Scenario Review – Clearing Matanikau River – with video!

YouTube video is embedded at the end of the post!

Clearing Matanikau River is the third battle in the Guadalcanal Campaign from Campaign Book v.2.  It uses components from the Pacific Theater army pack for Memoir ’44.   The Japanese are on the defensive in this battle, as the Americans are tasked with pushing across the river and pushing units through the exit zone on the Japanese side.  As usual, it’s an American force and quality advantage versus the suicidal ferocity of the Imperial Japanese Army.

At the start of the new year General Patch ordered the 2nd and 8th Marines to drive westward and clear the Japanese resistance from the hills overlooking the coast near Point Cruz. On January 13th, Marines assaulted the Japanese positions and after hard fighting gained the heights overlooking the Matanikau River.

The stage is set, the battle lines are drawn, and you are in command. The rest is history.

The American player chose not to use any reserves, while as the Japanese player, I chose to bring in an additional Jungle Trooper, bringing my total to 3.  However, the American player’s reserve roll allowed him to move a unit forward by two hexes, and naturally he moved an artillery piece forward.


NOTE – This photo was a post-game reconstruction, and has two errors.  First off, I did not begin the game with a Japanese infantry in the river.  Second, in the game we played, the reserve Jungle Troop was placed two hexes forward, not on the baseline as depicted here.  My bad.

This game can go one of two ways.  The Americans can charge across the river, or they can pummel the Japanese with their artillery.  The American guns are safe enough to advance all the way to the river, and gradually weaken the Japanese units.  Once their full-strength bonus is gone, an American attack is much, MUCH easier.  A slow and measured strategy by the Americans leaves the Japanese with very little they can do.  They don’t really have the numbers for a proper suicide charge, and they can’t really withdraw out of range.

All that said, if both players want a fun game, the American player will forego that possibility, choose a sector, and make a charge.  Then things get interesting.  Can the Japanese respond effectivly to a massive American attack?  If the Americans concentrate their forces in one sector, can the Japanese take advantage of the opening to rush across and hit their guns?

I think this would have been a much better scenario if the Americans had no Artillery at all, and had to do it all with infantry.  But that’s life.

In our playthrough, the Japanese forces were in an even worse situation than normal thanks to the advanced American gun.  I decided to take my chances with a suicide charge in the center, to weaken his forces there and hopefully take out that gun.  Thanks to awful American dice, my charge did better than expected, knocking out his gun and two infantry squads while only costing two of my own.  However, the American player then massed for an attack on my left side, and charged with overwhelming force.  I made several mistakes in the mid game, and paid for them as he was able to make a somewhat miraculous comeback, despite continued bad dice.  Had I played things a little different, this could have easily gone my way.

General Evaluation – 3/5 – This can turn into a fun battle, but it is by no means guaranteed to be one.

Balance Evaluation – American Strongly Favored – Force advantage and Artillery should be decisive in most games, as reflected in the 75/25 ratio in favor of the Americans reported at Days of Wonder.

First Turn Win Possibility – None

Plink-Fest Danger – Strong – The best American strategy is to turn this into a long-range plinkfest, and if that happens, there is not much the Japanese player can do.

Watch the video of our game at YouTube, in two parts!


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