A blog about miniatures, wargaming, and the people driven to ruin by them....

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Shipwreck!: Attack Planes on Fire....

... off the shoulder of Hunan...

After some unfortunate delays, we had a chance to finally game out the mechanics of air combat.  This will probably be the last of the purely mechanical games we have, as we feel confident to start gaming actual scenarios.  Caveat, submarines might need some more mechanical gaming, but we will see....

Our first venture was a PLAN air attack on a lone USN Ticonderoga class vessel.  It has strong air defenses, and the PLAN aircraft don't carry very accurate weapons.... but they are effective if they hit.

Here is how it went down....

A pair of friendly H-6 bombers, flying in support of a pair of JH-7 fighter/bombers were conducting routine live munitions training a few miles off the coast of Japan.  Little did they know that a USN Ticonderoga had snuck into their training range....  the pilots of course released their ordnance (flights of C301s and YJ-81s) without realizing the danger, and the highly sophisticated weapon systems targeted the American trespasser.  In an act of belligerence, the Ticonderoga targeted the H-6 bombers at medium range and downed them both.

The JH-7 pilots turned 180º to escape the wrath of the capitalist running dog, and fully intended to file a formal protest with the UN once they were safely back on PRC soil.  In the meanwhile, the incoming missiles continued to close on the Ticonderoga... a few Japanese fisherman were witness to the following effective display of air defense weaponry

The Ticonderoga downs the high flying, heavy C301s first, as they are slightly easier targets and could cause more damage than the YJ-81s.
 The YJ-81s close....
 ...and begin to be shot out of the sky, as the Ticonderoga opens up with missiles, Phalanx, and guns...
As the PLAN player, I was delighted that 2 YJ-81s (out of the initial 4 C301s and 8 YJ-81s) actually got through the barrage of fire.  However, despite a reasonable chance of hitting, the target EW was just enough to make them both miss.  Bu hao!
The Ticonderoga lived to trespass another day, having downed 10 missiles and 2 bombers.  For fun (mostly for my fun, not his) I rolled the 2 YJ-81s as if they had hit, and scored a Cripple and a Light hit, meaning that if I had hit, I would have bagged the Ticonderoga.  And, the Ticonderoga had expended a number of missiles in defending itself from only 4 aircraft.  Something to think about in the future....

We then set up the opposite scenario, a USN air sortie against a PLAN ship.  This time, we allowed for escorting fighters, and a defending CAP.

Here is the PLAN Qingdao, a Luhu class DDG, on a peaceful humanitarian mission in the territorial waters of the Philippines....
And here comes a most definitely non-peaceful swarm of F-18 Hornets, the strike flight under the EW protection of an Intruder, with the escorts flying outside.
The Qingdao calls for the CAP, a pair of J-10s, who heroically attempt to interdict even though heavily outnumbered and outclassed.
The J-10s attempt to engage with their PL-11s, but miss their targets, as the F-18 strike aircraft release a pair of Harpoons each.  The Qingdao is out of range, and unable to assist.  Besides which, the Captain of the Luhu class DD is pretty certain he will have more things to worry about shortly...

The strike aircraft and their Intruder protector return to the Teddy R, while the escort F-18s agree to engage the advancing J-10s (after having fired some missiles at range, we wanted to see how dogfighting worked).
The Harpoons, being "medium" weapons, were too small for the J-10s to engage (or I would have used them that way), but as they were now close enough for my Crotale, I was able to engage one flight and score 2 hits for 2 shots!

The dog fights continued as the missiles closed.... the pilots apparently were a bit over excited, and everyone continued to miss (despite the odds, which should have seen someone being splashed here)... the F-18s were the superior platform, and I was beginning to worry for my brave pilots.  However.... the Harpoons continued to close....
... and through a combination of more Crotale fire and chaff, I was able to whittle the incoming ordnance even further, as the fighter pilots continued their duel....

