Great input JapLance, thanks!
I've been playing a 41 campaign as Allied player up to April 1945 (with "Help Japanese" balance) with 3.2.15, and I'd like to comment a couple of issues I've had.
a)Japanese AI never properly garrisoned the Solomons, New Guinea and New Britain with troops. Japanese AI sent 4 or 5 divisions to New Guinea and pushed for Port Moresby, they were stopped by a couple of entrenched AUS units in Kokoda and then trapped by a non-opposed landing in Lae when I finally achieved air superiority. After that I could take all New Guinea with almost no fight. New Britain was also hardly garrisoned and gave me Rabaul and some of the Solomons islands almost for free.
This is a problem I have noticed as long as I can remember. So far my adjustments to the AI haven't helped much in this area. I've just made some recent changes for the next release that may help this. I'll keep working on it.
b)The NEI also seemed to be empty of planes for most of the game. I could not see any AZOCs for a long time, since they kicked me out in early-mid 42 until I had taken most of New Guinea bases. At this time they started to put planes in Kendari, Timor, Tenimbar etc, but still no planes in Sumatra and Java, and suspiciously very low convoy activity in these areas.
I think AI air group use is the biggest issue that I've had the most trouble improving. Sometimes it does well, but always much worse than a human would do.
c)The AI pushed for Burma and India very early in the game while I could only watch. They reached Kohima and Mytkina(?) very fast, and their AZOC left my troops with hardly any supplies reaching the front lines. Kunming was also constantly out of supplies. I patiently waited for my CW/IN units to reach a 99 readiness, but then they never attacked, no matter the commander I used or Monsoon time or not. Only in very late 1944 I started to get attacks, but I couldn't progress because every time I kick the Japanese out to Mandalay they send a unit the next turn not to let me advance. Basicly India has been a static front for 3 years, with only frequent air battles between the RAF and the IJNAAF.
In the latest game versions, and historically, it was very difficult for the Allies to make much headway until late 1944, IIRC. You need to hammer their supplies at Rangoon and gradually weaken their advance forces. The returning Japanese LCUs after retreat has been a "feature" of the game since the beginning. You need to either land behind the unit (at Rangoon), or destroy enough supplies at Rangoon to prevent the LCUs from returning to Mandalay (those tenacious Japanese!).
d)Problems with resources. Japan has been out of them since quite early in the game, which I guess has affected their production. I only noticed around mid-43 when checking the scores, so I don't know exactly when did they run out of them.
e)On the other side, Oil has always been over 65k until Jan 1945. Then it seemed to go slightly down and last time I checked was at around 45k. More than 300 tankers sunk, mostly by subs, but hardly noticed by the Empire.
This has been much improved in the soon to be released latest version.
f)US escort carriers are made of paper. One hit, one kill. I think I've lost like 20 since I tried to assault the Philippines, to land based air attacks, reaction moves, submarines, kamikazes... One hit, one kill. 2 carriers in a group of a hundred ships in an invasion force at night: escort carrier get hit and sunk .
Yes, the Philippines can be very tough on CVEs. The current CVE stats are the same as GGs original (even have slightly higher flak values). I'm not sure if this needs to be tweaked, but I've had the same problem as you describe.
g)How can a Japanese TF make a reaction move against one of my invasion forces and 5 CV task forces 1-2 hexes away don't launch a single attack (but multiple spotting reports)? I don't know the rules of PACWAR very well, but it doesn't look very right.
I agree with Istfemer's comments. Also, you need to regularly refresh your TFs; either disband and reform, or reset the target and home. If you keep the same TFs formed for long periods of time, they lose PPs and become very non-reactive.
h)I've noticed very weird routes by many Task Forces, which makes planning very difficult. You never know if that assault Task Force you carefully set up will make it to the target that same turn or will stay a few hexes away exposed to enemy planes because it took an odd route. Also, fully fuelled groups that should be back in their home port by next turn spend 1 or 2 more turns at sea close to the base. Specially weird seemed to be the port of Ulithi, which I used as front base for my assault on the Philippines.
Yes, sometimes TFs take quite roundabout routes; this is part of GGs randomization routines and has been around from the beginning. I've had it bite me too; thinking my troops would land in one week and being surprised that it took 2 weeks to arrive due to a circuitous route.
i)ASW seems really strong. For both sides. Current score in sub kills is 91 IJN subs sunk, 77 US/Allied subs sunk. Japanese planes seem to be sub master killers.
Historically, Japan lost about 130 submarines, the USN lost 52. In my experience game numbers are often very similar to these.
j)Subs are useless vs combat TFs. Every now and then you get a contact report, but hardly any attacks. I think my whole US sub fleet has sunk 2 Japanese CLs in the whole war. Not exactly as in IRL.
I haven't had much success in this area either, but I tend to keep my subs after the merchant marine.
k)Heavy bomber production can't keep up with new bomber groups and losses. I had to disband many newly arrived B-24 and B-29 units because of that. And that is keeping bombers targeting Japan cities on Night Missions, which means reduced losses. Current production for B-29 is 3 factories of 12-11-12 planes per week, and 1 factory for B-24 planes (23 per week). Many groups are in rest and refit far from the front and are incapable of recovering to full strength.
I think the B-24 and B-29 production numbers are pretty representative of the actual number of these aircraft delivered to the Pacific: a bit less than 3,000 total B-24s and a little over 1,700 B-29s. I've also found challenges keeping the units filled, but generally have managed to do so.
The game itself went quite well until I had to assault the Marianas. I was almost on the same timeline as IRL (ahead of time in New Guinea and a bit delayed in the Marianas), but it took me one month of attacks to get Saipan (against a not particularly strong garrison), and from then on everything went wrong. Seeing that Philippines was full of AZOCS (all the planes they hadn't used in the NEI were probably there) I tried to assault Davao (an 8/6 base) with the intention of quickly moving into Cagayan (another 8/6 base) and fill them with fighters to take air control. Again stalled at Davao, and AI is using the same trick as in India, sending 1 unit back from Cagayan. No progression. Even with a crippled production, Japanese airfields in the rest of Philippines are always filled with planes (Ki-84s in the thousands ), no matter haw many I shoot down with my carrier groups. For a whole month the week tally was 1000+ Japanese planes destroyed, yet next turn all their units are at full strength again and Davao still isolated, which forces me to send Transport TFs into that hell of enemy planes and Kamikazes, feeding the Japanese with more kill points.
In 1944 Japan averaged production of more than 400 (Pacwar related) aircraft per month, of which between 250-300 were fighters. A total of about 3,500 Ki-84s were produced, peaking in Dec. 1944 at about 90 per week, way out-producing other fighters including the A6M at that time. So by the beginning of 1945 you're going to see a lot of fighters, especially if you haven't really started crippling Japanese heavy industry.
I agree capturing the Philippines is very challenging.
What I've found, is that you need to keep your CV TFs constantly over a target from week to week (tag-teaming with "remain on station"...), so that the Japanese cannot resupply the base and you can gradually grind it down and invade.
I see no solution for this stalemate. Probably the "Help Japanese" setting is too much for my skills (I've played this game since late 90s, but also hadn't played again for like 10 years).
Yeah, "Help Japanese" is going to make everything a bit more difficult; hang in there!