Opening Salvo: War at Sea
Part 5 - Cruisers


USS BOISE (CL 47) – BACKGROUND

Overview
Commissioned in 1938, the USS Boise was one of seven Brooklyn-class light cruisers. The Boise was assigned to Task Force 5 in the East Indies, along with the heavy cruiser Houston, the light cruiser Marblehead, and thirteen destroyers. Just over a month later the Boise struck a shoal, and would be out of the war for five months before being sent on convoy escort duty.

Battle of Cape Esperance
In 1942 the Boise would be used to raid Japanese convoys to draw off attention from the landings in Guadalcanal. Later her task force would be sent to intercept Japanese warships en route to Guadalcanal, meaning to bombard the U.S. Henderson Airfield. The American forces, consisting of the cruisers San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Boise, and Helena, engaged near midnight, despite the known advantage the Japanese had in night-fighting. The Japanese Admiral was killed in the opening salvoes, causing confusion in their ranks while the Americans mistakenly sent their destroyers in the middle of the Japanese ships. The Boise would prove her ferocity in battle, helping to sink one Japanese cruiser, and heavily damaging another. However during the battle, a Japanese heavy cruiser, the Kinugasa, caused severe damage to the Boise; detonating her ammunition and killing over one hundred sailors. Fortunately flooding actually saved the ship, putting out fires before they could cause any more harm.

Mediterranean
The Boise would be sent back for repairs, missing another five months of the war. From there she was reassigned to the Algiers in 1943, taking part in several operations along the Mediterranean. She would act as support for several landings, first in Sicily, then on mainland Italy. At the end of the year Boise was then sent back to the Pacific, arriving on New Year’s Eve.

Pacific Theatre
In 1944 the Boise would take part in numerous landing operations along New Guinea, before being sent into the Philippines Campaign. Boise participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, one of the largest naval battles in history, miraculously avoiding damage for once. This would be the last combat experience for the Boise under American command During June of 1945 the Boise carried General MacArthur on a tour of the Philippines and Borneo before returning to California for an overhaul. The Boise would then be sent to the Atlantic to help ship troops home from Europe.

South America
Six years after the war, the Boise was sold to Argentina and renamed Nueve de Julio. She would remain in service until 1978, and then be sold to Japan for scrap in 1981.

USS BOISE (CL 47) – WAR AT SEA

At a glance the USS Boise seems comparable to most other cruisers at her point level, the USS Atlanta being an obvious exception due to its specialization. The firepower of the Boise is similar to that of the HMAS Canberra, glimpsed at in the quickstart rules of Opening Salvo 1. For two less points, the Boise has a mere -1 attack at range two, and one more point in both armor and vital armor. Additionally, the Boise has Rapid Fire while the Canberra is distinctly lacking in any special abilities. One might very well question the wisdom of taking the Canberra over the seemingly superior Boise. The answer lies in the torpedoes. The Boise, even with its special ability, will have an extremely difficult time against a battleship, and the difference in armor may make little or no difference. However the Canberra’s torpedo attacks bypass armor, allowing it to still be a threat to even a mighty battleship. Neither ship is useless, it’s simply that they both perform different roles; the Boise is a light cruiser and the Canberra is a heavy cruiser.

During the Battle of Cape Esperance, the USS Boise displayed its ability to release a withering volley, as evinced by Rapid Fire, though it didn’t save her from being heavily damaged. In Axis and Allies Miniatures, this ability is useable only once per game so you have to make a decision on the right time to use it. Two extra dice are fairly insignificant against a battleship. Though the Boise obviously has a better chance of causing damage with the ability than without, there are better uses of it. First, the Boise has a reasonable chance of destroying most destroyers at long range. However most destroyers are easily damaged, and only take about two hits to destroy. If the destroyer is able to threaten your fleet in some way, such as destroying your sub or harassing a capital ship, it may be worthwhile to make an attempt to eliminate it in one hit. One of the situations in which Rapid Fire comes in handy is if the Boise can potentially destroy a carrier in one hit. While we can see from last week that the fleet carriers are fairly immune to this, light and escort carriers are particularly vulnerable. Of course getting close enough to an enemy carrier will be difficult. Cruisers are another good target for rapid fire. The Boise, especially at point blank range, has a high enough chance of eliminating the cruiser in one hit to usually be a worthwhile attempt. Even if the Boise doesn’t destroy the enemy ship with the main gunnery, the secondary, unmodified, gunnery may still be enough to damage or destroy smaller cruisers and destroyers.

