Monday, 12 November 2018

AWI Casualty figures

As convenient as sabot bases are for moving units of figures, nothing destroys the illusion quicker than empty slots once a figure has been removed as a casualty. With that in mind I have three solutions to fill those offending slots - an empty base with some flock to match the sabot base, a base with a frame for a mini dice to record shock and lastly, a base with a casualty figure.

I'm not sure I like the red dice for recording shock and I'm tempted to try something a little less striking in colour, perhaps a green might blend in more and yet still serve its purpose?

As for casualties, the ones I have are from the Perry plastic British Infantry set and they come in two poses - face down or face up. The Perry American box does not include any casualties, but the Perrys do produce casualty figures for both sides in their metal range and so I ordered both the American and British sets. As always there are some lovely animated poses which include wounded, dead and men at the moment of being hit. These latter figures look quite spectacular, my only concern is that unlike those lying on the ground, these may accidentally be counted as among the living in the heated action of a game. Time will tell on that one.

The two American figures receiving hits I have yet to finish painting, so at the moment I have many more British casualties than American, but between the empty bases, the mini-dice bases and these with casualties I have plenty of options to fill those empty sabot slots that I find so offensive.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Malaya 1942 Map 3 The Japanese Attack Again

While the Australian counterattack in the last game was short lived, it did succeed in enforcing a delay on the Japanese. With the initiative back in Japanese hands they are pressing on without delay to finally clear the Australian platoon from Map 3.

At this attempt I have chosen to avoid the roads and attack via the jungle. I'm hoping the close terrain and limited lines of sight will make it difficult for the Australians to bring down a supporting mortar barrage until it is too late and the Japanese have closed in on them.

The table is covered in primary jungle with a patch of Wild Bamboo and an area of Rubber Plantation. 

I want to move quickly on the Australians and use all the possible Japanese advantages. The national characteristic Jungle Fighters allows for 14" moves and distance between patrol markers and a 9" deployment range for regular troops, so I want stretch the Australian defence and use my flanks. To help with that I will consider a Ruse for a support, as a judicious use of this surprise move of a jump off point has been effective in earlier games in the campaign.

This is another Attack & Defend scenario and I roll six for support points. This gives the Japanese seven (they receive an additional one due to the CO's opinion), so this gives the Australians six (half of six, plus an extra three for the difference in force ratings).

To support my plan I decide on a pre-game barrage in the hope a delayed Australian deployment will allow me to close quickly before they can organise a defence. To back that up I do settle on using a Ruse so that I can capitalise on any disruption caused by the barrage, alternatively it may be useful for a flank move later in the game. Finally, I bring in an Engineer Flamethrower team, this might be the support I will need to break any impasse in the jungle fighting. The flamethrower's ability to negate the jungle cover and inflict a lot of shock may just prove decisive. 

We begin with Japanese force morale at ten and the Australians' at nine. The Japanese roll a one to give them a single free move in the patrol phase, not the most auspicious start to my aggressive attack, but given the close proximity of markers from the start it is not a major setback either.

I want options on all flanks and so spread my JoPs accordingly. It appears Dave is hoping to draw me into a firefight where he has the best lines of sight and groups his JoPs around the rubber plantation.

Japanese JoPs in red, Australians in blue.

The Japanese waste no time deploying and the grenade discharger squad and a rifle squad arrive from the right flank jump off point ready to cover the rubber plantation. The grenade dischargers are close to the edge of the jungle and so can bring the rubber plantation under fire. They are placed on overwatch. I'm hoping the pre-game barrage will cause the Australians to deploy piecemeal and I want to be able to hit them as soon as possible before they can concentrate.

Dave has quickly learned that the best Australian defence is to concentrate his sections and use them aggressively within the range of his Thompson submachine guns. I need to try to make this as difficult as possible for him while inflicting casualties.

In the Australian phase the pre-game barrage causes serious disruption and two sections and the platoon sergeant all fail to deploy. The Australian jump off points are eerily quiet. I'm pleased. This is exactly why I called in the barrage.

Unfortunately my luck does not extend to the Japanese command roll which gives me 54443. Only the 3 is really of use, but this seems a good moment to bring in the Gunso as he can use his command initiatives to get the two squads moving. The Rikugun can remain off table with the remaining two squads for now. The Gunso orders the grenade dischargers to edge forward to the tree line by the rubber plantation and bring more of the opposite jungle into line of sight ready for any Australian deployment. 

The squad is ordered to make its way forward through the jungle that runs alongside the rubber plantation, however the jungle makes their movement difficult and they creep forward 3".

