Game 4 and the 2nd turn of day 2 on Saipan. The first battle turn had seen a voluntary Japanese retreat and automatic Marine victory. The next battle is a probe. By the rules book this should be fought across the table but for this game play goes along the table length. The Marines need to get a unit off table; breaking through the hedge line behind the railway tracks. An added blow is that the pre-game barrage is not allowed in a probe battle. The image below shows the patrol markers and jump off points in place. The Japanese are planning to hold the hedge line. The Marine support is an off-table mortar unit and 2 teams of MMGs. The Japanese buy 2 anti-tank guns, neither entirely useless against infantry in a case such as this where they do not encounter any tanks.
The mortar choice proves a game changer due to pure luck and a mis-read of the rules.. A single barrage is guaranteed to come in but will end with the turn end. To call an additional barrage requires a 5 or 6 on a D6, on a 3 or 4 another attempt to call a barrage can be made on the next spotter activation. On a 1 or 2 no further barrage will come in. The Marines were able to call in 3 barrages in this game. The relatively narrow Japanese defensive area made it almost impossible to miss a target unit even if the barrage deviated. There are few counters to the barrage effects. Not deploying would allow the Marines to march off the board. Entrenchments might have been some help as they would be some protection against HE. When the barrages came the Japanese damage was severe. This was because each team under the barrage rolled for hits with a reduction of cover for HE. A better reading of the rules revealed that although under a barrage each time still has to roll to be targeted and again for the effect of the hits. Getting this right would have halved the number of effective hits. Also although HE does reduce cover a unit under a barrage is pinned and this increases cover by one level so the HE cover effect would be cancelled out.
The Marines moved in with a single section and the Japanese manned the hedge opposite with one of theirs. The Marines deployed the mortar observer and a senior leader so the observer could activate on a 1 (observer team) or 4 (senior leader). A barrage comes in pinning the Japanese infantry and racking up their losses. To counter the Japanese deploy an anti-tank gun and shoot at the observer. He takes a shock but the nearby leader is killed. The Marines deploy another section, their 2nd senior leader and a MMG team. The gun scores no more kills and there is nothing much the Japanese can do until the barrage lifts. The Marine section stay outside the barrage area.
Eventually the barrage lifts. The Japanese deploy a mortar section but have to shuffle them outside of minimum mortar range.
The Japanese deploy a section in the centre of their line. A new barrage catches part of a section and the nearby gun. Marines move up to the railway embankment and blaze away. Other sections move up and give supporting fire.
Close combat is somewhat random in Chain of Command. There is too much risk in charging in if you can get away without it. The Japanese deploy another gun to support their defense. The original Japanese squad holding the line has broken but another has deployed to fill the gap. The 2nd barrage ends but a 3rd catches the centre section and eventually wipes it out. A fresh Marine section moves up on the empty Japanese left wing.
The Marines lift the barrage so they can charge through and get off board. The Japanese manage to move their jump off point so it is not overrun and gather their remaining forces around it. The Marines will not be able to move far enough to get off board on their next phase and the Japanese voluntarily withdraw. They were close to a rout and a a game loss through Marines exiting the board. All that remains of a full Japanese platoon can be seen below.
The Marine platoon has taken only limited losses but the Japanese are running out of men. The Japanese fill out their 1st platoon with survivors from the 2nd and field it at full strength. None of the Marine platoons are weak enough to disband so the 3rd platoon goes in again. The Marines take a Sherman and pre-game barrage as support, the Japanese an anti-tank gun and 4 sets of entrenchments. The patrol markers and jump off points are shown below. The Japanese markers are deliberately further back to prevent them being overrun. The objective is to break the opposition’s morale while keeping your own above 3.
The first dice roll includes 4 sixes so the turn ends and the Marine pre-game barrage is never used. Some good news is that the random event bring on rain so the Marines are out of sight of the Japanese on the back row. Unfortunately the turn has ended swiftly again and with it the rain. The Japanese have deployed 2 more sections well back and inflict losses on the leftmost flanking unit forcing to fall back into cover. The entrenchments are a cover bonus to the Japanese but do make the defense less mobile.
The Japanese mortar section comes on too far forward and is taking hits before it can sort itself out. The Marines make better use of cover which slows their advance but keeps them in the game. The Sherman shows up and tries to keep out of trouble.
The Japanese deploy their anti-tank gun opposite the Sherman and the familiar gun-tank duel is off again. The tank takes some shock which it shakes off and the gun loses some crew. The initial Marine sections have been taking steady losses. A 3rd section deploys and moves up to the side of the Sherman.
The Sherman loses its main gun and has a wounded leader but carries on. It is the accompanying infantry which eventually assaults the Japanese gun, breaking the crew. The Marines end the turn and the Japanese morale drops to 2 due to the routed gun team and accompanying senior leader. The Japanese had sent a section to advance and overrun the exposed Marine jump off points. With a minimal chance of holding out that long the Japanese pull back and voluntarily withdraw.
The games so far have featured lengthy gun and tank duels. Where possible it is best for the tank to avoid or overrun the gun. In the last game the gun hit the tank with almost every shot but did not knock it out. The gun rolled 6 dice for effect and the tank 6 for armour. In each case a 5,6 was a success and the surplus of hits against saves affects the possible damage. For a good chance of a knock out a surplus of 3 is required and the odds are against that.
This is the final scenario with the play at game 4 of day 2. The Marines are only 1 game behind schedule but this looks a tough nut to crack. All ground to the right of the row of scrub is a steep hill and impassable to vehicles. Most of the board, excepting the courtyard around the buildings offers some sort of cover. This will put an end to the strategy of running over the Japanese with a tank. Instead the Marines rely on an off-table mortar battery and pre-game bombardment to do the job.
The Japanese deploy a squad with entrenchments in the centre jump off point. The Marines bring on the mortar battery. Despite getting the rules right this time and rolling to hit and to damage the Japanese still take massive damage. Meanwhile the Marines move up on the rightmost objective but the Japanese deploy an infantry and a mortar section. The Marines go to ground with 2 sections but still take heavy losses. The 3rd Marine section is in the building. This is also pouring fire into the section on the centre jump off point, together with the effect of the mortar barrage the Japanese holding the centre are wiped out.
The Marines need to lift the barrage to hopefully move onto the jump off point and capture it. The Japanese deploy their final infantry section in the now empty entrenchments. The Marines cannot shift their forces forward to make any progress and with steadily mounting losses and dropping morale withdraw. The Japanese had bought a field gun, this could have gone into the bunker but was never deployed.
The Marines have failed to pull off an early win. Day 3 will begin with a night attack by the Japanese.