One more session with fantastic series – D-Day – by John H. Butterfield. I had pleasure to play couple of times D-Day at Omaha Beach and now started exploration of D-Day at Tarawa. Both of those titles follow the well-established, procedural and card-driven bot management – no more complicated flowcharts, no more super difficult algorithms. You follow the procedure, use multi-functional cards and all of this allows for pretty flawless play.

While both titles use that proven mechanics, there are also distinctive differences. The Pacific Theater version brings usage of LVT (Landing Vehicle Tracked) to arrive at the beach, enemy actions from the onset of the game, close combat which significantly changes the flow of the game and many more. This is great to see such a refreshing additions!

My D-Day series articles:
D-Day at Omaha Beach – “Easy Fox” scenario
D-Day at Omaha Beach – yet one more time “Easy Fox” scenario
D-Day at Omaha Beach – “The First Waves” scenario
D-Day at Tarawa – “The First Waves” scenario

Battle of Tarawa

Marines storm Tarawa. Gilbert Islands. November 1943

Before moving forward with the report, I would like to provide historical context. For me thi sis as much important as playing the game itself.

Let me provide couple of words of historical background. The Battle of Tarawa was a battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II that was fought on 20–23 November 1943. It took place at the Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands, and was part of Operation Galvanic, the U.S. invasion of the Gilberts. Nearly 6,400 Japanese, Koreans, and Americans died in the fighting, mostly on and around the small island of Betio, in the extreme southwest of Tarawa Atoll.

The Battle of Tarawa was the first American offensive in the critical central Pacific region. It was also the first time in the Pacific War that the United States had faced serious Japanese opposition to an amphibious landing. Previous landings met little or no initial resistance, but on Tarawa the 4,500 Japanese defenders were well-supplied and well-prepared, and they fought almost to the last man, exacting a heavy toll on the United States Marine Corps.

The Game

In my initial article I provided some information about the game, but for those of you who hear about the title for the first time, let me provide some needed details. It is based on John Butterfield’s D-Day at Omaha Beach system and presents the fighting at platoon and company scale in solitaire mode. You command the invading American forces against dug-in Japanese defenders, which are controlled by the game system. Tarawa covers the landings on Betio Island in November 1943, and the operations of the US 2nd Marine and 27th Infantry Divisions to clear it — the first heavily contested landing of the Pacific War. The battle for the tiny Island raged for four days and, when it was finally over, fewer than 200 of the 5,000 Japanese defenders remained alive.

So far I have played only the training set-up – The First Waves (three times, due to some errors in first two attempts!) so I moved to logically next in line – The 20 November 1943 – scenario. It covers whole first day of the invasion (Turns 1-15) and takes up to four hours to play. This scenario is great continuation for players already familiar with basics of D-Day at Tarawa and allows to use the experience from The First Waves.

The Session

So we start again? Yes, this time the whole day, 15 Turns! I knew initial landings will be crucial and in essence direct my arrays of attack. Let me present short session report in form of slide-show:

For those interested in details, below two close-up maps. First, presenting the picture of the map after turn 15 – just open this in new window and watch the details:

End of game picture – click to enlarge

For a better visibility of progress and objectives achieved, I am also presenting grey-scale map with clear extent of my forces penetration, marking the occupied positions – green giving VPs and red which are not (as they are in Field of Fire of enemy):

Extent of American successes, with Green points secured (VPs), and Red ones in Field-of-Fire of Japaneses positions (no VPs)click to enlarge

I lost scenario as I did not managed to break through to southern beach but I had a lot of satisfaction anyhow with progress I made!


Fourth attempt, fourth failure. Sounds discouraging? It should not be! I am really eager to try one more time – the urge to play “just one more turn” is great in this game. There are some random factors, but their number is so large that it simply evens out from probabilistic perspective. The good example were my successful close combats, especially in initial part of the game. And let us be honest – that game is unforgiving as far as mistakes are concerned – never leave any hard-won territory unguarded!

Highly recommended! More session reports will come!