Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Showing posts with label Midway. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Midway. Show all posts

Friday, December 12, 2014

The game time conundrum revisited

A couple of years ago, I looked over my game collection and sighed at the number of games that hadn't seen the attention they deserved.  I wrote a post listing games that I wanted to spend more time on, even as I realized that as long as leisure time is limited and the game collection is big, there will always be neglected games on my shelves.  It's a topic worth revisiting from time to time - both because it's interesting to see how the list has changed (and how it hasn't) and because it's helpful to look at the collection with fresh eyes and think about resurrecting a few titles that might bear dusting off and playing again.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Midway: The brown shoe is on the other foot

My father was a naval aviator, and for whatever reason, whereas the rest of the Navy wore black shoes with their khaki uniforms, aviators always wore brown shoes.  This "brown shoe" image has a great deal of history and pride associated with it.  Well, today after work, Frank Hodge did well by that tradition in our game of Midway (designerLarry Pinsky and Lindsley Schutz, publisher Avalon Hill).  Unlike so many of our previous games, Frank assumed the role of commander of the U.S. Navy forces, while I took those of the Imperial Japanese Navy with the goal of invading Midway Island.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Showdown at Guadalcanal

My good friend Frank Hodge and I sat down after work for the last scenario in our "Pacific Theatre via Midway" series - the Battle of Guadalcanal - or more correctly perhaps, the Battle Around Guadalcanal (since we didn't worry too much about how the troops in the mud on the island itself fared - with apologies to my brother Pete the Marine).  This scenario for the first time presents the U.S. player with the same problem that faces the Japanese player in almost every other scenario - having to land transports on an objective.  In this case, both the Japanese and the Americans are trying to land forces on Guadalcanal to reinforce troops already there so as to secure control of the island.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Back to Midway

On Wednesday, Frank Hodge and I returned to fight the battle of Midway (designerLarry Pinsky and Lindsley Schutz, publisher Avalon Hill).  Frank has spent considerable time refining his variable order of battle to the AH classic, and this time we had quite  a lot of fun beefing up both fleets to fight the battle in grand style.  A significant change that we prefer is that the Japanese invasion force is represented by five AP transports, rather than abstractly handled with the cruiser Atago according the rules.  The only other variation we added was the submarine optional rule from Alan R. Moon's "Pacific Theatre via Midway" article.  We didn't use B-17's in this game, and we didn't miss them.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Stalemate at Santa Cruz

In our "Pacific Theatre via Midway" campaign series, my friend Frank Hodge and I clashed once more in the Coral Sea, this time in the Santa Cruz scenario of Alan R. Moon's expansion to the Avalon Hill classic Midway (designers Larry Pinsky and Lindsley Schutz, publisher Avalon Hill).  Once more, I assumed command of the U.S. Navy forces while Frank controlled the fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Eastern Solomons campaign

About a month ago, my serial Midway opponent Frank H. and I got together for another scenario from the Alan R. Moon variant, "Pacific Theatre via Midway."  We returned to the Coral Sea, this time to fight the "Battle of the Eastern Solomons" (Midway designerLarry Pinsky and Lindsley Schutz, publisher Avalon Hill).

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Clash on the Coral Sea

My friend and colleague Frank H. and I met again over the game table.  Over the last few months we've played three rounds of Midway (designerLarry Pinsky and Lindsley Schutz, publisher Avalon Hillwith a number of optional rules attached.  This time, Frank broke out his copy of the "Coral Sea" expansion, and we set our clocks back to May 1942 to determine the fate of Port Moresby, New Guinea.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mauled at Midway

This evening after work, my colleague Frank H. and I met for a reprise of our customary (if infrequent) game of Midway (designers Larry Pinsky and Lindsley Schutz, publisher Avalon Hill).  Last time, we'd introduced a few rules modifications from the Wargamers Guide to Midway, most notably a variable order of battle (OOB) based on a chit draw.  Well, apparently that inspired Frank dramatically, because he spent quite a bit of time researching and revising the possible alternate OOBs as well as other optional rules, so that the game we played today was a considerably souped-up version of the Avalon Hill classic.

