This is just a small battle scenario that appears to be designed primarily for the purpose of helping you learn the rules. The map is not particularly inspiring: three Japanese task forces are converging on Wake Island and three American task forces are moving in to punish them for it. The victory conditions assume that Japan will easily take the island, so victory here hinges on Japan sinking more carriers than they’ve lost.
The thing that is most noticeable about this game is that you can’t always do what you want and things don’t always go your way. No, really! You don’t know who the advantaged player is on any given turn. You don’t know what time of day the action will occur. You don’t know that you’ll even be able to “sight” a particular counter on the board when you want to attack. You don’t know if your planes will be coordinated when they attack. You don’t know if your opponent will be able to get his planes up in the air to defend his ships. Each form of attack seems to have its own flow chart of actions, steps, and checks– and anything can happen. Sometimes nothing happens. Usually nothing much happens.
The naval combat stuff is pretty neat. Each unit is rated for long, medium, and short range. If two stacks are fighting, there’s this process you go through to bid for range. Some units might fight two or three times in a turn if the opposing force doesn’t just try to withdraw…. If there’s no real reason for a player’s ships to be somewhere, then there won’t be much need for a fight. If you’re trying to take out a key unit that has been damaged, then your planes are pretty much your only hope, so don’t waste them on stupid stuff. It looks like he can run away and you’d never catch him… but if you follow him, your planes can snipe at him as long as you want to. If you can sight him, anyway….
I played Japan in this scenario. I sent my planes in to harass Wake Island while I concentrated my ships. This resulted in me losing some air unit steps. I was really excited to damage the air strip and force the infantry there to make a morale check, but at the end of the turn they “healed” back up with no permanent damage. When my navy arrived, it made short work of the fortifications and easily destroyed the air units by bombarding the air strip.
There’s about twenty different Combat Result Tables sandwiched into one chart, but it isn’t too hard to use once you get into it.
I should have landed my ground forces then, but there was this American task force nearby that was within pouncing distance. I sent everything after it and found out that he could just withdraw with basically zero chance of taking any hits on his carriers. The thing I learned here was to respect the American’s ability to send in three decent counters worth of air to snipe at my carriers. If they get past my flak and my planes, then he gets three chances to hit one of my carriers. A zero on that D10 can be very, very bad. And with my own air power worn down, I can’t really even the score and take down a second American carrier to win the game. There’s no room for Japan to lose any carriers here.
This implies that the best strategy here is to (maybe?) save back the Japanese planes as long as possible, use the navy to take out the fortifications, land the troops and let them do the heavy lifting on the island, and then run away while using the Japanese air units to grind down the American air power as much as possible. Under that scenario, this game comes down to whether or not the American planes can ever get lucky enough to take out a Japanese carrier. Without knowing the rules inside and out, I couldn’t tell you what the exact chance of that is, but it might not be that likely.
Whatever the exact numbers, this is not the most exciting scenario on the planet. But it does serve the purpose of letting you know what is generally useless to try in the game and how all the basic combat flows fit together.
See also this previous post on this game:
Pacific War: “Look at the size of that thing!”