Sunday, November 28, 2004

War in the Pacific Mini-AAR: First Time For Everything

It appears that Matrix Games have launched a 1.3 patch of War in the Pacific. This is just another example of the worst (and some might say the only bad) thing about the game – you happen to play it for weeks only to discover that there is something seriously wrong with its realism, game mechanics etc. Due to the epic size of a single game, applying patches is an exercise in futility – I never managed to finish a single Uncommon Valor game for the same reason. So, I decided to stick with 1.21 and try new version only under new circumstances –PBEM or hot seat opponent or some alternative scenario/campaign.

The campaign that goes so far is going more-or-less historically or, in other words, catastrophically bad for the Allies. It is January 5th 1942.

At this stage, most of the Philippines is Japanese hands – last Allied unit surrendered on Mindanao, while the Luzon still holds, or, to be more precise, heavily fortified positions around Manila, Clark Field and Batan. After initial shock, US air forces on Philippines have got their act together. US fighters appear to be able to confront Japanese aircrafts, even "Zeros", on equal footing – first fighter aces (with 5 or more downed enemy planes) of Pacific War are 1st LT Crowley of 21st Fighter Squadron US Army, 1st LT Cullen and FO Brors of 24th Fighter Groups US Army. But Japanese onslaught continues and Manila is being bombed while Japanese already made first major assault on Clark Field.

A little bit westwards Japanese have consolidated their hold on Northern Borneo with successful landings on Brunei and Miri. After valiant defence during which at least one Japanes cargo ship was sunk, Dutch garrison on Menado, Celebes has surrendered. More spectacular was Japanese aircraft carrier squadron raid in Java Sea during which Dutch cruiser De Reyteur was hit hard, only to be sunk by Japanese submarine. That was the first occurrence of a capital ship being sunk by submarine. But there wasn't the only first thing to happen during that operation – Dutch level bombers have managed to score a hit on Zuiho and create quite a mess on her deck. That was the first occurrence of an aircraft carrier being damaged in combat during the campaign. Despite attempts to hit that task force with combination of Dutch destroyers and patrol torpedo boats, Zuiho is sailing eastwards, to the safety of Davao which is now major Japanese base.

Things are going very bad in Malaya. Yamashita's 5th, 18th and Imperial Guards Division have cleared all but Johore province. Demoralised British and Empire troops are running towards Singapore. In order to release some pressure, I organised evacuation convoy from Kuala Lumpur to Sumatra. At least two Indian brigades and plenty of support troops were brought to safety, but Japanese air force have taken a heavy toll on the shipping – anti-aircraft cruiser Cape Town and couple of cargo ships.

Japanese navy also made a run towards Malacca – Royal Navy from Singapore have intercepted them and did a number on couple of troop carriers. I wondered whether that suicidal mission was a ruse made in order to bring British capital ships out of RAF-covered Singapore harbour. I got my answer when Prince of Wales was caught on sea by Japanese bombers and received three torpedo hits. That brought me an unpleasant dilemma – whether to send the damaged capital ship to Singapore and risk losing it during the inevitable collapse of city's defences or to risk long journey southwards to relative safety of Indonesia and Australia. I took the second option and haven't regretted it so far – Prince of Wales remained undetected by Japanese and is currently being repaired in Palembang. When she becomes operational, she would join Repulse and destroyer Isis (which were damaged by Japanese planes in Singapore) and two British destroyers that had escaped from Hong Kong (and survived the Japanese air attack east of Borneo which had sunk US cruiser Houston). All those ships are to gather in Darwin from where they would try to stop Japanese from taking Timor and threatening Australia.

