* * 2015-2017 Top 10 Invitational * *
John Pack (IJN; Bid 1.5) vs. Ed Menzel (USN)

The Menzel Options plus the West Coast Escape (rather than Pearl Harbor Escape) adjustment are in play.

Turn 1
Turn 2
Turn 3
Turn 4
Turn 5

Turn 1

IJN Comments:  The benefits of the Menzel options showed as 4 BB escaped Pearl Harbor (along with 2 CA and the LBA) -- to give the USN 2 BB and a CA better than average.  The Repulse also escaped in Indonesia.  However, the limitations of the options also showed -- as zero CV were available to base in Australia -- which takes pressure off the IJN.

Turn 2

IJN Comments:  I patrolled as usual -- giving myself enough patrollers to have maximum flexibility in responding to the Allied patrols and LBA placement.  Ed surprises me by only placing a single LBA in the U.S. Mandate.  With weak patrols in the Marshalls (and two LBA available to counter them thanks to the low threat to Indonesia), I go for a two-area attack.  Shoho misses her speed roll to the Hawaiians, but Ed evaluates the situation in favor of backing up the LBA in the Mandate with his response.

To tell the truth, this is precisely the response I hope for against this move.  Usually USN casualties are so high on that even a first-round night is a disaster.  However, Ed's response is solid in that he also moves to open the South Pacific -- so the units in USM have a nice raiding lane for next turn.

However, disaster comes early to Ed.  On the first round in SPO, the LBA sends Saratoga to Guadalcanal while the I-Boat sinks Enterprise.  The USN whiffs.  The next round sees Lexington disabled while the LBA hangs on to control the area and block Allied movement plans for next turn (and convert Lae).  The NLF also sneaks through in the Marianas to take the Philippines and prevent the Singapore Sling.  This is the most likely result, but it sure whacks the IJN on the head when it goes the Allied direction!

In the US Mandate, daylight comes up.  That looks grim for the USN.  However, Yorktown takes just 1 damage and stays in action while Hornet is sunk.  The LBA also remains intact.  In return the IJN loses Kaga, Akagi, and Soryu to pinpoint Allied accuracy.  Ouch!  The next round is day followed by night.  During daylight, the IJN shoot down the LBA while merely disabling Yorktown.  Hosho is sunk while Ryujo is disabled.  Allied CV attrition for the turn looks good.  The night action sees the surface attrition go in the Allied favor as well -- adding to the USN advantage gained from the Menzel options.  I stay for another night but merely score even attrition instead of setting up a meat-grinder as I'd hoped.

Over-all, the SPO result gives the IJN the edge for the turn -- but only because the large USN fleet will have few movement options and few interior bases remaining.  However, the IJN will have to rely heavily on the LBA to take Pearl Harbor and probably be forced into giving up Indonesia on Turn Three.

Turn 3

IJN Comments:  I hate giving the British Indonesia -- and it shows in my LBA deployment.  I need a lot to convert the Hawaiians, but I use all I can spare in Indonesia rather than giving it up.  On the downside, that leaves little for other areas -- but does let me throw a couple of CV into flag defenses and a USM threat that draw USN CV in for profitable trades.

While I lose three CV on the turn, my plan to trade CV in SPO and USM works reasonably well -- sinking one and putting max damage on another (that goes to San Diego for repairs).  With three USN CV losses thus far, I hope the USN will be toothless from here onward.

My attack on Pearl Harbor goes better than expected -- I dispatch both Marines easily and win the area while losing just one CV.  I also manage to sink Hermes in Indonesia, but Ed keeps the British "fleet in being" by keeping the 027s out of my reach.

Though I have holes in my perimeter and lots of ships based at Guadalcanal, I feel this turn is a solid IJN victory.

USN Comments: On T2, my 3 CVs lost to one lba and the IB in the SPO despite getting a first round D action. That has set up a very unfavorable situation for the USN on T3. The POC is at 21 with a bid of only 1.5 by the IJN. The USN has only two CVs operational while one is being repaired in San Diego. The IJN flagged Indonesia thereby eliminating the raiding threat to the JI for T4. About the only plus is that the USN has a one ship surface fleet advantage to go with 6 LBA.

The one advantage to being a decided underdog in the game is that barring a major mistake on your opponents part, it is now reasonable – in fact mandatory – to take some risks you wouldn’t take in a close game. If they don’t work out then you were probably going to lose anyway. If they pan out then hopefully you are back in the game.

