Playtesting the Battle of Guadalcanal

Greg Smith

The scenario as written posed us a couple of questions.

First the ship dispositions of the Americans listed the wrong ships. Thee disposition of the Japanese was three ships short.

Second, “Japanese ships that do not exit the bottom of the map…” It isn’t exactly clear which constitutes the bottom of the map with the angled maps. Is it NSE or W? There is a compass beside the map – use it!

Finally the Helena has detected the Nagara – but the Helena doesn’t have radar, so she can’t detect anything.


Despite the Japanese being surprised by the Americans, they managed to fire a fan salvo that crippled the Juneau.

On turn 1 the Japanese have initiative. And this matters not one iota as the fleets steam towards each other and only a few destroyers can see one another.

On turn 2 the lead American cruisers turn broadside on, as do the two Japanese battle cruisers. Destroyers continue to close on the enemy of both sides, looking for torpedo targets. We rolled for spotting and quickly realised that firing star shells is far better than spotting – as they avoid the –1 modifier and they don’t rely on a CQ roll.

Turn 3 and the lead Japanese destroyers come into range. The American cruisers evade in preparation of torpedo strikes. That turns out to be pointless as these destroyers have type 93s and they are Wakeless. The Portland is crippled and the San Francisco sunk. Gunfire from the Japanese battlecruisers sinks the Portland, sinks a pair of leading American destroyers and cripples the Fletcher.

On turn 4 the Fletcher crosses the bow of the Hiei, while the Aaron Ward and Monsoon steam alongside her at point blank range. Two more destroyers cross her stern. The Fletchers single salvo does a desultory 6 points of damage, but the Aaron Ward cripples her, despite the torpedo belt. The Hiei sinks the Monsoon and Fletcher but a final Torpedo barrage from the stern sinks her.

The Hiei is the admiral’s flagship, so the Japanese have to withdraw, we think.

Turn 5 and the last remaining American destroyer with torpedoes sinks the Nagata. But the rearmost Japanese destroyer squadron come into range of the American light cruisers and sinks the Helena, Atlanta and a destroyer. The Japanese fleet is steaming towards the table edge but fire from the Kirishima sinks the remaining American destroyers. Only the cripple Juneau remains.

At this point we call the game.



Americans: 683 points
Japanese: 975 points

There were still around 800 points of Japanese on the table, so that was maybe another 400 points to the Americans. We’re not sure.


Rules questions that arose:

Can you fire a star shell near a ship that you can’t see?

If a devastating hit causes two critical hits and both roll location 4, do you suffer the crit twice? The rule says “if the location already has a Critical Score that is higher than the dice roll, the new critical hit is ignored”. But it seems logical to ignore a second crit the same.

Scenario questions:

If Admiral Abe’s flagship is sunk, do the Japanese still have to withdraw? Do they have to withdraw to the bottom of the map (whichever side that is), or the closest edge? Or maybe North and West away from Guadalcanal.

Are the Japanese actively trying to get off the bottom of the map? ie to bombard Henderson field?
Since the game ends when one side is destroyed, a large number of Japanese ships could be left on the table that may give up points – or do they?

Do Japanese ships score normally if they withdraw off other table sides, or just the ‘as crippled’ described in the scenario.



My opponent said his best course of action with the Japanese would have been to leave his cruisers at the back and just use his destroyers.

It was the destroyers that sank all the cruisers in this game. Torpedoes were king and Type 93s were the king of kings.

Being a historical scenario the forces are imbalanced. Penalising the Japanese for remaining on the table balances that up – but it was not clear to us that exiting the table was the aim of the game for the Japanese. And if it was, in an open ended game, the Japanese could simply have withdrawn while ignoring the last American ship. The scenario needs a turn limit - probably 8.
We spotted the 'bottom of the map' thing, and fixing it :)

Destroyers are getting a good look, some new things will be implemented in the next playtest pack, likely appearing in April.