If you have been following Scott and I's AAR, this is a sort of journal I kept as the game progressed. I thought it'd be interesting to get some insight into a players actual thinking and planning as a game progressed. I'm no Terif, not even close, but wouldn't it be interesting to have something like this from a player like him? You could glimpse into the thoughts behind the actions. Why did he do that, how did he prepare for it, what was his strategy and what overarching goal was it for?
In the following you'll get an idea of what strategy I had planned at the outset of the game, how and why it got derailed, what I did to adapt and as the game progressed how I reflected on my opponents actions and things I'd have done differently had I done it all over again. This is by no means a definitive look at Japanese strategy, but I hope it will offer some insight for those looking to play as Japan. Please refer to the AAR "Battle for the Pacific AAR" to view the war from both of our perspectives and when I was not disclosing nearly as much information as I do here, and for screenshots.
And this was played with the 1.01 version.
While our game is not yet totally completed we are just about 4-6 months away from completion and as Japan, there is nothing left (strategy-wise) for me to do except wait for the inevitable. Kudos to Scott for the very fun and competitive game. Strategic Command Pacific truly is a wargaming gem!
Imperial Sun: A Diary of the Great War
What goes into a strategy? Instead of a typical AAR I'm going to detail my overall strategy for Japan from the start, how it progresses, what I need to change in order to adopt to my opponent's moves and things I would have done differently. The key for Japan is focus in strength, a sound principle in general. Focus on an objective and commit everything you can to it. For my post-initial moves for Japan (after conquest of Philippines, DEI, etc) I plan on two major operations in an attempt to knock Britain out of the war.
The first phase is the conquest of Australia. All available IJN ships will be allocated to this. At least five IJA divisions and an HQ will also be used in the mainland assault, primarily the units from the Philippines campaign. The earlier this can be done the better, as the US will only be able to field about 2 CV's and a handful of support ships at the time, along with some Australian ships. With five IJN carriers and another dozen support ships the plan is to smash any resistance that gets in the way, use superior air and naval presence to bombard Australian defenses and land a sizeable invasion force at Brisbane and work their way south.
The second phase involves a deception campaign in Burma. The first task will be to capture Rangoon and recruit new Japanese divisions to fill in the ranks there. The units in Burma will move as far west towards India as possible until the Brits form a strong enough defense to bog down the attack. At that point, I plan on pulling my units back to draw the British further into Burma and away from India.
Japanese forces from the Singapore/DEI campaign (About 5 IJA divisions are planned) and an HQ, will embark on a daring amphibious attack on India's undefended western coast. Prior to the invasion, however, the capture of Australia will need to be completed so I can send the bulk of the IJN fleet to India to dispatch the Royal Navy. The entire operation relies on speed and surprise.
With the capture of Australia, Japan will get some much needed MPP's, knock sizeable income off from Britain and eliminate the land and naval units of Australia from the theater. I can then shuttle in some air cover to Canberra to help protect against the inevitable US liberation attempt. Tentative Plan: Purchase additional subs and allocate them entirely to the defense of Australia, coming out and striking enemy CV's when presented.
The main goal of the amphibious invasion of India is to strike where they least expect it, and hopefully when their units are too far out of position to react to the invasion in time by sucking them into the jungles of Burma. As long as the IJN dominates the Royal Navy there, they can shell the British held cities with a rail link, further crippling their ability to move troops west. If they do manage to move units west, the divisions in Burma will be able to close in faster from the east. This grand plan, hopefully, will open Delhi up to a relatively quick capture and close the entire India/Burma theater down, freeing up lots of units to head into China.
The last theater that has not be addressed yet is in China. My forces here will be weak as the reinforcements typically needed here won't be available. But I don't plan on sitting idle. Instead of trying to attack through the typical mountains and river-stretching expanse that Japan normally does, I will be concentrating 2 armor divisions, 2 IJA divisions, an HQ and at least 1 bomber and 1 fighter against Sian (city just south of Communist China). The idea being I won't have enough forces or the position to deal enough damage to China in the south. By concentrating superior force to the north, and against China's weak point, I will force them to react to my offensives and fight in more favorable terrain. The key is to keep the Chinese moving, out of defensive positions and open to armor attacks enough to drain their MPP's. I am simply buying time here until India is captured.
