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Overview Corsair Leader is the latest game from Dan Verssen Games which covers the airborne-antics of the Pacific Theatre.  It is a so...

Corsair Leader Corsair Leader

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Japanese


Overview

Corsair Leader is the latest game from Dan Verssen Games which covers the airborne-antics of the Pacific Theatre.  It is a solitaire game and for those familiar with the 'Leader' series follows the tried and trusted formula that the earlier games, e.g. Hornet Leader, Apache Leader etc. built upon. The game was a successful Kickstarter campaign raising many times over its funding goal.

The game pits you as a Squadron Commander that has to manage resources, i.e. pilots and aircraft to successful meet sortie objectives i.e. destroying targets, over a campaign series of linked missions. Each target, be it a fuel depot or enemy bombers grants a number of Victory Points which are tallied and compared against a Campaign VP achievement table to determine how successful you were.

There are 15 campaigns in the box, which is a testament to a successful Kickstarter, as many of them were stretch goals. After choosing a campaign and then your starting pilots, you'll 'fly' a number of missions which all follow the same 5 phases of play.  The enemy, always the Japanese, will spawn randomly by a cup-draw mechanic, so no two missions will ever be the same. Each mission plays in about 20 minutes, sometimes much less, depending on the number of site and bandits i.e. the enemy, that appear to defend the target. 

If you're curious about everything you get in the box, watch my unboxing video below (~14 mins)



Gameplay

Each mission consists of a Pre-flight planning phase, the Target Bound Flight, Target Resolution, Home Bound Flight and Debriefing. During the first of these phases the target, your pilots and their armaments will be selected, you'll also place the 'sites' which are the enemy ground units. There were many little touches in this game that I appreciated the design of and this was the first; it makes sense to me that your Intelligence will be more aware of the relatively static ground defences prior to a mission.

During the Target Bound Flight, you'll place your aircraft in any the Pre-Approach areas on the mounted Tactical Display. You'll only know where the enemy aircraft, 'bandits', appear after this step, nicely simulating the unknown quantity of WWII PTO Air Combat namely, finding and being found by the enemy.  Another design appreciation moment came with the Event Cards which randomise an element of the Approach, Target and Home-bound phases, these cards serve to add some distinct flavour to each mission. 


With practice, you'll be through the first two phases in less than 5 minutes. The meat of the tactical game comes during the Target Resolution phase, which is repeated 5 times, during which you'll attempt to engage bandits, destroy sites and the target without taking too much damage yourself.

Engaging bandits was a mini-game in its own right, and in fact felt like a very distilled version of the dogfighting manoeuvring of Wild Blue Yonder, in fact, the two games share a lot of common dog-fighting terminology. In a dogfight, you'll attempt to manoeuvre into favourable positions to attack, and with any bandit or site, 1 hit will be enough to destroy it.  However, bandits are also manoeuvring to get into favourable positions against your aircraft determined by just two simple and quick-to-use tables on the mounted Dogfight Sheet.

Attacks, whether they're the enemies, your own, or whether the target is airborne or ground-based are resolved exactly the same way, by rolling 1d10.  Each counter has got Attack Number(s) clearly printed on the top which the die result is compared to. If you've rolled greater than or equal to the first Attack Number, that's 1 hit on your target. If you've rolled greater than or equal to the second number that's two hits and so on. This is easily remembered and plays quickly, I thought it was an elegant way to determine combat results.

Attack rolls and Manoeuvre rolls may be modified by your pilots' and the enemies Air-to-Air or Air-to-Ground abilities or their relative position to each other confers dice modifiers as well. Some pilots will also fly with a Gung Ho counter which can be used prior to a dice roll to consider it a natural 10 (always a good thing in this game - unless rolling for the enemy!)

Your aircraft won't be in a position to actually attack the Missions' target until the 3rd round at the earliest and you'll only have 3 attempts to destroy the target, which will require multiple hits (6 was fairly common) to consider it destroyed. Each target also has a different number of bandits and sites that must be drawn to defend it along with a maximum number of aircraft that are allowed to go on the mission. It wouldn't be much of a game if you could send every aircraft at your disposal on every mission, each target felt well balanced if not thematic. I managed to fly a mission in the 1945 Luzon campaign without meeting a single bandit - probably quite accurate... Destroying a target nearly always feels like an achievement, especially in earlier Campaign missions in which the bandit and site counter mix are more aggressive. 