Turn 4

IJN Comments:  This turn I intend to use the LBA to guard the perimeter -- even if it means losing a few POC in the interior (since my score is otherwise quite high).  I patrol the Allied Home Areas just to make the threat -- in case any opening appears.  Ed holds all of the non-British ships back on raid -- to maximize their effectiveness -- and because the POC battle looks hopeless.

The concentration of Allied LBA in the South Pacific with just one in the Coral Sea, pushes my invasion to come from the rear.  The Allies will have the surface edge, to be certain, but a single day action (42% even with the US Flag) will land my NLF and send his SPO LBA packing.  I also send two CV to threaten a flag and possible KO in the U.S. Mandate (and to draw off forces from the Coral Sea).

IJN Comments:  Interesting move, Ed. It’s certain gutsy with a chance to make a big difference in the game! However, I’d rate the odds of some sort of USN catastrophe as very high.

USN Comments: Actually John, I felt the move kind of made itself in general terms. I think if I lose my two CVs this turn, the game is over.

Putting my two CVs in the CS to stop the marines probably gets them killed while I shoot your marines if it were D. As noted that is a very losing proposition for me. So I really need N or D/N. So if I need that, then I might as well play for it as I lose if it is D anyway. And N or D/N is 58% in my favor. Plus in a pure D, your two carriers may not beat my one lba although I would lose Guad. And with a large surface wrap, it is highly unlikely you will control the area.

In the USM a pretty similar reasoning is applicable. Except here in addition to my chances for N or D/N, my lba might win the area anyway albeit they are a slight underdog.

So then it is simply a matter of divvying up my surface fleet. And the 2 CVs might as well try to do something useful rather than stay in port.

The only advantage to being a decided underdog in the game is that it now is reasonable – in fact mandatory – to take some risks you wouldn’t take in a close game. If they don’t work out then you were probably going to lose anyway. If they pan out then hopefully you are back in the game.

We’ll see how it turns out!

IJN Comments:  I send the I-Boat to the U.S. Mandate to help with the surface lap (since a day action followed by an I-Boat roll of 4-6 could remove Idaho).  In retrospect, it should have followed the usual IJN strategy -- and gone to Marshalls where I could have asked for a first-round night and to score critical CV attrition.  As it is, the LBA whiffs and is immediately shot down.

The bigger problem, however, is that Ed wins all of the key day/night rolls on the first round -- especially those in the Coral Sea and U.S. where unlikely night actions come up.  Ed shows here a good way to come back in a game when one is behind -- bet on a night action in an area where you've got the flag.

In the Mandate, Junyo doesn't shoot -- to avoid ganging up.  However, my cruisers and I-Boat have no effect.  The USN sinks a CA but leaves Junyo in action!  The next round is day.  The two CV fail to harm the LBA while Junyo is sunk.  In the following day, Ryujo is disabled while the LBA is shot down.  However, the surface edge is enough to send the IJN running.

In the Coral Sea, night let's the USN shoot at my carriers and NLF.  Zuikaku and one NLF are sunk.  The Zuiho and the other NLF are disabled.  The dreams of owning SPO via taking Guadalcanal from the Coral Sea are over.  However, with so little firepower dedicated to my surface units, I expect to sink 5-6 hulls more than the Allies -- and possibly set up a meat grinder.  Instead, the Allied CA shoot as well as the IJN's vaunted surface fleet.  I stay for another night round anyway, but come away slightly the worse for the surface attrition.

Two nights and some lousy shooting by the IJN and the USN is back in the fight!

USN Thinking: Key to the USN chances in the game are to preserve carriers, contain the POC, and hold Guadalcanal – a pretty tall order. I had hoped one lba each in the CS/USM combined with a large USN surface fleet would be enough to dissuade raids into my home areas. But the IJN decides on an aggressive course of action with raids into both the CS and USM.

Putting my two CVs in the CS to stop the marines probably gets them killed while I shoot marines in a D action. But I really can’t afford to lose carriers. So I really need N or D/N. So if I need that, then I might as well play for it as I lose if it is D anyway. And N or D/N is 58% in my favor, so it is definitely better than a long shot gamble. In the USM, a similar reasoning is applicable.

So given that, the carriers need to go somewhere else useful – like the Marshalls where hopefully they can shoot down an lba. John’s deployment uses 7 surface ships patrolling outside the CS/USM. That gives me a nice surface advantage in the areas I intend to contest. And with a large surface wrap, it is highly unlikely he will control the area. Now it is simply a matter of divvying up my surface fleet. I send enough to the CS so that I am assured of at last a BB for each marine in a D/N action. I decide to send one BB to the Marianas in a POC steal attempt although that leaves me a little skinny in the USM.

