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"Search rules for Japanese Carriers" Topic

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749 hits since 29 Dec 2021
©1994-2022 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP29 Dec 2021 3:33 p.m. PST

I am using a nifty little solo board game called Kido Butai, about Midway, to come up with some rules I can convert to a game using my 1/4800 miniature fleets.

The game is fairly simple but has some suspense and is fun to play. The solo player is the Japanese commander. At the start of each of the 14 turns, each fleet has a search die roll with a single die. The Americans find the Japanese on a five or six. The Japanese find the Americans on a roll of six.

I am now near the end of my second game and have yet to roll a six to find the Americans! In the meantime they have pounded me, historically accurate but not much of a game.

In a real life situation, I thought the Japanese might dedicate some of their long range fighters to beef up the search if this kind of situation developed. So, I would give myself an option to redeploy some combat planes to search after a certain number of turns if I could not locate the American carriers. My search roll could then locate on a five or six, or even a four if I added extra planes, which would then be unavailable for combat missions.

Does this sound reasonable and historically likely? Thanks for any thoughts…

Personal logo David Manley Supporting Member of TMP29 Dec 2021 3:56 p.m. PST

I wonder what the rationale is for giving the US twice the probability if detecting an enemy is? Are there any designer notes which address that?

Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP29 Dec 2021 4:38 p.m. PST

D6 is a very random way of doing anything, 16% or so per pip difference!
In Midway, it should IMHO be about equal chance for both sides, though as the excellent Mr Manley said, check the designers notes!

Inch High Guy29 Dec 2021 4:43 p.m. PST

You're seeing the results of the differences between the scouting doctrine of the two navies.

In the USN at Midway, each carrier had four squadrons;

VF – Fighting (Wildcats x 16)
VS – Scouting (Dauntless x 16)
VB – Bombing (Dauntless x 16)
VT – Torpedo (Devastator x 16)

The VS and VB squadrons were both equipped with the SBD Dauntless, the main difference was in assigned mission and standard bomb loadout. The VS aircraft would normally carry 1 x 500 and 2 x 100 pound bombs, the VB aircraft would carry 1 x 1000 pounder. This gave each carrier commander 16 dedicated aircraft for the armed scouting mission while still retaining 16 dedicated bombers for strike. Each American carrier could therefore launch a 16 sector search.

The IJN prioritized their carrier deck space for strike and fighter aircraft, the scouting mission was primarily assigned to the floatplanes of the escorts. At Midway on 04JUN42 the Japanese morning search was only 7 sectors using 5 floatplanes and 2 Kates (one of Tone's aircraft was unservicable). Interesting, Soryu embarked a Judy for scouting trials, and Kaga embarked several additional Kates over her normal complement, but these were not used in the morning searches. The follow up "contact" tracking patrol consisted of 9 aircraft, Soryu's Judy and 8 floatplanes.

So following doctrine, the Japanese Task Force could launch one 8 sector search, while each of the 3 American carriers could launch a 16 sector search.

HMS Exeter29 Dec 2021 5:05 p.m. PST

Unlike the Americans, the Japanese did not rely on their carrier based aircraft as their primary air search assets. That role was assigned to the float planes operating off of the surface ships in the screen.

Although very vulnerable to US fighter assets, the Japanese float scouts were very good at their jobs. The Japanese would have located the American carriers at Midway, but the aircraft assigned to that specific search leg from Nagara (I think) had a mechanical problem and got a late start. A float plane from Tone did spot the carriers on its' homeward leg.

The float scouts were instrumental in facilitating the Japanese victory at 1st Savo Island.

When the Japanese did have carrier aircraft used for searches, they normally used Kate's.

Additionally, the US and the Japanese employed very different air ops organizations. The US operated at the squadron level. Each squadron was prepped and launched independently. They were supposed to rendezvous en route, but this went haywire a lot. The Japanese operated as a unified carrier division, with a division commander in direct command of all 6 squadrons. That's why the Japanese so often arrived together.

Get John Lundstrom's The First Team. It's chapter and verse on battles up to Midway.