Will this grand strategy work? We will see. The fortunes of war have a way of throwing disaster in your face over seemingly simple tasks. With this aggressive early strategy, however, I hope to take full advantage of Japan's early strength and force my opponent to react to my moves and put his forces into unfavorable positions.
Early 1942: After striking Pearl, I send the entire fleet southward to the Gilbert Islands to upgrade to Naval 1 and replace lost aircraft. One carrier, the Shokaku, heads back to Japan for full repairs. IJA forces close in on Singapore, and 1 SNLF and Armor group is close to capturing Rangoon. I'm moving about 5 IJN units to Rangoon, which will take about 3 turns, in order to shell the port and prevent any possible reinforcements from landing. I should have moved them their sooner but engaged with Allied ships first, sinking about 4 total. One tactic I've done before is go "all in" at Rangoon as the Allies, sending all available reinforcements there to stall the Japanese, as I know they get some free units once they capture it, so I'd like to prevent this possibility.
I get a new flattop in Japan, giving me a total of 5 carriers. This, I hope, will be more than sufficient in taking Australia and thwarting any US attempt to stop it.
I've engaged the British fleet near Rangoon, but my main Fleet is still a couple turns away from being in range to truly cripple them. I would like to get DEI soon so I can swing the fleet up into India from the west, preventing any possibility of the RN escaping. If he sees me coming up the narrow straight between Malaya and DEI with everything I have, he'll probably try to slip south and head for Australia with any remaining ships. He's engaged my units at Rangoon with an infantry, army, air and HQ which is slowing my capture of Rangoon, but good in that there will be more of his units out of position to defend Delhi.
I'm pushing back the partisans in Northern China but have been unable to take Sian despite it being pummeled by two armor units, two infantry, artillery, a bomber and a fighter. Supply and terrain is making this an issue and will need to bring my HQ closer to the lines. China is definitely a beast. I can see why players push hard here and early and may become a standard strategy for Japan to bludgeon them with everything they got. Hopefully I can show that other early strategies are possible.
If I were to try this strategy again, looking back from this point of the game, I would have allocated the same units to China but not pushed so hard to the north. It released a northern "Warlord" unit, and added Commie China early on. Due to this and additional partisans popping up and running behind my lines, I had to send my forces from the Philippines to China to help deal with the threat. This alone derailed my plan to take Australia as those were my primary units I was going to use for the invasion.
By not heading north in China I wouldn't have needed my Philippine units, freeing them for Australia. Instead of going for Australia I have now decided to skip ahead to the invasion of India.
Off of the coast of Rangoon, I try to hit the port with some cruisers. The RN closes to meet the threat, but I manage to get his fleet into a bit of a trap and sink a sub and a BB without losing any of my own. I have 4 carriers off the coast of DEI and most of my supporting ships. Once DEI is captured then I will move the Fleet west into the open sea and then north to India to finish off his fleet there. He is committing many land units to break the siege at Rangoon which plays perfectly into my plan. I now need to decide exactly where on India's coast to land my troops, in anticipation he will try to rail his units back to defend Delhi. I will also try to shell his rail lines first to prevent him from doing this at all.
Almost the entire IJN fleet closes in on India from the south and east, capturing the Indian fleet defense in a tightening noose. The Akagi takes some direct hits but manages to retreat, in return the IJN sinks the rest of the RN. A BB, a CV and two CA's. IJN loses a DD and BB in the battle. I've taken Rangoon and two Indian Army units are formed, given me extra firepower for the invasion of India. I'm pushing northward into Burma with 4 units (Two Burma Ind. Armies, an SNLF and armor) plus an HQ and fighter. The Brits are on the defensive, and the backdoor to China is open for now. With the RN destroyed, India is wide open for me and I take advantage of this and slam his units with 3 of my carriers, destroying one in a single turn. The only protection his units have is staying in the jungles of Burma, but in order to face the invasion threat to the west he will need to move them out of that cover. And in any case, moving any of his units from Burma will allow my forces there to put the squeeze on from that direction.
If I were him, I think his best bet in this situation is to op-move every unit he can to the Delhi area which may be out of range of my carrier fighters.
