Task Force: Carrier Battles in the Pacific (VucaSims, 2023) uses a kind of tutorial learning approach to teaching new players the game. Whereas Scenario 1 covered just the air attack on Pearl Harbor, “Scenario 2. Sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse (December 10, 1941)” focuses on the Reconnaissance Phase of the game.
Finding enemy ships is a major part of any fleet battle and wargames use many different approaches to depicting air searches in carrier battle games. The most “realistic” approach is perhaps to play double-blind with a referee adjudicating searches. Task Force uses a combination of hidden Task Force units and search counters. In this scenario, there is one “real” Task Force marker and three Dummy counters that are mixed together and randomly placed on the board in a manner such that the single player does not know which is which.
In every turn of this Task Force scenario, the player (playing the Japanese side) can conduct two searches. To execute a search you designate a Task Force marker and draws from a cup of 54 Search chits. The Search chits have results from “?” or “No Contact” to a “Misdirect” result to full-up “Detected!” Since in this scenario there is no opponent determining the results is a bit different than the norm (see the scenario rules) but I was eventually able to find the Royal Navy thanks to a “Misdirect.”
As the Japanese player has found Task Force Z, I can now conducts air attacks. Although all air attacks are resolved in a single phase, the attacks can be divided any way I decide. Looking at the Combat Results Table (CRT), I notice that the table does not go beyond the 14+ column for attack strength. Thus, I decided to “game” the system and conduct multiple attacks with each group getting close to that 14+ column. To start, Prince of Wales is attacked by two waves; the first by three Kanoya Air Group (KAN) torpedo Betty bombers followed by two Mihora Air Group (MIH) Nell bombers.
Prince of Wales gets to roll anti-air with a strength of 7 (4 + 3 from Repulse which is next in formation). The archie gunners don’t shoot down any Bettys but they do disrupt the attack formation a bit…
The results are rather…disappointing. Though nine (9) hits are scored the Prince of Wales suffers only Minor Damage.
The follow-on Nells can’t score enough hits to further damage Prince of Wales. At this point I could declare the scenario ended since the Japanese player needs to sink both Prince of Wales and Repulse to win. Regardless, I played on. The next attack was by the three Genzen (GEN) Nell units against Repulse. Note that although to of the units are “T’ for torpedo bombers and one is “B” for level bombers the only difference is in their attack strength. Task Force abstracts bomber or torpedo attacks into a single generic attack strength. Hitting a ship with a torpedo bomber in Task Force yields hits, not floatation hits or the like found in some other wargames.
The Repulse anti-air gunners are helped by the fact they get to add +4 from Prince of Wales and another +1 from the escorting destroyer. The anti-air factor of 8 yields a +2 attack modifier and one step of aircraft shot down.
The Nells score 10 hits…good enough to “flip” Repulse with Significant Damage.
A lone Mihora torpedo Nell now attacks.
The Repulse anti-air gunners again throw up a steel curtain.
The Nells are good and score 7 hits…
…but that is only enough to move Repulse to Critical Damage. The last attack is by a Minhora Nell against two destroyers (Electra and Empress).
With Critical Damage, Repulse has no anti-air to lend, nor does the following single destroyer (Vampire). As it is, the anti-air gunners do the best they can.
The attack is…a total whiff!
In a very ahistorical result, Task Force Z lives to see another day. Maybe the days of the battleship are not as numbered as people thought?
This scenario of Task Force reinforced an early perception I have of the game; Task Force is not a heavy “simulation” of carrier battles but a very approachable game that delivers believable results in play. Notice I said “believable” and not “realistic.” Nobody is going to be rewriting their PhD thesis based on the results of this
pseudo-scientific endeavor game, but I am sure there will be some fun and exciting game nights between friends found with Task Force on the table.
Feature image courtesy RMN
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