Sunday, August 13, 2017

My (belated) 2017 International Naval Wargaming Day post

Last Sunday was the first International Naval Wargaming Day. Unfortunately, I wasn't really able to organize a game with others to commemorate the day, so my part was limited to a solo-game in my on-going Tokyo Express campaign. Here is my belated game report.

After the successful August battle (described near the end of this post), I conducted a Battle Check for September, no battles, and then October. I ended up with one battle in October and this was my International Naval Wargaming Day game.

I rolled up the scenario and the forces for the game. The scenario set up said that a Japanese convoy was on its way down "The Slot" (AKA New Georgia Sound) with a moderately-sized escort. I had a force of four destroyers and five cruisers (four heavies and one light) to meet the enemy, so I felt like I had a good chance of out-gunning the Japanese. Knowing that there was a chance the convoy could move into the area east or west of Savo Island, I decided to split my force (Note: historically this probably would have been a bad idea, but knowing the way the game system works, and the fact that I'm not really putting my life on the line, give me an advantage over my historical counterparts). I decided to take two destroyers and four heavy cruisers around the east side of Savo Island, while the other two destroyers and the light cruiser went around the south and west sides of the island.
My general movement plans, but I was pretty sure it would change once the Japanese showed up
The game started out well, with all but one of the Japanese forces having their entry delayed. The one Japanese force on the map was headed straight toward my heavy cruisers and I felt pretty good about being in front of it. For those of you not familiar with the Tokyo Express game system, there are random chit draws during the turn to see when each side has the chance to detect the other side and for combat. This really randomizes what happens during the turn and you can end up with a wide variance of actions during the turn. For the most part during this game, the random draws fell in my favor. In this case the Japanese detection chit was drawn early, when we were still out of detection range, while the U.S. detection and Combat chits were drawn late in the turn.When the U.S. detection chit was drawn, I also had a lucky roll that allowed me to detect and fire at the newly found Japanese force. Drawing for the composition of the enemy force, I was happy to see that it was only a light cruiser and three destroyers (yes, they could still do a lot of damage, but I was glad it wasn't anything larger).
My detection of the Japanese advanced force
The attack that followed up the detection sank one destroyer, did medium damage to the light cruiser and another destroyer, and light damage to the third destroyer. Movement continued until Combat chit showed up, when the Japanese got a chance to fire back. But since they were already damaged, almost all their fire was ineffective. The lightly-damaged destroyer got off a torpedo salvo that damaged the heavy cruiser Chicago. My return fire was as effective as the first round, with my attacks sinking the cruiser and one destroyer, while leaving the last destroyer with heavy damage.
Combat damage at the end of the turn
The heavily damaged destroyer started to withdraw from the battle, while my heavy cruisers continued up the east side of Savo Island. After this initial combat, I kept to my movement plan, but I was starting to wonder if I should have my light cruiser force turn and join the heavies on the east side of Savo Island. At this point there was the convoy and ten unknown Japanese forces on the map, but I also knew that only one of the ten was going to be real (knowing the Japanese force levels and how they work is one of the advantages the U.S. player has in the game that the historical commanders did not have).

As the heavy cruisers moved up the east side of the island, they came into contact with the convoy and the final Japanese force, which turned out to be two more destroyers. Luckily for me, the way the heavy cruiser approached the Japanese destroyers made it hard for them to launch an effective torpedo attack. During the combat turn, Japanese attacks sank one of my destroyers, but missed all their other attacks. I concentrated my gunfire on the convoy, since sinking the convoy was my main mission, and let the destroyers fire at the Japanese destroyers. Because of the gunnery angles blocking fire from some of my cruisers, I also took some pot-shots at the heavily damaged destroyer. I did some heavy damage to the convoy and sank the heavily damaged destroyer. 
Convoy in sight!
At this point I was worried the convoy was going to slip by me, so I ordered the heavy cruisers to start turning back to the south and ordered the light cruiser group to turn around to come up the east side of Savo Island. What I didn't know was that the Japanese had issued orders to withdraw from the area. This caused a little bit of strange (and seemly confused) movement for the Japanese that put their destroyers in a really bad position to attack my force or protect the convoy. During combat I continued to pound away on the convoy and took a few shots at the destroyers, doing damage to both. The Japanese destroyers fired on my destroyer, but missed.
The convoy trying to disengage to the northeast, while the escorting destroyer move to the northwest
The Japanese withdrawal order also put me in a bad position to try to catch the convoy, but I was able to sink it just before it had a chance to exit the area.

Tallying up the damage, I sank the Japanese convoy, one light cruiser, three destroyers and did moderate damage to another destroyer. On my side, I lost one destroyer and had light damage to a heavy cruiser (it will be out of action for one month while it repairs the battle damage). Overall this turned out to be a substantial victory for the U.S. and puts me on a good road for an overall campaign victory.

Next year International Naval Wargaming Day will be on a Monday, which will make it hard to have a game on that day. But, hopefully, I will be able to arrange something for the weekend before.