I've also been thinking about what to do once India falls. I am anticipating that he'll bring the USN there soon, or eventually, to liberate India and maybe even attack the DEI to give him a closer base of operations. Whether he attacks India or not though, I've decided not to defend it. Once it falls I will leave one unit on Delhi and pull the rest of my land forces out and head into China. If I truly wanted to hold onto it against a concerted US attack, I would need the IJN there, and I want to fight the USN on my terms. I also don't want idle IJA units sitting around waiting for an attack that may not come. Taking out India though will help keep enormous pressure off of me from the west, secure some nice MPP income and free up a lot of units for China.
I plan to pull the Fleet back to Japan after India falls and refit and reorganize. This will leave a window open for the USN to attack somewhere, which is fine. I still have designs on taking Australia but that is fading now as time goes on. My main concern at that point will be figuring out how best to fight and hurt the USN to buy me more time to tackle China. If I can somehow get a crushing victory within the first 6 months of 1943 (Ie, take out two CV's and 5 support ships) with reduced losses to myself, Australia may still be on the table during that window of opportunity.
In China, I keep them in check with heavy bombing raids and close in on Communist China from the north, destroying a partisan unit, Chinese Army and Communist Army along the way. It is slow going but I'm happy to be making progress with limited resources dedicated there. Having bombers in China is key. You need a way to keep China's MPP income low if you're not destroying units. I just need time to take India. I'm unsure what he plans to do with the US fleet at this point. He doesn't have the ships to take the Fleet head on without potentially losing both his carriers. Even if he did damage to me, that would be a considerable setback, time-wise, for the US in helping put pressure on Japan especially with India on the ropes so early.
What I'd do differently: My plan to trap the RN and finish them off worked at a relatively low cost to myself (comparatively, as any losses for Japan are significant). I would not have used the Akagi as risky as I did to scout, unless I had proper forces in the area to follow up on the scouting and destroy many of his ships so they couldn't hit my CV on the next turn. I rushed in a little early and should have waited one more turn to get forces in position, as my southern force was large enough that even if he was tipped off, wouldn't have gotten past them trying to escape anyway. If your opponent knows you are heading in to finish off his RN fleet, this strategy runs the risk of taking heavy losses if he brings in the USN early to assist (and with air units shuttled into India).
Reflections on 1942: This is the best year for Japan. Really capitalizing on your strength and quickly securing yourself is tantamount here. This is the best time to utilize the IJN to its fullest. Go for India, go for Australia…do something with it. The Allies will be hard pressed to stop you. At most, they can set you back with damage to your fleet but you should be able to fulfill your goal. Investing a bit in tech is a good idea too, although I'm not 100% what the best choices are yet. You can go for naval tech, but it becomes expensive to upgrade your fleet to higher levels. I went with LR and Intelligence early on. I may not have superior fighters, but being able to see/fight at greater distances will help keep my carriers safer. Also, when attacking enemy ships with carrier tac, as long as you have even level 1 fighters escorting, your tac will get through and smash anything even if your escorts are decimated. Taking out those US carriers is worth the price of losing level 1 fighters.
It's also obvious that no matter what strategy you choose, you must find a way to deal with China. You cannot let them multiply in numbers and grow in strength. Whether that's chewing up units in a massive land/air war, or bombing all their cities to rubble…you have to do something. I'm not convinced yet that as Japan you HAVE to go all-in against China every single game.
Amphibious invasion of India occurs in January, landing near Madras with 3 infantry and an HQ. Another SNLF is in transport waiting for a port to open up to unload. A Brit fighter is at Madras and takes a beating from the initial landing. A tac air is to the south, a US bomber is in Delhi. An armor division is just north of Madras, and two army divisions are situated in the coastal cities north of the armor unit. At the border of Burma/India, an HQ, an armor and at least 1 or 2 infantry units are defending.
I have 3 carriers on the coast supporting the invasion. Another is just south of Rangoon after refitting, and will be used as reserve in case the US fleet tries to come up to the rescue. I have a few other support ships screening the waters to the south for any sign of the US. If he doesn't remove his air unit this turn, my forces will destroy it and take Madras. The only land unit close enough to react this turn is the armor, which currently is the focus of my carrier attacks, weather permitting. He will need to op-move other units in now to face the threat.
