Kuril Sunrise is the latest LIVE scenario for CMANO. The Steam page includes a simulated newspaper article and an exciting video that set the scene by telling us about the hi-tech Japanese navy and the Russian bear revitalised with battle experience in Syria. Unfortunately the video is the most exciting thing about this DLC.
If you are expecting to see much of the hi-tech Japanese navy, including the new Izumo-class helicopter carriers, as I was, then you are going to be disappointed. The Japanese naval forces are made up of one destroyer and two escort destroyers. These are supported with half a dozen diesel electric submarines, some F-15s, Phantoms, a few AWACS planes and 10 sub-hunting Orions. The rationale behind this is that the Americans have blocked access to some of their bases and that the Japanese are holding back other forces in case of attacks from other regional powers.
To balance things the Russians don’t have too much either. They have one modern Steregushchy corvette and four older Grishnas. These are backed up with 7 submarines including some powerful nuclear vessels. They also have a bunch of fighters (Mig-31, Mig-29, Su-27 and Su-33) some tankers, AWACS planes and 6 anti-submarine Bears.
This might be the smallest LIVE scenario that has been produced, although that isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I find some of the bigger scenarios too much to cope with. I’ve played and really enjoyed lots of small scenarios which have interesting tactical problems or events that mix things up.
My first playthrough was as the Russians: The object of the scenario is for the Russians to move a convoy of ten ferries, which apparently contain a massive Russian army, about 470nm to a landing point on one of the Southern Kuril Islands. The landing area is interesting as there’s nothing there – no land facilities at all – it’s just a region marked out with reference points. How the car ferries are going to unload all those tanks and guns is a mystery, but we’ll let the civilians worry about that!
I set up some air missions and plotted a path for the convoy down the east side of the Kurils that crossed to the west about halfway down. After an initial surge of F-15s from the Japanese, that did knock a big hole in my fighter cover, there was nothing. An occasional Orion showed up and was quickly swatted down while my anti-submarine planes systematically sank almost all of the Japanese submarines. The convoy trundled on unmolested and at one point I got so bored that I went AWACS hunting over Japan – nothing tried to stop me.
As the convoy neared the landing area I was sure that something would happen. Some Phantoms showed up and sunk my brand new corvette, but when I checked the score it was still zero so who cares?! I was sure that when I arrived at the landing point and the transports started unloading that all hell would break loose. However what actually happened is that the game ended. Instantly. I was awarded a triumph and for the first time ever when playing CMANO I didn’t think I deserved it.
OK… so maybe the scenario is really unbalanced against the Japanese? The next playthrough (which I did back to back as the first one only took about an hour) was as the Japanese.
The first thing I noticed is that the Japanese had no indication of where the convoy was going to end up. I thought this was a bit unfair as they would have a pretty good idea of where a bunch of car ferries were going to be able to unload, but in any event, it didn’t matter.
Reading the Japanese briefing I discovered why there might have been a lack of Japanese fighter cover in the previous game. The aircraft are blocked from a quick turnaround meaning that they have to sit for 20 hours after a sortie. I set up a fighter patrol over the area and fed in F-15s as required. They pretty quickly cleared the skies of Russian fighters and then shot down the Russian anti-submarine aircraft, while the Orions dealt with the Russian submarines. Pretty much exactly the same as the previous playthrough with the sides reversed. The game ended when the convoy met the lead Japanese submarine and was dispatched with harpoons and two salvos of torpedoes. Another triumph, another moment of unfulfillment.
The basic premise of this scenario, the transit of a convoy, is probably too simple on its own to carry the game. If there had been some events that perhaps triggered intervention by other powers, or release of more forces, then things might have been more interesting, but there’s nothing. The only events are related to scoring and to a couple of messages to the player.
Simple as the scenario is, it is made worse by poor mission design particularly on the Japanese side. The CAP mission feeds all of the Japanese fighters into an air battle early on, and they are then grounded for the rest of the scenario (although it nominally lasts 3 days, it’s all over on the first). This leaves the Orions completely exposed. I can’t understand why this wasn’t picked up during playtesting. I hate doing this, but I really can’t recommend this LIVE scenario.