Thursday, October 20, 2005

Empire of the Sun (Stephen Crane rematch)

This is a rematch against Stephen. This time we started after Turn 1. We didn't play some of the optional rules, like allowing the Allies to have ABDA in their hand.

Turn 1 is skipped in this scenario, so we start with...

Turn 2

The Japanese intend to expand more quickly and aggressively. By turn's end they have secured Manila, Tarakan, Kuantan, Singapore, Rangoon, Bangka, Soerbaja, and Medan.

The expansion has been rapid and bloodless. The Allies have toeholds remaining in Tjilitap, Palembang, and Balikpapan. Only Tjilitap is remotely defensible, however. Having the Dutch land, air, and naval forces intact means it can be reinforced. The allies will focus on keeping it out of Japanese hands next turn so it remains a thorn in their side.

Additionally, it is expected that battles will occur for Guadalcanal. And, depending on Japanese reinforcement placement, the Marshall Islands are always vulnerable to invasion. Taking either Eniwetok or Kwajalein on turn 3 makes it easier to make progress of war goals on turn 4 or 5.

As it turns out, The Japanese reinforce Kwajalein, but Eniwetok remains undefended and (more importantly) without air cover. This means that Eniwetok may be taken without fear of opposition, since an invasion here will not create a battle hex or qualify for Special Reaction.

Having learned from last game, ANZAC is placed in Darwin where it can activate forces in both the DEI and Australia.

Turn 3

The Japanese move quickly to tighten their grip on the DEI. Palembang falls rapidly, and a battle in the Java Sea and at Balikpapan dents the US Navy while the location falls into Japanese hands.

An attempted US Navy surprise raid against Rabaul is met by a large japanese Naval force, and only good luck prevents the complete annihiliation of the US Battleship and Cruiser forces. As it is, they limp back to port heavily damaged.

The Japanese attempt to invade Guadalcanal, which has been reinforced between turns with Marine land and air forces. The plan is detected and a contingent of Army land forces are rushed to the island ahead of the invasion. Meanwhile, the air and naval battle in the Solomon Sea results in fairly heavy losses for both sides. Most of the allied air units in the theatre are damaged, and the US cruiser is sunk in exchange for damage on a pair of Japanese CVs.

On the downside, the Japanese CVs return to Eniwetok, thus foiling Allied plans for a no-risk invasion of the island this turn.

The Japanese fare badly in the land assualt on Guadalcanal, and the entire Japanese force is wiped out. Guadalcanal remains safe for now, though the Allied naval and air forces in the area are severely battered. As a result, the Allied carrier force from Hawaii is moved to Funafuti where it may be able to assist in the further defense of Guadalcanal.

A brief pause in the action enables the Australians to send land forces to Tjilitap, further fortifying it to prevent the Japanese from completing the takeover of the DEI.

The Allies launch a series of hit-and-run attacks to end the year, starting with another, larger, surprise raid against Rabaul, this time managing to actually surprise the Japanese. The Japanese have 2CAs, an APD, and an air unit stationed there, and all 3 are damaged. The Brits launch a surprise raid against the Kongo in Bangka, damaging it.

By turn's end, Tjilitap and Guadalcanal are still holding out. (It turns out Stephen did not realize that Tjilitap had to be taken to complete the conquest of the DEI.) Next turn the Allies will look to move to the offensive in some limited theatres. At a minimum an invasion of either Kwajalein or Eniwetok needs to occur so that, on turn 5, progress of war goals can be met. One of the key US reinforcement placements is an LRB unit in Tarawa. The goal is to have a unit capable of suppressing Eniwetok or Kwajalein. Additionally, since the Rochefort card is tucked away as an FO, it may prove a tempting target for the Japanese and force a battle favorable to the Allies.

Outside of that, the goal is to use the growing air strength in a war of attrition against Japanese targets.

