Wargame SITREP 230222 N3 Ops: “AIRRAID ON PEARL HARBOR X THIS IS NO DRILL” with Task Force: Carrier Battles in the Pacific (VucaSims, 2023)

It took me a little time, but I finally got the first scenario for Task Force: Carrier Battles in the Pacific from Vuca Simulations (2023) to the gaming table. The first four scenarios in Task Force are tutorials to educate new players on the game. “Scenario 1. Attack on Pearl Harbor (December 8, 1941)” covers the two-wave air attack.

National Archives–Alaska Region, Anchorage, Alaska, Records of Naval Districts and Shore Establishments.

In an upcoming episode of the “Mentioned in Dispatches” podcast for The Armchair Dragoons I’m going to be leading a discussion on wargame rules. Task Force is going to get a mention—no pun intended—because the scenario book presents a programmed approach to learning the game while the rule book doesn’t. This makes learning to play Task Force not impossible, but perhaps a bit suboptimal in execution.

Scenario 1 rules required

December 8?

The first time I read the scenario title, “Scenario 1. Attack on Pearl Harbor (December 8, 1941)” I winced at the typo. Everybody “knows” that Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, right? Well, not if you were in Japan on the other side of the International Date Line! The original Japanese edition of Task Force was designed by Ginichiro Suzuki and the rules and graphics in this Vuca Simulations edition are inspired by that original.

This first scenario for Task Force uses a special and highly thematic paper map. The American ships are laid out and the Japanese attackers come in two waves (separate rows on the scenario set up card).

To help recreate the surprise attack, the first four “units” can attack with no anti-air fired against them. I decided to use four Kate torpedo bombers each individually attacking California, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Nevada. I’m going to step through this set of attacks comprehensively to show how air attacks work in Task Force.

The first attack is against California.

“Checking in” on California

As this is a surprise attack California cannot use her anti-air factor of 4 in defense. If there is anti-air fire you roll on the Anti-Air Chart and get two numbers; the die roll modifier for the attack and a number of attacking “steps” lost before the actual attack strength is figured. As it is we go straight to the Air-to-Surface Chart and roll 1d6 using the Kate’s attack factor of 6. There is a modifier of -2 on the die roll because ships in this scenario are considered a Stationary Target. The die roll is a 4 modified to 2. Cross-referencing the 6-7 Column yields 10 hits.

The 10 hits are sufficient to inflict Significant Damage on California which is flipped to its reduced strength side. The attack on West Virginia inflicts Critical Damage while the Nevada likewise suffers Significant Damage. The last of the initial attacks is by a Kate against Arizona.

There is still no anti-air fire from the Americans. The Kate rolls 1d6 and gets a 1 with a -2 die roll modifier—results in 17 hits!

Those 17 hits are enough to sink Arizona outright. Rule 3.5 Handling of Combat Hits requires careful reading several times. What tripped me up the first read-through was how single hits are needed to move into some damage categories. In this attack:

  • First 8 hits matches Durability (Defense Factor to Grognards); Minor Damage marker added
  • Hit 9 flips the ship (Significant Damage)
  • Seven more hits (hits 10-16) matches reduced Durability; Critical Damage marker added.
  • 1 more hit sinks the ship (total 17 hits).

The balance of the first wave goes against California, West Virginia, and Nevada. Yes, I misplayed this a bit as all these attacks should of been “declared” along with the initial four attacks. It would change the anti-air firing possibilities. Alas, I didn’t realize this error until after I finished playing. [I also misplayed the anti-aircraft formation rules which, according to responses in the BGG forum, are not used in this scenario…which I didnt read until later because I like trying to play the rules as written first.]

After the first wave of attacks California, West Virginia, Arizona, and Nevada have all been sunk. The second wave of attackers, consisting of Val dive bombers, now rolls in on Pennsylvania, Maryland, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and New Orleans.

The second wave has to face anti-air fire. The results are three “half” units of attackers lost or about 12 planes total. They manage to score Significant Damage on Pennsylvania, Maryland, Tennessee and New Orleans. Oklahoma suffers Critical Damage.

The Japanese score 24 points for the four sunk battleships.

The Critical Damage on Oklahoma yields four more points while the Significant Damage on three more battleships is another nine points. The Significant Damage on New Orleans is one point more. That’s a total of 38 points or a Major Tactical Victory.

For what it’s worth, this play of this scenario in Task Force was somewhat duplicative of history. I ended up with four battleships sunk and another four damaged—similar to the historical result. My play also saw fewer cruisers damaged and less aircraft lost.

Recall though that Task Force is a war game about the Pearl Harbor attack. While Task Force models the event in a somewhat abstracted way, is not meant to be a simulation. Indeed, the question I ask myself is not how well it simulates the attack but does game play create enough verisimilitude that I can “believe” the results?

The answer for Task Force is a resounding, YES! I look forward to playing the rest of the tutorial scenarios to learn the game system and then going on to play historical (and even some hypothetical) scenarios.

Feature image courtesy RMN

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2023 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

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