Tenaru is the first scenario in the Guadalcanal Campaign in Scenario Book v.2, and it’s a fun map. This uses the rules and parts from the Pacific Theater expansion for Memoir ’44. The odds come down to the Japanese player’s opening hand, but it’s an interesting infantry battle. Infantry attack maps are some of my absolute favorites, and this is a good one.
During the night of August 20-21, Marine scouts on the east bank of Alligator Creek detected the movement of a large body of Japanese troops. Col. Kiyonao Ichiki ordered his infantry troops forward, using “human wave tactics” but the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines of Colonel Edwin A. Pollock would not be dislodged. Using canister fire, Pollock’s guns decimated the Japanese wave. Ichiki than sent part of his force upstream to outflank the Marines, but after a fierce fight this attempt also failed.
The stage is set, the battle lines are drawn, and you are in command. The rest is history.
We played this as part of the Campaign, including What If rolls. As Japanese player, I got Jungle Fighters, and my opponent got Leathernecks. These balance out nicely, I think, giving the Japanese a bit more flexibility while giving the American more raw firepower. As such, a photograph of our opening setup is more informative than the standard map.
The key engagement on this map comes right at the beginning – can the Japanese inflict serious damage on their right flank in the first 2 or 3 turns? With an Assault Right or and Infantry Assault, they can, which gives them a solid chance to win the map. If they can’t, they’re probably going to lose. But if they can manage a reasonable exchange, particularly if they can take out an artillery or two, then it’s game on.
The American position across the river is tough – but Jungle fighters give the Japanese player much better odds, as they allow fire across the river at two dice, not one. This can soften up the defenses for a proper crossing. The Japanese are never going to get much of a force across the river, but a little crossing will probably be necessary to finish off damaged American units.
Still, even with a good opening hand, this is a long-shot for the Japanese. In my game, I opened with an Assault Right, and knocked out one Artillery piece with my first attack. However, the Leatherneck on that flank was an absolute monster. It was revived by a Medic twice, and earned the American player 4 of his 6 medals, gutting my force and ending the game with a full four figures. In the final turns, I made a successful push across the river, and thanks to bad American dice survived long enough to get 5 medals before my weakened units were finished off. This battle went down to the last die roll – if I’d survived another turn, I would have likely won.
General Evaluation – 3/5 – A mediocre opening Japanese hand will turn this map into a boring American smackdown, so I can’t rate it any higher. However, it has the potential to be a very fun map, especially with our House Rules regarding Infantry close-assaulting Artillery.
Balance Evaluation – American Favored – The American defensive position is strong, and they have a decisive force quality advantage, with two artillery and the tank. If the Americans spend the time to bring their tank into position, it can stop any advance across the river cold. The 73/37 ratio reported at Days of Wonder bears this out.
First-Turn Win Possibility – None – The Japanese player might, if lucky, be in a position to do serious damage in the first turn – but that just makes the game interesting.
Plink-Fest Danger – None – If the Japanese player sits around long enough for the American to do serious long-range damage with artillery, the battle is already lost.