Sensing the building pressure the Australians try once again to deploy the two sections and the platoon sergeant, but only the sergeant makes it through the barrage. It really is having a devastating effect on Australian deployment and the lone sergeant deploys himself deep into the jungle and away from prying Japanese eyes. 

The Japanese command roll now sees a moment of good fortune with a double phase. This really is the time to take full advantage of a Ruse and see if I can close down some of the Australian jump off points. Using the Ruse, the right flank jump off point moves 18" forward into the rubber plantation. 

A squad arrives at the new position and deploys the full 9", which brings it to within 4" of the jump off point on the Australian left flank and closes it down.

The lone Australian sergeant looks alarmingly through the jungle at this latest development.

The final squad of the Japanese platoon deploys from the same jump off point, but this time towards the other two Australian JoPs. Despite deploying 9" they are not quite close enough to either to close them down.

Lastly I deploy the Rikugun. While this may hinder the flamethrower team deploying later, knowing I have the next phase I want to ensure all my command options are open, because if things go well I could possibly close down all three Australian JoPs and win the scenario. With any luck the flamethrower team won't be needed.

With that the full Japanese platoon is on the table and closing in on the Australians JoPs and the only Australian present to stop them is the lone platoon sergeant.

The subsequent Japanese command roll provides a range of options that mean no matter how I use them I can activate all units. The key activation is the squad in the plantation near the central Australian JoP, if they can move fast enough they can possibly close down both JoPs. The Rikugun orders them forward and they move briskly, covering 10" and so closing down both JoPs.

This now leaves the squad on the right to inflict one last indignity on the Australians by attempting to kill the platoon sergeant in close combat. The squad moves quickly bringing it on top of the JoP and within range to take on the sergeant in close combat. In my eagerness to get to grips with the sergeant I didn't think to calculate the odds for close combat and these end up at 4:1 and so the sergeant is able to rout away and escape before the Japanese can close on him.

The key thing was to ensure I had all the Australian JoPs closed down and so bring the scenario to a close. While taking out the platoon sergeant would have been quite a bonus, I will settle for this quick and bloodless victory.

The sergeant is seen disappearing headlong into the jungle, but I know this won't be the last we see of him.

Well, if the previous scenario was short, how do we assess what happened here?

The problem wasn't that the Australians did anything wrong, it was that they weren't able to do anything at all. For the Japanese it was a bit of dream run, with everything working pretty much as I had hoped. The pre-game barrage was probably the most effective I have ever seen; the timing of the double phase could not have been better, and the Ruse was the ideal way to capitalise on the opportunity.

A single successful deployment of an Australian section may not have saved the day, but would certainly have made for a longer struggle to take the map. As it turned out there was nothing they could do to stop the Japanese onslaught.

I discover one of Dave's supports was the forward observer team for the mortars. This is the one defensive option that has the potential to play havoc with a Japanese attack and was one reason I preferred to approach through the jungle. Knowing this might be available to the Australians was one reason I was eager to press hard and close quickly before a barrage brought everything to a grinding halt.

I have found the Ruse a very effective support and well worth the two points. Which makes me wonder if it is too cheap or too powerful? We did wonder whether it should have a higher points value, or alternatively be restricted to a limited number of uses during the campaign. Maybe in this game I simply got lucky.

In terms of campaign progress this is a good result for the Japanese and allows me to take a full platoon into the next action. We will never recover the delay caused by the Australian counter attack, but at least we have the attack on a schedule that means campaign victory continues to remain a possibility.

So we now move on to Game 6 on Map 4 and our next scenario will be Cut Off the Retreat, a flank attack.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Malaya 1942 Map 3 The Australian Counterattack

The Australians successfully repulsed the Japanese attack on Map 3 in the third game of the campaign and this victory gives them the rare option to mount a counter attack if they wish. Dave has decided this is what he will do. However it is not as clear cut as it may seem, he has to balance the risk against the potential pay off.

The risk is that the Australian platoon has already lost six men permanently and could lose more. While there are three men absent with wounds for this scenario who will return later, he won't be getting many replacements or reinforcements in future games. For now the platoon is down to the equivalent of two full strength sections. There is more fighting to come for these men and so Dave must be careful not to squander their lives for short term gains.

On the upside there is a potential pay off, the clock is ticking against the Japanese, whose commanders will tolerate no delays, a counter attack will set them back one game and this may be enough to hold off a Japanese campaign victory.

In some ways the Australians have already achieved their objective simply by declaring they will counterattack. From a Japanese perspective I want to punish them for this and will seek to inflict maximum casualties by being as aggressive as I can. The Japanese have little to lose. If they are defeated in this scenario they can replace the platoon with a fresh one. If they are victorious they will be able to gain a few replacements. It might not bring them to full strength, but if the scenario is hard fought I can be sure the Australians will have taken losses they can ill afford.

