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Subject: At War and Play With Japan rss

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Steven Utley
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I have a particular fondness for air-naval games set in the Pacific during World War 2. Possibly this is because, half a century ago -- and only fifteen years after the last and bloodiest battle of the war -- I was a wild boy at Naha Air Force Base, Okinawa, playing among rusting guns and unexploded ordnance, crawling through a wrecked B-29 used in firefighting drills, and generally having a swell time. Fittingly, the first boardgame I ever bought was that impressionistic masterpiece, Victory in the Pacific, but in what seems, retrospectively, almost no time at all, I had acquired USN, Solomons Campaign, Flat Top, 1942, Indian Ocean Adventure, numerous others, a whole closetful of WW2.

Currently I am enamored of Quarterdeck's Incredible Victory. its half-sister "Scratch One Flat Top!" and the four expansion kits (love children, no doubt) produced by Robert Holzer and/or Luca Revello. I hope they, and others, keep at it. The game system is relatively simple -- made to order for those of us who aren't quite into the pornography of armor-belt penetration -- and yet adaptable to a variety of situations. Just the other evening I happened upon an article by James C. Gordon, from the March-April 1994 issue of Moves, serving up scenarios not just for the carrier battles fought around Guadalcanal but also the major surface actions. Surely I am not the only person who wastes time wondering how to fashion the destruction of Force Z, the battle of the Java Sea, the reduction of Rabaul, into playable scenarios, or the only one who, shown an order of battle and some variant counters, goes all Pavlovian. Let's talk, Pacific-war fans.
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Martin Gallo
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What was the issue number of that Moves article. I would like to dig it out myself.

I think Scratch One Flattop is truly a great game.
 
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Steven Utley
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Gordon's "Scratch One Flat Top: Scenarios Old and New" appeared in Moves # 79.
 
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Martin Gallo
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Thanks. I am pretty sure I have that issue buried in a box somewhere.
 
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Steven Utley
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Force Z
Luca Revello has been good enough to include the battlewagons Prince of Wales and Repulse in his Indian Ocean Raid expansion kit; this is all the excuse I need, as though I need an excuse, to start cobbling together a scenario set in the South China Sea on December 10, 1941. Here is the order of battle, described in game terms:

JAPANESE FORCES

22nd Air Flotilla (at Saigon)
5 x Betty, 12 x Nell

2nd Fleet, Malay Force
2 x BB: Haruna, Kongo
7 x CA: Atago, Chokai, Kumano, Mikuma, Mogami, Suzuya, Takao
1 x Desron (representing 3 x DD: Fubuki, Hatsuyuki, Shirayuki)

The Malay Force may split into two groups at the Japanese player's discretion.

Kota Bharu Landing Force
3 x AP
1 x CL: Sendai
1 x Desron (4 x DD: Ayanami, Isonami, Shikinami, Uranami)

Singora Landing Force
11 x AP
1 x Desron (4 x DD: Amagiri, Asagiri, Sagiri, Yugiri)

Patani Landing Force
5 x AP
1 x Desron (3 x DD: Murakumo, Shinonome, Shirakumo)

The three Landing Forces may not be reorganized.

Submarine
1 x SS (I-58)

BRITISH FORCES

RAF (at Singapore)
2 x Buffalo

Force Z
1 x BB: Prince of Wales
2 x BC: Repulse
1 x Desron (4 x DD: Electra, Express, Tenedos, Vampire)

Optional unit for extended scenario:

1 x CV: Indomitable (with 3 x Fulmar, 2 x Sea Hurricane, 5 x Albacore)

At first glance it looks lopsided, but keep in mind that Force Z's sortie gave the Japanese some anxious moments, and that the outcome wasn't preordained. Here, as in every situation where human beings have converged upon a point to dispute some issue, possibilities abounded right up to the moment when everything suddenly became inevitable. What if Indomitable had joined Force Z, as originally intended? What if the squally weather had been worse? What if I-58 had managed to torpedo Repulse? What if Buffalo fighters had arrived in time to pitch into the Japanese bombers? What if Prince of Wales and Repulse had closed with the Japanese battleships or cruisers? What if one or both British ships had survived to fight another day? (Where would game designers, as well as science-fiction writers, be without What if ...?)

Your thoughts? Anybody? Bueller?
 
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Ralph T
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Do any games depict the I-400 Japanese super subs?
 
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Steven Utley
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I-400
I cannot say for certain, because it's been years (decades!) since I owned the game, but I'd be surprised if specifications for the Japanese I-400 class boats weren't included in Avalon Hill's Submarine.
 
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Steven Utley
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1943
Tonight I am ruminating on the simple yet elegant system of ship-to-ship combat devised by Peter Bertram for Incredible Victory and "Scratch One Flat Top!" Last night I was browsing through H. P. Willmott's 1982 work, Empires in the Balance: Japanese and Allied Strategies to April 1942, when I happened upon his description of "the first Allied naval victory of the [Pacific] war," the battle of Balikapapan, fought on January 24, 1942. Willmott cites "three distinct but quite related aspects of the destruction of Japanese naval power. The major fleet actions [e.g., Coral Sea, Midway] ...; the utter annihilation of the Japanese merchant marine; and the crushing of Japanese light forces in scores of small and savage actions, normally fought at night, among the islands of the South Pacific. Balikpapan was the first of the actions that were to see the breaking of Japanese attempts to sustain their forward forces."

