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Playing TSC: Detailed Savo Island Batrep first...


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#1 Aman

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 09:23 PM

This is my batrep from our Savo Island fight. Changes I would make to the scenario: no possible carrier strike by Wasp, TBS between USN ships at <20K yards (25% chance of success), free organization and deployment for Allies equalled by free choice of any of three attack vectors, and definite use of the optional IJN submarine attacks. I would also add in the DDs on submarine patrol at the anchorages.

Savo Island Refight and campaign kick-off Batrep

As part of the ODG "The Solomon's Campaign", we fought the battle of Savo Island once, decided that our grip on the rules was poor, and finally refought the entire battle to count for our campaign. For those who are unfamiliar with the original battle and the "battlesea", refer to this:
http://en.wikipedia...._of_Savo_Island

For this refight, since it was impossible to surprise the USN player (after all, we were gathered at the IJN house to play the battle out...) we decided on some flexibility in the "official" scenario. The USN player was permitted to organize his force however he chose, while the IJN player was permitted to attack along any of the three possible approach vectors (Northeast around Savo, Southeast around Savo, or East) to attack either of the two USN supply ship anchorages, the North one in Tulagi Harbor on Florida Island, or the South one at Lunga Pt. on Guadalcanal proper. Either is a good target with 7 or 15 supply ships respectively, as EACH sunk ship results in an advantage for the Japanese to try and win control of Henderson Airfield. The IJN was also given two submarine attacks that could approach on the same three vectors (a historical possibility that didn't happen, but could have).

As the USN player, Her Majesty's Australian Adm. Alexander "Rumrunner" Moore, I carefully considered the options, but it seemed a clear choice to have a strong screening force within Ironbottom Sound (East of Savo) of 6 DD and 2 CL, all six CA patrolling the center line between the two anchorages, and a small 2 DD screen on the East. The East approach is less likely since it would take precious night hours for the IJN to circle Florida Island for that attack. No matter which approach was used, I hoped that my powerful, concentrated force of CA would be able to make an impact on the IJN, even if they arrived late to the action and could only chase the IJN raiders at high speed and damage a couple. Of course my hope was that they would be fully engaged but not surprised, which would make this second Pearl Harbor Sneak Attack less likely to escape unblooded.

The IJN player, Adm. Kenaka Portnersan chose the historical approach. The screening force of USS San Juan* + 3 Bagley DDs, and HMAS Hobart + 3 Bagley DDs in two Divisions (all game terms are capitalized) in a continuous line formation rolled randomly for their placement on their patrol route (a d12 with each number corresponding to the clock) when the IJN came close enough to be Detected on rader. Interestingly, the result put them heading South not far from the passage, but with the Island squarely between them and the IJN! Therefore, the excellent radar on the San Juan was of no use until the IJN rounded the island. At this point the IJN were Detected on radar, and the USN squadron allowed to depart their patrol route to close the distance to the head of the Detected ships. The USN Cruiser force was 50,000y away, so there was no possibility of using TBS (Talk Between Ships) or radar Detection successfully. The IJN were still not Acquired targets, so they just appeared as "Blips" to the Allied ships.

The USN increased speed as well, so soon they closed and managed to Acquire one then a second of the three IJN Divisions. Admiral Portnersaki had three powerful CA in the first, two in the second, and the 2 CL + 1DD in the third. Realizing the powerful ships of the first Acquired Division were CA, the Allied force veered off and began to parallel the IJN from about 5000 to 6000y.

Much gunnery and some torpedoes were exchanged and the Allies took the worst of it with their lighter ships, but none were sunk. The San Juan was turned into a slow-moving battered hulk, forced to veer out of formation towards the IJN. As the Division Commander switched command to the DD USS Bagley, confusion during maneuvers resulted in the DD USS Patterson colliding with the San Juan, causing serious damage to both ships! The Hobart was significantly damaged by IJN gunfire also. The IJN held back on their torpedoes hoping to use them against any USN cruisers that might appear.

The IJN took very little damage overall but some lucky hits from the San Juan resulted in heavy damage to the Engineering section of the Furutaka and she stopped dead in the water, causing some evasive action by the following ships as they continued to speed along the Guadalcanal coastline at 30kn, passing Tassafaronga before veering North a bit and following the coastline.

At this point, the Allied squadron attempted to remain in the action as the IJN ducked into a convenient rain squall, causing them to lose contact. When they finally re-acquired the lead IJN Divisions, they were threatening the Lunga Point Anchorage! However, the narrowing of the maneuver space made the IJN movements easier to predict. A first torpedo attack by the battered and determined screening force fired 32 torpedoes at a medium range. Unfortunately, the USN spread was ineffective due to defective firing mechanisms and poor aim.

At this point the Allied CA force received contact messages from the screening force via TBS. Their random placement on their patrol route wasn't too far away, fortunately, and they increased speed and turned towards the Lunga Pt. anchorage.

Knowing that help was on the way, the Allied screening force turned hard to starboard to the opposite course of the IJN squadron. The lead Division of three remaining US DDs (their leader, the San Juan, was miles behind struggling to keep moving at 5kn) led by the doughty Bagley fired their remaining torpedoes. This time, they managed to aim true and also get the glancing blow needed to set off the faulty magneto firing mechanisms. Two hit the CL Yubari causing her to founder.

