Hi folks! For the next couple of weeks, it's all A&A miniatures, all the time. I will preview some of the units in the upcoming War at Sea set 6. Once I finish the Opening Salvos, I'll get back to a more normal mix of D&D and A&A musings. Without further ado...
Surface Action Opening Salvo, Part 1
Welcome to our first Opening Salvo for Surface Action, the sixth set for the Axis & Allies Naval Miniatures game. Surface Action releases on 25 October 2011, and consists of 40 models. We’ll begin with a look at two new rare models: The British carrier HMS Eagle, and the Japanese carrier Taiho.
Like HMS Furious and HMS Glorious, HMS Eagle began her career as a World War I conversion. She was originally laid down in 1913 as the Chilean battleship Almirante Cochrane and purchased for conversion into an aircraft carrier in 1918, although the work was not completed into 1924. She was well protected with a 4.5” armor belt and a battery of 6-inch guns for self defense.
HMS Eagle spent most of her war in the Mediterranean. In July 1940 she took part in the Battle of Calabria (or Battle of Punta Stilo) against the Italian battlefleet, one of the very rare combined carrier and battleship actions of the war. She played a key role in the Malta convoys of 1942, participating in no less than nine separate missions to fly off Spitfires intended to reinforce the island’s air defenses and protecting the vital convoys of Operations Harpoon and Pedestal. On the afternoon of 11 August 1942, she was hit by a devastating spread of four torpedoes fired by the German submarine U-73. HMS Eagle sank in only four minutes with the loss of 131 crewmen.
Game Play: HMS Eagle is tough and durable, but she is not a terribly good carrier, only basing a single squadron. However, she offers some flexibility in role, since she has both Expert Dogfighter and Expert Torpedo—you can use her to base torpedo bombers or fighters depending on whether you want a little air cover for your fleet, or more attack power against enemy shipping. Her chief advantage is that she’s cheap; HMS Eagle is almost worth her 14 points just for her durability and gun battery. Embarking aircraft is a bonus.
A large, new fleet carrier, Taiho joined the Nihon Kaigun in March of 1944. Unlike preceding classes of Japanese (or American) aircraft carriers, she incorporated an armored flight deck that was designed to withstand bomb hits of up to 1,100 pounds. Her air complement varied significantly throughout her design, but finally settled at 53. However, Taiho carried 65 aircraft easily in the months after her commissioning.
Taiho’s career was not a long one. Vice Admiral Ozawa selected her as his flagship shortly after she arrived at Singapore and began exercising with the First Air Fleet. More than 18 months had passed since the big carrier battles of the summer of 1942, and the Combined Fleet was ready to seek out a decisive battle against the American fleet. The US invasion of Saipan put the Japanese plans in motion, and the Battle of the Philippine Sea resulted on 19 June 1944. Just as Taiho launched her second wave of aircraft of the morning, the submarine USS Albacore struck her with one torpedo. The torpedo damage did not initially seem too severe, but explosive fumes built up in the ship’s armored hangar, until 6 hours later a massive explosion blew out her sides. Taiho began settling, and Ozawa reluctantly abandoned her, shifting his flag to the cruiser Haguro. Over 1600 crewmen and officers went down with Taiho.
Game Play: A good all-around fleet carrier, Taiho combines the ability to embark three squadrons with good durability for a Japanese carrier not named Akagi or Kaga. By the time Taiho made her debut, the irreplaceable cadre of highly trained Japanese naval aviators was long gone; accordingly, she offers significantly less in the way of Expert special abilities than most carriers of her size. However, that means she’s cheaper than other large Japanese carriers. Armored Deck and an excellent AA rating make Taiho a tough target for enemy airstrikes; she’s best used in a carrier duel.
Thanks for stopping by! Next week, in Opening Salvo 2, we'll take a look at a long-awaited minesweeper, and a brand new type of amphibious assault ship!