Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Solomons Campaign – Turn 3 AAR - The Empire Strikes Back

October 1942
Turn 3: This turn once again saw lots of aggressive action by both sides and some dramatic outcomes that have changed the face of the campaign. Both sides once again sortied a carrier group resulting in devastating losses to one side’s carrier capacity. The Yamato finally set sail and let loose its guns albeit not on the intended target. The Japanese efforts to supply their forces on the island finally put them in a position to assault Henderson airfield, but you’ll have to read below to see the results.
Weather forecast: mostly clear (ie: no modifications to the weather roll).
Game and scale: We are using General Quarters 3 to play the tactical battles, and The Solomons Campaign from the same publisher (ODGW) for the campaign. All ships are 1/6000 Figurehead.
What’s happened so far: Turn 2 (link: saw some heavy combat around IJN supply missions. The IJN were successful in supplying their troops on Guadalcanal but at a heavy price in combat ships.
Carrier Engagement: For the third straight turn both sides sortied a carrier group. The weather was moderate and mostly clear. The US sortied two CV’s and the IJN sortied CV Shokaku, and CVL’s Hiyo and Junyo. On the first round both sides launched their planes simultaneously, the US airplanes found their targets while the Japanese pilots got lost en route and had to abort their mission. This had some devastating effects on the Japanese Carrier Group as they didn’t have their CAP ready and prepared. In the ensuing air strike the Shokaku was disabled,  the Hiyo was completely crippled and out of the campaign, and the Junyo took some hits but was still functional. Fires on all three carriers prevented a counterstrike so the IJN carrier group withdrew to lick its wounds, the US follow up strike was unsuccessful in finding the withdrawing group.
US Carrier Group

IJA Carrier Group with Shokaku, Junyo and Hiyo

US Carrier Saratoga

Shokaku is attacked by Torpedo Bombers

Junyo taking hits by US Dive Bombers

Japanese Carrier force on fire just before withdrawing.

Truk Bombardment Force vs Allied Patrol: In my bid to take Henderson airfield I brought out the Japanese big guns. The bombardment force ran into an US Patrol, and initially I tried to avoid contact so that I could continue on with the mission. Unfortunately for the US, they engaged my destroyer screen before I was able to withdraw, so I had no choice but to turn my guns around and engage the patrol in return. I had a significant advantage in firepower and made my opponent pay, just about every ship of his squadron was either sunk or crippled, even more damaging was his battleship that took two torpedo hits and was out of the campaign.
US Heavy Cruisers pursuing

IJA destroyers screening the bombardment force while the US pursue.

The Japanese turn and train their heavy guns on the US Cruiers and Battleship divison

Japanese heavy cruisers and Yamato light up the light up the Allied ships

Meanwhile on the other side of the battlefield the Japanese destroyers run into the USS South Dakota, despite taking heavy fire they let loose torpedoes and land enough to take the US ship out of the campaign.

Supply Missions: The Tokyo Express successfully completed another run to give the assaulting forces enough material to amass their attack. Meanwhile the US also sent two supply missions that were unmolested.
BONZAI!: The Japanese gather their martial spirit and assault Henderson airfield. Their force of will proved to be too much for the Marine defenders as the Japanese successfully wrested control of the airport. I needed to roll a 1-3 on a D12 to make a successful assault, and it was important that I did this in Turn 3 because it would get harder with each successive turn of the campaign. We decided to keep things simple and just roll for the assault rather than playing it out on the table.
Japanese Bonzai Attack and take Henderson airfield
The roll that changed the campaign.

Conclusion: Turns 2 and 3 cost me (the IJN player) heavily in terms of surface ships and carriers, but the ultimate goal and key to winning the campaign is the control of Henderson airfield. Despite poor odds I still got a lucky roll and took the airfield. This changes the dynamics of the campaign and opens up many options for me. As long as I didn’t have Henderson I was tied down to a bombardment mission, a supply and an assault mission to try and take the airfield. Now I hold the initiative and the US player is under pressure to take the airfield back. This also breathes new life into the campaign, I think I was on the verge of defeat and wouldn’t have been able to take the airfield if it didn’t happen soon, I was sustaining high casualties and my enemy was only getting more reinforcements.