The following is a detailed example of play, concentrating on two game turns - turns 4 and 5 - from an actual playtest game. Directions are given as compass directions from north.
The scenario is Thick as a Brick, set during August 1967. The background to the scenario is as follows:
By August 1967 the US Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara, a once-hawkish advocate of bombing, had become convinced that the air campaign was failing and the military didn't know how to win. The military leadership, believing McNamara's defeatist stance would ruin them, rounded on him at John Stennis's Senate subcommittee, which was packed with hard-line supporters of the bombing.
The Stennis committee's support for the military forced President Johnson to abandon McNamara and escalate the bombing by opening up a swathe of new targets. Of the 46 additions to the Rolling Thunder 57 target list, 30 were highway and railroad bridges. US forces were ordered to sever communications between Hanoi and Haiphong and attack bridges in the exclusion zones around the cities. The Paul Doumer highway and railroad bridge had highest priority, as it was a vital link to the dockside where East Bloc ships were unloading supplies. On 11 August the US Air Force struck the bridge for the first time in the war. Ninety-four tons of bombs were dropped by three air wings, destroying a railroad span and two highway spans.
The Vietnamese MiG force had been quiet since June, when their bases had last come under attack. But in late August they came back fighting, armed with a new ‘slash attack' tactic. MiGs contributed to the seven losses on 23 August that became known by the Americans as “Black Wednesday”.
The DRV player sets up a comprehensive defence covering Hanoi, Haiphong as well as other major US targets, such as the steel works at Thai Nguyen and the bridge at Hai Duong. The US player rolls the Hai Duong bridge as the target for a US Navy strike. Referring to the order of battle tables, the US player launches a Navy Alpha strike from the USS Coral Sea.
For this Navy raid two flights of two F-4B aircraft provide MiGCAP (Callsign Showtime, using generic flight counter #100 and Old Nick, using flight counter #101; in this account we will reference flights by the formula 'callsign/counter').
Two further two-ship flights of F-4B (Tempest/102 and Killer/103) fly Armed Escort equipped with CBU to suppress SAMs and AAA threatening the strike force. Two flights of A-4E equipped with Shrike ARMs (Bowleg/104 and Buckshot/105) are detailed to arrive one game turn behind the lead CAP. These 'Iron Hand' forces will deal with SAM threats. The main strike force consists of 4 flights each of four A-4Es (Highball/108, equipped with CBU to suppress the flak over the target, Poker/109, Skipjack/200 and Dancer/201, hauling regular bombs), which are covered by two further pairs of F-4Bs (Swichbox/106 and Taproom/107) flying CAP escort. The main strike is plotted to enter one game turn after the Iron Hand to exploit the narrow window of opportunity provided by the defence suppression force.
The US plans a straight ingress to the target with a tightly compressed strike package to minimize the DRV's chances to get their MiG force into position before the strikers enter the SAM zone.
The Early Warning Phase results in a Minimal warning for the DRV. No MiGs start airborne, though two flights are on alert at Kep and Hoa Lac. This is a difficult result for the DRV. They must now scramble their MiGs into position against the Navy.
Game Turn 1 sees the MiGs take off from Kep and Hoa Lac together with a dummy flight from Phuc Yen. The lead USN MiGCAP and Armed Escort flights enter at medium altitude, undetected by the DRV due to the Minimal early warning. Just short of the coast the CAP climbs to high altitude.
The lead Phantoms go 'feet dry' on Game Turn 2 as the Iron Hand force enters the map. MiG counters C, U and J accelerate to combat speed and head for the action on the deck, trying to keep below the US radar cover. Despite this, the US gets lucky, detecting MiG C, which has just launched from Kep, and revealing it as a real MiG, not a dummy.
This is the US raid at the end of game turn 2. The dashed line represents the plotted flightpath (which is unknown to the DRV player). The broad shape of the incoming USN raid is becoming clear to the DRV, though the target (the bridge at Hai Duong) remains uncertain./p>
On Game Turn 3 the US moves Showtime/100 flight to cover the MiGs at Kep. The DRV responds by climbing MiG C to medium altitude. SAMs start to light up, though SAM Y (hex 2918) fails to acquire the undetected Killer/103 flight. SAM P in 2514 does better and gets a partial acquisition on Old Nick/101 while a new SAM, X, in 2810 comes online to get an acquisition on Old Nick. Finally, the hidden medium-density AAA in 2017 becomes active.
