Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Empire of the Sun (Stephen Crane)

Playing the 1942 scenario with none of the v1.3 changes (they occurred after we started). This was my first completed Empire of the Sun game. I played the Allies.

We did make one pretty serious rules error in overlooking that it cost 1ASP per step for armies/corps, which I am certain benefitted me as the Allies.

Turn 2:

A heroic defense at Manila by MacArthur requires Japan to play 3 cards before the city falls, and even takes a CVL and land unit step with them before the dust settles. The Japanese advance to the gates of Singapore. Overall, however, MacArthur's defense has forced some serious delays in the Japanese timetable.

Turn 3:

US Army, Navy, and Air reinforcements go to Soerbaja to force the fight in the DEI on turn 3. Anzac also goes into Soerbaja. This turns out not to be a very good place for it, since it cannot activate Auusie units (who suffer attrition turn after turn) nor can it help out with activations in Malaya. Later in the game it relocates and becomes useful.

The US and British naval and air forces provide support in Singapore and the DEI. This includes two surprise raids into Borneo to decrease Japanese cruiser strength in the area (surprise event cards and 1Ops cards prove very effective for the Allies, prosecuting a war of early attriton). Even so, by turn's end, the Japanese have whittled the Brits and Americans to a skeletal force.

The Allies also use a surprise card to send the Marines and their small naval forces to take the lightly defended Kwajalein.

The War in Eurpoe is not going well, and is at level 2 at turn's end.

Turn 4:

Turn 4 starts with ISR afflicting both Allies and Japanese.

The Japanese take Singapore without much resistance. The allies attempt yet another Surprise attack in the DEI, but this time the Japanese are waiting and the Allied ships limp home with their tails between their legs. A subsequent Japanese Offensive all but eliminates Allied air and naval power in the region.

MacArthur steps in to end ISR for the Allies. The Allies use their new-found cooperation to land on Truk, which has no ground units, forcing the South Seas HQ off the map. The Japanese regroup at Saipan and shift gears. They begin setting up a defensive perimeter in the Philipines and Marianas.

The War in Europe returns to level 1.

Turn 5:

At this point the Japanese are only drawing 4 cards, having made very little progress capturing the DEI resource spaces.

ISR hits the Allies once again and will last the rest of the game. They are never again able to come to agreement.

The Allies take Rabaul, which has been mostly abandoned as the Japanese pulled back. A naval attack on Eniwetok convinces the Japanese to pull forces back and fight another day enabling the Allies to complete the conquest of the Marshalls.

While Doolittle raids Japan, the Japanese beef up their defensive peremiter in the Maraianas with an array of naval, ground, and air units. As the Allies get closer to the home islands, there are fewer spaces to defend and the ones that exist start to look pretty daunting.

Turn 6:

The Allies are hampered by ISR and garrisons on islands in the Marianas which cannot be taken by the Navy/Marines alone, making it impossible to make progress in that area. With large naval stacks in Saipan, Manila, and Ulithi, all within reaction range of each other, even the desire to fight a war of attrition is hampered by a lack of cooperating air units with sufficient range to launch smothering attacks, without undue risk of getting into a naval battle in which the odds will be highly against the Americans.

So the Allies turn their attention to SouthEast Asia and whatever else they can find. Rangoon is seized with massive losses on both sides. Saigon follows soon afterward. The American Army manages landings on Mindanao and Borneo, staying out of spotting range of Japanese aircraft in Manila and Miri since the navy is petulantly staying home.

Turn 7:

The outlook is mostly the same at the start of Turn 7 as it was in Turn 6. Direct confrontation being unwise, the Allies once again start taking what the defense is giving them.

Progress is made in Malaya, which falls back into British hands (or Indian hands, more accurately) and Hong Kong is re-taken. The American navy, still quietly sitting on its hands while the Army does most of the heavy lifting, launches a small surprise raid on the Marianas to sink the Yamato, and manages a bit of extra attrition through skip bombing and submarine attacks.

The War in Europe starts going in the Allies favor and is at level 0 by turn's end, though a Japanese raid on the Panama Canal means reinforcements are still delayed this turn.

Japanese ISR ends when the emperor steps in.

Turn 8:

Though the allied naval forces are growing in strength, the outlook remains the same as last turn, due to ISR. Nibbling around the edges and biding time are again the watchword for the allies. ANZAC is repositioned to Mindanao, and proves very effective in that location.

