Monday, August 28, 2017

Phantoms Over Havana, Fight #9


So it's 1800 on 3 Feb 1990, and the Cuban Liberation Air Force (CLAF) has an entire flight inbound, looking to clash with a flight of Castro-regime MiGs intent on intercepting inbound CLAF ground attack aircraft.  Boxer 01, 02, 03, and 04 are ready for a fight; Boxer flight had suffered the heaviest so far in the campaign, and so now they were down to two Regular pilots and two Rookie pilots, men that flew F-4 Phantoms in the close air support/interdiction squadrons, now pressed into duty as fighter plots.  They will treated as Rookies only for their first fight, after that they will considered Regulars (they're not actually Rookie pilots, they're just not used to being used for air superiority missions).

The first two fights on Day 3 of the War of Liberation have been unqualified successes, with one F-4 lost and one damaged, to five MiGs lost and one damaged, with one pilot in the Bruiser flight becoming the CLAF's first Ace, and a pilot in the Blackjack flight getting his fourth kill.  Boxcar flight has but a single pilot with a kill, Boxcar 01, and it is but a single kill.

Overview, north is up, with the CLA aircraft at left (west), heading east, and the Castro regime aircraft at bottom top right  (northeast), heading west.   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 CLAF F-4 Phantoms, speed 4/altitude 5, looking for trouble.

The Castro regime MiG-21s, speed 3/altitude 5, also looking for trouble.

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 the CLAF cards all coming out in a row, then the Communists.  Blackjack 04 heads in, straight and level, spotting the enemy MiGs at 11 o'clock; "Tally Ho!!!"  Trying to get out of their line of sight and get lost amongst the ground clutter, Blackjack 03 drops and cuts right, 6/3, while Blackjack 01 and 02 do the same thing, but hold on course, straight at the bad guys.

Red 02 is up straight and level, and spots three of the Cuban F-4s, all but Boxer 03.  Red 01 receives the tally ho and power climbs straight ahead to 5/5, while Red 03 and 04 dive and come left (5/3), but as they do they spot Boxer 03. With that, both sides have not only spotted the enemy, but they've pretty much figured out they've been spotted as well.

Turn 2's mandatory move, with plenty of distance still between our antagonists.

Boxer 01, realizing he's been spotted, conducts a steep climb, back to 4/5, slowing down to let things develop a bit.  Red 03 cuts right, back into the face of the Cuban formation, as Boxer 04 zooms straight in, 6/5, and Boxer 02 dashes up and comes left onto Red 01 and 02.  Red 02 holds straight and level, picking up speed, 5/5.  Boxcar 03 begins coming around to his left, drawing the attention of Red 04, who holds course, looking to get into it with Boxcar 03.

And now things get interesting...

Red 01 rolls over and pulls back on the stick, coming left in a shallow dive, then pulling back even and launching a missile at Boxcar 02; the rookie Cuban fighter pilot is totally shocked at the pace of events and completely forgets (fails) about taking evasive action!  The enemy missile closes and explodes, damaging the large F-4 Phantom.

Turn 3's mandatory move shows a bit more of a hectic situation, as well as the damage to Boxcar 02.

And the fight has only begun, with the Communists proving themselves to be quite aggressive!  Red 03 kicks over and performs a climbing left turn, lining up a missile shot on Boxcar 01: the missile leaves its rails, but Boxcar 01's pilot gets his bird shimmying and shaking and the missile flashes past.

Red 01 wants to come hard left and launch a missile at Boxcar 01, leaving Red 02 to finish off the wounded Boxcar 02, but he gets caught staring a bit at Red 03's missile and the next thing he knows his windscreen is filled with a giant, smoking F-4, almost colliding with Boxcar 02!

Boxcar 02 spots Red 01 at the last second and dives to the deck, picking up speed in an attempt to make good his escape.

Further south, Boxcar 03, the other Regular pilot for the Cubans, pulls hard left into Red 04 and launches a missile, but the Commie pilot pulls into it and deploys countermeasures, causing the missile to overshoot.

Meanwhile, Boxcar 01 pulls hard left into Red 03 and returns the favor, sending a missile straight back at him.  But he didn't get a good tone, so despite the MiG pilot being bit shock and awed, the missile still manages to miss.

If you're thinking all these misses by the good guys are probably going to come at a steep price, you're probably right...

And it gets even worse: the other Cuban rookie, Boxcar 04, charges straight in and fires on Red 04, but the Commie pilot easily shakes off a second straight missile!

And with this incredible furball going on, Red 02 calmly and quietly hooks in from the north, looking to clean up scraps.

And then Red 04 returns the favor, on one of his assailants, at least.  He pulls hard right into Boxcar 03 and fires a missile just outside of minimum range.  The Cuban pilot barely has time to react, jinking wildly, and while the missile doesn't hit the F-4, it does detonate over Boxcar 03's cockpit, wounding the pilot!

I missed the mandatory move for Turn 4 but, as you see, things are a bit crazy, and not going well for the Cubans, who are still even in numbers but have one aircraft damaged and one pilot wounded.  Looking to get back into the fight, Red 01 and Boxcar 04 both manage to pull off a wingover to get back into a decent position (pretty impressive for a rookie!), while Boxcar 02 begins pulling gently right to get his wounded bird back home.

Boxcar 01 kicks over hard left and goes to guns, but Red 02 jukes and the 20mm tracers flash by his cockpit harmlessly!

Red 02 pulls through Boxcar 01's gunfire and immediately lines up a snap shot, firing a missile at Boxcar 04, who is so focused on his wingover that he's totally oblivious as the Communist missile closes in and detonates, damaging another Cuban F-4...

