It’s 1942 in the South Pacific – almost a year after Pearl Harbor jumped the USA into World War II. The Imperial Japanese Navy is running supplies and troops to their army almost every night through the center of the Solomon Islands chain – The Slot – to try and retake Guadalcanal’s critical airfield. They have been ordered to “supply or die” and the US Navy is committed to stopping them. Every night a deadly game of cat-and-mouse occurs with the USN trying to intercept the Japanese ships and transports. The question is, who is the cat and who is the mouse?
The fleets were as follows, with all ships, except for one, being destroyers:
IJN Akatsuki (Me)
IJN Naganami (Curt)
IJN Isuzu, the light cruiser
The game began with both sides getting an extra 'blip' to put on the table. Our GM informed us that, to the west (the far side of the table in the first picture), there was an island that would help confuse the American radar returns, so we decided to come in as a line from the North-west (little did we know the American would do the same!
The Americans realized that their positions were off when the Lamson, the leading ship, made a complex movement that the rest of the ships in the squadron failed to follow. This being a demo game, the GM and table agreed to move the Americans into their proper positions. Torpedoes were (actually!) launched by the Japanese, and an amazing shot from the Isuzu flew straight and true... right into the Lamson, which was also the acting commander of the USS force.
This unfortunately led to the Americans pounding the Akatsuki, and she lost both guns, two of her 3 torpedo-launching stations, and her spotlight. More worrying were the hits to her bridge and engineering, as well as a bulkhead breach. She wasn't crippled, however, and I began to move her out of the way of the battle once I got the situation under control (the Japanese needed a decisive victory to win, and I wasn't going to let the Americans take the Akatsuki as an easy kill).
The Lamson continues to speed towards the Japanese rear. The Japanese torpedoes, however, hit their mark, essentially crippling one of the American ships (the Fletcher, I believe). While the crew failed their morale roll, the ship herself was still capable of firing most of her guns, so the Japanese avoided finishing her off as she limped away at 5 knots.
Seeing the Lamson moving past, the Kagero and Naganami decided to break off and pursue, while the Isuzu began to turn.
In the end, the Lamson managed to get away, breaking into the Japanese rear. The O'Bannon took enough hits from the three remaining combat capable Japanese ships that the GM declared her effectively neutralized. A quick tally of victory points showed that the Japanese had won a morale victory, which would look good in the Japanese newspapers, but wouldn't help the war effort.
I have to say, I really enjoyed the game. If I had to nit-pick about something, it was the amount of charts that were necessary to play the game. However, my inability to pick up the charts was mostly likely due to the fact that the Akatsuki was knocked out and unable to do much in the middle of the game. Curt, on the other hand, not only picked up on the charts, but was soon showing the other players what to do when they were attempting to fire at one another.
In what may be the most telling show of our opinion of the game, Curt and I are now looking around for some 1:700 ships to put together (which would have been much easier had Herb's not closed, though in what seems to be some sort of heavenly-ordained coincidence, I did find and buy a copy of the Osprey Publishing 'USN Destroyer vs. IJN Destroyer, 1943' book. Weird).