Opting for Bats in Defending the Malay Barrier
I know there are those who are not satisfied with cruisers and who lust for capital ships when they play DTMB. Some of you are British, some Dutch and of course the Japanese. The Americans and ANZACs can hold seances with their sunken or scuttled dreadnoughts, but otherwise are not in the running.
Personally, I’m a cruiser man myself. But I like bats, especially the old ones (don’t tell grandma). But what do you really get when you add bats to DTMB? That like everything in life depends on the choices you select.
The Brits with HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse have all at once both the best possible and the worst. PoW offers the best armor BA(BA) and a 14” gun that out performs the Japanese 14” hands down. Even the Nagato class with their BB(BA) are at a disadvantage against her when over 18,000 yards as she penetrates their armor and they do not reciprocate. PoW’s 29 knots allows her to set the range of the fight (visibility permitting) and her radar suite -SW & -FC) is the best available in theater. PoW also has the best AA rating (and she needs it). Repulse on the other hand is let down by her protection and reduced main battery. She is, not to put too fine a point on it, a cruiser killer. Quarter line and PoW’s funnel smoke are her best defense.
The Dutch have the most options including the German designed sports car Scharnhorst knock-offs of Project 1047. At 34 knots they leave everyone else behind. But their 11” main battery and BC(BB) protection means that speed is their best feature. Tiger is about the same but 3 knots slower with BC(BC) armor.
That brings us to the Mackensen class. The upgraded 13.5” performs almost as well as the Japanese 14” and is just fine versus the Kongo class. But their main claim to fame (in this campaign in any case) is their BB(BB) protection which allows them to hurt the Kongo class when its shells are still bouncing off them in return. The fact that they are a knot faster than the Kongo class does not hurt. In fact, their 31 knots allow them to avoid the slower (but more powerful) Japanese bats.
Now for the sons of Nippon. They perennially get second choice (perhaps part of why they went to war) in that they only get bats if the Allies do. That is followed by the fact that they lose their bats as soon as the Allies lose theirs’ (more on this later).
The Nagato class are the harbingers of doom in that you only get them if PoW sank or crippled your first choice (Fuso or Kongo class) of bats (all during GT 0) and managed to do it without getting sunk or crippled in return. At that point (provided you spend the CD) Admiral Yamamoto intervenes to try and save the day (not to mention Japan’s war plans) with Battle Squadron 1.
The Nagato class is the best protected and best armed of all the Japanese bats available to you. But their 25 knots means that the Allied bats must come to them as they are 3 knots slower than HMS Repulse (the slowest Allied bat in a field of race horses).
The Fuso class at 24 knots are no better off speed wise, but they do have the largest main battery as the number of guns goes. And 6 MB D12 is a whole lot of gunnery dice when shooting at BC protection. Their BB(BB) armor means that none of the Allied battle cruisers want to be in a knock down drag out gunnery duel with them. But if that happens it is likely (due to the speed difference) to have been a bad choice by the Allies.
Then there is the Kongo class. They are the fastest Japanese bats. But their armor BC(BC) while adequate vs the weaker Allied battle cruisers lets them down vs PoW or the Mackensen class.
But it does not end there. Allied bats in an Attack Force area allows the Japanese LBA there to seriously upgrade its load out. Half the bombers get 18” torpedoes and half get heavy bombs instead of the medium bombs they are restricted vs cruisers.
But IMHO the bottom line of the campaign does not change. Let me explain. First from the British POV. Do they sortie more than they did without bats? It might seem at first glance that this a no brainer yes. But upon closer inspection you will quickly realize that many of the considerations that limited your sorties on GT 1 and 2 still are in force. Do you transfer HMAS Vampire to Darwin on GT 1? Well, if you want the ANZAC squadron to sortie on GT 2, you do. So barring TE 6 which gives Vampire a free transfer; there goes your GT 1 CD. Do you want HMS Mauritius as a CD reinforcement? I would say yes. If so then there goes your GT 2 CD also. It used to be however that getting HMS Emerald as a TE reinforcement (result 7) and the use of her was the primary motivator for a sortie on GT 3. Bats added to your OOB at Singapore IMHO makes a GT 3 (and later) sortie a must, provided of course that TE convoy requirement left you something other than your bats to sortie with.
From the Dutch POV bats are a huge change in their ability to sortie a viable sweep on their own hook. IMHO without bats they should (almost automatically) transfer to Surabaya on GT 2 to combine with the Americans. The problem is where do they sortie. They could go after the WAF but that leaves the Americans and the ANZACs exposed to 2 Kongo class without a corresponding Allied capital ship counter. They could go after the Center Axis of the EAF but the EAF can dodge them for a bit by sortieing in the Eastern Axis. So, it may very well end up that transferring to Surabaya on GT 2 was still the best idea. But they now have options which they did not without bats.
Then of course we have to consider what to do with the Japanese bats. Do the Japanese need to sortie in order to win? The answer is of course yes. Do they need to sortie convoys as often as their CD selection options will allow? The answer is again yes. So, operationally nothing has changed. Tactically it is another matter. When it was just cruisers the Japanese heavies with their CA belt armor and huge 8” MB ruled the long-range daylight engagement. If Allied bats are present that is no longer the case. So, what to do? Smoke, backed up with lots of torpedoes in the first range band is my answer. What (if anything else) is yours? Then avoid getting shot until after dark when your night acquisition and torpedoes reset your crown firmly back on your head.
But woe betide the Japanese player who forgets why the Dutch wanted battle cruisers in the first place. If Allied bats are present and your cruisers are not behind smoke you may find that the Allied player remembers why he has bats. The fact is that all of the Allied bats are great cruiser killers. Why is this important to remember? Its important because the Allied bats do not need to take your bats on at all. They can concentrate on killing or crippling your cruisers (if you let them) knowing that your bats go away when they do regardless of what they did or did not do to your bats. Gamey? To be sure; but it is the rule. Forget it and I for one (given opportunity) would remind you in no uncertain terms.