Wednesday, 11 April 2012

1/600 AirWar C:21

At the weekend we played a try out game of Wessex Games Air War C:21 fast play air combat rules with Tumbling Dice 1/600 aircraft. We had Four players, with me refereeing and acting as rules looker-upper. The scenario was loosely based on the attacks against HMS Coventry during the Falklands conflict in 1982, as I had the miniatures for Sea Harrier FRS1's (or SHAR's as they were known), IAI Daggers, A-4 Skyhawks and Mirage III's.

HMS Coventry was a Type 42 Guided Missile Destroyer. On the morning of 25th May 1982 she was stationed to the North of Falkland Sound with the Type 22 Frigate HMS Broadsword (a pairing known as a "Type 64"). The ships were there to draw air attacks away from the landings in the nearby San Carlos bay. The pairing of the type 42 with a type 22 had been quite sucessful, as the Type 42's Sea Dart was good at high-altitude, long range intercepts, and the Sea Wolf on the type 22 better at low-level, short range intercepts. Coventry was attacked by multiple waves of A4-Skyhawks, and was hit by at least three bombs, one of which failed to explode and destroyed her helicopter. Unfortunately two of the other bombs did explode and opened a massive hole in the side of the ship. She quickly flodded, began to list and then capsized in just 20 minutes.

The scenario here represents a modified version of those events, with Mirage and Daggers replacing some of the A-4 attackers, and no Type 22 to offer short range defence. Perhaps, if you prefer, you can instead imagine that this is an attack on the fictional Type 42 HMS Oxford.

The Ginger One and Orc were the attacking Argentine planes and Goblin and MBB (My Big Brother) were the plucky British defenders. The Argentine forces were arranged in 3 waves, 4 Daggers, 4 Mirages and 3 Skyhawks. The Mirages and Daggers were carrying Mk82 retarded bombs and the Skyhawks had 1000lb bombs. One of the Daggers and one of the Mirages each carried 2 R550 Magic IR AA missiles instead of bombs. The SHAR's each had 2 AIM-9L sidewinders and a full load of cannon rounds. Argentine pilots were average and British pilots were Good.

The AirWar rules include stats for all of the aircraft and the air-to air missiles, plus rules for bombing ground targets and SAM's - but nothing specifically for anti-ship action, nor were there stats for the Sea Dart missiles the Coventry carried. I used the SART-M (Sounds About Right To Me) method to figure out the stats (I would have used the alternative Feels About Right To Me, but there were children present). I gave the Sea Dart a 25" range, with damage of 2d6 and a hit number of 7+ (it wasn't terribly accurate). Lock-on was by Coventry's radar, which I gave as 4+/60". I gave Coventry 15 damage points and said it was a Medium target. She had 2 Oerlikon cannons, which are in the main rules, and I also gave her her 4.5" gun too, with stats similar to a Soviet 100mm AA gun, but with a range of just 12" and a hit of 8+ using the Radar and 10+ optically.

The game was played on a 6 x 4 table with Coventry being 8 inches from one end. The SHAR's had to remain outside of her missile envelope, or the Sea Dart would shut down and refuse to fire as it detected friendly IFF in the area (not strictly historically accurate, but there was a policy of strict air "boxes" and ship "boxes" to stop the ships shooting down the Harriers).

The first wave were the Mirages. The SHAR's moved to intercept after being advised of the incoming bogeys by the combat controller on HMS Brilliant. Each SHAR fired a Sidewinder at a Mirage in a head-on attack. The new AIM-9L lived up to it's reputation and two Mirages were downed . A third AAM Mirage swung wide and attempted to come in behind the SHAR's for a missile shot, as the other two Mirages ploughed on for a high-speed, head-on gun pass with the Harriers. The aircraft flashed past each other and one of the Mirages fell flaming into to the cold North Atlantic and the other was raked with gunfire, jamming it's controls. But, that was OK, as the Mirage had it's target in sight now. The SHAR's didn't get off scott free, one took a few hits, one of which jammed it's cannons. The other was more severely damaged, crippling the aircraft.

View downtable. The sea is an old blue velvet pub curtain.
The two remaining mirages were now split up, one trying to bring it's guns or cannon to bear on the turning Harriers and the damaged one pushing on towards Coventry. As the lead Mirage passed into Coventry's missile envelope the SHAR's broke off to engage the undamaged Mirage behind them:

Crippled SHAR to the left. Centre SHAR performs a Hi-G YoYo as the Mirage turns towards Coventry. 

The mirage tried to slip in behind the Crippled SHAR, but a minimum range Sidewinder shot from the Harrier with the jammed gun ripped the aircraft apart. Meanwhile Coventry locked onto the incoming Mirage with her Sea Dart and loosed of two salvos of two missiles, plus shots from her Oerlikon and 4.5 inch guns. All of them missed. The battered Mirage dropped down to low level and released it's retarded bombs, all of which sailed clean past the Coventry and into the Sea. The battered Mirage made it's escape off the board to an uncertain journey home.

