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Subject: Clash of Giants - Battle of Midway AAR (Battle Scenario 3, illustrated) rss

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The next Battle Scenario we played ftf after Coral Sea was Midway. I hadn't played this one in at least 20 years, preferring the more "close in" fighting of the Solomons scenarios. But it is an interesting experience.

The Ambush-CV Operational Intelligence Condition means that the Reaction Player gets to move double and gets hits in the first strike doubled and against reduced CAP and delayed Flak. So, the US player goes into this scenario with a great deal of search effort to make sure the important ships on the Japanese side are pinpointed. Since the Japanese need 21 moves to get in range of Midway from Kure, the Americans get 42 moves for this, which is usually enough.



Anyway, with these considerations out of the way, the Japanese send in their task forces, making sure to remain beyond search range until everyone is ready for the final dash. They then start moving in on Midway, and in the north, on Kiska in the Aleutians. The battle narrative is in black; I have put background comments in gray so that people who want to read the battle happenings can focus on those and filter out the process.

In the Reaction Player Contact Phase, the first thing to move forward are the US submarines. However, they move in before the searches were over, which is probably suboptimal play. Only one hit on a Mogami class cruiser is scored, against the loss of one sub; the other, bigger submarine stack actually finds the Japanese carriers but fails to hit on any of seven attacks. [As mentioned, we actually played that a submarine can only attack once per Contact Phase.]

Then the US task forces come out. Instead of one TF, there are three in different hexes. Two of these are decoys. However, by entering Japanese search range at the same time, they triple the number of Japanese detection rolls. One of them turns out '0' - the task force is detected, consisting of a single cruiser, and the Japanese stop the Contact Phase, with the US Task Forces at range 4. This means the US carrier planes have insufficient range to strike the Japanese in the first Battle Cycle. Much of the Ambush-CV advantage has been lost. However, the US player gets to choose the lighting condition.
[It is fairly natural for the US player to want to push forward some scouts in front of his carriers given the juggernaut bearing down on him, but that way he risks giving away his greatest advantage, the 1st Battle Cycle doubled hits. This happened here. It is a good reminder of the iron nerve that Nimitz and his admirals showed in sticking their neck out.]



Dusk is the Lighting Condition of the first Battle Cycle. [Note that I have not used the Day to indicate the Battle Cycles but the Lighting Conditions, which makes it much eiaser to see how well the action maps to the real day/night cycle of the naval engagement.] With the US carriers out of range, only the land-based bombers (2E and 4E) attack. One hit each is scored on Hiryu and Soryu, doubled by the first turn effects, although the 2E unit is destroyed.

The Japanese fail to detect the US carrier Task Force and do not launch a strike; the risk of losing air steps just to hit some small decoy task forces or the weak forces on Midway does not seem worth it.

In the Aleutians, the Japanese land a Marine battalion on unoccupied Kiska.

Night falls [next Battle Cycle - I'm not going to mention that from here on as it happens every time the Lighting Condition changes]; the Japanese carriers close the range at Midway so as to not allow the Americans to escape. In the Aleutians, the Japanese fleets pulls out from Kiska, and moves to Attu to land an infantry battalion there.

In the morning, the Americans move first. They manage to detect the Japanese carriers, and with the US carriers still not found, the US carriers strike first. However, the Japanese CAP is alerted, and extracts a rather bloody price. 45 planes [3 steps] are shot down by CAP, aborting one unit. Another 15 are crippled by Flak. However, the strike manages to sink Soryu. Also, one of the "decoy" task forces closes in for naval combat! It turns out to contain only a Northampton class cruiser squadron. Rather than suicidal, this turns out to be a clever ploy. The Japanese carriers have a large destroyer escort (now 22 after two were sunk by submarines) but no cruisers (to maximize AA fire), which makes them rather ineffective at long range. The initial change of gunfire sees no hits. But as the Japanese withdraw in the second round, the US cruisers land a hit on Akagi! Despite the failure of the US approach, now a Japanese carrier has been sunk and two damaged at no damage to the US carriers.

Meanwhile, the land-based planes strike one of the battleship Task Forces, aiming at the seaplane carrier Chitose, but miss. One of the precious 1E-L1-CV steps is lost to Flak. [Japanese task force organisation was decidedly suboptimal; the CVS are capital ships and so count for the victory conditions, but are much easier to sink than a battleship! Ironically though the same goes for the CVLs, so the most "bang for the buck" as a target in the historical TF organisation would not be a battleship, but the CVL Hosho with only two steps.]

