Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Phantoms Over Havana, Fight #8


So it's 1130 on 3 Feb 1990, and again the Cuban Liberation Air Force (CLAF) is enroute to tangling with Communist fighters of the Castro regime.  But things have changed up a bit: Generalissimo Waraldonez ordered a reorganization of the CLAF fighter squadron.  Heavy casualties have been sustained, and while the aircraft can (and are) be replaced, getting new fighter pilots is an altogether different story.  The Generallissimo ordered the best pilots of the attack squadrons (also flying F-4 Phantoms) to be reassigned as replacement pilots to bring the fighter squadron back up to 12 pilots.  The attack squadron commanders complained, but relented when the Generalissimo pointed out the attack squadron aircraft wouldn't survive the war without a fighter squadron to take on the enemy MiGs.

The first fight on the morning of Day 3 saw an even up fight between three F-4 Phantoms and three MiG-21s, in which the Castro forces downed one F-4 and Bruiser 04 downed all three of the enemy MiGs, becoming the CLAF's first Ace.  Now we have Blackjack 01 (a Veteran), 02 (Regular), and 03 (Veteran) squaring off against four of Castro's Air Force MiG-21s, so stand by for action.

Overview, north is up, with the CLA aircraft at right (east), heading west and the Castro regime aircraft at bottom left (southwest), heading east.   So the sides are bit different, with two groups of fighters having been out and about looking for trouble, but not finding any until they turned about to head home. 

I'm using the relatively new set, "Lacquered Coffins," modified slightly.  The airplanes are 1/600; the CLA flight consists of F-4 Phantoms from PicoArmor, the Castro flight consists of MiG-21s from Tumbling Dice.

The good guys, CLAF F-4 Phantoms loaded out for air combat but heading home in a hurry on the deck, speed 5/altitude 1.

And a flight of Castro-regime MiG-21s, loitering a bit at speed 3/altitude 2.

At the beginning of each turn is the 'mandatory move,' where each aircraft on the board is required to move straight and level the distance of its current speed.  It's a pretty cool mechanism to make the dogfight even more unpredictable, and really gives me a feeling of the fight being dynamic, not fighter jets managing to somehow hang motionless in the sky.

The game begins with Blackjack 01 moving up straight and level, noticing movement at his 10 o'clock.  He called out to his Weapons Intercept Officer, who agreed something was there, and he focused in on the location: soon he was able to make out the sun glinting off the bare metal wings of four Communist MiG-21 Fishbeds.  "Bandits, ten o'clock!"  Blackjack 02 hangs left, looking to get off the nose of the bogeys.

On the Castro side, Red 03 moved up straight and level, oblivious to the CLAF threat, but the flight leader, Red 01 moved up and spotted the rebel F-4s, calling it out on the radio to his comrades.

Red 02 and 04 both held course and performed power climbs, taking them from 3/2 up to 4/3.

Blackjack 03 performed a power climb as well, coming up to 6/2.

The mandatory move at the beginning of Turn 2, jets getting close to the merge.

Red 03 pushes the throttle to the wall, holding straight and level but powering up to 5/2, while Red 04 continues his power climb, holding course and rising to 5/4, while Blackjack 02, realizing they've been spotted, decides he doesn't need to stay on the deck so he power climbs to 6/2.

The CLAF flight leader, Blackjack 01, decides to get a bit fancy: he maintains speed and pulls right, waiting to see how things develop, while Blackjack 03, also a Veteran pilot (with two kills) races ahead.  Red 02 pulls right to deal with Blackjack 02 while Red 01 sees Blackjack 01 offer his tail and can't help himself, picking up speed and charging in at 5/2.

Turn 3's mandatory move, violence is imminent.  The Communist flight leader, Red 01, is already wondering if he didn't make a mistake by charging in on Blackjack 01, leaving Red 02 all alone to deal with Blackjack 02.