The USS Boise has several weak points, one being the previously mentioned lack of torpedoes. Though typical of most cruisers, the Boise has a lower antiair value making it vulnerable to bombers. A single torpedo hit will cripple the Boise, or destroy it if it’s a Japanese Long-Lance Torpedo. It has no defense against submarines, so needs to be screened by destroyers, friendly submarines, or ASW aircraft. Due to these drawbacks the Boise isn’t too useful as an escort for your more powerful ships or carriers, and is best used with its own destroyer escort. Left alone it’s a ripe target for enemy bombers. Even though a destroyer might not be enough against the bombers, it will give your opponent pause because it could potentially cause more damage to the aircraft.

The USS Boise is a decent ship, especially for an uncommon, that fulfills its role adequately – attacking destroyers and cruisers. It has limitations, but a proper escort can lessen some of them.

MYŌKŌ – BACKGROUND

Overview
Commissioned in 1929, the Myōkō was a heavy cruiser and the lead ship of her class. The three other Myōkō-class cruisers were the Nachi, Ashigara, and Haguro, and often one or more of them would accompany the Myōkō into battle. . She would be involved in several major battles, including the battles of Java Sea, Coral Sea, Midway, Solomon Islands, and be one of the few Japanese ships to survive the entire war.

Cruiser Division 5
The Myōkō and the Nachi formed the basis of Cruiser Division 5 in the Imperial Japanese Navy, and were used as cover for the invasion of the Philippine Islands. The cruisers would be joined by the light carrier Ryūjō, the light cruiser Jintsu, and eight destroyers. While anchored in Davao Gulf the Myōkō came under attack and was damaged, causing Rear Admiral Takagi Takeo to transfer his command from the Myōkō to the Nachi.

Battle of Java Sea
Cruiser Division 5 participated in the destruction of the ABDA forces in Java Sea, engaging the cruisers HMS Exeter and USS Houston; both ships were sunk along with the destroyers HNMS Korentaer – flagship. Several other ships would be damage or destroyer by the Myōkō and her cruiser division, the long-lance torpedoes of the Japanese ships proving deadly.

Battle of the Coral Sea
After the Doolittle Raid, the Myōkō was part of the unsuccessful pursuit force. She would then form part of the escort force for the Shōkaku and Zuikaku, along with the Haguro and several destroyers to land troops in New Guinea. Instead they became engaged with an American carrier group that included the USS Enterprise and USS Lexington.

Battle of Midway
Cruiser Division 5 is attached to Vice Admiral Kondo Nobutake’s force, joining the Kongo, Hiei, Cruiser Division 4, and Destroyer Divisions 2 and 9. However the force never engaged the enemy in battle and the Myōkō would be sent along with Cruiser Division 5 to support reinforcement convoys to the Aleutian Islands.

Evacuations
In 1943 the Myōkō assisted in the evacuations of Guadalcanal and the Aleutian Islands. The ship was then refitted with more AA guns and radar, before being sent to engage American carriers that were raiding the Gilbert Islands. The force sent included the Yamato, Nagato, Myōkō, Haguro, Tone, Chikuma, Mogami, Atago, Takao, Chokai, Maya, along with several light cruisers and destroyers. However, they would be unsuccessful in locating the American ships.