In the Aleutians, since the Japanese ships have pulled out, the Americans land a Marine regiment at Kiska. This is followed by a naval bombardment, that does no damage, but the US Marines wipe out the Japanese Marines who defend on the waterfront to the last man. [Ground combat DR 0! This basically rules out a Japanese Marginal or Decisive victory; the best they can achieve is a Substantive Victory by landing on Midway, or a draw just by equating capital ship losses. However, currently they are one carrier behind.]

The Japanese subs take a rather fearful revenge in the waters around Kiska, sinking two Brooklyn class CLs [4 steps; 1 counter].

In the afternoon [Japanese Advantage], the Japanese finally detect the US carrier task force, and send out a full strike. The US fleet is Alerted however. The L2 unit from Enterprise is the CAP point unit, but the Japanese L2 pilots are so far unbloodied and wildly determined to avenge the losses their side has taken. 60 US planes go down in the fight [I think they rolled a 0 or 1], the Enterprise L2 unit is wiped out. The Japanese lose 15 planes, and then another 15 to AA fire. The escort unit aborts. The other two units target Hornet, but only achieve two hits! A disappointing outcome for the Japanese.

Meanwhile, the Japanese submarines have converged on the US carrier task force as well. [I think the US player got distracted; normally staying away from submarines is possible.] They score a hit on Enterprise, and then multiple hits on Yorktown. The carrier begins listing and eventually capsizes. [DR 0, then a critical hit DR of 9 for a total of 5 hits] One submarine is sunk by the US escorts.

South of Midway, Japanese TF 04, one of the battleship task forces, cuts across the retreat path of the Northampton class cruisers. The battleships (Nagato, Mutsu, Ise, Hyuga, Yamato) score a hit at long range, and on the next round, with the cruisers withdrawing, another four hits - one cruiser sunk, the survivor crippled. The immediate check for submarine attacks on the cripple results in a DR of 0, the cruiser is sunk. [Since cruisers are not capital ships, they are not going to affect the scenario outcome. Note: when I write about "sunk" ships, that is in terms of real ships, so, e.g., a CA counter suffering 3 hits is "a ship sunk", 6 hits is "two ships sunk".]

TF 03, containing the battered Mogami class cruisers, closes with the US carriers. However, the Japanese are humiliated when one of the already damaged ships is sunk by long range fire from DDs (!). [Don't remember how that happened; I think it was literally two hits with 0^4 ratings.] Long range fire from the escorting US cruisers damages another one further while the US ships successfully cover the withdrawal of their carriers.

A second battleship task force (containing the Kongo class ships, Fuso and Yamashiro, as well as some Takao and Nachi class cruisers) has reached Midway and is bombarding the garrison. One of the two Marine battalions fails its TQ check.



In the Aleutians, Junyo and Ryujo launch a strike against the US ships around Kiska, but score no hits. However the US ships are distracted from the submarine presence and a CA is damaged and an Atlanta class CL sunk [2 hits].

In the Disadvantage Phase, the US carriers near Midway close and launch a strike against the Japanese carriers. [In retrospect, this was probably a simultaneous strike. Missed it again! However, since the US had enough deck capacity it would not have made a difference.] At this point, only the Hornet air group has survived. The Japanese are Alerted, their CAP shoots down 15 planes, but the rest press the attack past the Flak and achieve another hit on Akagi (now at 2).

At Dusk [US Advantage], the US fail to find the Japanese carriers again. The air units from Midway launch against the battleship task force around Midway. The CAP on Hosho does not deter them, but they attack Hosho and miss. Each unit loses a step on landing at dusk.

The US subs are fairly unlucky, rolling a 0 for attacks against the battleship TF.

The Japanese battleships bombard the ground troops on Midway again; the already Broken unit fails another TQ check [no effect since it only has 1 step], but the unbroken one passes its check.

In the Disadvantage Movement Phase, the battleships leave; like most other Japanese TFs this is their last chance to reach the Marshalls in time for Deactivation [it's Day 15]. Another Japanese task force enters the Midway hex. The submarines, distracted by battleships, are essentially bypassed [rolled another 0]. The Japanese task force turns out to contain the transports and APDs; all Japanese troops are successfully unloaded on Midway. [The transports successfully wended their way in between the various submarine positions, they were also not identified as such, only red and blue search results were obtained against them. These ships will count as lost per the scenario instructions, but again are not capital ships.]

Likewise, the Japanese TFs around the Aleutians have begun the trip back to Japan.

