Playing Alone #2.5 – Thunderbolt Apache Leader, Day 2

Iraq, 1991

The US government has given my squadron the task of intimidating the enemy with a massive show of firepower over two days. We have just one day remaining to inflict as much damage as possible. The first day was a resounding success, with two major enemy battalions destroyed. It’s time to take out the rest of the trash… Let’s roll!

Day 2

“Good morning, men. Yesterday’s mission… well, the one we actually flew… was a triumph. A real shock-‘n’-awe kinda thing. Pirate, Montana, Freak – you can all have an extra cookie at lunchtime.”

“Gee! Thanks, sir!”

“Now onto today. We’ve just had word from command that we have a serious munition shortage today. You’d think we might have known about that yesterday… well, we didn’t. So we’ve only got one SO point per mission to spend on arming your aircraft today.”

“Sir, what’s an SO point, sir?”

“Gator, don’t break the fourth wall. Basically, you’re going to be under-equipped one way or another. Deal with it. I can either send out small missions and arm them well, or big missions armed badly. I’m thinking I’ll go with the first option. Hopefully we can at least reduce some battalions to half-strength, even if we can’t destroy them. We get half the battalion victory points that way.”

“Sir, what’s a vict—”


“Yes, sir.”

“Pirate, Hammer, Grandpa – you’re taking out the air defence unit we missed out on yesterday. Montana… and Gator—”


“Yes, you, Gator. There’s an infantry formation on the front line. See what sort of dent you can make in them. I’d send Freak, but he’s a bit… well… freaked after getting hit yesterday. Just try to bring my Cobra back in one piece, Gator. Right, men – this is it. WHEELS UP IN THIRTY!”


Oh, if I could only afford better bombs...

Oh, if I could only afford better bombs… (Note: I forgot to put the Bullet Holes counter on the A-10 before I took the picture. Don’t worry – Pirate got his extra 1 Stress.)

Pirate, Hammer and Grandpa get loaded up with weapons. Our munition shortage could be a problem, but we only have eight units to destroy in battalion 12A, the air defence unit. Admittedly, they’re harsh, nasty, horrible units (four AAAs, two SAMs and two APCs, with the AAA and SAM units given an extended attack range in this battalion), but with all three pilots being “Fast”, I’m hoping we can take the vast majority out in the first Loiter turn. Pirate’s got three AGM-65 Maverick missiles on his Thunderbolt, alongside a cluster bomb, a standard 1000-pound bomb and a LAU-68 rocket tube (the LAU-61’s inferior cousin), with an ECM pod and fuel tank hopefully allowing him to survive long enough over the battalion to take the enemy down. Hammer’s Apache is carrying LAU-61 and LAU-68 rockets, along with some AGM-114 Hellfire missiles to deliver some medium-range pain. Grandpa’s Cobra has a similar payload, but replacing most of the rockets with BGM-71 missiles. They’re lighter than the rocket tubes, enabling him to carry a couple of them on his limited helicopter.

The inbound tactical situation

The inbound tactical situation

The target-bound mission event is a “UAV fly over”, giving +1 to attack rolls in the first Loiter turn. The scout helicopter assigned to this battalion gives us one extra Loiter turn – not much, but it should give us the edge. The enemy units are revealed to be really quite clustered again, with half of them in a single hex at the western edge of the battlefield. That’s a perfect target for Pirate and his Maverick missiles, and he leaves two AAAs and a SAM smoking on the sand, with a LAU-68 destroying the APC in the same hex. Hammer takes out the second SAM with his rockets, while Grandpa obliterates the APC and AAA in front of him. In the first Loiter turn, my guys have taken out seven of the eight vehicles in this battalion!

Unfortunately, Grandpa and Hammer are both in range of the remaining super-powered AAA vehicle, and Grandpa (being nearest to the enemy unit) takes two major hits: Structure and Controls. He’s halfway to crashing, and he certainly doesn’t want to attempt to fly over any ridges, but I hope we can get rid of that last enemy before it’s able to attack again. Here goes…

The battlefield after just one Loiter turn. Can the Lone AAA of the Apocalypse stop me?

The battlefield after just one Loiter turn. Can the Lone AAA of the Apocalypse stop me?

Hammer swoops round to the north, unleashing every single weapon remaining on his pylons. The AAA blows up with the first hit, while missile after rocket after missile slams into the wreckage. Massive overkill, but mission accomplished. Pirate leaves the battlefield on the second Loiter turn (!), Grandpa one turn later and Hammer a turn after that. On the way home, the “enemy supply convoy” event allows them to put their unused weapons to good use, spending 5 weight points of weapons to push battalion 3C back from our air base. That’s another 4 victory points in the bag; just one more mission to fly in this campaign.

