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Duelists 1989

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Duelists 1989 - 4/24/2020 8:07:08 PM   


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In this late Cold War scenario, an isolationist USA and divided Europe have left Britain and West Germany alone to face an aggressive USSR. A Soviet task group based on the helicopter carrier Kiev is sailing S towards the UK and a British squadron led by the helicopter carrier Invincible has sortied to take them on. You can play either side.

As the Brits, I found this one of the most challenging Command scenarios I've yet faced and it did not go well. You face the usual Soviet array of ship-, air- and submarine-launched long-range missiles with SAMs that sadly aren't up to the standards of their US counterparts and just six similarly inadequate fighter aircraft. Your own weapons have a range about one-third of your opponents' and (while your ASW assets are up to scratch) the only card you have which would seriously worry a Soviet admiral is a squadron of 12 Buccaneers with 60nm range Sea Eagle missiles, based at Lossiemouth in NE Scotland (the Russians having no fighters). You have two subs with Harpoons, but getting them into action is difficult owing to the distances involved.

I wasn't at all confident and considered retreating to the SE of Iceland to get further from the Backfires and Badgers and lure the Russians closer to my Buccaneers, rather than the default reverse situation. Problem was that the starting score of zero counts as a Disaster anyway and there would be no guarantee of getting far enough, fast enough to avoid attack. So I opted to stay where I was, keep the radars off to be as stealthy as possible and use aircraft for scouting.

There are a great many neutral vessels around, along with some biological and false submarine contacts, but these are fairly easy to sift out. After about an hour and a half of this, a Badger recon plane came in from the E and, soon afterwards, a cluster of helicopters gave away the rough position of the Soviet carrier (though I remained uncertain as to whether they had split their force, which they hadn't). I was rationing my six Sea Harriers, but had one on-hand to intercept the Badger. It missed twice with Sidewinders on 83% and 85% chances and had its other two missiles spoofed. Overrode its RTB default and sent it down to 1,000' to engage the choppers with guns. It made heavy weather of this, but destroyed one Helix before running out of ammo. Not encouraging!.

The Harrier did get a sighting of the enemy fleet, though, so I scrambled all 12 Buccaneers to attack them. Unfortunately, they had much further to go than their counterparts....

A flight of Backfires came in over neutral Norway, with several recon Bears also in evidence. Attacked with my second Harrier before the bombers could fire. Again, two out of four missiles were spoofed (both on 10% chances), a third missed on 69% and the fourth hit but failed to down its target. Couldn't afford this. It didn't help that Backfires are almost twice as fast as Sea Harriers, which prevented a follow-up with guns as the Soviets launched and ran. My next Harrier couldn't get there in time. I guess I could have had a standing CAP in place in the locality, but this would have been putting all of my eggs in one basket and they might all have reached Bingo Fuel before any attack materialised.

A shoal of Kitchen missiles homed-in on my fleet. As keeping the radars off hadn't prevented detection by the fortunate Badger (and there was no chance of staying hidden given the number of enemy recon planes anyway), I turned them on to fight. There were issues with ships further away targetting missiles and inhibiting nearer ships from defending themselves (because the missiles already had SAMs assigned, even if they weren't going to get there in time) but I overcame this manually at 1:1 time compression. To my horror, the frigate Cleopatra showed no inclination to defend herself, even when the Kitchens got within the meagre 4nm range of her Sea Cats. Checking, I learned that the Sea Cat can't engage targets moving faster than 600mph - it's a truly hopeless SAM!!. Needless to say, Cleopatra was sunk, but the rest of the fleet managed to defend itself and there were no more losses.

My third Harrier finally shot down the Badger after it became clear it wasn't going to get near the Backfires. It then used its sortie to dispose of two more choppers. All aircraft score 50 VP.

