Some rules questions have come to light as a result of a recent game mostly to do with the role of scrambling fighters and tactical bombers from air bases; I will address these below.
Q1: A Japanese destroyer enters sea zone 21, off of Guam. As the US player has a functional air base there, she gets a ‘radar blip in SZ 21’ notice from the facilitator, but does not have any air units there to scramble. On the next US turn, the US player moves a fighter to Guam during non-combat. Then, on the next Japan turn, the Japanese player elects not to move the destroyer during the combat move phase. This means that, officially, the Japanese player has decided to attack SZ 21, and so the US player gets the ‘radar blip in SZ 21’ notice again, and this time is given the opportunity to scramble his fighter to defend against the destroyer. Even though the destroyer never moved, its remaining there is considered an attack on the sea zone for the purposes of scrambling: if it had left SZ 21, the US player would not have been given the ‘radar blip’ notification. N.B.: This rule mirrors the rule for peacefully withdrawing from a sea zone in which enemy sea units have been built after the turn you entered that sea zone—during the combat movement phase (see p.12 of the regular rules for more details).
Q2: US ships moved into SZ 6, off of Japan and Korea, and survived a battle with the Japanese navy, which has been destroyed. The Japanese player has built no new sea units during her turn. Now, it’s the US player’s turn again. The ordering of US moves is very important here, as each ordering provides a different menu of options for the defender. Let’s look at some possible scenarios:
Scenario A: The US player wants to retire his ships to repair them and link up with more units, and so moves them out during the combat movement phase, to avoid being intercepted by fighters and tactical bombers from the air base on Japan (refer to Q1 above for a more detailed explanation of this rule). During the non-combat movement phase, the US player flies in fighters and bombers through SZ 6 to Korea, which he controls. This gives the Japanese player the ‘radar blip in SZ 6’ notification, and the chance to scramble her fighters for one round of interception shots against the planes (as in strategic bombing) before the remaining US planes can land in Korea. N.B.: This scramble during the opponent’s Non-Combat Movement phase is only possible because the fighters did not scramble during the Combat Movement phase: there can be only one defensive scramble per air base per turn.
Scenario B: The US player wants to retire his ships to repair them and link up with more units, and so moves them out during the combat movement phase. During the non-combat movement phase, the US player flies in fighters and bombers through SZ 6 to Korea, which he controls, and also moves a destroyer escorting a packed transport into SZ 6, to reinforce the land units in Korea. Moving the US sea units into SZ 6 during non-combat movement is possible, since there has been no evidence of Axis surface warships in that SZ this turn. However, this move gives the Japanese player the ‘multiple radar blip in SZ 6: air and sea’ notification (as they are not coordinated to attack the same SZ—to make this clearer, let’s assume the air units already fought in another SZ during this turn’s conduct combat phase—but just happen to coincidentally moving through the same SZ). This gives the Japanese player the choice of either scrambling her fighters for one round of interception shots against the planes (as in strategic bombing), and/or to fight the sea units in regular combat. Although it is possible to conduct two defences in the same SZ here by the Japanese player (assuming that she has at least two or more fighters at her disposal), no single fighter unit can defend against both sea and air infiltrations simultaneously. The Japanese player must assign which defence (air or sea) each fighter will participate in before either the sea or air units of the US player are revealed. N.B.: This defensive choice is the same type of choice one must make with one’s fighters when defending against strategic bombing in a territory that is simultaneously being attacked by regular land forces: you must decide, before battle begins, how many fighters you assign to each battle—units cannot participate in two defences simultaneously (just as they cannot participate in two attacks simultaneously).
Scenario C: The US player decides to keep his sea units in SZ 6, in order to help protect the air units coming through. He also sends his air units in during combat movement, declaring them as attacking SZ 6, so that they can reciprocally help defend the ships if scrambling occurs (the units are thus ‘coordinated’, contrary to the example of the US units in Scenario B). The Japanese player receives a single ‘radar blip in SZ 6’ notification from the facilitator, scrambles her fighters, and battles both the sea and air units of the US in SZ 6. Any remaining US planes can land in Korea after the battle. N.B.: Air units can only attack / reveal one territory or sea zone per turn; so if you want to protect your sea units, you must assign your air units to the specific sea zones they move through during the combat movement phase. As aircraft carriers and the air units they carry move separately every turn, aircraft carriers are particularly vulnerable unless they are moved simultaneously along the same route as your other surface warships (meaning they will attack any revealed enemy units simultaneously). Alternately, if protecting your carriers is a concern, you can ensure that all the sea zones they move through are individually attacked by the air units they carry (or your other air units, of course).
Scenario D: The US player decides to keep only one of his sea units in SZ 6, moving the others out, in order to help protect the air units coming through by using it as a decoy (as we will see below). The Japanese player receives the ‘radar blip in SZ 6’ notification from the facilitator due to the unmoving ship remaining there during the combat movement phase, scrambles all of her available fighters, and battles the US’s single sea unit in SZ 6, which is destroyed. Then, during the non-combat phase, the US player sends his air units through SZ 6 to land in Korea. However, because the Japanese fighters cannot scramble twice in one turn, they cannot be intercept the US’s air units. Nevertheless, the Japanese player will still receive their ‘radar blip in SZ 6’ notification (although they will be powerless to respond, as in the case of an air base with no fighters or tactical bombers available to scramble). N.B.: If the Japanese player had not scrambled all of her available fighters for the combat movement phase defence, she could have allocated the remainder of her inactive fighters to scramble and intercept the US air units during the non-combat movement phase defence.
Whew! Hope that clears up any confusion there might be about air bases. It’s without question the most subtle and complicated rules issue in the variant, but it’s also the most fun, once properly understood. Island air bases give their controllers a lot of information (but not too much!) and thus the power to make very good—and occasionally very bad!—tactical decisions. A lot of the in-game humour and ‘shock’ moments come from the defensive choices that arise as a result of the nuances of the scrambling rule. Go capture some enemy air bases and exploit these rich choices… After your facilitator has read this clarifying rules addendum!