Your friendly Local Nemesis here. Evilsam and I just played our second battle with the play test rules and there are some thoughts and questions that came up during the engagement.
It was 800 points a side, the US versus the Imperial Japanese Navy. We were facing Bad Weather and doing it at Night — argh!
The Americans had one Baltimore– class Cruiser, three Cleveland– class Cruisers, and six Fletcher– class Destroyers. The Japanese brought one Nagato– class Battleship, two Aoba– class Cruisers, and four Akizuki– class Destroyers.
The US had an Attrition mission while the Japanese had to conduct a Sweep & Clear. Some things immediately became obvious:
•The IJN player (me) could not win. Since Bad Weather forced all Destroyers down to half speed, and more than half my force was made up of Destroyers, I could not win. The best I could do was a tie. This is because Destroyers are limited to half speed in Bad Weather and the game is eight turns long. This means my Destroyers could go no further than 28", assuming a straight course (8 turns times 3.5" per turn equals 28") — they could not possibly exit off the American table edge.
If this sort of situation is intentional, that's all fine and good. I believe a note should be made in the game that such a thing is a possibility, if for no other reason than to head off possible complaints from the larger gaming audience.
•Destroyers are utterly useless in a Bad Weather / Night scenario, and generally useless in a Bad Weather game. They are at half speed, cannot attack with their Light Guns, cannot use torpedoes, and a few other things that make you regret bringing Destroyers. Bad Weather will be one third of the games you play, though Bad Weather at Night will be much less common (1 in 18 games will be Bad Weather at Night, if my math is correct).
This strongly discourages players from adding Destroyers to their fleets. There is a one third chance that all the points you put into Destroyers (and also Motor Torpedo Boats and aircraft) will be useless. In my case, I "lost" 200 points from my fleet; Evilsam lost 300.
If this is intentional that's one thing. If it's not, then it should be looked at a bit more. Since V@S doesn't require a certain number of smaller class vessels be bought for each higher class ship anymore, I could easily see larger point battles without any Destroyers at all — I think that would be a shame.
•When you have a mission like Sweep & Clear, how do you handle vessels that were sent off for scouting? The player is supposed to get the majority of their force off the opponent's deployment edge, but is that half of the vessels you bought, half of the vessels that are placed at the start of the game, or something else? Also, what happens when a vessel that was off scouting returns? How does that affect the mission?
On a related note, where are scouting vessels supposed to be placed? The rules say to determine a random table edge, but where on the table edge will they appear? I would want the vessel to be placed in the most favorable position for my mission; my opponent, the best for him. So, how do we handle this? If we say the vessels will appear at the mid- point of the table edge then that gives the opponent an advantage because they will know where to expect reinforcements. Perhaps some random method needs to be used instead?
•Related to scouting, why can surface vessels return from scouting to take part in a battle but aircraft cannot? Aircraft have much superior speed and range, and if any asset should be able to go out, find something, and get back in a hurry, it is aircraft. I'm guessing this is for game balance purposes, but some explanation or rationale needs to be offered — it makes no sense to me as is.
•Bad Weather rules say no torpedoes can be used and Night rules say no vessel further away than 20" can be shot at, so how does this impact the IJN's Torpedo Fan trait? Can they still be used because it is a special benefit of the IJN, or do the weather effects/darkness rule that out?
•When should searchlights be used? Here is the text from the rules:
Are all ships that intend to use searchlights supposed to declare that at the start of the Attack Phase, before any combat dice are rolled? What order should ships do this in?Any ship may use its searchlights to automatically Spot any one enemy ship within 10” at the start of the Attack Phase, before any shooting takes place. The -1 penalty to hit for attacking at Night no longer applies for attacks on an enemy ship Spotted by searchlights. As each player designates a ship to attack with, that player also indicates if the ship is using its searchlights, prior to firing its weapons. Ships using searchlights are automatically Spotted themselves.
What is the intent of the third sentence of the paragraph? Haven't ships that are using searchlights already activated them at the start of the Attack Phase?
•Is there a maximum spotting range for Bad Weather/Night purposes? For example, an American Destroyer is 25" away from a Japanese Battleship at night. The Battleship fires its main guns at a target, which automatically causes the Battleship to be spotted. Does the American DD spot the BB because it fired its mains, or is being outside the spotting distance mean it cannot be seen?
•Submarine scenarios seem extremely difficult. Not having played one yet, but looking over the rules, it seems submarines will have a very difficult time of things one- third to one- half the time. That is how often the mission is played at night.
Subs would normally hit on a 4+, modified by 2 to 6+ for firing a torpedo. At night that becomes a 7+, meaning the submarine will have to be within half normal weapons range to take a shot. For vessels like the IJN's Kaidai- 7- class submarine that means being within 3". This seems... stringent. Is this intended?
•Please provide some guidance on how the Restricted trait works. When the trait references the Port/Starboard 90 degree firing arcs, is it referring to the Q/R turret arcs? The Attack Phase chapter does not otherwise refer to a Port/Starboard arc. If a ship (like an IJN Nagato– class Battleship) has 12 AD of Light Guns, it can use a maximum of 6 AD to the left and right 90 degree arcs — otherwise it has 12 AD to use between the fore and aft?
This has become quite a long missive! I'm enjoying the game greatly and really look forward to the next edition of the play test rules. I welcome any and all advice about the points I've raised.
Have a great weekend, all!