A rain of Shipwreck missiles then streamed-in from the NW. They must have come from an undetected Oscar sub (as they have a 300nm range, this was excusable) and, as I knew well from playing The Four Horsemen, the things carry 24 of them. Far too many to shoot down and, although I got the majority of them, a single hit was enough to sink the 2,200DP Invincible (the AI usually needs just one hit with a missile to sink a ship). Another did the same to the 1,760DP auxiliary Fort Grange (in Praying Mantis, I needed three Harpoon hits to sink a 1,030DP Sovremenny). With the Soviets also getting a cascade of VP for the Invincible's planes and choppers, things were hopeless and the score was about -9,400.

Played on long enough to counterattack with the Buccaneers. Unfortunately, the Soviet SAM cover was extremely strong and my 24 Sea Eagles scored just one hit on the Kiev (out of 12 aimed at her) and one on the Udaloy destroyer Admiral Spiridinov. Neither were fatal. Sea Eagles pack only a fraction of the punch of a Kitchen or Shipwreck, so this was not too surprising. To add insult (and incredulity) to injury, the cruiser Slava's Grumble SAM battery hit and destroyed two Buccaneers which were definitely beyond the weapon's publicised 50nm range (and Slava wasn't an imprecise contact). So the raid actually cost me 100 more VP!.

I will probably have a playthrough as the Soviets to see if I can discern any weaknesses thereby and report back, but I would expect to win easily in this instance. After all, the Russians had their surface ships' missiles, two squadrons of Badgers and a potential second Backfire strike in reserve and there should be no way the British ships can get within range of them.

I'm still learning about this game and certainly wouldn't call myself an expert, but I'm at a loss as to how the British can win this scenario. Any ideas as to what I did wrong or could have done better??

Post #: 1
RE: Duelists 1989 - 4/25/2020 1:43:39 AM   


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Your best option is to place your AEW craft in a forward-deployed position to detect any Russian reconnaissance aircraft before they get too close. The important thing to note here is that being seen as the British in this scenario is like being seen in a Monty Python skit instructing you on how to stay hidden.

(in reply to fitzpatv)
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RE: Duelists 1989 - 4/25/2020 11:28:06 AM   


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Yeah its been a long time since I played this one but if I recall and your description shows it - don't get detected.

So I think your fist instinct was correct, use distance as your friend. Your also correct that you cannot outrun the soviets but you need to put space between his sniffers and your ships. By having your AEW up and well forward with a single SHAR to intercept the Recon you should get a chance to knock them down.

Another thought is that this scenario pre-dates AC damage and the Badger/Bear recon are big AC, that might just tip the balance against you a bit. You may have to risk the tail guns and go for a gun kill - much better payoff than downing a Helix.

Your also correct on your assessment of Soviet missiles - they're huge: 1 hit = 1 kill on almost any NATO ship. Rule 1) Don't get found, Rule 2) Don't get hit, Rule 3) See rule 1.

SHAR FRS 1 is (que the ire of every Brit on the forum) pretty crap - but it's a lot better than the Yak-38s the Soviets might have so pushing your AEW forward is relatively safe.

The Slava is a beast! Almost equivalent to a Tyco for AD, much better than a Type 42, offensive suite to match most NATO Task Groups and good ASW/ECM to boot. If you have time in the scenario, work hard at getting those subs in place or your Buc's will have a hard time.

Thanks for the write-up


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(in reply to Eboreg)
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RE: Duelists 1989 - 4/26/2020 10:36:27 AM   


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Thanks for the advice. I'm sure you're right about using an AEW plane to spot the Soviet aircraft early and this was what I actually tried to do, only to throw lousy virtual dice as described above (Rule 3 might read 'don't be unlucky, because you can't afford it' !). I should have got the recon Badger and probably a couple of the Backfires before they launched. Definitely part of the solution, though. By the way, I agree about the Harrier - good against Skyhawks in the Falklands, but outmoded by 1989.

I played it as the Russians yesterday and it was, as predicted, a total slaughter with the whole British force (subs included) sunk for four Soviet aircraft (three due to very unusual circumstances). I won't give a blow-by-blow account, but here are some observations:

- The Brits managed to surprise and destroy my recon Badger with two Harriers (hoped to outrun them but didn't have time). Trouble is, it made little difference because the Soviets have too many recon planes with good sensors. I really can't see a way to remain undetected.

