|Removing counters at a prodigious rate|
In this very large scenario (largest I have played) played over several sessions, the Marines are trying to push the Japanese over the Matanikau River with a huge force, while the Japanese have a huge force to resist. Victory conditions are based on area control (four hexes from the first major bend in the river) or inflicting step loses (13 for the Japanese, 16 for the Marines). Both sides have some on board artillery, while the Marines have occasional aircraft.
The Japanese set up along a creek east of the river, set up in and around the village (including direct fire guns in the village), some hidden flankers heading south, and reinforcements along the trail to include SNLF troops. They also have some artillery to the west. The Marines set up a large amount of forces on the eastern end of the map, plus have plenty more in reserve. Both sides have late reinforcements, but the Marines reinforcements reduce the number of steps the Japanese need to inflict, so they probably won’t be brought on. The Japanese reinforcements arrive late, and cannot go into the river area unless the Marines push much farther west than required, and so they also will probably not play a part.
The Marines advance on the Japanese, and begin to move in heavily against their advance positions. With fog of war being after only two activations and needing a 15, the first seven turns advance rapidly. The Marines are not even able to move their entire force, and a significant number of troops are still not on the board. Combat is light, with each side suffering two step losses, but the Marines have a decent size force advanced for combat as the Japanese move reinforcements up the trail.
All heck breaks lose in the next seven turns, as the Japanese pour out of the jungle to try to get into as many assaults as possible. During the course of the battle I have as many as seven assault hexes going on simultaneously. Typically the Japanese have the upper hand until a couple of step losses, then the Marines wear them down. By turn 11 the Japanese have reached their required 13 steps inflicted, while the Marines reach their 16 on turn 12. Reinforcements continue to pile in on both sides, and combat is extremely intense.
The next seven turns see the casualty count continue to climb until finally on turn 19 nearly all Japanese positions east of the shoreline hexes finally collapse. Even the original eastern stream position holds until then, as the Japanese kept advancing reinforcements and the dug in units held against massive direct fire, but on turn 19 the weakened position falls to assault. A Marine effort to hit what they believed to be the Japanese right along the riverbank goes bad when the final hidden Japanese units are revealed and they charge into assault and the most advance Marine thrust suffers major losses before reeling back. Turns 20 and 21 see some minor cleanup actions as the Japanese are now too weak to launch more attacks, but can still maintain a strong defense on the eastern shoreline. The Marines have been pounded, but still have plenty of firepower. Unfortunately it will take several more turns to regroup and get all the straggling starting forces into position to launch another attack. Even the SNLF Commander announces that the contested ground is a place of death, not a place of victory, and does not advance his troops past the eastern shoreline. There is no need to play out the remaining 14 turns, as an organized second wave would require half that time to get into position, and the clock would expire well before the second wave got very far. Both sides are exhausted, and the battle breaks off.
In the end the causalities are massive. The Marines lose eight leaders and 31 steps, while the Japanese lose ten leaders and 42 steps. Yes, total losses of 18 leaders and 73 steps in 21 turns! Given losses, both sides achieve their victory conditions, so the scenario is a draw. American aircraft are not very effective despite the amazingly higher than expected appearances. They do account for the Japanese 75mm and one mortar in one particularly effective strike, but are otherwise no more than noise.
The scenario certainly suffers from some issues. The non-starting forces for each side are ridiculous. The Marine reinforcements are certainly not needed, and only make the Japanese victory conditions easier. The Japanese reinforcements are useless unless the Marines are crazy enough to push much farther west than the scenario could ever drive them to do. On top of that, the victory conditions suffer horribly from the both sides need to fight to the death over a large geographical objective that nearly completely overlap. This was a big problem in Beyond Normandy that for club games I had to modify to prevent every scenario becoming a draw. Same here. You’re not going to clear out that much area without huge casualties, and it is highly unlikely you could even manage to clear than much area even if the casualty rate had no bearing on the scenario. You have to kill everything the adversary has! So, with this many units, the impossibility of clearing the area is compounded with a relatively small casualty count needed for victory. You would literally have to make a conscious decision to lose the scenario to not be able to stack up the body count. If it was first player to achieve that condition it would be another matter, and the scenario would have been close with only one turn deciding the difference.
Normally these issues would generate a rating of 2 from me. But in this case the scenario was just so much fun, especially with the fast moving turns, that I will bump it to a 3. If you want a scenario that is just plain fun, but you know it’ll be a draw before you even start, do not pass this one up!