... but in the end, it was not enough, as 3 Harpoons were able to break through, 2 of them hitting the Qingdao, and sinking her immediately (a Sunk and a Heavy hit).  Oops.... I guess we will have to bring the cultural revolution to the Philippines at a later time.  Meanwhile, an F-18 was able to finally splash one of the J-10s, an insult to injury as it were.

Overall, the air rules seemed to run smoothly... I had some confusion on where the CAP was placed, and how it moved in range bands.  With aircraft and missiles moving towards each other, there did seem to be something odd as the range bands are not "even" increments.  It did not hurt the gaming, it just seemed odd.  And, of course, for the mechanical games we were not worried about arrival times of flights, or them having to return to base without finding targets.... we wanted to see how the rules worked, and apparently they worked fine.

Despite my Qingdao being sunk, I was happy with the result.... it was no where near as protected as the Ticonderoga was, but, still, it was able to do a reasonable job of defending itself.

We will begin to game scenarios, which for the PLAN will actually make for more even games (my victory objectives are likely to be different than the USN objectives).  Anyway, until next time.... until next time....


  1. Nice report and useful comments. These rules are definitely on the want list now.


  2. A well constructed and informative report.

    Mal. Wright.

  3. I must admit I find the rules, while good, seem to be missing crucial information, or are contradictory. For example, the rules state a limited enfurance for aricraft, but don;t seem to list where it is? Data Link is apparently common to all modern aircraft/ships, but in the appendices, only one helicopter is listed as having Data Link. So it is these little oddities that annoy. Plus the layout is less than clear.. how about a complete turn sequence (with references to examples) in the rules itself.

    1. As a writer / publisher / owner of Iron Ivan Games, I have to say, I have a much better understanding of rules writing than I did at one time. And not everything I have written has been 100% clear... but I agree, some of the layout in Shipwreck makes it difficult to get the pieces together. We have found that we have to interpret portions so we can play. The good thing is, so far, it works. Its easy to follow, it makes sense (for the most part... the subs have some odd things), and by us gaming the mechanical side, we have been able to work out the ??? without there being an incentive for either of us to "win" the game, if you know what I mean.

      So, ultimately, I'd say that players will have to make some guesswork on their own, but the game is worth playing because its easy enough, but detailed enough, to be fun and accurate enough for general gaming. I am looking forward to the scenario games, and trying to "win" rather than just "learn".

      For example, the aircraft endurance, we have pretty much agreed on is scenario dependent. Are these Argentine planes in '82 flying at the very limit of their range with no time to hang out, or are these an F-18 CAP in '13 recently launched near their CVN with several turns worth of fuel left? I think that despite it not being defined, we as players can decide for ourselves how to define things like that. Not everything is that simple, but mostly its been working for us.

  4. Time to finish off my air I guess and get the INS and PLAN onto the table.

    Great report mate.

    1. Thanks. Looking forward to seeing the INS vs PLAN games... maybe we can get someone in our club to take the Indians too.


  5. I need to take another look at these rules. I was turned off on the submarine section but the ship to ship and air-attacks work well and are often very bloody.

    While my modern figures are limited I have a nice collection of 1/6000 figures for Cold War and Falklands.

    1. Jon, given the game scale, I don't think its incompatible to put 1/6000 stuff on the table with 1/3000 stuff.... the ships would actually be like lettuce seeds at the 1" = 1 nm.... I'd game on a table with different scales if need be.

      Everyone says something about the sub rules... the up side, its done in a way that does not disrupt game play, does not require a referee, or a lot of record keeping. However, it does seem like subs could use a bit more form, and may require more house rules than other sections. Played as is, subs are easy, but seem somewhat too abstract. I think plotted vectors, and different detection ratings for different subs, are steps in the right direction.

  6. Thanks for your report.

    Regarding subs, I wonder if it is actually more fun to have your sub be detected (but not localised) at moderate range because then you get to put the sub on the board and close range like a normal ship and hopefully get into attack position.