Moving onto February 2014 my fights versus FargoGamer were delving deeper into the pacific. Hence this enjoyable game where I had my first taste at using the Imperial Japanese Army..
Lieutenant Isamu Hamasaki squatted, studying a piece of paper liberally sprawled with writing, scratched out, underlined and generally aggressively amended. In the distance his company could be seen filing past either side of several Chi-Ha tanks who were steadily moving up the center of a paved road.
He glanced up to see his friend Lieutenant Akira Takeda – young, lucky, cheerful, good looking, well born and rich. Apart from the ‘young’ none of these attributes could be even slightly attached to Isamu. Still the elite could afford to do whatever they fancied really and he was glad of their friendship. He nodded, cleared his throat and read out the text
“Life blood stirring.
Heat, moist yet incessant burning.
My soul yet rejoices”
Akira tilted his head to one side – his habit when being contemplative.
“I am not certain a Haiku concerning your piles is really appropriate for an Imperial officer”
Isamu raised his hand as his friend danced back laughing.
“What about yours then?”
Akira cleared his throat and took up on oratorical pose arms raised wide
“The tiger has crept away.
River dancing oblivious, free.
A Verdant tree”
Isamu looked back down at his own sheet and crumpled it up. He was about to congratulate Akira when the column stopped and the men crouched down as the dull crack-thump of small arms fire sounded in the distance.
If it was not for the fact we were facing Ghurkhas the IJA have a good mix of troops, vehicles and support weapons plus without a casualty cap we can show the traditional dis-regard for anyone’s lives and throw our and our enemies lives gloriously away for the Emperor. Often when looking at a scenario I try to establish what the designer was trying to push the players towards. In this game the environmental conditions mean that he is not keen on smoke being used but still provides a mortar. Since the mortar cannot be used in jungle hexes this appears to be added to allow the Japanese to break a forward defence. Equally the designer allows the Ghurkha’s to set up a forward defence which the dismantled status of the machine guns and mortar would otherwise have prevented. Close combat would not be advisable except perhaps against pinned or broken troops. The other support weapons and the tanks seem to indicate a fire and encircle type attack would have the most potential.
Since the enemy appears to want to organise a fall back defence I have two alternatives. The first is to maneuver him out of his comfort zone mainly by pushing a large flanking force round and occupying the high TEM terrain in the North. I would expect to be shot at in my turn and then for those front three squads plus officer to pull back. This though just pushes my major task further away so the more aggressive alternative is to attempt to destroy two of those front units before they can pull back. As such I have setup up a small flank force to threaten retreat lines and the remainder of my forces will storm forward tanks leading. I will endeavour (bog rolls permitting on what I expect to be wire) to push the armour down the road and through the Ghurkhas before spreading out behind them spinning round to face and stopping [yes I now know that this will not work and finding out half way through doing it would be really, really bad. Enjoy the sense of morbid fascination with what appears to be an approaching disaster and impending doom….]. A couple of bounding shots will miss but allow an acquire for the next turn.
The machine guns and mortars will occupy the tree line taking advantage of the jungle TEM (+2) and the palm trees blocking (+2) so even allowing for non-assault movement I should still get a +3 TEM. Then finally the remaining infantry will move forward to take up firing positions. My lead section of 2 squads with a light machine gun plus my best officer will attempt to move next to one of the Ghurkha squads [Ah yes remember that impending sense of doom? I appear here to be relying on my valiant officer to force the squads morale to 10 equivalent and allow me to move as a stack…Storm Clouds ahead]. Allowing all works well I should be able to lay plenty of shots down, encircle them and if they fail just one morale check then erase for failure to rout this turn or the next.
I would expect the remaining troops to bug out at that point allowing me to gain concealment for my boys and swarm forward. No plan survives first contact so I will see where that leads me.
Japanese/British Turn One
Well my plan and luck sucked more than a taster at the local lemon factory, should there be such a thing. The flanking force bumped into wire so was prevented from moving in and instead went on a magical voyage of discovery where the main things discovered were more wire. I then had forgotten the tanks would use all their movement to move into the jungle which would mean that if I moved one tank off the road then I would have to leave at least one sitting on an enemy unit with an ATR so instead they ended up on the road very exposed to ATR fire and utterly not threatening the front Ghurkha units (bar one of the tanks). Then when moving my big stack a 4 flat shot caused a 1MC, I had decided (using my low IQ) that I needed that stack to cause that encirclement roll and do some damage and had hoped that (bar a low first fire shot) I would not take any serious fire (due to the tanks next door) until I arrived within two squares. If I took a morale check then my leader would provide a bonus of two (one for being a Japanese leader and -1 for being , well, neg 1). So the low attack came and I promptly rolled boxcars for the officer then striped a squad and followed it with a pin for leader loss after my best officer died. Woopy bloody doo.
Traffic jam of tanks surrounded by enemies with the remains of my stack moving disaster on P5, R6 contains the sniper pinned unit.
