Naval Battle of Guadalcanal

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

Brian McCue

Tuesday night we started the final scenario of the Solomons "campaign sequence," Guadalcanal.

I consciously skipped the "There's No Way We Can Win" Phase of the first player turn.

We played all of the first day and the first turn (a night turn) of the second day, and then stopped somewhat early because I had to get up at 0500 to go to Newport.

Japanese transports moving down The Slot were attacked by air, flipping two counters after an air battle involving some CAP that the transports were getting from somewhere. Again, the sailors noticed sounds of whales bumping up against the ships, and thought these to be dud American torpedoes. Their quaint superstitions were solidified, alas, by a whale whose collision with Kongo caused the poor animal to explode; Kongo was unharmed by this strange quirk of zoology.

I splashed an Emily through inattention to when night would fall.

Reese suggested that because (the Japanese) CAP CAPs a whole Task Force, the "CAP" box should be part of the Force boxes on the Generic sheet, v. individual boxes on each carrier. [Markus: I'll be adding these boxes on the Bay of Bengal record sheets as well, so that players can choose which to use.]

Last night we finished the Guadalcanal scenario of the Solomon Seas "campaign sequence," and therefore the sequence itself. Will and Don were working so once again we had Cris and Shawn on the Allied side, me as the Japanese, and Reese once again kindly reffing.

The surviving Japanese transports stayed at Guadalcanal and finished unloading while the carrier task force went South, looking for trouble. Just as our version of the Battle of Santa Cruz would have been better named The Second Battle of the Coral Sea, our Version of Guadalcanal should have been The Third Battle of the Coral Sea. I had six deckloads of airplanes and I was way behind on victory points, so I was highly agressive in trying to find the American carrier group and make sure that mine would be somewhere near when I did. When the transports were finished unloading, they split off alone to the North, and the rest of the surface ships headed South to help search. Three submarine counters also helped search, and the remaining Emily. [Reese: The loss of search assets severely crippled the Japanese efforts to find the Americans who were right on top of them much of the time. They lost one due to darkness and iirc another one or two due to attacking with "S" type bombers. ]

On Day Two, I had occasional sightings of the empty American transports (which I attacked; mine also got attacked) and when I noticed that search planes were sighting my carriers, I launched two blind Kate strikes into hexes that had been left unsearched by my various submarines, surface ships, and patrol aircraft. These strikes found nothing. Reese later said, and I think he was referring to this portion of the battle though it might have been Day 3, that at one point the two sides' carrier groups were in adjacent hexes and did not sight one another. [Reese: I was referring to the Westernmost advance of the Japanese Carrier Group in the Coral Sea. There was a turn when the Americans knew you were adjacent, and were pondering not moving and hoping you'd move into them. With only 6 DD's as screen, and the three American TF's having about 10 escorts, two BB's and (iirc) two CA's would have been free to attack the Japanese CV's.]

In the night between Day Two and Day three, I launched my Emily search early, so that it would fly out during two night turns, and land on the last day turn of Turn 3. The flight was in a straight line and would search the middle megahexes twice each (once outbound and once inbound), but by doing so I would be able to get a search to the extreme South of the board, at about the latitude of Noumea, where I thought the Americans were heading. My two groups of ships and my wall of submarines likewise proceeded S SW. The carrier group encountered the transports at night, and the carrier's escorts were able to do some damage. Japanese ships get a +1 to surface combat at night--later, I wondered if this +1 extends to turning the carriers' 0 surface combat abillity into a 1.

We were partway through Day 3 and I finally sighted the carriers when they ran over a submarine counter. Their escorts warded off the submarines, but the knowledge of their whereabouts was more important, and I gave chase with everything. An American air raid caught my other group and sunk Kongo, but overall the Japanese operated in an extremely favorable tail of the die-rolling distribution, including an instance in which 5 ships got 5 hits (needing 1s or 2s, and rolling two dice each) in AA shooting. After another turn of chasing it was clear that the Americans were trying to get off the board, and both sides asked Reese if he could somehow adjudicate an ending, knowing what each side intended to do. He made a die roll for another long-distance Kate strike, and this time I was lucky and was able to get the strike to the target--and the target was the main American group, not the transports! But the Kates were not strong, and were of course carrying bombs instead of torpedoes, so as to be able to fly the three hexes, and I was not able to sink the carrier.

Thus the game ended, and the Americans won the battle. I didn't bring the score with me, but I think it was approximately 100 to 64 in favor of the Americans. [Reese: Exactly correct, and while at this point the Japanese have 5 CV's, their carrier air was decimated. Even the fighter force was becoming weak, having only a step or two of 7-strength planes and maybe another dozen steps of the rest. (These are frequently one-step aircraft which are assigned to carriers with no counters to combine with.) ] Of course, they were ahead in the campaign anyway, so they won.

I really like the "campaign sequence" idea, though I think I would be happier with my ship carry-over rules, and something really needs to be done about the airplane counter situation, though I'm not quite sure what. Markus has done a great job on this, and thanks are once again due to Reese for refereeing it. I would encourage Reese to write out a turn sequence from the standpoint of the referee, noting all the conditions that have to be checked (e.g., sightings, counter-detections of search aircraft, false sightings, etc.) and, if possible, what die rolls govern each.