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  Tarawa 1943 by Worthington Publishing  The name of this battle is normally given as Tarawa. However, Tarawa is an Atoll that comprises sev...

Tarawa 1943 by Worthington Publishing Tarawa 1943 by Worthington Publishing

Tarawa 1943 by Worthington Publishing

Tarawa 1943 by Worthington Publishing

 Tarawa 1943


Worthington Publishing

 The name of this battle is normally given as Tarawa. However, Tarawa is an Atoll that comprises several small Islands and a larger one named Betio. Betio Island is actually where almost all of the action took place and all of the videos you see are about the fighting there. 

 The U.S, Navy had decided to attack the Japanese straight through the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This put Tarawa on a line between Hawaii and the heart of the Japanese Empire. The Japanese also understood that their base there was in the first line of defense of their Empire. The Japanese had been given about a year to erect their defenses on Betio to repulse any American attempt to conquer the Island.  This would be the first real island invasion of WWII that most people have come to associate with the actions in the Pacific. The 2nd Marine Division were to be the troops assigned to capture Betio. In a quirk of fate, the Japanese Yokosuka 6th SNLF (Special Naval Landing Forces, the Japanese version of the Marines) was to be the defender. The island was ringed with barbed wire and many mines and obstacles to slow any attackers so that they could be slaughtered on the beach.  The attack was made by the marines on November 20th, 1943. The island was blasted by the naval surface and air units. The devastation brought by the bombs and shells looked like not much could live on the island. However, the Japanese had dug themselves in so well that it was really only superficial damage. This was to be a recurring theme in other island attacks. One island was later described as looking like it had been picked up and dropped from 10K feet. Unfortunately, the Japanese proved themselves as masters of defense. Enough of the history. The stage is set for the battle.

 Tarawa 1943 is a solitaire card driven game where you take command of the U.S. forces attempting to invade Betio Island. This is what comes with the game:

Hard Mounted Map Board

USMC green wooden markers

Japanese yellow wooden markers

Labels for the markers

black cubes

brown cubes

Japanese cards

USMC cards



Battle manual with history, examples, pictures, etc

Battle archive

Storage tray

 As you can see by the map picture, Tarawa 1943 does not have hex or area movement. This game is designed much like two other Worthington Publishing games I have played: Freeman's Farm, and Chancellorsville 1863. Your success in battle will decided if and when your troops will be able to move from their starting positions. 

Map close up

 The Mounted Map is 22" x 17" in size. Even though it does not have the terrain etc. that a hex map has, it still is a very good depiction of the island at the time of the battle. The Dice Results for the two sides' attacks are on it, as are the USMC Battalion Cohesion Tracks. The green and yellow wooden markers are all the same size and do not have any points or any other deformity. This also goes for the brown, yellow, and red smaller cubes (these are for bunkers, or to keep track of cohesion etc.). Next up are the Japanese and USMC cards. These are the standard size cards used in most games. The top part of the cards has the game information needed, while the bottom part of most cards has a historical tidbit about the battle. This is a really nice touch and adds to the immersion. The cards are not little masterpieces of art, but fully functional, with some of the writing a bit small. The Rulebook is in full color and is only twelve pages long. The Battle Manual is twenty-four pages long. The first seven pages have an explanation for each card you can play. The last seventeen pages contain an excellent history of the actual battle. One other nice touch is the inclusion of the 'Battle Archive'. This is a small pad to keep track of the results of each battle played. As you can see, the components are up to snuff.

Stickered Blocks

  The rules are short and sweet and easily understood. Keeping track of the Cohesion of the USMC is also straightforward. I know I have said this before in other games, but just because a game's rules are simple does not necessarily make it a simple game. Some games do not have heavy rulebooks but are still very deep. This is one of those games. You are given lots of choices of what to do with your cardboard Marines. The AI bot in this game works extremely well. It could be the designer and it could be the small number of units. Of course, it could be a combination of both. The game footprint is pretty much the size of the Map Board. The length of the game is not very long (30 cards in each deck). You can adjust the difficulty of the game by adding and subtracting Japanese Cards. There is also an Optional Rule to land on the other side of the island. This was where the Japanese expected an attack.

