First Action on the Matanikau
|(Defender) Japan||vs||United States (Attacker)|
|Japan||3rd Kure Special Naval Landing Force|
|United States||5th Marine Regiment|
|Overall Rating, 10 votes|
|Scenario Rank: 509 of 609|
|Layout Dimensions||84 x 55 cm
33 x 22 in
|Scenario Requirements & Playability|
|Guadalcanal||maps + counters|
A captured Japanese sailor convinced the 1st Marine Division intelligence section that some of his compatriots still in the jungle might be induced to surrender. a patrol, led by the division intelligence officer, departed the perimeter on the night of the 12th of August and landed near the mouth of the Matanikau River. Attacked as soon as they landed, 22 of the 25 men were killed, the three survivors escaping by swimming out to sea back to the perimeter. This convinced General Vandegrift that action was necessary to drive the Japanese west. To this end three companies of the 5th Marine Regiment were dispatched, one by sea well to the west of Matanikau and two more along the coast in an effort to clear the mouth of the river.
The Marine operation at the mouth of the Matanikau accomplished little more than temporary occupying the village and killing a few Japanese. Company B was unable to cross the mouth of the river. Company L managed, with difficulty, to cross to upper Matanikau and advance north to its mouth, clearing the west bank of the river to shore and finally, in conjunction with Company B, the village itself. The Japanese offered strong resistance before falling back. Four marines were killed and 11 wounded against 65 dead Japanese and unknown number of wounded.
Moving on from the first scenario of Tulagi,I skipped to scenarios on Guadalcanal and this made a lot of difference. This one is one of the first encounters with the Americans and the occupying Japanese troops. The Americans are pushing up the coast and learn that there maybe Japanese troops willing to surrender without a shot. Unfortunately, this was not the case and two Marine companies find themselves in a sharp skirmish with SNLF troops. Both sides are roughly equal in troops, but the Marines are better quality that then service troops and they have OBA support for the first ten turns. The SNLF troops are few but are on the defensive in jungle terrain with a couple of AA and infantry guns for support. Victory conditions are of the type either/or, each side will either achieve them or not, if they do they win if they don't they can lose or draw. Also FoW will be an issue as the roll is down to 14+ to end the turn.
I will also make note that I played using the updated terrain rules for island terrain. These are outlined in Kokoda Trail supplement.
The setup will be simple, the Japanese setup the guns to defend the village with some support from service platoons. In front of them the SNLF troops position in the jungle and palms to try to slow the Americans. Further, inland one and a half SNLF platoons and service platoons position to prevent the Americans from trying to move around the flank. The Americans are setup on the coastal path up from the south as well as the small ridge to there left. The strategy will be to advance up the path and start the engagement with the defenders. Meanwhile the company that is inland will look to probe the flank to see if there is opportunity to get around them, or at least tie up some troops from defending the village area.
The game starts with the American Major moves the company down the road. An American SGT makes contact with the Japanese and calls in the OBA. It is able to kill a reduced service platoon. The company is able to maneuver up the road without too much OP fire effect from the Japanese. To the left the Marine company advances toward the defending SNLF and service troops. American direct fire scores a hit on another service platoon throwing the Japanese troops into disarray. The fall back into the elephant grass and jungle. By turn four the Americans can start to assault the Japanese positions and they take out a reduced SNLF platoon, while OBA strikes at another service platoon. But the Japanese fire is starting to hit home in the close combat. A Marine LT 9-1-1 is morally wounded in the fight an leaves an assault force leaderless. The Americans counter with another assault force from the company advancing down up the path. This scores two more kills on SNLF and service platoons, but AA guns open fire and they take out one step of Marines.
At this point the Japanese troops across the Matanikau are forced over the river. To the left the Marines push up the river and around the Japanese line and have a flanking force moving to the north of the village. More trouble for the Americans as a LT under fire from the AA gun breaks and runs for the rear, leaving his troops leaderless. The American Major shifts another LT to take command but has lost a morale bonus in the exchange. The new LT orders OBA on the AA guns that levels the palm grove that they were hiding in, but there is still the matter of infantry gun in the town. More maneuvering by the Americans give the Japanese OP fire that disrupt and demoralize the Marines, but get more troops closer to the town. One critical shot by a group of service platoons kills another step of Marines, one more and the Americans cannot win.
