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Subject: AAR from Gameaholics "King Of The Hill" ladder competition rss

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Daniel Blumentritt
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The Background

I think it has been too long since we had session reports of this great game, so I'll be posting a couple of replays here from GameAholics, which hosts various play-by-email competitions for Victory in the Pacific, Gangsters, and Hoity Toity. This is posted with permission of GameAholics. All images are screenshots from the Victory in the Pacific module for the Vassal Engine game aid.

The "King of The Hill" ladder is an ongoing competition open to any and all interested players where after each round all the winners move up to the top half while staying in the same order relative to each other, and the losers into the bottom half while also staying in relative order, and then each successive pair of players matches up. So, to reach the #1 spot on the ladder, a player must win multiple games in a row, and then to stay there, continually face the newest #2 player who will likewise have had to win several in a row to get there. Further details of the format can be found on the GameAholics site.

The Players

Ed Menzel at this point - Round 41 of the ladder (to January 2012) - had been at the #1 spot for 5 straight rounds and a record 8 total rounds, had 2 World Boardgaming Championships and 3 (won consecutively) Midwest Open VITP titles to his name, and a 6840 rating in A.R.E.A. 5000 is beginner and 6000+ is very good; getting to 7000+ is rare. Ed Paule was #2 on the King of the Hill ladder and was vying for his first #1 spot there, was the defending World Boardgaming Championships winner of Victory in the Pacific, and was rated 7225 by A.R.E.A. Menzel played the Japanese for a bid of 6.5 POC (applied at the end of the game), and they used two minor rules adjustments to prevent turn 1 blowouts before either player has made many real decisions.

I believe even those who play at an occasional and/or casual level can learn a thing or two from Ed & Ed along with the enjoyment of seeing a well-played and closely-contested match. Now onto...

The Game

Turn 1

USN comments:
The IJN starts with hot dice on round 1 and follows it up with even more hot dice on round 2. Both British ships and the LBA are sunk in Indonesia. Only one ship escaped Pearl - a damaged BB. Her escape was ever so brief, as a lurking I-Boat sank her just outside the harbor. The IJN are off to a great start. But as I always say, I'll trade bad luck on turn 1 for good luck on turn 2 any day of the week.

IJN Comments:
A very nice start for me marred only by Groups X & Y showing up in HI; Saratoga & Lex promptly scoot off to Australia.

Turn 2



USN comments:
With no surface force to speak of, I have to limit my patrols to just minor Allied vessels. Ed will probably hit me with a massive 2-area attack if I don't put all 3 LBA in the Mandate. I can't afford any more surface attrition, so all 3 LBA in the Mandate is a no-brainer. Ed puts enough ships in Hawaii to make day or night very unappealing to me. I need to be very careful with my carriers. If I lose too many here on turn 2, this game will be over fast. I send out my raiders to accomplish 3 things: 1) save some bases - Attu and Dutch Harbor, 2) generate positive surface attrition (aka sink as many of his exposed CAs as I can),and 3) minimize the exposure to risk for my carriers.

In Indonesia, the British decoys suck out all the hits Ed would get in the first round of combat. One British BB is sunk and two more sent back to Ceylon with damage. I sink his CA in the Coral Sea. I sink two more CAs in the day half of the round in the Mandate. We each lose a CA in the night half. In the NPO, Aoba disables De Ruyter then runs away. The big battle in the Aleutians is all U.S. - Hiryu and Soryu can only manage to disable two of my decks in the day half. My return fire sinks both CVs and disables Tone. The night half lets my cruiser fleet gang up and destroy Sasebo. The I-Boat then whiffs at my remaining deck.


IJN Comments:
I toy with the idea of a 2 area attack in spite of the 3 USM LBA but the 2 CVs in Australia put too much pressure on me, so I abandon that idea. I go with a one area attack with LBA/carriers guarding the perimeter. I’m looking for CV attrition if he attacks me there. But it’s all USN, as I lose 2 CVs to none for Ed and lose the surface attrition battle. Sigh. Five pristine USN CVs prowling the seas is not good news for the IJN. On the bright side: POC goes to 18 and Singapore, Philippines, Lae and Midway all flip to the IJN due to isolation.

