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In World War II, the US and Japanese navies battled it out in the north Pacific. That's understandable because Japan controlled the western edge, the US the eastern edge, and the ocean was the route from one to the other.

But maybe one or both of them of them could have benefited by employing their fleet and airpower elsewhere. And if "elsewhere" happened to be the same place, might they more logically meet at "that place"? And where might that be?

Japan can use its battleships to capture the Soviet Far East, Australia, and other places. Its aircraft might do better service against Chinese armies than American ships. Soon they could all head for India, then to Africa to support the Germans.

Maybe the U.S. would prefer to take on the Japanese fleet in a war of "mutually assured destruction" in the north Pacific (particularly if the Japanese player is better than the German). That actually happened. But it might have delayed the invasion of Normandy by a year (four turns).

Perhaps the US battle fleet should support Allied operations in the Mediterranean or Europe instead. And maybe that would lead to a direct clash with the Japanese fleet trying to do the opposite.

Would you rather fight the opposing fleet in the north Pacific, around Africa, or at another locale of your choice as Japan? The US?

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2 Answers

If you're playing Japan and want to meet American on a field other than the mid-Pacific, the first step is having a fleet, and the easiest way to keep you fleet is to stay away from Pearl Harbor.

As Japan, I rarely attack Pearl Harbor. Many seem to consider this sacrilege; however, I've found this opens up options for me as Japan:

The best case, if Japan attacks Pearl, is that it wipes out the US fleet and doesn't lose much. That's obviously good, but even in this scenario, the opportunity cost is high: it requires the use of one if not two aircraft that could have been used in Asia--setting back Japan one if not two territories on the first turn. Having taken these territories would mean a few more IPCs, but more importantly can make the construction of Allied factories in mainland Asia very unattractive. Lastly, the power at Pearl can't be used to threaten India or to help take the Soviet Far East on turn 2. Japan's focus needs to be on mainland Asia, and they should only dabble elsewhere if they have units with nothing else to do. The navy, on turn 1, has better things to do than attack the US at Pearl.

Worst case, the US can get lucky and do a lot of damage to Japan's navy, or worse still, it could force a retreat and survive. If this happens Japan is in trouble. They are severely hampered in taking Asian coastal territories and the US can use it's fleet to threaten any transports built to ferry troops from the islands to Asia (practically forcing a factory-based strategy).

With no Pearl attack, Japan has a strong fleet and air force that can be used in Asia on turn 1, and that is left in position to attack anywhere on the coast on turn 2. The only downside is that I've left the American fleet intact. But is that really a downside? Consider what the US can do with it's intact Pacific fleet:

  1. They can send it to the Atlantic, except the Atlantic is turns away; by the time it arrives the US and UK will already have a fleet to big to be attacked by Germany. The battleship isn't even useful in amphibious assaults unless France is being attacked, which is idiotic as long as there are too few ships to send armor (air power is at risk from AA guns and from not being able to retreat and should only be used in France when it can be taken with little risk). As Japan, this strategy does not have me shaking in my boots, and as Germany I'm shaking either way.

  2. They can keep it moored. If they don't move it, then it's not a threat. It's like the fleet was destroyed, except that I didn't have to risk my fleet to do it.

  3. They can move it towards Japan, except that my fleet will be consolidated, and is bigger, and is on defense. Plus, because of the distance I'll have one-turn of warning and can just buy a sub or two to turn the odds even more in my favor. Direct attack is stupid for America to try.

  4. They can take it South to pick of islands. This is probably the most effective option, and one I sometimes use as the US when Japan doesn't Pearl me. The downside is that the US only has one Atlantic transport (and can't afford to let up on Germany to build more in that theater). So they can use the infantry from Wake and Hawaii and the one-shot on the battleship to try and pick off some islands. They might even take a few while Japan is too busy on the mainland to care much. But it takes turns to get into position, it is only a swing of a couple of IPCs, and then can be easily taken back by Japan in the mid-to-late-game. Plus, when that battleship doesn't hit it doesn't take much luck for the defender to knock out one of the two infantry, which can't be replaced because America is so far from home.


So assuming I've convinced you that Japan can forgo Pearl...

