#WargameWednesday “The Great Pacific War”

The Great Pacific War 1940-1944 by Don Baumgartner (Self Published, ISBN 9781493580569); Middletown, DE; Printed 15 May 2016.

As a long-time fan of the Admiralty Trilogy series of naval wargames, I religiously read The Naval SITREP. Issue #50 (April 2016) included a small half-page review of The Great Pacific War 1940-1944. Though not very well marketed as such, this is definitely an alternate history book. For a naval wargamer, it can be a sourcebook for scenarios or campaign inspiration.

The major historical point of departure is the death of Hitler during the Munich Crisis of 1939. Upon his death, the path towards war in Europe halts, allowing the author to explore a “what if” situation where the British Empire and Japan instead clash in the Far East. The story of these titanic naval battles are laid out in the book and each battle can easily be converted into a tactical scenario and gamed out.

Style-wise, the book could use a good editor and I encourage the author to get help laying the book out properly. Font selection should be reviewed because in my copy, all the 10’s digits are rendered as the letter “I” meaning we get “I4” guns. The maps could also use some work for they lack consistency in appearance or even orientation. Finally, tables and photos could use layout help.

Alternate history is hard. It is very easy to take historical reality, file off some serial numbers, rearrange letters, and say you have an alternate history (I’m looking at you, Mr. Turtledove. Naming the tank commander Morrel instead of Rommel? Really!) The problem in this book is that not enough changes. The author takes historical battles, moves them to to a different location (though often not that far from the original) and drops in a different set of combatants. Without needing to look too close between the lines, one can find the battles of Coral Sea, Midway, and night actions around The Slot off Guadalcanal. The result are battles not unlike what historically happened, but with the British generally substituted for the Americans.

It is easy to find a copy of Royal Navy Strategy in the Far East 1919-1939: Preparing for War Against Japan by Andrew Field (I used my public library privileges to search online databases and get my copy). Field lays out how the British thought they were going to fight, not how the Americans and Japanese eventually duked it out. There is enough difference between Field and Baumgartner that I (reluctantly) have to say that The Great Pacific War missed a golden opportunity. The British view of naval airpower was different than the US or Japan (for instance, see Geoffrey Till, “Adopting the aircraft carrier: The British, American, and Japanese case studies” in Military Innovation in the Interwar Period). Exploring those differences are what I find really intriguing and the stuff that makes for interesting games. Unfortunately, Baumgartner’s  The Great Pacific War does not delve down into this form of “what if.”

Is The Great Pacific War worth purchasing? For a serious naval wargamer its probably worth it, if for no other reason than scenario inspiration. The background and orders of battle would make good material for a convention game. But if one really wants to explore the “what if” of the British and Japanese fighting it out at sea, it may be better to look elsewhere.

Wargame Wednesday – Tomorrow’s War Today in Mali

 

Courtesy Ambush Alley Games

Tomorrow’s War from Ambush Alley Games has its problems, but if one keeps to the infantry combat heart of the system it actually plays very well. The game is also very good for low-intensity, insurgent conflicts and for the use of the “Grid” to help show the impact of information warfare on command and control (C2) as well as ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance).

One of my favorite aviation blogs, The Aviationist, has been following the war in Mali quite closely, and in early February posted an entry named The taking of Tessalit airfield in Mali: air assault as seen from the camera of a Harfang droneIt covers the assault on Tessalit by 50 paratroopers of the Parachute Chasseur Regiment and their subsequent link-up with a flying column of the 1st Marine Infantry Regiment.

So this got me thinking….

The first scenario is a dropship insertion by a company-sized force to seize an airfield. The attacking force is TL2 in Tomorrow’s War terms taking on a nebulous TL1 insurgent force. The attacker has a TL2 Grid with ISR drones and can call on air support.

The second scenario involves the attacker moving a small convoy of armored vehicles through the city to link-up with the inserted forces at the airfield. Again, the attacker has a TL2 Grid with ISR drones and air support on call.