Of course, as Willmott adds, "such matters were very much for the future" in January 1942, and he might also have mentioned that those Japanese light forces would teach the Americans some costly lessons along the way. It strikes me that the two Bertram games (and the four Holzer/Revello expansion kits), while primarily concerned with big showy carrier operations, ought to be able to accommodate "small and savage actions" as well. Between early August 1942 and late November 1943 the following sea fights occurred in the area depicted on the SOFT game map:

Savo Island Sound, August 8, 1942
Cape Esperance, October 11, 1942
Guadalcanal, November 12-15, 1942
Tassafaronga Point, November 30, 1942
various destroyer and PT-boat clashes in "The Slot," December 1942-February 1943
Blackett Strait, March 5, 1943
Kula Gulf, July 6, 1943
Kolombangara, July 13, 1943
Vella Gulf, August 6, 1943
Horaniu, August 18, 1943
Vella Lavella, October 6, 1943
Empress August Bay, November 2, 1943
Cape St. George, November 26, 1943

Already mentioned in an earlier post are scenarios for the first four battles, published in Moves; they need to be reprinted or updated. By December 1942 both the American and Japanese navies had battered each other to exhaustion. A full year would pass before the first of the new generation of American aircraft carriers arrived on the scene. and in the interim brawls between light cruisers and destroyers became the rule. It seems a waste of good material, and of a good game system, too, not to let these smaller vessels have a go at one another. It seems a waste generally not to carry the war through 1943.
 
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Steven Utley
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Scratch One Small Boat
On this rainy Sunday afternoon I have come away from perusing back numbers of The General with some, well, general ideas for the introduction of PT-boats and other small craft into the "Scratch One Flat Top!" game system. Motor torpedo boats, exemplified by the U.S. Navy's Elco PT-boats but also used by the Dutch in the Indies and the British in Burmese waters, were very fast and very hard to hit -- in game terms, they can easily outrun every other ship type except destroyers, and they are both immune to torpedo attacks and the beneficiaries of die-roll modifers when attacked by aircraft or warships larger than destroyers. (The destroyer's original job description was proclaimed in its original designation: torpedo-boat destroyer.) PT-boats were also quite flimsy, useless on the high seas, lightly armed, and serious gas-guzzlers -- so, again in game terms, PT-boat units (each representing two or four vessels) have low damage ratings, are restricted to partial-land hexes, may make only one attack per mission, and in any event must return to a friendly base for refueling after so many turns at sea. In other words, they are rather like the long-range aircraft in SOFT. It falls to somebody with better math skills than mine to translate actual PT-boat capabilities into game factors.

The Japanese Navy had no direct equivalent of the PT-boat but did employ an array of small craft, ranging from daihatsu, troop-carrying barges usually escorted and occasionally towed by destroyers, to shinyo, fast boats developed late in the war for use by "Special Attack" units. Several lively sea fights resulted from Allied attempts to interrupt barge traffic in coastal waters in the Solomons; surely these are the makings of refreshing change-of-pace games on those occasions when one more Battle of the Coral Sea would be simply too much bother.
 
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Steven Utley
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Bring on the Big Boys
Here is a hypothetical scenario, set during the 1930s and using maps and counters from Incredible Victory and Robert Holzer's Midway expansion kit, for those who would like to see some battleships go at it. Airplanes are included in just enough numbers for scouting purposes.

JAPANESE FORCES

2 x BB: Mutsu, Nagato
4 x BC: Haruna, Hiei, Kirishima, Kongo
2 x CA: Aoba, Furutaka
1 x CL: Tatsuta
1 x CVL: Hosho (with 2 x Jean)
2 x Desrons

AMERICAN FORCES

5 x BB: Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, Tennessee, West Virginia
4 x CA: New Orleans, Northampton, Pensacola, Portland
2 x Desrons

3 x PBY at Midway

Japanese forces start somewhere west of Kure Atoll; American forces start east of Midway. Victory is determined by pointed awarded for damaging or eliminating enemy units; additionally, the Japanese receive extra points for bombarding Midway.

Or how about a duel between WW-1 vintage battlewagons somewhere in the Bay of Bengal, using counters and maps from the Midway and Indian Ocean Raid expansion kits?

JAPANESE FORCES

4 x BB: Fuso, Hyuga, Ise, Yamashiro
2 x CA: Kako, Kinugasa
2 x CL: Tenryu, Yubari
1 x CVL: Hosho (with 2 x Jean)
2 x Desrons

BRITISH FORCES

5 x BB: Ramillies, Resolution, Revenge, Royal Sovereign
1 x BC: Repulse
2 x CL: Caledon, Dragon
1 x CVL: Hermes (with 2 x Swordfish)
2 x Desrons

Again, victory is determined by points awarded for damaging or eliminating enemy units; additionally, the British receive points for bombarding Port Blair, which we'll say has been seized by the upstart Japanese.
 
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Rod Bauer
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Re: At War and Play With Japan (Force Z)
Hi Steven,
Have you tried Destruction of Force Z from Minden Games? It is a very simple, and very small game. But does include some of the "what if's" you mention. It is solitaire, and doesn't seem to have a lot of decisions to make for the British. It is extremely luck dependent on dice rolls. If you maintain "radio silence"; get lucky enough to run into the Japanese transports or surface ships; bombard a couple of landing sites; then race back to Singapore before the Japanese land based planes sink both the Repulse and Prince of Wales, you might win. Of course the game is called "Destruction of Force Z" and that historical outcome is the most likely one. I lost every game I played. I have played about 6 or 7 games. Just had it set up one time and played through that many games over a two night period. Some of the games lasted no more than 10 minutes, but I suppose the average game probably took more in the neighborhood of 20 to 30 minutes to play.
 
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