The moment my TIGRE helo’s ran into a hidden SAM site coincided with an inbound strike of Chinese J-16’s. Decisions had to be made and not entirely comfortable ones. I had neither the resources, nor the time, to do exactly what I wanted to do. Instead, Improviser. Adapter. Surmonter. Sahel Slugfest was proving to be an interesting animal.
This review may contain information that spoils some of the surprises here. I’ll hide these behind a spoiler tag that all you need to do is click to see the information behind. As it’s not possible to do a full review without discussing the full aspects of the scenario, I’ll try to keep the picture broad in the beginning.
Sahel Slugfest is a CMO LIVE scenario released on October 15th of 2020. The LIVE scenarios are encapsulated scenarios that feature a near future hot spot. In this particular setting you can play as either the French-Chad military or the Chinese-Sudanese. The French have surface naval units including an aircraft carrier while the Chinese have submarines. Both sides have land based aircraft.
The big disparity is technology. The French are sporting a variety of Rafale fighters as well as some Mirage 2000’s. A smattering of TIGRE helo’s add some flavor along with some Chadian HIND’s. One large issue with the French is limited aircraft and distributed munitions. The Chinese in comparison have a large variety of aircraft with older styles of ordnance.
On the French side you have to coordinate a carrier group as well as protecting a wide range of air bases. One lucky Chinese strike and you can lose a bunch of aircraft or facilities. Once that happens you’re done. I had a strike hit one of my airfields and lost launch capability for about half the scenario.
But those same vulnerabilities are Chinese too. The Rafales carry stand off weaponry and good ones at that. A lot of the fun of this scenario was exploring weapons systems that I wasn’t familiar with and finding unique ways to get in and surgically knock out facilities.
The Chinese side is brute force and a good brute at that. Saturation is the name of the game while carefully maneuvering some of your more capable assets to help those more “expendable” units to get through.
The pace of the scenario starts out well. In the first 6 hours things become intense. The second 6 hours really depend on how well you managed to saturate or destroy in the initial moments. The scenario rewards diligent coordination of the carrier group. If you don’t, you’ll find saturation to be a deadly reward.
After about 12 hours I settled into a routine that, as the French, was spent waiting for assets to re-arm. My initial plan was really sidelined once I realized that the Chinese-Sudanese line was protected by very capable SAM sites.
Without proper SEAD or DEAD assets I had to rely on saturation, even with the French, in order to knock out some more stubborn sites. After that it was a methodical reduction of enemy assets. It was interesting to watch my mission shift and eventually settle in from my initial situation.
The issues I had were with scenario pacing. The first 12 hours were great. There was a wide range of new and unique threats. But once I dealt with the submarines, SSM BN, and eastern airfields the carrier group was safe. This asset could then re-arm and strike the central Chinese airfields. Same with the Chinese, once you eliminated or degraded the carrier group then things on that front became a bit tedious.
How to fix it? Well, a longer fuse on asset release. Maybe don’t make everything available immediately. Or allow an influx of assets from outside theater. Even seeing a patrol boat swarm emerging from Sudan would make those Exocet batteries shine and give the Chinese player a Hail Mary.
A political layer of some sort, even if it’s intel or basic would enrich the scenario a good deal. The neighbors are either no-fly or no-care, but marine traffic should be present. A potential neutral submarine would make the ASW more of a challenge as the player would have to positively identify subsurface assets prior to strike.
All in all for $3 it’s a great LIVE scenario. It’s refreshing to see something that’s not F-35’s stomping on everyone. 2nd tier (is the Rafale / SU-30’s 2nd tier?) equipment makes for some more interesting gameplay that isn’t the immediate and terrible violence that the F-35 brings to the table. I got a few good evenings out of it and enriched my knowledge of a very interesting air frame.