Some people have been asking about how to manage a KJF as the Allies, and what this means for the Russians.
Which Russian opening is best for a KJF set up?
Or What is a KJF anyway?
OK, a brief “Kill Japan First” (KJF) digression from the perspective of the Western Allies, which I will then try to tie back into the Russian situation down there at the bottom
First of all, remember that KJF is a “catch all” sort of phase. Whether you’re actually trying to “Kill Japan”, or just beat them back during the early rounds and then take their money to redirect it, the gameplay is pretty similar. I would say your main goal in KJF is to keep India effective for the British until the USA can bring force to bear, and this is where the Russians come into play. But first lets think about the USA itself, since they are the player that has to do most of the heavy lifting under such a strat. I agree with Baron’s plan mentioned on the previous page regarding a Pearl opener, if Japan tries to hit Pearl light in the first round, its better to submerge your sub, and hope for a strong counter attack. Assuming he doesn’t attack Pearl though, and leaves you with your carrier, then the first few rounds in the Pacific game are more about building than actual combat moves.
United States Navy (USN) and the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN):
“The Cat and Mouse…” Or is it “the Mouse and Cat”?
Who’s moving who here? And who’s still playing with that dead mouse!
The important thing to remember with the USN, is that you don’t need to actually move out immediately to still mess with Japan. Just by having a fleet in the Pacific you will be tying the Japanese down, and forcing them to buy ships, and stalling them somewhat from moving on the Med too quickly. This can also be a boon for the Soviets, if you can keep Japan focused more on Tokyo than they are on Moscow, so there is definitely a Russian dimension to all this. I’ll get there eventually.
But as the USN you really don’t have to move beyond sz 56 to achieve this pressure on Japan in the first three rounds. In fact your chances of taking the money Islands are ultimately much better if you wait until you have 3 or more stacked carrier decks, with enough subs/destroyers to protect them, and enough transports to make them effective.
Until you’re ready to fully move out with the USN, there are a couple things you can do to give Japan some headaches without moving very far from sz56. One of them is to launch up to sz 64 Alaska, when Japan goes south. This forces a decision on Japan, by removing their “safe zone” in sz 62, and it is the quintessential “Cat and Mouse” opening maneuver. The last thing the Japanese player wants, is a big ugly US fleet parked in range of Japan itself, that they then have to defend against or destroy. Just by moving to Alaska for one round, you can often hold a lot of Japanese naval units in place. This is what our friend YoungGrasshopper has aptly called a “Yo Yo” play. Where you bounce up and down with your Navy like a YoYo. Maybe you can make it a trick Yo Yo, and “walk the dog”? but basically it’s a back and forth, between two large Navies that hold each other in a mutual gravitation pull, where neither side has an attack advantage, so they instead just try to pull the other fleet out of position.
Another thing this cat and mouse threat can do is force Japan to keep their fighters in the Pacific, to deal with the USN, rather than just sending them against the center/Europe. To keep the Japanese player guessing about how committed you really are to the fight in the Pacific, one way to do this is to feint like you’re going to dash through Panama in the first round, but then return the entire fleet to sz 56. This might seem like a wasted round of movement, but its really not much different than just parking it in sz56 the whole time. Here you have the advantage of getting to decide in the second round (based on where Japan moved and what they bought), whether a full Pacific commitment is really worth it. I like to buy fighters before Carriers, if you want to bluff, so you can decide whether you want to use them in the Pacific or the Atlantic, without tying them down immediately on decks. Otherwise, if you’re going hardcore KJF with no misdirection, then I like to buy a carrier and support ships right away.
My favorite positioning for this is to fly the Pearl fighter to W. Australia, and Pearl fleet itself to sz 41 (then you can choose whether to move to sz 22 Brazil, or remain in the Pacific). Another place the Pearl fleet can go is sz 55, with plans to move to sz 18 W. Indies or remain in the Pacific. For a full Pacific commitment, where you are not trying to feint or bluff, but clearly putting Japan on notice by being all brazen about it, then you can go to sz 64 with the Pearl fleet to pressure Japan/Manchuria.
Another potentially interesting location for the Pearl Carrier, if Japan goes “way south” to Burma push, would be to converge your whole Pacific fleet at Iwo or in sz 58 (with a loaded transport just floating). Here the Szech Flying Tiger fighter can dash off to land on your Carrier deck from sz53. This last move only works if the Japanese fail to buy warships and move all the way down to sz 63/Burma rather than their usual spot in sz 61. And it only works if their fighters are out of range. Its debatable whether carrier duty the best use of the Flying Tiger anyway (since it is usually needed in India, W. Russia or Archangel during the second round) still its another option to put naval pressure on Japan directly, and put some heat on Manchuria at the same time. Again, this move only works if the Japanese player goofs their fighter landings and fleet positioning (landing all their fighters in FIC rather than Kwangtung for example), but it can be a fun way to punish a Japanese player who doesn’t yet understand the importance of sz 61.