Montana and Gator are taking on a whole infantry formation – battalion 10A. I’m loading them up purely with LAU-61 rocket tubes. They’re pretty easy to hit with, and there’s always the chance they’ll be retained for further use on the battlefield. Chances of destroying this battalion are pretty slim to vanishing, but we can hope.

I'm not sure even this many rockets can protect an AH-1 from its own fragility

I’m not sure even this many rockets can protect an AH-1 from its own fragility

Hope turns to optimism as the target-bound event is revealed to be an MLRS bombardment – I can pay 1 SO point to roll one attack on each unit in the battalion, with a 30% chance of success on each unit. Do I have that 1 SO point? Hell yes. Do I spend it? Hell yes. With enemy units in place and my boys flying in, the bombardment takes out six of the 14 units – 43% gone, and the battalion already reduced to half strength! The question is whether I can take out another six units (giving a “destroyed” result) in the six Loiter turns I have…

The MRLS bombardment has taken place – wow

The MRLS bombardment has taken place – wow

Montana dodges a bullet (literally) before destroying a truck and an infantry unit. Gator manages to vaporise a couple of trucks and moves east, before destroying an infantry unit at the edge of the battlefield (and retaining a rocket tube as he does it!). Seeing this, Montana swings back round, hoping to take on the two units sitting on the west edge of the area. In doing so, however, he leaves himself open to infantry attack from the east – he takes a structural hit, but the Apache’s a tough cookie and it’ll take three of those to bring it down. No way that’s going to happen today!

Gator comes round to attack the final infantry unit in the south-east, but disaster strikes. The LAU-61 rockets fly wide, burying themselves in the Iraqi sand and leaving Gator open to attack in the next turn. Montana, meanwhile, removes those two westerly units with deftly placed rockets. It’s one-on-one between the infantry and Gator – Montana now can’t get back over to help him out with that last unit.

Somehow… somehow… Gator strikes lucky and avoids the light hit that the infantry unit deals out. He’s having a good mission! But he’s still got to get out, and his egress route is over the infantry unit. He’s completely out of rockets, so it’s all just cannons now. The AH-1 cannon only has a 20% chance of hitting, so naturally he misses, leaving himself a sitting duck for another enemy attack. And, incredibly, it’s another miss.

First a hit with "AH-1" in the avoid box at the top, now this – Gator is indestructible

First a hit with “AH-1” in the avoid box at the top, now this – Gator is indestructible

Of course, Gator misses the infantry unit with his final cannon volley, and he and Montana head for home at the same time. Enemy fighters on the way back to base mean that we have to destroy a scout helicopter, but that’s no problem – there’s no time to fly any more missions anyway. The campaign is over!

Heading home after a job well done

Heading home after a job well done

With that battalion destroyed, my final VP total is 19. Let’s check the evaluation on the Campaign card…

Iraq 1991 campaign card

This reminds me – I shouldn’t have advanced any battalions at the end of the first day. No big loss.

Gaaaah! Yes, it’s Good… but it’s just one point away from Great. If I’d been just that little bit more adventurous with the choice of final mission, I might have had it. Or I might have been writing two letters home, explaining why I’d sacrificed their cardboard sons in a vain attempt to eke out a few more points. I’ll never know.

Lessons learned this time?

  • Green-level Gator isn’t necessarily quite the liability he looks on paper… at least when he’s getting lucky rolls. In fact, Gator’s quite the stress-sponge, especially at higher skill levels. I’ll have to keep him in mind next time.
  • “Fast” pilots and lucky clusters of enemy units can make things a lot easier. When I can take out a crowded hex of enemies on the first Loiter turn, the rest can seem like child’s play.
  • Don’t get complacent – it may have seemed easy this time, but next time I play a campaign I’ll undoubtedly get thrashed.
  • A two-day scenario isn’t nearly long enough. Next time I’ll tackle one of the meatier campaign–situation combinations: perhaps a six-day “holding action” in Iran 2014…


“Sir, yes sir!”

“Gator… well done out there today. Your momma should be proud, boy.”


One thought on “Playing Alone #2.5 – Thunderbolt Apache Leader, Day 2

  1. Owain Post author

    Coming back to this nearly a year on, I’ve come to love Gator and his stress-soaking stats at higher skill levels. He can take a hell of a beating, fly missions in enemy rear lines and stay low over ridges time after time.


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