Turn 4

The Japanese do not like the LRB at Tarawa and use their first card of the turn to attack what looks like a lonely unit, using the bulk of their Navy. The Rochefort card is played and a massive US naval and air response is waiting in ambush.

The Japanese forces are decimated. 2 CVs are sunk and a third is damaged, along with a Japanese BB and air unit. The Japanese forces respond in anger, scoring their own critical hit, sinking the Enterprise, and damaging the Lexington.

Even so, this is the turning point in the game. The Japanese Navy in the central and South Pacific has been reduced to a half strength CV, a half strength BB, a CVL, and a few CL/APDs. From here on out, the US Navy outnumbers them and is able to act with considerably lower risk.

The Brits use the shocking defeat as impetus to move their forces towards Rangoon and keep the Japanese thinking about several fronts (and looking at other parts of the board), rather than focusing on fortifying Kwajalein and Eniwetok.

The Japanese respond with an assault on Tjilitap, but Australian Coast Watchers warn the British who send their Navy to defend. Unfortunately, both sides forget to bring the ammo, and the air-naval battle is inconclusive. The attack on Tjilitap also results in a bloodless draw

The Japanese come after Tjilitap again and once again the British Navy responds. This time the results are bloodier and the British Navy is fairly well mauled. The Australian and Dutch land forces repulse the Japanese, however, and the Japanese chances of taking Tjilitap and the DEI end (for all practical purposes) when their land unit is eliminated.

The remaining Japanese naval forces are now divided between Truk, Eniwetok, and Kwajalein.

A massive US offensive takes Kwajalein and eliminates all Japanese units stationed there.

A second US offensive suppresses Truk and falls on Eniwetok, eliminating the remaining Japanese CV and BB unit in the Central/South Pacific, and leaving Eniwetok open to invasion.

At this point, with their defenses virtually eliminated, the Japanese units in the area begin to fall back to their second line of defense. Rabaul is vacated and the Navy leaves Truk (before the US Navy can attack it there) for the Japanese home islands.

The allies land south of Rabaul, but do not take it. Since they will not make progress of war this turn whether they take it or not, Rabaul will be left for later. Rabaul is placed into a air ZoC, however, so it cannot be reinforced.

The Central Pacific HQ is removed from the board. It will be repositioned to Kwajalein between turns. From that position, it commands the board.

Turn 5

The Allies begin the turn by taking Kwajalein and Palau. At turn's end the Marshalls will fall, and the Allies will make progress of war goals. The remainder of turn 5 may now be spent improving the Allied position and fighting a war of attrition against scattered Japanese forces. Additionally, a net is being cast around Truk, in an attempt to isolate the garrison and HQ there.

Allied air units now begin raging a long-range war against small pockets of Japanese units in the DEI and Phillipines. Groups of LRBs coming in from 6 hexes away and non-LRBs attacking at half strength from 4 hexes away stand a good chance of achieving surprise since they never enter range of Japanese air units. Additionally, the +1 DRM for the allies in 1943 means that a group with 20 factors can do a lot of damage with very little risk.

Following this strategy, the Ryujo and Nachi are sunk and the Japanese air force in the Phillipines is eliminated. The only setback is the British naval raid against Soerbaja is repulsed with losses to the Brits and no damage to the Japanese.

By turn's end, most of the Japanese forces outside Burma, DEI, and the Phillipines have pulled back to the Home Islands. The forces in the DEI and Phillipines have been whittled down significantly. Next turn's focus will be on the DEI and Phillipines, in order to reduce the Japanese card draw. I need a few turns in which the Japanese have less cards than the Allies in order to whittle down the Home Island defenses.

Turn 6

The first Allied step is a landing on an undefended Mindanao and an air-naval raid at Balikpapan. Balikpapan is the only defended Borneo resource hex, and eliminating the air forces there will provide a fairly free ride in securing Borneo. Allied plans go dreadfully awry, however, and reacting Japanese air forces sink the Enterprise (her second trip to the bottom) and a CVL.