At Night [US Advantage], the subs converge on Midway and take their revenge; 5 APDs are sunk before getting underway. [Critical hit, DR 9]

On Midway itself, the Japanese Marines and 144 Infantry Regiment lead the assault against the garrison. Though many of the defenders offer stout resistance, command mishaps mean they are caught off guard by the Japanese. Both battalions are eliminated and the island falls. [The Japanese actually had pretty good chances to make it. TQ 7-4:6 with 6 steps against 2 is column 8 with a -1 DRM, meaning they had an 80% chance of avoiding a Mandatory Retreat result, which still likely would have seen some Japanese survive to attack again though under significantly worse conditions; the Japanese rolled a 0, 1:2 losses, eliminating the garrison.]

Outcome: substantial Japanese victory, with 1 carrier sunk on each side, 2 hits on Akagi, 1 on Hiryu, 2 on Hornet, 1 on Enterprise.

Non-capital ships, Japanese side: 1 CA with 3 hits (corresponding to 1 real world cruiser eliminated), 1 with 2 hits, APD with 5 hits. Also, 1 AA unit (6 steps), 1 CL (2 steps), 1 DD (6 steps) count as lost because they will not make it back from Midway to a friendly anchorage in time.

Non-capital ships, US side: 1 CL sunk (4 hits, 2 real world ships), 1 CL sunk (2 hits, 1 ship), 2 hits on various CAs.

Ironically, in historical terms, Yamamoto would be pretty unhappy, an equal exchange was not what he had in mind. (But then, he did not know the US was reading his code.) But with the Kido Butai having retained much of its strength, and with tactical lessons from the Midway attacks implemented, it could be expected to rule the Pacific for another six months or even a year. The Japanese were actually fairly unlucky in key dierolls, both in surface combat and in their air attacks. The US did not gamble everything on the initial exchange, instead settling for attrition, and the outcome could have been much worse for the US.

Total playing time was a bit over 3 hours, significantly longer than Coral Sea. Partly that's because you essentially have the whole IJN on the warpath, but more importantly, the Contact Phase under Ambush-CV conditions simply becomes all-important. A lot of finetuning and a lot of searching happens...

The actual engagement part of the scenario took six Battle Cycles to play out. Also uncanny... due to the unremarkable dierolls, the Lighting Conditions shape up to exactly two days of battle, as in the historical event.

As an aside, I have seen contentions that the scenario is flawed, either with the argument that the US player can "shut down" the Japanese early, preventing their reaching Midway, or that the Japanese can achieve a lossless draw simply by staying at home. Now playing the scenario for the first time in decades, I find that neither applies. First, there is a rule that requires the Japanese to get in strike range of Midway unless the US player stops the Contact Phase. This means that the Japanese cannot willingly avoid being hit by the US.

And if the US ends the Contact Phase immediately, then yes, the Japanese can't get to Midway and back, but they can get to the Aleutians. Landing there and defending those beachheads to the hilt is sufficient to give them a marginal victory - the ships in the Aleutians do not matter since they are not capital ships, except for the two CVLs, which could choose to stay out of harm's way. And if the US sends its ships from Pearl Harbor to the Aleutians, well, they are no closer than the Japanese fleet coming from Kure. And there are many anchorages around where the Japanese can Deactivate - the Japanese do not have to allocate five or six Battle Cycles to the return voyage as they would have to do to get back from Midway to the Marshalls.

[This AAR was originally posted in the Pacific War topic on Consimworld in 2013.]
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Greg Colgan
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Great AAR, and appreciated the explanatory labels you put on the maps!
I've long sought a WWII Pacific War carrier game that offers hidden TF movement, cat and mouse hunts for the enemy, and the launching of air and naval strikes. This looks like it! I guess you rate this game highly.
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M St
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I can still count the 10's I've given out on my fingers, and this is one of them.
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craig grinnell
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speer
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Screaming Eagle and Damn Proud of it!!!
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Breaker wrote:
I've long sought a WWII Pacific War carrier game that offers hidden TF movement, cat and mouse hunts for the enemy, and the launching of air and naval strikes.

Flat Top is really good there, but is limited in scope to the Solomon Islands area of the Pacific war.
It is definitely NOT a solitaire friendly game.
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Tim Korchnoi
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My Little Man's first real wargame play: Barbarossa Solitaire
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Breaker wrote:
Great AAR, and appreciated the explanatory labels you put on the maps!
I've long sought a WWII Pacific War carrier game that offers hidden TF movement, cat and mouse hunts for the enemy, and the launching of air and naval strikes. This looks like it! I guess you rate this game highly.



Carrier is what you are looking for. Solitaire designed and a great game experience and, like Pacific War, has programmed instruction to lead you to the final campaign game experience. Another great plus is you can play a historical scenario or generate your own encounter in the Solomon Islands with the campaign generator.
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