This shows the situation around the Hanoi defenses at the end of Game Turn 3. Three MiG counters (only two of which represent aircraft) are setting course to take on the vanguard of the Navy CAP.
Random Events Phase. Roll 10: AAA Ambush on the deck. There's no effect as there are no US flights on the deck.
Jamming Phase. The standoff jamming markers (both EA-1F 'Electric Spads') do not move.
Detection Phase. All of the US undetected flights are at medium and high altitude. The DRV's detection level is B. With no modifiers the DRV must roll 10 or greater to detect a Navy flight. Bowleg/104, the A-4E Iron Hand flight, is detected.
The two undetected DRV flights on the deck both have -5 modifiers (for deck altitude flight) in their favor. The US detection level is D, which means a roll of 18 or more is needed. With these slim odds it's no surprise the US player fails to pick the flights up.
Tactics Note: The DRV is wise to keep their flights low, in the ground clutter where they are unlikely to be detected.
Movement Phase. The DRV decides to move first. However, they draw an initiative chit with a value of 0 for their first segment. Play passes to the US player.
The US initiative chit is 2. They must move two flights. Armed escort flight Killer/103 moves to hex 3016, positioning itself for a bombing run on the located SAM site in 2918 next turn. Flight Showtime/100 moves to hex 2913/NW at high altitude. The CAP bides its time, waiting to see what the DRV does. Play passes back to the DRV.
DRV initiative is 1. MiG C (from Kep) climbs to 1617/S at high altitude. It's coming up for a fight! Play passes to the US.
US initiative is 3. The Navy strike mission enters the map. They are undetected at medium altitude, and flying in trail, ending their moves at: 3710/NW (Highball/108), 3809/NW (Poker-109), 3909/NW (Skipjack/200). The remainder of the strike mission remains off-map. Play passes to the DRV.
DRV initiative is 2. MiG counter U in 2424 moves to hexside 2522/2622 facing ESE. It remains undetected. On the deck, MiG J climbs to low on hexside 2333/2433 facing ESE. As the MiGs have all finished movement, all the US flights can finish their moves.
Flight Taproom/107 stays at medium altitude and moves to hex 3414. Armed escort flight Tempest/102 moves to hexside 3110/3111 facing N.
CAP flight Old Nick/101 moves to 2517/N at high altitude, eight hexes away from MiG C. SAM battalions engage the CAP en route. SAM X in 2810 fires at 5 hexes range as Old Nick passes through hex 2815. The attack roll has a -1 modifier for partial acquisition and rolls an 11 for no effect. The defending F-4s have deception jammers and some offboard standoff jamming by EA-1F jammers worth a +1 modifier. The defense roll results in no effect. SAM P in 2514 also takes a shot as the flight passes through 2616. The shot is again resolved with a partial acquisition modifier and the aid of +1 standoff jamming. Both attack and defense rolls result in a miss.
The final US moves of Game Turn 4 see the Iron Hand attack the SAM sites which have just engaged.
A-4 SEAD flight Bowleg/104 at medium altitude moves to 3312, turns 30 degrees right (to N), moves to hexside 3211/3212 and lofts a Shrike ARM at SAM X in 2810. Since Bowleg is detected, the SAM has a chance it might shut down its radar before the missile hits. A morale roll of 7 scuppers that idea and the Shrike attacks. On the PGM column of the Air-to-Ground Attack Table the US player rolls 19 (!). The modifiers are -4 for a lofted launch and -2 for an unlocated SAM, resulting in a modified 13 for a success value of 2. A roll of 16 on the Damage Table damages the SAM. A lucky hit! Bowleg/104 completes its move to hexside 3011/3012 facing N.
The second SEAD flight, Buckshot/105 moves to 3114, turns 30 degrees right to N and lofts a Shrike at SAM B in 2514 from hexside 3013/3014. The SAM also fails to shut down. The US player rolls 15 with a -6 total modifier (lofted/unlocated) for a 2 attack success but then has a miserable roll of 6 resulting in no effect against the SAM.
Finally, CAP flight Switchbox/106 enters undetected at medium altitude and moves to 3612/NW.
Fuel Phase. No flights used dash movement, so there is no fuel reserve use.
SAM Location Phase. SEAD flight Buckshot/105 tries to locate SAM P in 2514. As the radar is still on Buckshot can claim modifiers of +1 for their Radar Warning Receiver and +5 for the SAM launch counter on the SAM site. A roll of 6, modified to 12, locates the site.