Unfortunately, the Kaigun were also masters of night torpedo work. A limited torpedo salvo caught and sank the USS Bagley and three struck the HMAS Hobart, which promptly broke apart and sank (taking ten hull hits with only four remaining can do that to you…). The five remaining US DDs vowed revenge and in the gunnery phase got it! They inflicted significant damage to the CA Kinugasa which lost speed and main gun turrets.

As the IJN closed and began processing firing solutions for the ships at anchor, precise gunnery from the Chokai cleared the nightwatch from the bridge, crushed a bulkhead and started a fires in the closest supply vessel. General Quarters sounded throughout the anchorage as stunned merchant marine and USN sailors rolled out of their bunks to take stations while the SeeBees frantically ceased their night unloading and attempted to secure their cargo.

Luck was still with the Nipponese as the HMAS Australia, anchored near the supply vessels, went to general quarters but the bleary bridge crew were unable to Acquire any IJN vessels (and remained unable...and at anchor...for the battle). The IJN closed with the supply vessels but felt obliged to split fire between the vulnerable supply ships and harassing screening force. While gunnery didn't achieve much at this point, the IJN suffered disastrous collisions in the third Division as the CL Tenryu and DD Yunagi struck the sinking shattered wreck of their leader, the CL Yubari. The USN wasn't without similar mishap as the DD Patterson collided with the shattered Bagley, taking serious damage to the hull.

At this point, the Allied Cruisers entered the battle. Desperate attempts to sort out the scene failed, and the five Cruisers lead by the USS Vincennes fired upon the nearby HMAS Australia when an IJN flare lit her up. Fortunately for Allied relations, the startled gunners fired ineffectively at the suddenly illuminated target. Soon, they realized their error as the Australia illuminated her signals and they settled down a bit to Acquire the lead IJN Squadron, now with two CA, the Chokai and the Kako.

At this point, the IJN fired their deadly torpedoes into the anchorage. The motionless ships were sitting ducks and two were struck and began to founder with flaming decks and shattered bulkheads – the war was over for the gallant pair. The IJN then turned hard to starboard to parallel the course of the fast-moving Allied CA squadron.

At this point we began to make some obvious calculations on the most likely end. While we could’ve played it out to the bitter finale, the separation of the Divisions, the limitations of the TBS and the failing of morale checks were putting some ships on the run. A lack of hull boxes and main guns was a problem for others…

It was clear that the lead IJN Division would lose it's two remaining ships while the third escaped (having repaired its engines after several turns dead in the water, and being left far behind near Tassafaronga). The second Division of two CA had one that was nearly sunk while the other was in good shape and unDetected / unAcquired by any USN Division. We decided that she'd quietly sneak away.

I insisted that the IJN resolve their final potential shooting and an overly conscientious Portnersan had to be coaxed into it. The Chokai in its last moments destroyed the turrets on the Vincennes and began two fires that they just couldn't put out - clearly they set off the aviation fuel for the seaplanes! After several turns of failed damage control (only needed <6 on d12! to put out each fire) the Vincennes was abandoned and sank.

Final tally Allies: the Allies lost CA Vincennes (5), CL Hobart (4), DDs Bagley and Ralph Talbot (4 total) sunk, and three supply ships sunk (no points), with the San Juan (4x.5=2) crippled and sent back to the States for repairs, a total of 15 VPs for the IJN. Three more USN DDs were Disabled, the Patterson, Jarvis and Helm, (no points). Admiral Moore regretted his generosity in allowing final shots from the doomed IJN CAs, but he’s British-trained and, “There _must_ be standard of conduct for naval warfare lest barbarity rule the seas!”

Final tally IJN: The IJN lost three CA (Chokai (7), Kako (5), and Kinugasa (5)), two CL (Tenryu and Yubari (6 total)) and one DD (Yunagi (1.5)), with the two remaining CA Disabled or Crippled. Total of at least 24.5 for the Allies

Final Victory Calculation: IJN = 15 + three transports sunk. Allies = 24.5 (?). Points result is “Allied Tactical Victory”, but the IJN sank <5 Allied transports so the book calls it an “Allied Major Victory”! It didn’t feel that way, but there it is. I guess it all depends on who writes the scenario.

Historically everything changed! The USN took less combat damage but lost precious supply vessels, while the IJN historically took no damage but abandoned the attempt at the anchorage. Clearly Adm. Kenaka Portnersan is a greater avatar of the samurai spirit than his historical counterparts!

Adm. Rumrunner Moore faired better with his fleet than his historical counterpart, but the embarrassing loss of three supply ships sunk and the Vincennes to a crippled IJN cruiser still gave him some tough explaining before ComSoPac! On the other hand, he survived and was not relieved of command as so many of the other USN officers were, so he had a quiet toast to Poseidon in his cabin that evening…

Hindsight is 20-20
Adm. Moore's self-eval. The USN had a good setup that I wouldn't change much, if at all. My ships did reasonably well to Detect IJN ships on radar, but they struggled to Acquire them as targets on several occasions and had one Fratricide event on the HMAS Australia, fortunately rolling "misses" on several dice. The substantial penalty of rolling 2xd12 and adding them, PLUS an auto-fail at 12+ total (so even a normally automatic Acquisition would be a miss 50% of the time) made their gunnery less than optimal and made torpedoes very difficult to fire until they FINALLY acquired the IJN after about 8 turns (ugh!).