Marine Cards

 This is the Sequence of Play:

"Before the first round of the game is played, the Special
Landing Phase is conducted.

SPECIAL LANDING PHASE: This only occurs once during
the game. Make an initial Japanese fire attack roll of 4
dice against each of the USMC occupied wave 1 positions
adjacent to an occupied Japanese position. Any die roll
of 1 are treated as no result during this phase. This phase
is only conducted before the first turn of the game. No
cards are played for either side during this phase.
After the Special Landing phase at the beginning of a
game, a series of rounds is played in the sequence below.
Each round consists of one turn for the USMC player followed
by a turn with the play of the Japanese AI.

Draw up to 2 new cards from the tactics draw deck and
place it face up into the USMC hand of tactic cards.
Maximum of 3 cards allowed in the USMC tactics hand.
» Place a new wave
» Regroup
» Rotate Battalions
» Move
» Attack
Note: A USMC tactics card may be played before,
during, or immediately after this activation.
Check for exhaustion for any USMC battalion that reduces
below 6 cohesion this USMC turn.
If no tactics card was played, the USMC player may discard
1 tactics card from his hand.

Draw the top card from the Japanese activation draw
deck and place face up in the discard pile.
Follow all instructions from the face up Japanese AI activation

Note: A USMC tactics card may or may not be played
before, during, or immediately after this activation.
Check for exhaustion for any USMC battalion that reduces
below 6 cohesion this Japanese turn.
1. Once the last Japanese card is played, the game
ends after the next USMC player turn.
Note: The USMC player gets one last turn after
the last card is played from the Japanese AI deck.
2. The game immediately ends when the USMC player
controls all island positions at the end of the USMC

 That, my good gentlemen, is the game. It seems pretty simple, does it not? Your biggest job is to decide what action you will take with your USMC units. Your job is to take the island. However, you must worry about your units losing cohesion and/or getting exhausted. 

Japanese Cards

 These are the Victory Conditions:

» Marines receive 2 VP per USMC controlled island
» Marines receive 1 VP per Japanese card remaining
after USMC control all island positions.

» Japanese receive 2 VP per USMC marker eliminated.
» Japanese receive 1 VP per USMC battalion
» Japanese receive 3 VP for each Japanese controlled
island position.

» If the Japanese tie or exceed the USMC VP total it is
a Japanese win.
Catastrophic USMC Defeat: The USMC 2nd
Division is effectively out of action for 2 years as it
is rebuilt. The US island hopping strategy is abandoned
and Douglas MacArthur’s slower strategy is

» If the Marines have more VP than the Japanese it is a
USMC victory determined as follows:
» 1 – 5 VP = Marginal (Historical Victory)
» 6 – 9 VP = Moderate Victory
» 10 VP+ = Smashing USMC Victory

USMC Smashing Victory: The island-hopping strategy
is confirmed as successful and continues but is
sped up and the war is ended 6 months sooner,
some islands are bypassed and losses for the US
side are reduced as a result."

 Again, these are straight forward and easy to understand. The only trouble for the player is in getting those victory points. Do not be surprised if you lose. I have seen it posted by a lot of Grognards that this AI bot is a tough cookie. 

 Thank you, Worthington Games in letting me review this on the smaller side gem. The next game I review for Worthington Publishing is 'Keep up the Fire'. This is about the siege of the diplomat zone in Peking during the Chinese Boxer Rebellion. The movie '55 Days at Peking' is a good starting point for a backdrop to the game. Oddly enough for Hollywood it is fairly historical. 


Worthington Publishing:

Tarawa 1943:

1 comment :

  1. Excellent review, with just enough depth to keep readers interested without losing them. I have never been a board wargamer, but this game is a real temptation to buy! Can't think of higher praise than that. -Mike