Tuesday 3 October 2023

Somewhere in Northwest Europe, 1986 (Thunderbolt/Apache Leader)

 After the Thrappled Lemmings defeated the cult, I thought I should play something different as a palate cleanser. So, I dug out Thunderbolt/Apache Leader and let my megalomaniac wargamer tendencies loose by choosing the World War 3 North Atlantic scenario with the All Out War situation. That basically means that my squadron will be trying to hold back the red tide with a couple of sticks and an elastic band. Well, not quite but it certainly feels that way.

N.B. This brief AAR should be read with the Airwolf theme playing in the background.

My squadron comprises two A10 Thunderbolts and two AH64 Apaches. I saved a few points for repairs at the start and rather wish I had saved more because my dice rolls for the first two days have been terrible and my planes have far too many bullet holes in them. Worse yet, my pilots are quite quickly becoming fatigued and could well be unable to fly soon.

At the start of the campaign, there were several priority targets that I felt I needed to take out because they had special effects. Two of them reduced the amount of points I get each day for repairs and weaponry. The other increases the chance of enemy assault forces advancing. I took out one of the enemy battalions that penalised my points on the first day but failed to take out the enemy command that increases the chance of enemy assault forces advancing. I really cannot believe how many "anything but a 1" shots rolled 1s in that attack! Then there was the special condition that gave me an MLRS bombardment against the enemy battalion and would destroy units on an 8-10. Over 10 dice rolls and no enemy units were destroyed! But, enough about my dice rolls. As a result of my failures, I now have three enemy assault battalions sitting outside my air force base sucking up my resources. If those forces advance one more step, I am done. I cannot absorb the losses that would result from this.

So, day 3 of the war dawns and my pilots are on the edge of exhaustion. Nevertheless, they get up and get into their planes to do their duty. Whatever happens, they will not be remembered as betraying their comrades and their countrymen. Today, we try to take out the enemy command again. If we can slow their advance, we have a chance.

The first target is the enemy scout group. They give enemy assault units a bonus to advance, and I really need them not to have that if I am to survive another day. I assign two A10s to the task. They cruise through the enemy ranks in two smooth traverses and suddenly all that is left is smoking craters. One of the A10s has some bullet holes in it to add to the existing damage, but that is all. And this despite one of my pilots missing with every single Hellfire missile and having to fly slowly through the enemy using his cannon to take them out.

Viper and Gumby head home knowing they have done a great job

The second target is the enemy forward command. It prevents my pilots from destressing when they don't fly. I assign the AH64s to this one. My goal is to reduce the command to half strength so that its special effect does not apply. The AH64s start one on each side of the battlefield.

Rock (right) goes high while Shadow (left) goes low

Command has mandated that one of them has to make a high approach. This makes it vulnerable to the enemy AAA Site and it quickly gains new holes in it. Fortunately, Rock is rock steady and holds it together. Taking aim carefully, he looses his LAU-68s (it's all I could afford!) at the enemy AAA and misses with every single one. Shadow, on the other hand, uses his cannons to good effect and leaves a trail of smoking SCUDS and AAA Sites behind him.The two pilots rendezvous over the main concentration of the enemy, only for Rock's Apache to gain more holes as an enemy helicopter appears.

Rock has been less than careful with his helicopter

Shadow takes it out but it's clearly time for Rock to skedaddle, assuming he can make it home. Shadow takes out one more SCUD and that is mission accomplished. The command is at half strength and the guys at the airbase can relax a bit.

Just enough destroyed units to weaken the enemy command. Phew!

As the day ends, I find that Gumby has gone up a level from Average to Skilled as a result of his run through the enemy scout unit. Rock is a twitching wreck in the pilots' mess and will not be flying for quite a while now, but the other pilots are feeling a bit better and will be fine to stand in for him for a while.

Better yet, some enemy units are starting to retreat. Hitting the scout unit has had its effect. Unfortunately, my very last dice roll for moving enemy battalions sees one of them advance right up to my air base. Game over. I don't have enough resource points to compensate for that so I have lost.

I really like this game, despite this particular campaign being plagued by budget cuts and generals who buy their supplies from Honest Harry's Used Harriers ("Only one careful lady owner, guv, honest, and she only used it for shopping trips at weekends."), or crappy dice rolls as some others might call it. The key points for this campaign were failing to reduce the enemy units that had special effects early enough. I could have done it but just kept missing with my Hellfire missiles. It makes me wonder if I should have focused more aircraft on key targets early on, bought cheaper aircraft and swamped the enemy, or just bought new dice. I shall try all of these next time I play. What a great way to spend a couple of evenings.

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