The British player elected to have the damaged Sea Harriers return to their base on Invincible and a replacement pair fly out. However, the journey time to and from the carrier meant that there would be no CAP cover to oppose the next wave of Argentine aircraft - The Coventry was on her own for now.

Three A-4 Skyhawks with 1000lb bombs were next. Their run-in to Coventry was unopposed and they managed to drop 9 1000lb bombs without a single hit. The Sea Dart actually managed to engage two of the Skyhawks and blew them out of the sky almost directly over the ship.
With the last Skyhawk Racing for home, and pieces of burning aircraft raining down, the two fresh SHARs arrived on the scene at top speed, just in time to see an oblique line of Daggers arrowing for Coventry. The SHAR's both loosed Sidewinders and one tracked and destroyed a Dagger, but the other failed and veered off course.
The rearmost Dagger is about to have a Really Bad Day. The front one will fail it's break turn test, but still evade the missile to find it's gunsight suddenly full of Harrier....

A turn of failed maneauvers all round put one of the Harriers right in the gunsights of a bomb-carrying dagger and the other in a head-on pass with the AAM armed Dagger. The head-on pass resulted in damage to both aircraft, The SHAR also losing it's radar. The bomb carrying Dagger, however, ripped into the other SHAR and tore it to shreds. The aircarft tumbled into the sea without the pilot managing to eject. At the same time, the other Harrier had finished it's gun run and strayed inside Coventry's missile envelope, shutting down the Sea Dart just as it had launched it's first salvo against the incoming Dagger.

Sea Darts track the Dagger as the damaged Harrier begins to recover from the gun pass with the AAM Dagger (just out of picture to the right) 
The next two phases saw the last Harrier demostrate the maneauverability of the tiny plane as the pilot stood it on it's wingtip and pulled the nose around in an extreme break turn to bring his guns to bear on the Harrier-killing Dagger, A long, revenge filled burst swiss-cheesed the Dagger, although the pilot did manage to eject. The other dagger tried a high yo-yo to bring him behind the SHAR. However, the Harrier anticipated this (if you win the initiative you move second, allowing you to react to your opponents maneauvers) and a Split-S brought it into a perfect, if a little close, missile shot that took the back off the enemy plane off.

Meanwhile, the last Dagger made it's run in to Coventry. The Sea Dart reset itself after the SHAR moved out of range and fired off two more of the gigantic missiles. The Dagger managed to avoid all of them, plus the hail of cannon fire. It dropped down low to the sea and released 6 Mk 82 "Snakeye" retarded bombs, flashing over the Coventry and away to wards home. The retard fins on the bombs popped open, slowing them so the fuses could arm and the Dagger could clear the blast zone.

Bombing in AirWar C21 is quite hard. You'll routinely have a base number of 9-12 to hit on a d10, so getting as many +'s to hit as possible is a good thing. Flying low gives a bonus (but allows AA guns to shoot at you), bomb computers give a bonus. The Dagger needed 7+ to hit with the bombs....

Hit! The Harrier surveys the damage to Coventry (in her new "bare plastic" paint scheme).
The Coventry was hit, taking 7 points of damage in one attack, and knocking her radar out. The last Dagger sped off the Table to return to Argentina with news of a downed Sea Harrier and a hit on the Coventry. The British had won the scenario as Coventry was still afloat and combat effective at the end. However, with two Harriers damaged, one of them crippled and likely not going to be airworthy again soon, and one Harrier and pilot lost, it was a pyrhhic victory at best.

Overall this was a really fun and enjoyable game. Everybody commented on how well the rules worked, and the turns passed quickly for everybody. We got a real sense of speed and manoeuvrability in the planes and the combat was fast and fun. The miniatures were a lot of fun to paint, but I need to get some more of the Litko peg toppers, as I depleted my stock with this project. The Litko flight stands are the best I've come across in ages and are now distributed in the UK by Figures in Comfort, which really helps on the horrible postage from the US.

The missile markers were made from pipe cleaners I picked up at £2.75 for 50 from a tobacconists (AGG didn't realise they were called pipe cleaners because pipe smokers use them to clean their pipes...). I burnt off the bristles from one end with a lighter (MUCH quicker than trying to cut or pluck them), painted the exposed wire white with a black dot at the tip and then added a yellow flame on the remaining bristles. I can't claim the idea as my own as I've seen it in a couple of different places, and you can even buy pre-made ones somewhere. I'm going to try and source a few small rare earth magnets to glue to the underside of the aircraft so I can use some cut-up black chenile bumps to indicate smoke from a crippled aircraft.


Jim Casey said...

Excellent AAR!

Jim Casey said...

Excellent AAR!

Armies Army said...


very cool

Particularly like the pipe cleaners! Ive a bag of them, however yet to open them

I will now :)

David Cooke said...

Entertaining report and with a realistic feel.