The action roll for November turned up one battle for the month and using the End Run scenario from the game. This put my starting forces on the northern side of Savo Island while the hidden Japanese forces set up to the northeast and southwest of my position. My forces for the game were two heavy cruisers, 3 light cruisers (including one Atlanta class, which is really just a big destroyer) and five destroyers. As with my previous game, I decided to split my forces (well, it worked last time) with the heavy cruisers and three destroyers heading southwest, while the light cruisers and remaining destroyers moving to engage the hidden forces to the northeast.
The heavy cruiser force shifted course to the south to intercept the hidden forces and got lucky with a long-range detection, picking out one Japanese heavy cruiser, one light cruiser, and two destroyers. When the combat chit was draw, I was in a good position for a combined gun and torpedo attack. Because they Japanese hadn’t spotted me, my attacks were resolved before any return fire. I was able to cripple the heavy cruiser, damage the light cruiser and one destroyer. Then the Japanese returned fire and their torpedoes finally worked as advertised. I lost one cruiser, while the other took heavy damage, leaving only my destroyers in good fighting shape.
|Cruisers vs. Cruisers|
Back at the battle between heavy cruiser groups, I was able to sink the Japanese heavy cruiser and one destroyer. The Japanese sank one of my destroyers, but then they failed their withdrawal roll and the remaining light cruiser and destroyer turned for home.
It was a costly battle for me, but an American victory since the Japanese didn’t complete their bombardment mission.
December turned out to only have one battle too (in the campaign, November and December have the highest chances for multiple battles). The random scenario roll was for the Battle of Cape Esperance scenario. I had originally played this scenario to familiarize myself with the rules, so I felt pretty good about playing it again.
This time I kept my force all together as I hunted the Japanese. Once again, having the surprise on the Japanese helped me out and I found them in two groups, one with a light cruiser and five destroyers and the other with two destroyers. Once the battle started, I split off my trailing destroyers to go after the two enemy destroyers, while the rest of the force focused on the larger group of enemy ships.
In the swirling melee I sank three Japanese destroyers and damaged three others. But, once again, the Japanese torpedoes proved their value as I lost one heavy cruiser and had the remaining 3 cruisers all damaged.
The scenario ended in a draw. I was starting to see my cruiser force being whittled down and there were still possible battles in January, February, and March.
I rolled up one battle for January and the scenario was the First Battle of Guadalcanal. Historically in this battle the Japanese sent two battleships to bombard the Marine positions on Guadalcanal and the way the scenario is set up there is a high probability of encountering at least one battleship. The game gives you the option of trading cruisers for battleships, but I decided to use the historical American forces since that would give me more ships against the large number of Japanese. So, I was running two heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, and eight destroyers. The scenario setup puts you in contact quickly and the scenario turned out to be pretty short.
|Ships positions with the gunfire started, which is fairly close to the historical battle|
I was pretty much out of cruisers at this point, but, luckily for me, I did not roll for any more battles in the campaign. Tallying up the campaign totals, I came up with a minor US victory (winning three scenarios, one draw, and one loss). Overall, it was pretty much a historical result.
Tokyo Express is an interesting game with a lot of variability. It is pretty easy to predict the approach paths and movement for the Japanese, but the detection and combat chits make the whole game really variable. This would definitely turn off some players, but after reading Neptune’s Inferno, it does give some idea of what it would have been like on the ships patrolling the waters off Guadalcanal in late 1942.