Sunday, May 1, 2011

Battle of the Starter Sea -- analysis and strategy for the Axis & Allies War at Sea 2010 Starter -- Part II: The Allies

Continuing the discussion of strategy and tactics for the 2010 Starter Set, we now turn to the Allied Task Force.

Like the Japanese squadron, the centerpiece of the Allied force is a high-quality cruiser, the Cleveland-class light cruiser USS Montpelier. In the context of World War II there's little operational difference between "light" cruisers and "heavy" cruisers built under the terms of the interwar naval treaties, as the 6-inch gun "lights" made up in rate of fire and number of guns any deficiency in firepower they might have had compared to their 8-inch gun "heavy" sisters. War at Sea reflects this as well, with Montepelier's point value, armor and attack dice comparable to many heavies. The Montpelier is just one point less than Haguro. While its close-range main battery gunnery is a little lower than the Japanese ship's, it has higher secondary factors and a longer range main battery and its armor value is higher as well. Indeed, the only major hole in its capabilities is a lack of torpedoes.

On the other hand, the Montpelier really doesn't want to get close enough to use torpedoes anyway, as its biggest advantage over the Haguro is range. The Extended Range 4 special ability allows it to fire at the Haguro without being shot at in return if teh Montpelier is undamaged and the Haguro is four squares away. Montpelier's Flagship 1 SA makes that happy state of affairs slightly more likely than not because the Allies will tend to win the initiative more often. It is a slight edge, however, and it's hard to guarantee the Haguro won't get within range on occasion. The Montpelier's 5 Armor value gives it a reasonable chance of avoiding damage from a long-range Haguro shot, which is important for retaining that range advantage and the Radar Fire Control SA which gives the US cruiser an extra die when attacking. The Montpelier's Heavy Antiair SA allows it to provide an AA umbrella over the entire task force if they stay close, which is very useful in thwarting the Betty's attempts to pick off a destroyer.

The Montpelier in the larger game: A useful unit at a reasonable cost that should figure in US fleet builds.

The second-most powerful Allied unit is the TBF-1 Avenger torpedo bomber. While its attacks are not execptionally strong, they are enough to provide a real threat to the Japanese ships and sub. But the more frustrating value from the Japanse standpoint is the Avenger's more value of 5 and Vital armor of 8, which mean that it's hard to abort the plane and even harder to shoot it down. The Haguro's AA value is just 7 and the Terutsuki is a 6, so it will take a better than average rill to abort the TBF and a very good roll to shoot it down. But wait, there's more. The Aenger is also "Rugged," so an attack that rolls exactly 8 successes only succeeds in shooting the Avenger down half the time, otherwise it's aborted. Once per game the Avenger can make a 6-die bomb attack instead of its torpedo attack, which is a good way to crippled the Terutsuki.

The TBF-1 Avenger in the larger game: This version of the Avenger is slightly less capable than the one in the Task Force set, but it's also cheaper, so it a useful addition to the US order of battle.

The two Allied destroyers are very similar in combat value and points. The USS Taylor's special ability of Sub Hunter, its 3 armor value and 6 AA value mark it as the unit that might risk an indepedent foray to hunt the I-25 or claim the objective. Besides being slightly more vulnerable, the HMAS Nizam's smoke screen ability can come in handy if the Allied side loses an inititiative roll.

The USS Taylor and HMAS NIzam in the larger game. Both ships have multiple sister ships in the game with a varying assortment of special abilities, so which one gets used will depend on the build strategy in play and nationality/year restrictions. Compared to the HMS Javelin the Nizam is more surface battle oriented while the Hr. Ms. Van Galen is not quite as good -- but it's Dutch. The US has a bunch of Fletcher-class destroyers to choose from, with the Taylor in the middle on points.

Overall strategy for the Allies involves trying to keep the range long so the Montpelier can gain an early edge over the Haguro. Meanwhile the Avenger and the Taylor try to suppress the I-25.

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