I Survived OOB Pacific (American Campaign)

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fitzpatv
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I Survived OOB Pacific (American Campaign)

Post by fitzpatv » Sat Sep 30, 2017 10:33 am

Having just battled through the American Campaign in OOB:Pacific, I thought I'd write a review of the various scenarios.

I'd previously played the Japanese Campaign and the Morning Sun expansion, so it was a case of completing the set. My enjoyment of all three campaigns was seriously reduced by chronic performance issues, which may have to do with my having an old Windows XP machine (I don't believe in buying a new computer every time Microsoft change their operating system). Typically, AI turns took 15-30 minutes to complete, except during small scenarios or situations where the opposition had few units left. The game also crashed roughly every 4-5 turns on average. Perhaps these problems don't occur on more powerful machines.

Anyway, the game starts (where else ?) at Pearl Harbor. You start with a utility vehicle with which to visit various bases and activate fighters and AA guns, plus a couple of ships which are underway and able to fight. The objective is to preserve at least one US battleship and shoot down as many attacking aircraft as possible. Planes apart, you also have to contend with a Japanese submarine which tries to infiltrate the harbour. Not too hard and, being a small scenario, I didn't suffer too much from the performance issues here.

The action then moves to the Philippines, with a couple of similar delaying actions against the Japanese army advancing S through Luzon. In each case, you are forced to get by with a scratch force of early US infantry, backed by maybe a light Stuart tank and some 37mm anti-tank/AA guns. Enemy forces increase as the game progresses and eventually include numerous Ha-Go light tanks. It is a case of budgetting space, time and resource points and making use of terrain, especially river barriers, to slow the Imperial advance. In the Bataan scenario, spice is added by a couple of attempted amphibious landings in your flank, against which you have a pair of torpedo boats that are actually more effective against shore targets than they are against ships at sea. The Japanese make historical use of outflanking/infiltration tactics, so it's important to concede ground where necessary to avoid being cut-off.

As your surviving forces miraculously escape from the Philippines, the focus of the campaign shifts to naval operations, initially covering the US carrier raid against the Gilbert and Marshall Islands. You have to cover a lot of ocean to locate and destroy a quota of Japanese ships and island fuel dumps while protecting your precious carriers from air attack. The enemy forces are not all that formidable and their air attacks are uncoordinated, but finding everything you need to in the time limit is a challenge - I didn't get all of the shipping and, consequently, had to put up with larger numbers of pesky destroyers in later scenarios.

This is all good practice for the Coral Sea scenario. Here, your fleet has to destroy a landing force at Tulagi in the Solomons while searching for the Japanese carrier fleet and warding-off the invasion of Port Moresby on New Guinea. You also have a tanker to protect as it tries to slip away off the Southern map edge. I found it very useful to have a number of Catalina and Kingfisher recce planes, which enabled me to keep my carrier aircraft back for strikes and acted as AWACS to guide my fighters onto incoming Japanese aircraft. Managed to save the tanker by giving it air cover and wiped out the Tulagi force with a combination of strike planes and cruisers/destroyers. I then got involved in two parallel naval engagements against the Japanese carrier fleet and the Moresby invasion force. Beat the carriers by initially hanging back and defending against their aircraft, then counter-attacking with my own strike planes. Protecting Moresby was rather harder, given the numbers of enemy cruisers and destroyers and I had to reinforce my initial squadron off New Guinea by purchasing a series of heavy cruisers as the battle progressed. I also moved my damaged ships around the Japanese force to track down and destroy the transport ships, which made little effort to advance or escape their fate.

On to Midway, where you have to prevent the Japanese landing on the eponymous island while destroying at least two of their five carriers (Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, Hiryu and Ryujo). As before, I made good use of recce planes and initially fought a defensive action to cripple the enemy air groups before launching counterstrikes. Defeating the transport fleet with a few of my dive-bombers was easy enough, but the survivors then withdrew off-map to avoid destruction and left me facing more Japanese land forces than I ideally wanted to later in the campaign. Their cruiser/destroyer escort sacrificed themselves covering the retirement. I then had a bit of a crisis when, faced with the loss of most of their aircraft, the Japanese carriers likewise attempted to flee off-map. As I had to sink two to win, this meant a desperate search and advance to catch them in time. Fortunately, they didn't retire as quickly as they could have done and I was able to sink all five 'flat-tops' regardless.

This ended the defensive phase of the war for my Americans and set-up the counter-attack, beginning on Guadalcanal.

fitzpatv
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Re: I Survived OOB Pacific (American Campaign)

Post by fitzpatv » Sat Sep 30, 2017 2:20 pm

In many ways, the Guadalcanal scenario is the best in the campaign. The designers have clearly done their research and, while it runs to a 'plot', this reflects broadly what happened in real life. You start off with the Marines ashore at Henderson Field and the covering fleet under attack in the Battle of Savo Island, needing to escort a supply ship off map. This is a nasty situation against a strong cruiser squadron, but I was able to avert the worst by retreating Eastwards, letting the Japanese come to me and taking advantage of ships shooting more accurately when they haven't moved far (if at all). In the end, I'd inflicted more damage than I'd taken before the 'plot' withdrew my surviving vessels.