The Allies then turn their attention to the Central Pacific. Guam is secured by Marines, as is an undefended Marcus Island. Both provide progress of war hexes, B-29 hexes, and the air units which PBM to the spaces complete the net around Truk (which is now out of supply). In addition, marauding LRBs sink the Zuiho in Soerbaja and place that hex out of supply. The small garrison means it can now be taken at the Allies leisure.

The Marines come ashore at Medan as the Allies return to Borneo. An attempt to sink the Kongo in Bangka and open all of Sumatra to easy invasion goes badly for the Brits. It does have the effect of warning the Japanese that the Kongo is vulnerable, and she retreats to Singapore.

The Allies follow her to Malaya, invading Kuantan. Singapore is without land units and the Allies wish to keep it that way, so an air unit is quickly rushed into Kuantan. Further Allied forces are also shuttled forward to Mindanao and Borneo, preparing for further invasions.

The landings at Kuantan force the Kongo to retreat once again, along with most of the Japanese air and naval forces in the area, to Saigon. Borneo is devoid of air units, and should now be easy pickings.

By turn's end, the Japanese are still drawing 6 cards. But the DEI is mostly devoid of defenses at this point, save for scattered garrisons, and will be the focus of next turn in order to drive down the Japanese hand size.

Turn 7

The turn starts by taking Tarakan and Medan in unopposed invasions. To avoid ASP costs, An Australian army is deployed into Toleokbetoeng, from which it can use land movement to take Bangka and Palembang when convenient. In addition, An Allied Army has moved overland in Borneo over the course of two offensives to be adjacent to Balikpapan and ready for assault.

On the very next card, the Allies make good on their threats. The Aussies take Bangka and the Americans take Balikpapan.

At this point, the Manchuria card is played. The Allies have an FO tucked away that allows them to take a card from the discard pile. I am playing Manchuria early in the turn, hoping Stephen has Tojo and will play it after seeing the Manchuria card played. Stephen doesn't have the Tojo card, and the offensive is squandered in an attempt to whittle away the Saigon forces which results in far more Allied casualties than Japanese casualties.

The Allies next use a combination of an attack on Manila and a small Ops card (which prevents the Japanese from having enough movement to bring any forces from the Home Islands or SE Asia into the battle) to land forces on Luzon, capturing a vital airbase. Kamikazes show up for the first time and cause damage to the naval units accompanying the invasion, but overall it is a successful effort which ends with Manila out of supply.

The Brits get on the move again and, despite being slaughtered in the air battle, their land forces retake Rangoon. Meanwhile the Japanese move air units back to Manila to bring it back into supply. The Aussies take Palembang and the Marines take Singapore. The goal of reducing the japanese card draw has been achieved by turn's end, as they will br drawing only 4 cards.

The Japanese have now been split into three main groups. They have a small number of forces in the Phillipines. They have a force in SE Asia large enough to cause concern. And they have a well-defended Home Islands.

Turn 8

The Allies begin thinking about the end game.
  • If Tojo and Manchuria come out in the right order, winning by resource hex strangulation is virtually certain. The two Soviet hexes would fall, Manila could not possibly hold out against a determined Allied assualt, and Soerbaja is too far behind the lines to hold out longer than the Allies desire it to. But this is entirely dependent on card luck.
  • A B29 victory is definately possible, already the Allies have B29 bases. But this is dependent on dice luck.
  • This means the invasion of Japan must be contemplated.
The Phillipines forces are of little concern. The SE Asia forces are large enough to be a problem for at least one or two card plays, but their mere presence causes concern on every card play. The Brits are too far away to quickly take the SE Asian ports and airfield, and it is not clear that is advantageous anyway, since that would only cause those defenders to scamper back to Japan. And the air and naval defenses of the Home Islands are outnumbered on the board, but they have such a limited amount of space to defend that they are formidable.

The Allies now have a +3drm for air-naval battles, which must be taken advantage of.

