Friday night’s scenario was Force on Force in 28mm, featuring a meeting engagement between USMC forces on sweep and clear mission running into remnants of the 5th Special Naval Landing Brigade and survivors of the fighting around Henderson Field. We rates the Marines as D8/D8, with low supply. We treated the scattered Japanese forces as irregulars, with a few twists. First off, they were rating D6 quality for everything except close combat, where we made them a D10. Morale was a D10. They, too, were given low supply status. The initial Japanese forces would automatically receive stragglers each turn at one of five designated hot spots. These stragglers were two soldiers with rifles who were heading to the sound of the guns. The terrain prominently featured a creek and a jungle trail.
Initial USMC forces were two squads, each consisting of 8 riflemen, 2 BARS, a squad leader with a Thompson and an assistant squad leader with a Thompson. The squads were broken into two fire teams centered around a BAR. Additionally, we assigned a sniper team, two .30 cal MG teams and a platoon leader with runner. The Japanese were placed into six groups of approximately 10 riflemen, each with a leader and four of the groups with an MG (which we treated as a BAR because of the low rates of fire and frequent jamming). The Japanese were also assigned five booby trap cards (borrowed from Ambush Valley and edited for WW2). As for terrain, we used the Ambush Valley rules for hidden units and ambushes; visibility to stationary units was restricted to optimal range unless they moved or opened fire.
Victory conditions were straightforward. The USMC players needed to clear two hot spots and exit off the opposite end of the trail to win –or– neutralize 4 of the 5 hot spots. The Japanese needed to prevent the USMC players from doing this. It became apparent that the Japanese planned to take the fight to the enemy and not wait for the Marines to cross the creek. After a few ineffective land mines went off (two booby trap cards), the Japanese players moved up toward the creek in response to the Marine advance.
The Japanese players moved too far, however, and were visible to the hastily assembled Marine firing line along the creek. The Japanese learned that six man fire times with BAR support can be quite nasty.
On the left flank, the USMC squad takes the hut and assembles near the rope bridge, while the Japanese forces edge closer. The platoon leader and his runner were nearly taken out by a well-placed booby trap, but the runner was the only casualty and he was simply stunned after casualty assessment.
The USMC right flank then forded across the creek, taking advantage of the lull in the fighting caused by their blazing rifles and MG. The Japanese players realized that the USMC were going to outgun them unless they did something. So they did. The battle flag was unfurled, swords were drawn, bayonets were fixed and the cry of “banzai!” was heard across the river. The SNLF troops charged the Marines as they emerged from the creek.
The Japanese commander was killed before he could close. The Marine fire was devastating, but two lone warriors made it into melee, wounding the squad leader before they fell to the Marine weapons. It was the high water mark of the night. Of a similar mind, the Japanese soldiers on the Marine left flank started to gather for their own Banzai charge, but they never got it organized. Accurate fire from the hut, the second .30 cal MG and the trail tore into the Japanese ranks during the Marine turn, and the Japanese troops broke.
The USMC moved forward on the right flank, pushing into the jungle and sealing the fate of the Japanese remnants. While still having a few soldiers left, the Japanese players threw in the towel and withdrew their forces into the jungle, leaving the USMC players in possession of the field and with a clear victory.
The battle was a fun one. There was much discussion on both sides as to why the Japanese aggressively moved toward the advancing USMC forces. While they were rated high for close combat, by moving up they gave away their ambush potential and allowed the Marines to use their firepower to devastating effect. On the other hand, a lucky booby trap or die roll could have left the Marines in a world of hurt early, so it’s hard to say which strategy would have been better. As it was, these Marines were happy to be alive and were looking forward to being evacuated to Australia.