Pacific Crossroads Scenario Overview
By Mike Bennighof
With Pacific Crossroads, we wanted to craft a game that introduced players to the Great War at Sea system yet still provided an interesting challenge for veteran players. The game had to fit very tight physical parameters, so that it could share the same sheet of playing pieces as Second World War at Sea: Coral Sea and remain a very lost-cost item.
The result is very pleasing: Pacific Crossroads studies the U.S. Navy’s War Plan Orange, focusing on the potential American drive across the Central Pacific and Japanese attempts to slow their advance and whittle away their forces. The operational focus of the game is the sea area north of Rabaul, where American forces would have had to fight their way past a string of Japanese island bases to relieve the vulnerable American colony of the Philippines.
Pacific Crossroads presents all the naval forces that would have participated in these battles, keeping the unit types basic but still interesting so the game can serve as an introduction for players new to the Great War at Sea series. New ships like the American 1910 battle cruiser design are present, as are the battle cruisers the Americans feared Japan would acquire from the Royal Navy. The logistical issue of fuel use is also very important in this game, since most of the operational map is open water and the Americans have only one naval base on the board. The American player will have to deploy colliers and oilers carefully to get his fleets to their destinations without running out of fuel.
Here's a look at the game's six battle scenarios (these take place only on the tactical map):
Battle Scenario One
The United States Navy lagged behind those of other nations in building fast scout cruisers; those planned for the 1910 program ultimately were not built. The Japanese, meanwhile, built a class of light cruisers along the same lines as the British Town class. These two cruiser types would have clashed in the first stages of any fleet action.
Three cruisers on each side in a night action. The Americans are supported by 10 of the powerful flush-deck destroyers; the Japanese have eight of their less-awesome destroyers and two fast gunboats. The clash is one between the huge American torpedo array and longer-range Japanese gunnery (the Japanese cruisers all have secondary guns; the Americans do not).
Battle Scenario Two
Assault on Guam
American war plans counted heavily on Guam's availability as a refueling point on the road to Manila. The Japanese knew this — they could read a map — but did not plan to confront the Pacific Fleet so far forward, instead readying themselves for a decisive battle in their own waters. Yet every plan is subject to modification, and an early assault on the vital American way station at Guam would surely have been a tempting option to Japanese planners.
This one’s a large battle with battleships and battle cruisers on both sides, as the Japanese try to slip some transports past the Americans. There’s a lot of heavy metal on both sides, and some unusual victory conditions and special rules; nothing too onerous but in hindsight this scenario probably should not have been the second one offered in an introductory product.
Battle Scenario Three
Raid on Truk
The Japanese naval base at Truk was a major threat to the American supply line to the Philippines. Close enough to US shipping lanes for easy raiding but far enough from the US base at Guam to allow for screening of Japanese movements, Truk had a ring of barrier islands protecting its harbor and coastal defense guns as well. Despite the attendant risks, a bold American commander might have risked an attack on a foggy morning to catch the Japanese cruiser squadron at anchor and eliminate the threat to the US lifeline.
Another scenario that’s probably a bit much for an introductory game: the Japanese are at anchor in the middle of Truk Lagoon with a force of battle cruisers and light cruisers, when an American force that just happens to mirror their fighting power comes charging in to attack them. There are a number of special rules for the anchoring part, but it is a pretty evenly matched battle.
Battle Scenario Four
A resupply operation to the Philippines would have been complicated by the long sea route involved. Even the largest American transports would not have had the fuel capacity to make it all the way there from Hawaii, so the Americans would need to construct a coaling station on Wake Island in preparation for war with Japan. Even that would have gotten most transports only as far as Guam, so without large colliers the American convoys would be inviting attacks from Japanese raiders prowling the waters around Guam. Sinking American colliers would therefore be a Japanese strategic objective just as important as sinking the actual merchant ships carrying supplies for the Philippines.
Now this is more in keeping with the game’s purpose: a single American battleship supported by a gaggle of gunboats is trying to keep a pair of Japanese battle cruisers and three destroyers from savaging a convoy. It’s got good balance and, even better, is the kind of action players are likely to encounter when playing the operational scenarios.
Battle Scenario Five
In the years just after the First World War, battleships still remained the measure of a nation's naval strength. Both Japan and the United States expected to send their newest warships into battle against one another, whether in a large fleet action or a smaller, even nastier affair like this one.
Now here’s the scenario that should have been placed second (players tend to play scenarios in the order presented, so the most introductory should have been up top): two Japanese battleship fight it out with two American battleships, each supported by destroyers. It’s a straight-up melee scenario, with both players having to fight it out in order to win.
Battle Scenario Six
Much of the U.S. Navy's impressive heritage involved commerce warfare: protecting its own or destroying that of its enemies. Japan had much less experience in this type of warfare, but her naval planners knew that heavy escorts had been considered necessary for American troop convoys crossing the Atlantic. Just as the Americans had detailed older battleships to protect their troops, so could the Japanese be expected to react in the Pacific.
Now this is also a fine introductory scenario: a single American battle cruiser has to get past a single, old Japanese battleship (assisted by some destroyers) to attack the transports she’s guarding. Players will get an idea of how to maneuver within the tactical rules, plus, if the Japanese player is on the ball, make a torpedo run.