|Opening Salvo: Pt. 1|
|Condition Zebra Set|
|by Rich Baker|
ondition Zebra, our third expansion to the Axis & Allies Naval Miniatures game, is launching in just a few short weeks. As a sneak preview we're going to take a look at a few of the interesting new models in the upcoming set with a four-part Opening Salvo. You might think you already know what's going to be in Condition Zebra because of the set list's appearance in our recently revised Starter box, but we've got a few surprises for you in the mix of new abilities and game play!
To get things started, we're going to look at a pair of carriers—the Nihon Kaigun's Junyo, and the Béarn of France's Marine Nationale.
Like a number of other early aircraft carriers, Béarn didn't begin life as a flattop. She was laid down in 1914 as a Normandie-class battleship. Converted to a carrier while under construction, she was completed after World War I ended. She shared several key flaws with other carriers of her generation; no one had developed any real experience in carrier operations in the early days of naval aviation, and the importance of speed and good aircraft handling facilities simply wasn't understood while Béarn was being built. By 1939, she was unsuitable for combat flight operations, but she was the only carrier in the French fleet—the more modern Joffre was years away from completion. Despite her drawbacks, Béarn performed valuable service as an aircraft transport. After the French surrender she was interned at Martinique, but she rejoined the Allies in 1943 and served for the duration of the war.
Gameplay: As a carrier, Béarn has only two virtues: She gets the Marine Nationale into naval aviation, and her battleship genealogy means that she's a reasonably rugged ship. She's best suited for basing a Wildcat, Martlet, or D.520 along with a V-156 Vindicator. Keeping fighter cover over a fleet each round is useful, while the sting of Poor Facilities can be ameliorated by careful timing to combine a rearming dive bomber with an attack by land-based air assets. Just don't expect her to win many sprints for the objectives!
The Junyo likewise wasn't laid down as a carrier. In 1940 the Imperial Japanese Navy took over construction of the large passenger liner Kashiwara Maru and began converting her to a fleet aircraft carrier. Junyo was ready for service in the spring of 1942, and took part in the Aleutian operation staged simultaneously with the attack on Midway. She was slower than the other large Japanese carriers and couldn't manage a full-sized air group, but after the Japanese losses at Midway, Junyo was one of only four large carriers remaining in the fleet, and she was pressed into action. On two different occasions, she survived heavy damage that should have sunk her. The first was the Battle of the Phillipine Sea (20 Jun 1944), when she was hit by two heavy bombs; the second was the night of 9 Dec 1944, when she was struck by three submarine torpedoes but escaped, listing, on one engine.
Gameplay: Although she was classified as a fleet carrier, Junyo is really a light carrier, basing two squadrons. She is unique among Japanese carriers in that she has Determination, an "escape certain death" ability inspired by her evident success in surviving heavy damage. Paired up with the D4Y1 Judy (12 points) she can launch a dive-bombing attack almost as good as the best US combinations.
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