Friday 30 November 2018

Malaya 1942 Map 5 Pursue the Remnants

The Australians have conducted a very careful fighting withdrawal across the previous four maps. Conservation of force is a critical factor. Unless they want to draw replacements from the inexperienced rear echelon men, they need to fall back keeping the core platoon as close to full strength as possible. A tall order against a Japanese opponent who has plenty of good quality replacement platoons to draw upon and a very aggressive timetable to work towards.

We now come to Map 5, where the Australians will defend a small settlement either side of the road through the jungle. This is the last area of jungle before we reach the river crossing at the next map, which will be the final line of defence for this campaign.

This is another flank attack scenario, with the Japanese pursuing the remaining Australians to limit the force that will be available to hold the river bridge on the next and final map.

The Australian defensive perimeter on this map is dominated by a patch of dense secondary jungle. It may prove ideal defensive terrain.

Force morale rolls result in the Japanese at 10 and the Australians at 9. The Japanese roll for three extra moves in the patrol phase and so I make moves on both sides of the table to ensure I can come at the Australians from several angles and counter the impact of a mortar barrage should they call on one for support. The Australians end up confined within their perimeter. This makes my task a little easier. Their JoPs are grouped within the secondary jungle and so I know almost exactly where I will find them. 

The support roll is 7. The Japanese receive an extra two points because of their CO's high opinion, giving them 9 in total. The Australians will receive 6, taking into account the difference in force ratings. They have lost seven men permanently and will have a wounded man out for this game, so they are down 8 men in total, reducing the platoon to three weakened sections. Tempted as Dave will be to call in a mortar barrage that won't leave him many other support options. It will be a tough decision for him to make. 

I want to push aggressively with the aim of inflicting as many casualties as possible. I need to win the next two scenarios if I'm to have any hope of a campaign victory. Ideally, I win this one and inflict enough damage on the Australian platoon that by the time we reach the next map I'm faced with a much weakened force.

For this game I want to stop Dave deploying quickly and concentrating his firepower, as this is a tactic he has used to good effect in the past. So I select a pre-game barrage. These have worked well for me so far. To bolster my firepower I will also call on a Type 92 MMG team, a Type 92 70mm infantry gun and a Ha Go tank. These should give me several options to try to counter whatever Dave has planned.

With that we start and the Japanese waste no time deploying. The Grenade Discharger squad takes up overwatch positions on the Japanese left flank behind the paddy fields, ready to suppress any activity from the Australian jump off points across the road. 

A rifle squad deploys into the centre, behind the main paddy field and takes up overwatch positions. The Type 92 MMG team are deployed to add their firepower.

They are backed up by the Ha Go which sits back on the road with both its MGs on overwatch. This should be enough of a threat to stop the Australians from deploying behind the bank of the paddy field opposite the grenade discharger squad.

Australian deployment is made much more difficult by the pre-game barrage. The first two sections that attempt to deploy are unable to do so. I have to say, so far in this campaign the pre-game barrages have worked very well for the Japanese.

It's not going to be a repeat of the earlier scenario though, because finally a section does deploy. They are opposite the Japanese rifle squad across the paddy field and they immediately open fire.

The Japanese squad and MMG team take a point of shock each. The squad, which is on overwatch, returns fire and the Australian rifle team takes one casualty. The 2" mortar team then try to deploy, but like the other sections they too fail to find their way through the barrage.

In the Japanese phase the Gunso deploys within command range of the squad and MMG team and orders both to continue firing across the paddy field.

The fire is effective and the Australian bren team takes a point of shock and loses two men. The rifle team suffers two points of shock. So far the Japanese, with more firepower, are getting the upper hand in this firefight. Without the pregame barrage the scales may have tipped the other way and I would be facing the fire of three Australian sections instead of just one.

The Japanese then deploy another squad on their right flank in the banana grove behind the huts.

This really starts to build up the pressure on the Australians, who are finding the pregame barrage is playing havoc with their deployment.

The newly deployed Japanese squad fires through the huts. 