It is then a case of building-up the base at Henderson Field against a fairly historical sequence of Japanese land offensives. The Ichiki Detachment of marines attack from the East, then two more offensives come in, primarily from the West and South, backed sporadically by aircraft. Faced with a dense 'fog of war', the player has to balance forces to defend the perimeter and judge when to defend or attack. The latter isn't easy, given that (although the only vital victory condition is to hold the airfield) there are a lot of secondary objectives to be gained for resource points further West. As in real life, the US foothold gets gradually stronger as more troops and aircraft arrive.

Just as it becomes clear that an offensive is feasible, the Japanese throw in a couple of battleships (Nagato class, not Kongo class as historically) and supporting units to challenge the returning American naval cover. No doubt, if I'd not won Midway so decisively, I'd have faced carriers as well. There are resource bonuses for sinking each 'battlewagon' and this can be done by again adopting a counter-punching approach with the fleet and making use of air power.

Meanwhile, my ground forces pushed West along the coast. It wasn't possible to capture all of the secondary objectives, but I took most of them for a fairly convincing win.

fitzpatv
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Re: I Survived OOB Pacific (American Campaign)

Post by fitzpatv » Sat Sep 30, 2017 2:38 pm

As in real life, the next step is New Georgia. The Americans have to seize a foothold on the East side of the densely-forested island, then work West to capture the strategic airfield at Munda. There is a secondary requirement to take the island of Rendova, which affords a site for artillery to bombard the Munda defences.

At first, things went very smoothly, as my forces overran the Eastern end of the island against fairly light opposition. There was then a trade-off between the Rendova operation and the Westward advance on Munda. In the latter case, the main thrust had to be balanced against the need to guard my right flank against Japanese 'stay behinds' and flanking moves. I took careful note of the latter and carried-out a broad sweep with a line of units to root out any surprises.

Rendova had only a modest garrison and succumbed to a landing with four or five units backed by a few ships and planes. This gained me two auxiliary 155mm 'Long Tom' artillery units, which rapidly made Munda village and airfield a no-go area for the Japanese.

This was just as well, as Munda was formidably garrisoned with lots of enemy troops, backed by aircraft, offshore minefields and a powerful coastal battery which sank one of my support ships. The Japanese also tried to ferry in reinforcements from an island to the West (Vella Lavella ?), though this didn't go well for them in the face of some Dauntless bombers. It took considerable effort and persistence to break this position down and I had to accept damage to a couple of ships to clear the minefields and get ashore at Munda (taking the defences in the rear). Even then, there was stubborn last-ditch resistance from some elite infantry and guns at the other main objective at Bairoko. This eventually yielded to aerial and artillery bombardment for another American victory.

fitzpatv
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Re: I Survived OOB Pacific (American Campaign)

Post by fitzpatv » Sat Sep 30, 2017 2:55 pm

Somewhat surprisingly, the game then jumps over the Gilberts and Marshalls and goes straight to the Battle of the Philippine Sea. This is a much more even contest than in real life, with three Japanese carriers supported by land-based air from Guam and Rota against, in my case, just four American carriers.

As at Coral Sea and Midway, I used Catalinas and Kingfishers to provide early warning of enemy aircraft as well as searching for the Japanese carriers. I reasoned that my surface ships could bombard the enemy airfields and nip that threat in the bud. No such luck !. Any damage was instantly repaired and the islands were protected by very powerful coastal guns which badly damaged two cruisers, forcing me to pull back out of range.

It soon became apparent that the enemy carriers were not yet on the board and that attacking aircraft were flying in from off map. This didn't matter too much, as the air attacks were in waves which could be defeated one at a time. Had to pay careful attention to my invasion shipping off Saipan, which I couldn't afford to lose, but sustained only light damage.

Eventually, three Japanese task forces emerged from the West. By now, the enemy air threat had been greatly diminished and I was able to launch a counterstrike, though sinking all three carriers in the time remaining was a challenge. As in real life, the Americans had a couple of submarines in range of Japanese carriers, but the game does not really allow them to repeat the historical sinkings of the Taiho and Shokaku. Subs just don't do enough damage and have to contend with slow movement rates and lengthy 'recharge times'. I was, nonetheless, able to damage one carrier with a sub and my strike aircraft did the rest for an ultimately decisive win.

fitzpatv
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Re: I Survived OOB Pacific (American Campaign)

Post by fitzpatv » Sat Sep 30, 2017 3:33 pm

I was again a little surprised that there was no Marianas land battle, with the game moving on to the landings at Leyte in the Philippines. This scenario was the toughest challenge in the campaign.