Turn 3



USN comments:
Although I escaped turn 2 without losing any carriers, I’m still on my heels. I’m prepared to defend Hawaii if Ed is understrength there. But he isn’t. So I’ve got to defend the Mandate and Dutch Harbor. I give up any pretense of holding the POC down and ignore Coral Sea. Looking ahead to next turn and the probable fight for Guadalcanal, I’ll attempt to flag SPO this turn. My surface fleet is likely to take it on the chin again; but I hope to get favorable attrition against his carriers. But this does not occur as Hiyo escapes destruction in the Aleutians and all my LBA fail to sink anything in Hawaii. I do manage to sink his three carriers in the Mandate; but I also lose three carriers (Ed is making up for those he missed on turn 2). Fortunately for me, I do get the flag in SPO and improbably the flag in the Coral Sea too.

IJN Comments:
I need to force some action where I can get shots at his CVs. With that aim in mind we send task forces to the USM/AI and an LBA each to SPO/Marshalls. A very nice first round for me, as I sink 1 CV each in the USM, SPO and AI while the USN whiffs in SPO, sinks the marine but whiffs on my CV in AI and unfortunately sinks 2 of my carriers in the USM. The IB whiffs. But I start to salivate when Ed says he will stay in the SPO/AI and it is day in both areas. I am favored to hold the SPO and have a 66% chance to sink at least 1 more CV! Obviously Ed thought the game situation mandated the gamble but I like my chances. Unfortunately the dice forgot who was favored as I whiff in both areas and he downs my LBA and (thankfully) only disables Hiyo. A CA vs CA mano a mano in the CS makes me a favorite to flag the area – helpful for POC and more importantly blocking Australia ships from the USM/HI. Unfortunately the favorite loses again when the Aussie CA holds the area. Aack! Both of our air arms shoot poorly in the HI as I down only 1 LBA and he doesn’t sink any CVs. Ensuing night action sees both his marines and 3 BBs sunk for the cost of 1 CA. The USN then runs to preserve the LBA. The POC inches up to 21.

Turn 4




USN comments:
Although I had given up on keeping the POC down last turn, the 4 POC swing in the Coral Sea keeps that option in play. And that’s the plan for this turn. I look to decontrol Japan and the Marianas and if I can get lucky, flag Japan and/or SPO. Besides the POC, I’ll look to hold Guadalcanal and be prepared to go after Lae and/or the Philippines next turn. The day-followed-by-night result in Japan is ideal. Hiyo puts 2 damage on Yorktown while my carriers remove both his battleships. I sink Hiyo at night while she misses my patroller. It’s now down to the I-Boat… which sinks my patroller. Bummer. In the South Pacific, I save Guad and sink Shokaku and Akagi. But never get a chance at the flag.

IJN Comments:
Patrollers are on station in the USM to tie up some LBA that would otherwise go to the SPO. The USN Northeast corner bases and task force are a pain for me. But I need Guadalcanal more so my two marines go south along with most of my fleet after Ed puts 3 LBA in the USM. Fortunately I win the SPO but do not get the base and lose 2 badly needed big CVs to boot. In the JI, the Hiyo hits Yorktown but only for 2d, so she will live to fight another day. I end up having to shoot the sub at his patroller instead of a CV – always a disappointment but at least it saves me 3 POC. POC inches up some more to 24. But can I get to the 29 next turn I need with the 6.5 bid??

