I'm working through the standalone scenarios in date order, which brought me to Down Town, a strike by the US carrier Ranger against North Vietnamese defences around Hanoi in 1968.
You have a wide selection of aircraft with which to take out a couple of bridges. Against this is ranged a force of about 30 MiG-21, MiG-17 and J-6 jets, numerous Guideline SAM sites in a ring around the target and close-range portable missiles an AA guns. There are also three enemy patrol boats, but these are a distraction only.
There is an allied USAF strike which goes in first under AI control. It will probably take out some fighters and might do some damage on the ground, but it will be massacred by the defences. Nothing you can do about this, but it doesn't cost you points.
The briefing orders you to use all your aircraft at once. NOT a good idea, as it creates confusion and exposes planes to attack and the risk of running out of fuel too quickly. I went in with my 16 Phantom fighters in pairs, 6 Corsair attack planes with anti-radar Shrike missiles, plus two SEAD jammers and a Hawkeye AEW plane, leaving the rest on the carrier until later. It is VITAL to manually switch on your sensors, which are off by default!!!
By staying out of range of the SAMs and luring the Vietnamese fighters onto me piecemeal, I was able to shoot down 23 enemy for the loss of a Phantom to a plane which got lucky and evaded three missiles beforehand. Unfortunately, you get no credit for enemy planes destroyed, so the net result was MINUS 50 victory points!!
With the Vietnamese air force out of the way, I sent the Corsairs into a suitable central position, SW of the targets, to take out the SAM sites. These can't be attacked while their radars are switched-off but, fortunately, some are always on. I fired a total of 6 Shrikes. Two did significant damage, killing a radar token and seriously degrading a SAM site. The other four chronically malfunctioned. Worse, other SAM sites returned fire and scored two hits with three shots on roughly 20% chances (I was trying to operate near the limit of the missiles' ranges and running away when I could). Net result, the loss of another 100 victory points.
With little chance of completing the mission with my remaining three Corsairs, I gave up.
Essentially, what is basically a good, challenging scenario is ruined by over-harsh victory conditions. Destroying an enemy ground facility (damage doesn't count) scores 50 points, the same as losing an aircraft. This doesn't balance and, while there might be a massive award for taking out the bridges, I didn't get close to finding out. I could, of course, go back to earlier saves or replay the scenario in the hope of getting better luck, but it seems rather pointless and potentially frustrating.
Anyone have any better luck?