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Pacific Crossroads Scenario Overview II
By Mike Bennighof
August 2012

Designing Great War at Sea, I had one goal in mind: make it fun. I wanted to show the decisions inherent in operational naval warfare without complicated rules and systems. And I think the games achieve that; the concepts are pretty simple while still putting across the cat-and-mouse feel of operational naval combat.

The first use of the system was in the restricted waters of the Black Sea, as found in the game Mediterranean, and I’ve always somehow felt that the geography shapes the game. So Pacific Crossroads is kind of unusual in its huge stretches of open water and I was a little uncomfortable designing scenarios for it. It just didn’t feel right; give me the interesting Mediterranean coastline any time.

So it took some doing, but I think we have an interesting set of operational scenarios for Pacific Crossroads that show off the system well. Here’s a look at them; we went over the battle scenarios here.

Operational Scenario One
To Guam and Beyond
April 1919

The Mariana and Caroline Islands lay across the sea route from Hawai'i to the Philippines; any American attempt to relieve its Far Eastern colony would have to pass near these islands. The American War Plan Orange did not envision reducing the Japanese bases along the way: once the fleet had passed on its way to the Philippines, follow-up convoys would still be at risk from the Japanese bases in the former German colonies of the Central Pacific.

The Americans are trying to get a convoy through to Guam or off the west edge of the map to the Philippines. To shepherd it along there’s a fairly weak convoy escort (an old armored cruiser and a gaggle of gunboats) with a distant heavy escort of two battleships. There’s also a fast squadron based at Guam, built around a pair of battle cruisers. To stop the convoy, the Japanese have a battle cruiser force at Saipan and another at Truk; either is capable of overwhelming the convoy’s escort fairly easily. Sneaking past is not enough for the Americans if they try for the Philippines (where the big victory points live) as their transports will need to refuel (at Guam or from a collier) to reach the islands.

Operational Scenario Two
Raid on Rabaul
April 1919

The Anglo-Japanese Alliance did not necessarily commit Britain to fight alongside Japan, but the Japanese would have been able to draw support from British-controlled ports. Would the United States allow these “neutral” bases to succor their enemies, or would they strike first?

The Japanese have access to Australian ports (meaning Rabaul) and this opens a whole new side of the game map to their use. The Americans are raiding Japanese merchant shipping and shelling Japanese ports, under the audacious leadership of Admiral York.

Operational Scenario Three
Tip and Run
May 1919

Once the Great War ended, neither the Americans nor the Japanese altered their fundamental assumptions about a future naval war in the Pacific. Given the short distance between American and Japanese bases in the Marianas, compared to the vast stretch of ocean between San Diego and Manila, had the Americans wished to seek battle the German "tip and run" method might have yielded results.

This is a fairly large scenario (well, as large as they can get in this small game) with the American battle cruiser squadron, again led by the intrepid Admiral York, trying to lure the Japanese into battle against a large force of dreadnoughts. The Japanese are badly outgunned by the American support force, so they’ll have to be very careful if they want to trap the fearless admiral known as Ship Guy.

Operational Scenario Four
Convoy to Rabaul
June 1919

Use of Rabaul would give the Japanese a string of naval bases right across the projected American line of advance to the Philippines. But the sleepy, Australian-administered port did not have facilities and supplies to support fleet operations: these would have to be brought from Japan. And the Americans would not sit back quietly while the Japanese conducted their buildup.

The Japanese have to run a convoy across the board to Rabaul; the Americans have to stop them. Except for the convoy’s close escort, all the forces on both sides are battle cruisers and light ships, so speed and stealth will carry the day. The Japanese will have to stop and refuel somewhere along the way, either at Saipan or from a collier, in a similar situation to that faced by the Americans in the first scenario. This will dictate Japanese strategy, and the American response.

Operational Scenario Five
Through Ticket
June 1919

The first wave of the American relief force headed to the Philippines would find the Japanese waiting for them in a string of fortified island bases. From these bases, Japanese forces would strike the American fleet and attempt to whittle down its strength. The Americans did not intend to be slowed by these tactics, with orders to take a "through ticket to Manila."

The Americans are steaming across the board with all of their battleships, on their way to the Philippines. The Japanese have to hurt them, with a smaller force (that does include some excellent individual ships within it). The Japanese aren’t expected to stop the Americans; just whittling down their force will do – and they don’t even have to sink a single ship, as long as they delay it long enough to miss the climactic battle to the west.

Operational Scenario Six
Supply Train
July 1919

American war plans held it vital to relieve the Philippines from potential Japanese attack. That would mean not only sending a powerful relief fleet across the Pacific, but a steady stream of supply convoys to follow. Japanese doctrine focused on the coming great naval battle, but the thin American logistical artery would have been a tempting target for what light surface forces could be spared.

Now that the battle fleet has moved on, the Americans have to keep it supplied with a never-ending parade of convoys. The Japanese from their bypassed bases can attack this traffic, which the Americans have to defend with a collection of battle cruisers and light ships, plus the possible aid of a few battleships. There’s a lot of deception going on, with many decisions for both players.