Track Phase. The US player rolls 5 at detection level D, losing track of all DRV diamond flights. The track on MiG C lost and it becomes undetected again.
The DRV player rolls 16 at detection level B, losing track of all spade flight. Both Old Nick/101, Bowleg/104 and Taproom/107 become undetected.
SAM Acquisition Phase. SAM P in 2514 stays on an tries to retain partial acquisition on Old Nick/101. Modifiers are: -3 defensive jamming and -1 standoff jamming. A roll of 7 on the Target Acquired column of the SAM Acquisition Table is modified to 2. The SAM barely retains partial acquisition.
A new unlocated SAM, T, comes on in 3122. SAM T attempts a quick acquisition on Killer/103. With modifiers of -3 defensive jamming; -1 standoff jamming and -3 quick acquisition on the Target Detected column of the SAM Acquisition Table, a roll of 9 fails to acquire the target.
Administration Phase. The only major event in the Admin Phase is that the SAM in 2918 shuts down. A new game turn starts.
The situation at the end of Game Turn 4. The main strike has entered in the southeast corner. The Armed Escort and SEAD have fanned out to engage the SAMs, only two of which remain lit up. Due to a fortunate Shrike ARM shot, the SAM battalion just to the west of Do Son has been damaged and is now out of the action. The undetected MiG flight from Kep is approaching Pha Lai and is going head-to-head with a Phantom CAP flight near Hai Duong at high altitude. MiG Flight J will take several turns before it can feed into the battle.
A detail of the developing situation. SAM X is damaged. SAM P is vulnerable to a second Shrike shot from Buckshot/105. CAP flights Old Nick/101 and Showtime/100 are at high altitude, ready to dash and engage MiG C. Killer/103 is gearing up for an attack on the located-but-shut-down SAM in 2918. Or is it a dummy radar?
Random Events Phase. The random events roll results in a AAA Ambush on the deck. As there are still no US flights on the deck there's no effect.
Jamming Phase. The standoff jamming markers do not move.
Detection Phase. The DRV rolls to try and detect Old Nick/101, Bowleg/104 and Taproom/107 they lost track of the previous Track Phase. A 10 or greater is required on two dice. Rolls of 8, 14 and 3 mean only Bowleg is detected. The DRV also fails to pick up the other CAP flight, Showtime/100, but does detect Killer/103, Switchbox/106, and the main strike comprising Highball/108, Poker/109 and Skipjack/200.
The US player rolls for detection on the three MiG counters. Flight U on the deck gets -5 deck modifiers for a roll of 18 or greater to detect. Flight J at low altitude gets a –3, needing a roll of 16 or better. The US fails to pick either up. MiG C at high altitude requires a 13 or better roll, but the US fails to roll this too. However, MiG C is in radar search parameters from Old Nick/101. The base roll is 12 or greater and there's a -2 modifier for being 9 hexes away. A roll of 14 just manages to detect the MiG flight.
Movement Phase. The DRV elects to move first. They pull a 2 initiative chit and must move 2 flights. A new MiG flight, B, takes off from Gia Lam airport. MiG C moves to 1919, facing S. Play passes to the US.
The US initiative chit is 3. The SAM in 2918 is sitting close to the egress route and needs to be taken out if possible. Armed Escort flight Killer/103 braves the SAM's organic flak in a dive-bombing run from an initial point on the hexside 2917/3017. The US player sweats a bit when the flak rolls 16 and scores a hit as the flight reaches low altitude. The flak damage roll on the barrage column just misses with a roll of 8 (modifiers were +1 for being on a bombing run). Because the flight was attacked by flak barrage, it is visually identified and its generic counter (counter 103) is removed and replaced with the Killer flight counter.
Killer then attacks the SAM site with cluster bombs. The F-4Bs have a bomb strength of 1, doubled by the effect of CBUs versus SAMs to 2. This is multiplied by the number of undamaged aircraft (2) to get a total attack value of 4. The modifiers are -1 attack modifier for the flak interference and -1 for bombing from Low altitude. There's a +1 modifier for attacking an unrevetted SAM site for a total of -1 modifiers. Rolling on the 4 column of the Air-to-Ground Attack Table an unimpressive roll of 8 (modified to 7) gets a 2 attack success. An 11 is rolled on the Damage Table, obtaining a Slight damage result which is enough to put the SAM and its radar (assuming it's not a camouflaged dummy SAM site) out of action. Killer's Phantoms climb out to medium altitude and finish movement on the 2818/2919 hexside.