But now, the invasion is set. There is no more surprise as to where I would land, or if. He now can decide how to deal with my forces in the east and the new invasion forces, and he has more units than I anticipated, but I do have air superiority. I need an open port now to shuttle in another division or two. Once I take a city I will also bring in a fighter and a bomber from the China theater.
I feel like I should pull my Fleet out now and head back to Japan. I can't help but think the US will be showing up soon, and my forces are weakened and divided from extended service. Some are at ports in the DEI refitting, others are screening and my carrier fighters are at strengths 7 and 6. But I'm going to keep them there until I can capture an Indian city and shuttle in land based air, then I'm absolutely pulling the entire Fleet back.
In China my air forces are pummeling the Communist Chinese and almost destroyed their last division. Their HQ defends the capital, but Chinese forces are just to the south so I need to make sure I capture the capital as soon as the HQ is destroyed.
US Strategy: As a US player, what would you do here? You should have at least 2 carriers and a sizeable group of support ships available (plus some Aussie ships), and enough land units to support a large invasion. Sending forces to India against the IJN is an option, but I would personally be wary for a couple of reasons. One, you would know I have at least 3 to 5 carriers in the area. Two, it's a long way from home! The closest supply base is Western Australia. Reinforcements from the US would take a long time to arrive if you lost ships.
Knowing the majority of my fleet is around India, would you try to apply pressure somewhere else? Where would that be? If as the US I felt you had abandoned the outer islands, would I just steam ahead to say the Philippines? The problem is, as the US you don't know if I have subs and/or LR air scouting on the islands to give away your intentions. It wouldn't take long to shift the Fleet there from India. If I were the US here, my first instinct would be to apply pressure as far away from the IJN as possible, which would be Marcus Island, and also to spook my opponent by getting close to Japan.
I can handle if the USN comes to India or DEI, I'm ready for that. But I'm not ready if he decides to head for Japan right now, which is why I'm keeping an SNLF on Tokyo and would like to get a bomber out either on Marcus Island or the island in northern Japan.
Mid 1943: Fighting in India has intensified. My plan to shift the IJN back to Japan has been put on hold. This is because I'm fairly confident that the USN will not be heading to India soon. I have ships scouting to the west and southwest of DEI, plus a bomber at DEI and have seen no signs. My infantry at Port Moresby have seen some air attacks, and a sub off eastern Australia spotted an Aussie CA, US BB and a US transport. In any case, they are at least a month away from India if they are headed there.
Also, he has shifted US air assets to India to help the Brits. At least 3 fighters and a bomber. My carriers are powerful and help pave the way for the ground troops, and at this point I want to keep up the pressure on the Brits. The sooner I can take down India the better, so moving them back to Japan might be safe, but it also might prove costly by giving the Brits breathing room. I still would like to move the IJN back to Japan but that time is yet to be determined.
I've been finding success in China. I've taken the Communist Capital and am grinding down and destroying Chinese units as I march west. His US bomber though is hitting my supply port, which I think saps about 40-50 MPP's a turn when it's not running. With most of his forces concentrated to the north I now plan on slowly shifting enough units back south to begin pushing against his weak points again, creating two fronts that will further split his weakened forces.
As usual, I'm not sure where and when the USN will show up. It's clear he is waiting to build up a sizeable force before he confronts me, probably to deal a decisive blow wherever he decides to show up. I know he has Naval 3, Anti-Sub 2 and advanced air 2 (at least).
July 1943: Rains are hitting India and keeping all his airpower grounded. It keeps mine as well, but at this point I think it's hurting him more. He only has enough ground units to slow my advance at this point. His airpower is the only threat to my advances. This also gives me a good reason to withdraw my fleet a bit, refit and reorganize and hopefully be ready to meet any USN attack.
A big opportunity has opened up in China. I've taken Sian, the Chinese city just south of Communist China, and am destroying any units that remain in my path. In response my opponent has withdrawn his units behind the river line to the west and into fortifications he had been building. He has essentially walled off at least 4-5 units from his capital, units that are now unable to respond to me as I move south. He should have beat a retreat with those units about a month ago and into the mountains just north of the capital, forcing me to fight through those units and in unfavorable terrain. Instead I can now ignore all of those units. I have also begun an offensive to the south, albeit a weak one. Two Army divisions and a carrier, and I'm shifting an armor unit from the north down there so I can apply pressure where he is least defended and make my way to the location of his 2nd capital.
