In the previous post, I was disappointed with the CMANO scenario I played. It was too hard for me, yes, but I also didn’t feel like I was learning anything by playing it.
This time I tried the scenario Deter, Detect, Defend, which takes place in 1962. I also got completely destroyed by it (the game said it was a disaster), but in this case it was a fun experience. Why the difference?
This scenario places you in command of NORAD Region 25, headquartered at McChord AFB near Tacoma WA. You’re charged with the defense of the major metropolitan areas of the U.S. Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. With several different types of fighter planes and interceptors (along with batteries of Nike Hercules Surface-to-Air missiles) you must stop what the Soviets have in store for your zone. It is a kind of slow-motion, low-tech Missile Command.
Part of the challenge is that the scenario poses that the nuclear war has escalated so suddenly, you start out on peacetime alert. You must make your initial defense with what is ready at the moment, rather than the full complement of forces.
This scenario is rated as more towards the easy side. If it weren’t for the low alert, the player would have more than enough interceptors to do everything he needs to do and more. What makes the scenario a bit challenging are a couple of surprises hidden away in it. Likely, reading through this, you’ll discover those surprises, which may ruin this scenario if you’re thinking of playing it. Consider yourself forewarned.
Even on easy, as I said above, I lost miserably. In stark contrast to the previous scenario, it is easy to tell why I lost and what needs to be done differently to not lose. Basically, there are a few incoming flights that, if you don’t have fighters in the air and covering the correct sector, you won’t have time to intercept them. Until they were on top of me, I did not realize that their direction was one of the approaches for the enemy.
For some reason, getting Vancouver nuked loses you the game. Hey, I didn’t lose any American cities! Shouldn’t that be a minor victory? (Just kidding, Canadian readers).
What’s fun about this scenario is not just that it is tense without being overwhelmingly difficult. It is also the array of weaponry you have at your disposal (and facing off against you.). The way the scenario starts, with your bases not being on alert, means your initial task is to chose the loadouts for your idle and reserve aircraft.
Some choice it is.
In this confrontation we ,the players, have at our disposal the latest in air-to-air missiles (AIM-4 Falcon) as well as a few exotic beasts. There is the AIR-2 Genie (sometimes called the Ding-Dong), a nuclear-tipped air-to-air missile. I guess that’s one way to be really, really sure you get the kill. You’ve also got your Folding-Fin Aerial Rocket Mk 4, aka Mighty Mouse. This rocket, designed for bomber intercept missions, was modeled after German WWII systems successfully used against American Bombers and intended to compensate for the extreme high speeds of intercept. Sadly, it wasn’t very effective. While the rockets’ detonation could do plenty of damage, accuracy was a problem. I wanted to give them a try, but never got the chance.
Carrying these instruments of the Atomic Age are an array of interceptor planes whose names are scarcely remembered. The F-102 Delta Dart, F-106 Delta Dart, and F-101 Voodoo were, at the time, the top of line. They came as part of the rapid innovation that occurred prior to the Vietnam War. In a few years, we will see technology start to settle into much longer development and operational times. Once you know a country’s platforms, you won’t need to know the exact year. But up through the early sixties, it sometimes could feel like a free-for-all.
When I was a little kid, I had a sticker book for aircraft. It took me from the first aircraft and the First World War up through “modern” designs, which in this case happened to be the early 1960s. It was not just warplanes; there was also an emphasis on some of the experimental planes pushing the speed and altitude records at the time. I can still recall the fascination with the shiny , futuristic jet designs with their exotic-sounding names. For the imaginative, this may have been the height of the “jet age,” or the “atomic age,” or whatever description captures the cusp-of-the-future state of technology of that time.
I am ignoring, in my narrative, the enemy’s technology. During play, you don’t get the focus of the details of the other side as you do on your own equipment. The fog of war often hides the opponent, eluding precise identification. Coming at us, we see a range of bombers carry nukes as well as cruise missiles, presenting an equally appealing view into the other side of the arms race.
One thing to remember, and it is highlighted in the scenario notes, this situation is all-but-impossible. The politics of the 1960s focused on the Bomber Gap and this beautiful array of American weaponry was likely made available as a result of this fear. But the fact is, well before this hypothetical attack took place, the upper echelons of command were aware of what the world now knows. It was the U.S. that had the vast superiority in terms of strategic resources. The USSR simply didn’t have the capability of launching a massive first strike in 1962, particularly not of the sort depicted here.
So we are left with a simple and fun scenario for playing some global thermonuclear war to pass the time. No complaints here.