Thursday, January 12, 2006

Empire of the Sun (Stephen Crane, rematch 2)

Stephen and I fire the game up again. This time we're starting from the beginning of turn 1.

Turn 1

The raid on Pearl Harbor goes as expected. All but the US CA are eliminated.

Japanese IAI expansion includes taking Jitra, Singora, Kuala Lumpur, Khota Baru (during which Force Z is damaged but limps home), Hong Kong, Miri, Rabaul, Guadalcanal, Guam. A sizeable force moves into Burma. The most successful effort is in the Phillipines, where Manila falls to a direct amphibious assault, Mindanao falls in an amphibious assault, and the US air forces are wiped out. The Phillipines surrender at turn's end.

The SW Pac HQ reforms at Cairns, ready to avenge the Japanese takeover of the Phillipines.

Turn 2

Stephen continues his onslaught. Tjilitap's air and naval forces are wiped out and the location falls to a direct amphibious assault.

Makin Island Raiders (one of my favorite cards) come ashore at Manila to damage the Japanese's best pre-war air unit.

ISR strikes the Allies. This won't matter much this turn, since I don't have enough forces to actually coordinate anyway. It may be a problem going forward, especially if it lingers into turn 3.

Force Z sorties again to attempt to help the defenders of Kuantan, and once again survives contact with the enemy. The land battle, despite Force Z's survival, goes badly, and the Allied forces are wiped out. Seeing the writing on the wall for Singapore, Force Z relocates to Trincomalee, where it will hopefully fight another day.

Singapore is next. US Navy forces in the area sortie to attempt, once again, to assist the defenders. Once again, the air and naval forces survive contact with the enemy (though the British air is damaged), but it is to no avail and Japanese ground forces overwhelm the Singapore garrison. The British air relocates to Borneo, while the US Navy relocates to Australia. Japanese forces are at the gates of Soerbaja, and little is to be gained from returning there.

With Malaya under Japan's thumb, Allied forces in Burma concentrate in Rangoon, rather than being destroyed piecemeal. This will also force the Japanese to use 2 cards to get to Rangoon. Air units are concentrated nearby, to provide some air cover for any land assault.

The Japanese land at Bangka, taking the resource hex and lining up Palembang for a future effort.

The Brits shuffle troops forward to defend Rangoon against an anticipated assault. The Japanese take Soerbaja unopposed, but meet stiff resistance at Palembang and are repulsed, though losses on both sides are light.

News comes in from oversees of Nazi successes, and discussions about diversion of resources from the Pacific to Europe are intensified. Allied planners, receiving intelligence about a lack of defenses on Enewitok send a token force of Marines to seize the island and airstrip, and begin immediately shipping in reinforcements.

The turn ends with the Japanese in possession of the Phillipines and Malaya, but with most of Borneo and Sumatra left to subjugate in the DEI. The Allies are in possession of Enewitok, and will look to keep that foothold as a springboard for action in future months. They will also concentrate on preventing the Japanese from conquering the DEI, even if it means a last stand in one location.

Unfortunately, Allied planners worries about Europe cause them to divert an Army and an AF unit to Europe, so the Allies will have to do more with less next turn.

Turn 3

Palembang falls immediately, dashing Allied hopes that the garrison there could hold out and force the Japanese to expend more effort than they wanted. But the operation comes at a cost, as Admiral Yamamoto, touring the area, is killed under slightly mysterious circumstances.

A planned invasion of Enewitok goes ahead on schedule, despite Yamamoto's death. The force is detected enroute and met by the entire US Navy. The showdown at sea is a draw, with both sides suffering moderate casualties. But the Japanese withdraw the invasion force, believing themselves to be outnumbered.

With the invasion turned back, the Allies launch a long-range bomber raid against Kwajalein, looking to discourage the somewhat isolated garrison. The bombers dropping leaflets hit their targets, but those with actual bombs do not.

An attempted Japanese landing on Borneo is turned back when Allied cruisers (survivors from the Phillipines) and Allied air units (survivors from Singapore) intervene. Without the promised air and naval supremecy, the Japanese landing force is insufficient to take the location.

With the threat to Borneo now evident, Australian ground and air forces are rushed to defend the island, which should insure the survival of the DEI. ABDA is created and located in Borneo to oversee the operations there, also ending Allied ISR issues.

