"If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking."
This is a copy of a post I made for the Solitaire Games on Your Table July 2016. I wanted to post here as not everyone might be familiar with that list and may be interested in my thoughts on the rule updates that John made a little while ago.
I like to play with the optional rules for Hawkins Landing (which went well and the first turn event of placing 2 Depth markers was skipped), and the choice of beach for the First Battalion, 8th Marines. As one of the new criterion for victory is that all the positions are captured in either zone F (the Bird's Beak) or zone A (the area south of the Beak) I chose to have the First Battalion land at R1.
The initial landings went extremely and the Marines only lost one engineering, one support, and two steps of infantry losses. The LVTs didn't get too battered either. Good progress was made capturing the northern part of the Beak on R1 overlooking the beach, and progress on R2 was extremely rapid. There wasn't too much progress on R3, but nothing that concerned the Marines just yet. The Japanese brought up tanks to R2 and that slowed things down a bit. Hall, in command of R2 was not overly concerned as he knew that US armour was scheduled to land at 10:30. But when he was notified that the armour wouldn't be landing for at least another hour the situation grew hazardous: a delay that long would give the Japanese time to organise a proper defence. Hall risked a dangerous close combat assault on the Japanese tanks. Victory would very much keep the Marines' momentum going. Fortunately he hadn't overestimated the tenacity of his men and the tank was quickly destroyed with minimal US casualties. (I got lucky! The tank missed on its first CC and my card was a hit with the Heroism event which nicely set me up for a CC win.) With the tank gone the advance continued and by 11:00 (Turn 5) the area both sides of the pier were cleared all the way to the centre of the airstrip.
By 13:30 (Turn 10) the Marines had secured the positions in the centre of the airstrip with the exception of two Japanese positions at the eastern end of the strip (D15 and D16), and they now shifted their attention to the buildings on the western side of the airstrip (the majority of the zone E positions). However, a break down in command had left many of the units landed in the afternoon disorganised on the beach. The rapid Marine breakout from R2 was slowly taking its toll in casualties and Hall released that he was going to need the reinforcements off the beach before night fell. Reluctantly he told the units holding the centre of the airstrip to dig in while he returned to the beach to organise the units floundering there.
Progress had slowed on R1 as the Japanese quickly redeployed to great effect. Ryan, who found himself in command of R1, was able to make good progress up the west side of the Beak but the eastern side was stiffly defended by the Japanese who had also deployed a tank. The Marines were taken by surprise when the Japanese launched a ferocious counterattack at 16:30. But the attack was hastily planned, badly coordinated, and the Marines were in strong positions so it achieved very little although it did inflict more casualties on the already battered advance US positions. (Another modification John made is that Counter attack does not add Depth, and that it can only occur once per game. This makes the Event a lot less catastrophic than it used to be, which is a good thing!)
The Marines received some good news before night fell: Bordelon and his Heavy Infantry had rallied the Marines on R1 and had overrun the final Japanese positions in the Beak, including destroying the tank. The Bird's Beak was secure! With his flank secure Ryan prepared to start advancing along the western side of the island to try and capture the positions overlooking Green beach. Hall turned his attention to the buildings on the western side of the airstrip that were preventing a link up with R1 and which was now the main focus of the Japanese resistance. Fierce fighting continued for the complex east of the strip on R3. The Marines were unaware of this at the time, but Bordelon's assault on the final positions in the Beak also killed Admiral Shibasaki who had been inspecting the positions when the attack was launched. As a result the Marines passed a quiet night on the island.
With daylight on the second day Bordelon led the attack from the Bird's Beak towards the Japanese position west of the airfield, striking it from the south. At the same time Hall launched an attack from positions on R2 to strike from the north. Bordelon's attack was successful and three strong US units were able to penetrate the position, but sadly Bordelon was killed in the attack. By 10:00 the Marines had a secure footing within the complex.
On R3 a heavy attack succeeded in capturing the first of the two remaining Japanese positions in the centre of the airfield (D16), but at some cost to the Marines. From here a desperate close combat attack was launched on the remaining position (D15 - I had no units left with range!) which was to see some of the heaviest fighting of the day. The Marines were again successful but sustained crippling casualties in the process.
(This warrants an out of game description: I had only three 3 step units available with reinforcements a long way off so I rushed D15 which was occupied by the single Japanese unit. This put all three in Intensive Fire so I was keeping my fingers crossed. The following turn I drew a Tunnels event which placed a Japanese unit in D19 so two of my attacking units were now in the Intensive Fire zone of two different positions. Not so good! Of course D15 activated in the Fire Phase - and with a redeploy event! - so the new Depth marker meant that all three of my units were hit. Of course D19 also activated so two units were hit again and reduced to 1 step. The third activation saw a nearby position activate on a mortar event and hit the unit that wasn't in D19's FoF. So my three 3 step units were now all 1 step! Yikes! In desperation I commuted two of the units to the CC only to discover that both Japanese counters had CC and a strength of 4. My two card CC now faced a 6 card Japanese CC. Erk! But after this disastrous sequence of events karma came to my rescue! The first Japanese card was a miss and mine was a hit. The Japanese card removed would have been a hit. The next card they drew was also a miss and with sweaty palms I turned over my final card.....a hit! My desperate attack which had turned into what I thought was going to a suicide charge somehow was successful. Gasp!)
Meanwhile Ryan had been making steady progress up the west side of the island. The First Battalion landed at R1 at the start of the day but were badly mauled by Japanese fire (despite only a few occupied positions overlooking the approach quite a few units were deposited in the water or reef and I drew a few events that hit units in the water). Nevertheless several units were able to reinforce Ryan and by 16:00 he had secured all the positions south of the Bird's Beak. The units landing at Green Beach were thus able to walk ashore unmolested by enemy fire. As the second day closed the Marines had secured the airstrip and were making some inroads to the coastal positions south of the strip but after two days solid fighting the units were in bad shape and despite capturing some of the more isolating positions the main defences were firmly in the hands of the Japanese. It would take another day's tough fighting to evict them....
FINAL RESULT: A victory! I had secured all the positions in zones A, D, E and F and nabbed 3 in zone B. But it was tough going: ignoring the Turn 28 reinforcements I only had two infantry units still at 4 steps, and two at 3 steps. Everything else was reduced!
I really like the changes John has made. The game is still extremely challenging (in a good way!) and requires very careful decision making, but victory now feels attainable without the preternatural amount of luck that originally seemed required. The victory conditions are a little less daunting. I felt that the update that had the biggest impact on play was the adjustment to the Reinforce CC event. This makes CC a slightly less risky affair. If my one game is anything to go by I only encountered CC fights where one Reinforce event was applied - I don't think had an occasion where the Japanese drew two Reinforce events. This significantly decreases the chance of your carefully planned overwhelming CC attack going horribly wrong. Previously it had a good chance of going pear shaped because the more cards in your CC stack the more chance of a Reinforce turning up in one of your cards. Having said all of that, don't let my victory lull you into a false sense of security. I got very, very lucky in this game! I'm really looking forward to playing again with the updated rules to see how things pan out if the cards are a little less fortunate for me.