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Memoir '44: Pacific Theater» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Why do Japanese always get slaughtered? rss

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Dan C
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So I’m 4 scenarios into the Pacific Theater (scenarios #49-52)… what’s the deal with the Japanese getting slaughtered every time? Here’s the rundown:

They have the special ability to “Banzai” attack enemy units (i.e. they can move 2 hexes and still battle and use extra dice – but ONLY in Close Assault, and ONLY if they have full complement of 4 figures). However, it seems that all these scenarios contain the “speed bumps” of rice paddies or fordable river hexes between the Japanese and the Marines. These terrain hexes offer no battle protection; it effectively negates the Banzai ability of the Japanese, because if they attack, they have to stop and are then exposed in the paddy/river for the opponent’s next turn. And you can’t depend on an opponent to roll a flag to retreat you to safety either, since the Japanese have to ignore a flag. It’s gotten to where I refer to fords and paddies as “Banzai traps.”

So you could always sit back and wait for the “right opportunity” to Banzai without a Banzai trap… but by then you’ll probably have had your units “de-Banzai’d” by stray one die rolls from ranged attacks from the Marines that reduce them by one or more units so they can’t do the Banzai anymore.

Case in point: Guam Landings scenario (#52). This has:

1. Banzai traps (i.e. fordable river and rice paddies)
2. Marines have every plastic figure in the box on their side (plus 3 special Engineer Units). Literally every green Tank, Artillery and Soldier (except 2) are taken out of the base set for this scenario.
3. Oh, and did I mention that the Marines have one extra card in their hand to boot?
4. We’re not done… the USMC rules allow the Marines to activate the one extra unit on their cards?

How can this result in anything but a slaughter of the Japanese (it was 6-0 win for US the time I played)?

I know about the attempt for realism and historical accuracy, yada, yada, etc. But honestly – M44 is not exactly a simulation folks. I don’t think throwing severely one-sided, lackluster battle, no-play-testing-needed-because-these-are-supposed-to-be-historically-imbalanced scenarios out there makes good gameplay sense.

There was one scenario that the Japanese won – Wake Island. And that was mainly because the Japanese have medal win objectives literally laying all over the Marine half of the board. If they depended on unit elimination medals they would never have won. (The session I played had the Japanese exploiting the two hexes on either side of the board that did not have wire and attacking and advancing through those).

So, am I missing something here? And I’ve only played four… do the PT scenarios DOW put out later have more tense, even conflict (and terrain that doesn’t neutralize the Japanese attack ability)?
 
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Bart de Groot
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jedimusic wrote:
They have the special ability to “Banzai” attack enemy units (i.e. they can move 2 hexes and still battle and use extra dice – but ONLY in Close Assault, and ONLY if they have full complement of 4 figures).

The rules for "Banzai War Cry" (move 2 + close assault battle) don't say the unit must be intact. This is mentioned in "Seishin Kyoiku Doctrine" (+1 die for close assault). Any chance you are mixing these two separate abilities?

Rules wrote:
Seishin Kyoiku Doctrine
Devised by Army Theorist Sadao Araki as a modern adaptation of the Bushido Code, the Seishin Kyoiku Doctrine provided the Imperial Infantrymen with the “Spiritual Spirit” they needed to serve the Emperor in battle.
Japanese Infantry units at full strength carry out a Close Assault with 1 additional Battle die. This bonus only applies when a unit is in close assault combat and with its initial figure count (usually 4 figures) intact.

Banzai War Cry
A mark of respect for the Emperor, Banzai emerged as the preferred war cry of Japanese soldiers during World War II.
An ordered Japanese Infantry unit may move 2 hexes and still battle when carrying out a Close Assault on an enemy unit. Terrain movement and battle restrictions still apply. A Japanese Infantry unit ordered by an Infantry Assault Command card may move 2 hexes and battle during a Banzai charge, but it may not move 3 hexes and battle.
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Beau Bailey
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Of the 14 times I have played Pacific Theater (each scenario twice), the Japanese have won 8.

Based on the booklets order, the Japanese won the first two and the last two scenarios (not counting the Overlord one).
 
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my eye
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I've always found these scenarios intense and close. Each battle tends to have a decided attacker/defender role, more so than with the base game and the other expansions. In the first two scenarios the Japanese are the attackers, with superior numbers and the Marines dug in. (And it's awfully hard for the Marines on Wake Island to overpower using the USMC command rules with only six units total.)

