Vampires, and even deployed the first of the nuclear capable V-Bombers,the Valiant, along with the smaller Canberra, from bases in Cyprus and Malta. Not a great deal of air-to-air combat occurred during the conflict but as wargamers we never let the truth get in the way of a good game, so rest assured there will be plenty of chances to dogfight with the enemy.

RAF Canberra Bombers

The 1/600th models are all from Tumbling Dice. Buildings and other scenery come from local manufacturer Brigade Models. The rules are a home-brew variant of Spitting Fire by US publisher Majestic 12 Games.

Israeli Mosquitoes on a recce flight

The idea will be to run a number of consecutive short scenarios over the day, allowing players to drop in and out during the day.

Israeli Mysteres over a mosque near the Suez canal.

Dogfight ’69 at Salute 2019

Here are a few shots from games we ran at Salute on Saturday.  We were kept busy running games back to back for most of the day, each game taking 20-30 minutes, as our participants flew their Corsairs to stem the tide of the Salvadorean invasion..

Dogfight ’69

Dogfight ’69
The Hundred Hours War

Our new show game for 2019 had it’s first outing at Cavalier 2019.

The Salvadorean Invasion!

This is set in the war that briefly erupted between Honduras and El Salvador in 1969.  This was the last occasion in which piston-engined fighters engaged in air-to-air combat.

Honduran Corsairs approach

This is a participation game with the players taking on the role of Corsair pilots in the Honduran Air Force.

Salvadorean Mustangs on Combat Air Patrol

The players have to launch ground attacks on the invading Salvadorean Army column to halt their advance, whilst warding off the attention of patrolling Mustangs of the Salvadorean Air Force.

Honduran Corsairs approach the target

Congratulations to club member Dave Sime who put together the game, which scooped the Best Participation Game prize at the show.

Honduran Corsairs come in low to strafe over the Salvadorean invasion column
Corsairs and Mustangs go head to head above the Salvadorean column