Turn 5



USN comments:
My plans to keep the POC down have failed. In order to have a chance in the end game, I’ll need to save Guadalcanal again, and capture Lae. Which I’ll look to accomplish by threatening to take the Philippines. Things go according to plan. Ed’s attempt to take Guad using the back door is thwarted and I invade Lae from SPO. I almost get the Philippines too as one marine is sunk and the other gets 4 damage (and disabled, sadly). The British carriers are useless against the IJN; but at least they had a chance to inflict some damage. However, I do manage to get some positive surface attrition for a change as I bag five cruisers (CS, SPO, Aleut). But this is offset by the I-Boat sinking Lexington.

IJN Comments:
This is a hard turn for me. I need to hang on to Lae/Philippines, build POC, and flag my front line for a T6 perimeter. That is a tall order and I don’t really have the resources to make me a favorite to pull it off. With double patrols needed by me in several northern areas to hold onto POC, the USN will have surface superiority in any SPO or CS fleet fight. So after much agonizing and only 1 USN LBA in the CS, I go for the back door to Guadalcanal. My SPO LBA will hold the area if one of my CS marines can grab Guad. If I can get day there, he will only have 4 bonus and 4 non-bonus shots for the two marines – a 35% chance of getting the base. The rest of the fleet goes to Indo where I count on the flag and air superiority to prevent any USN marine landing.

In the ensuing Indonesia action, both marines are removed to fend off that threat. I get my CS day but fail in my attempt to get Guad. I can’t win the SPO with my 1 LBA and decide to accept the USN request for night. I don’t have enough to hold Indo and the Marianas next turn and I will need that LBA for whatever T6 defense I decide on. Unfortunately the night action is all USN as my 3 CAs whiff and the USN sinks my CAs over 2 rounds of action. Double Aack! Where is that vaunted bonus CA firepower?? My surface fleet is getting hurt which is bad news for any T8 big fight. At least the I-Boat whacked a CV in the CS! My 3 CAs also outduel Idaho to give me the NPO flag. I have a major hole in my perimeter in the SPO, but I ring the 29 POC bell.


Turn 6



USN comments:
So far, I’ve succeeded in holding onto the bases in the NE corner. Holding these bases is key for the endgame, so Ed preserves his fleet for later as he raids into Hawaii. If I can hold Dutch Harbor this turn, then I’ll be in a very good position. But alas, the key day/night roll in NPO goes Ed’s way.

IJN Comments:
More agonizing over my move. I have to hold the POC rich HI/JI. I don’t see a way to also have a shot at the Marianas - I’ll just get hammered. I could send 2 big BBs to the Mari’s in an attempt to take out his patrollers. But it is only a 33% chance for success and I just don’t have enough surface fleet to afford that. That is a real bummer as it likely means he will get Truk on T7 and nice basing for T8. So I go after the NPO and try for the NE corner – again! With a marine in AI and NPO and 3 USN LBA in each area, I calculate the probability of getting Dutch Harbor at 72% with a 15-20% chance of getting both DH and Attu. I do get night in the NPO to take DH and get the NPO flag. No luck in the AI as Kure is disabled. POC drops to 26.

Turn 7



USN comments:
Losing DH last turn was a 4 POC swing (two for turn 6 and another two this turn). As such, the game is now likely to come down to a big battle in Japan on turn 8. After patrolling enough to secure flipping lots of bases, especially Truk, I have insufficient surface forces to challenge Ed in CPO. I raid my carriers to Japan in a preemptive strike to reduce his LBA numbers for turn 8, and a surprise first round night action allows me to bag Ryuho. Then we exchange an expected two USN CVs sunk for 2 IJN LBA sunk. I save Attu and the F-Boat marks her appearance by rolling a ‘1’ against Zuikaku.

IJN Comments:
At the end of T6, I had based a large portion of my fleet at Pearl to threaten a POC take away of the HI on T7. I didn’t expect the USN to under-patrol the HI, but I wanted to be able to take advantage of it if they did. But of course, they didn’t. The USN Marshalls/Mari’s patrols are heavy enough that POC take-away raids there are very unattractive. Suicide CVs in the HI to remove his marines doesn’t look attractive either. My marines will of course try to get Attu yet again. I have almost a 50% chance of having a marine survive his attacks or slipping through at night. But I don’t want to bet the game on that being successful, so I look for other opportunities.