Friday, August 24, 2012

American battleships at Midway

Wednesday afternoon, my friend and colleague Frank H. and I got together after work for our re-match in Midway (designers Larry Pinsky and Lindsley Schutz, publisher Avalon Hill).  We first clashed over the Pacific in June, when I played the Americans and Frank the Japanese.  This time, we switched roles, so that I commanded the forces of the Imperial Japanese Navy and Frank those of the United States Navy.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

WBC: "Ethics in Gaming" revisited

At WBC on Thursday last week, Joel Tamburo hosted his annual seminar on Ethics in Gaming.  This was my second opportunity to attend.

I arrived a little late and found myself in the middle of a conversation on the interpretation of rules
Signing of the Constitution of the United States
U.S. Government.  Public domain
ambiguities.  Not entirely a matter of ethics, the question on the floor seemed to center around whether an unaddressed action in the rules should be allowed (because the rules don't prevent it) or prohibited (because the rules don't allow it or provide for it).  Peter, an attorney, likened the question to that of Constitutional interpretation, whereby some people hold that rulings on Constitutionality ought to depend on the intent of the founders at the time that they wrote it, as best we can determine from other writings at the time.  Others hold that interpretation of the Constitution necessarily changes with the times, and so it is with game rules:  It doesn't matter how the game designer wanted you to play the game; what matters is how the players want to play.  So, then, the question became, does the designer's intent matter?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Midway: Pyrrhic victory in the Pacific

My colleague Frank H. and I got together after work today for a game of Midway (designers Larry Pinsky and Lindsley Schutz, publisher Avalon Hill).  This was the very first wargame I ever owned, and the box shows that it has been a well-loved game over the 40 years that I have had it in my care.

Frank played the Imperial Japanese Navy, and I had the United States Navy.  We played the Basic Game with the Tournament Game fighter rule added.  We elected not to require the Japanese to reduce Midway before the invasion (because we agreed that it was a complication that made the Japanese position too difficult) and not to have surface combat (because that's just stupid in a carrier battle).

PBY Catalina - USN photo
I played a relatively conventional (to me) American approach.  I kept the American carriers and cruisers together for most of the first day, until I'd approached the theoretical limit of the IJN's advance, at which point I split out a couple of cruisers as pickets to augment the PBY Catalina efforts to track the Japanese fleet.  I was discovered by Japanese searches a few times and so backtracked to break contact and evade being tracked.  My maneuvers slowed my westward progress, and the IJN lead task force doubled back to await the arrival of more escorts, so there was no air action on the first day (3 June 1941).  We both spent the night fueling and arming planes in anticipation of the next day's battle.

We were able to find each other immediately upon daybreak of 4 June, which turned out to be a bloody morning indeed.  He had united the entire Japanese fleet - carriers and invasion force - except for two light cruisers for reconnaissance.  Our strike pilots must have waved to one another as they passed above the Pacific, each seeking to deny the other a place to land when the fight was over.  We had each split our fighters fairly evenly between Combat Air Patrol (CAP) and fighter escort, so the fighter pilots spent this first sortie jousting with one another but playing nearly no role in defending their respective fleets.

USS Hornet - USN photo
The Japanese strike force sought to inflict the most damage by drawing antiaircraft fire away from the protection of the carriers and inflict hits on escorting cruisers as well.  U.S.S. Atlanta came under tremendous pressure but devoted her AA firepower to the torpedo bombers that targeted Yorktown.  The Japanese were able to sink both Atlanta and New Orleans and heavily damage Hornet in that initial attack, but the strike aircraft were decimated in their dispersed, piecemeal approach runs that allowed every gun in the task force to find a target.

My tactical focus for the strike focus was exactly the opposite.  I focused all airpower on sinking the Atago, which served as the flagship for the invasion fleet.  Part of my thinking was that I had already shot down a lot of Japanese planes, so the carriers were already less effective.  But mostly I had my eye drilled on the prize - the protection of Midway Island from IJN troops.  As it happened, I heavily damaged Atago and suffered minor losses among my tightly concentrated aircraft, but sank no ships.

Our planes returned, and I decided that I was going to withdraw Hornet from the front line to save her from the brunt of the second Japanese wave.  So all fighters landed on Hornet to serve as a CAP home base, and all strike aircraft were divided between Yorktown and Enterprise.  Planes were fueled and loaded up, and they went at it again four hours later.