The British seize Formosa, Hanoi, and (mistakenly) Canton and Yungning (we forgot the garrison rule for these cities, ooops). The Brits on Formosa advance a bit too far and come within range of a hornet's nest of Japanese air units on the home islands. This lesson weakens allied resolve for a landing in Japan and they start looking for alternate ends to the war.

The Aussies make a landing on Luzon, the Marines take Marcus Island, and the Army advances overland (much more confortable for them), to take Tarakan.

An attempt by Army air units to attack the Japanese in Manila is dealt with harshly. The pilots grumble that "had the navy been around to help out, we might have had a chance." But such complaints fall on deaf ears.

Central Pacific HQ is removed so it can be relocated to the Marshalls, within range of Allied units in the Phillipines. Next turn, if ISR remains in effect, the Allies will need to start sacrificing CVEs and CVLs to smother Japanese forces if they hope to crack the shell. And to do that, they'll need more "oomph" than ANZAC can provide. (A card with 8 logistics for CPac is stashed away as Future Operations and Marine airwings have been diverted to the DEI, so they may stage to Leyte to smother Manila.)

Turn 9:

The B29s arrive and succeed in strategic bombing from Marcus Island. They are immediately reduced when the Japanese play the Tinian Air raid card.

Tojo resigns, but immediately the Soviets invade Manchuria. This is yet another link in a chain of luck for the Allies, who have drawn the Manchuria card on 4 successive turns, but used it for Ops in the previous 3 turns, hoping it will come back into their hand again in time to secure a resource space victory and avoid an invasion of Japan.

The Japanese are now down to 4 resource hexes: Manila may prove a difficult nut to crack, due to the carrier forces there and the supporting forces in the Marianas, and due to Allied ISR issues. Seoul is garrisoned with a Japanese 18-12 unit and is not ever going to be an easy target. Medan is empty and far behind Allied lines, just waiting for a spare Allied Op. And Miri is likewise behind allied lines, out of supply, though occupied by a 2-6. If the Allies can take Manila, it should be enough to insure victory.

The Aussies and Brits are used as sacraficial lambs in an invasion of Northern Luzon, designed to take the airfield (this will cut Manila off from supply and eliminate airfields into which air units in the home islands can stage). The Japanese make their special reaction, however, and the ground forces are sent packing with tails between legs. Once again, the absent Navy and Marines come in for much cursing.

The Navy and Marines demonstrate how it is done, and secure the Luzon airfield with the help of smothering attacks from the Marine airwing.

The Japanese, angered by the B29 bombings, attempt operations against Marcus island to finish off the reduced B29 unit there. The American navy gets word of their plan, however, and the newly-placed Central Pacific HQ sends a naval force which outnumbers the Japanese by almost 2-1. The result is in keeping with Allied luck throughout, and the Japanese force is decimated.

The Sapian naval force is now reduced to shell of its former self and the entire Japanese defensive position is unhinged. The allies unleash Operaion Flintlock to send 11 units into action. The forces at Manila and Ulithi are smothered, and the remaining units target the Japanese forces at Saipan and Palau. The results are bloody on both sides, but the Allies are able to absorb the losses, while the Japanese grip on the Maraianas, and their ability to help the Phillipines is diminishing.

Yet another Allied surprise card is used to eliminate all remaining Japanese air and naval forces from Manila before they are even able to respond, and the Marines follow up with an attack which eliminates the last remaining Japanese unit in the Phillipines and retakes Manila. Miri falls easily soon afterwards. And with no cards left, Medan is guaranteed to fall before turn's end, at which point the Japanese surrender.


The allies were highly lucky in this game throughout. The Japanese made very little progress early, for example Macarthur held out for 3 turns against all odds, and what progress they did make almost always came with some sort of casulaties which they could ill-afford. A generous supply of surprise cards were able to generate even more attrition and blunt Japanese efforts. The key battle of the game, at Marcus Island, went heavily in the allies favor and from there the game went in a fairly straight line in the Allies direction. And pulling the Manchuria card turn after turn until Tojo finally came out was a stroke of luck.

The PW was at +3 in the end. Had Manchuria not come out, the Allies were sweating an invasion of Japan. Enough ground losses in the invasion, and the game could have still swung to Japan at the very end.

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