After mulling several options, I finally decided on trying to hold the JI and CPO plus the NPO. I’ll be favored in the JI if he brings his air; then it is a question of who gets the better of the attrition. I’ll have a big surface wrap in the CPO and the flag. A night action would put him in a lot of hurt. If I hold these areas and I get Attu in the Aleutians, I will only have to decontrol the JI on T8 for the win. The USN goes for the JI and LBA attrition (which is what I would have done). The USN wins the attrition battle downing 2 LBA while losing 2 CVs with none of the others damaged. Unfortunately the USN again turns back our assault on Attu. Sigh. POC now at 18, which is effectively only 11.5 considering the bid, so I will need to control the JI on T8.


Turn 8


NOTE: unlike with the other turns, the board situation here is shown after the first round of combat.

USN comments:
It’s “all in” in Japan. I need to decontrol the area for the win. I figure the odds are slightly in my favor. But that doesn’t last long. Ed’s round 1 dice are extremely hot – knocking out ten, count ‘em – ten, of my carriers; including all my big ones. As I’ll only have 4 light carriers for round 2, I need to get rid of the LBA fast. But my shooting is the exact opposite of Ed’s. I only manage to remove 3 of his units. Now my only chance is for night action, as I have a three ship edge. But after two more rounds of day action, it’s all over. Congratulations to Ed on a tough, hard-fought game.

IJN Comments:
Although I look at several options, the best choice is clearly the JI. I rate the air fight about even but the USN has a surface wrap of three. So I’m looking for a lot of sun in this fight! In a first round day action, I shoot very well as I remove 10 of 13 targets including all his big CVs. With only 4 CVLs left, the USN will probably double up on my LBA leaving some of my carriers free from attack. That is what Ed does. But the USN shooting is really ugly as 2 LBA are downed but only 1 of 6 carriers removed with 12 bonus shots. The F-Boat chips in by taking out a big CV, but I am left with greatly superior airpower. A pure night action might turn this around, but it is not to be. Two more pure day actions lock the JI up for me and a 0.5 POC win. This was one of the closest and toughest games I’ve played for a while. As expected Ed Paule played very well giving me all kinds of tough choices – especially turns 3-8 (so basically the whole game!!). All that makes it a lot of fun.

USN final thoughts:
It was indeed a fantastic game. A whole lot of fun (for 7.5 turns) It’s painful to be diced so badly the first round on turn 8. That battle should have gone 9 rounds with one of us only barely squeaking it out.

Neutral final thoughts:
Note how both players were continually adjusting their plans and goals to fit the situation. This game well illustrates how tough the Japanese position is to assail if they both hit 29 POC and hold Hawaii without taking destructive attrition, but the keys for the Allied near-comeback were that they never got totally locked out of the Northeast corner, and that they took Truk at the end to make the usually-tough late-game American basing situation much simpler. Even though somebody has to win a 50/50 battle at the end regardless, it certainly is more frustrating to essentially lose such a battle on round 1 than it is to have it come down to the final few units on each side (although as they both mentioned, the US still had some chance after round 1 if a couple of night rounds had occurred immediately after). With this win, Ed Menzel passed Jon Kammerer for most consecutive rounds as "King" - a streak he is still on over 2 years later! Round 48 just finished and Ed hasn't been knocked off the top spot yet (a nice counter to anyone left who still dares to call this naval yahtzee). Ong Meng Soon is the next challenger.
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Bill Eldard
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Great report with terrific graphics! Thanks.
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Daniel Blumentritt
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A lot of the thanks go to Ed & Ed for originally submitting a great write-up and John Pack for organizing the Gameaholics site. cool
 
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Daniel Blumentritt
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Oddly enough, I think I jinxed Ed Menzel by posting this, as Meng just defeated him in their battle for the top spot to close it out at an astounding 52 month, 13-win streak!
 
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