The Home Bound Flight is where you'll attempt to rescue any of your 'downed' pilots and the Debrief is where you'll work out if any pilots have been promoted and how much stress they've accumulated, which should factor into your choice of pilot for the next mission. This strategic side of the game is also quite simple but more importantly, it's good fun. I enjoyed setting up my squadron and choosing the pilots, the experience they earnt over campaign almost gave me the same feeling of levelling up an RPG character which is unusual for a wargame.

Components

My previous experience with a 'Leader Series' game was with a Print-n-Play of Hornet Leader. My first and current impressions of this game are that the components are of a fantastic quality which put my homemade components (which I am quite proud of) to shame. The counters punched out more cleanly than any other game I've experienced and there were no chit-pulls to speak of anywhere.




Criticisms

My biggest gripe with this game is with the rules. They're well written, easy to understand and nicely laid out but I didn't find them to be fully comprehensive.  There were a few edge cases during early plays of the game, specifically around dogfights, that were not covered.  Only after repeated plays, did I satisfy myself that I was playing it correctly, and that was achieved by following the Sequence of Play absolutely literally. 

The rules omit to mention anything about the Carrier and Island Operations charts that are included. I have assumed that these are optional parts of the game and I haven't tried them as there were very limited instructions on how to use them and references on them to counters that were not provided. I really like the thought behind them as there would be wildly different considerations for a Squadron Commander launching and recovering aircraft from an airfield or a carrier, but they feel a bit half-baked.

I found a few errors on cards that I have received which for the most part are of an excellent design and quality. Each pilot should have 3 double-sided cards to show their progression from Newbie, through Green, Average, Skilled, Veteran and to Legendary. however I have one pilot who can never be 'Skilled', his reverse side is for a different pilot, which is definitely a printing error. I checked and there are some more errata listed on the publishers game page and bgg discussions for it as well. However, it's good to see a publisher supporting their products; almost a necessity for wargame publishers.

After punching out the counters, I think I've organised and reorganised their storage 4 times. It should be a one-time-job but I was pretty jaded by the third time through. It would be nice if wargame publishers would add a section to their rules on efficient counter storage. Initially, I organised by aircraft types, then realised that a more sensible approach would also be organised by year, and then I realised I needed to factor in the Service (e.g. USAAF, USMC etc.) as well. To be told up front would be a boon, but at least I've now got lots of baggies which fit the box perfectly. This is a nice full box.


Conclusion

The Pacific Theatre is of particular interest to me and I'm grateful to own this solitaire take on tactical air combat in it. It plays quickly and has very high production values.  The overall mechanism is quite simple but gives a nice feeling of accomplishment after a successful campaign. 

Older games like B-17 feel like a purely random sequence of events to me with such little narrative I just never felt immersed. In this game, you're not just along for the ride. The Gung Ho counters and Special Options that you can spend, along with the levelling of your pilots as they progress through a campaign really add to the flavour and give you some tactical and strategic decisions which can make and break your missions. 

The game system overall, and which is shared with all the other 'Leader' games is little lacking in narrative. However, the elements mentioned in the previous paragraph alongside the Event Cards and my imagination provided enough of a story to enjoy my time flying a Corsair over the Pacific against the Japanese Navy and Air Force.  I certainly have enjoyed my time with this game and would like to thank Asmodee Distributors and Dan Verssen Games for sending this review copy.

If you didn't get in on the Kickstarter earlier this year, and if you did, why are you reading this?, it is still available and may even grace your Friendly Local Game Store's shelves. Find your nearest at http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/.

Publisher: Dan Verssen Games
Game Website: https://www.mcssl.com/store/danverssengames/corsair-leader
Players: 1
Designer: Dan Verssen
Playing time: 90 minutes +
RRP: £86.99

I had some trepidation in starting to read this book as it is a fairly weighty tome at just under 600 pages. However, it quickly became ...

The Japanese Navy in World War II The Japanese Navy in World War II

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Japanese


I had some trepidation in starting to read this book as it is a fairly weighty tome at just under 600 pages. However, it quickly became apparent that the Author/Editor David Evans has deftly married the recollections and considered opinions of former WWII Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) officers into a very readable and well-structured narrative of the IJN's engagements throughout the war.