Turn ten happens and now the Americans have to attack without the help of OBA. But a resourceful Capt manages to get a 22 DF that kills two steps a reduced service platoon and a reduced SNLF platoon. Victory is near as the Marines have a platoon moving from the north and the south on the village. The Major orders an assault on the village to take out the guns. But the Japanese strike first reducing another Marine platoon, eliminating any American victory, but in the same assault the gun is taken and the village is in the Americans hands, stopping a Japanese victory. A few more turns pass but it is a draw as the Americans have the village and the Japanese are too weak to retake it. All ends by turn 20.
|First Action on the Matanikau – Lesson in timing your counter-attack|
August 19, 1942 – Three companies of the 5th Marine Regiment were dispatched to clear the mouth of the Matanikau of Japanese resistance.
This scenario covers the action of Company B and Company L.
American Goal Take Matanikau village (2025) with minimal losses. 42 turns = 10.5 hours.
Japanese Goal Inflict casualties (at least 3 steps). Hold Matanikau village.
American Casualties will be presented by (#).
0730 – Early morning thunderstorms limit movement and visibility.
0745 – Thunderstorms end and American artillery strikes begin.
0800-0815 – American marines advance on the Japanese 70mm battery. Gun and half platoon are eliminated. SNLF forces open fire from the jungle as the Americans advance under fire.
0830 – Two marine platoons engage the SNLF from the east while the remainder circle around the south.
0845 – An accurate artillery strike claims half a SNLF platoon.
0900-0915 – SNLF forces begin to melt away into the jungle (read: flee) as the marines advance with artillery support. Americans initiate an assault versus a lone SNLF HMG. Early Fog of War as Americans close in.
0930-0945 – Americans make great advances eliminating the HMG and two more Japanese half platoons. American artillery is re-assigned.
Comment – Marines have inflicted 6 step losses on the Japanese already.
1000 – Americans lose their first half platoon of marines due to direct fire from the east jungle. (1)
1015-1030 – Japanese begin to fortify their position on their side of the river.
1045 – The Japanese SER is hit across the creek and the marines assault reducing the SNLF HMG. Two half platoons flee.
1100 – Demoralized Japanese flee as the marines pursue (Jap casualty count=8).
Japanese have split the American forces and chose this moment to call Banzai! against the marines in the east!
1115 – Marines are bordering the village, but in the south a banzai charge eliminates half a platoon (2). Another half platoon is lost in their counter-attack (3). And another in the east (4).
Comment – YIKES! Marines have just taken significant losses. The best they can now hope for is a draw by taking the village.
1130 – Americans begin to send some support to relieve their troubled brothers in the east.
1145 – Lt Commander orders “Banzai!”. Half his men are demoralised but they still cause American casualties (5).
1200 – The southern banzai force is eliminated and in the east 1 platoon flees.
1215-1230 – American HMG cuts down the fleeing SNLF which is eliminated as the marines take more losses to close assault. (6)
1245-1300 – Marines begin to mop up fleeing Japanese platoons. SNLF shattered in a final banzai charge. Soon only the SNLF and AA battery in Matanikau village remain.
1315-1430 – Americans rally and form up fire groups as the defending Japanese patiently await.
1445 – Marines advance and one platoon is eliminated by the waiting Japanese!
1500 – Japanese AA battery is eliminated by HMG fire.
1515-1600 – Steady American direct fire yields no results!!!
1615-1645 – Continued fire finally eliminates half the SNLF platoon. Only half a platoon remains.
1700 – Continued fire has no further effect. 45 minutes remain.
1715 – HMG fire demoralizes the SNLF and the Marines move in for close assault. Instant victory is estimated at over 50:50 odds. But the Japanese holds out.
1730-1745 – Continued assaults on the Japanese position have little effect as the lone half SNLF platoon continues to rally and hold on with superior leadership.
Eventually the Marines are called off.
With 3 hours (12 turns) to take out the single AA Gun and SNLF platoon, the Americans were sorely unlucky not to obtain a draw. In most of the final assaults they had a 50% chance of instantly eliminating the SNLF half platoon.
Final casualty count was 15-8 if I counted accurately.
