Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Fizzle of '42: The Solomons Campaign part deux

We completed our second turn of the Solomons campaign and it turned out to be a bit disappointing. I got an extra command decision for the turn, so I had five things I could do: a carrier sortie, two reinforcements, a supply mission, and a bombardment mission.

As feared, the carrier sortie couldn't find its own butt using both hands and a mirror. That's probably a good thing because if I could find him, he would find me and the results might be quite uneven.

The supply mission succeeded, but got attacked by the Cactus Air Force on its way back up The Slot towards Rabaul and one light cruiser was sunk.

The bombardment mission failed because Mark sent out two carrier sorties. His first missed my carriers, but his second found my bombardment group moving down from Truk. The result was one battleship sunk and another so badly damaged as to be in dry dock until 1947 or so—just in time for the Americans to tow it to Bikini and blow it up.

The bombardment fiasco wasn't fun. As I mentioned before, Japanese AA fire is about as effective at shooting down attacking planes as blowing kisses at them would be. The game charts for planes attacking ships are quite bloody—if the attacking planes are American. Mark got five hits on one battleship and three hits on the other. Each hit does a world of damage, so Oppenheimer should thank his lucky stars that he'll have Kongo to nuke after the war.

Three ships lost and nothing gained for the turn. I had intended to go to Tacoma on Saturday and play Field of Glory: Renaissance, but I got drawn out to the Panzer Depot instead because I was expecting a surface action with either my supply mission or the bombardment group—generating surface actions being the whole point of running the campaign. Admiral Ghormley, however, has turned Fabius Maximus on me and is now avoiding surface actions. The only thing to do when I got there was to roll to see how badly my ships got sunk by his planes. Haruna was sunk so badly that the next ship named Haruna will automatically sink as soon as it's launched just to cover the excess damage done to Haruna I.

I am a bit less enthusiastic about the campaign now because it's a bit more carrier focused than I care for. We use the GQ3 campaign rules for air-to-surface actions, which can be done quickly with paper, pencil, and few dice. The campaign allows for up to two carrier missions per turn and woe betide you—as I just learned—if you don't run two missions. The loss of two battleships occurred because Mark's spare carrier mission had nothing else to do but go looking for anything else floating.  You get only four missions per turn (typically), but you have to run half of them as carrier missions just to keep your other missions from getting jumped by enemy carrier-based aircraft against which they have no chance of success ("success" here being defined as mere survival). That means that the main part of the campaign, surface actions, gets short shrift.

Remains of the day

Too late to make it down to Tacoma for piking and shotting, I went into Seattle to run some long-delayed errands. First stop was Tacoma Book Center and Sea Ocean Book Berth in Fremont. I was hoping to snag a copy of John Bulkeley's At Close Quarters, the official US Navy account of PT Boats in WW2. I knew that one of the shops had a copy the last time I was there. However, I discovered they sold it just days before.

After browsing a while, I went for lunch at Pacific Inn just across the street. They have Seattle's best fish & chips. I used to work in the neighborhood and I've devoured many a greasy pile of halibut and french fries at PI, washed down with a pint or two of Manny's. It was was a treat to devour more after too long a hiatus.

Next stop was the University Bookstore to get some nice, fat 1.4mm leads for my Faber Castell mechanical pencil. These are hard to find in shops because it's pretty rare to find anyone who carries Faber Castell pens/pencils except some art supply stores. I got their last two refill thingummies, which I hope will last me for a while. I use the mechanical pencil for note-taking, jotting, scribbling, etc. at work. I ran out of my last lead a few weeks back and had been meaning to run to the U to get more, but I always had something else going on.

Final trip of the day was down to Auburn, WA to visit Comstock's Books. I used to get down there much more often. I haven't been in years, which is partly a testimony to the value of online books stores like Abe Books where I can search for and order a lot of long out-of-print books from the comfort of my den. It's also a testimony to my declining tendency to wander far on a weekend. (Am I such a homebody now?)

It had been so long since I was at Comstock's that I feared they might not be there any more. It was a nice surprise to turn the corner onto Main St. and see them still there, still open for the day, and with parking space right in front. They also had a new batch of store cats since I was last there: twin torties and a big white cat, who was lounging in the sun by the main window.

Comstock's has a great section, really several sections, on military history. I browsed their nautical section, still hoping to find At Close Quarters. No luck, but I did find a more recent paperback on PT Boats in the Pacific that had a forward by Bulkeley. (Bulkeley, by the way, was the commander of the PT squadron that took MacArthur away from Corregidor. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for other actions in the Philippines from Dec, 1941 to Feb, 1942 when the few boats he commanded were about the only US Navy in the area.) I also picked up Richard Frank's massive tome on Guadalcanal and, a lucky find, the elusive, out-of-print Osprey book Roman Military Clothing: 100 BC to 200 AD. I'd seen it online before for some absurd price, which I wasn't going to pay. Comstock's had it for the same price as any of the other Osprey titles in stock.

After Comstock's, it was home again, home again, jiggity-jig. I had stopped home earlier after The Panzer Depot  in order to drop off all the stuff I schlepped there expecting a game. I just unloaded it into my garage while Grendel mewled pathetically through the door at me, after which I drove off, much to his chubbiness' chagrin. Now home again, my fat little man was happy to know he, and his harem, would be getting fed.


Later on Saturday, I went to to search for At Close Quarters and discovered several copies available from Amazon affiliated sellers. I ordered a copy from Barbarossa Books, which is just across the sound on Bainbridge Island, and it arrived today. My interest, apart from a good read, is to work out some scenarios for 1:1250th coastal gaming. Hallmark/Figurehead have a nice range of American and Japanese coastal craft, which I'll order as soon as I figure out what I want.


  1. The campaign is only so carrier-focused as its players are. If both sides want surface action there will be surface action.

  2. Truly. My USN opponent is avoiding surface action. I think he's waiting until mid-'43 so he can have functional torpedoes with torp-x warheads. Alas, the campaign ends sooner than that.