SOLOMONS CAMPAIGN is a strategic/operational level simulation of the air-sea-land campaign fought between the forces of Imperial Japan and those of the United States during the summer and fall of 1942. SOLOMONS CAMPAIGN was designed by James F. Dunnigan and published by Simulations Publications, Incorporated (SPI) in 1973. This game is an unusual and innovative departure from previous Dunnigan designs and, as such, offers an interesting addition to the collection of anyone interested in naval or early SPI games.


On 7 August 1942, 6,000 U.S. Marines from the First Marine Division, under General Alexander Vandegrift, landed on Guadalcanal and captured the partially completed air field on the island. Over the next five months, the land, sea, and air forces of the United States and Imperial Japan would bitterly fight over this small Pacific island and its airfield, renamed by the Americans: “Henderson Field.” The two navies would fight six separate engagements and each would lose twenty-four warships before the campaign was finally over. In January, the last surviving Japanese ground forces would be evacuated from the island after having lost 14,000 killed and wounded, 9,000 dead due to disease and starvation, and another 1,000 captured. American forces would lose about 1,600 killed in action, approximately 2,000 from disease, and 4,200 wounded. The American western advance across the Pacific towards Japan had begun.


SOLOMONS CAMPAIGN is a historical simulation of the complex air-land-sea operations carried out by the U.S. and Japan over control of Guadalcanal — with its critically important air base, Henderson Field — and the sea area surrounding the Solomons Archipelago of which Guadalcanal Island was a part. The game is sixteen turns long and, to simulate combined operations over such an expanse of ocean, utilizes unusually large (3¾” area hexes). As the SPI ad, in describing the game system, explains: “The SOLOMONS CAMPAIGN is a strategic simulation, employing a simultaneous movement system, as well as land, air, and naval combat missions. The simultaneous movement of opposing Japanese and American forces is a crucial element by which the SOLOMONS CAMPAIGN is able to simulate the operational secrecy of strategic naval maneuvering.” This game is a challenge for both players: not just because of the layers of strategic and operational complexity that it introduces, but also because of the uncertainty it creates in the players’ minds due to the ever-present possibility of strategic surprise.

SOLOMONS CAMPAIGN offers one Historical Scenario. However, to introduce some variation to the game, the Japanese player has two “what if?” reinforcement options that allow for the addition of the heavy battleships Yamato and/or Musashi to his available forces.

Design Characteristics:

  • Unit Size: individual ships, aircraft compliments, ground strength (variable)
  • Unit Types: naval, air, land, supply, and information counters
  • Number of Players: two
  • Complexity: above average
  • Solitaire Suitability: low
  • Average Playing Time: 3–3½ hours

Game Components:

  • One 22” x 28” large hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Turn Record Chart and Operational/Information Charts incorporated)
  • 200 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 6” x 11½” map-fold style combined Set of Rules, Combat Results Tables, and Scenario Instructions
  • One 6¾” x 22” Starting Forces and Reinforcement Chart
  • Two 5½” x 9” Simultaneous Movement Plotting Charts
  • One small six-sided Die
  • One SPI 12” x 15” x 1” flat 24 compartment plastic Game Box (with clear compartment tray covers) and clear plastic game cover with Title Sheet


  • Would love if someone could post a legible photo of the game-turn track and various sub-phases.

    This is among the extraordiany designs that set JFD apart from the rest. He envisions the entire campaign and all its elements as two systems, one each managed by US and Japanese player. The various elements of the system -- land game, naval game, air game -- are in themselves simple. It is the interactions that become complex and, as in the real world, unpredictable. The only way to win Guadalcanal is for one player to render the other's system disfunctional or in downright collapse.

    The insight into "what" is actually happening in the total event is extraordinary. After playing this you re-read the histories from an entirely new perspective and understand them much better.

  • Greetings Mark:

    Thank you for your interest and your comments.

    Alas, I cannot help when it comes to publishing the game tracks in question: I parted with my own copy of 'SOLOMONS CAMPAIGN' shortly after I wrote the brief game profile above.

    I do agree, by the way, that although 'SOLOMONS CAMPAIGN' took a little getting used to, this was a very innovative design approach to integrating air-land-sea operations.

    Best Regards, JCBIII

  • Mark,
    I have the game and would love to get you the information you requested when I no longer have to spend the majority of my time on job search or studying for things to make me more hire-able in IT.
    Email me at bduty2@optonline.net every month or so, and if I am employed, will get the info.

  • Don Johnson said...

    I remember this being the first wargame where it can actually make sense for the much smaller land force (almost always the Japanese from the start of the game) to actually attack the much larger force. But to figure this out, it took looking at the rules and charts and also figuring out a strategy for each side.

  • Don Johnson said...

    The basic goal of the ground CRT is to get to at least a 1:5 to 1 attack, assuming this can be maintained, the attacker will eventually win Guad.

    However, the IJN needs at least to wait for the 3 transports and 9 ground points until this is even possible. Before then, the question arises is whether there is anything worth doing as the IJN before this in terms of ground attacks. And the perhaps surprising answer is yes. If the IJN can bombard Guad and make all the supply points go away and land a supply point and a ground point, then they can make a 1:1 attack on 2 (unsupplied) US ground points, as these are halved for being out of supply. This has an expectation of losses of 5/6 point for the attacker but 10/6 point for the defender.

    Reducing the US ground points about 10 is worthwhile as it is another way to remove the ability of them to even be able to attack.

  • Greetings Don:

    Your point about the often under-appreciated features in the ground subroutine of SOLOMONS CAMPAIGN is a good one. I think -- for a variety of reasons -- that more than a few players tended to focus on the more interesting naval-air operations and gave the ground war short shrift; I know that I certainly did.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Curious if anyone knows of replacement counters with ship silhouettes. If I do my own I'll let y'all know.

  • Greetings Christian:

    I haven't seen any. However, you might check with the visitors to the 'SOLOMON'S CAMPAIGN' game forums at "Boardgamegeek.com' and "Consimworld" to see if any of them can help you with your quest. Stranger things have happened, so I suppose that it is possible that someone redid the counters as a "labor of love".

    Best Regards, Joe

    PS: If you do decide to make up your own, don't forget to post an announcement at the aforementioned forums; I'm sure at least a few other players would be interested in your handiwork.

  • As it turns out I see there was a reissue of the game with more, uhh, evocative counters. I may go that route.

  • Greetings Christian:

    I was not aware that Decision Games (I assume that thy still own the copyright) had decided to reissue an updated version of this very interesting title. I'm happy to hear it.

    Thanks for the "heads up," and
    Best Regards, Joe

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