The Japanese look to eliminate British naval power in Burma with a raid on Ceylon. They are met with rough treatment, however, at the hands of the British naval and air personnel and more irreplaceable Japanese naval assets are lost.

This time around, the news from Europe is favorable to the Allies, and discussions of troop diversions calm down a bit. The Allies also mount a naval operation against the Kusaie and Wotje airfields in the Marshall Islands. Their naval assets are at risk, however if both landings succeed (and the landing at Kusaie can't be opposed, according to Allied intelligence), the Allies can position air units to completely isolate Kwajalein. Deprived any reinforcements or replacements, Kwajalein will be doomed in the upcoming months.

The operation goes even better than planned, when the Japanese are caught unprepared. Not only are the Kusaie and Wotje airfields taken, but the entire defending force on Kwajalein is eliminated. Kwajalein is now empty and isolated, and the Marshall islands can be conquered at the Allies leisure.

Turn 4

Turn 4 starts with another squabble between Allied planners, meaning that ISR is in effect and the Army and Navy will no longer play nice.

The British move forces forward toward Rangoon, which is currently held only by Indian troops. I'd like to keep the Japanese from advancing past Rangoon, if possible, otherwise the fight south is too hard. Eventually the British invest Rangoon, while the Chinese set up a cordon around Hanoi, which may eventually be needed to cut SE asia off from supply. A lone Indian Division is advanced as bait to a position SE of Rangoon, hoping to draw the Japanese into a land battle which the British can react into. Not only can we catch him in a battle at bad odds, but we can also get an extra hex of advance for the British and use our Reaction card.

The Japanese take the bait. Japan's air forces badly maul mine, though I don't much care. The AVG will be replaced later in the turn with the 14AF anyway. Japanese troops perform better in the ground battle, but numerical superiority saves the day for the British.

The Japanese are now left with a single Army blocking the British out of SE Asia, so the British immediately make plans to press onward to eliminate it. Unfortunately, worker strikes in India require British attention, and the planned offensive never comes off.

Turning their attention to Guadalcanal, a massive long-range air bombardment, orginally suggested by Gen. Chennault who is now in command of the 14th AF, is launched against the Naval and Air forces on the island, damaging the available land-based air units.

Marines land on Kwajalein and Ponape, insuring that the Allies will take the Marshalls this turn, and make their progress objectives. Plus they now have a forward base from which to threaten Truk and Rabaul.

The US Navy follows up the AF and attacks Guadalcanal. By the end of the raid, only a single damaged AF unit is left to protect the token land unit. US cruisers are damaged in the raid.

The Japanese reinforce SE Asia, so the once-promising opening for the British has turned into a hard slog.

The Americans, meanwhile, launch a surprise (well, sort of a surprise, because anyone could have seen it coming) invasion of Guadalcanal, combined with a naval raid on Truk. The naval defenders of Truk are decimated by American battleships and carriers, while Guadalcanal falls to the combined efforts of the US cruisers, carriers, and Marines.

With the capture of Guadalcanal, the Americans have the opportunity to make their progress of war requirements in a future turn by taking Rabaul and, with it, the Solomon Island air bases.

Turn 5

The Japanese are down to 4 cards now.

The turn starts with good news from Europe. I held a War in Europe card as my FO to play it during 1943 in order to get an extra box on the track. This brings me back into the Level 1 area of the track. This has been my worst experience of reinforcement diversions so far in EoTS, I'm not anxious for it to continue.

The Japanese ground forces move northward into Burma again. British air and fleet units respond, but the ensuing air-naval struggle is inconclusive. Thr ground combat is a bloody mess for the Brits, and they are forced to retreat, leaving the Japanese at Rangoon's doorstep with a sizeable force.

The shattered British forces retreat into Rangoon itself and brace for an assault which commes immediately. British air units respond, and are decimated in the air combat over Rangoon, although by sheer numbers they take a precious, and irreplaceable, Japanese air unit step with them. Once again, the Japanese get the better of the ground combat, but the Allied numbers and ferocity manage to eliminate the entire Japanese force, leaving Rangoon safe once again, though barely.

With SE Asia devoid of Japanese ground units, the remnant British move forward again.

