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  Guadalcanal: The Battle for Henderson Field, 1942 - 1943 by War Diary Publications  "Starvation Island", "Island of Death&q...

Guadalcanal: The Battle for Henderson Field, 1942 - 1943 by War Diary Publications Guadalcanal: The Battle for Henderson Field, 1942 - 1943 by War Diary Publications

Guadalcanal: The Battle for Henderson Field, 1942 - 1943 by War Diary Publications

Guadalcanal: The Battle for Henderson Field, 1942 - 1943 by War Diary Publications

 Guadalcanal: The Battle for Henderson Field, 1942 - 1943


War Diary Publications

 "Starvation Island", "Island of Death", or simply hell were among its many epithets. As bad as the conditions were for the American Marines/Soldiers, unbelievably the Japanese had it worse. The Japanese were forced to resort to cannibalism during the end of the battle for the island. Most everything rusted and your clothes would rot while you were wearing them. Contrary to some reports, the Japanese were not highly trained and acclimated to fighting in the jungles of the South Pacific. It was as much a shock to them as it was to the American forces that were on the island. Even being on the troopships before seeing the island was a misery. This is where our wargaming takes us with this game.

 The game was designed by Mike Nagel, and he also did the art, using the 1966 release of Guadalcanal from Avalon Hill Game Company as a template. It was not really taken up by the wargaming community as many of the Avalon Hill games were. In fact, I had played and knew about almost all of Avalon Hill's games and had never seen or heard about this one until reading about this game. 

What comes in the box

 This is from the publisher:

"Deluxe Guadalcanal: The Battle for Henderson Field is a grand tactical game on the efforts of the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Army to capture and hold the island of Guadalcanal during the beginning of the island-hopping campaign to push back the Japanese empire.
Errors in strategy and logistics at large made this effort extremely difficult for the Marines, as they held on to the island in the face of Japanese onslaught with dwindling supplies.
Players experience huge swings of fortune from one side to the other and back again as the battle for the island unfolds. Critical to the efforts of both sides is the capture and holding of Henderson Field, an air strip whose control dictates air superiority and the ability to land supplies and much needed reinforcements.

The game includes a huge 17” by 55” map, provided in easily printed letter- and tabloid-sized sheets (8.5x11” and 11x17” respectively, this is for the Print-N-Play form of the game), that covers the northern extents of the island. Combat units are mostly battalions, with a smattering of regiments and companies, representing infantry, armor, and artillery. There are also specialized units such as engineers and LVTs that aid in the maintenance or destruction of Henderson Field as well as movement across the difficult jungle terrain.

The basis for Deluxe Guadalcanal is the original Guadalcanal game published by The Avalon Hill Game Company in 1966. The project began as an effort to create an updated version of the original game’s map, providing some tweaks here and there for accuracy or playability. Once completed, it was not that much of an effort to also create a new, colorful set of counters (including new informational markers) that simplifies play. It was then a short, additional step to rewrite the rules in a manner that incorporates some of the “advanced” rules, some new rules and mechanics, and known errata to create a new, cohesive rules set of under twelve pages."

The Map in all its glory

 This is the component list:

352 laser-cut counters

2 19" x 27" full-color map sheets

2 player aid cards

9 special event cards

16-page rulebook

6-sided die

Close-up of the map and the tables and turn track

 The map is pretty big. Because of the actual terrain, it will never be thought of as a piece of art. However, it shows the island's topography as it actually was. It is a long and relatively thin map, although most gamers will have a place where it will fit. The Rulebook is in full color and is made of glossy paper. It is only sixteen pages long but has a good number of play examples. The type used in the Rulebook is nice and large and very easy to read. The game comes with two players aid cards that are on glossy hard stock. These have all the tables and the Sequence of Play on them. There is also a glossy hard stock one-sided sheet for the Optional Reinforcements Setup Chart. The counters are big and have the usual NATO, or what we have come to call NATO, markings. They are very easy to read and really pop out against the map. The cards are sturdy if a bit plain. They have a picture from the box on one side and the event side is really just type. However, matching the rest of the components, the type is nice and large.

 Sequence of Play:

Random Event

U.S. Victory Points

U.S. Naval Bombardment

U.S. Reinforcements

U.S. Artillery Supply

Guerilla Action (only the U.S. player)

U.S. Movement

Japanese Artillery Fire

U.S. Artillery Fire

U.S. Combat

Japanese Random Event

Japanese Victory Points

Japanese Naval Bombardment

Japanese Reinforcements

Japanese Artillery Supply

Japanese Movement

U.S. Artillery Fire

Japanese Artillery Fire

 I think the game is a very good one and is quite a testament to its original forefather. This is what was said about its first iteration:

"Although innovative in many ways, GUADALCANAL was a failure as a design and as a seller. The huge mapboard was virtually wasted as 95% of the action took place on 20% of the mapboard. GUADALCANAL was discontinued after having sold only 27,000 copies. Its failure left AH with the impression that the Japanese were poor “box office” subject matter for years to come."

 I think most wargaming companies today would jump for joy if they sold 27,000 copies of a game. The designer has added victory points for controlling the different village places on the map. This means that the whole map is really now in play. The game still has Henderson Field as its focal point. The whole reason both forces were in this jungle hell was the airfield. The original was also labelled 'very complex' by Avalon Hill. I think the game now is much closer to a medium complexity. This is even with the bells and whistles that the designer has added. The game play is still largely based upon each side's reinforcement schedule. Both players are also compelled, just as in reality, to deal with the lack or surplus of artillery supply. The naval war is abstracted. The air war and forces are not explicitly mentioned, but I believe those forces are added into the different sides' artillery strength. The rules also allow Japanese units to go into Stealth Movement. They can remain in that mode for three turns maximum. For each turn they remain hidden, and not detected by U.S. forces, they get to multiply their movement points. So, if a Japanese unit has been in Stealth Movement for two turns, they would multiply their movement points by two. When moving they can only move into jungle hexes and each of those cost four movement points. There is an optional rule to allow U.S. units to also use Stealth Movement.

 Thank you very much War Diary Magazine for allowing me to review their first published wargame. One can only hope that the endeavor is crowned with glory, and they publish many more.


  These are the two latest volumes of War Diary Magazine:


MEETING TRIUMPH AND DISASTER:  The Italian Campaigns in East Africa and Greece by Paul Comben

THE FALL OF CRETE:  The Games by Andrew McGee

CRETE:  The Battle by John Burtt

GUADALCANAL:  Updating a Classic by Michael Nagel

ROADS TO LENINGRAD AND MOSCOW:  Con-Z House Rules by Clair Conzelman


FRONT TOWARD THE ENEMY:  A Review by Arrigo Velicoga

PASS IN REVIEW:  Capsule Reviews by John Burtt and Hans Korting

The Coming Issue:


War Diary Magazine:

Guadalcanal: The Battle for Henderson Field, 1942 - 1943: