J1 Disasters and How to Recover From Them

In the world of the warrior, seppuku was a deed of bravery that was admirable in a samurai who knew he was defeated, disgraced, or mortally wounded. It meant that he could end his days with his transgressions wiped away and with his reputation not merely intact but actually enhanced. The cutting of the abdomen released the samurai’s spirit in the most dramatic fashion, but it was an extremely painful and unpleasant way to die, and sometimes the samurai who was performing the act asked a loyal comrade to cut off his head at the moment of agony.

The Samurai Way of Death, Samurai: The World of the Warrior, Dr. Stephen Turnball

In AAPacific, J1 is a critical turn. While Japan, on J1, has the surprise attack advantage that sees all non-Chinese units defend on a ‘1’, it is still possible for Japan to suffer catastrophic losses in key sea zones or territories that will significantly hamper Japan’s chances of success. Whether Japan is able to fight on despite the disaster or whether it is time to choose the Samurai Way of Death depends on the extent of the disaster and where it happens.

In my experience, J1 disasters can be divided into three categories:

1. Unfortunate Inconveniences – These are the battles that would have been nice to win. While losing these battles forces Japan to revise its J2 strategy, Japan still has a good chance of recovering to win the game.

2. Game Threateners – These are the battles that, when lost, mean Japan will be playing from behind for the entire game. Not only good Japanese play is necessary to overcome these disasters, but also a good portion of luck.

3. Seppuku Time – Losing these battles means that there is really no alternative but to take the honorable way out, send your apologies to the Emperor and ask your loyal comrade to cut off your head at the moment of greatest agony. Hopefully, this will be followed quickly with setting up the board again for another game!

Dealing with the Unfortunate Inconveniences

I won’t try to cover all of the possible battles Japan can get into on J1 because they are as varied as the number of sea zones and territories within range of the initial set up of Japanese units. I’ll only cover the more common battles. With that in mind, here are the J1 battles that, if lost, create an unfortunate inconvenience for Japan:

– any attack on a Chinese territory
– missing the sz38 or sz27 subs
– Hongkong
– sz54 transport
– Borneo

If Japan has a disastrous battle in any of the Chinese territories, the usual consequence is that Japan suffers greater casualties of infantry than it would like but usually will not lose any air units and because none of the Chinese territories are worth any IPCs, Japan is not at risk of losing a J1 VP. The failure to capture Suiyuan, Anhwe, Kiangsi, Kwangsi or Yunnan inconveniences Japan as it may be necessary, on J2, to divert ground units and a fighter or two to kill wayward Chinese units. However, unless the losses are especially egregious, Japan should be able to recover.

Missing one or both of the Allied subs in sz38 and sz27 can also inconvenience Japan but does not significantly inhibit Japanese chances for success in the long run. Missing the sz38 sub means that unguarded transports in sz45 or sz36 may be at risk or, more likely that the sub will substall into sz27 and prevent Japan from executing a J3 India Crush (see Essay #1). Likewise the survival of the sz27 sub means that an India Crush is not likely possible and the UK player will be free to build something other than a carrier on UK1 but a VP victory is still easily within Japan’s reach. If both the sz38 and sz27 subs survive, it becomes more difficult but again, not a result that leads inevitably to Japanese defeat.

Failing to take Hongkong ranks up there as one of the most annoying outcomes on J1, but not something that will turn the tide of the game irreversibly against Japan. It has happened to me twice as of this writing and I managed to win both games. Attacking Hongkong on J1 with 3 Inf, 1 Rtl against 2 infantry suggest the odds of success approach 99%. Nonetheless, a defeat here can happen. If Japan fails to take Hongkong on J1, it usually will not cost Japan a VP because a standard 32 IPC opening would still see Japan get 30 IPCs and 3 VPs. All that Japan must do to recover from this is adjust its J2 attacks to take Hongkong. It’s an inconvenience but not fatal.

There’s about a 1 in 5 chance that an attack by 1 single bomber against the sz54 transport will result in the loss of the bomber. Even worse, there is about a 1 in 13 chance that the attack will result in the loss of the bomber with the transport surviving. Once again, this is not fatal to Japan’s plans. It will make an India Crush a little more difficult and will require some adjustment to Japan’s J2 battles but the loss of a single bomber will not turn the tide against Japan.

For those players who like to attack Borneo on J1, failing to take it is an annoyance. However, because an attack on Borneo is usually part of a 35 or 36 IPC opening, the loss of the 3 IPCs that go with Borneo does not prevent Japan from getting to the essential 3 VPs on J1. Japan must adjust it’s J2 attacks to invade Borneo again, but since most J2’s include an attack on Borneo, this is not particularly difficult. Usually the only adverse impact is the additional casualties that Japan has suffered in failing to take Borneo on J1.