MacArthur brings an end to Allied ISR, although the cost is a suicide sortie by a US cruiser against the main Japanese naval base in Manila to show the Filipinos that the US has not forgotten them. Accompanying the loss of that cruiser, the Allies launch a major South and Central Pacific operation that takes Rabaul, Saipan, and eliminates the last vestiges of Japanese naval power at Truk. The USS Washington is torpedoed en route and land losses at Rabaul are fairly heavy. Other than that, the operation goes off successfully.

As an added bonus, half the US fleet moves its base of operation forward to Rabaul, and closer to the action. Japanese air units make a raid on Tarakan, and are dealt with roughly by the newly re-based US Navy.

The Japanese reinforce SE Asia, and launch air raids against Rangoon which eliminate the 14th AF.

The Central Pacific HQ is removed from the board so it can be redeployed to the Marshall Islands between turns.

Finally, ANZAC launches a surprise operation, landing the New Zealanders at Soerbaja to re-take the port, and sinking the Zuiho at Tjilitap.

The taking of Rabaul returns the Solomons to US control, making our progress goals. Our forces are a bit "behind the lines" right now, and we'll have to move them forward next turn to get them into the action for the end game.

Turn 6

Not the best cards in the world. I have the Doolittle Raid, which I'll probably use for Ops since I don't think I'll need the extra SW. Two War in Europe cards, but very few of my remaining units are subject to diversion, and none next turn are, so at least one of those will be used for Ops. Two Offensive cards (Lilliput, Axiom), but with their limited Ops value, I need to shuffle forces forward to reach anything of significance. Vinegar Joe Stilwell, but it'll take 2-3 cards for my forces to get from Rangoon to SE Asia to engage in combat. And Halsey replaces Ghormley, which is nice enough, but with the CentPac HQ centrally located, I don't really need Halsey that much, with his limited range.

We'll have to scratch to make PoW this turn, and get our troops forward in anticipation of a more all-out attack starting next turn.

We start by using Doolittle to shuttle air and ground forces forward to New Guinea bases. Japanese submarines, meanwhile, attack the Panama Canal, so my forces are going to be delayed this upcoming turn, even if I move the WIE all the way to "Level 0".

So I use one of those WIE card to take Palau (undefended) and eliminate the last Japanese naval force in Guam. Unfortunately, Japanese submarines (on their way back from Panama, no doubt) sink an American BB. The fleet remnants re-base to Palaua, where we might be able to make use of the 1Ops Offensive cards.

The Japanese abandon Truk, which is almost completely cut-off anyway. Halsey replaces Ghormley. Halsey's first operation involves moving even more air and land forces forward to bases in New Guinea and the Solomons.

ANZAC then launches the Axiom offensive. Australian troops move from Tarakan across the mountains to the outskirts of the undefended Miri. Australian troops are redeployed from Darwn to Toleokbetong, where they threaten both Bangka and Palembang overland. and New Zealanders leave the bars in Soerbaja to reach the outskirts of the undefended Tjilitap. US air units shuttle forward to Singkawang. And an Australian Army lands at the undefended Kuantan, where it is soon joined by a US air unit. This puts Singapore out of supply, locking her naval units in place.

Immediately afterwards, SEAC activates, moving British units towards SE Asia and using the newly-landed Aussies to retake the majority of the Malaya peninsula (3 PoW locations).

The Japanese rebase major air and naval units to Singapore, re-establishing supply and making the Aussies position a bit tenuous. Nothing can be done about that just yet, so the US lands Marines on Ulithi (the 5th PoW location), and re-bases more of its fleet to Palau.

The Japanese deploy their now in-supply forces out of the DEI and into more defensible positions in Malaya and SE Asia. At the same time, the Allies win an important victory in Europe, moving the WIE marker to the "0" space on the track. Hopefully Japan won't want to burn any more of its cards on WIE for the rest of the game, since any single card will have no effect. One more card from the Allies will move the marker to Level "0" and my forces will no longer be delayed.

Japan has 2 cards more than the Allies at turn's end. One is used to extricate the South HQ from Truk. The other is tucked away as an FO.

Turn 7

Turn 7 starts with movement from the British out of Burma into SE Asia. The Japanese themselves are in Bangkok, and the British can only reach the outskirts of the city.

The Japanese fortify their island holdings with a new defensive doctrine, so it'll be hard slogging through their remaining islands defenses.

The US Navy sail out to attack the Japanese naval and air forces based in Manila, but a Monsoon forces them to turn back. News of the attempted operation leaks, and the Japanese disperse their forces, making it harder for the Allies to catch them in one spot.

That failure freshly behind them, the Air Force launches a massive bombardment of Saigon and meets with its own disaster, this one at the hands of the Japanese who tear up the Allied pilots. The Japanese suffer some irreplacebale losses of their own, but at what cost?

The Allies decide it's time to find easier targets. Australian and New Zealand forces, which have been enroute for quite a while, finally march into the undefended cities of Tjilitap, Bangka, and Medan, reducing the Japanese DEI holdings to just the undefended Palembang.

The US Navy re-executes its Manila operation, this time as a surprise attack which includes an extra attack on Japanese forces at Singapore. Two CVs are sunk at Manila, eliminating the Japanese Naval/Air presence there. The Japanese air forces in Leyte are reduced, but unfortunately still around to provide air cover for Manila. And a CV and BB are sunk at Singapore, while the AF is damaged.

After a Christmas break for both sides, the British resume their offensive, attacking Bangkok. But they forget to bring any air cover and are torn up before the battle starts, and do not have enough strength left to take the city. A large tactical blunder by the British commander!

The Allies now have two unopposed cards to play. I'd love to stash Skip Bombing as an FO, if only becauser it will let me draw an extra card in some future turn. But I need both cards to accomplish my last goal for the turn, which is to land forces north of Manila (on a hex that is not within air ZOC from either Leyte or Formosa, and so immune to Special Reaction) to take the airfield, and then eliminate the Leyte air forces so the Manila garrison attrits. I don't want to face the two full-strength units next turn or wait another turn before they attrit.

So, two reaction cards are used, somewhat regretfully, as OCs. But by turn's end, Manila is OOS and the Australians have established a beachhead in the Phillipines. For good measure the former Wake Marine garrison takes Marcus Island, which provides a B29 base and secures PoW goals for this turn.

Turn 8

Turn 8 marks the beginning of 1944, and with it comes a +3 for US Naval/Air in combat, a DRM that I intend to utilize for attrition purposes. With PW at +6 and likely to go to +7 when my B29s bomb Japan next turn, I'm not going to get hung up on PoW goals anymore. I want to clear all possible resource hexes in case Tojo/Manchuria falls the right way, make sure I have some B29 hexes, and look for an opportunity to land in Japan.

Step one is a massive naval strike against Japanese naval/air forces on Mindanao, which are providing some comfort level for the rest of the Phillipine garrison. The Japanese are still sleeping off their New Year's celebration when the US Navy arrives and the entire force (2CVL, CA, AF) is wiped out.

The Japanese begin to feel their SE Asia position is tenuous and pull their forces back nearer to the Home Islands. Submarines locate the Kongo as she moves, but miss with all torpedoes.

Singapore is assaulted in a Joint Forces ABDA operation. US Naval and Air units reduce the defenses, while the Australians take the city itself.

Then another massive Allied operation is unveiled. A US Army lands on Luzon, to join the Australians already ahsore. The US Navy attacks the naval units recently escaped from SE Asia in their new home at Iwo Jima, as well as precious pre-war air units stationed in Tokyo and Nagoya. A pair of CVLs are sunk in the attack against Japan but in exchange for damage to the two irreplaceable air units. At Iwo Jima, a US BB and CV are damaged, but the Japanese lose 2BB and 2 AF, including a pre-war unit.

So far so good in the war of attrition.

Japan continues to pull out of SE Asia, moving ground and air units back to defend the Home Islands. The British obligingly take the newly-empty Udorn, Bangkok, and Phnom Phen.

The Japanese launch their own offensive, returning air units and supply to the Phillipines, and sailing a unit to take the oil fields in New Guinea. The US response is another Air/Naval attack to eliminate the units stationed in the Phillipines. Japanese air units respond to the attack, but all 5 air units are wiped out with no losses to the US. After the battle, one of the participating US air units is re-based to Biak, cutting the Japanese landing forces off from supply, and insuring that they will simply attrit out of existence.