Now it is up to the dice gods. And they seem to like me all of a sudden, as I get pure N in both the CS & USM. After several rounds of battle, I get almost everything I went for – control of the CS, saving Guad, flagging the SPO, decontrolling the Marianas/Marshalls and no carrier losses. The only thing I missed was the loss of the USM flag. All in all, a really nice turn for me, but I am still the underdog because the POC went up to 27 (bid of 1.5).

Turn 5

IJN Comments:  The IJN's biggest problem at the start of this turn is a dearth of carriers.  With one repairing, only two CVL and one CV are available for operations.  The USN, on the other hand, thanks to zero losses last turn is up to three and has the use of the Victorious as well.  With the SPO flagged last turn, the USN can get a British CVL and 3 CV into any of the perimeter areas -- and is set to raid surface units deep into the interior.

The shortage of IJN CV put me in a crucial bind:  no ability to threaten the Allied Home Areas.  I could put patrollers in USM -- but even two LBA would be enough to deter any attack.  That means the USN will be able to overload the South Pacific with LBA.  At this point, I fail to realize that the flag in SPO also denies me the chance to invade from Coral Sea again -- and that means I waste two crucial LBA in SPO where the odds will be hopeless.

The USN fleet is weakest on the Pearl Harbor side, so I decide to control the Hawaiians with my surface fleet and use the LBA along the perimeter to prepare for the USN counter-attack.

In hindsight, my plan is flawed.  If the two SPO LBA were moved to Indonesia, the USN wouldn't have challenged the area.  That would have free the Junyo to go to the Hawaiians and deter an attack there as well.  Yes, the middle would be open, but the POC would have hit 29 easily -- and probably have left me in exclusive control of Indo and have the NE corner blocked off.

As it is, the USN weather domination continues -- with the USN winning every single preference roll, including three nights against +1 or +2 bonuses (two of which are crucial areas).

That allows the USN to invade the Philippines (even after letting one of my NLF through) and Kwajalein as well as sinking Junyo before the real fighting gets going.  The final map shows the outcome -- which isn't pretty for the IJN.

IJN Comments:  The USN rolls the score back by four on Turn 5 -- even before the official beginning of the counterattack!  The Allies advanced position -- and another turn with zero CV losses -- puts the USN in such a controlling position that the IJN surrenders.

I roll only two sixes during the whole turn -- one on a CA in CPO and the other on a BB in Marianas (both side shows).

Ultimately, this game shows how a complete turnaround is possible -- particularly if the USN CV attrition is kept reasonably low while IJN CV attrition is normal or on the high side.  It also shows the crucial nature of the South Pacific when Samoa is the main USN base (as it usually is).

Congratulations to Ed Menzel for a masterful display of risk-taking, perseverance, and skill!

USN Thinking: The IJN has only 3 operational carriers with one repairing. I have fleet superiority and on T6 will have a big carrier advantage. So my objectives this turn are to contain POC (at an alarming 27) and take some advance bases. Also if I can down some lba, the IJN may not be able to control a key area with just lba on T6.

I based most of my fleet in Australia/Guadalcanal so as to be able to contest Indonesia and go for bases there. John takes advantage of that and sends surface patrols to the HI. He apparently overlooks my SPO flag when placing his lba as he attempts to send his marines to the CS. They alter course then and end up in Indonesia.

Since I don’t want to risk SRs with a lot of BBs to the HI, I go after POC steals in the Marianas, JI & CPO.  I elect to send the Lexington and Vicky to the Marshalls for POC and maybe a flag in the area. I felt that was a better option than just the Vicky to the Marshalls with Lexington going to Indonesia.

Having given up on the HI, I do contest Indo. If John shoots my marines in a D action, then I have a good chance to control Indonesia. If he shoots my carriers, then I should be able to get a base – hopefully the Philippines.

But once again Lady Luck takes my side, as it is pure N in Indonesia/Marshalls and D in the SPO. So I get my bases in both areas. And I shoot down one of the IJN SPO lba. The IB puts 1 damage on Wasp, so she is still operational. I thought seriously about going for N in Indonesia to make sure I had CVs based in the Philippines for T6. But I finally decided to fight it out at least for one round in a D action hoping to, at a minimum, down another lba.

An embarrassment of luck for me as everything worked. Over 4 rounds in Indonesia, I end up winning the area with no CV losses. I shoot down his Marianas LBA and decontrol the JI, Marianas, and CPO. The POC goes down to 23. Only two IJN lba will be available on T6; I have fleet/carrier superiority, advance bases and there is no IJN perimeter. What an amazing lucky streak I had over turns 4 & 5 to totally turn the game around. A probably somewhat dazed John gracefully resigned at this point.

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