At this scale game, the raid on Pearl Harbor did either 1 or 2 points of damage. A considerable portion of what in this game is the Pacific Fleet unit was not even in port at the time (the aircraft carriers) and thus were unscathed. The ships that were there took heavy damage, but you might be surprised at how quickly most of them were back in action. Of course, some were sunk outright, and thus if I were to translate history into Blitz AWIC, I would certainly assign 1, and perhaps 2, points of damage overall.
So said Mr LeLacheur earlier this year in response to a query on Consimworld.
I would happily agree with his every sentiment. Indeed I have often used "Pearl Harbour" as an example for discussion of the "design" topic - "How likely was history to happen as it did?"
In "a game" - should we imagine "Pearl" as a freak lucky result, which was unlikely, or an inevitable outcome of the surprise attack? Or indeed - from a design perspective - sidestep it completely by starting our Pacific scenario after the event.
There is of course no definitive correct answer possible, but one can ask - does the game allow the historical result within its range of possibilities? and, is there an incentive in the game for the player to attempt to follow a historical path? One of the things I most like about "Blitz" is its success in the second point, avoiding the pitfalls of allowing the cautious Axis to turtle and encouraging "pushing for Moscow" and the like, but without constraining the Axis to inevitably repeating history.
So to my actual question. Is there enough incentive in the game to make the attack on Pearl?
A big part of my answer to this revolves around "how likely is the Pearl Harbour attack to work?"
Clearly the attack could have failed historically. There is a vast amount of speculation as to how even minor events could have saved the Fleet (totally ignoring any conspiracy theories). It is clear therefore that it should by no means be "a sure thing".
However - "could the attack have been more successful?" I think the answer here also has to be yes.
For a start - and again keeping the conspiracies out of it - it was really just bad luck that no US CV's were in port for the strike. Clearly their loss (either as well, or instead) would represent a more crippling blow.
Even without any US carrier losses a Japanese "third wave" (or second wave with different priorities) destroying base facilities and oil tanks would have made the recovery of Battleship row at least a slower process. This did not happen, but it very easily might have done so.
All of this is somewhat below the big picture game of Blitz. But it is useful when we come to consider the results available in the game.
The US of course have their "large" 4 step Pacific fleet counter with it's 2 defensive factors. The Japanese historically are attacking with the size 2 mobile fleet, since the vast majority of the combined fleet are supporting/protecting the landings in Indonesia and Malaya.
Attack 6 - halved for Port attack 3 - minus 2 defensive factors.
= A 1 in 6 chance of 1 hit?
Perhaps they are attacking with their full size Combined Fleet:
Attack 8 halved for port attack 4 minus 2 = A 1 in 6 chance of causing 1 hit?
Wait! factor in the Nagumo leader (+2);
Attack 10, halved 5, minus 2 = A 50% of 1 hit
OK Lets just forget Indonesia and assume the Japanese use everything:
8+6+2 = 16 halved to 8 for the port attack, -2 defensive factors = 6
One chance of a miss, 2/3 1 hit, 1 chance in 6 of 2 hits.
And so hopefully you see my problem?
Even the designer suggests that the historical result (which I firmly contend was with the Mobile Fleet alone) should yield 1-2 hits.
That's without considering the possibility of a "better" (than historical) Japanese result.
Even using the leader is an optional rule, without which 1 hit is still the best than can be achieved.
If the Pearl Harbour attack was just about a long shot die roll to do a "free hit" on the US fleet, very little of this would matter.
However in game terms the position the Japanese needs to achieve to conduct Pearl is highly vulnerable to a US counter-attack, not only with the US Pacfic fleet, but also with the fleet from the West Coast.
While that combat is relatively even - if the Japanese have sent everything! - even after a successful "Pearl" it is very possible for the Japanese to suffer a heavy attrition , which the US can easily afford, but they cannot.
In short I would question why the Japanese player would actually attempt to conduct a historical Pearl Harbour attack at all, as it presents only a high risk, low reward set of outcomes?
A delightful post to read, thank you! For the record, we are playtesting allowing Port Attacks at full Naval Factors for CVs, in part to address this (and in part to remove an annoying exception in the rules). Feel free to try it yourself; so far so good in my tests (though it has only come up 2 times so far).
Hi Dave, how goes the testing?
I expect to get Blitz out again shortly..
Anything else being tweaked at the same time just out of curiosity?
It's a blast. We're playing right now actually, doing the 1945 hypothetical Axis invasion of the America scenario. I'm America and getting clobbered, but not going down without a fight -- I just hurled the leading German panzer armies back across the Rio Grande into Mexico, woo hoo! But here they come again, and my dratted scientists say that the H-Bomb is at least 2 years away from being ready...
As for the changes, I am not yet ready to make public pronouncement as the ideas are flying about. When they've settled I will, but that won't be for a while.
If you (or anyone) wouldd like to help playtest, send me an email for details, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Average is a good day
In terms of Pearl Harbor and other aspects of initial Axis attacks, and ignoring the impact on play balance, I've been wondering if a special "Axis Surprise" rule might not make historical game design sense. Initial DoW attacks by the Axis might receive some special benefit (e.g., CV factors not halved in port attacks, a 50% land attack bonus, etc.). This of course accords with the seeming special benefit of historical 'surprise' achieved over and over again in initial attacks against successive Axis opponents (Poland, France, Norway, Balkans, USSR, and of course the opening Japanese moves in the Pacific).
I also suggest this as my sense is that, after about three short games now, it seems it can be quite difficult for the Germans to achieve their historical Turns 1 thru 3 accomplishments. It doesn't take much but a few bad die rolls to leave them rather historically short. At least this is what I've seen in the three games I've played, allowing I might well have missed something in the way of proper play. When next I get a chance, I'll try solitairing the Fall of France scenario to double check my impressions.