We decided to skip the Overload scenario, saving it for and end-of-season-finale, and move straight to 55. Like 51 and 52 this scenario appears to have a weak side: the Japanese left flank. A bit like the previous game this would be a demonstration of how differently a battle can go depending on the circumstances: in this case cards.
Steve: US Marines
Steve has cards on the Marines right. He makes a full assault, using the jungle as cover, with both Flame Thrower Tanks and Combat Engineers. He uses this advantage and succeeds in eliminating my artillery. I advance my infantry from Minami to take advantage of the Seishin Kyoiku Doctrine but it takes support from my armour to inflict any casualties and force a retreat. I pursue the engineers back through the jungle and am eventually successful in eliminating them. Steve responds with Barrage leaving me with a single unit on the left.
Meanwhile on the Marines left Steve makes use of his engineers again to first clear a path through the minefield then engage my infantry on equal terms. I respond with artillery but it’s too late and the battle is soon.
Matthew: US Marines
I have only one card for the right flank so decide to advance in the centre. My tactic is to eliminate the fourth figure from the forward Japanese infantry units. I also make a long range attack on Japanese artillery on the right eliminating one unit and causing it to retreat. [A debate then ensued concerning whether a unit that could not re-enter the bunker should be allowed to leave it. A post-game read of the FAQ reveals that we were both wrong. While the rules on the summary card are incomplete it states that the occupant of a bunker may ignore the first flag while addition flags count as grenades.] Failing to eliminate the artillery the first time I try Behind Enemy Lines but this fails completely.
Steve counters with both artillery and Air Power causing heavy casualties amongst my units on the left. I just manage to clear a small path through the minefield before my forward engineers are eliminated. An attack by ordinary infantry against both bunkers and artillery is hopeless. Steve advances on the Japanese right and caused havoc as, despite several attacks, I fail to eliminate the marauding infantry unit.
Final Score: 10-14
I was let down by the hand I was dealt: unable to repeat Steve’s successful attack on the right. Perhaps I should have advanced more quickly on the left to remove the minefield and engage the infantry.
I've been kind of indifferent to this expansion -- I like the chrome and the special units, the new terrain, etc., but I haven't been crazy about the scenarios. I've seen a lot of blow-outs. It also seems that large assaults against positional defenses figure in pretty much all of the game's scenarios.
The Meatgrinder is more of the same, but at least you get all the toys -- cave complexes, flame thrower tanks, engineers, minefields, and both sides get infantry, armor, and artillery at the same time. Really all it needs is some naval bombardment to give you the whole PTO experience. It is an assault on positional defenders, but at least the defensive position is interesting, built up upon two hills with bunkers and a cave network.
The M44 site shows, again, that this scenario is lopsided (running 2:1 Japanese victories as of this writing), but I found it fun, at least as the Japanese, and I'd like to try the Marine position. I think it is a good idea to be patient as the attacker -- the session report above mentioned trying to wear down the Japanese defenders from four infantry per hex to three before attacking, which seems smart. The problem in my game was that the Japanese artillery managed to fire most every turn, which really put the pressure on the Marines. This provoked the Marines into a frontal assault, which weakened (but did not destroy) my infantry. I was able to move my reduced infantry out of harm's way thanks to the cave complexes, and then cleared the board with a pretty epic "Finest Hour" banzai charge.
There is great promise in this expansion pack. I see that new tournament scenarios have just been released. I'll have to check them out; hopefully they are not more of the same.