This will be the fourth game of the campaign and the second on Map 3. We are set for an interesting game that really only makes sense when viewed in the context of the campaign and the demands on both sides.

Having pushed the Japanese back from the map in the last game the Australians will be advancing up the road with primary jungle to their right and rubber plantations on their left.  However the two rubber plantations are divided by a thick patch of secondary jungle which makes for quite a barrier.

One critical factor will be the level of support available to the Australians. This is an Attack & Defend scenario so they could potentially roll for ten support points and with the addition of the difference in force ratings this could rise to thirteen. Well, that's exactly what happens, Dave rolls high for support and will have the maximum possible. The Japanese will face him with five support points available.

I intend to take the fight to the Australians, but with the restrictive terrain I don't think armour is going to be beneficial. I could call in the help of two Ha Go tanks for five support points. Instead I decide on a 70mm infantry gun for three points and a Ruse for two points. Why the Ruse? Two reasons, firstly I want to be aggressive and a Ruse may give me the opportunity to work my way around an Australian flank and take him by surprise. Secondly, with thirteen points the Australians may well consider a mortar barrage and a Ruse may just help me move a JoP to somewhere that will free up deployment options if I'm otherwise pinned down.

Force morale favours the Japanese at the start with their FM at nine and the Australians at eight.

Dave rolls for his free patrol moves and gets a measly 1, but this doesn't seem to bother him, as his patrol markers are clustered either side of the road. As the Japanese I want to occupy a broad front, one to avoid the impact of a mortar barrage and the other to give me a number of options to use the Ruse.

We end up with Jump off Points looking like this:

Australian JoPs in blue, Japanese in red.
Prior to the roll for the first Japanese command phase I'm informed I can hear the crump of 25 pounder rounds falling around me. An Australian pre-game barrage will make deployment a little trickier. I certainly won't want to risk the Ruse while the barrage is in effect, I would blow all surprise if I move the JoP, but then fail to deploy through the barrage. 

Despite saying I will play this aggressively at the initial Japanese command phase I decline to deploy anything.

The Australians on the other hand waste no time. Two full sections appear on their right flank and take up overwatch positions. 

When a slightly depleted section appears on the other side of the road it's clear that the Australians have called in some support sections for assistance, as his core platoon doesn't have this many men available. 

The platoon sergeant joins the two squads on the right. I suspect these are both support sections and that Dave intends them to do the brunt of the fighting to save the core platoon from losses. 

While I'm guessing the Australian right flank is the main assault I decide to hold off any deployment until I see exactly what they have planned.

The Australian command roll offers lots of options and the platoon sergeant is quick to have both sections advance through the jungle towards one of the Japanese JoPs.

The section near the road also advances, but only moves slowly through the plantation.

They are joined by the platoon 2” mortar.

The Japanese then receive a double phase and that spurs me into action. As is often the case this doesn't leave a lot of activation options. It isn't helped that one of the rolls is a 4 because with only one senior leader I will need to keep him off the table to direct the rest of the platoon to deploy.

Nonetheless, I deploy a squad on my right in the secondary jungle. They have managed to work their way through the pre-game barrage and so deploy on time. 

The subsequent Japanese command roll is 66654, something of a mixed blessing. I will get the next phase and with the turn ending it will be good to have the pre-game barrage out of the way, but there is nothing I can activate this phase.

The following Japanese command roll is another mixed blessing - 66441. The dice are toying with me here, a double phase but nothing to deploy in this one.

The next roll to Dave's relief will be a normal phase and to my relief presents me with five useful command dice. Without the restrictions of the barrage I feel free to deploy and engage the Australians. 

The grenade discharger squad deploys and they spot the Australians through the jungle. Their opening salvo kills one of the members of a bren team. First blood to the Japanese. 

 The Japanese deploy a second squad alongside the grenade dischargers.

They peer through the jungle and they too can see the Australians and open fire. 

The Australian squads take a lot of hits and even with the hard cover of the jungle they lose yet another man from the same bren team, while the bren team in the adjacent squad also loses a man. Both rifle teams suffer some shock. That's a vicious opening salvo from the Japanese.

I'm thinking Dave is hoping to see a double phase himself right now as that would help him even up the odds in the firefight, but no luck.

Another slightly depleted section form the core Australian platoon deploys on the left in the plantation. They take up overwatch positions to anticipate any Japanese move through the secondary jungle. The other section decides to fall back from the edge of the jungle to to join them. 

