Today’s article of my “Top 3 Wargames” will be slightly different than the previous ones. Just like with my “Top 3 Ancient Rome wargames“, I will not focus on the type / category of the boardgame but the theme and focus of it. The idea appeared to me recently, after playing consecutively couple of various games featuring Marines – mainly Pacific landings of World War II. I realized that, well, I really played decent number of such positions and that might be good topic for article!

So who will be the main character of below list? The United States Marine Corps (USMC), also referred to as the United States Marines or simply Marines, is the maritime land force service branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for conducting expeditionary and amphibious operations through combined arms, implementing its own infantry, armor, artillery, aerial and special operations forces.

The history of the Marine Corps began when two battalions of Continental Marines were formed on 10 November 1775 in Philadelphia as a service branch of infantry troops capable of fighting both at sea and on shore. In the Pacific theater of World War II the Corps took the lead in a massive campaign of amphibious warfare, advancing from island to island. Today the Marine Corps fulfills a critical military role as an amphibious warfare force.

So let us see which titles feature those formidable forces!

Other articles in the series:

D-Day at Tarawa by Decision Games

As you probably can observe from my blog, I am devoted fan of John H. Butterfield creations. All those games are pretty procedural, with clear actions designed for the Artificial Intelligence (Bots). I really like the way cards drive the Competition / Germans / Japanese behaviors – you do not have to look up the possible actions in pretty complicated flowcharts.

The landings are about to start!

Now, let me provide some more info on game I have chosen for top 3. In D-Day at Tarawa you command the invading American forces against well dug-in Japanese defenders, who 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.

Tanks are hard nuts to crack

For me, playing D-Day at Tarawa is very enjoyable experience although nobody should expect easy wins. Marines plays here a key role, as majority of initial landings is conducted by them. This title is tough, be prepared to get tons of casualties but in the end – once you are more familiar with the map – you see the paths and possible axis of attack. The learning curve is painful but satisfaction enormous, even with small victories and local wins!

What I find especially worth mentioning – and the reason why I put this before Omaha Beach – is Close Combat. This is very brutal but also thematic element of the Pacific Warfare and changes the whole dynamics of the series. Sometimes you even wish to sacrifice some units in order to crack otherwise un-penetrable defenses.

One of my better performances in that game – the only victory I achieved so far

More about game:

Fields of Fire 2 by GMT Games

A small digression first. There are titles which come and go without special fuss or controversy – some become classics, some are forgotten. And there are games which you cannot be indifferent about. Fields of Fire definitely falls into that second category – some love it, some hate but you really cannot be lukewarm once you started to play it!

The fight for the Peleliu Airfield

In Fields of Fire 2 you take command of a rifle company in the 5th Marines, the most decorated regiment in the US Marine Corps. We will be leading it through three campaigns spanning:

  • World War II (Peleliu in September 1944 landings)
  • Korea (Chosin Reservoir battle in November 1950)
  • Vietnam (Hue City house to house fight in February 1968)

When I started my journey with this position I discovered a fantastic game, superbly depicting the tactical warfare of infantry company. A game which is rewarding, exciting and… plagued by one of the most complex, complicated and ambiguous rulebooks I ever read! But I was not deterred – couple of How to Video (Blue Tweezers, thank you!) and I was ready to take up on the challenge.

So if you are looking for a great and detailed game about Marines, their tactics and strategies, this is definitely game worth investing time into!

Video play-through of the Japanese Counter-Attack scenario

More about game:

Empire of the Sun
 by GMT Games

That is definitely one of the wargaming hobby classics but also a fantastic simulation of strategic warfare on Pacific during WWII – Empire of the Sun (EotS). A really breath-taking scale, with comprehensive campaign and accessible scenarios, be it from the base game or GMT C3i magazine.

A congestion in the Solomon Sea – Guadalcanal battles will soon ensue!

The Marines play here a key role as a landing force, which although not as numerous and powerful as Army, are key to victory. Inter-service rivalry puts even more focus on various branches of both belligerents.

To be quite honest, I have not found better game with that theme. It is true that in order to cover whole 4 years of Pacific War, including main theaters as India, Burma, China, Japan, Australia and all the Islands a really comprehensive rulebook was needed. Still, with every session played the game become more and more accessible and joy from it grows!

The scale of game is simply breath-taking

In my experience, if you would like to start the wonderful journey with EotS, start small. The good entry points will be 1943 scenario or C3i South Pacific set-up. They both limit the scale and timeline of campaign, providing for good training gameplays. Enjoy!

More about game:

Honorable mentions

I have already hinted at the beginning of the article that I cannot restrain myself from mentioning couple of other titles. There are at least two more which I would like to briefly describe.

US and Sweden frigates near Tripoli

Shores of Tripoli by Fort Circle – The game plays out an exciting episode of Early American military history – The First Barbary War (1801-1805). As the United States, one player will pressure Tripolitania to allow the free movement of American merchant vessels – or face the consequences. As the leader of Tripoli, the other player will continue the lucrative piracy of the fearsome corsairs while countering the American threat on land and sea.

US Navy plays a key role in this game but the Marines are instrumental in either straight attack on Tripoli or gradual encroachment from Alexandria, through Derne and Benghazi. And the title itself is a small, great jewel in the Card Driven Games category. Recommended!

Pacific Theater expansion

Pacific Expansion for Memoir’44 by Days of Wonder – definitely one of the best expansions to the base game. This add-on takes you to the Pacific Theater, complete with a new Japanese army, new terrains and new command rules for the Imperial Japanese Army and the US Marines. You are able to re-play some of the most ferocious battles of WWII like Iwo Jima or Okinawa; and you will be using new interesting rules like the Japanese “Banzai!” war cry or the Marines’ “Gung Ho” rally cry to win the battle!

US Marine Corp gets its own special ability and is the only Allied force in many of official and fan-made scenarios. A Break-through format, multi-map Guadalcanal campaign is probably the best of them.

Highly recommended if you wonder which of numerous Memoir’44 expansions to get.


The naval / amphibious aspect of warfare has its own appeal and is considered by many as the most interesting one. It probably has a lot to do with romanticized picture of naval engagements in comparison to tedious land battles, often connected with trench warfare. Amphibious assaults executed by Marines are ones of the most risky and difficult operations to execute and those units – rightly – are one of the most elite in all the armed forces.

All above titles are highly recommended – hope you will find some interesting here! As always, any comments are welcome!