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Thursday, September 18, 2014

"Remember, Remember, 13 November..." Part 2

So the available decisions to each side went as follows, referring to the handy map from ODGW's "The Solomon's Campaign" [a great campaign in itself, btw]:
map scale at top right, about 12,000 yards = 1 cm, handy letters are locations of campaign encounters if using the full campaign.  Here, they're useful reference points for players.  Henderson Field is center bottom to left of (B).  IJN approach is from Northwest (A) and requires a choice of Northeast or Southwest passage around Savo Island (E) or (F).

USN.  Like true veteran gamers, neither Adm. "No Pain" Kane nor "Snake-Eyes" Seliga wanted to be in command.  With neither player willing to take the blame of another Savo 1 or share the fate of Scott and Callaghan [perhaps out of mistrust...after all, Callaghan killed Scott when the San Francisco fired upon Atlanta], a joint decision was made to patrol a line from (C) to (G) with two parallel formations in line ahead.  North or closest to the IJN approach was the line of five destroyers.  2,000 y [20cm] South was the line of 5 cruisers.  This placed the DDs potentially in the line of fire of the cruisers, and was probably not an optimal formation.  They steamed at 12 knots lead by the two CAs and followed by the three CLs.  

It should be noted that the USN CLs were not "light" in the sense of armor or displacement, but rather in gun size.   Each fielded 15 6" guns, making them a menace to DDs and potentially dangerous to heavier ships by shear volume of fire if not weight of shell.  However, the 6" shells cannot penetrate Kongo armor at any range in GQ3.3, definitely a problem as it limits damage to 1/3 the damage rolls, and the potential only to start fires, destroy secondary batteries, cause critical hits, and destroy the cup holder on the captain's chair.  But with 45 barrels, these were likely outcomes if their firepower could be brought to bear!

IJN. Admiral Shwartzamoto had no choice but to take command as his loyal but stupid henchman would be the GM, yours truly, fielding the light forces as he took the two BBs.  Actually, let's face it, he was _eager_ to command the battleships!  And who wouldn't be?? 

He had two critical decisions.  First, he had to decide on either a North approach, putting Florida Island at his back or a Southern approach clinging to the Guadalcanal coastline.  Either one might give him the 'land shadow advantage' IF the USN force was towards the center of Ironbottom Bay relative to the IJN squadron. As the former had the possibility of the USN being close to the Guadalcanal coast with the IJN crossing Ironbottom, ceding them the land shadow advantage, he chose the latter approach.  At worse, he felt it would result in a relatively even fight with neither or both side's gunnery affected by land shadow as they clung to the North coastline of Guadalcanal.

The second choice was trickier.  Historically, there was a squall heading Southeast down the slot, and the IJN hid in it until close to Savo Island, masking their approach.  Abe then reversed all ships, allowing the squall to continue on well ahead so it would neither mask his squadron nor an enemy squadron.  I gave the player the same choice - to follow the squall in or to precede it in by accelerating before Savo Island, giving him an open view of what was ahead but not concealing his squadron.  Adm. Shwartzamoto chose the former, putting his BBs 2000 yards [20cm] from the Guadalcanal coastline, and the light force 1000 yards farther out and parallel, both formations in line ahead, and _right behind_ the squall, all moving at 15 knots.  So his vector of approach was (E) - (C) - (B).

The USN patrol line was conveniently 24,000y ards long, so I rolled a d12 and with the result of '9' placed the squadron 18,000 yards along the route [1.8 meters], orienting the table so the south board edge was Guadalcanal, and Savo Island was within the board to the top left.  The USN patrol line formed the East Edge of the table, basically [note, I should've angled it more, but it wouldn't have made any difference on the approach vectors, really].

With the dark night, the USN still managed to Detect the tail end of the DD division around the end of the squall, and broke into two squadrons of two divisions by the player's commands, moving independently to engage the Detected IJN force.  The lead squadron lost one CA and one DD off the tail of their Line Ahead as they missed the order to turn.   [my house rules have turns of greater than 4 pts and speed changes of greater than 5 knots causing a skill check on following ships]. 

This resulted in the last DD being 2 and the  last CA being 3 turns behind the rest of the squadron as they realized their error and caught up.  The relative approach vectors brought the USN in as three forces: the closest being three CLs and two DDs, the next being 1 CA and 2 DDs, and trailing behind a DD and CA that got a bit lost.

A squall had also dropped into the center of the playing area, permitting the lead US force to approach out of sight.  The rearward force ran straight into the IJN light division in two opposing parallel line ahead formations, more or less. [apologies for no photos, I keep forgetting to take them].  The IJN Acquired first, dropped torpedoes and opened fire with their light guns.  This had the effect of screening the BBs behind them and forcing the US rearward to engage the light division.  Despite plentiful weaponry, the IJN had poor shooting, damaging one US DD.  The US also managed to thread the torpedo wakes but for one, and that one failed to hit.

With the IJN BBs turning to port to engage the US CLs, the IJN lights split into the Nagara and a DD in the lead, with the other three DDs turning into the squall.  This put them very close to the lead USN force.  Fortunately for them it was split up a bit.  This still resulted in two of the three DDs being badly damaged by gunnery and sinking due to shattered bulkheads.  Captain Hara's DD managed to scoot around behind the BBs and survive with gun losses but a sound hull and engineering section [thus permitting an excellent memoir to be written after the war - highly recommended!]

The US cruisers now approached the IJN battleships from three directions, and in succession.  This enabled the Kongos to concentrate fire upon 1-2 cruisers at a time, severely damaging them successively.  The three light CL's dashed past the BBs, who then faced one New Orleans, and finally the third.  In the end, only one Brooklyn was battleworthy, and torpedo runs against the Kongos resulted in no hits.  The IJN managed to head for the East board edge with two very intact Kongo BBs [OK, one _did_ lost the cup holder off the captain's chair], a Nagara and two DDs one with reduced gunnery, and no torpedoes ready for use [but reloads potential in six turns].  The USN had nearly nothing left, with one Brooklyn departing the field to the North and the other trailing the IJN with a damaged DD and the rest of the force sunk, sinking or trying not to sink.

This was a fun and violent encounter, with lots of close-range gunnery for everyone.  I think the IJN had _more_ fun with their BBs, but everyone got plenty of action.  This AAR would benefit from some good pics, but mea culpa about  not remembering to take any!  

I think the scattered approach of the USN force enabled the Kongos to take it on piecemeal and concentrate overwhelming firepower on a ship or two a turn, instead of the other way around.  It _is_ possible for this USN force to inflict enough fire damage to a BB that it would burn out, but it requires coordinating the force for simultaneous contact, which they weren't able to do.

Historically, the USN caused enough fires on Heie that it burned out of control until the next day, resulting in Abe retreating as his flagship was lost and much of his command staff killed by a bridge hit.  One salvo from the San Francisco also damaged the Heie's rudder [a critical hit result in GQ3.3, and quite possible].  Afterwards, a USN officer on the DD Monssen said the battle was like "a barroom brawl after the lights had been shot out."  The USN lost two CL and four DDs, and had little left in the area, but they'd protected Henderson Field for one more night.

I hope this gives a feel for how I research, develop and set up a game, and that the general action is understandable despite the lack of pics!

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