Cattle Dog29 Dec 2021 5:29 p.m. PST

If I remember the IJN also employed submarines as a "Screen" during the Midway operation, you could utilize this as part of your scouting / early warning / picquet / surveillance plan in the scope of the rules.
Regards Allan

Try: "Countdown to Pearl Harbour" Steve Twomey or "Miracle at Midway" Gordon W. Prange for further reading…

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP29 Dec 2021 5:39 p.m. PST

Great info.

Thanks for sharing.

How about, if the Japanese have any surviving aircraft and carriers, launching patrol/strike aircraft to follow the American strike aircraft back to their carriers?

Seems like that would be a viable, and perhaps successful strategy, assuming any survivors, and if they can survive the USN's CAPs near their carriers.

emckinney29 Dec 2021 7:14 p.m. PST

Catalinas operating from Midway.

BuckeyeBob29 Dec 2021 8:32 p.m. PST

The late search plane was from Tone. Keep in mind using fighters might give the searcher increased range but there is just 1 person to fly the plane, keep track of its position and search. Whereas the TB has 3 people and PBY type planes even more. Thus the pilot can concentrate on flying/navagating and maybe look into his forward arc while the others did the searching. Besides, fighter pilots were highly trained in their craft and they and their planes were needed to fight off enemy planes and not wasting their talents on searching.

tortorella…have you tried the alternate search procedure someone posted in the BGG forum?

"On the rolls for fleet detection, players might like to try a 'Deck of Dice'. Take all A-6 from a standard deck of playing cards and shuffle. Draw one card for each reconnaissance 'roll' and then discard. Reshuffle if all cards discarded.

As failures are drawn, the chances of a success will increase, representing increasing intelligence about where the fleets are NOT.

The chance of a 6 on the first draw remains 1/6 but after 8 draws without a 6, the chances will then be 1/4."

Wargamer Blue29 Dec 2021 9:44 p.m. PST

Wouldn't the Japanese scout planes follow the Americans back to their carriers after the American first strike?

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP29 Dec 2021 9:47 p.m. PST

Great stuff! Much thanks to all!!

No designer notes, simple. compact rules. I need to study – I have been away from this topic for a long time. At first I thought there should be moe of an equal chance as well. Only the PBYs seemed to give the Americans some advantage. But I see that it is not that simple, which is why I brought it up.

I have never thought of the Japanese as being very flexible in the moment, as good as they were with training and tactics at the start of the war. But maybe they should have some additional help as above.

These ideas are a great help since I would like to expand these rules. The D6 roll is random and does not require anything other than luck as a search mechanism. This is part of the problem, but I cannot really think of another way for solo play to represent finding the opposing fleet.

Id there a better way to use dice or perhaps playing cards from different piles to represent a search pattern?

Zephyr129 Dec 2021 10:12 p.m. PST

Add an extra roll (or two) each turn to the Japanese to 'balance' it out, representing submarine reports, and additional recon flights by long range Kawanishi flying boats (say a roll for each.)

"Wouldn't the Japanese scout planes follow the Americans back to their carriers after the American first strike?"

I think he wants to find them first… ;-)

Inch High Guy30 Dec 2021 7:21 a.m. PST

If you want to get into the details of the Battle of Midway from the Japanese perspective, the definitive work is "Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway" by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully. Also a fine example of research using primary sources. I posted a short review here:


Shagnasty Supporting Member of TMP30 Dec 2021 11:03 a.m. PST

I second the usefulness of "Shattered Sword" as well as the "First Team."

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP30 Dec 2021 11:13 a.m. PST

I will order these both and catch up. I have the Prange book but did not read it. Interestingly the first book I read about Midway was in the 60s, called Midway: the Battle That Doomed Japan, by Mitsuo Fuchida and Masatake Okumiya.

Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP30 Dec 2021 12:23 p.m. PST

In truth, I have found strict historical accuracy is not so desirable in a game very often, the 'Feel' is far more important. Giving both sides a fighting chance also is vital to give the players something to play for.

One important factor that no one has mentioned so far is the experience and training of the air crews, which is something of a force multiplier, methinks?

HMS Exeter30 Dec 2021 12:37 p.m. PST

Another endorsement for Shattered Sword.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP30 Dec 2021 1:44 p.m. PST

I have ordered these books from Amazon, thank you for the recommendations.