Scrambling to Overcome the Game Threateners

As mentioned, these “disasters” are much more challenging for the Japanese player to overcome. Indeed, it may take more than good play to do so. You may need a fair bit of luck. The “Game Threateners” are:

– Midway
– New Britain
– sz43/Java
– sz46/Malaya

Failing to take Midway and/or New Britain are disasters for the same reason. If Japan can’t take the ports in Midway and New Britain, the Japanese CVs in sz20 can’t get to sz27 to join up with the Japanese BB, transports and DDs making both fleets more vulnerable. Failure to get the CVs to sz27 means that they can’t move to sz28 on J2 thus giving the Allies the chance to push forward into sz29, 32 or even sz28(using CAP if necessary – see Essay #9). As sz28 is one of the key sea zones early in the game (see Essay #8) , failure to establish a presence there on J2 buts Japan behind for the entire game. The only way to recover from this is to move the CVs back as quickly as possible. On J1 send them to sz25 and plan on consolidating the Japanese fleet in sz33 on J2 instead of sz28. From there you will have to improvise a defence or counterattack against the advancing Allied Fleet. It will not be easy, but it is possible.

Usually sz43 will not be a defeat for Japan because the odds are so much in its favour on J1. However, there is a disaster that can occur in sz43 that can create problems for Japan for the entire turn. Usually Japan will attack sz43 with a couple of transports, a DD or BB and AC and a fighter. If Japan is forced to lose more than 1 unit, it has a difficult choice to make. The fighter will be the first loss, but should Japan then lose a transport loaded with ground units for the invasion of Java or should it lose an AC or BB. If a DD is available, that will be the loss and likely Japan will choose to lose the transport in the hopes that better luck will prevail with the remaining ground units going into Java. However, weakening the attack into Java or suffering an outright defeat in Java will cause Japan significant problems.

Java is usually an essential part of a J1 3 VP opening. The 4 IPCs usually are the difference beteen 3 VPs and 2 VPs on J1. On top of that, Japan will have to send ground forces to Java again on J2. Any transports that are left in sz43 are likely to be destroyed by the US on US2 unless Japan commits a substantial surface navy to protect the transports. This will not be possible while at the same time making a large naval commitment to sz28, so Japan will likely have to compromise by sacrificing the transports in sz43. For Japan, there is no alterative but to pick up the pieces, attach Java on J2 and hope there is a chance to make up for the missing VP in later round.

sz46 and Malaya can cause significant problems for Japan if those battles go badly. Like Java, Malaya is almost always part of a 3 VP opening and the failure to capture it will mean trailing by 1 VP from the get go. Malaya is worse for Japan because the UK fighter is in a better position to cause havoc on UK1 if it survives the J1 assault. Malaya usually sees a bigger commitment of resources from Japan on J1 and consequently a disaster here means that Japan has suffered heavier casualties. I almost included this battle in category 3 because I have never won a game where I failed to take Malaya on J1 and I have never lost a game where the same fate befell my opponent. Notwithstanding this, I believe that this disaster can be overcome and therefore sz46/Malaya remains in the “game threateners” category. For Japan, all there is to do is take Malaya on J2, consolidate its ground units on J3 and J4 into FIC and hope it can hold on for the win over the long run.

Accepting Seppuku Time

I looked at all the typical battles on J1 and there were only 2 that I felt meant the game was over on J1. These are:

– Not sinking all units in sz9
– Failing to capture the Philippines

In sz9, Japan usually commits a minimum of 4 Fighters and 2 Subs. Sometimes 5 fighters are used along with the 2 subs. With 4 fighters, the chance of losing this battle is a little more than 100 to 1. With 5 fighters it is about 1000 to 1. I’ve never played in a game where the sz9 attack failed but I can tell you that it can happen. In Days of Infamy Game #5747 between two very good players – Goodgulf and KittenOfChaos – Goodgulf attacked sz9 with 1 sub and 4 ftrs. This weaker attack increased the chance of failure to about 1 in 25. But it was worse than that. Japan managed to sink only the transport and DD. Two US BBs survived to wreak havoc with the IJN after J1. Needless to say, Goodgulf lost that game.

The problem with BBs surviving the sz9 battle is not just that the US can push forward against Japan’s navy so much more easily, it is also that Japan has suffered such heavy losses in that battle. Losing 2 or 3 fighters on J1 is not a problem. Losing 4 or 5 and having one or 2 US battleships survive irrevocably turns the balance of power against Japan. If you’re playing Japan and sz9 turns out as bad as that, concede the game and move on. It will be more fun and less distressing than trying to recover the impossible position.

Finally, there is the Philippines. This is the true game ender. If Japan fails to take Philippines on J1, no end of horrendous consequences arise. First, the US bomber in Hawaii is in range of sz36 with a landing spot in Philippines. Any newly built transports are cannon fodder. Likewise, any unprotected transports in sz45 can be hit by the US fighter in China. Worse though is the fact that the US can and will build an IC in the Philippines on J1. Japan can’t ignore this IC but it capture it either. In US hands, the IC will permit the US to place up to 3 units a turn in the heart of the Japanese empire in the western pacific. Recaptured by Japan it will eventually become the target of a concerted US SBR campaign when the Allies recapture New Britain, Caroline Islands, French IndoChina or DNG. Finally, to pile on Japan will usually not reach 3 VPs on a J1 where it doesn’t capture the Philippines and will have suffered heavy losses in the attack. All together, this leaves the honourable Japanese player with little alternative but seeking the Samuai’s death. Set up the board again and hope for better luck!

Saburo Sakai


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