I also misjudged the front position with T6 being an ATR and W6 also an ATR. With another shot the enemy sniper pinned and stripped concealment of a squad in R7. My shooting was generally lamentable and having lost my kill stack I could no longer carry out my encirclement plan.
On the British turn my opponent took the rear shot at one of my poor tanks and blew it up, the other two survived – just. I did manage to break a single Ghurkha squad with the forward tank but as it rallied next turn it was soon back.
Japanese/British Turn Two
My attack now slowly rolled forward pinning the ATR squad I was then able to advance a concealed stack in ambush and destroy it in hand to hand. The Ghurkhas soon retaliated managing to destroy a further tank in close combat and slowly pulling their troops back. To cap it all torrential rain started falling and all ranged attacks gained an added +1. We stopped here for the week.
The tanks can be seen slowly blowing up and the full expanse of the wire is revealed.
“Lieutenant Hamasaki!”, the distant figure of Captain Asai could be seen approaching,
” Take the support weapon platoon and lay down some fire on those troops!, Lieutenant Takeda! take two platoons and flank them now – I will lead an assault force straight at these scum!”
Takeda snapped to attention, saluted and ran off oblivious to the shooting that was getting progressively more heated. Isamu also moved off reflecting that he knew his role and that was as a line officer and a definite not-favourite of his commanding officer. He soon arrived at the support platoon and started shouting orders got them into the engagement.
“Make up those guns and mortars now! Don’t – “
Isamu dropped as a stream of shots pelted the tree behind him and cursed as he realized he had landed in what appeared to be Elephant dung. Standing back up he moved a little further out of sight so that he could try and get his bearings on what was going on and who was where. To the South the tanks could be seen driving full pelt into the forest and as he watched one exploded obviously running into a mine or anti-tank weaponry. To his North Captain Asai was trundling around organizing a weak company to move forward whilst gesticulating furiously in his usual fashion. He soon managed to get the troops moving across the road but as the southern jungle edge then erupted with more fire they all promptly took cover again. Asai appeared incandescent with rage at this and was just about to physically force a soldier to stand up when with surprising quietness the back of his head appeared to explode and he dropped over the soldier he had been hauling on.
Isamu winced, they had not even got into the Jungle yet and things were already going wrong. Still, he would not let Akira face the enemy alone and now he no longer had to worry about Asai’s disdain. A new plan was needed and ‘staying here’ was not it.
Japanese Turn Three
My plan here this turn was to erase the enemy front forces before they could pull back and by and large I succeeded. By pulling the flankers up I managed to encircle the ATR squad literally and with fire (though he passed all morale checks). He did manage to immobilise my last tank which was annoying. On the left I set my mortar and medium machine guns on opportunity fire and ran the striped squad (in cx) into his hex to reveal him. As it stands I needn’t have bothered as the target was too juicy so he revealed anyway when I arrived in the next hex and striped then broke my squad as I continued my run of above 10 rolls. In return my opportunity fire squads missed.
At the end of the turn I advanced a squad over what I presumed correctly was the officer and retained position with the rest following my requirement to not get into close combat unless the odds were good or the enemy was cxd/pinned. That combat went badly with me succeeding in wiping the 7-0 officer (yay!) but losing the squad (boo!). Could have been worse, could have been ambushed.
V4 is about to advance onto W5 with all dying. V5 will break and die through failure to rout and on the left you can see the huge amount of firepower I was about to drop on the acquired Ghurkha squad. Successfully at first as they broke with the rather less successful snake eyes undoing all my good work with the last shot..
British Turn three
Things were starting to look tense. Time was running out I still had not done any damage to the forward forces and my soldiers were starting to disappear… Unfortunately my die luck did not change and my one major positive occurred when I did finally manage (with the last shot after the tank main, medium machine gun, double squad 16+3 had already fired and not dented the atr squad) to break the atr squad which was eventually destroyed for failure to rout.
On the left I thought I then gained a break. In the previous advance phase I had advanced my support weapons to within one hex so I had some good shots (the machine guns on 16+3) and I managed to eventually break another British 4-5-8 (yay!) and only broke a mortar and a machine gun in my continued +10 die roll spree. Since he could rout away and probably would rally with his 8 broken side morale I decided to take a further shot with the mortar squads inherent firepower ( an 8+3) which caused an MC2 (finally my dice luck must have changed, double yay!) and in the resultant MC he rolled a double 1, rallied and berserked (double boo!). Elsewhere another Ghurkha 4-5-8 shot up my squad plus officer and striped it (when my die rolls having temporarily relented of letting me roll below 10 returned me to normal service) – which was enough for him to get 3:2 odds versus my 1:2 causing both squad and my last officer to disappear in hand to hand combat. He also managed a double one in that combat so gained a hero who promptly died with his squad but destroying the light machine gun at the same time.