Herky I understand what you are saying and agree. I enjoy your blog immensely, your work with rules like WoG, your battle reports. Great stuff!!

There is a balance that involves individual preference, I think. In this case I could also play a couple of games where I found the American carriers right away and sank them, I suppose. But as you said, just rolling one die felt too simple. Solo mechanisms are not always easy to come up with.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP30 Dec 2021 1:54 p.m. PST

Oh, and the training of the aircrews. I think this would give the Japanese edge, probably for the last time.

The game does give the Zero fighters an edge over the Americans in getting hits against enemy aircraft.

Personal logo Endless Grubs Supporting Member of TMP30 Dec 2021 6:19 p.m. PST

If you're bored and desperate for mechanics, you can always dig out a copy of AH's Flat Top which covers the search for the Japanese in 1942--from Boardgame Geek:

"Flat Top" is a board wargame of high complexity that covers the battles of the Solomon Seas between the United States and Japan in 1942. It is very well researched and covers all aspects of naval and air combat as it existed in 1942. The system depicts weather, air searches, air combat, surface combat, carrier operations, submarines, air bases, supplies, and much more. The game requires intense planning and searching since movement is covert and the map is pretty huge.

The units are individual ships and submarines with each air point representing three aircraft. Hexes are twenty miles, and each turn represents one-hour."

Just saying.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP30 Dec 2021 8:01 p.m. PST

I remember this game! But did not have it, I did haveAH Midway, which could not be played solo as the search involved separated, hidden map boards. I will checkout FT. This is getting nostalgic….I have done Napoleonics for the last 20 years.

Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP31 Dec 2021 5:26 p.m. PST

Herky I understand what you are saying and agree. I enjoy your blog immensely, your work with rules like WoG, your battle reports. Great stuff!!

Thank you so much!

wardog02 Jan 2022 1:00 p.m. PST

how far away could a aircraft see a ship ,it a big ocean ,what altitude would they have been flying ,was finding the enemy ships ,not just this in this battle but others as well just pure luck?

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP03 Jan 2022 7:12 a.m. PST

I think there was a lot of luck involved, including weather as well. Sightings were not always reported clearly. It was such a new concept that it did not have the benefit of much experience to draw on. But they did find each other.

HMS Exeter03 Jan 2022 3:04 p.m. PST


I'm sure there must be an equation out there somewhere where altitude enables greater visual range but reduced likelihood of spotting. Itd include a Modifier for cloud cover. I have to think the air ops boss would figure cloud deck vs. width of search wedge to arrive at an optimal altitude.

If you're searching out 150 miles with a 2 radius you'll be flying at 15000', or just below the cloud deck for a surface force search. You be flying at 500' for an in close ASW search, never venturing very far.

Blutarski08 Jan 2022 2:27 p.m. PST

I also highly recommend "Shattered Sword" by Parshall & Tully. About ten years had passed between the publication of Lundstrom's "First Team" and Parshall & Tully's book. P&T benefitted greatly from much new material translated and compiled by cooperating Japanese historians.

I suggest also looking into the respective ranges of IJN scouting planes versus USN SBD's. The IJN carrier forces were well known for having greater ranges than their USN counterparts (SBDs IIRC carried 500lb bombs on their scouting missions while the IJN Type 0 floatplane scouts flew "naked" and had a range (as opposed to radius) of something like 1,100 miles at 140mph. IIRC, P&T devote a good amount of attention to the scouting plans of both sides.

Also, Kido Butai was at the time of Midway doctrinally very sophisticated compared to its USN opponent especially with respect to coordinating multi-carrier strike missions.

As they say, the devil is always in the details …..


Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP08 Jan 2022 8:58 p.m. PST

"Shattered" has arrived, will start soon. Thanks for the update Blutarki. I am glad to hear that Shattered involves new Japanese sources.

The Japanese were at the height of their proficiency at this point re air operations. Lack of armor made for long ranges as well. The skill level of these pilots at this time, plus the lighter aircraft with better range, perhaps cancels out the PBY advantage for the US and the search capacities of both should be equal.

I will try this and see if the Japanese can get in the game. By rights they should have the advantage.

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