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Friday, April 29, 2016

Battle of Tarawa Mini-Campaign

The great guys over at Behind Enemy Lines asked me to write up a mini-campaign covering the Battle of Tarawa. I'd generated a couple of mini-campaigns while writing the history and flavor texts for Banzai covering the Battle of Guadalcanal and Battle of Iwo-Jima, and they really seem to have struck a chord in the gaming community. These mini-campaigns offer more flexibility than a larger firestorm campaign and are better suited to casual play, but still give the players a strong grounding in the historical roots of the battle. Behind Enemy Lines published the campaign over a period of four days, and links to each of the battles can be found below.

Day 1 covers the initial Marine landings on the island of Betio, where almost all of the Battle of Tarawa was actually fought. It covers the assault on landing beaches code named Red 1, 2, and 3. An exceptionally low neap tide prevented the Higgins Boats from reaching shore, so only units equipped with LVT's made it to shore. In game terms the scenario focuses on this initial beach assault.

The action on Day 2 is covered in two separate scenarios in which the Marines begin their breakout from the Red 1, 2, and 3 beaches. The forces at Red 1 begin an assault on the adjacent Green beach which roughly runs along the western coast of the atoll. In a separate mission, the Marines from Red 2 and 3 Beaches begin their advance to secure the island's strategic airstrip.

With the battle going against the Japanese, Day 3 sees a change in their tactics. As the Marines on Red and Green Beaches try to link up with the Marines holding part of the airfield, a more mobile battle erupts - simulated using the "Dust Up" mission. That evening, the Japanese had planned a full counterattack, but this was broken-up by artillery, leading to a Banzai charge in the early morning hours of Day 4.

On the final day of the battle, the Marines began to mop up the last Japanese resistance, which had been forced into the narrow eastern tip of the atoll. The Marines would often bypass strong points and try to attack them from the rear. By the end of the battle only 17 Japanese surrendered out of a garrison of over 4500.

Point values used for this mini-campaign can vary, the real key is trying to balance the forces and ensuring each player tries to take a force representative of those actually used in the actual battle. Another option would be to play a "mega-campaign." Tarawa Atoll is small enough (and narrow enough) to model most if not all of the island across several tabletops. Running the battle in closer to 1:1 scale would also give the players a good feel for how tightly fought and contested some of these Pacific battles truly were.

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