If I can capitalize on this and move swiftly, I may be able to take down China by the start of 1944. In turn, if I can keep my Fleet intact by then, I'll have a lot of ground based air units freed up that I can base in support of the Fleet. Without support from land-based aircraft I will most certainly lose in a fight against the USN and I will need to make sure he fights on my terms if I want a chance at succeeding.
December 1943: India has proven too difficult, which is a disheartening turn of events. This is even with limited US help, strictly in the form of aircraft in India. I pulled out the bulk of my fleet, including all of my carriers, back to Japan. I figured the USN was bound to show up soon and with all that land-based support in India, plus their massive and teched-up fleet heading against me I was bound to lose any naval showdown. Without the IJN, the door to Japan would be wide open.
I am amazed by the amount of British units the Allies are able to put into service. No matter how many I destroyed, there seemed to be one to replace it. He was finally able to counter-attack in November with two armor units, three infantry units and an artillery. This while having 3 infantry units available to defend against my western invasion force. It's clear that a strategy to take down India requires greater resources, and probably mobility 1, to pull off fast enough before the Brits can rebuild and the US can assist properly.
In China we are outside the capital gates, but we are fighting in tough terrain and across a river. To the south I've commenced a separate offensive against his weaker points and am pushing up from there but now time is against me. At least 4 Allied subs are moving into the Malaya/DEI area and will be freely raiding my convoys within a week or two. Partisans are destroying the supply port from the Philippines, and when clear weather presents itself a US bomber shuts down my Chinese port.
At this point my strategy is to delay the US/Brits for as long as possible, and try to quickly move against China before I run out of resources to finish the job there. Taking China down will be crucial to freeing up units to slow down the Allied march to Japan, but if China doesn't fall in a proper enough timeframe, I will withdrawal all forces from there to defend the islands around Japan and Japan proper.
My IJN is fairly intact but have lost a good number of support ships. I have LR 2 and Adv. Air 3 and all five carriers, with two more in the production queue coming. The problem I face now is the overwhelming Allied fleet. The 4+ subs alone are going to be a problem as my anti-sub capability is limited, and I can't afford to waste aircraft strikes on something that may dive away (unless I can confront them away from his main fleet). So my current strategy right now, with or without China falling, is to get the USN to fight me in my territory. When I see a situation where he is moving his entire fleet into my territory, I am going to op-move as many land based aircraft as possible into the area. Only then will I be able to engage his fleet with my carriers. I need extra fighter escorts for any carrier strikes to minimize losses (and be able to get 2 strikes in), plus additional bombers/tac to damage or finish off any vulnerable ships.
The problem any Japan player will face in this situation is that, even if I managed to destroy 3-4 of his carriers all of my carrier strikes will have been used up on them. He will have so many support ships that he can just bull-rush my carrier positions and attack them that way. Two situations can possibly avoid this. One, positioning my carriers behind smaller islands, like the Philippines or DEI. It will take a couple of turns for support ships to make their way around to attack directly. Two, find a way for the USN to get into striking range of my carriers WITHOUT having to move my carriers first to strike them. This way I could hopefully sink a handful of ships and then move my carriers out of harms way. This may be near impossible as his spotting range is high. Best case scenario he maybe puts a few ships into range before he realizes how close my carriers are. In any of the above cases one thing is clear: Japan needs overwhelming local airpower to stand a chance in this situation, meaning you need to bring almost all available fighters/tac/bombers into the killing fields and make sure he brings his ships to the fight.
In my situation, the USN, particularly his carriers, will be vital if he wants to take Japan. If I could sink 3-4 of them soon, even if I lose most of mine, that will greatly slow down his progress especially since the UK lost almost all of their ships already.
