Battle of the Eastern Solomons

This is the thirdinstallment of Brian McCue 's ( groups' near-weekly refereed multi-blind playthrough of the, as he calls it, Full Monty Campaign Sequence.  Names are slightly changed by request to protect the innocent.   Different installments will be separated by horizontal lines.

Brian McCue

Last night we restarted the Solomon Sea campaign sequence, picking up where we left off and starting to set up Eastern Solomons. We had only Reese (the ref for this series), Cris (who has played the Americans in the past) and me (CO of the Japanese side so far). I am working on an alternative carry-over system because I can see situations (possibly including this one) in which Rule 2.2 gives results that don't seem to make sense. I've set out to make a roster of all ships in the theater and the battles in which they participated. This has proven unexpectedly difficult because the various sources, rightly recognizing that "participation" is a broad category that can include more than just ships that sighted the enemy or launched airplanes that sighted the enemy, draw the line in different places.

Cris and I completed our counter-picking and initial set-ups, but next week will probably start with some re-strategizing, and of course a brief rendition of the "There's No Way We Can Win" duet.

Last night we started the Eastern Solomons scenario (of the Solomon Sea "campaign sequence"), re-setting it up after some inadvertent displacements that had occurred during the week. We also were able to fix a few mistakes of last week, e.g., I got the extra two airplane counters/week of naval that had been accruing since the Battle of Midway. Reese said that these could be anything I wanted except 7-0-3 Zekes, so they were. Another mistake of last week had been not realizing how much carrier deck space I really had, but the extra 10 counters (actually, not quite that many, since I could not take ones for which I did not have room) made up for that. Cris and Ian were the Americans; I was holding up the Japanese end because Dean had to finish something at work.

After the set-up, we managied to play seven turns, i.e., the first of the three days. The Americans, with their penchant for strategic bombing, hit Lae and Buna with several air raids, losing 2-3 steps of counters and inflicting untold (to them) damage with their bombs. There have as yet been no airstrikes against ships.

Last night we finished the Eastern Solomons battle.

Cris and Ian were the Americans, Reese reffed, and I soloed as the Japanese.

My plan was the obvious one of doing the Guadalanal landing at night, with submarines in the area and the carriers on hand to counterattack against any American carriers. I really wanted to sink an American carrier, to catch up on VP, and I didn't want to jeopardize my ships any more than necessary to do the landing, so the jeopardy inherent in the carrier-hunting had to be one and the same as the jeopardy inherent in guarding the landing.

This plan worked in part; I did the landing, but lost the transports to land-based American planes (USMC, not Army, I believe) after the first turn of unloading. There were no carrier-carrier airstrikes, and at no point did my searches ever find any American ships, though Reese mentioned afterwards that there had been a couple of near-sightings by my submarines.

The airstrikes against Lae and Buna continued throughout. The mathematics of these is that they are a slight loss for the Japanese. The Japanese roll one D10 against each 3 counters of attacking bombers; Lae hits on 4 or less and Buna on 3 or less, so let us say that this die hits 1/3rd of the time, downing one step of air, and gaining the Japanese one point. (B-17s get to make a saving throw and are thus harder to hit, but they are a minority of airplanes.) The American bombers roll 1 D10 per step and mostly hit on 2 or less, with some hitting on 4 or less. So let us say that they hit somewhat less than 1/3rd of the time, especially considering that they might already have been shot down. So for each three two-step counters that the Americans send, the Japanese hit one step and get 1 point, and the Americans get two hits and get two points, or maybe slightly less; strategic bombing pays off for the Americans, as it should, and although the losses may accumulate over the course of the scenario, the Americans always get more airplanes for the next scenario.

Of course, the Japanese can commit some CAP, but I didn't want to do so. Paradoxically, the reason was that I didn't have many land-based bombers--just 3 counters of Betties, a Nell, and a very few single-engine airplanes. If I found the American carriers, I wanted these to be able to get through, so they would need escorts. In the meantime, the bombers and the escorts had to be safe in Rabaul, so Buna and Lae kept getting bombed.

I addressed this problem in two ways. One was luck @= ; I rolled a little better than average, and Ian a little worse than average, so the slow VP leak of strategic bombing was not nearly as bad as the calculation above would suggest. The other was that after my ships had retreated from Guadalcanal (at quite some speed, the transports having been sunk), I rebased fighters to Lae at the end of the second day (more luck--in the damage & repair random-walk, Lae was in good shape when I needed it to be), and ambushed the first raid of the third day. They were unescorted, and with some more good die rolling (and those factor-5 ground-based Zekes), I shot down a number of planes.

The margin of victory in this low-scoring game was 35-28 in favor of the Japanese; the difference being just about exactly the point value of the shot-down bombers.

[Ian: Our strategy was to fight off the Guadalcanal landing with submarines and the Cactus Air Force (Marines) while holding back our carriers until Wasp became available, which was not until the afternoon of the second day, all the while pursuing the bombing campaign on New Guinea. The Japanese transports got lucky a couple of times on their way into the island. First, air from Guadalcanal failed to spot them on the way in at the end of the first day. Second, the coastwatchers and subs failed to spot them as they arrived at the island. It was only at dawn on the second day that we found them and sank them. Since the Japanese fleet departed the scene after the landing attempt, we never had a carrier engagement. The bombing campaign went reasonably well on the first day but went badly on the second and third days as Japanese dice got hot.]

[Reese: Generally, the searches were not in a position to find the TT's as they came in (Brian did some odd zig-zag to assure they arrived at night). During the night turns, a -5 really hurts the chances of finding anyone. You did find two other task forces in the same hex as the TT's and attacked them with subs at night, but you failed to see the TT's.

Brian seemed convinced that the US CV force was right on top of him, but the two forces were never closer than five hexes away from each other.

[Brian: Well, it was the worst case, so I had to stay worried about it. I was thin on CAP, since I was trying to conserve some Zekes for escorting my planes, were I ever to find the US carriers.]

Brian's subs spent about four turns next to the US CV force, but either they moved out of the way, or the US dodged south to look for the Japanese who had already left.