Battle of Empress Agusta Bay
This battle was part of the Allied operation planned to isolate the Japanese base at Rabaul; establishing a beachhead then an airbase. However the Japanese responded by sending the Myōkō, Haguro, two light cruisers, and six destroyers. During the course of the battle the Japanese formation was disrupted, causing the Myōkō to collide with a friendly destroyer, the Hatsukaze. Shortly after, the Japanese disengaged leaving two destroyers behind – including the Hatsukaze - which were destroyed by Allied ships.

Cruiser Division 5 would participate in the Battle of the Philippine Sea and the Battle of Leyte Gulf, after which the Imperial Japanese Navy was in such a decrepit state the Myōkō was simply used as a floating battery. Though she survived the war, she would be scuttled soon after it.

MYŌKŌ – WAR AT SEA

With the historical rules you’re allowed to field up to four Myōkō-class cruisers, representing the Myōkō and her sister ships the Nachi, Ashigara, and Haguro. While it’s unlikely you’ll need that many for a standard or convoy scenario, it can be useful in major engagements.

The Myōkō seems to be fairly typical for a cruiser, having the standard armor of four, vital armor of nine, and three hull points. Yet the cost is extremely high, costing six more points than a comparable US heavy cruiser. Compared to the Tone, the Myōkō doesn’t seem worthwhile. However there are several subtle differences between the two heavy cruisers.

The Myōkō has a flagship rating of one, giving you a better chance of winning initiative and going second, which in turn allows you to see what your opponent’s fleet is up to. Going second is a significant advantage and one that you can use to redeploy your ships to capitalize on.

Like many Japanese ships, the Myōkō is adept at night fighting, granting it the Night Fighter ability. Re-rolling a gunnery attack can be fairly powerful, turning a miss into a hit, or even potentially destroying the target. Even if the ship is crippled, the ability gives the Myōkō at least a chance of still having a reasonable influence on the battle.

Perhaps one of the smallest yet most significant differences between the Myōkō and the Tone is the increase in torpedo values. An extra die at range one and two is actually fairly important. Not only does it increase the odds of a torpedo hitting, but it also means that if crippled the Myōkō, unlike the Tone, can still fire torpedoes at a reasonable distance. With the Long-Lance Torpedoes and increased dice, the Myōkō can be a significant threat to any surface vessel. Even battleships with torpedo defense still risk taking two damage per torpedo, and no ship in the game can take more than three hits from them.

Yet still, the Tone has the significant advantage of Scout Cruiser which seems to outweigh the advantages of the Myōkō. While the Myōkō has more base dice for its main gunnery, the Tone can simply use scout cruiser to achieve the same numbers. However, something to consider is that you don’t necessarily have to pick between the two ships and can field them both. In this case the Tone can also enhance the Myōkō’s dice. While in a standard game the Tone might be the better choice overall, the Myōkō can be useful as a second heavy cruiser in a major engagement. Even in a convoy scenario the Myōkō has the better raw firepower between its main gunnery and torpedo attacks.

Of course the Myōkō has several drawbacks as well. It’s fairly expensive especially compared to other cruisers, but just as easily destroyed. One hit from a torpedo will cripple it, and its air defense is below average making it a prime target. Like many capital ships, it works best with a destroyer escort, or at least some cover from aircraft. Since Japanese torpedoes out-range all other nations, it can be useful to hang back at long range and fire. You won’t get as many torpedo dice as being up close, but your opponent won’t be able to fire torpedoes and will have reduced gunnery dice, which may help the Myōkō to survive. Of course the choice is somewhat dependant on you winning initiative, which the Myōkō at least helps with. At the very least the ship’s torpedoes should act as a deterrent to your opponent closing in.

Opening Salvo #6
Next week you finally get to see the Advanced Rulebook, something I know you’ve all been waiting for. Don’t worry though we’ll still preview two more units, and this time we’ll look at two famous ships from the Battle of the River Plate. Discuss these two cruisers on our message boards, or read one of our other Axis and Allies Naval Miniatures: War at Sea Opening Salvo Articles:



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