Sunday, July 1, 2012

Battle of Guadalcanal

One of our former Tidewater Area Naval Gamers was visiting from Okinawa, so Ryan hosted a multiplayer game of Ironbottom Sound. I was selected to be Japanese admiral, while Dan K was the American admiral. The briefing we received was that the scenario was happening at night, with limited visibility. Our Imperial Japanese ships, including two battle cruisers, a light cruiser, and eleven destroyers, were entering the map from the northwest, intending to pass south of an island and exit off the east edge of the map, 50 hexes away. One of our scout planes had reported an American force south of the island, which would put them 30-40 hexes away. Our ships move 5-6 hexes a turn, so we had plenty of time till contact; Ryan had us write in advance our movement orders for the first three turns.
And then he put all our ships on the map, and lo, there were the American ships, at a range of about 5 hexes instead of 40. Oops.
The scenario, it turned out, was the First Battle of Guadalcanal, Nov 13, 1942. The Americans were in a tightly spaced line heading north. Our leading ships saw them in time to respond and turned aside, but the ones behind didn't see the Americans in time and sped into close range. In the second turn, the Japanese forces broke into three loose groups--by happenstance rather than planning--with one going left, one right, and one plunging ahead. A couple of our center ships ran through the American line. Naguno rammed Atlanta, crippling her, and in two other places, American ships collided. One of the Japanese heavies, Kirishima, hammered Juneau but was set on fire; the Heie was behind Kirishima and didn't have a clear line of fire. Torpedoes ran in all directions, but the only victim was Naguno, sunk by a Japanese torpedo intended for Atlanta.
Third turn, the Americans continued circling around, which left half their forces too far away to fire. The Japanese right was also too far away from the end of the American line to shoot; the destroyers on the left were dancing around at extreme range from San Francisco. Our destroyers in the center were mostly crippled or sunk, but the two heavy cruisers continued dishing out damage, mostly shrugging off return fire. Another round of torpedoes had some nail biting near misses; San Francisco was hit, but to our great disappointment, the torp was a dud--must have been using an American detonator.
It was a Japanese tactical victory, due largely to two American mistakes: they stayed in a tight line, which lead to several collisions; and they wasted a lot of fire on the heavily armored battlecruisers. Overall, with the admirals unable to exercise much control and the individual captains doing the best they could, it was a crazy swirling knife fight of a battle, and a very intense game. Lots of fun.

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