- The Soviets do have a few weaknesses. For a start, there aren't nearly as many planes as the 'Browse Scenario Platforms' leads you to believe. Most are down for maintenance and there are just six Backfires, with NO other bombers. Moreover, the Backfires are only allowed to attack once and they are not really as dangerous as all that. In each playthrough, they sank the frigate Cleopatra and hit nothing else.

- The Russians don't have any fighters (the Kiev only carries choppers). In theory, this gives the British planes the freedom of the board and, against the AI, this might be so. However, I came-up with an improvised solution by using Badgers and even Bears as auxiliary heavy fighters and these downed several patrol planes and Sea Kings with guns, albeit slowly and clumsily. The AI can actually manoeuvre them to use their tail guns, too. However, in one of the 'unusual circumstances', a Bear and Badger had a nasty shock when a Nimrod proved to have Sidewinders (and took a while before using them)!! I missed that bit of small print in my analysis. The Nimrod ate a SAM soon afterwards through getting too close.

- Another irritation for the Soviets is that there are exclusion zones around Scotland and Norway. Not only does this force them to fly around the North Cape, but the AI gets confused when patrol planes go RTB. They can't find their way home and the AI repeatedly overrules you when you try to help it out. Lost a Bear to this second 'unusual circumstance'. The Scottish zone stops you having Bears loitering over Lossiemouth waiting for victims, though you can do it just to the N.

- The real killer is the Oscar sub. It broke me as the British and, in my Russian playthrough, it sank the Invincible, Liverpool, Ambuscade and Battleaxe. As you really can't stop it firing at you unless you start running fast at the outset (perhaps), the only countermeasure is to send several Nimrods straightaway to the area E of Jan Mayen Island (where you shouldn't know it lurks), sow lots of sonobuoys and hope to find it.

- The Russian subs outclass their British opposite numbers in undersea warfare, having 22 and 54nm range weapons to the latter's 5nm Tigerfish. Also, they have three subs to the British two. You have very little chance of getting Sceptre and Torbay close enough to the Kiev group to strike with torpedoes and, though both got within Harpoon range when I was playing the Russians (probably because the AI is good at dodging around sonobuoys, which give a false sense of security), the SAMs just swatted them away.

- As related by Gunner98, the Soviet SAM cover (and the Slava cruiser in particular) is awesome. In my Russian playthrough, the Buccaneers attacked twice (unlike the Backfires in one of the few concessions to play balance in the scenario), launching 48 Sea Eagles in all. Neither they nor the 8 Harpoons from the subs scored a single hit....

- As if all this isn't enough, the Russians have 32 Sandbox missiles with a 300nm range to mop-up anything that survives the Backfires and Oscar. If that fails, they still have a similar number of 70nm Sunburns on the Sovremennys. The Brits have four frigates with 23nm Exocets if they live long enough. The Russians even have longer-ranged guns!!

- At 48 hours, the scenario is too long. Unless the British are very cagey, it will be over in a fraction of that time, but the AI doesn't know when to quit and you theoretically have to let the clock run to the end. Lost patience as the Russians, withdrew to the ENE (though I probably still had enough SAMs to stop a third Buccaneer attack and the Brits had one Nimrod left to spot for them) and haven't actually finished the game yet. Probably won't.

- I might try to get a better result with the British using a cautious policy, but a score of zero is still a Disaster, so there isn't much hope. Fact is that the scenario is seriously unbalanced. That's not to say it isn't 'historically' accurate - I'm glad it didn't happen in real life!!!