On the Australian right Dave is eager to close into range of the Thompson machine guns and so the platoon sergeant rallies off a point of shock before ordering both sections to move with one dice and then fire at half effect. One section manages to move into SMG range, but the accumulated shock on the other means they don't move quite as far.

With only half firepower the Australian fire is barely effective and inflicts a meagre two points of shock on the Japanese.

The dice are really toying with me today as my next roll is 64441, which really doesn't give many options. With the Australians closing in on me I simply cannot fail to react. I only have one more squad to deploy and so I will take the risk of them having problems joining the battle and decide to bring on the Rikugun (SL) to have the grenade dischargers and rifle squads return fire.

The grenade discharger squad are ordered to use their rifles, as one of the Australian sections is within their minimum range. This is no bad thing, as between the two squads the Japanese produce 26 dice of firepower. The Australians take thirteen hits. This results in two kills, but although no leaders are hit (especially the platoon sergeant), one of the bren teams is wiped out. That's a real blow this early in the firefight and it also sees Australian morale drop one point to seven.

Deploying the Rikugun was timely and a good decision given the outcome. This has really put the Australian attack on the back foot and a protracted firefight could possibly end up with the loss of the platoon sergeant.

Dave decides he needs to play for the long game here. This has already cost the Japanese in time and before any of the Australian core platoon join the casualty list now seems as good a time as any to decide the core aim of this game has been accomplished. With that the Australians withdraw.

Well, that was short and sweet. Dave was slightly apologetic at the end for making this such a short game, but frankly in the scheme of things he made a very good call. While an Australian victory would have been a major setback to the Japanese, the early loss of the bren team and likelihood any victory would be costly was a deterrent to continuing to press on. Being realistic I think Dave's main aim was simply to delay the Japanese for a campaign turn and that mission had been achieved before the game began. While we both would have happily played for a few more hours Dave made the right decision when seen in the context of the campaign.

Dave felt it might be appropriate to interject a few words himself given the somewhat truncated game, so over to Dave:

"To some readers it might seem that my withdrawal was premature, so allow me to explain my thought process.

My objective in launching the counterattack after winning the previous scenario was simple: gain time (one date in this case) at low cost in casualties (which I can’t afford). With six men down permanently, I need to conserve the platoon’s strength, but I also need to slow the Japanese steamroller to win the campaign. A delicate balancing act to be sure.

Hence my tactical approach was straightforward. Deploy quickly, using the attached sections, not the core platoon sections, to lead the advance. If the preliminary bombardment worked and the Japanese had trouble deploying, perhaps I could isolate a squad and/or capture or at least neutralise a jump-off point, in which case winning the scenario would become a possibility.

In the event, the early turn end brought a quick end to the bombardment, the Japanese were able to deploy at will, and the early exchange of fire was very one-sided (five casualties to me including an entire Bren team and none to the enemy). So any chance of winning the scenario was realistically shot and pushing on would simply have brought heavy casualties. That exchange only favours one side – and it isn’t the Australians!

At this point I made the decision to withdraw. Overall, the date had been gained, the core platoon had suffered no losses, and total casualties were still relatively light, so with the counterattack objectives achieved it made sense to withdraw at this stage. After the battle the opinions all remained in the ‘no result’ bands so overall the counterattack went about as well as it could have short of winning. With three wounded men rejoining the platoon after the battle I will actually be better off in strength. And to be honest, even if I had won the engagement I would probably have executed a planned withdrawal after the battle back to Table 3 anyway rather than fight another ‘Probe’ scenario on Table 2 which the Japanese would likely win easily again due to the low support levels. In summary, a successful loss from my point of view!"

The Australians pull back, ready to fight another day

The upside of this early end was that it allowed us a more leisurely lunch than usual and we whiled away the time discussing the state of wargaming and plans for future projects.

In terms of casualties the Australian core platoon was unscathed and going into the next game three wounded will return, leaving him down a total of six men permanently lost. The Japanese will be at full strength not having lost a man.

The losses to the support sections and a Japanese victory for the scenario will have an impact on the CO and the Men's opinions for both sides.

The victory sees the Japanese CO's opinion rise one point to three. The men's opinion rises more after  achieving a victory by inflicting losses on the Australians with no losses to themselves and now stands at three. The platoon leaders outlook remains happy.

On the other hand the Australian COs opinion drops down to zero at the news of the withdrawal. The men themselves are not overly concerned with the relatively light losses and their opinion remains unchanged at two. For some reason the setback has not dented the platoon leaders outlook which is now cheerful (although I've no doubt the men would have some smart remarks to make about that).

The initiative returns to the Japanese who will now make another attempt to drive the Australians from Map 3.