800 pts IJN vs. USN w/Carriers

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LocalNemesis
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800 pts IJN vs. USN w/Carriers

Postby LocalNemesis » Sat Aug 04, 2018 4:56 am

Greetings all,

Local Nemesis here. Evilsam and I sent forces against each other recently and wanted to share our experience. Here are the details:


Order of Battle
Local Nemesis was sailing with 800 points of the Imperial Japanese Navy's finest. There were two Aoba– class Cruisers; four Akizuki– class Destroyers; and the Zuikaku, a Shokaku– class Aircraft Carrier. The air wing consisted of 3 Aichi D3A1 Val Dive– Bombers, 3 Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero Fighters, 2 Nakajima B5N1 Kate Torpedo Bombers, and 1 Yokosuka B4Y1 Jean Bomber.

Evilsam had 800 points of Americans. The force was 1 Cleveland– class Cruiser, 2 Brooklyn– class Cruisers, 2 Fletcher– class Destroyers, and a Yorktown– class Aircraft Carrier (the Big E, if I remember correctly). The air wing complement was 10 Douglas SBD Dauntless Dive– Bombers, 5 Douglas TBD Devastator Torpedo Bombers, and 5 Grumman F4F Wildcat Fighters.


Scenario & Conditions
The IJN had a Destroy mission and the USN was trying to Break Out. This had some interesting effects.

Having +10% fleet points was pretty easy for me to deal with. I didn't have a full air wing, so I just threw an extra 80 points there (two more Zeroes and one more Kate). Evilsam fared less well, having to remove a Destroyer and a few flights of aircraft.

We rolled Bad Weather, but since we wanted to try aircraft out we overruled that. It is something we think should be looked at carefully — with Bad Weather happening as often as the rules suggest it should, players bringing carriers and aircraft are riding the ragged edge of just about throwing those points away.

The wind was coming out of the IJN's long table edge. This was fortunate for evilsam, but much less so for me.


Wind Direction
I feel more description needs to go into what Wind Direction is supposed to mean. Here is the text from the rules:
A carrier is said to be sailing into the wind if its bow (the front of the ship) is pointing within 45° of the table edge rolled for wind direction.
I believe I understand what this is trying to say, but I'm not sure I agree with it. Does the graphic below accurately represent the rule text?

Image

In this first case it's possible to be headed "into the wind" while actually sailing perpendicular to the wind direction (you could actually sail away from the wind edge and still be headed into the wind...). That seems a little counter– intuitive to me. No one would launch aircraft with a crosswind like that. While the graph is not to scale, the idea is hopefully clear. Given a wide enough table and good positioning of the carrier it will not be difficult to pull off that trick.

Image

With this method a carrier has to point itself within 45° of an imaginary "wind" line drawn perpendicular from the wind edge directly to the carrier. If that wind line falls within 45° of the carrier's bow then the ship is pointed into the wind. I think this is more realistic, but I'm not sure it's what the rules intended.

Something else to consider. Evilsam and I use Axis & Allies War at Sea miniatures, and I believe those are at the same scale as V@S. If that is the case, then the large fleet carriers are very nearly 6" in length. With the wind direction we had it meant the IJN could not launch aircraft for the first turn (we assumed the second graphic for wind direction — the first was a little odd). This may be as intended, but it should be pointed out to players. It forced me to spend the first turn steaming away from my edge and then swinging back towards it so I could launch aircraft for about three turns — at which point I had to turn away unless I wanted to sail off the edge of the world.


Pre– Battle Machinations
I did not dedicate any assets to scouting, but evilsam did. He sent off all his Cruisers' Observation Aircraft and a Destroyer (the DD would not return to the battle). He rolled enough successes to place his carrier off– board. This would turn out to be an excellent move on his part, since it allowed him to place all his aircraft on the board and keep his carrier safe — both from general attack from my force and the IJN Long Lance Fan attack. Speaking of which...

I used the IJN Long Lance Fan attack. We both feel it is extremely powerful. I had 32 dice of Long Lance torpedoes available, giving me 10 dice of Fan attack. I got a pair of 6s, and both of them struck the same Cruiser (evilsam had only three surface ships as available targets — a Destroyer was "lost" due to the mission (mentioned above), one DD was out scouting, and his carrier was off– board. The result of the Fan attack left the Cruiser Crippled with just 1 hull point left.

If we were playing a larger battle, say 1,500 to 2,000 points, the Fan attack could potentially be soul– crushingly devastating. Just doubling my force would have given me 64 dice of Fan attack, meaning 21 dice rolled looking for 6s. With just a bit of luck I should expect 4– 5 hits, and since each is Devastating the IJN could wipe out or render useless quite a few enemy ships. The opponent would be, understandably, unhappy.

I don't know what the Evade Torpedoes rule was, but perhaps it (or something similar) should be brought back. Or maybe reduce the strength of the Fan attack to 1 die per Long Lance torpedo system instead of 1 die per 3 Attack Dice. It's basically a free attack and bonus that no one would plan their strategy around, so knocking back the strength a bit is not bad, in my opinion. I really don't think the Fan attack is going to scale gracefully with larger point games.


Scouting
When Scouting, who decides which forces will be sent off first? There could be an advantage for one player if they see what the other is doing. Perhaps there is a way to do this simultaneously?

With a result of 9 Scouting points or more you have this option:
As above, and may re-deploy any number of ships (including scouts) in Enhanced Deployment Zone, while Carriers may start with half of their Flights in the air.
Does that mean the scouting units are immediately placed in the EDZ? Or, are they allowed to be placed in the EDZ when they normally return from Scouting?


Aircraft Carriers
If a carrier is destroyed or otherwise rendered unable to recover aircraft, what happens to its air wing? Can they use the assumed off– board airfield?

