Thursday, January 4, 2018

Destruction of Task Force Z

Note: I just found this in my drafts folder. It was written over a year ago, but for some reason never published. Hope you enjoy. 

Yes, another solitaire board game commemorating events of 75 years ago this month in the Pacific. As a follow-up to my Pearl Harbor game last week, Today I played Minden Games' Destruction of Task Force Z, which recreates the final voyages of the HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse in the days immediately following Pearl Harbor and other Japanese attacks in Malaya and elsewhere.

The design notes say straight up that this game should demonstrate the folly of setting sail with capital ships in the vicinity of enemy bombers without adequate protection from the air. Truth. While I did somewhat better than historically, losing only the Repulse while managing to have the Prince of Wales limp back to Singapore, that was mostly due to one lucky die roll on my part than anything. Things could have just as easily ended up with a historical result, which to me is a sign of a good game.

In the game, I stuck with Admiral Sir Tom Phillips' basic plan and headed east out of Singapore past the Anamba Islands before heading north to avoid known minefields and Japanese submarine activity. A few Japanese surface units popped up, but ended up playing no role in the game. I guess I could have tried to chase them down, but I decided to attempt to disrupt invasion plans and bombard Japanese forces in Singera and Kota Bharu.

Alas, on turn 3 (second day turn, Dec. 3), my small fleet was spotted, despite strict observance of radio silence. A total of 25 torpedo bombers and 20 level bombers appeared, and divided themselves evenly to attack both my ships. Anti-aircraft fire was marginally successful, but still the Prince of Wales suffered 2 hits and the Repulse 1 - all by the torpedo planes.

With the next turn a night turn, I decided to maintain radio silence and go ahead with the mission under cover of darkness. That worked great - until the following morning when I was spotted again. This time, though, only 16 level bombers showed up, and they proved ineffective with no hits scored. At this time I probably should have called in the RAF, but I decided to push my luck and headed for Kota Bharu.

Then things went from bad to worse. Suddenly 28 torpedo bombers and 24 level bombers attacked, concentrating solely on the Repulse. (That's that lucky die roll I mentioned earlier - basically saved the Prince of Wales.) Torpedo planes attack first, and the second plane in scored a critical hit on the propulsion system, meaning the Repulse could only move one square per turn the rest of the game. Basically it would be a sitting duck. Not that it mattered, as plane 9 scored another hit, followed by plane 11 with the final blow that sent the venerable vessel to the bottom.

Meanwhile, the Prince of Wales moved in close to shore and managed to bombard Japanese positions in Kota Bharu, but with night falling decided discretion would be the better part of valor and made full steam south toward Singapore. Risking a straight line through the Japanese submarine pickets and the mines while continuing to maintain radio silence, the Prince of Wales avoided detection and made it back to Singapore on turn 10. On her next sortie, she would undoubtedly be provided some aerial cover...

All in all a fun little game. There are some strategic options for the British player, which is good. I could have called in the RAF, or I could have tried some surface actions. I found the use of counters largely unnecessary in the battle segments, basically using only those to keep track of ship positions on the board and making use of the register to keep track of combat. It's a little tedious, as every individual plane ends up being attacked by AA and is assigned an attack modifier, so there is lots of dice rolling, especially in the larger attacks. But it's not like there are attacks going on in a dozen hexes, so it's manageable.

According the victory points schedule, I lost 12-2. Still that's better than the historical outcome, which under these terms would have been considered an 18-0 Japanese victory!

I'd like to give this another try sometime. I do have one more early Pacific game in the stash covering Bataan and Corregidor. That looks like strictly a two-player game, though, so I'm not sure when I'll get to that. Someday!

No comments:

Post a Comment