(in reply to Gunner98)
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RE: Duelists 1989 - 4/26/2020 3:44:05 PM   


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Just tried this scenario as the British and got a Triumph at 11550 points. The way I avoided most Soviet attacks was to set the Invincible CVHG's doctrine to don't ignore EMCON when under attack. I was unable to stop the Backfire attack managing to lose both the Cleopatra and the Newcastle to it but because the rest of the British ships didn't blast their radars during said attack, it didn't escalate into something much more serious. I then spent some time picking off Soviet patrol aircraft and helicopters when I got an alert that the Invincible was running low on Sidewinders. Quickly making sure all of my Harriers were set to the Ferry loadout, I began relying on the Harrier's guns instead of Sidewinders to take out enemy aircraft and boy were those things inefficient! Unlike in my previous playthrough where one Harrier managed to get ace in one sortie picking off helicopters, I could only reliably get one helicopter in one sortie this time around and if I was really unlucky, not even that. The Sea Eagles and Harpoons were as useful as ever with the idiot Soviets never turning their radars on but I had to attack from the flanks instead of the front like usual but I had to allocate my Sea Eagles carefully, 12 to the Kiev and 12 to the Stoykiy the first time around and all Sea Eagles hitting the Marshall Ustinov the second time around. Harpoons were useful for taking out the less well protected ships (or just crippling them) and a Sea Eagle salvo from Harriers launched from the Invincible managed to fatally damage the Admiral Spiridonov. I then finished off the Admiral Tributs with Paveways which caused a bit of a brown pants moment when it turned out that its SAMs were still operational and there was a cloud bank that bottomed out at the max altitude for said SAMs but luckily, the ship sank before the SAMs could connect. Now you might say that 2 days is too long for the Soviets to win but it is definitely just enough time for the British to win. There is an "End Scenario" button on the scorechart for a reason.

(in reply to fitzpatv)
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RE: Duelists 1989 - 4/28/2020 7:53:42 PM   


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You've rather stolen my thunder there, Eboreg!. I'm in the process of trying again with the Brits and am well into the scenario on a Major Victory having not lost a single unit, seen-off the Backfires and sunk the Oscar. I'll detail how next time.

What I don't understand from your post is the Soviet fleet not turning their radars on. I've made one Buccaneer strike so far this time round and the Russians were their usual efficient selves, knocking down all 20 Sea Eagles aimed at them. There was some consolation in that two of my planes went around the flank and sank the Boris Chilikin, which is outside the SAM umbrella.

(in reply to Eboreg)
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RE: Duelists 1989 - 4/29/2020 3:01:44 PM   


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So, the British CAN win, after all!! It really helps if you know roughly where the Russians are and what they're going to do and, even with these conditions, it's far from a sure thing. This is how I did it..

The first thing to realise is that your orders are suicidal and that you cannot possibly defeat the Kiev Task Force with the Invincible group. So, don't try - in fact, avoid them like Covid-19! All ships and subs were ordered to retire S of Iceland at Flank, keeping their radars off but using AEW aircraft.

Second thing, only use your choppers for local ASW patrol and don't use the Lynxes at all. The AI can't handle the Bingo Fuel calculation when you are steaming away from the patrol zone and I had to start again when this led to several choppers crashing. Lynxes have no sonar, anyway.

You need to concentrate on hitting the Soviets where they are vulnerable - their subs, aircraft and the supply ship Boris Chilikin, which trails the main task force outside the SAM umbrella. Doing this and avoiding losses, you can score enough points to win.

For some fine-tuning, use the Formation Editor to move HMS Cleopatra away from her exposed position and towards the centre or SW of your task force. She'll probably survive the Backfires that way, with the competent Edinburgh (my home town), Newcastle and Boxer to shield her.

Vitally, send three Nimrods to patrol the area E of Jan Mayen Island and search for the Oscar before it can attack you.

The Soviets sent-out their recon Badger, but it wasn't so lucky this time and died quickly. This didn't prevent the Backfire attack, but I had Harriers in position, timed it about right and shot down one of the bombers and a Bear D. This reduced the number of incoming Kitchens and, with Cleopatra out of harm's way, my destroyers were able to cope. Of course, this wasn't a given.
This time, I knew the Backfires weren't coming back and that there were no other bombers. One threat removed.

Crucially, the Oscar then rose to fire, but was promptly pounced upon by a Nimrod and sunk with two homing torpedoes. At this point, I began to believe. Maybe I was lucky and it could well be that this won't always work.