The primary Objective for the USN is Borneo. It is two moves from sz 56 W. USA, via Solomons. Ideally you want to hold Borneo for a round and establish production there, but this might not always be possible. At the very least you want to take the Borneo money from Japan and put it into your coffers. It may be advisable to sacrifice transports for the taking of Borneo, and sacrifice destroyers to block, while you sail the main fleet further along to position against East Indies. Snatching “the other rich island” often proves a bit easier for establishing production long term, even if it takes a round longer to get there. Its also possible, if Japan has Borneo blocked, to sail south around Australia, and still reach East Indies with your main fleet.
From a purchasing perspective, you’re going to want 3 transports, 3 carriers, and 3 destroyers to make your Pacific fleet effective, and many more once you actually establish a foothold. It may be technically possible to snatch Borneo with just 2 of each, but this is very high risk, you face a greater threat of being destroyed by Japanese air. Plus you can end up stalling yourself if you move too early, stuck trying to “re-converge” with newly purchased naval units out of sz56.
Your main attack/defense unit is the fighter, your main fodder unit is the sub (which can then be used with Fighters to deadzone key sea lanes.) And, most critically, your main blocking unit is the destroyer. I say “most critically”, because what you’d really like to do is prevent the IJN from ever being able to hit your main carrier group, so you only have to defend it against aircraft. To do this, you’ll need to sacrifice 2 of those 3 destroyers in blocking maneuvers to set up on Borneo and East Indies. Again what you’d like to do is take the islands, and block Japan, without having to put your Carriers at risk. Often times it is much better to sacrifice transport units to take the islands, while leaving the main fleet in Solomons until it is strong enough to move anywhere it wants.
USA starts with 42 ipcs, but they will lose China immediately, that leaves them with 39/40 ipcs the following round. (note: Russia can almost ensure that its 40 ipcs and not 39, by sending the Kazakh Infantry unit to Szech.) Assuming that you won’t be taking much land for a while as USA, that’s basically going to give you ~80 ipcs of purchased units going into the third round. And ~120 ipcs going into the fourth.
What can you buy with 120 ipcs?
Conveniently you can buy: 2 carriers, 2 transports, 3 fighters, 3 destroyers, and 4 submarines.
Your starting Pacific units are 1 carrier, 1 transport, 3 fighters*, 2 destroyers, 1 submarine, 1 cruiser and 1 battleship.
*Notice that there are 2 more fighters in the US arsenal, the flying Tiger and the E. US fighter, but these will likely be needed elsewhere. Either in Europe or (if you are switching out the sz53 pearl fighter to Australia, then the E. US fighter takes its place on a Pacific deck.) There are also 5 pacific infantry units you can grab (along with the tank or other ground from E. US).
Add it all together, taking no loses until this point and that gives you a combined force of…
with 5 Submarines and 3 transports to make the USN effective on Attack!
Total Hit point value vs an “All Air” attack by Japan: 16 hit points +1 absorption from the battleship
Total Defense value vs an “All Air” attack by Japan: 44 defense points in the first round of combat
Notice that in terms of defense, that’s 7 hits on average in the first round of combat. Lucky 7! Meaning that Japan must commit at least 7 fighters = 70 ipcs at risk in the first round of combat, if they want to take a crack at you from the Air! You’ll have 6 hitpoints as fodder (5 destroyer units and the Battleship absorption) before Japan is into your heavy hitting fighters and warships. A very expensive proposition, and the deterrent you’ll be counting on.
That’s just one build I like. Now if you take away the 4 subs I recommended buying for naval fodder/attack, you’ll see that you can achieve an even stronger defensive value vs a Japanese airstrike if you want. 4 subs not purchased, leaves you with 24 ipcs to spend. You can get 3 destroyers for that, or a Carrier deck with 1 fighter on it, or a pair of fighters, or pair of bombers, or a battleship, or more transports and ground etc. I like subs though, since they are good for destroying Japanese blockers, and serving as cheap fodder in case you have to back down the IJN itself (and not just their airforce.) I suggest buying 4 Subs as a good amount, but some will go up to 7 or more purchased subs. It depends how hard you want to gun for the IJN and actually destroy it, or if you just want to defend your own fleet and snatch the islands.
There are plenty of ways you can play with the basic USN force a little bit, a few more subs or few less, one more fighter or destroyer here and there. There are also different ways to think about the exact order in which you buy this stuff, or if you want to save and drop, but basically what you want is a force that has at least 3 carriers at its core!
3 carriers, fully stacked with just a little fodder cover, becomes very hard to destroy. Even if the last carrier isn’t fully stacked, and you’re only bringing 5 fighters when you move out initially instead of 6, that third carrier is still worth its weight in gold vs Japanese air attack. Just by allowing an extra fighter in the water on defense it pays for itself on coverage. Now if 3 stacked carriers are that potent, 4 stacked carriers are surely better right?
