October on the Matanikau I
|(Attacker) America||vs||Japan (Defender)|
|America||1st "The Old Breed" Marine Division|
|America||1st Marine "Edson's" Raider Battalion|
|Japan||29th Infantry Regiment|
|Japan||3rd Kure Special Naval Landing Force|
|Japan||4th Infantry Regiment|
|Japan||5th Yokosuka Special Naval Landing Force|
|Overall Rating, 6 votes|
|Scenario Rank: 223 of 556|
|Layout Dimensions||84 x 55 cm
33 x 22 in
|Kill Them All|
|Scenario Requirements & Playability|
|Guadalcanal||maps + counters|
By early October it was clear the Americans were on Guadalcanal in strength and a great effort would be required to eject them. The first step in the process was the positioning of artillery on the east bank of the Matanikau in range of Henderson field. The poor state of the Japanese troops on Guadalcanal prevent an offensive to emplace the artillery and only the arrival of additional forces would allow it. Shortly after the first Japanese started crossing the river the Marines appeared again this time in even greater strength, but with the same goal as all previous operations around the Matanikau: the destruction of the Japanese forces in the area.
The Marines managed only to clear the east bank of the Matanikau before additional reinforcement in the form of the badly understrength Raider Battalion were sent forward. The Japanese were for a while unaware the Americans were on the offensive and in the early afternoon ordered the 1st and 4th Battalions of the 4th Infantry regiment to advance and clear the eastern bank. Nightfall found the two sides facing each other across the river certain only that tomorrow would bring more fighting.
|AFV Rules Pertaining to this Scenario's Order of Battle|
|Dying for the Emperor|
'Guadalcanal' has provided a few milestones for me in the terms of the most game turns actually completed but this scenario was the largest I've played so far in regards to the counter density; over 200 counters. However, a good portion of those units never made it on to the map or were needed for play. In fact it took 11 turns just to get all the starting marine units on map and the Japanese SNLF units deployed west of the Matanikau only moved east twice during the battle, never to make contact with the enemy due to the jungle fog of war rules.
The victory conditions for both sides give two options each; the Japanese must control all hexes within 4 hexes of #1826 OR eliminate 13 American steps while the Americans must clear all Japanese units within 4 hexes of #1726 OR eliminate 16 Japanese steps. Also, if any of the American reinforcements from the 1st Raider Battalion are used then the Japanese only have to eliminate 10 American steps to win, so it's best to leave those units in the box unless you really want the Japanese to win or at least get a draw. Chances are the Raiders won't make it to the battle in time to make a difference anyway.
There's not too much to write about the battle as it was a lot like the earlier "Battles on the Matanikau" scenarios but only 35 turns instead of 100+; same jungle, different day. However this entire battle took place on the eastern bank of the Matanikau with the Japanese forced to leave the cover of a lot of jungle hexes in order to attempt to hold their VC mandated territorial objectives. Because of this they were at a disadvantage with attacking marines with superior DF capabilties but this also required the marines to leave a lot of jungle cover to make contact or attempt to take their objectives. So what ensued was a very intense firefight between both sides but with superior firepower the marines were able to eliminate 16 Japanese steps by 14:15/turn 19. However, the problem now was how to hold onto victory without withdrawing too far back and letting the Japanese take control of the hexes they needed to win. By this time Japanese Army stragglers had managed to get to the American flanks and go into crazed suicidal assault mode while the marines desperately began to dig-in and try to hold out until the scenario's end. Unfortunately the frantic and desperate Japanese assaults prevailed and by 16:30/turn 28 had managed to eliminate the 13 required American steps but at an incredible human cost. Japanese losses reached 32 steps along with 8 leaders to reach their goal but that was what it took to force the draw; many times after American first fire the assaults were only rolling on the 9 column but in more cases than not the Japanese were able to roll the needed "6" to force an American loss.
Anyway, pretty much standard fare for 'Guadalcanal' but on a good day it is possible that the Americans can win this one if they are able to withdraw faster (but not too far) after meeting their enemy step loss requirements. They only had 8 more turns to go to hold on before the Japanese caught up with them in force. American air-support was very limited and only appeared twice during the 28 played turns and both times was not used as the worst lot of aircraft were drawn and fog of war intervened before those could even be used. Anyway, this one is a mere prelude to the epic battle to follow the next day (#19-"October on the Matanikau II") at a potential 108 turns length where likely all 200+ counters may actually come into contact, even the SNLF and raiders. I give it a standard "3" rating.
|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!