Is there any advantage to using a carrier? I'm beginning to think the answer is "No." Here is why.

The rules allow any force to bring aircraft, and if they don't have a carrier then they are assumed to have been launched from an off– board airbase. If I'm reading the rules correctly, the off– board base would allow you to place all your aircraft in your deployment zone at the beginning of the game. This is a massive advantage. Evilsam was able to start with his entire air wing on the table and I was forced to defend with two flights. By the time contact was made I had two more flights in the air, but four flights against nearly 20 was not ideal.

Since carriers can only launch 1 flight per turn (with a chance for a second) there is a huge inducement to bring a greater number of smaller carriers instead of a fleet carrier. This seems like a shame to me. Why spend 200 points on a carrier, plus another 200 points on a 15 unit air wing, when you'll only be able to launch half of the flights reliably with a chance of more? It's better to bring multiple light carriers (or escort carriers) and double or triple the number of aircraft you can process.

Or don't bring carriers at all. Take the 200 points you would have spent on the carrier and put it into the air wing and use the off– board airbase.


Off– board Airbase
The rules for off– board airbases are pretty much non– existent, and I believe they need to be fleshed out. The rules mention carriers can re– arm aircraft, but what about the bases? Should we assume any airbase aircraft are "one and done" units, and once they deliver their attack load or expend their ammo they are done with? That would be thematic, since we could assume that given the time frame of a battle there just isn't enough opportunity to attack, return to the base, reload, and get back for another go. If this is the case, I think the rules need to clearly show this.


Shooting Down Aircraft
Can a ship in anti– aircraft range of a dogfight fire into that dogfight?

If an aircraft moves over a ship with an AA weapon that has the Local X trait, the ship can make an immediate AA attack against the aircraft. What happens if that kind of ship moves under an aircraft unit? Can it use its Local X AA weapon to make an attack? If no, why not?


Dogfighting
What happens when two aircraft that have no ammo left engage each other? Since neither unit can win the battle, and neither unit can leave until it wins the battle, are they just stuck fighting each other (and not winning the battle) for the rest of the game?

In the graphic below, how does the ammo situation resolve?

Image

The IJN had initiative and one of my Zeroes jumped the Devastator. One of evilsam's Wildcats then jumped my Zero. How should the battle resolve?

In our case I elected to resolve all air combat first. The Zero attacked the Devastator and won, removing it from battle. By the rules, my Zero is now out of ammo, correct? On evilsam's turn he activated his aircraft. When we fought that battle the Zero ended up winning the roll, but did not destroy the Wildcat because it had no ammo. Is this also correct? All my Zero can do is keep rolling and hoping to win so it is not destroyed, yes?


Speedy Destroyers
A fast moving Destroyer has a -2 to hit modifier associated with it. This can be pretty harsh to deal with. Using anything other than Light Guns (and when aircraft are all over the place the Light Guns might be busy) means the weapon hits on only 6s, and with any kind of range penalty the shot becomes impossible. If this is by design that's fine and one thing, but we wanted to bring it up because the fast Japanese Destroyers with their Long Lance torpedoes are pretty nasty and can be difficult to deal with.


Scenario Length
Many of the scenarios are 8 turns long. This is not a lot of time. As already mentioned, it doesn't give carriers a chance to launch all that many aircraft, or recover all that many.

It also has a large effect on an opponent's tactics. In our battle evilsam had to get off my table edge. It was a standard 4' x 6' table and he deployed as far forward as he could (6"), meaning he had 42" to travel (4 feet x 12" - 6" deployment zone). His Cruisers had a speed of 6", so in an 8 turn game they could move a maximum of 48" — leaving only 6" of maneuvering room. This is not enough. I knew exactly where all his ships were going and if he wanted a chance to win he couldn't do anything drastic or veer too far off a direct straight line course.

Perhaps making games 10 turns long might work? At the very least, the scenarios need to be carefully looked at and some numbers run to see just how viable they are.


Aircraft Costs
American aircraft are underpriced. Or maybe Japanese aircraft are overpriced. Whichever it is, evilsam was able to field a 20 unit air wing for 200 points and I had 10 units for the same points. Is there a formula to determine flight costs? I don't see how a 1940 Wildcat costs 10 points for a +1 dogfighting bonus, is only 1" slower than the Zero, and is also Tough — and the 1940 Zero is 30 points for a +2 dogfighting rating.

That's just one example, but the Americans have extremely cheap aircraft. We didn't look at the other nations, but it's an aspect of the game that should be looked at.


I think that's about it for now! Apologies for the long missive, and the possibly large images. If they are too much of an issue I will resize them somehow and edit the post.

LN
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Re: 800 pts IJN vs. USN w/Carriers

Postby Greg Smith » Sat Aug 04, 2018 11:43 am

That's a great playtest report, IMHO. I am glad I'm not the only one that has spotted these issues. :D

Bad weather just stuffs up so many aspects of the game.
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Re: 800 pts IJN vs. USN w/Carriers

Postby msprange » Mon Aug 06, 2018 12:11 pm

Awesome report - hoping to get an update to you chaps before the weekend!
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Re: 800 pts IJN vs. USN w/Carriers

Postby msprange » Thu Aug 09, 2018 9:52 am

Been humming and harring about the carrier/wind issues.

At the moment, I am leaning towards keeping things as they are - I can see where you are coming from but we also need towards playability and not massively penalising someone just because they are on the wrong side of the table. As it stands, you have to respect the wind, but won't be hammered by it.

Oh, and the speedy destroyers - very much as intended. You will have to think carefully about turning big guns on them (but, my Lord, when you get that hit, you will ruin their day!), and Light Guns should be the weapon of choice when engaging them at speed.

Just seen the AAA question - this is already in the rules, you cannot shoot into a dogfight.
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