In 51 & 52 the Japanese are the defenders and are a bear to dig out, superior Marine numbers or no. Those same obstacles you refer to actually affect the Marines rather than the Japanese if playing the Japanese from a defensive point of view -- especially in the Guam Landings. Not only do the marines have to crawl through the beaches, they must slog through the rice paddies and rivers, all the while taking fire from the dug-in Japanese and risking Banzai attacks from the hills. And once they get close, they are firing at hidden and dug-in enemies on hills (with reduced die) who are hard to force to retreat and can utilize their close combat bonus (if at full-strength). The Marines have engineers, but they're also the prime target of the Japanese player.

Bloodbaths yes, but blowouts have been few and far between.

Of course, YMMV.
 
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Dan C
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Quote:
The rules for "Banzai War Cry" (move 2 + close assault battle) don't say the unit must be intact. This is mentioned in "Seishin Kyoiku Doctrine" (+1 die for close assault). Any chance you are mixing these two separate abilities?


Thanks for saying that. I think I have that straight, although perhaps I am undervaluing the value of the War Cry without being able to have the Seishin Kyoiku Doctrine (+1 die) after the unit takes a hit - hence my "bundling" them together.

But since both abilities involve Close Assault... and a move and stop, stranded in the Paddies or River without being able to retreat and without protection unless you spend another turn getting them out (if they survive)... it just seems like the Marines are going to stay out of Close Assault range and shoot you over the rivers/paddies with tanks and artillery.

Here's a question for those who successfully play the Japanese - how quickly do you abandon the sandbags at the beginning of a scenario. You don't need the flag protection, so do you just throw them off when you get an Assault-type card?
 
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Dan C
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Quote:
Those same obstacles you refer to actually affect the Marines rather than the Japanese if playing the Japanese from a defensive point of view -- especially in the Guam Landings. Not only do the marines have to crawl through the beaches, they must slog through the rice paddies and rivers, all the while taking fire from the dug-in Japanese and risking Banzai attacks from the hills.


Nah. Roll your tanks on the left up to 3 spaces from the sandbags and fire away - it's two dice for each attacking tank (only 1 die protection from the sandbags/hills). If the Japanese try to abandon the sandbags and run toward the tanks, they have to stop in the rice paddies. Great - now the tanks have three dice against. And that's not counting the Artillery that you are also gunning at them.

Why would you slog through the rice paddies and rivers when you can do the job from a distance?

The two outposts in the front on the beach are also two quick easy medals for the Marines - just pummel them with the USMC units that they are surrounded by.
 
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my eye
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Quote:
Here's a question for those who successfully play the Japanese - how quickly do you abandon the sandbags at the beginning of a scenario. You don't need the flag protection, so do you just throw them off when you get an Assault-type card?

You obviously want to be able to utilize the Banzai attack before you take a hit to the unit. When in a defensive position, the Japanese are nearly always in a terrain that causes one less die to be rolled -- two less for tanks attacking jungles. Which means the Marine infantry have to be two hexes away just to throw one die. So they have to be in range of a Banzai attack just to fire at the Japanese. Until then, you take your pot shots at them and work on taking out their artillery -- their worst enemy besides the Engineers. Best time is when you have two cards for the same section. Turn A you step off the hills/out of the jungle and utilize the attack. If you've lost any men on the Marine turn then Turn B you step back on the protective terrain and take shots at a weakened unit. This works particularly well on the Japanese right flank on Guam Landings (where, conversely, the Marines want to run their armor on the hills and get units into the jungle on their own right flank.)

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Tim Stellmach
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Okay, first, let's see if the Japanese do always get slaughtered. Here are the stats from the after-action reports:

Wake Island - 71% Japanese
Matanikau River - 32% Japanese
Slopes of Mount Austen - 36% Japanese
Guam Landings - 35% Japanese
Japanese Counterattack - 39% Japanese
Peleliu Landings - 54% Japanese
The Meat Grinder - 68% Japanese
Sugar Loaf and Half Moon - 45% Japanese

So, yes, while "always slaughtered" seems like an overstatement, there are quite a few scenarios that do in fact give the the Japanese quite a tough row to hoe. I think it's a mistake to try to attribute this to Japanese unit capabilities, though. A poor type of unit will do great in an advantageous scenario, and vice versa.