Given this, the Allies did pretty well under the circumstances. However, there were two occasions of poor maneuvering that had my own ships screening friendly fire, and one where I rolled a torpedo under the USS Bagley (which was presently sinking from IJN Torpedoes, but still…). Also, the screening force might have used a different approach vector to hit the tail of the IJN formation and harass them from the rear with their deadly CL (the San Juan with 16 light 5" guns and the Hobart with 8 heavier 6" guns). Instead, they hit the head of the column and the two CL were trashed and are out of the campaign without inflicting significant damage in exchange.

And IJN critique. It seems to me that the IJN picked the most difficult approach given my setup. The Southeast passage around Savo is longer, and my forces had the same chances to engage there as a Northeast approach. Personally, I would've picked the East or Northeast Savo passage (the first hoping for surprise and the second as the shorter of the two obvious choices). The IJN chose not to close and engage the screening force which helped them to get to the anchorage and sink three supply ships, earning them some hard-won credit on the scale of control for Henderson Airfield. Still, a direct shot from Savo Island to the Lunga Point anchorage was a bit shorter, and would've brought them closer to the USN screening force which would undoubtedly have resulted in some serious losses there from the effective IJN gunnery. Also, I would've dumped some torpedoes into the two CL of the screening force. They can take a ship from 0-to-sunk in 1-2 hits, which seems worth it.

Overall, a lot of work to figure out a new set of rules in no less than two complete 21-ship refights. However, I think we know the rules now and I've made some cheat sheets for the common events that cross-reference a variety of useful details. We're excited to see how this different result will shape the campaign for Guadalcanal - will it change history? Or will the IJN suffer the long slow death by strangulation from the airpower at Henderson Field!?
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#2 Cpt M

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 01:29 AM

Great write-up! It looks like the IJN took it on the chin but the Allies didn't get off lightly (losing 3 transports of beans and bullets is going to make the Marine's life on the 'Canal a bit more dicey). Sounds like a tight, nerve-wracking time in the Sound.....

#3 Aman

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 02:56 PM

well, the casualties were heavy on both sides - the USN lost a CA and a CL sunk, and a second CL crippled and out of the campaign. Two DDs were sunk and three disabled and eligible for play but really may as well go back to Pearl, so out for two months, plus three transports sunk changing the index 6 in the IJN favor (I think it's 2/transport sunk). In exchange, the IJN lost three CA, two CL and a DD, plus two CA disabled.

My opinion is that the element of surprise combined with the inexperience of the Allied crew made for a situation that is almost impossible to duplicate on the table. AFter all, the players KNOW there's going to be a battle, that's why they're there. So one can either re-enact the battle (which should yield similar results) or one can present the situation and give both players historical options and let the battle play differently. In our case, the IJN player was absolutely determined to sink transports, and played a strategy that he thought would give him that result.

My opinion is that short of bad deployment and play by the USN player, it's almost impossible for the IJN player to sink 5+ transports without losing most of his squadron. Given that, I think the IJN player should instead go all out to attack the Allied ships, sink and damage as many as possible, and look at an attack on transports as a bonus situation that MIGHT happen or might not.

#4 gregoryk

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Posted 06 December 2011 - 12:51 PM

Hindsight is 20-20
Adm. Moore's self-eval. The USN had a good setup that I wouldn't change much, if at all. My ships did reasonably well to Detect IJN ships on radar, but they struggled to Acquire them as targets on several occasions and had one Fratricide event on the HMAS Australia, fortunately rolling "misses" on several dice. The substantial penalty of rolling 2xd12 and adding them, PLUS an auto-fail at 12+ total (so even a normally automatic Acquisition would be a miss 50% of the time) made their gunnery less than optimal and made torpedoes very difficult to fire until they FINALLY acquired the IJN after about 8 turns (ugh!).

Given this, the Allies did pretty well under the circumstances. However, there were two occasions of poor maneuvering that had my own ships screening friendly fire, and one where I rolled a torpedo under the USS Bagley (which was presently sinking from IJN Torpedoes, but still…). Also, the screening force might have used a different approach vector to hit the

Great write-up, not too many people play the very challenging Savo Island fight. The Allies were totally unprepared for this battle and it showed in the historical results.

#5 Tom Oxley

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 12:35 PM

I'm planning a trilogy of Guadalcanal games for Cincycon next March, and this looked like it might work as the naval game. I thought from the history of it that it was nearly impossible for a US force to win, but with some creative work on it, it looks like it should work. Any other tips for this sort of thing? The other 2 games focus on the land combat and air combat, land using PK Point of Attack: Blitzkrieg and the scenario book from Fireball Forward, the air with Check Your Six and their Guadalcanal scenario book.




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