Monday, December 18, 2017

WWII naval action off Guadalcanal

On Sunday I hosted a game for FG, Wahj and Arjun where we did a WWII naval scenario off Cape Esperance, Guadalcanal and I now have the pleasure of providing my first contribution to this blog. We used Victory at Sea rules with it's scenario with some slight amendments in the form of a slightly reduced US fleet size but which still outnumbered the Japanese. I had always been enthralled with GHQ's 1/2400 naval miniatures and had always wanted to field a game with them so this game was some time in planning. This was also a good opportunity to see how the rules played out.

This scenario is of both US and Japanese fleets consisting a mix of cruisers and destroyers  setting out to clear opposing forces off Cape Esperance at Guadalcanal with Wahj and FG commanding the Japanese forces and Arjun and myself, the US. The Japanese fleet started in the south easterly heading (bottom of picture) with the US heading in a westerly heading. 

The opposing fleet on a collision course with destiny (looking  east)

Lead elements of the Japanese fleet: Kagero class destroyer (front) and a Furutaka class cruiser (back) passing some rain squalls.  

Lead elements of the US fleet with a New Orleans class cruiser in the lead.

With the Japanese team winning the initiative, they opted to diverge their fleet into two separate flanks, turning port and starboard outwards, which was followed on by the US commanders in multi-turn moves between both forces. No one wanted to be caught at full beam between two enemy ships!

The opposing fleets diverge to the flanks (looking west).

The fleet maneuvers consisted of Arjun performing a dicey slice through maneuver, perhaps in an attempt to awe the Japanese with his brilliant seamanship. I attempted to bring up the rear elements by ordering full flank speed to narrow the distance and bring the guns into range. 

The "hard to achieve" slice through manoeuvre they don't teach you at the Naval Academy.

The Japanese however were not having any of it. With them gaining the initiative again, they opted to teach the American dogs a lesson with an opening salvo. 

The smoke screen
A lead Kagero class destroyer on the port (left) flank commanded by Wahj also created smoke as part of a special action to screen her accompanying vessel. The engagement ensued into a slugfest with both forces trading surface volleys that at best, created some token damage and at worst, caused a thorough drenching of a few chagrinned sailors sun tanning on deck.


The Japanese then turned the tide when FG and Wahj brought their superior torpedoes into play. With their high attack and damage dice numbers they soon made short work of two US cruisers which were sunk in quick succession only for the loss of one Japanese destroyer which honourably gave its life for providing screening protection.

With the lost of the two cruisers, the US commanders, after concluding that the loss of a third cruiser was unacceptable and that Cape Esperance was not sufficiently safe anymore, beat a hasty retreat to the South East. It was unanimously agreed that the Marines on the island's air strip had the right stuff to endure yet another day of Japanese naval bombardment (Marines! You Can Do It!). An after action report discussion yielded a couple of observations.
1. The US fleet was not using the destroyers effectively as a screening force.
2. The US fleet did not perform any evasive actions allowed under the movement phase to mitigate the torpedo risk.
3. The US destroyers could have used smoke to effectively screen the cruisers.
4. The US destroyers should have utilised its "agile" special trait to maneuver close enough for a torpedo shot. In hindsight since this was a one shot weapon, we were probably waiting for the right moment. 
5. The US fleet despite its slight numerical advantage were outgunned at close range.
6. I will probably end up making some appropriate torpedo markers 
Nevertheless this first run was enough to give me some familiarity of the gameplay and will add to my understanding when I go through the rules again.  With the conclusion of the tabletop hostilities, the opposing commanders adjourned to the sitting room to continue with our beer and to discuss various topics such as the World of Warships online game, our fitness and dietary regimes, Aamir Khan, Ryan Gosling as Young Hercules, "You messed with the wrong guy" genre movies and how to avoid corporate tax by declaring your company as a charitable organisation.



Blaze Infinity said...

I would like to see more of this.... As for USN, Try to send ur Destroyers first followed by ur Cruisers in distance so ur Cruisers are safe from the Japs Torpedoes and ur Destroyers can deal with the Japanese Destroyers

captain arjun said...

I've learned my lesson...

Stephen Holmes said...

Good report.
WW2 Naval is notoriously difficult to get right - especially if Carriers are involved.
Thankfully they were absent in the early part of the Solomons actions.

If my memory serves me correctly, the Early Solomons battles went well for the Japanese - who stood off and used cruiser launched torpedoes against unsuspecting American targets.

When the Americans turned the tide it was thanks to more aggressive patrolling by their destroyers - and getting an airstrip working, so having land-based air support.