 Each of the book's seventeen chapters cover a major battle or is an analysis of Japanese naval doctrine. Each chapter opens with the briefest of summaries of the historical situation as it was at the time before the vast majority of the chapter is dedicated to an eye-witness account of those events. In reading every single account I was constantly struck with how erudite and thoughtful each author was, and it did make me wonder how much we have either lost or gained in translation. Most of the accounts are from very senior IJN officers and their education and insight is evident.


IJN aircraft aboard Shokaku - 7 Dec 1941

As I discovered after finishing the book, many of these accounts have been published elsewhere and can be considered, if not the pinnacle, then some of the very best naval writing about the exploits of the IJN in WWII. This book then is an anthology of some of the very best essays on the IJN during WWII. 

One chapter, regarding the sinking of the Battleship Yamato, is truly excellent. In it, the author recounts his experience serving as a junior radar officer at the time of her last battle off of Kyushu. I made a note to remark in this review that the author, Yoshida Mitsuru could have written books for a living. This book's editor has included a postscript that summarises each contributor's life after the war. It turns out that aside from having a successful career with the Bank of Japan, Mitsuru-San also wrote several books on naval subjects. The account in this book is an abridgement from his book, "The End of the Battleship Yamato - Senkan Yamato No Saigo"; which is now considered a classic amongst Japanese books on WWII.

Yamato - under attack and starting to list
I found many of the chapters quite moving, which I think is quite a rare thing for a military history book. However, in these chapters, we have insights into sailors and men, in desperate situations fighting for their very existence. I was particularly moved by the Chapter "The Kamikaze Attack Corps", in which we read the very first flight leader on a kamikaze attack was to be a Lieutenant Seki, a recently married and skillful pilot.

I think this book does a good job at dispelling some of my preconceived ideas about the Japanese during WWII. I have always assumed that kamikaze attacks were an ever-present threat to US Forces that could potentially sink the largest of battleships and carriers. The reality is that kamikaze attacks started in the last few months of the war and their efficacy was dubious at best. The book cites the total number of suicide missions flown compared to the destruction wreaked on US Forces and it is not a favourable comparison.

USS Bunker Hill - CV17 after kamikaze attack
One outspoken critic of the Suicide attacks, Vice Admiral Yokoi Toshiyuki stated: 
"The battle for Okinawa proved conclusively the defects of suicide air attacks. Such operations cannot be successful  ...  It would have been far wiser for the sadly depleted Japanese military to have conserved its manpower instead of squandering it as was done."
He goes on and concludes the chapter on the Battle of Okinawa with:
"... It was a real scourge of Japan's military forces that permitted human life to be treated so lightly through a misinterpretation of the true spirit of Bushido  ...  Japan's suicide air operations mark the Pacific War with two scars that will remain forever in the annals of battle: one, of shame at the mistaken way of command; the other, of valor [sic] at the self-sacrificing spirit of young men who died for their beloved country."

A recurring theme throughout most of the accounts is that the Japanese Navy, throughout the war, was attempting to engage the US Navy in a big decisive fleet battle. This battle never materialised. This may have been a reasonable aspiration early in the war, but as their resources dwindled, they still desperately clung onto the ‘big decisive fleet battle’ doctrine. All contributors who comment on this admit that many mistakes were made by the Japanese military leadership; primarily the inflexibility of their strategic thinking i.e. not being able to move away from their desired decisive battle. I would also include, probably their most egregious error of all, attacking America in the first place.

Apparently, no more than 20% of US naval power was ever engaged in the Pacific, which puts into perspective just how futile Japanese efforts were to be in a prolonged naval campaign, in which nearly all of their resources were dedicated to Pacific operations.


Battleship Row - Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor is the very manifestation of the big attack doctrine, and unfortunately for the Japanese, the American carrier fleet was not in port at the time of the attack. If the Japanese had managed to engage the Americans in a major fleet battle at the outset of the war, their hope to dominate the rest of the Pacific may have had a slight chance. Instead, it is my opinion that despite the valiant and courageous efforts of the Japanese sailors and airmen, their inter-service rivalry and lack of coherent command and control, albeit exacerbated by American attacks, left them little to no chance of victory.

