This scenario appeared in Backblast magazine, issue number one, published in 1994 by MMP before they became the official stewards of ASL. There is no designer credit for it. It is the only scenario from that issue that was never re-published.

There are several reasons that make this scenario a good choice for an introduction to caves. The scenario uses a small map, and all the action is in the space of half of a geomorphic map. There are only four cave counters for the Japanese, which shouldn’t require tons to time to set up. There are only seven Japanese MMC. The Americans have eleven MMC at start, but they will be deploying several squads. The sum of this gives a cave scenario without a ton of other things to worry about.

There are a couple of reasons, as well, that might discourage some players from trying it. The first reason is the amount of terrain changes specified in SSR 1. I will elaborate later, but terrain changes add to the mental overhead of a scenario. The other reason is the victory conditions. The Americans can win by controlling all the cave locations or at game end by having no Japanese units in locations at level two or higher (not including the cave locations). This victory condition forces the American player to do what is commonly referred to as a “bug hunt”. A fair number of players do not like that sort of VC. A more fun cave scenario is one that has caves as part of a defensive network that one must push through to achieve a VC like area control or building control or exit.

I believe the positives outweigh the negatives to make this a good cave learning scenario.

The attack on Tulagi was one of several supporting operations to the invasion of Guadalcanal Island in the Solomons. The scenario has elite forces on both sides. The Japanese units are Naval SNLF troops. The Americans are part of a marine raider battalion.

The terrain changes remove two of the three hills; the left one and the right one, leaving the middle one. This was impossible for me to exactly follow in VASL. I used overlays to change a lot of the hexes on the “removed” hills, the rest were left up to our brains.

The victory area is hill 604. There are 7.5 turns. The Americans must clear that hill of unbroken Japanese units on level two or higher by game end; they can also achieve an immediate win if they control all the caves. The Americans can control an unhidden cave by controlling the cave’s entrance hex while there are no Japanese units in the cave. That control lasts until the Japanese re-occupy the cave, regardless of what the American unit does.

Ten American squad equivalents with a hard-to-see-as-useful 60mm OBA module need to either control all the cave entrance locations or fully clear and secure the level two or higher locations. The Japanese have five squads and three crews with MMG with which to fight them.

An SSR lets the Japanese have two MMC set up HIP. The caves start HIP as do their contents. I put out a sacrificial HS to strip concealment. I have a squad in the north to block the easiest path to the rear of the hill. The squad in the south is also to protect the rear, but it would need to move a bit if the Americans use the gully. Every cave counter is in a jungle hex to keep HIP as long as possible. Two of them face the rear of the hill to cause the Americans to need more time to do anything to them. The four cave counters allow the Japanese to have one cave complex, which I choose to have. This forces all the cave counters to be with two hexes of the primary cave Alpha. Two important cave rules to know, if you know nothing about caves: first, units have LOS to a cave only when the unit is within the cave’s covered arc. Second, CC is not allowed between units inside a cave and units outside of a cave.

Here’s what the Americans see at start. When I played this again later as the Americans, my plan was to find the caves quickly and then try to destroy them with DC or position my troops so that when the Japanese came out of the caves, I could try to eliminate them.

The Americans have one mission of 80mm OBA with a pre-registered hex selected before setup. I guess it is not too surprising that my only on-board unit was near it. The HS broke to a NMC result. So much for stripping concealment. For the most part, the American moves generated no reaction, except when a unit moved adjacent to the north flank squad. Two HS moved adjacent to it, but suffered no adverse results.

In Japanese turn one, the north flank squad took a shot to no effect. A few hidden units shuffled around. The Americans got their 60mm OBA going. The north flank Japanese squad went for CC against an adjacent HS. It ambushed and eliminated the HS.

I am missing the log for American turn two. I can deduce that American fire eliminated the north flank Japanese squad. The Americans did a lot of moving and some searching. They found cave Charlie when they used the path and a cave defender fired at them to no effect.

The Japanese did no prep or movement during their turn. The HIP south flank squad, however, advanced out of his foxhole to take on what I believed to be the OBA observer. I was correct and the squad eliminated the observer.

During American turn three, a squad tried to place a DC from the entrance hex of cave Charlie, but defensive  from one squad fire broke the squad. American units continued to search and move to the rear of the hill. A HS moved into the entrance hex of cave Alpha and was broken by defensive fire from two MMG.

In Japanese three, all the visible cave units moved into the complex to become HIP again. The Americans had no one in the visible caves’ entrance hexes, so whatever units advance back into those caves will be HIP. American defensive fire from 36I5 obtained a KIA on the southern Japanese squad that had no place to hide. In the advance phase, one squad and a HS went into cave Alpha, while two MMG with crews and a leader advanced into cave Charlie.

American turn four: marines moved and searched, but only reveal the contents of the caves Alpha and Charlie. The marines threw smoke into the entrance hex of Charlie and then a HS moved there to place a DC. Since this was our first time playing caves, we missed the tactic of putting smoke or WP into the cave location, instead of the cave entrance. This is more difficult to do, but also more effective. The defenders got a low roll with 16 FP to break the HS. In final fire, the defenders eliminated that HS. American units later advanced into the hexes that contain the last two caves. There is no LOS to the cave entrance, however, so they don’t know it yet.

During Japanese turn four, they shuffled in and out of the complex again. The Americans have no targets.

In American turn five, they found caves Bravo and Delta by searching. Two concealed units moved singly into the entrance hex of Charlie. Lucky defensive fire from two MMG (with rate) broke them. A third squad is luckier and even places a DC into the cave. The detonation stripes both Japanese crews and wounds the leader.

Japanese turn five: everyone except one crew, moved into the complex to be able to shuffle the assets. One crew in cave Charlie was adventurous, lured by a stack of two broken marine squads a short distance away. He made it there to DM the squads. This time the Americans have units in the entrance hexes of Alpha and Delta, so the Japanese that advance into those caves are concealed, rather than HIP.

During American turn six, the two DM squads failed to rally. A squad went after the offending Japanese crew and eliminates it in CC. A bunch of units advanced concealed into the bamboo entrance hex of cave Delta, to join one that was already there waiting for help.

Japanese turn six was very much like their turn five. The Americans failed to rally the two DM squads again, so the Japanese squad in cave Charlie came out to keep them DM.

In American turn seven, those two DM squads failed to rally again. Prep fire didn’t hurt the Japanese squad that kept them DM. A squad assault moves in front of cave Bravo; MMG defensive fire rolls up a KIA.  A HS tried to place a DC in cave Alpha, but the defending squad fire broke the HS. One of the two squads adjacent to cave Delta successfully places a DC into the cave. The detonation stripes the crew. Japanese defensive fire by the “outdoor” squad broke another marine squad.

Japanese turn seven: one of the two stacked American squads rallied. The MMG in cave Delta fired at the adjacent American squad and rolled boxcars. Several units enter the complex. A squad stayed in cave Alpha, however, so it could advance out and DM two adjacent broken American units. The “outdoor” Japanese squad moved to DM a solitary broken marine squad. American defensive fire back at cave Delta does not damage the occupant.

We played out the Rally Phase of American turn eight in case of miracle dice. That did not happen, so the American player conceded.

We switched sides and played this scenario again. As the Americans, I deployed more and searched more, which helped me find the caves faster. However, I still couldn’t eliminate enough caves and/or Japanese to win the game. We both need to improve our cave busting skills.

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