Japanese/British Turn Four
I admit it – my die were starting to get me down. I do not think I have ever had such a run of high rolls. My hand to hand rolls had been relatively good but my shooting and morale checks were consistently bad. Regardless I had to get a move on as there was lots to do still. As a plus the British units were dropping with only four plus the officer left so I could still win. I abandoned the tank with the crew to get another squad in action and attempted to blast the berserk unit to no avail. Squads started to move towards the rear Ghurkha forces with me attempting to place them to gain concealment and infiltrate the enemy position. In the British turn the Berserk boys stomped onto the machine gun squads and with my triple point blank fire of 24-1 I managed to roll another 10. This still caused a 2MC which the berserk boys laughingly passed. Combat was unusual in that both sides survived. I managed to roll below 10! (yay!) with a 9! (boo!).
Lots of battle debris. The key thing here is the berserk squad about to eat both the 4-4-7 on U5 and the 2 machine gun squads on T4
Japanese/British Turns Five & Six
I was now in a bit of a quandary as to my rear. There was a reasonable chance of the units in melee killing each other but there was also a chance (especially with my amazing die rolling skills) of me dying and the berserk boys living. This would leave a good order unit in my rear miles away from any of my now advancing units. I could not take the risk and advanced another 4-4-7 squad in. Now I had very good odds of killing the Ghurkhas but would probably die in return. This is exactly what happened.
Lots of manoeuvring now started for the end game as my opponent cleverly shifted squads to arrange a favourable combat for at least one of his squads and to prevent me from getting concealed units in combat with all his boys. I did manage to scrounge a light machine gun from the tank and get the crew forward though even with them the odds against winning appeared quite nasty. I did get one piece of luck when my opponent decided to close combat a half squad in the centre (with the intention to force me to take on two of his squads with the crew and a half squad respectively which would have been very bad odds). Unfortunately I rolled well in the ambush and then rolled enough to kill him in hand to hand. This evened things slightly and it would all come down to the last Japanese turn.
Japanese Turn Seven
Manoeuvring aggressively I managed to get those last two combats in play. All I had to do was to kill the last two British squads. My valiant close combat wining half squad was erased in the defensive fire phase (I had considered ‘searching’ with it to strip the neighbouring units concealment but had felt the chances of losing it outweighed that advantage, this would have been wrong but it as it turned out would not have affected the outcome). My last play was to have two squads (1 concealed) in combat with one Ghurkha 6-2-8 and the crew and a striped squad in combat with the other 6-2-8. Doing the more advantageous combat first an ambush failed to occur and everyone killed each other. Good. One down one to go. Next up the ambush – unfortunately I was flat for the ambush roll and due to my opponents clever movement in the previous turn he had the concealed advantage so was -3. I rolled first – now finally the die gods would relent and give me some luck! – a 5!!!….. My oppo then rolls a 5! – with the -3 he ambushes and does not even bother with the hand to hand roll and waltzes to the next hex to win the game. Just to test things I decided to roll to see what would have happened if ambush had not occurred and rolled an unsurprising 10 so would have failed to kill him anyway for the same result.
Most of the action is on the right with dropped weapons on the left. The AA6 stack is the remaining Ghurka officer and the half squad is about to be shot at and then win a hand to hand ambush against a 6-2-8
Lieutenant Hamasaki stood by a table in the Colonel Saeki’s tent. The colonel had been surprisingly lenient considering the crap fest that had just happened. Though Hamasaki had failed to clear the road in time he had swamped the forward defences of these devil fighters and almost crushed the Ghurkas with his remaining troops and all this without the support of the ambushed tanks alongside with the early loss of the commanding officer. Though this was not the success the Imperial Army had been used too it was still doing well and the Colonel had been complimentary and even granted promotion.
Isamu felt drained .
He had seen his friend Akira carried back unconscious and wounded after he had heroically bought his platoon into the rear of the Ghurkhas allowed them to break the deadlock. His friend was still in hospital and without his sacrifice things would have been a lot worse. He had watched incredulous as the enemy in the process of breaking and running (as so many had before) had seemed to shake their heads, lose their tempers ,and in an instance storm forward to wipe out two times their number of men and all his support platoon.
He had also watch as the majority of his company following his orders had died or been injured and his reward for this was to become a senior lieutenant all on the blood of his men. But he must put it out of his mind, the campaign was not over and the remains of the company still needed him.
This was a great game and I would happily play the scenario again on either side. Tactics wise I had buggered up good and proper with my tank mistake right at the start plus losing my -1 officer – and that had really cost me badly – I don’t think a boxcars has ever hit me at such a key early point before and to such a key unit. Even with the tank mistake the plan was risky but would have had many rewards otherwise. After that I was in damage prevention mode and just attempting to do anything to keep in the game. The fact that it went to the last turn even with my horrendous dice all game is surprising to me. I did have my reservations about hand to hand confirmed and can see the advantage in swarming Japanese infiltrating forward. As a plus the Japanese are great to play with and I look forward to a second game with them a some point
Ghurkhas are wonderful soldiers. Here is a fascinating auto-biography almost written about them by Lt-Col John Masters of the 4th Ghurkha Rifles whose love of his little soldiers shines through with every word.
I had written a lot more on this book but have decided to split that into a seperate blog post at some point in the future.