On the one hand, you have to conduct an amphibious landing and advance inland to liberate pretty much the whole of Leyte. In parallel, it is necessary to defend against historically semi-accurate Japanese surface fleets striking from North and South. What really doesn't help is that a victory condition states that you mustn't lose 'four Allied ships'. Especially allowing for sporadic kamikaze attacks, losing no more than three ships in this scenario is almost impossible. After much toiling under a cloud of depression, I eventually realised that 'Allied ships' related to the blue-coloured AI-controlled American ships which basically stand around doing nothing but making targets of themselves all game, not even taking evasive action when approached/attacked. Matters were improved by some 'blue' ships changing to 'green' in mid-game. Given that I could afford to lose any number of green-coloured human-controlled ships (within reason), things started to look more manageable.

On land, the Americans suffered more from supply problems than the Japanese in the early stages. It's best to come ashore on a broad front, establishing a continuous beachhead supported by supply ships, then capture as many supply centres as possible, as quickly as possible. What is infuriating is that you have several 'blue' supply ships, which could make a big difference, but which just sit there doing nothing under AI control !. The Japanese mounted a few local counter-attacks, but it was possible to get ashore and established. By making my main effort in that direction, I was able to grab the airfield at Buyag/Buri, then take a chain of secondary objectives in East-Central Leyte in the requisite number of turns to get some much needed extra resources. Incidentally, you discover by trial and error that you aren't allowed to land or move into the Southern end of the island - thankfully, no counter-attacks come from that direction, either.

Meanwhile, the Japanese combined fleet was closing in. Not knowing the timing of this in advance, I mistimed my air strike against the Southern (Nishimura) force and had to return the planes to refuel. Nishimura then briefly disappeared off-board before teleporting, impossibly quickly, further East to threaten the invasion shipping. Simultaneously, the stronger Northern (Kurita) force arrived to menace my escort carriers off Samar.

I was able to recover my planes for another strike while withdrawing and concentrating my surface fleet to meet Nishimura. Trading space for time, I brought these two arms together and destroyed his Southern group for only superficial loss. While this was going on, Kurita was destroying the escort carrier force and sinking three of the 'Allied' non-combatant ships, costing me deployment points on land. I just about had time to send my victorious ships and planes to meet him and these did enough damage to trigger a (nice touch) historical morale loss and withdrawal. Following up, I sank most of Kurita's fleet, though the Yamato just got away.

On land, it was necessary to advance North and South of Leyte's mountainous spine to reach the remaining objectives of Ormoc, Baybay and Pompalan. I sent most of my forces, evenly split, around the flanks while sending a line of 'beaters' through the mountains to root-out any infiltrators. Just as well, as this was very much the AI's strategy. On top of hold-outs in the hills, they also sent a couple of paratroop units over the top (something like this did happen historically) and I had to double a few units back and buy reinforcements from a limited resource pool to counter this. The Teishin-Dan fell foul of the supply rules and were easily crushed once caught.

Ormoc was strongly-warded by a fortified line to the NE and an inner ring of defenders. Thankfully, I had plenty of time in hand and was able to break these down before pushing on against diminishing resistance to bring things to a successful conclusion at Pompalan.

fitzpatv
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Re: I Survived OOB Pacific (American Campaign)

Post by fitzpatv » Sat Sep 30, 2017 4:00 pm

Once again, I was surprised to find no Luzon or Iwo Jima scenarios (no doubt in the US Marines expansion), with the action moving straight on to Okinawa.

Rather easier than Leyte, this scenario starts with the US ashore in the centre of the island and seeking to advance to North and South. More than usually, there are plenty of troops available and I had the rare luxury of being able to rotate units out of the line to recover as I advanced. It was frustrating, though, to have such a range of advanced units to buy, but not enough resource points to be able to afford more than a couple. I found Sherman 'Zippo' flamethrower tanks very useful from this stage on in the campaign, but could only raise one for Okinawa.

In the North, I used enough Marines (much better than standard infantry, because they don't tire in rough terrain), to advance across the narrow waist of the island, backing them up with a modest but useful 75mm mobile howitzer. They met relatively light opposition and had little real trouble in pushing all the way to Nago town at the North end. Incidentally, the game tries to tempt you into initially deploying troops further North, behind enemy lines, but the supply rules make this inadvisable.