Reflections on 1943: As Japan it's clear you have three core opening moves you can focus on. China, India and Australia. India, I've found, is far more difficult to subdue than I originally imagined. I might not do an amphibious invasion of coastal India next time. If I did, I would make sure to take the southern island as my opponent based aircraft there and the US has an easy port to send reinforcements to. The alternative to the amphib invasion is to use those troops to push hard into India from Burma. There is enough room up there for a lot of units to attack through, and you can focus all your strength at a single point, allowing you to push faster through your opponents defenses.
Knowing the difficulty of India now, I go back to my original plan of striking Australia first. I would have liked to have tried that and some game in the future I will try, and not get sidetracked in China like I did this time. The problem for the Japanese though, literally no matter what you do, is the USN. If the Allied player keeps his navy in reserve and builds up, then comes at you, you will be in a world of hurt. It's actually to the Japanese advantage for the US player to try and attack early, with limited carriers and support ships, as a successful IJN could sink these forces and seriously delay future USN attacks. By withholding the USN, the Allied player is guaranteeing a successful entry into the war with the USN sometime in 1943.
Sadly, it still seems the best course of action for Japan is to crush China early. Early on you can use the IJN to defeat the British Navy, support operations in China or go after Australia. Finally, you could probably divert land units (and your entire fleet) to take Hawaii, then close in on US shores. Any US ship appearing from a production queue could immediately be sunk that turn. And as the US is your only real long-term threat, keeping their navy down is in your best interest. This strategy will likely be one of my next ones, as it'd be interesting to see how a full-court press against the US in early 1942 can work out.
January 1944: The last of IJA forces in India are almost destroyed. I only have two units defending now between India and Burma, an SNLF and an Engineer (who is behind fortifications east of Calcutta). They will simply be road bumps to British offensives eastward. The Brits have at least 10 ground units, and the USN is in the area in full force with at least 3-4 carriers pummeling IJA forces south of Delhi. The only good thing to come out of that is I know exactly where the bulk of the USN is now, and he is spending time destroying units that pose no threat anymore.
In the meantime the IJN has fully regrouped in Japan. All ships are upgraded and repaired. I just hit LR tech 3, so my plan now is to engage the US fleet from behind Malaya. They will be forced to go through the strait between DEI and Malaya, or swing all the way south and east of the DEI (unless he lands troops at DEI and captures the small channel to allow a shortcut through DEI). In any case, his land-based air will be too far out of position to assist his fleet, while I can move in my own into Malaya/DEI area. This will keep any fight strictly air-based, protecting my fleet from any surface ships. This, I believe is my best chance to fight the USN. I just hope he decides to show up. If he captures Malaya and/or DEI (or moves deep into Burma), he will be able to bring in all his ground-based air for support and I will be forced to fight further back, possibly as far as the Philippines.
In China his two capital cities are about to fall, hopefully. Chungking is getting hammered by 3 air units and five ground units, while my southern offensive is outside the gates of Kunming, the relocation city for the Chinese capital. If I can get China to fall it will free up a ton of ground units, allowing me to properly defend Malaya, DEI and even Burma if he hasn't moved fast enough into it.
April 1944: I've taken Chungking and Kunming, but time has run out to actually force China's surrender. To continue pushing to their relocated capital to the north would take too long. However, I've done enough damage there so I can pull back a lot of my units to Japan and surrounding islands without having to worry too much about Chinese counter-attacks.
The DEI has been invaded and taken, and I'm relocating my nearby air assets to Malaya. My naval force has been off the coast of southern China, my carriers being used to soften up the last of Chinese defenses at Kunming. I'm pulling them all back to Japan again for refitting as a swarm of angry subs are headed my way. Unfortunately my navy, while still powerful, is no match at this point for a combined Allied confrontation. It is of more use to me kept in reserve at this point because if my fleet is destroyed, then he knows 100% there isn't anything to worry about in his advance on Japan. At least with my carrier force intact he won't be so rapid in his advances. If he is, then hopefully I can catch a few of his ships away from his main fleet and pick some off.
I made a mistake, I learned recently, of not garrisoning the town of Dimapur. I thought it simply needed to be in Japanese hands, but you need a unit on it in order to cut Allied supplies off to China. I have needlessly hampered my own war effort due to this major oversight!
In any case at this point I need to put as many Japanese bodies in the path of my opponent as I can, and this means relocating most of the units in China to key locations while I fortify Japan and the immediate surrounding islands.