Every major naval battle in the Pacific Theatre is included, Philippines, Midway, Guadalcanal, Leyte Gulf, Okinawa and the book predictably starts with the attack on Pearl Harbor. I have read several books on most of these battles and even visited Pearl Harbor and Ford Island. I think I have a good grasp on the events themselves.


However, this book and the perspective of the IJN Officers has increased my appreciation for all those involved, particularly the tenacity and dedication of the Japanese Navy and the skill and professionalism of the US Forces. It has also given me a new perspective on the human tragedy of large naval engagements.


In short, this book has done more to educate, inform and engage me than any other book I have read about the PTO and if you're at all interested in the Pacific Theatre of WWII then I would consider it essential reading. 


This book is available from Pen & Sword Publishing and is currently on sale at £15.99. (RRP £19.99) - Sep 2017.


Book: The Japanese Navy in World War II
Author: David C. Evans
Publisher: Naval Institute Press

Japanese Aircraft of World War II 1937-1945 by Thomas Newdick    I must admit I have a fetish for military aircraft....

Japanese Aircraft of World War II 1937-1945 by Thomas Newdick Japanese Aircraft of World War II 1937-1945 by Thomas Newdick

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Japanese

by




 I must admit I have a fetish for military aircraft. I have bought every book I could on them, and I have also purchased almost every computer simulation of them I could. For some reason my fancy is tickled, especially by Axis aircraft of WWII. Mustangs were war winners and Spitfires are beautiful in a way, but give me a Macchi or a Nakajima and my eyes sort of glaze over. So I have more than my share of book compendiums like this one, but not like this one. Everyone of the compendiums of a certain war or country that I have purchased or read has left me a bit dry. Oh sure, they give you the speed, and altitude etc. of the plane, or in actuality one of the plane's variants. What they don't show you is what is in this handy volume of Japanese planes.

 The books several parts are divided as follows:

Land-based Bombers and Reconnaissance Aircraft

Land-based Fighters

Carrier Aircraft

Flying Boats and Floatplanes

Rocket and Jet-powered Aircraft

 It ends up with a 'Specifications and Data'  chapter which is split into these categories:

Types and Variants: Numbers built

Allied Reporting Names for Japanese Aircraft

Naming and Number System

Japanese Navy Air Service Short Designation System

Selected Technical drawings

 
 This book only shows planes that actually flew, and not planes that were still on the drawing board or in another development phase. There are six planes that are in the 'Technical Drawings'. They are as follows: Dinah, Tony, Zeke, Betty, Oscar, and a Frank. For those who do not know, boys' names were given by the Allies to Japanese fighters, and girls' names were given to their bombers. Notice there is no 'Zero'. The Mitsubishi A6M Reisen was actually called a Zeke by the Allies, and not a Zero. The 'Zero' came from the fact that it started its career in the year 2000 of the Japanese calendar. For the types and their variants there are listings for how many airframes were built no matter how few. The book also explains that there was a separate Army and Navy Air Force in Japan at the time. To further confuse the issue some Japanese naval Aircraft were only land based and not capable of carrier operations.

 The book itself is only 128 pages long, but it is packed with facts and figures about all of the Japanese aircraft. As a handy reference on Japanese warplanes, this cannot be beat. The fact that the specifications of all the major variants are given is more than worth the price. A note to the reader: these specifications are almost all from Japanese sources. When several fighters were tested in the U.S. during and after the war, they were given high octane fuel just like our own planes. The Japanese had only a very limited supply of this at the beginning of the war, and were never able to replace it. So the airplanes tested had higher speeds during our testing than would show on Japanese specifications. The book also goes into, in a limited way, some of the air munitions that were carried by these planes. 

 All in all, it is the best small volume of its kind that I have read, with more than enough information for the casual reader or plane aficionado. Hopefully the author is working on a similar book for Italian World War II planes.

  I couldn't resist adding this picture.


This is a Nakajima Ki-44 'Shoki' or 'Tojo'



Robert


Book: Japanese Aircraft of World War II
Author: Thomas Newdick
Publisher: Amber Books
Distributor: Casemate publishers
 



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