Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal
A Board Game about the Solomon Islands Campaign
AXIS & ALLIES ARTICLES
How to Play the Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal Board Game
Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal is the Axis&Allies spinoff published in 2007 by Avalon Hill. The game is the Axis and Allies treatment for the Solomon Islands Campaign, specifically the long battle of attrition that existed from August 7, 1942 to February 9, 1943, when the Japanese finally relented in the key island of Gaudalcanal in the Solomon Islands chain. This was the first time U.S. foot soldiers defeated the Japanese Imperial Army in combat, which marked a key turning point in the Pacific War. Despite this fact, the accounts of U.S. marines and sailors, as well as Japanese combatants, remain among the most horrifying of the war. The battle is rare because the interwoven battles on the land, in the sea, and in the air all proved key to the U.S. victory.
Guadalcanal is full of names that have gone down in United States military lore: Ironbottom Sound, the Tokyo Express, the Slot, and Henderson Field. Famed deaths of the campaign include the Sullivan Brothers (5 brothers who died aboard the same ship) and Isoroku Yamamoto, the Japanese Navy's ranking officer who had planned the attack on Pearl Harbor, who was assassinated by U.S. fighter planes when code breakers learned he would be flying to survey the fighting. Films like The Thin Red Line (also a book) depict the Battle of Guadalcanal, while future President John F. Kennedy had his famous PT-109 boat incident in the Solomon Islands Campaign (though after the end of Guadalcanal). After JFK's PT-boat was rammed by a Japanese destroyer, Kennedy led his men to an island--and eventually rescue--while towing a badly burned man through the water by clenching a life jacket's strap in his teeth. In other words, Guadalcanal and the word "gritty" go hand-in-hand.
Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal Instructions
As a game, Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal tries to simulate the tactical choices and obstacles both sides faced in the campaign. When an Allied coast watcher spotted the Japanese building an airfield on Guadalcanal, he radioed the Allies. This airfield would allow the Japanese to harry the shipping lanes between the United States and Australia, effectively cutting off Australia's supply lifeline, so the U.S. Navy decided it had to send in the marines. The marines' capture of the airfield, renamed Henderson Field after a dead officer, was a pivotal moment early in the campaign. Much of the battle centered around the Japanese army's attempts to recapture this airfield, while the naval battles centered around attempts to resupply the Japanese army attempting to do so. The Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal set-up is therefore meant to simulate the situation at the beginning of the battle. Game setup takes a time, like with most Axis and Allies games, but you simply follow the instructions, so it's no problem, even for children.
The game pieces look similar to other Avalon Hill Axis & Allies games. You'll have a lot of pieces, which include land, sea, and air forces. This game introduces the Cruiser rules, as carrier battles at sea gave way to night battles between gunships like cruisers and destroyers in the famous Ironbottom Sound. Troop resupply is important and is based on the number of islands you command plus a base number of units.
Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal Rules
One of the big departures for Axis&Allies: Guadalcanal is the use of the "Battle Box" to resolve combat. The battle box contains 12 different d6 dice. By falling into a battle track in the box, the dice (and damage) is randomized. Once this happens, you pull out the track to see which units took damage. Once you get used to the concept, it's actually suspenseful to see which units got fragged. The Battle Box also limits chances of any dice control playing into the game. If you and your opponents find the Battle Box to be too restrictive or unwieldy for your tastes, you can find other ways to resolve combat with little modification.
The Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal rules assure that all phases of the battle are important, as it should be. You have to have a strong land force to maintain control of islands, but if you don't also have a strong navy, these forces can be isolated and starved. Having control of the air is important in both of the other phases of combat.
Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal plays faster than many Axis & Allies board games. That's because the map is smaller and the units are of a smaller, more tactical character, while many Axis & Allies games involve grand strategy. Because the unit sizes are smaller and the battlefield is more compact, luck and random rolls tend to play a greater role in Guadalcanal than other Avalon Hill Axis & Allies games (though luck has a significant role in all). If you don't like that, you might not like Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal.
Axis and Allies: Guadalcanal Strategy
Victory Points are gained by controlling undamaged airfields on one of the six islands or island groups on the game board. Bouganville, New Georgia, and Guadalcanal islands each contain two airstrips, so they are more important than the other three islands. Those islands (which contain one airstrip) are Choiseul, Malaita, and Santa Isabel. The game board also has 9 sea spaces, but those three spaces in the center of the board are key to winning.
The three central ocean zones, found between the six island zones, are what the U.S. forces called "The Slot". The Japanese Navy tried to run supplies down this slot between the islands to resupply their beleaguered forces, while the U.S. Navy fought desperately to choke off this supply route. This resulted in multiple surface battles and single-ship engagements, turning this central naval area into what was called Ironbottom Sound, for all the ships sunk on either side. The Japanese began the campaign with better training in night fighting, so they mauled the U.S. Navy in early action. Later, the Americans were able to turn the tide in grim night action, though the loss of ships and crewmen continued to be horrifying for all involved.
Just like in the real battle, you need to get control of airfields early and maintain control of these vital strategic points at all costs. Because airfields are what let you build up your resupply effort, if you can create an imbalance, you're well on the way to winning. If your opponent starts to control more and more airstrips, you're probably in trouble. Because there's an uneven number of airstrips, one side is likely to always have an advantage over the other. Since battles are greatly affected by luck, whole units can be wiped out in an engagement, so the tide of battle turns quickly. Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal plays quicker than many Axis & Allies games.
Copyright 2007-2011 Board Games Pub - All Rights Reserved