June 1944: I've decided to try and make a push north into China to take them down. The reason being, the Allied forces are moving slower than I anticipated. He has spent almost a month with his US carriers trying to strike my air forces in Malaya, and with little affect. DEI is swarming with US troops and I've put troops into southern Vietnam to block his advances from Thailand. Hopefully with my navy intact he will remain cautious in how fast he advances on Japan. I've also hit Advanced Air 4 this month, and it looks like he is still at 2.
November 1944: He has arrayed the majority of his fleet off Brunei, and I behind the Philippines. He has moved in many fighters and bombers to the area, so my ability to offset his advantage with land-based airpower has been countered. My advantages are my tech is slightly higher and I have more experience. I'm still pushing into China but the road to his last capital is extremely difficult to maneuver around. My units are funneled through that one road so it's difficult to bring 3 units against his one without having Mobility 1. I'm moving extra units therefore out of the theater and to island defenses.
He has sunk one carrier so far, and I've sunk a DD and a sub. I think he will be making a push against me soon but I think my tactic will remain one of delay, which means keeping my carriers within range of intercepting any airstrikes he performs, but not close enough to actually hit my CV's. If I can keep his carriers' fighters down he'll have to stop and refit and will slow down his advance on Japan, while I'll have enough MPP's to reinforce my carrier fighters. I can't expect to win a standup fight, and as soon as I lose my carriers he can move around with impunity. Unless I see a Golden Opportunity to sink four of his carriers in a single turn, I am going to play cat and mouse until the very end.
With China and Industrial Tech 2, I'm getting almost 400 MPP a turn right now which has been more than enough to reinforce my land and air forces.
December 1944: He is moving in somewhere over 50 Allied ships into the Philippines area, not including carriers. I'm pulling the IJN back and striking what I can but it is impossible to do anything more than delay. I'm pulling almost all my forces out of China and sending them to Japan, but leaving enough behind to try and hold onto the Chinese capital. I have plenty of ground units to garrison Japan but I have little time to do so now. In a matter of one or two turns he will have nearly cut off any chance of me transporting troops from Korea to Japan. I will get about 6 into Japan next turn, mostly very experienced units. I should have began the evacuation from China about 4 turns earlier, but I should be OK. Whatever I can't send to Japan I'll use to defend my holdings in China and against the inevitable Russian entry.
May 1945: Units in Japan are getting pummeled by 20+ airstrikes a turn. I know there has been a call to reduce the effectiveness of airstrikes on ground units, and I second that. I understand at this point I should be overwhelmed, but the only purpose for Allied ground troops at this point is to take over cities left vacant from air-destroyed Japanese divisions. There is little precedent that concentrated air and naval power can completely destroy entire divisions that are dug in. This is a general complaint, as I don't care in my game right now because it's all but over, but airpower should supplement ground units, not replace them.
What forces I have in China are left in the capital and to the north at Siam, simply to slow down the Chinese and British advances even if for a month. Russia is still at 20%, but will likely join the fight soon. I'm pulling forces back away from the border in order to concentrate a more cohesive defensive line outside Korea. I *think* there is scorched earth too, which will hurt Russian supply as they move deeper. My two remaining air units are being allocated to the defense of Korea, only hoping that Allied airpower will concentrate on Japan instead. I will need them against Russian tanks who are at level 4.
At this point I'm trying to survive as long as possible. I think right now as Japan that is the only real milestone for victory, is seeing how long you can last before complete surrender.
Japan has plenty of options early in the game. The key is to be focused and tenacious. You have little room and little time for errors. Becoming effective with Japan will involve practice and being efficient in whatever strategy you adopt. Japans biggest strength is her navy. Whatever your strategy is, it needs to involve the IJN and her massive firepower. Keep your fleet together! You're a moving Death Star, but try and make sure you have land-based bomber/fighter support in your fleets area of operations as well. It never hurts to have support and additional eyes in the sky, especially in an area where the US can op-move their air assets into.
