Check Your 6! – Bismarck Sea
Ken and I got together last week for another round of Check Your 6! I decided to do some games based on the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. One of the things I find interesting about this battle is that many of the reports specifically mention encountering both Zeros (Japanese Naval Air Force) and Oscars (Japanese Army Air Force) flying patrol over the convoy. The two forces seldom cooperated, so this battle provides and nice chance for the gamer to put more different types of planes on the table. Another feature of the New Guinea campaign that is intriguing from a gamer’s perspective is that bombers routinely operated in far smaller numbers than in Europe. It was not uncommon at all for heavy bombers to venture out in flights of 8, 3, or even single bombers. This provides the opportunity for some historical scenarios without requiring the time/space/expenditure to put out large formations of heavy bombers as with Europe.
For our first game, I wanted to see how the rugged and well armed US heavy bombers would do in Check Your 6! I pitted a pair of B-17F on an armed reconnaissance mission against 4 Zeros. The bombers were to overfly the convoy at 8500 feet, drop their bombs, then loiter if possible to gather intelligence on the convoy strength, heading, etc. before returning to base. Ken took the B-17’s coming in from one end of the table and I took the Zeros, initially deployed over the convoy and moving slow. Ken brought the Fortresses straight in while I tried to turn the Zeros around for an attack. My plan was to make beam attacks against the bombers, trying co-altitude for one pair and attacks from beneath for the second pair. The pair attempting to attack from beneath were stymied by the high speed of the B-17, since it required the Zeros to reach max speed to be able to fire up, something that was hard to do while simulataneously maneuvering. Ken’s attack run produce a hit on one of the transports and things were looking OK for the Americans as the bombers were swinging around to head home and consistently making the aircrew skill rolls to pick up intel. ken needed seven successes before he could bug out for maximum VP. However, lady luck was not with the B-17s. The gunners on board needed high dice rolls (typically 10 or greater on 2d6) to hit the more nimble Zeros and then he did hit one, I miraculously made the 10+ robustness check to shrug off the damage. I was finally able to close the range and began pounding at the Forts with cannon fire. One Zero burned through his ammo, but not before the forts took a couple of hits each. Their high robustness still gave them decent chances to shrug off the attacks, but Ken’s dice deserted him and he failed each of the rolls – critically. Both 17’s went down in flames, along with the intel they had gained. So although a transport was hit, the game was a Japanese victory.
Our second game was a pure fighter scrum with Lightnings against Zeros. Ken played the Zeros this time and I took the Americans. We diced for pilot quality and each got a veteran, while I got a green pilot. The rest were skilled. The Zeros were again deployed over the convoy and the P-38’s came zooming in from the board edge in a loose finger four. The Zeros turned to engage one of the pairs of Lightnings as I pushed all throttles to the wall. The two flights closed and flashed pass each other. I took the flight nearest the Japanese vertical while the other executed hard turns back toward the fight. Unfortunately, for me the Japanese consistently held the initiative advantage, allowing Ken to adjust his maneuvers to get shots. The aircraft engaged in a head to head pass with the agility difference of the Zero vs the Lightning allowing Ken to score first destroying one Lightning. At this point I made my critical error. Despite having read advice to the contrary in many books about the air war in the Pacific, I got into a low speed turning fight with the Zeros instead of clearing the area and building airspeed for another attack. Ken again maneuvered for another head-to-head pass and this time a Lightning and a Zero were shot down and one Zero was damaged. The remaining two Lightnings maneuvered for a while trying to down the another Zero, but eventually decided to bug out when another was damaged. Fortunately, there was room to dive and the Americans were able to escape and limp back to New Guinea.
Both games were fun affairs and I continue to be impressed with Check Your 6! Ken and I were able to easily fly four fighters without too much delat and we were able to play two games in 3.5 hours.