Note that any planes approaching from directions other than the North Cape are going to be neutrals, though one or two Bears worked their way round to the NW. The number of civilian/commercial air contacts causes a constant nuisance, along with the myriad neutral ships out there.

Rationing my Harrier sorties, I picked-off the Bears and recon Badgers one-by-one. Found that you really need all four Sidewinders to (almost) guarantee a kill, one Badger being missed twice on 81% and spoofing a third missile on 10%.

As there was little to lose, I mounted a Buccaneer strike on the Soviet fleet, being very careful in respect of the Slava Ustinov's out-of-range shooting last time. This didn't recur, but all 20 Sea Eagles aimed at the two Udaloys (which I considered realistic targets, being sinkable with 1-2 hits and at the edge of the enemy formation) were shot down by SAMs. However, I hedged my bets and sent two Buccaneers round to sink the Boris Chilikin, which they did easily enough. This got me into Minor Victory territory.

Having Harriers to spare, I sent some to harrass enemy choppers while disposing of the last few Bears (the Russians didn't use their Bear F ASW planes). It needed care near the edge of the SAM umbrella but, without Eboreg's ammo problems, I took a steady toll with Sidewinders. Nimrods with Sidewinders were useful in this role, as they have greater endurance. This process got me to the 5,000-point Major Victory threshold.

Eventually launched the second Buccaneer strike (you only get two). Having read Eboreg's post, I surmised that turning my radars off might give me an element of surprise. Doubt if it did, really. Tried to fire all missiles at the Slava, but issues with game mechanics delayed six missile launches and I re-directed these at the Udaloy Admiral Spiridinov, on the basis that the Slava would be distracted. While this was going on, a neutral blundered through the Russian fleet, delaying the attack. While I was distracted by this, one of my ASW Nimrods mindlessly flew into the SAM umbrella under AI direction and was downed - my only loss of the playthrough.

I watched the Soviet emissions closely and found that, while their radars were, indeed, off to begin-with, they came on as soon as missiles were spotted. Of the 16 missiles aimed at the Slava (Ustinov), one managed to hit and this was ultimately fatal to the cruiser. Disappointingly, though, it was only worth 1,000 points (the same as the Cleopatra). All 6 shots at the Spiridinov failed. That SAM cover is really quite my reality, anyway.

The rest of the game dragged a bit. I shot down some more choppers (15 in all) and a Nimrod put a Harpoon into the Spiridinov, leaving her dead in the water. Disappointingly, a second Nimrod Harpoon attack failed to finish her off despite being planned to avoid SAM cover - the Udaloy still had some SAMs left and they saved her.

So it ended as a Triumph, with a score of 6,500 and just one plane lost. Satisfying, but I maintain what I said about play balance. If I hadn't sunk the Oscar or if I'd been unlucky with the Backfires, it might have been a different outcome.

(in reply to fitzpatv)
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RE: Duelists 1989 - 6/20/2020 2:30:34 AM   
jason oates


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I had a couple of attempts at this but it was a long time ago. Beaten soundly the first time i realised that my main striking force were the Buccaneers.I decided to draw the Russians as far South as i could and thus gave me a much shorter flight to the targets. The Russians advanced eagerly and fell into my trap. The Buccaneers did their thing at MUCH shorter range. The Nimrods out by Jan Mayan are a good idea. You need to run away a lot to get that distance down. Yes i won which is a novelty. Try Kingdom Come from the player scenarios for a real challenge, at least for me.

(in reply to fitzpatv)
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RE: Duelists 1989 - 6/22/2020 8:58:16 PM   


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Not sure what difference the shorter flying time makes. Presumably, you were still limited to the two sorties per plane, given the readying times and ammo limitations?.

The big issue with attacking with the Buccaneers is that the Soviet SAMs can shoot down most, if not all of your Sea Eagles, regardless of range. Nevertheless, as evidenced by your, mine and Eboreg's playthroughs, it IS possible to score hits (especially on the Chilikin) and this can make the difference between winning and losing.

I'll bear Kingdom Come in mind, as and when I need humbling....

(in reply to jason oates)
Post #: 9
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