Guadalcanal Campaign – Finale!
Last week we got together for the final scenario of the Guadalcanal campaign for Check Your Six!. The final scenario featured Japanese Zeros coming down to strafe Marine Corp positions on Edson’s Ridge.
Confident of eventual victory, Tom had brought some Japanese beer to celebrate their victory, which we of course immediately opened. The Japanese chose to bring six of their fighters in to strafe the positions and to have the third shotai trailing at altitude to provide top cover. During the game set-up, the Japanese were allowed to replace one of their skilled pilots with and ace pilot – Hiroyoshi Nishizawa, the Devil of Rabaul. The US players received reinforcements of 2 additional Wildcats, but they would not arrive until turn six.
The Japanese set up at TAL 1 for immediate strafing attacks against the northern most Marine positions. The Wildcats were overhead at TAL 6. In the opening couple of turns the Zeros opened up on the Marines as most of the Wildcats dived to the deck to intercept them. I kept my veteran pilot at altitude to tackle any Japanese top cover that arrived. The Japanese had to fly straight and level to make a strafing run and that made them predictable – and therefore vulnerable. A couple of my Wildcats were able to get into good firing positions on the tail of a Zero and rapidly shot down the first Zero.
The Japanese top cover arrived and was able to get the bounce on the veteran I had left aloft, but fortunately a handy cloud provided a quick escape. He maneuvered for a couple of shots against Andy’s high flying Zeros, but was thwarted by badly mis-aligned guns (i.e. I rolled a couple of 3’s on 2d6). Finally I maneuvered into position for another tailing shot only to roll badly again. But it was a trap as Andy’s other aircraft had me lined up for a head-to-head pass and shot the veteran from the skies.
Ken’s Wildcats had gotten drawn off to the north chasing couple of Bob’s aircraft, while my remaining pair chased Tom’s strafers across the battle area from north to south. I managed to shoot down another aircraft but also suffered engine damage to one of my F4F’s. That aircraft began limping toward safety to the southeast, hoping the rest of the enemy could be kept busy long enough to make an escape. The two reinforcing Wildcats arrived from the east but were a long way from the battle area and so charged in at best speed in a shallow dive.
Up north, Bob finally revealed Nishizawa and managed to score a couple of hits on Ken’s Wildcats. But the toughness of the Grummans was a factor on this day as we made a number of Robustness rolls. In the south my remaining fighter continued to chase after the Zeros strafing the Marine positions only to suddenly find himself in the midst of three enemy aircraft. In the nick of time the two reinforcing Wildcats arrived on the scene, zooming in for shots against some of the Zeros. A couple of more Zeros were shot down, but at the cost of two more Wildcats with engine damage. In the last salvo, two of the surviving Wildcats ran out of ammo. The Japanese made an effort to shoot down the wounded Grumman fighters, but both were able to escape the battle area. Both sides disengaged and the damaged Wildcats limped into Henderson. Final totals for the game were 5 Zeros destroyed and 2 Wildcats destroyed in air-to-air fighting. Three Wildcats were damaged but unfortunately, two of the three damaged aircraft cracked up trying to land, resulting in two more destroyed aircraft. The Japanese strafing provided a marginal additional bonus for the Japanese.
Following the final table top scenario we moved on to the final Japanese attack. The Marines elected to establish a defense in depth, providing the perfect defense against the Japanese choice to use infiltration tactics instead of a Banzai! charge. However, the weeks of continuous pounding had taken it’s toll and the Japanese numbers proved too great. The Marine positions were overwhelmed and the Japanese awarded the victory. It was wafer thin though. The final US plane availability number was 20. Had it been 21, the campaign would have ended in a draw. Those two Wildcats that crashed at Henderson loomed large. The real killer for the US though was the second scenario of the campaign in which the US lost almost their entire force. The sudden drop in US Plane Availability made it very difficult to stop the arrival of transports and theJapanese were able to pour men ashore unimpeded until the US carefully rebuilt their aircraft strength. In the latter half of the campaign the US players were able to intercept and destroy some of the troop transports.
Everyone really enjoyed the campaign and we are definitely looking forward to the second in the series, which is supposedly going to center on the Japanese R-area seaplane operations.