Once they have solid control of the coast, Japan's carrier, battleships and subs are no longer useful near the homeland, giving them lots of options for other places to take on the US:

  1. Attack Alaska. The US typically puts very little there, so it can easily be taken by two battleships and two infantry. It can be done from the Japan sea zone so is often not anticipated, and if the US is using shuck-shuck, their forces are all in the Eastern US and Canada, where they can't immediately counter-attack (giving Japan time to reinforce or retreat). Shuck-shuck requires careful calibration of transport capacity and buys, so forcing the US to divert units to re-take Alaska messes with their mojo. It's only worth 2 IPCs per turn, but it really screws with America.

  2. Take the British South Pacific. Also ripe for the taking are Australia and New Zealand. Slightly further away than Alaska and risky for the same reason that makes it hard for the US to take Indonesia: a couple good defensive rolls and Japan is out of infantry. However, Japan has the unique advantage near-by replacement infantry on the islands. The Australians and Kiwis are only worth a few IPCs per turn, but the UK has no feasible means of taking them back so it's a swing of 6 IPCs per turn for the rest of the game. It adds up.

  3. Africa. Africa is closer to India that Japan often realizes, and a few troops there are often all that's necessary to help Germany hold on an extra turn or two--or better yet, it can force the Allies to skip a turn of reinforcing Finland and provide some breathing room for Germany in Europe.

  4. We'll always have Rio. Typically I only do this after taking New Zealand, but only two moves away is Panama--the Alaska of the South. American tanks in Eastern US can't reach immediately and taking Panama disrupts the shuck-shuck. If Japan manages to save 3 IPCs they can waltz South through Columbia to take Brazil. They don't have to hold any of these territories, just mess with America. Plus, if they get really lucky, America will over-react and split their fleet to bring capital ships South to deal with Japan. But they have to take Panama first and if done too aggressively, this could leave the North Atlantic Allied transports under-defended enough for German attack. At this late point in the game it would be worth sacrificing the German air force to destroy the transports, as this likely buys enough time for Japan to finish off Russia.

So Japan has good options for taking the fight to America, but in my experience the opportunities rely on the non-canonical choice to leave the American fleet alone.

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you say that if the US is doing shuck-shuck then their forces are in Eastern US and Canada - that's not necessarily true. You can (and should) shuck-shuck from Western US up to Western Canada. Western Canada borders the Eastern Canada Sea Zone and is a pickup spot for Atlantic transports (just like Eastern Canada is). –  Scott Mitchell Jun 6 '11 at 15:57
    
@Scott: That's a good point. I have played before where Western Canada does not touch the Eastern Canada sea zone, precisely because it enables Western shuck basing, which is just historically silly. Before instituting that house rule, we'd never though to base there because it's logistically burdensome (moving units completely across the board); we didn't think to add the house rule changing the map until the above-described Alaska and Panama attacks necessitated the change. –  Adam Wuerl Jun 6 '11 at 16:24
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I'd might use the Don Rae version of the Pearl harbor attack (only Battleship and sub to Hawaii seazone, carrier and fighters in Wake out of retaliation range) if I had "nothing better" to do. But if Russia is overextended with an attack on Manchuria, or UK with Kwabang attack, I'd move west, take India, the SFE or Yakut, and really punish these guys. It's worth giving up Pearl Harbor because I think that the Axis have won the war right there (barring bad rolls like the UK transport off Kwantung sinking something). –  Tom Au Jun 6 '11 at 17:49
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I like the idea of another answerer for Japan to leave the American fleet alone. And he's also very creative in his idea for Japan to threaten South America. But it seems that the biggest prize may have eluded him.

It appears to me that BOTH countries have bigger "fish to fry"--in the Mediterranean. Many games are decided by whether the Germans can hold onto, or the Allies can recapture, Africa. A "second front" (or lack thereof) in western or southern Europe could make the difference between whether or not Russia survives. The Med is the key to both these strategies.

The Japanese fleet can get to the Red Sea from the Pacific, (via the Indian Ocean) in something like three turns. The American fleet offshore California can get offshore Algeria (via the Panama Canal) in three turns. A fourth turn could put one or the other squarely in the mid-Med, with the other attacking it from east or west. Because both fleets are helping their respective allies, that's where the decisive battle can be fought.

I can see an American player wanting to fight Japan in the Pacific to avoid this outcome. (Particularly if "Japan" is the better player.) But I can't see Japan dodging the "Med." I believe the Axis' "achilles heel" is the German navy (or lack thereof), for which the Japanese navy could be the logical cure.

Granted, this seems like kind of an advanced, sophisticated play. But the people I've met on this site are sophisticated players. How about it, guys?

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