airbattle  air combat wargames


Summary of Play

Air CombatIn a Downtown scenario the US player is given a target in North Vietnam to attack and a force of aircraft to perform the raid. The raid force is drawn from a series of order of battle tables and varies according to the date (raid forces evolved over time) and service (the composition of Navy raids depends on the aircraft carrier they are launched from). All aircraft units represent flights of one to four aircraft. A typical raid may have a dozen or more US flights in it.

The US player has a number of forces. These are loosely broken up into three groups:

Pre-Raid Forces. Those forces that enter the map first or must be pre-positioned, such as jamming aircraft or chaff bombers.

Main Raid Forces. The main air strike bombers and their immediate support, such as escorting fighters and defense suppression 'planes.

Post-Raid Forces. The recon aircraft that follow the strike and take photos of the damage caused.

The US player begins the game by planning his raid in secret. The raid plan involves drawing the flightpath of the bombers on a map and noting where each portion of the force enters the map and when. Each unit in the US raid has a task that determines what its job is and what it can and can't do. So CAP (Combat Air Patrol) flights may attack enemy MiG fighters but can't bomb, while Strike flights make air-to-ground attacks but cannot engage enemy fighters while laden with bombs. Iron Hand units may attack AAA and SAM units (see below). Jamming flights may try to jam enemy radars while Recon flights must photograph the target site.

Flak and Fire CanThe DRV player also has forces to defend with. These comprise:

AAA Concentrations. Clusters of ground-based anti-aircraft artillery (aka Flak). Some concentrations are printed on the map while the DRV player may purchase additional AAA and set them up where he wishes.

Fire Can. The codename for radar-directed AAA. The DRV is allocated a number of Fire Can units to place at the start of play.

SAM. Ground-based Surface-to-Air-Missile sites. Some SAMs must be set up on the map, reflecting US electronic intelligence, while the remainder are set up hidden only to be revealed and placed on the map when their radars switch on. 'Dummy' SAM sites may be placed on-map to confuse the picture for the US player.

MiGs. Flights of MiG fighter aircraft. The DRV player secretly purchases MiG fighters from a pool of points. They are permitted to purchase more than their original allocation by sacrificing Victory Points.

The game starts with the DRV player deploying his ground forces, revealing only those units he has to. Then the US player plans their raid, after which the players roll to see what weather is in effect and check for Early Warning. This gives the DRV player some information on the US raid, and indicates how the DRV can deploy their air units. The DRV player now purchases MiGs and deploys some, none or all of them on the map, depending on the Early Warning Roll. Play starts.

Standoff JammingGame turns represent one minute of time. A turn starts with a player rolling for Random Events. Following this the US player sets any standoff jamming they are performing and may select radars to spot jam. SAM and Fire Can radars being jammed by standoff and spot jamming have their performance degraded by negative die modifiers.

After the Jamming Phase comes the Detection Phase. Flights are either detected or undetected and players must roll to detect each undetected enemy flight. Generally the DRV finds it easier to detect enemies than the US. DRV flights are more difficult to detect, particularly at lower altitudes. The DRV may fly 'dummy' flights on the map to try and confuse the US player. If a dummy is detected it is removed from the map but may return later.

Next comes the Movement Phase, where most of the turn's activity takes place. The players alternate movement by picking initiative chits out of a cup and then moving a number of flights equal to the value on the chit. The DRV player gets to choose who goes first during movement (though random events may change this).

When a flight must move it first selects a throttle setting: combat throttle or dash. This determines its speed (the number of movement points) and fuel consumption (aircraft at dash throttle burn more fuel and may jeopardize their ability to return safe home). The flight then moves from hex-to-hex on the map, obeying the rules for turning and altitude change. The DRV may scramble and take off any MiG flights that are ready at airfields.

SAM attackDuring movement combat can occur. AAA concentrations attack all units that move through their barrage zone. Make a roll to hit and if successful roll to check the damage. SAM sites may launch missiles at targets that are in range and have been acquired in a previous game turn. SAMs must roll to hit the target while the defending flight must roll for its defense, based on factors such as whether it has electronic jamming protection or is in a chaff corridor. If the SAM attack roll hits, the defense roll may negate it. However, there's a chance the roll may force the defending flight to avoid the SAM missiles and jettison any bombs they are carrying.

Air-to-air combat occurs if a flight in the same hex or adjacent to an enemy flight successfully engages it. The engagement roll is based on the detected/undetected state of the flights. If engagement succeeds both sides roll for air combat maneuver and see how many shot opportunities they get. For each shot opportunity the shooting player may select a fighter weapon such as a gun or missile and roll to shoot down an enemy aircraft. After combat both sides roll for morale, which may disrupt the flight formations or force them to abort for home. They also scatter -- spitting them out from the fight in different hexes and altitudes to where they started.

Air-to-ground attacks also take place during movement. Each type of air-to-ground weapon: bombs; laser-guided bombs; electro-optical guided bombs; anti-radiation missiles, etc. has an attack profile which sets out the prerequisities for an attack. A bombing flight must fly a profile appropriate to the weapon used, which may include restrictions to movement during its bombing run. On making an attack a roll determines the attack success. However, the success level is just a general indication of how well the attack went. The actual result of the attack is not rolled until the end of the raid, after the recon flight has obtained photos of the bombed target.

Bombing attackSome attacks, such as those on AAA and SAM, are resolved straight away. Anti-radiation missiles may force enemy radars to shut down, so stopping them from shooting or launching missiles. Bombing attacks can suppress AAA, making it less effective. Cluster bombs are available to Iron Hand flights and these are especially effective against AAA and SAM.

After the Movement Phase both sides check fuel. Any flights that used dash throttle or were in air combat use a point of their fuel reserve. Next, the US player can try and locate any SAM sites on the map. Generally, sites that have launched missiles that turn are easy to spot, otherwise they remain hidden. Until a SAM site has been located the US player's Iron Hand forces cannot attack it except with anti-radiation missiles.

Now both sides check to see if they continue to detect enemy flights. A roll on the Track Table obtains a heart, spade or diamond 'suit' result. All flights with a suit icon that matches the result are flipped to their undetected side. DRV units 'on the deck' at very low altitude and in the 'ground clutter' automatically become undetected.

Combat search and rescueIn the SAM Acquisition Phase, SAM sites may switch on their radars and attempt to acquire US flights flying nearby. Acquisition rolls result in Full or Partial acquisition. SAMs that already have acquisition must roll to see if they retain it. Both types of acquisition permit the SAM site to launch missiles in the next Movement Phase, though the chances of success with a Partial acquisition are marginal. However, a partial acquisition gives a SAM a better chance of upgrading to Full acquisition in a later game turn.

At the end of the game turn a number of administrative functions are performed, including switching radars on and off, generating dummy flights for the DRV and rolling to remove suppression. If aircraft have been shot down, aircrew may have bailed out. In the Admin Phase the US player may check to see if downed aircrew are captured or rescued.

The raid continues until the US forces have exited the map. On exiting, players must roll to see if aircraft that are damaged or low on fuel recover successfully. Following this, all the attacks on the target are resolved to see what the damage it. Then victory can be assessed.

Victory is the product of the damage done to the raid's target, plus any aircraft losses suffered by either side. Other factors such as collateral damage, violation of the Chinese Buffer Zone and failure to photo-recon the target also affect the Victory Point score.

Downtown copyright Lee Brimmicombe-Wood, 2001-2016. All rights reserved.