The main defences are centred on Shuri Castle in the South. I used a methodical 'steamroller' approach here, with lots of air, artillery and naval gunfire support and, in truth and despite a fair amount of attrition, it was a lengthy but inevitable process. Some annoyance was caused by the game's presumably hard-coded facility for AI units to escape combat with one point remaining, even when the odds suggest otherwise (it happens too often to be luck), but the Japanese don't seem to replace step losses in this or the Tokyo scenario. It was also frustrating to encounter enemy 'volunteer' units in guerrilla mode that block your units' movement and combat when bumped-into, then vapourise the following turn, just melting away as you move through them - not sure if this is a bug or deliberate ?.

Some spice was added by Shinyo suicide boats (mostly stopped well short of my ships), attempted amphibious landings behind my lines (one engineer unit got ashore and destroyed a plane at an airbase), kamikazes (didn't get past the fighter screen) and the Yamato's last sortie. The latter is much more of a problem in the game than historically, as the Japanese squadron (accurately represented) is allowed to get within range of the Allied surface fleet and the US has nowhere near the same resources to deal with them as was the case in real life. Even so, they did hardly any damage, with the destroyers getting ahead of the Yamato and Yahagi, being crippled by aircraft and finished off by gunfire, the cruiser suffering the same fate in turn and the battleship then succumbing to a mass torpedo attack from the US destroyers.

fitzpatv
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Re: I Survived OOB Pacific (American Campaign)

Post by fitzpatv » Sat Sep 30, 2017 4:35 pm

No Operation Olympic on Kyushu, so on to Tokyo Bay for the finale. There was an option to use nuclear bombers, but I wasn't keen on this, even in a game (and they would probably have been prohibitively expensive, anyway), so I went for the British Pacific Fleet instead. I then found that the Brits had very limited resource points and essentially couldn't sustain a lengthy air campaign, though the surface ships were useful.

It is necessary to make two amphibious landings West and East of Tokyo, then converge on the capital, aiming for the Imperial Palace. On the way, it is important to capture strategic anchorages to ensure the throughput of supplies (read extra troops and resource points). The game tells you that you need three of these in 15 turns but, in practice, I had to take four, which was a tight squeak - I needed the 15 turns.

Initial resistance to the landings was surprisingly light and I got ashore on both fronts with little trouble. Probably put too much emphasis on securing an airfield for my land-based planes, which left me a bit light when attacking the anchorages from Yokosuka to Kawasaki. On the Eastern front, the main objective is to drive inland to the West and take a chain of towns ending at Chiba, which theoretically immunises you from flanking attacks from the Boso Peninsula, to the South. You do, of course, have to ward against flanking attacks from the North, as well and quickly realise that you don't have enough units to cover everything. I adopted a 'battlegroup' approach, keeping my forces together and concentrating against one group of Japanese units at a time, aiming to destroy the enemy instead of taking territory. This enabled me to get on top and the territory duly followed. Even with the peninsula cut off, though, counterattacks continued until I'd destroyed the units the AI had produced up to that point for this purpose.

While closing the ring on Tokyo, I had to contend with three Japanese battlegroups, comprised of a couple of tanks, a Na To tank destroyer and a couple of Motorised infantry, at least one of which arrived from off-map. Air control was mostly an effective response to these, but I had trouble at one point when they grouped around a mobile AA gun and the Na To also gave them a formidable defence against armour (anti-tank guns are too powerful in this game, with their ability to defend all adjacent units against unlimited attacks per turn). Thankfully, they dispersed the following turn.

Aerial opposition mostly consisted of waves of kamikazes and Okha flying bombs, but also featured a few advanced fighter types which took some beating by weight of numbers.

Getting the navy into Tokyo Bay to support the attack on the city centre was fraught with hazards. There were mines, but they weren't continuous and could be negotiated by moving destroyers ahead cautiously, a hex at a time. The arms of the Bay were defended by shore batteries, but these were taken-out one by one using a concentration of battleships and cruisers (it would have been welcome had the 'blue' AI-controlled battleships done anything useful after the initial landings). Once inside the Bay, I met a squadron of enemy ships (a cruiser, three destroyers and some Shinyo suicide boats). These shouldn't have been a major problem and were duly wiped out, but somehow sank two of my cruisers, one of which took nine points of damage from a single hit ! Still not sure whether this was due to some advanced form of torpedo or by Shinyos being more destructive than I'd imagined, even when damaged. Fact is, the graphics were performing so poorly that I couldn't tell. Anyhow, I had enough left to make a difference when attacking the city core.

Once there, the final assault was a fairly mechanical process, relying on persistence and artillery support (aircraft were of reduced use due to the large number of AA guns deployed by the Japanese). In addition to lots of variable-quality infantry, the enemy fielded a super-heavy tank and a copy of a German Ferdinand tank destroyer. These were basically 'white elephants', as they were hopelessly vulnerable to artillery fire and killed-off accordingly. Artillery was also very helpful in breaking down the three units of Imperial Guard dug-in around the Palace - doing so ended the campaign in victorious fashion with over 20 Turns to spare.

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