As to those numbers in the 30's and 70's and such even being there, from a gameplay perspective - that's the type of game this is. I understand that you don't seem to like that type of game. If you want equal odds, that's why you play two games and switch sides.
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Seth Owen
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And for what it's worth, Banzai charges were not a particularly effective tactic in the real war. It was an act of desperation. Indeed, towards the end of the war U.S. troops often came to look forward to the big Banzai charge because it signaled that the battle was near an end and it was a lot easier killing the Japanese soldiers as they charged then it was spending weeks winkling them out of every hole on the island.
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Dan C
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UPDATE: Just played 53 - [Guam] Japanese Counterattack and boy, what a difference those night vision rules make! Just what it needed. The Japanese won handily (6-1!) - but only because it stayed dark for three turns and they were able to max out their close assault advantage. Obviously if the sun went up faster, the Marines could weigh in with their ranged attacks. Perfect - this gives me hope for the Japanese/Marine rules!

Quote:
I understand that you don't seem to like that type of game. If you want equal odds, that's why you play two games and switch sides.


Thanks for the feedback. I just appreciate good game design. The hardest thing to do in designing a game/scenario is keeping it balanced. So if you get a pass on that - for "historical accuracy" or whatever - you just don't have to work as hard

 
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Bob Gibson
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timstellmach wrote:
Okay, first, let's see if the Japanese do always get slaughtered. Here are the stats from the after-action reports:

Wake Island - 71% Japanese
Matanikau River - 32% Japanese
Slopes of Mount Austen - 36% Japanese
Guam Landings - 35% Japanese
Japanese Counterattack - 39% Japanese
Peleliu Landings - 54% Japanese
The Meat Grinder - 68% Japanese
Sugar Loaf and Half Moon - 45% Japanese

Don't entirely believe the percentages since I've read so many posts on BGG that lead me to believe that players don't understand how to utilize the strengths of the Japanese. For example, we've played the Guam battles and have experienced much better Japanese successes than 35% & 39%. The Japanese are quite powerful at full strength, or even with less than full strength in possessing the banzai ability. There has been instances where they have abandoned sandbags to attack and gain a victory point. This is generally used infrequently and late in the game when they are somewhat close to a victory.

IMHO, the Japanese should be used with a bit of finesse and timing. More than other forces, they must use terrain to their advantage, and patience is vital in taking a victory point here or there - they don't necessarily come in bunches as with other forces. Finally, they need to remain allusive. Midway through a lot of our games, we are, at times, surprised to see that the Japanese remain close or are even to the victory count when, at the time, it just seems that they are being beaten. If used correctly, the Japanese are "sneaky tough".

Finally, from our experience the Japanese don't typically soundly beat their opponents like opponents can sometimes do to them. When they win, they usually win by a slight margin. Maybe that also explains why many M44 game players don't feel as though the Japanese are as powerful as the other nations.

Anyway, that's my two cents and I hope it makes sense.
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Tim Stellmach
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jedimusic wrote:
Thanks for the feedback. I just appreciate good game design.

On the contrary, good game design is whatever entertains players. Memoir '44 obviously succeeds at this for quite a lot of people.
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Dan C
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Doesn't sound contrary to what I was saying. M44 is obviously a great game system - it's just the design of individual scenarios that I'm evaluating here.
 
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Tim Earl
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I love playing the Japanese, but I think I'm a bit of an aggressive player to begin with, and their abilities complement that. I'm 9-2 as the Japanese, having lost Matanikau River and Sugar Loaf & Half Moon. So I definitely don't agree with the "always get slaughtered" assessment,

I think one of the important things to remember as the Japanese is not to commit to a Banzai charge unless you've got the proper follow-up cards. Obviously, this is important in every game of Memoir, but more so for the Japanese, as you end up exposed like you said and you don't want to lose that extra close assault die.
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Dan C
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I'm beginning to think it's just the first couple of scenarios - with their fords and rice paddies that result in the Japanese being sitting ducks - that might be the problem.
 
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Ron H
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The real strength of the Japanese is in caves. In caves, the Japanese infantry get a -2 unless the attackers are on the same hill or mountain range. Try Iwo Jima here:
http://www.daysofwonder.com/memoir44/en/editor/view/?id=3144

Try moving your units away from battle when they take casualties. Then if you get a medics and mechanics card, or have a hospital, you can recover lost figures and attack with the Seishin Kyoiku Doctrine.



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Dan C
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Yes the later scenarios in the booklet play better to the Japanese strengths. Just played the last one ("Half Moon" I believe?) not long ago, and the cave movement was huge. If a Japanese unit was whittled down to one figure, just move him out of range across the board and move a full strength unit in there to replace. It was a very close game, but Japanese did win that one.
 
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