Sides are fairly evenly matched, maybe the nod goes to the IJN, certainly in surface combatants, but probably in CVs and Air quality - more on that later. But the USN does have a DIW carrier at Henderson on Guad - - DON'T FORGET THAT!
Of real dilemma is the wind direction. Great for the IJN, but a Flight corpen of SE takes the USN CV BGs away from the action.
Scen starts with a search pattern already in place, so turn Enterprise (ENT) group to SE and let 'em fly. Added further searches from Hornet (HRN). After time passed, I remembered Henderson field and launched a search from there. Put up CAP over the carriers and watched carefully the main geo screen. Sometimes, usually, your outbound search flights will encounter enemy inbound search flight. Noting those can give you an indication of where they launched from.
Also sent the CAP out to try and knock down search planes from shadowing. Found and brought down several from the ENT BG - nasty things, like gnats. Readied a strike from ENT and guessed a location and launched at the location. Good news - My searchers found the IJN CV BG and not too far from the location, so had a jump.
Or so I thought. GULP!! Raid detected on radar inbound the Big E. Did the best I could with my fighters, but IJN scored two DB hits on the Enterprise which set her aflame. Bummer, dude.
By this time, 2d strike launched from Hornet. And launched a strike from Henderson.
ENT strike attacked and those blasted Zeroes brought down every single SBD. Talk about your heart hitting the floor. HRN strike arrives and same result. Ouch.
Now I am on defensive. Fortunately, all ENT fighters were up so bingoed them to HRN and started cycling fighters. So far HRN seemed undetected. Tee hee hee.
Oh yeah, the strike from Henderson - - long way for those boys but they eventually got there and am guessing the Zeroes were down fueling because they got in relatively unscathed. Big hits on one CV - sank same!! But problem, they couldn't make it back. So bingoed them to HRN (probably unrealistic, but hey, I needed those birds. Took al long time to get to HRN, but eventually did. Meanwhile I was busy fending off straggling strikes. One strike group missed the Big E to the south. Feared for HRN, but they did not find her. One prob with the engine is that the AI is not so good at relaying spotting info and its strikes often go awry.
Another IJN strike detected inbound Big E. Providence, however had a squall nearby, so headed the ENT into it which kept the IJN DBs at bay. They took a DD, but a darn good exchange!
Thought we would end this way as I did not have much punch left and my search birds were needing to head home, those that survived. As some were returning, I got another lucky spot on the remaining CV in that BG and plotted a location marker. Meanwhile the errant strike from the IJN had become separated and began coming in on HRN piecemeal. The extra Wildcats came in right handy fending those off. Biggest nail-biter were for DBs, but splashed them all! REVENGE!! Takes A LOT of player intervention - veritable click-fest, but doable.
Prepped the SBDs from Henderson and sent them off with WIldcats. to the location marker. They found the group and most evaded the few Zeroes and got hits on the CV setting her ablaze.
Thinking maybe it was coup de grace time, sent 3 flight TBF from HRN alone. Bad idea. Zeroes got all but one and all torpedoes launched missed.
Had a major victory by this time so methinks it was time to fight another day. I had already sent ENT eastwards. Her speed was reduced to 25 knots and the fires were extinguished, but her flight deck was OOC. Recovered all flights on HRN and sent her eastwards. Miller time!
But wait, where did those red dots come from near Big E? Ruh-Roh! Surface combatants closing on the Big E!!! Detached two DDs for torpedo attacks and moved South Dakota down to the threat axis so her guns were not masked. Had to send in the two DDs for a torpedo attack, which was pretty successful. Lost the two DDs, of course, but now the enemy surface group was reduced to one CA, one CL and four DDs. Manageable. Fortunately, the AI is not the savviest of commanders, and this threat failed. Time ran out. Major Victory for the USN but wow, what a thriller! And the game end screen showed the two IJN BBs about 20 minutes from gaining visual contact on the Big E group! Bullet dodged.
Hope you enjoyed this AAR. I am an experienced Naval Campaigns player, but this scenario and battle had me enthralled from the beginning. Great fun!