Handwriting on the wall, the Japanese abandon Mindanao. Unwilling to let further Japanese ground units escape, the Allies take Manila, although losses are very high.

British units take the empty cities of Cam Ranh and Palembang to complete US PoW goals. I know I wasn't going to be focused on this, but there was nothing better to accomplish without undue risk. US Political Will will probably be +7, meaning that PoW can probably be safely ignored for the rest of the game, which will be necessary as I plan for an invasion of Japan.

Turn 9

B29s bomb Japan successfully, in fact so successfully that it creates a firestorm, both literal and figurative. The literal firestorm costs the Japanese a card, while the figurative firestorm within Allied High Command means that the various branches will not cooperate. With no anti-ISR cards in hand, I begin to wonder if I can actually accomplish my goal of landing at Onimato (which is undefended except for the intrinsic garrison) this turn.

First things first. Leyte still has sizeable Japanese Army units, so the US Navy eliminates their protective air cover, locking them in place. I don't need Leyte, but I don't want those units going home. At the same time, the former Wake garrison lands on Mindanao, seizing the port and airfield.

The Japanese mount an operation to evacuate the Guam garrison back to the Home Islands. The commander of US Naval forces in Saipan is, to say the least, embarassed when the evacuation is noticed.

The US Navy launches a raid against Tainan and are caught by both Kamikazes and an aggressive Japanese reaction. 1 US CV is sunk, 1 is damaged, and 2 BB are damaged. In return, the US manages to eliminate a Japanese pre-war AF, damage another, and damage a CV. Unfortunately, a reacting Japanese air unit rebases to Leyte and allows the garrison there to escape back to Japan.

When the US fleet limps back to Manila, the dockworkers make heroic efforts, repairing the fleet and making it operational again.

The British fleet, which has spent much of the war sunning itself on Ceylon, rebases to Mindanoa while the British Army goes to Cam Ranh from which it can SR to a better location, possibly allowing it to participate in the invasion of Japan and avoiding PW penalties for US losses.

Still eyeing a possible invasion of Onimato, the US Navy attacks Tokyo and Nagoya, taking them by surprise, and destroying a BB and 4AF units. It also takes Onimato out of any Air ZOC, making an invaion a bit easier.

After much vigorous debate, the decision is taken to send 3 Marine Corps into Onimato with US Naval support. The amphibious assault catches Japan by surprise, and the local garrison is unable to repel the Marines, although they do suffer heavy losses.

The US Navy immediately occupies the ports, with the CVs providing enough air cover to insure supply for the Marines. Replacements are rushed to the Marines bringing them back up to full strength, and newly launched ships are hastily sailed to Onimato, reinforcing the naval forces already there.

Turn 10

The B29s continue their pounding of Japan and the Marines prepare for action.

Meanwhile, the presence of Marines on Japanese soil leads to a round of finger-pointing at Japanese HQ, hampering their military efforts. More units are recalled to Japan from Formosa, Tainan, and Shanghai.

Japanese Air and Naval forces are nearly gone. They have damaged AF units on Formosa and Tainan. A damaged CV and an AF unit on Okinawa, a CV and an AF unit in Osaka, and a single AF unit in Sasebo. So the US Navy, still unable to mount join operations with the Army, visits each location with the goal of wiping out all vestiges of Japanese naval and air power.

The US incurs heavy losses: 1CVL damaged, 1CV sunk, 2CV damaged. But when the dust settles, the Japanese have just a single damaged AF unit left on Formosa with which to defend herself.

That unit is subsequently destroyed in an operation that sees the ground forces defending Tokyo reduced by bombardment and Marines entering Tokyo.

At this point, Stephen conceded. With 2-1/2 turns left, it seems impossible to believe that the conquest of Japan can be forestalled.


The dynamics of EoTS continue to reveal themselves to me in interesting ways and I remain impressed with the game. I am of the opinion that they key to the game is maintaining interlocking Air ZOCs and most operations are geared towards that effort, which seems highly realistic.

Stephen continues to get bad luck when it matters most and that is making a big difference in our games, in my opinion. He seems to give the US bloody noses when they arrive with overwhelming force and can afford it, but miss interception rolls when he could force an even battle.

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