December 18th, 1941
As Japanese players, we all know those early game turns are bears… Invasions, production, convoys, industry, R&D, so many things can be planned, improved, adjusted, fine tuned. But the more I play this game, the more I believe the real important early game task for Japan is to get a clear picture of Allied short term plans and objectives.
Imperfect convoy routes can be changed, subpar logistics can be mended, faulty invasions can be survived, but a bad assessment of enemy intent will send you into the wall in no time.
We seem to be very lucky, here, because enemy strategy can apparently be summarized in one short motto:
… see ya’ll in Palembang
Enemy buildup in Palembang has begun on the first day of the war. All transport planes and ships in the area seem to be trying to move as many troops as possible, as fast as possible, towards South Sumatra.
Fortunately, we had planned for an early capture of Sumatra, and the presence of KB in the area helped sinking quite a few transports. Due to some problem during troop loading in Samah, the invasion, planned for the 12th, was delayed by a few days, but we did land on the sixteenth, and faced over 500 AV already there.
Today, we have about 400 AV, facing almost 600 allied. A large enemy force has landed in Oosthaven, and there probably are more in Benkoelen. I suspect there are about 1500 AV on South Sumatra.
Japanese reinforcements are arriving soon. Djambi was taken by paradrop on the first days of the war, and reinforced since. Praboemoelih (the base just south of Palembang) was captured by another paradrop two days ago. Our goal was to delay reinforcements from Oosthaven. Troops from Palembang will probably retake the hex, and we will probably cut the railway further south…
I do understand we play the game we have (and the historical importance of oil for Japan), but I can’t help thinking the focus on Palembang imposed by the game system (or, at least, the usual analysis of it) is getting a bit weird.
Of all the bases in the East Indies, Palembang is perhaps most worth fighting for, because any large battle there will most certainly wreck the oil facilities, and therefore have long term consequences on Japan (compare with, say, a defense of Singapore, or Manila). For allied players, this makes the “Palembang fortress” a very logical prospect. Now, against this, landing on the 15th of December (a week into the war) seems a bit late already.
Anyway, we are in for an interesting (if not historical) situation. I think it could be summarized as follows:
Right now, we need to delay reinforcements to Palembang, and try to take the place.
However, as the base gets reinforced, the possibility of taking it with little damage becomes low, and therefore, its strategic interest is reduced.
On the other hand, the more the enemy reinforces the place, the easier the rest of the DEI campaign becomes.
In fact, it might even be worth encouraging our opponents to reinforce southern Sumatra. If we can blockade the ports and airfields at a later stage, and bomb their supply to oblivion (destroying the refineries in Palembang in the process, unfortunately), Sumatra becomes a death trap for the Allied troops.
In the long run, this is profitable for the Allies: they’ll get the troops back, the oil is lost for good. But it might help Japan in its early conquests. All this is very interesting, but somehow it doesn’t feel right…
The fate of Palembang is still in the balance, though. A quick victory there would probably cause a lot of trouble in allied ranks, since 1500 AV of troops would be stranded on Sumatra. If this cannot be achieved, an interesting problem will appear: how to extricate the troops already in Palembang, before enemy reinforcements tip the balance? This will probably justify the early capture of Djambi, which we can use to open a path of retreat.
In other news
Elsewhere, invasions were smooth. The Solomons, the East Coast of New Guinea, the Celebes, and Northern Borneo have been captured with little damage. Our second Carrier Division, operating in the Coral Sea, sank a good number of allied transports (notably the Port Moresby convoy).
As of today, air losses are 149:381 a 2.5 to 1 ratio in our favour. We have sunk 2 cruisers, 10 light cruisers, a dozen destroyers, 30 troop transports and 50 cargos, for only one cruiser and five destroyers.
China is a world of its own, I will address it in the next installment.