I have not played enough to check the viability of most of the potential Japanese opening strategies. Taking China out early is definitely an option. Focus all available assets to China and they can only slow you down. Make sure you come at them from two different directions, and bomb the hell out of their cities and industry. The drawback is you aren't putting pressure on the Brits or Americans. If you do go for China's throat, I'd recommend using the IJN to cripple the British fleet, at least.
I'm not sure how smart or effective it would be to target Russia early, but it's an interesting strategy that I think is worth exploring. To be certain, having Mobility 1 as Japan is pretty critical no matter if you're going for China, India or Russia. Speed is of the essence no matter who you are going for. You are racing against the time when the USN lends its massive firepower to the war.
I also encourage players to try some Australia-first or US-first strategies. I was going to use my troops from the Philippines campaign, plus some additional ones for Australia. Use a spare SNLF unit out in the island chains to take a port at Rabaul for a staging area for your troops. Clear the way with your fleet, then move in for the invasion. An Allied player may decide to sit that fight out, or you may end up facing a combined RN and USN fleet that would number 3 total carriers and a sizeable number of support ships. Regardless, you'd still have the advantage in numbers. They could force a big, early battle on you though so be prepared and bring in land-based air support.
Going for the US early also seems plausible, in theory, and is worth a shot. Maybe against the AI first, then try a human opponent. The fact is, the US is in no position, naval-wise, to defend against your entire fleet unless there is some trigger that occurs for the US if you get close to their shores and a massive fleet is transported from the Atlantic or something. But even if you couldn't force a US surrender, having a few carriers in the area can keep them from putting any new ships down and therefore, out of the war. For maximum effectiveness you'd need all your carriers so you could send some back to Hawaii for repairs, but always 2-3 CV's off the US coast. The biggest drawback to this strategy, if the US doesn't surrender, is that the IJN is not available to face the British. It'd be recommended to go after Russia and/or China in this case, two areas where the IJN wouldn't be very effective anyway.
The next question is…are the outer islands worth taking as Japan? With the latest patch (1.02) it may very well be, as tac fighters will be much more effective at sinking ships. Occupying Rabaul, for example, and putting a tac bomber there will be like having a permanent carrier in that location (but with only one strike). Even in this case however, the US can bypass the entire island chains by skirting underneath Australia. The only way to keep this from happening would be to take Australia and base bombers there to monitor their movement and harass ships.
Also, in my game against Scott one thing an Allied player in his position could have done was move quickly to capture islands that would put his bombers in range of my supply ports in Brunei, DEI, etc. The Japanese have limited time and limited resources. By putting early pressure on my supply lines I would have had to divert valuable air assets to protect against the bombing raids. In my game I needed every air unit I had committed to my objectives. In fact, I probably would have ignored his bombing raids altogether and just taken the hit. As I was getting 400 MPP/turn from China and Japan alone, but it definitely would have been easy pickings for his bombers and hurt me in the long run. So as the Allies, keep this in mind if your opponent abandons the outer island chain. He is leaving it open for you to move quickly to put your bombers in position.
As Japan, also consider where your research goes. It gets very expensive upgrading your entire fleet to naval warfare 2. It is extremely worthwhile to have for your planes and carriers though if you wish to be competitive at sea, but I don't recommend it for your support ships. I also think having at least Ind. Tech 1 helps Japan's MPP production. I can't remember what it went up to, but it was fairly significant. Advanced Aircraft is important but not at first. You need to capture territory, and hopefully a country first in order to secure good MPP income. In this regard I would choose Infantry Weapons and Mobility early on. It all depends on your main strategy. For example if you go for Australia first, you may want to focus on air and naval tech first as you'll rely heavily on air support to attack and then to protect Australia. Whereas if you attack India, China and/or Russia you need speed and power on the ground. Your fleet "as is" from the start, is powerful enough to face the RN without additional tech.
These are simply my observations for potential strategies and their success or failure will be entirely up to how well you prosecute it, and how well your opponent counters your moves. But as Japan it is clear that you can't sit and wait, and you shouldn't when you have nearly free reign of the sea and advantage in firepower and numbers. You will probably fail more times than not in securing your objectives but ultimately it is all in preparation to face the USN. Even if you can't outright defeat the USN, winning naval battles and taking out their carriers is critical in slowing down their inevitable march on Japan and in the end that is all you really need to win…time.