The Japanese set up along the river with the 37mm AA in the village, and the 70mm at the river bend. The Marines set up south of the village in two seperate forces. The game begins slowly as the Marines advance towards the village. The western force advances towards the Japanese along the river and the eastern force advances towards the village. As the western force nears the river, they stay out of sight and continue north with the intention of approaching the japanese force fromthe north. The eastern force continues toward the village, as Japanese fire opens up with no effect. The western force continues its slow march north, and the eastern force moves adjacent to the village. Japanese fire results in morale checks, but to no avail. The western Marine force begins to close with the right flank force of the Japanese. The eastern Marine force pulls back from the village and heads for the Japanese force at the bend of the river. The western Marine force moves adjacent to the right flank Japanese, and the Japanese assault the Marines. Over several turns, these two forces exchange fire in the assault with the Marines eventually losing two steps, and the Japanese force eliminated. The eastern Marine force moves adjacent to the 70mm hex. Bothe sides exchange fire at this location for several turns until the Marines eventually eliminate the gun. The remaining SNLF retreat from this position, as the Marines advance. The Marines close back on the village, but Japanese reaction fire only causes Morale checks which the Marines pass. Fire and assault eventually take the village for the US. The Japanese are close but no longer have any full strength SNLF units to try and get that last step loss on the Marines. The Marines have the village, so US victory!
Played a fast game from Guadalcanal last night, pitting 2 companies of Marines against weak mix of SNLF (a little more than a company), service troops (a bit less than a company) and a few guns. The Japanese were tasked with defending Matanikau village from the marines advancing from the east. They could win by retaining control of the village and by inflicting more than 2 step losses.
I set up the SNLF on some hills just south of the village, with the service troops arrayed around the village. The marines set up in two forces of a company each, one on the coast and one about 1 km inland.
The inland force kicked off first, advancing on the SNLF-held hills. One leader got into an observation post and began calling down artillery on a Japanese gun. The Japanese, hoping to draw the marines into bloody close combat in the jungle, moved to meet their advance. The two forces tentatively met in the dense jungle and exchanged fire, resulting in some Japanese disruptions.
The coastal marine force, seeing an opportunity to occupy the hills and isolate the SNLF from the town, hoofed it across the elephant grass plain with a platoon of HMGs and a platoon of infantry, positioning themselves on the flank of the SNLF. They left behind two platoons to cover the service troops in the village.
The situation on the southern hills developed rapidly, with the Japanese taking heavy fire and OBA and falling back into the jungle. Part of the marine force circled to the south while a platoon pushed west to try to bottle up the Japanese in the valley. Taking heavy losses, the Japanese gradually fell back to the southwest, effectively cut off from the village and in big trouble. One marine step had been lost for about 10 Japanese steps.
At this point the service troops in the village decided to move to a position where they could fire on the marine platoons in their sector. The marines spoiled their attack by moving into a palm grove to their front and engaging the service troops, who quickly fell into disarray.
The marines rapidly took advantage of the situation. Leaving their HMGs and a platoon of marines to block the remnants of the SNLF, the remainder of the marines in the south hiked to the approaches to the village. Joining the two platoons already engaged their, they prepared for an assault on the village to finish the game. My reasoning was that the remnants of the SNLF would regroup and filter back toward the village, so the defenses there would only get stronger with time. The marines had already taken 1 step loss, and could only afford 1 more. The OBA was gone, so they were on their own. With the village held by a battery of AA and a service platoon, the time was right to strike. Unfortunately, the marine's approach would be through a field of elephant grass, offering no protection from close range fire from the village. The four platoons braved the fire, moving up in two stacks, taking 1 step loss but their morale holding.
A half hour firefight ensued, the marines keeping their heads down but keeping up a steady fire. The fire reached a crescendo, wiping out the village defenders. Within minutes, the marines occupied the village and set up a perimeter a few hundred meters out. At this point the marines had met the victory conditions with 5 hours of game time remaining. I played out a few more turns to see if the Japanese might be able to pick up 1 more step loss to claim a draw, but they failed to do so in the face of withering marine fire. US victory.
I enjoyed this game quite a bit. The increased Fog of War special rule kept the turns short and put a premium on planning. The mixed jungle, hills and elephant grass terrain was a fun playground to pick through. I think a Japanese strategy of concentrating their force in and around the village is an almost certain game-winner, with the time-limited marine OBA and the strict step loss limit making a successful assault of such a defense nearly impossible. Instead I chose to use a more aggressive Japanese defense that ran afoul of the marines using the limited open terrain to advance rapidly on Japanese flanks. There was a surprising amount of maneuver in this game, considering the fairly dense terrain.
|SNAFU: Situation normal, all blankety-blank|
After enduring the "dogs" of Tulagi and Gavutu-Tanambogo this scenario was a welcome relief as there were no caves or "hidden" Japanese units in this one. Also, the Matanikau map seems to be a lot more user-friendly without the confusing masses of questionable and multi-layered elevation lines. When setting this one up, after the Japanese deployment, I looked at the marine forces available and thought "really? is this all? okay."
