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Wednesday, 10 August 2016
Table Air Combat: Midway (Dauntless vs Akagi)
This was a cracking scenario, pitting the carrier Akagi and a lone element of A6M-2 Zero fighters on CAP against two flights of SBD-3 Dauntless dive bombers. This was the first time I had used the rules for naval flak, dive bombing, tail gunners and ships, so a proper baptism of fire in more than one respect. As usual, I decided to plot the movement and combat on a large sheet of A2 paper, which is the ideal size for these table top dogfights. I also did a cleaned up version on a sheet of A4 afterwards, to help see what I'd actually recorded in my scribbles.
The action was pretty intense, with the Dauntless flights splitting to avoid the flak bursts from the Akagi, whilst fending off the Zero air cover and attempting to line up on the target. They managed to pull this off in the end with an almost perfect stern approach to the carrier, which planted two sticks of bombs slap bang onto the Akagi's unarmoured flight deck in quick succession. This was at the cost of two dive bombers shot down, one by a combination of flak and anti-aircraft fire and the other by the defending Zeros.
The Zeros didn't escape unharmed either, as the rear gunner of one Dauntless managed to hit and damage the fighters at close range, holding them off to allow the other USN dive bombers to start their bombing run. One of the Dauntless elements also ended the game damaged by a flak burst as it zoomed away from the burning flat top but too late to make a difference to the scenario outcome. The overall result was a draw according to the victory conditions, with the game ending on Turn Ten. I allowed the surviving dive bombers to escape, as the Zeros were probably low on fuel and ammo.
Two things cropped up in this game. The first was shooting through friendly aircraft. I decided that this was not allowed but there is nothing in the rules to cover this, so who knows? I suppose you could play this either way but it seems realistic to have friendly fighter elements blocking line of sight to enemy targets. There are many instances in the Battle of Britain, for example, of fighters flying in front of other fighters and 'getting in the way'. It's probably better to stick to one decision now rather than deliberate later.
The other thing was whether you can carry over damage when bombing ships. I managed to score two hits with one stick of bombs and rolled more than the target defence value to convert both of these into damage. In the end I just counted this as one damage result, in line with the rules for aircraft, rather than spilling the second damage point over to fill up a second target circle. This doesn't happen when bombing ground targets, as aircraft just have to cross the template at some point, not the exact circle but it does crop up when attacking ships.
I really enjoyed this game but have now run out of early war USN and IJN aircraft to cut out and glue together, having only printed out the Wildcat, Zero and Dauntless counters. The dive bombing was really neat and the Akagi counter is a lovely bit of artwork. I'll probably have another game with these three planes then switch over to a different campaign, either the Battle of Britain or the US daylight raids over Germany. I quite like the idea of the former as I can play around with dive bombing again using the Ju87 Stuka and try out level bombing with the He111 and Ju88.
What a great little system!