Red 03 spots Red 02's missile strike on Boxcar 04, and so he cuts speed and hangs back, waiting for the Cuban wounded duck (now two damaged aircraft and one wounded pilot, only Boxcar 01 still in the fight; the sharks are circling and this is about to get ugly) to pass, though Red 04 kinda screws up his plan by cutting hard right, back into Boxcar 04.  Boxcar 03's pilot, struggling with blood loss, pulls the F-4 left, trying to loop back around and get home.

Turn 5's mandatory move: the CLA Air Force is in serious trouble, with Boxcar 02 and 04 damaged and trying to get home, Boxcar 03 wounded and trying to get home, and Boxcar 01 trying to do something to help his comrades out, but not having much luck (he's fired one missile and made a gun run without hitting anything)...

Boxcar 04 dives under Red 04 and turns into Red 03, hoping to make them overshoot, a pretty shrewd move for a rookie, and certainly aided by Red 04 being a bit overaggressive.

Boxcar 02 (somehow didn't mark him, top right) continues pulling around, trying to get turned back to the west (left) and get off the map.  But there's a lot of ground and bad guys betwixt him and the exit...

Boxcar 04 is lucky: Red 03 is slow enough, but finds itself too high to engage, so he overshoots as he begins descending.

While in the north, Red 01 makes a helluva maneuver to cut back in on Boxcar 01, but it's a really bad deflection shot and Boxcar 01 just accelerates through the enemy cannon fire.

Boxcar 03's wounded pilot turns left, following Boxcar 01, hoping his comrade will draw enough negative attention that he'll be able to escape, while Red 02 (sorry, another one not marked properly, bottom center) pulls right.

And then more trouble: Red 04 forgets about Boxcar 04 (just off camera to bottom left) and sets his sights on Boxcar 01, firing a missile.  Boxcar 01 is too focused on Red 01's gunfire to notice.  Until the missile's detonation shakes his aircraft, that is.  The F-4 is damaged but still airborne, and now the Cubans have no one left in the fight...

And, of course, finally it's Boxcar 01's turn to activate, the very last aircraft this turn, right after he manages to get himself hit.  With nothing else to do, he drops down to the deck and begins pushing for home, every man for himself!

Turn 6's mandatory move shows a pretty dire situation, with every single Cuban aircraft combat ineffective, but not all that close to escaping, with the bad guys dominating the center of the battlespace, able to pounce on whichever wounded duck(s) they choose.

The situation well in hand, the Communist flight leader, Red 01, relaxes and begins coaxing his aircraft around, stalking Boxcar 02 who, like the rest of his flight, are all pushing for home, simply hoping to survive.

But it's not to be...

Red 03 is tired of messing around, pulling around parallel to Boxcar 04, making obscene gestures at the Yankee puppet pilot...

While Red 04 cuts left and pounces on the Boxcar 03, pumping 30mm shells into the F-4...

The wounded Cuban pilot is killed, by the gunfire, falling forward on the stick and riding it into the lush green jungle below (yes, I know the F-4 has a crew of two, doesn't matter).

Red 02 then decides he's not gonna let Red 01 have all the fun, so he pulls a wingover and turns into Boxcar 02.

Now I find myself face to face with the biggest, most important time in this entire fight: it's the end of Turn 6, so I have to roll 1D6.  If I roll 1-3, the game is over, and Boxcar 01, 02, and 04 manage to escape, but if I roll 4-6, the game will continue to a seventh turn.

Not hard to figure where this was going, given my luck, right?  Game on, and I've got three stricken birds still out there, easy pickins for the Commies...

Boxcar 02 pushes his plane for all it's worth.

Before Red 04 slides in behind Boxcar 01 and launches a missile...

Which sends the aircraft into a tumbling fireball as the crew ejects.

Two kills for the bad guys.

Boxcar 04 makes his run for the border, and he's close, ever so close, but Red 03 jumps on his tail and fires...

And another Cuban fighter is downed, crew ejecting to safety.

Third kill for the bad guys...

Red 01 hooks right to the south, but he's somehow allowed himself to drift too far away from Boxcar 02, but Red 02 rolls in and goes to guns.  The hapless rookie pilot scrunches down in his seat, expecting the world to end, but the Commie pilot was in such a hurry he took a really horrible deflection shot and didn't hit anything.  Boxcar 02 opens his eyes, and suddenly the sky is clear, the Castro-regime MiGs are gone, becoming low on fuel and returning to base!

Well damn, that didn't go well at all, did it?  I can't believe how many misses there were, on both sides, that was pretty crazy.  But all those damaged results (and wounded pilot) meant things couldn't end well.  Having said that, I really got close to escaping with but a single aircraft down and three damaged, but the damn roll to end the game passed and that final turn saw two more F-4s downed.  The final tally was CLA Air Force lost three F-4s and one pilot KIA, and one F-4 damaged, while none of the enemy MiGs so much as got a scratch.  The CLA crews were all picked up and returned to friendly forces; having said that, Boxcar 04 will still be treated as a rookie since he didn't actually complete the sortie, but Boxcar 02, though damaged, will be upgraded to Regular since he completed the mission.

Three more dogfights over Havana to come, then some different stuff, on the way!



  1. Really like the look of these rules - and great commentary.

    1. Thanks Duc, glad you liked it!


  2. A good day for the forces of freedom and liberation then? ;)

    1. Lemmey,

      How dare you, ya damm Commie!!!