RogerBW's Blog

Eighth Harpoon PBEM AAR: Gulf Escort Deja Vu One More Time 06 April 2015

This scenario took a while, because two Blue players in a row became unresponsive and had to be replaced. But we got there in the end.

The missile boats started separately, and soon picked up enemy radar.

With some navigational confusion, the Canadian helicopter got out of position, but was able to get a trace on one of the missile boats.

The boats closed in on their target, and tracked the helicopter as it moved back to the north.

It got an active radar paint, and moved on to look for the other boat.

The missile boats separated, and continued to track both frigate and helicopter.

The helicopter continued its search pattern.

With radars being switched on and off, and multiple course changes, the frigate was never fully pinpointed, but the boats were tracked on and off.

The helo moved in for a visual ID of the eastern boat.

With a good cross-bearing on the frigate, the Iranians decided this was the moment to act.

As the helo got incautiously close to the eastern boat, it opened fire with its 30mm gun, and got a solid hit. The helo was shot down. (This is the first time that's happened in my runs of this scenario.)

The eastern boat launched missiles in the general direction of the frigate. The helo was able to report this in the moments before it went down; and they were tracked on the frigate's radar too. Sea Sparrow fire whittled that group down.

The frigate returned fire with Harpoons; the Iranians weren't able to track them, but could receive the terminal guidance radar. The western boat launched its own missiles, and was then destroyed.

Both sets of Iranian missiles were able to choose between frigate and tanker; the tanker's a bigger target, so most of them went for it. The eastern missiles were all knocked out by Sea Sparrow fire.

The western missiles split: three for the tanker, one for the frigate.

The missile heading for the frigate was destroyed by Phalanx fireā€¦ but with the reliability of a bad penny, once again the missile fragments did airburst critical damage, and the very first roll was the magic bullet of a magazine explosion in the port VLS.

What's worse, the two Harpoons fired at the eastern missile boat both missed.

The final defensive missiles missed as they lost guidance from the frigate, and the tanker took the other three hits, suffering engineering damage, major fire and flooding.

The Iranians' surviving boat could see that the frigate was gone from radar, and they could return and sink or hijack the tanker with gunfire at their leisure.

So a certain amount of luck on the missiles, but a definite strategic victory for the Iranians here. Thanks to Craig, Ray and Ryan who took the Canadian forces at various points, and to Todd on the Iranian side.

Lessons learned:

  • Yeah, low-probability magic bullet. Very bad luck. But now it's happened twice.

  • The more I run this, the more I think that exploiting radar horizons may be the key to victory. What the Iranians could really use here is coordination with a patrol aircraft, but they don't have one, either in the regular Navy or in the Revolutionary Guard.

  • You don't get any points for coming home with un-fired missiles. (All right, in the real world you might: they cost a lot, and there's a lot more sea to cover between here and safety. But winning this engagement matters more.)

  • More games starting soon. Give me a shout if interested.


  1. Posted by Ryan at 03:52pm on 06 April 2015

    Copying my comment form Boardgamegeek here:

    I was the final Canadian player.

    I had two basic goals in mind once I took over.

    1 Try to at least slightly obfuscate the tanker location to attempt to get both Iranian boats to be in one direction. Not really sure how much this matters since the ROE allow them to re-position before firing anyhow. But given less known rules, this seems a reasonable goal, so figured I'd give it a shot.

    2 Use the helo to spook the eastern boat with the goal of getting it to fire without synchronizing with the western boat. Again, given the ROE, he didn't have to do so. But when I was the Iranian player I had wondered if the rules weren't quite what I had been told. Maybe my opponent would assume the same.

    2 actually worked out. The eastern boat fired while the western boat was facing the wrong way.

    Now it was time to shoot back. While I was pretty sure there were only two boats, the briefing does mention the possibility of a third (I tried to act in accordance with the briefing instead of just planning on two enemies). With the gloves off, I wanted to be able to engage a hypothetical third target as soon as it was detected, and maybe get it before it could launch. This meant holding some missiles back.

    I assumed (correctly) that the eastern boat had fired all four missiles, and so considered it a limited threat. Tossed two harpoons his way to keep him on his toes and fired three at the western boat. Two missiles make a hit somewhat iffy, three seemed pretty solid. If the western boat hesitated, the harpoons might get there before he could fire. Doubtful, but worth a shot.

    In the end, my harpoons did not get to the western boat before he fired, but at least I was able to engage the two salvos with limited overlap instead of all eight arriving at the same time. If the escort had been able to continue to guide the it's defensive missiles, the freighter would likely have taken one (maybe even two) less hits.

    Once again, thanks to both Roger and my opponent.

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