Campaign: Mariana & Palau Islands

The South Pacific is often overlooked in Bolt Action (and in WII history in general). Hopefully the latest book, Campaign: Mariana and Palau Islands can drive more interest in this theater. Let’s take a quick look at the highlights with another Chicago Dice Hot Take!

Hot

  • 60mm T-20 Shoulder Mortar Team – At first glance, you may think there is nothing special here. You may even think this is a weak option. After all, a medium mortar without a spotter? What’s the use in that? Then you realize that this two-man, 2” HE template can be fired directly. That’s right. You can send a 2” template blasting across the table for the low, low price of 50pts. The only issue is that I’m not clear on when you can field this. Does this count as a Medium Mortar in a Platoon? It does not say. Nor does it indicate if you can take it outside of this book. Frustrating. But let’s not lose sight of the main point – this is the most fantastic two-man support weapon in all of Bolt Action. – Andrew
  • US Marine Assault Squad – This squad has the potential to wreak some serious havoc, and is very thematic for the theater we are looking at. While not cheap, starting out at 73 points for four men at Regular, it comes with a flamethrower, BAR, and two riflemen, and the unit starts with satchel charges (AT grenades). You have the option to add up to nine additional men, with two more BARs, three pistols, and a NCO SMG, giving you the potential to make a unit with some monstrous firepower. I do wish it had the option for shotguns or more SMGs similar to your standard Marine squads, but it remains a very potent choice, with the only downside being the required AT grenades that are built into the unit and it’s cost. – Ben
  • 37mm M2 Canister Rounds – For a pittance of 10pts you can add the ultimate anti-infantry option to any Light AT Gun or M3A1 Stuart. If you choose to fire the canister rounds you place four 3” HE templates in a straight line from the barrel of the gun. You then roll to hit for each infantry, artillery and soft-skin in the blast. If the unit is hit, they take d6 hits and d3+1 Pins. Amazing. Major downside – there is one instance to take this upgrade on a Stuart in the entire book. One. The US Marines Saipan 1944 Theater Selector is the only time the M3A1 Stuart is listed. It’s a real shame that this upgrade can only be taken by one tank, in one Selector. – Andrew

Honorable Mentions

  • LVT-4 Ronson Mk 1 Flamethrower – It’s an LVT with a flamethrower turret. What more could you want? – Andrew
  • USMC International M-2-4 Rocket Truck – From both a points perspective and a rules perspective, this is identical to the Soviet Katyusha Rocket Truck. However, after looking up an image of it, I absolutely adore this unit and have to throw it into the honorable mentions section, even though I may not actually field it in games. – Ben

This needs a model. Rubicon – get on it!

Not

The Layout – This book needed an editor (or a better one). For example; the Theater Selectors are split into three sections and in each section the Selectors are not formatted correctly. There are Saipan Selectors on p.46-48, Guam on p.78-79 and Palau on p.116-117. This is a terrible way to organize the book, forcing the reader to bounce all over the place to get a look at what is available. To make matters worse, any unit marked with a * is a new unit from this book (as opposed to an Armies of…book). That’s a nice reference to have but it’s only mentioned on the Saipan section! Seeing units marked with a * that leads nowhere on both other Selectors sections was infuriating. At least all the new units are in one location.

The layout of p.136 is the most egregious offender. There is an image that spills onto both pages (not an issue normally). But in this case, the extended image pushes the rules from one column on the far left of the first page onto the next page after the image. This means you need to turn the page to see the continuation of the 20mm canister rules.  Could the image have been made just a bit smaller to allow all the rules onto one page?

The Takeaway

The book provides a decent expansion to the world of Bolt Action. Having leafed through the campaign section of the book, there are some cool missions and scenarios that have added interesting special rules, and it would probably be fun to play through it. The added Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) units are pretty lackluster, but the added US units and options provide some serious potency to a USMC force. Also big shoutout to the inclusion of US Army units – it wasn’t only Marines in the South Pacific! Unfortunately, neither side really gains much in terms of unique and interesting Theater Selectors for general play, as they mostly fall into the standard Generic Platoon template with minor tweaks, such as additional bazooka teams for the US. – Andrew & Ben

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