Blackjack 02 pulls the stick hard right, flopping the large fighter on its side, cutting to line up a shot with his 20mm gun.  Red 02 spots the maneuver, but the F-4 is on him before he can react effectively, losing speed and altitude (3/2) while fixated on the CLAF jet as 20mm tracers begin whizzing by his cockpit, some striking home and damaging Red 02.

Further north, Red 04 dips and comes left, firing his 30mm cannons at Blackjack 03, but the veteran pilot jinks and the cannon rounds zip by harmlessly.

Red 01 drops down to 6/1, picking up speed, and comes slight left, still tracking on Blackjack 01, who climbs to 4/2 and begins pulling his aircraft left.

And while Red 01 is wondering if he isn't screwing up by trading so much altitude for speed, and Red 04 is wondering how the rebel pilot escaped his cannon fire, Blackjack performs a climbing left turn to come nose to nose with Red 03, quickly lining up a missile shot.  "Fox One!"

The missile strikes the Communist jet, blowing it and the pilot up!

Red 02, damaged by gunfire from Blackjack 02, drops his jet down to the deck, picking up speed (5/1), hoping to escape the fight with his life.

Turn 4's mandatory move, really mixing the furball up.

Red 04 rolls over and pulls hard back on the stick, bringing the MiG into a hard left turn, lining his sights up on Blackjack 01.  The CLAF pilot has the F-4 shimmying and shaking like an expert, knowing he's in a tight spot, but miraculously he pulls through without being hit.!

And immediately he performs an Immelman, reversing course and climbing, though at the cost of quite a bit of speed (4/2), shocking the hell out of the Red 04 pilot!

With Blackjack 01 having just flipped 180 degrees, likely forcing Red 04 past him, Red 01 is realizing he made a mistake staying on the deck, not giving himself enough room to maneuver.  He pulls off a steep climb, gaining altitude at the cost of some much-needed speed (4/3), particularly with the rebel flight leader on his rear quarter.

Red 02 continues legging it for home, while Blackjack 02 and 03 both follow their leader, flipping their jets back around to stay in the fight.

Turn 5's mandatory move clearly shows the CLAF Phantoms with the initiative: three on three, one of the hostiles damaged, in dominant positions.

And Blackjack 03, fresh off a kill, puts said advantage to immediate use: the veteran pilot kicks the aircraft hard over to the left, gets tone, and fires his second missile at Red 04, who is so focused on Blackjack 01 he isn't even aware of Blackjack 03 (failed evasive roll)...

Until the CLAF missile strikes his aircraft, though he does manage to save himself by ejecting.

Red 02 keeps pushing east, so close to escaping he can taste it, while Red 01 manages to pull off a Split-S, losing a bit of speed, but reversing course.  This should get him out of immediate danger, though once again he finds himself with no altitude to maneuver.

Well, maybe Red 01 doesn't find himself out of danger: Blackjack 01 pulls off a steep diving left turn, lining up a bad deflection shot but taking it anyway! Red 01 spots the flash and jukes; the rebel missile sails by harmlessly.

Blackjack 02 damaged Red 02 and really wants his kill, but he does the math and realizes he's not going to catch him, so he pulls stick left, looking to help the flight leader out with Red 01.

Turn 6's mandatory move, with the damaged Red 02 making it to out safely, Red 01 finding himself all alone against three hungry tigers.

Blackjack 02 attempts to come left to engage Red 01, but he's taken aback at Red 01 actually seizing the initiative and cutting hard right on Blackjack 03, so he flubs the maneuver, too fixated on watching the Communist missile leave its rails and closing on his comrade.  The missile disappears in a dirty puff of smoke, with Blackjack 03 emerging on the other side, damaged.

*That was the first time either side failed a Maneuver Roll all fight.  Nice timing...

Blackjack 03 attempts a steep dive to aid in leaving town with his plane damaged but body intact, but the injured bird ain't having it, and so he sort of just coasts down, Red 01 still behind him.  Seeing his buddy in a bad way, Blackjack 01 flips a wingover, dropping speed to bring his aircraft around to threaten Red 01.  And with that, Red 01 hits the afterburners to disengage, leaving the CLAF Phantoms to rally and re-form before heading home.

He got lucky; at the end of Turn 6 I tested to see if the game was over and it was; another turn and I'd have dropped Red 01, too.

An excellent fight, with the CLAF turning a 3 to 4 numerical inferiority into a winner, with Blackjack 03 adding two more kills to his resume, bringing his total to four victories in only two combat sorties!

In the next fight we see a four on four match, thought he CLAF has two Regular and two Rookie pilots heading into the fight.  Coming right up!



  1. Another excellent report, thanks very much.

    How do you link all the different campaigns within your imagi-nation together? Is it entirely narrative, e.g. "this happened on the ground, so this kind of thing needs to happen in the air"?

    1. John,

      Hey buddy, thanks for the kind words. Did you see the last fight in "Operation Rush Delivery," where I used a pared down version of the TGS? I'm still working up to using the full version, but it's definitely coming, probably here on Cuba Libre, in my South Leon campaign (which is just heating up, as Operation Payback and Cronistria are winding down).

      To be honest, the different campaigns within Cuba Libre are just whatever I feel like doing. After the War of Liberation (which I intended on lasting longer than just a few days, but after 32 fights I was ready to move on) I felt like doing some small scale modern gaming, away from the desert. So I created Cronistria (fictional Balkan nation) and sent Special Forces in.

      Then I wanted to play some platoon level fights, so I had the Special Forces train up some locals, then lead them into platoon-sized fights as cadre. Then I wanted to play some larger, mechanized fights in 6mm, so I brought in more Cuban forces to bolster the war effort. Then I wanted to play some squad level skirmishes, so I did that, then back to Special Forces (Operation Cro-Wings). Then I wanted to play some air fights, but I realized I hadn't set the stage for that in my overall Imagi-Nation world, so I had to go back and do "Phantoms Over Havana."

      Then I wanted to do some Vietnam-style gaming, so I created South Leon. But then I wanted to play some modern Middle East with Ambush Alley, so I made South Leon tropical in the north and desert in the east. Somewhere along the way I wanted to play some more SOF missions, worldwide, so I created Operation Payback.

      Then I wanted to tie in some problems with Venezuela and Iran (which actually first reared their ugly heads in the War of Liberation), so I brought up the island nation of Avalor (Operation Rush Delivery, party of Operation Payback), which is helping to set up some stuff I want to do where Cubans are actually leading their own insurgency, which is going to be in the fictional Caribbean nation of Parador, as well as more direct confrontations with Venezuela and Iran, the latter being worldwide.

      Since it's late July 1990, we'll also soon be taking part in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and we're also going to get into the international War on Drugs (with the United States' JTF-6).

      So, the campaign narratives go wherever I need them to go in order to do whatever kind of wargaming I feel like doing. You're about to see a bunch of different styles of gaming: Cronistria is about to go pure tank vs tank in 3mm, where South Leon will be doing company-level Vietnam-style gaming in 6mm (this is where I plan on using the TGS), company level modern, temperate climate gaming in 15mm, Ambush Alley-style gaming in modern middle east in 15mm, company level modern gaming based on the French issues in Mali, some modern SOF in urban environments, some Vietnam-LRRP and MIKE Force style gaming up north, some desert outpost gaming, MARSOC style, some air gaming, maybe even some stuff with snow on the ground. All in South Leon!

      Why, because I play whatever tickles my fancy! ;) And if that's not enough, I'll go back to my WWII in the Pacific, Israelis, maybe even back to Kampfgruppe Klink!

      So, sorry for the long reply, but hopefully that explains it, and if you've got any further questions, please let me know.


  2. Thanks Jack, that explains it very well