Westwards, situation looks bad in Burma. Rangoon is still besieged by Japanese 55th Division, but Japanese seem overstretched and apparently couldn't prevent 1st Burmese Brigade from making a brave move southwards and retaking Moulmain, former RAF base. This was the first occurrence of an Allied base being liberated from Japanese. Most troubling thing in Burma is total lack of Allied air forces. There is one torpedo bomber squadron in Ceylon and remains of a bomber squadrons in Rangoon and Akyab. Situation might improve with the arrival of couple of fighter squadrons to India next week – they are equipped with Hurricanes, model at least marginally better than antiquated Buffalos that had been mauled by Zeros in last month.

I also noticed one interesting thing about the Allied air forces. Their efficiency has dramatically improved over past month. This is due to huge experience gained among surviving pilots. But it all came with a price – most of them have flown 28 or more missions and the morale in those squadrons is bad. I'm certain that at least some of them would have to be removed from Singapore or Manila before the end of month. It would be a shame for such battle-hardened personnel to be wasted when both bases inevitably fall. I already start moving some RAAF squadrons from Australian mainland as a replacement.

As for Australia itself, it is far from being threatened. Garrison in Port Moresby has received enough supplies to last a long siege. Garrison in Rabaul is still resisting, although it couldn't have prevented Japanese from establishing base in nearby Kavieng.

Eastwards, most US military activity is concentrated in Central Pacific. Bases in Johnston Island and Palmyra are strengthened with more fortifications, supplies while engineers are expanding port facilities. One carrier task force have made successful raid on Japanese base in Tarawa Atoll, damaging harbour and airfield without casualties of its own. The most ambitious operation is establishment of US base on nearby Baker Island. One engineering and one AA unit have already been deployed – bombers, fighters, infantry support, fuel and more supplies should arrive shortly.

Australians are also in the process of establishing a base in Guadalcanal. That base should protect the sea lanes between USA and Australia.

Statistics are, at least on first impression, improving in Allied favour. During the entire campaign so far, Allies have lost 531 aircraft to Japanese 351. Allies have also lost 45 ships to Japanese 26. It should be noted that the former includes more capital ships (2 battleships, 1 heavy cruiser, 3 light cruisers, 1 anti-aircraft cruiser, 5 destroyers – Japanes lost 3 light cruisers and 2 destroyers).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. This sounds like a great game.

Catastrophe or no, it looks like you're doing better than the historical Allies. REPULSE safe. Port Moresby ready for anything. Those combat ratios are /good/. Keep this up and by 1943 there won't be any Japanese in the air at all.

Does the game model the war in China, at all? And what about cryptography?

Doug M.

8:38 AM  
Blogger Dragan said...

Actually, I'm doing worse. Japanese may had worse than historical casualties, but they also had better results. At this point Japanese are at the very gates of Singapore. I expect the city to fall in a week – this is almost a month before historical schedule. And when they do it, they could also clear Indonesia a month or two before historical schedule, than equivalents of Coral Sea and Midway battles might go the other way…

Chinese theatre is dedicated almost entirely to ground action (although Chinese have a small Soviet-equiped air force), and this is the least detailed, most abstract and least interesting aspect of the game. I'm thinking about switching entire Chinese theatre to computer control.

Cryptography doesn't exist as a game feature. Players can get information via Sigint (mostly reports of radio traffic), but it doesn't seem to be connected with any other aspect of the game.

5:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's OK. If the game is a reasonably accurate simulation (which it may not be, of course), then production is more important than territory.

You need to hang on to a few strategic point -- Port Moresby, the eastern tip of New Guinea, Guadalcanal, and of course Hawaii -- as bases for your eventual counter-offensive. Hang on to these, and all should be well. Lose them, and you will have big logistical problems in 1943. (Again, assuming the game is a decent simulation.)

Otherwise... every Japanese ship or plane killed is pure gravy. You can replace losses; they can't.

-- One other thought. The game has 12-hour turns. (!) This is great in the first few months of the war, but it might get a little boring in late '42 and '43, periods when "not much happened". I wonder if human players will experience a temptation to strike earlier and more often than is strategically wise.

Doug M.

10:15 AM  

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