All the Japananse had to do was hold the one village hex and in the course of 42 turns, eliminate just three U.S. units for a victory and that is precisely what they did. Without hidden units or caves and with over half of their forces reduced in strength the Japanese strategy was very simple; to surround the village with a lot of cannon fodder to which the service and weapon units were efficiently assigned; and then endure 10 turns of American OBA not worrying about step losses on the outer rings of defense. Once the American OBA became unavailable after 09:45/turn 10, the American attackers had no real leverage or advantage. By 10:30/turn 13, the Americans had lost 3 steps of MAR units; early on the Americans had driven away or eliminated most of the outer ring of expendable Japanese forces but once they ran into the better moraled and more capable SNLF forces their situation quickly went from bad to worse. More than lucky "snake eyes" rolled by firing Japanese units the biggest downfall for the marines was communication simulated by the increased odds of fog of war occuring. The marines attempted to take the long path towards the village, hoping to encircle and bottle up the defenders but that involved river crossings and being isolated in jungle hexes without subordinate activations. The only other way would of been to attack head-on across the sandbars suicidally braving very high results from opportuniy fire from village defenders which would of given the combined SNLF and HMG platoons rolls on the 30 column of the DF table. That probably would of been the best approach if the Americans were only attempting to gain a draw rather than a victory from the beginning. Soon the marines would lose their highest-ranking leader, their 9-1-1 Major, and suffer the results of both catastrophic loss and decaptiation. Midway through the scenario it seemed highly unlikey that even a draw could be expected from the Americans but they pressed on. Random events didn't play too much of a role in this one except that a Japanese sniper did manage to take out another valuable American leader, a 10-0-1 Captain. In the end, the only real achievement the marines managed was to get all of their units across the Matanikau only to remain pinned down once there.
In retrospect, the only things I think could of been done in the marine's favor would of been to send out weaker leaders alone to spot for OBA the first 10 turns that it was available before sending any actual units in harm's way as there was an overabundance of leaders suited for that task. Also, instead of picking off the SER cannon fodder going straight at the throats of the SNLF. All in all though this wasn't a bad scenario though it does seem to favor the Japanese. It's deceiving with 42 turns length as many of those passed very quickly from fog of war; the Japanese didn't need many activations as the marines needed a lot. Now that the remaining scenarios will be taking place on Guadalcanal proper I am looking forward to venturing further. There's a lot to learn and experiance here and hopefully I can manage and do better with the marine forces; with the Japanese so far it's been very static and too much original thinking involved, just cold-blooded logic.
|Guaadalcanal #6 Matanikau Don't assault the Japanese unless you have to!|
The Japanese set up along the xx27 hex row with the AA battery in the village with some inf support and on the ridge on the right with the 70mm gun to cover all approaches. The Marines would have liked to drive down the road and also hit the ridge on the left but they didn't have enough troops to make both moves so they opted for a down the road attack with one platoon guarding their left against the ridge positions. The Marines reached hex 1928 without casulties. This was their highwater mark. They did win in the exchange of fire over the next 3 turns inflicting a step loss and demoralizations on the Japanese occuping hex 1927. In the insuing assault the Japanese here were reduced to the net result of the 3 col. on the assult table. The Marines assaulted on the 18 column. The Japanese rolled a 5 for a Morale check and the Marines rolled a 1 for a moral check. Needless to say the Japanese passed the Marines did not and became disrupted and demoralized. On the next turn the Japanese reinforced the assault hex with two fresh platoons of SNLF one being an HMG. The Marines had not yet had a chance to recover and lost two steps, one to a double demoralization and one to a x result over the next two turns in this assault. The last straw came with a lucky snake eyes on the 7 col by the 70mm and supporting inf. eliminated another Marine step on the Marine platoon on the left. At this point, 09:45, the Marines had only one and a half platoons not disrupted or demoralized on the whole board. So they retired. This scenario is tough on the Marines. They just don't have enough to press through or to keep up pressure when they suffer disruptions and demoralizations. The apparent "easy" assault undid the Marines. The Japanese assault bonus column shift was the key. The Japanese roll on the inital assault was a 5, causing a morale check on the Marines, which they promptly failed. Had the roll been on the 1 col where it would have been for just about any other nationality there would have been no effect. But in truth this early defeat was probably just a preview of what the Marines would have gotten if they assaulted the village, which would have been a harder nut to crack.