Mitsubishi A6M3 Zero
For the second round of air operations, I held all fighters back on CAP and sent the strike force out unescorted.  The Japanese had sent a third of their fighters as escort and held back two thirds on CAP.  The fighter battle in the vicinity of the American fleet inflicted tremendous casualties on the Japanese Zeroes and still left me with a few fighters to augment ship defenses.  But because I had divided my cruisers between two carrier task forces plus one on picket duty, I had only four cruisers defending two carriers.  Despite a sound AA screen formation and residual fighters, the Japanese dispersed attack method (and some fortuitous die rolling) resulted in the sinking of both Enterprise and Yorktown in a single battle.  It was not looking good for the Americans at all.

Meanwhile, my strike force on the heavily defended Japanese fleet did not fare so well.  Although I succeeded in sinking the Atago, my efforts to divide the Japanese AA defenses and inflict damage on carriers failed remarkably.  In retrospect, my tactics were not well thought-out.  I exposed a significant portion of the attack wing to AA fire that they might otherwise have avoided in a more concentrated strike (my preferred tactic).  I lost a significant number of aircraft while scattering hits among three battleships and the Hiryu.  Having lost their racks, seabags, squadron support, and landing strips to the demise of Enterprise and Yorktown, the returning aircraft had to reach the more distant Hornet on the remaining fumes of their tanks plus a generous tail wind.  It was necessary to throw about six elements of F4F Wildcats overboard to make room for returning SBD Dauntless dive bombers.

IJN Yamato
Government of Japan photo
My third strike came at 1700, just in time to see Yamato and her "little sisters" join the Japanese fleet.  The IJN did not launch a strike against the American fleet, because her own attack wing had been so decimated that she need the arrival of Hosho to replenish her Kate torpedo bomber strike force, which was fueling but not yet ready to sortie.  All available Zeroes were waiting in CAP for the American strike force, which evaluated the Japanese deployment and eschewed attacking the damaged but heavily defended Hiryu in favor of the smaller but vulnerable Hosho with her flight deck full of readied aircraft.  This focus shift proved fruitful, as Hosho went down immediately, and her Kates with her.

The morning of 5 June, Hornet had backtracked east to get within staging range of Midway, whose aircraft deployed to the deck of the Hornet to replace all those planes lost in the Hosho strike.  Later that morning came one more exchange of air strikes, and it was at that point that we realized that the Hornet and the seven remaining cruisers defending her would never be sunk by the few surviving Val dive bombers in the Japanese strike force.  That meant that the Japanese had done all the damage they were going to do for the rest of the game.

SBD Dauntless
Public domain

The Americans, however, still had about a third of its original Dauntless dive bombers and a few Avenger torpedo bombers from Midway.  In the fourth attack, I shifted tactics completely to pick on the cruisers at the outskirts of the AA screen.  I heavily damaged Mogami with minor losses to my strike force.

It was clear at this point that the Japanese were going to get no more points for the rest of the game, whereas the Americans had enough fight left to take out at least one more cruiser.  That would suffice for me to pull ahead in victory points and win the game, so Frank graciously conceded and requested a rematch with switched sides at our next opportunity.

Final score:

Japanese (Frank H.)
10 for sinking Enterprise
10 for sinking Yorktown
 4 for sinking New Orleans
 2 for sinking Atlanta
26 total

Americans (Paul O.)
 4 for sinking Hosho
 4 for sinking Atago
 3 for (presumed) sinking of Mogami or another cruiser
16 for preventing invasion of Midway
27 total

It was a very fun game, but this was a narrow, Pyrrhic victory by any measure.  Nimitz would not be happy with Spruance if he had returned on Hornet with no other carriers and had meanwhile left the Japanese fleet largely unscathed.  But Frank believes, and I'm beginning to agree, that the protection of Atago and therefore the invasion of Midway is extremely difficult - perhaps impossible for the Japanese player.  That 16-point deficit therefore makes it necessary for the Japanese to sink at least two and probably all three American carriers to win the game.  And if the Americans sink one or two IJN carriers themselves, then the Japanese cause is daunting indeed.  As it is, I won a narrow victory despite some serious tactical errors.  I'm going to go back and brush up on some of the writing on this topic and think through how I need to attack and defend ships, as well as to revisit the Japanese position and strategy.

Submarines are so much easier to operate.