So a two-part strategy is devised.
  • Any large Offensive cards will be used to launch massive assaults on the home islands to reduce the air units defending it, especially the irreplaceable units, with LRBs and CVEs smothering as much as possible.
  • The smaller cards will be used to take the Phillipines and cut SE Asia from supply. To do this the Allies will need to take Manila, Formosa, and Hanoi. Once out of supply, the Japanese units in SE Asia can be left to rot, or picked off one hex at a time as needed. Either way, they cannot influence the outcome of the game so long as they cannot move.
Unfortunately for Stephen, the allied card draw is near-perfect. Manchuria turns up in the hand. The Allies get an offensive with a 8 logistics value. And the Allies have cards that allow them to draw a card from the discard pile in their hand and tucked away as an FO. The 8 logistics card will be used twice to pummel the home islands, while the other cards will be used towards other goals.

The Allies start small. I want to see if I can draw out reaction cards before hitting Japan. Plus, I want to take a few easy progress of war hexes, so I can concentrate on other matters. The Marines take most of Malaya, and the Aussies take Soerbaja, putting me at 4 hexes after the first offensive.

The American then attack the home islands and land on Formosa. The result of the attack on the Home Islands is a draw, with a few Japanese air units destroyed against an Allied CVL destroyed and damaged.

At this point, the Japanese play ISR on the Allies. The Allies immediately end ISR, however, and draw the same offensive card from the discard pile to launch a second attack against the Home Islands, as well as taking the last open airbase on Formosa.

This attack is a much larger success. Attrition is high against smothering units, but the last remaining pre-war air units are eliminated. Over two cards, the Japanese have lost 80 factors of irreplaceable defense.

The Japanese launch an air attack against the Marines in Malaya, but air-naval combat is ineffective by both sides. The Manchuria card is played again, hoping to draw out Tojo while I still have a card up my sleeve that will allow me to take it out of the discard pile. Once again, Stephen does not have Tojo, but the offensive manages to capture Manila.

The Japanese follow up against the Marines in Malaya again. Despite being outnumbered, fighting in open terrain, and without any reaction forces to help them, the Marines are very Marine-like and repulse the Japanese.

By turn's end the Allied situation is fairly good. Only Hanoi and the surrounding hexes remain to be taken before the Japanese forces in SE Asia are out of supply. The Allies have all the resource hexes they need, in case Tojo & Manchuria come out. And the Japanese Home Island defenses have been drastically reduced.

The last Allied action is to take the SW Pacific HQ off-board. It will be re-deployed to Manila from which it can better assist allied ground units in SE Asia.

Turn 9

This turn I contemplate the invasion of Japan.

The plan this turn is:
  • Finish cutting SE Asia off from supply by taking Hanoi and moving the Chinese into positions blocking overland routes. This will eliminate all threat of reaction from the air and naval forces stationed there.
  • Continue the naval assault on the Home Island defenses.
  • As the last action of the turn, make landings at the empty (other than intrinsic garrisons) spaces of Ominato, Hakodate, and the open hex south of Ominato. (I plan this for the last action of the turn because I cannot stage air units to those hexes but I can place my newly-arrived units in those hexes.) The port at Ominato will allow me to move land units into Japan fairly freely, without ASP, and avoid other costly beach landings and their inherent progress of war implications. I can then slog it out on land from North to South until the Home Islands are subjugated.
The first step is taken with the first card and SE Asia is cut off. With the second card, a large American naval force attacks the Home Islands and at this point Stephen conceded, as he realizes he is left with little to do but absorb more hammer blows.


Nothing in this game has shaken my feeling that EoTS is a wonderful game. In fact, I was amazed at how differently this game played out than our previous game. Both of us discovered new tactics we hadn't yet employed, and the overall strategic sweep was very different.

The appearance of the Rochefort card and the resulting battle was the clear turning point. That card and the follow-up offensives eliminated the majority of Japanese naval power and allowed the Allies to rapidly switch from defense to offense earlier than either of us planned or expected.

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