But its a question of managing the rest of the board at that point. Sometimes you can’t wait that long to move out, or sometimes a fourth carrier is more necessary in the Atlantic than the Pacific. It can be a hard call, but I say 3 is the minimum for an effective Pacific fleet vs the IJN.
This situation could change if the British elect to hit sz 37, but that is a high risk attack. It is trading the British Pacific fleet for the second Japanese carrier and battleship, and puts the whole KJF strategy down to a single opening battle. I believe it is better to destroy the second Japanese transport in sz 61 and preserve these forces to do stuff later on. But if you do hit sz37 and prevail, then the move out for the USN can be more rapid. Otherwise I think you should stay safe and build up for 3 rounds.
Judging your chances based on the Japanese purchase: If you see Japan buy a factory in Manchuria during the first round round, then KJF is optimal! Take this as a sign that the Japanese player might be somewhat inexperienced. If they don’t buy a factory, but buy transports and naval/air instead (which is what they should really be doing!) then you might want to take the KJF plan with America under advisement.
One last thought along these lines, if you see Japan buy a factory in East Indies in the first round, then consider your KJF aspirations carefully! A Japanese a factory here can be a major pain in the ass for the Americans to overcome. This is one reason why some players feel that a sz 37 hit (and taking East Indies) with UK is necessary for a KJF to truly work in 1942.2, especially to prevent this opening buy from Japan. I’m not sure I’d go that far, since I’m not a huge fan of high risk sz 37 hit, but I definitely agree that a Japanese East Indies Factory on J1 can be a nightmare to deal with! This sort of build by Japan means that you will have to forego the Southern route and the Money islands, and instead threaten Japan directly with a dead drop across the Northern route. It can still be done, but its much trickier, and requires the USA to invest a lot more in the Pacific. Just like with Manchuria, it is still possible to “make Japan pay” for buying a factory in the first, but to do this you have to become a fleet destroyer navy. Forget about the money islands for now, you probably won’t need many transports, so you can send your starting transport in sz56 to the Atlantic if desired, and just invest 100% in destroying the IJN along the northern route. For that same 120 ipcs I discussed earlier, you can buy another carrier deck instead of the two early transports, and consider more subs as well. Here the goal is to wipe the IJN on attack first, and transport later against Japan directly, instead of the usual method of transport first, and defend, to take the Money islands.
Overall Japanese strength vs USA:
Japan begins the game with a stronger navy and airforce than you do, but is not making nearly as much cash in the first 3 rounds, so if you spend your first 3 rounds on a Pacific fleet, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to match you. Any money Japan has to spend buying warships, is less money they are spending on ground against India/Russia.
This stall means that Japan won’t be making as much money after the 3rd round as they might otherwise. Now that’s a big investment right there on a Pacific fleet, but the question from here on out is, continue spending in the Pacific, or start redirecting your focus. Usually by 4th round, it is becoming necessary for the Americans to support their British and Russian counterparts against Germany. Africa is critical to the UK economy, and its possible to sweep across it very quickly on a recovery with the USA. Its one move from E. USA to sz 23 with Atlantic transports, and there you can push against Cairo overland in 2 moves, or the rest of the continent down to S. Africa transporting out of sz 23. Its a fairly cheap investment on the part of the USA to keep Africa under British control, and this is something you may consider doing even earlier, if you can stand waiting until after the 4th round to fully develop your Pacific fleet. Allowing Germany to control Africa will totally undermine your KJF. It jacks up UKs income advantage from retaining control of India, and it makes them much less effective in terms or purchasing for a late game entry into the Atlantic/Europe, once the Pacific is plan is underway. That’s why it is a good plan for the USA to provide at least some Atlantic assistance even under KJF conditions. This is one reason I really like to shoot that sz 53 pearl fighter down to W. Australia in the first round if it survives, so it can be in India at the end of the second. In a similar way, US forces brought into Africa can also push across to India, or sail around to the Pacific side of the board. If sz 23 isn’t an option, Brazil can be a good second choice, since you can still cover a good swath of Africa, but you can also sail around S. America if desired. From sz 22 to sz 40, from there to sz 38, and then on to East Indies or India. If pearl hit is standard then of course there is more work to do, and a round delay for repurchase.
Last but not least, whenever you talk about USA, its good to talk about bombers. A US bomber Armada is one of the fastest ways to secure you early gains, in either theater. A couple rounds of solid bomber builds can have you with a major attack force either against Japan itself, or covering the area around Europe, the Med and Africa. And it can rapidly transition back and forth wherever its needed. The bombers are excellent fleet destroyers, and if you plan to actually Kill Japan, it may also prove necessary to run bombing raids against Tokyo. On the other hand, if you plan to just stall Japan, it might prove just as necessary to bomb Berlin, so that Germany doesn’t achieve economic dominance over Russia/UK. Either way, its good to have bombers at the ready! These bombers can also be used for “Emergency Defense” of India or Moscow, in situations where every hit point and defense point matters. And on that note…
Lets finally bring it back to Russia…