Pacific War - Scenario 1: Pearl Harbor


December 7, 1941 - the day that would live in infamy. Mark Herman's 1985 classic "Pacific War" (Victory Games) covered the topic in the first scenario of the game. This is a tiny solitaire battle that has the player take on the role of the Japanese in a limited engagement.

The scenario lasts two Battle Cycles with most of the setup (weather, time, etc.) following the historical situation. The only real decision for the Japanese player to make here is how many planes to allocate to hitting the battleships or the airfield.

And that's okay, because this game can seem intimidating when you open the box and feast your eyes on the 55-page tome of rules and the nine counter sheets of playing pieces.

This first scenario eases you into the game  and keeps you focused on the first part of the book, which covers the rules needed for playing the smaller scenarios.

So when you get to the end of that first section and realize that the final 21 pages of the rules are dedicated to the campaign scenario, it's a big load off. You could easily play and enjoy Pacific War for your entire life without having to worry about the campaign, which is great news for anyone who doesn't have monster amounts of time to dedicate to something like that.

Let's take a look at the setup here:

The playing time is 15 minutes, which is actually a bit longer than you'll need once you get the hand of the rules.

We use Map B for this scenario but you don't even need that. There's only one real hex in play here through the entire thing. I usually just line my units up on the edge of the mapboard and roll away.

Game length is two Battle Cycles. The first battle cycle (BC) has all sorts of nice advantages for the Japanese player due to the surprise attack. In the second battle cycle, things become much harder as the Americans are alerted and ready for a fight.

Special rules:

  • Allied search cannot be conducted beyond two hexes (which means they are not going to find the Japanese carriers and launch a counterattack).
  • Each hit on an Allies airfield eliminates 2 (instead of the normal 1) Allied air steps.
  • No Allied CAP or Flak allowed during the first BC.
  • Allied naval and air units cannot move.
  • Lighting conditions for both cycles are Day.
  • The Japanese have Advantage for both BCs.
  • All hits on the Allied naval and air units during the first Battle Cycle are doubled.
  • US units are not activated.

Victory Conditions:

The player wins if the Japanese get 4 or more hits on each of the 6 of 8 US battleships and destroy 12 Air Steps. Any other result is a loss.

Setup:

The Japanese get the historical CVs. The air steps are included in brackets:
Akagi (5), Kaga (5), Shokaku (6), Zuikaku (6), Hiryu (4), and Soryu (4)

and escorts:
BB Hiei, BB Kirishima, CA Tone, and DD Kagero

All in hex 3159

The US gets its historical setup too. The subs are listed in the setup here even though they don't come into play at all. I suppose Mark Herman put them in there for historical completeness or maybe to help the player get comfortable with the various units in the game. Either way, I don't see the point in listing them here.

Port: Large airfield with:
1E-CV-L1 (single engine - CV capable - Level 1 Quality) aircraft (6 steps)
1E-CV-L1 (3)
1E-L0 (6)
1E-L0 (4)
2E-L0 (3) - B-18s
4E-L0 (1) - B-17s
2 x LRA (long range aircraft)

Surface naval units:
BBs California, Maryland, Oklahoma, Nevada, Tennessee, West Virginia, Arizona, Pennsylvania,

CA New Orleans, CL Brooklyn, CL Omaha

DD Mahan, Farragut, Bagley, Porter, APD1 Paulding/APD2 Paulding

All this is in hex 2860 in Oahu.



Battle Cycle One:

Most of this is already decided here but just for fun, let's go through it:
Lighting Phase - Day
Advantaged Determination - Japan
Advantage Movement - No movement
Advantage Air Mission Phase:

The Japanese declare an Air Mission - an Air Strike versus hex 2860 (Oahu).



Preliminary Procedure:
Place a Target Marker on 2860. Done.

Place all air mission units in their airbase hex. Sure.

Determine whether or not the mission is coordinated:

  • This doesn't really matter because there is no chance of CAP or interception here but let's check for fun anyways. We have to roll equal or under 3x the lowest Status Level unit in the mission. The Japanese have all L2 units so we need to roll under a 6. We roll a 4. This mission is coordinated.
Move units:

  • The Japanese player moves all the air units into the Oahu hex. The Americans can roll for detection. They get an 8 and the entire raid is undetected. It wouldn't have mattered anyways as they couldn't have done anything about it according to the Special Rules.
Air Combat, CAP, and Flak are all ignored according to Special Rules so we move on to the Strike Phase.

Four Japanese air units (2 x 6-step units and 2 x 5-step units) are assigned the job of hitting American battleships. Two Japanese air units (2 x 4-step units) hit the airfield.

Let's do the battleships first.

First attack: 6 step air unit vs. Nevada: -> No hits!
Second attack: 6 step air unit vs Penn. ->  8 hits! The BB is sunk!
Third attack: 5 step air unit vs. Oklahoma ->  2 hits!
Fourth attack: 5 step air unit vs. Arizona ->  4 hits!



Now the airfield:

First attack: 4 step air unit vs airfield -> No hits!
Second attack: 4 step air unit vs airfield -> 2 hits! (4 Allied air steps are eliminated)
We eliminate 4 steps of the 1E-CV-L1 air unit.

Well, with only two of the six required battleships at 4 hits and with a measly 4 air unit steps eliminated, there is probably no chance for a Japanese win but we can see what happens with the second Battle Cycle.



Battle Cycle Two:

Lighting: Day (as per scenario rules)
Advantage: Japanese (as per scenario rules)
Advantage Movement: None
Advantage Air Mission:

Once again, Oahu is our target. Big surprise. This time, the issue again is how best to split up our planes. The Americans know we are coming now so they can intercept our air units and there's also the little matter of Flak. Since surprise is lost now, we no longer double our hits on the Americans. Tough cookies.

We'll try the same thing this time. Four air units vs. the battleships and two vs. the air units. We check for coordination and roll a "0". The strike is coordinated.

As the Japanese move towards Oahu, the US player has a 2-hex detection range with his LRA. The detection rolls for the two hexes beyond Oahu are a 7 and an 8 - both a failure. However, we roll a 2 for detection in the same hex and the incoming Japanese are detected.



CAP

The US sends up a single 1E unit on CAP to intercept. The 1E-CV-L1 (3) is sent up. Now the Japanese player must designate an Escort unit. We'll throw up a 1E-CV-L2(4) against it just to keep things interesting. The Air Combat takes place without any modifiers from the other alerted American fighters. A roll of 7 results in no losses for the Japanese.

Flak

Now the Japanese face Flak on the way in the target hex.

The total flak number is:
3 for the port
3 for the airfield
19 for the surface ships

for a total of 25. Wow!

We roll an 8 and score 3 hits on the Japanese. We'll take these hits on a 4-step air unit. It aborts.

Air Strike

1E-CV-L2(6) vs Nevada: 2 hits!
1E-CV-L2(6) vs Maryland: 2 hits!
1E-CV-L2(5) vs Oklahoma: 2 hits! (total of 4)
1E-CV-L2(5) vs Arizona: 4 hits! (total of 7 - sunk!)

1E-CV-L2(4) vs. airfield: No hits!

End Result:

4 of 8 battleships take the requisite hits for victory. Two of them - the Arizona* and the Pennsylvania are sunk)

*historical result

Only 4 US air steps are destroyed of the 12 required.

Conclusion:

It's actually pretty difficult for the Japanese to win here. It takes a ton of luck to reproduce what happened historically. I have managed to do it once with some superior die-rolling (plenty of "0" results on the first battle cycle).

More importantly, the scenario takes a lot of the mystery out of the game and shows you that - yes, this thing is very much a playable mini-monster.

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