Battle of the Coral Sea – Pacific War (GMT Games)

The second Battle Scenario from Pacific War merges all the rules and mechanisms laid out before and delivers a tight and highly replayable scenario.

The Battle of the Coral Sea depicts the attempted Japanese invasion of Port Moresby, a crucial node in the Allied defense of Australia and the South Pacific. Success for the Japanese hinges on combined arms cooperation – airpower and naval power must clear the ocean of enemy forces, and subdue Port Moresby, ensuring that the Japanese ground forces encountered a weakened Australian garrison.

We all know how this went down historically- surprised by the presence of American carriers, the opposing task forces inflicted severe losses on one another and both sides lost a carrier. Although the Japanese inflicted more losses, the Japanese deemed it too risky to attempt a landing and the attack on Port Moresby was called off.

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Port Moresby is a tough nut to crack in this scenario – it’s location only allows an approach from the northeast from Buna or a direct attack from the sea. The terrain boosts the troop quality and shifts the results on the ground CRT in the defenders favor. Without the presence of Allied vessels, the IJN could bombard and bomb at will, but they will instead have to delicately balance the disposition of their forces to ward off the American carriers and provide air support for the forces attacking the port.

The Allies just need to run interference and keep the Japanese off kilter enough to derail their plans.

As always with this design, search and detection is key to success, especially for a simultaneous strike between opposing carriers. The goal should always be the sinking of carriers but short of that, the degradation of carrier air groups through flak and CAP combat will denude the carrier’s ability to operate effectively. I look forward to the campaign/strategic scenarios where this will have a more lasting impact.

The operation time limits add another layer of decision making and tension. All naval units must return to a friendly naval base to deactivate, if not they are considered sunk for victory condition considerations. This fuel and ammunition abstraction places additional pressure to fulfill objectives, inflict damage and get home in time. It forces hard decisions and emphasizes making bold, hard hitting attacks for maximum effect.

My journey into Pacific War has been a slow burn but the time spent learning the different mechanisms has culminated in this scenario which has been the most rewarding and satisfying yet.

On to the next one: Midway.

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