The US player still has two flights to move on this initiative chit. Iron Hand flight Buckshot/105 now moves to 2914 next and lofts a Shrike at SAM battalion B in hex 2514 which has a partial acquisition on flight Old Nick/101. The SAM rolls low on its morale roll and shuts down its radar, removing the acquisition marker from Old Nick. Buckshot/105 ends its turn in 2714/N. The remaining SEAD flight, Bowleg/104 moves to hex 2915/W to deal with SAMs to the west in the area of Nam Dinh. Play passes to the DRV.
DRV initiative chit is 1. MiG J moves to 2431/2532 hexside facing ESE and climbs to medium altitude, setting itself up for a dash at the strike. The MiGs are clearly feeling aggressive today!
The US initiative is 4. The strike mission continues moving northwest to 3312, 3411 and 3511. At last Old Nick-101 makes its run. The flight pushes up its afterburners to dash speed and homes in on MiG C. It travels through hexes 2016, hexside 1917/2017 and 1918, which are all in the barrage zone of the Medium AAA in 2017. The DRV has to roll 17 of better to get a hit, and three rolls of 4, 7 and 15 don't cut it. Old Nick attacks the MiG from 1918, facing WNW at high altitude.
The situation at the time the air combat starts. Old Nick has just engaged the MiG. Both flights are now visually identified. Note that because the Phantom flight is undetected, it stays on its undetected side.
MiG C is detected but the F-4Bs of Old Nick flight are not. The Phantoms engage with a dice roll of 15, needing a 9 or better and possessing a +1 modifier for their aggression value. The MiGs fail their engagement roll. They roll 11 but need 15 against the undetected Phantoms, while their aggression value gives them a +0 modifier. The net result of the rolls (attacker engages, defender does not) is surprise against the MiGs, which are revealed as a single MiG-21.
Air-to-air combat is now resolved. The Phantoms roll for shots on the 2 column of the Maneuver Table. The modifiers are: +1 for geometry, +3 for surprise, +1 for aggression differential, +0 for maneuver differential. A roll of 11 (modified to 16) gives two shots. The MiG rolls on the 1 column of the Maneuver Table. The MiG's modifiers are: -1 for geometry, -1 for being disadvantaged, -1 for the aggression differential and +0 for the maneuver differential. A roll of 10 modified by -4 pretty much means no shots for the Vietnamese player.
The F-4 shots are now resolved. The Phantoms declare they are using AIM-9D infrared missiles as this is their best weapon (their AIM-7E Sparrows have a lower combat value). The first shot damages the MiG (dice roll 10, modified by +3 for AIM-9D weapon, +1 for additional undepleted weapons = 14 or a damage result). the second shot kills it (dice roll 13, modified to 17, kills on a 16-19). The MiG flight is removed from the board.
The Phantoms roll for ammo depletion and run out of AIM-9Ds on a die roll of 2. Now they roll a morale check with modifiers of +1 (aggression value) and +1 (surprise). A poor roll of 8 is modified to a 10, resulting in disorder on the flight. Their aggression rating is modified by –1 down to +0. After the battle they scatter to hex 1818/NW at medium altitude and have a Maneuver marker placed on them. With 4 US flights moved, play now passes back to the DRV.
The DRV initiative is 1. MiG flight U moves to hexside 2619/2720, facing ESE on the deck. Play passes to the US player.
The US initiative is 2. With the threat from MiG C removed, the US repositions the CAP to cover the MiGs coming from the Hanoi area. Showtime/100 moves to 2716/W at high altitude and Taproom/107 moves to 3317/W, also at high altitude.
The DRV initiative is 2, but they have only 1 flight left to move. MiG flight J moves to hexside 2628/2729, facing ESE at low. Play passes back to the US.
The US player can now move his remaining units. Tempest/102 moves to 2912/WNW and Switchbox/106 to 3314/NW. Finally, Dancer/201 enters the map undetected and ends movement on 3710, bunched up with the rest of the main strike.
It's the end of the Movement Phase. The lead Skyhawks are about to cross the beach and the Thunder rolls on...
Situation at the end of Game Turn 5's Movement Phase, with two SAMs and a MiG flight taken out of the action and the main strike approaching the coast.
Downtown copyright Lee Brimmicombe-Wood, 2001-2016. All rights reserved.