Sunday, January 30, 2011

Crisis in the Middle East

One advantage of my newly fitted-out games room is that I can now set up small games and leave them in play for days or even weeks at a time.

I've decided to have a go at one of the advanced scenarios from Sixth Fleet.
This is one of my favourite board games. It covers the whole of the Mediterranean basin from Gibraltar to the Black Sea at 50 miles to the hex. Counters are individual ships or squadrons of aircraft. I like Sixth Fleet and the other games in the series because they put naval combat into its proper strategic setting. Ships enable you to deliver troops where they are needed to secure your military-political objectives. Aircraft and ships enable you to sink the enemy's ships to prevent him doing the same. Logistics ships and bases allow you to maintain your fleet at fighting strength while you do all this.

I'm solo playing scenario 9: Crisis in the Middle East. Syria has just launched a surprise attack on Israel. The situation in the Med has got hot fast and a US/Soviet shooting war has broken out.

So far I've managed to play two turns (16 hours of game time) Game Turn 1 was characterised by rapid dashes out of port by light, missile-armed patrol craft. Algeria and Libya have joined the Soviet/Syrian alliance and their missile boats have attacked Cartagena in Spain and Sigonella in Sicily damaging the Spanish Frigate Asturias and sinking the USS Aylwin.

Game turn two saw several of these boldly attacking missile boats wiped out when the larger NATO ships stirred from their harbours. The big news, though, has been the sinking of two Cruisers. First the Nimitz's air wing sank the Slava (and an ammunition carrier called the Voronezh - mistaken by me for the amphibious assault ship Vilkov) in a bombing raid on Tartus harbour in Syria. Then, after the Nimitz's protective Combat Air Patrol (CAP) had been forced to land (by an unlucky die roll), USS Texas was first damaged by Tu-22 Blinders from the Crimea and then finished off by Libya Mig-23s and Su-22s of all things. The Libyan jets were flying at the limits of their range having exchanged half their bombs for drop tanks.

The eastern Med is full of ships and subs and control of Beirut is looking likely to decide the issue. In the west, US convoys are forming up in Naples or around Gibraltar but they look likely to run into strong Soviet naval forces reinforced by the Libyans in the gap between Italy and the Libyan coast. Control of Malta could also be crucial.

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