The result is a real blow to the Australians who see the final man in the bren team killed, which wipes them out. This takes Australian force morale down a point to 8. The rifle team takes another two points of shock and this really weakens the Australian position, with their only deployed squad rapidly declining in effectiveness. 

The Australians are able to reinforce the position when a second section deploys successfully along the jungle tree line. It may be a weakened section from the core platoon, but as far as the Australians are concerned all men are welcome. 

They open fire on the Japanese in the banana grove and their fire is joined by the rifle team from the other section.

The Japanese lose a man killed and suffer two point of shock. Unlike the Australians, this is the first Japanese casualty of the game.

The Australians need to reinforce the firing line, but yet again the 2” mortar team fail to deploy through the pregame barrage.

It's rare this happens so early in a game, but I sense a key moment has arrived. The Australians have taken unexpected, early losses and cannot deploy their entire force. They are facing a large number of Japanese who are closing fast. While I feel I'm in the ascendancy I want to keep the momentum going and so deploy a third rifle squad on my right flank. They fire at the Australians in the jungle. 

Japanese fire is proving very effective and more shock builds on the Australian rifle team and bren team, which also loses a man. There is no sign of a forward observer and if I can get on top of the Australians quickly it won't matter that my units are bunched together on the right flank.

I deploy the Rikugun and he orders the MMG and squad to fire at the Australians opposite.

Yet again the Japanese fire takes its toll. Another Australian is lost and with another five points of shock the newly arrived section is now pinned. 

The Rikugun uses his last CI to order the squad near the huts to charge forward, with the Australians pinned this is a good chance to try and finish them off. They need to move 8" to be close enough for close combat, but they don't manage to move fast enough. While that leaves them a bit exposed, the Australian firepower is greatly diminished now that they are pinned and suffering so much shock.

The Australians then have a bizarre command roll, consisting of nothing but 5s. While it earns them a CoC die, right now they could really do with the activations.

This hands the phase back to the Japanese who keep up the pressure. The Gunso orders the MMG and squad to fire once again.

That's a lot of firepower that results in four Australians lost as casualties and six points of shock. Those casualties see a second bren team wiped out. To add insult to injury it has also put enough shock on the rifle team that they break and rout off the table, taking their corporal with them.

The rifle team was part of a support section, but nonetheless, that's a big hit on the Australian morale, which only drops two points because Dave elects to use his newly earned CoC dice to negate one of the rolls. Australian FM is now down to 6 and things are not going well for them.

I have both the Gunso and Rikugun close together by the paddy field, where some of their CIs are clearly wasted. The Rikugun is needed up at the front to maintain the momentum of the attack. He moves forward, barking orders to the two squads once he's within command range. His first command is to the squad in the midst of the huts and he urges them forward to engage the Australians in the jungle. Believe it or not, we are about to witness our first close combat of the campaign. 

The pinned Australians can only watch in awe as the Japanese surge forward from the huts.

Those Australians are in no fit state to stand and fight and with odds greater than 4:1 they immediately rout back 11". More significantly they accumulate another 8 points of shock, which causes them to break and so propels them backwards right off the table. This has a dramatic impact on Australian morale which tumbles three points down to three. With that the Japanese squad are into the jungle and closing in on one of the Australians' jump off points.

The Japanese seem unstoppable at the moment. So far, for the loss of a single casualty they have killed or driven from the table two Australian sections. Much credit for this must go to the pregame barrage which has allowed me to concentrate my force and hamper Dave doing the same.

I sense I have nothing to lose by being very aggressive and the Rikugun sends the squad on the right flank forward to the jungle tree line. 

With all the Japanese infantry pushing forward the Ha Go joins the advance and goes flat out down the road.

It may be too late, but the Australians roll 661, a double phase, can they snatch victory from the jaws of defeat? Unfortunately, with only three command dice and two of those sixes, their activations are severely limited. Dave senses he can at least extract some revenge and successfully deploys the platoon's anti-tank rifle team. It fires on the fast moving Ha Go, but the opening shot misses.

No matter, he has another phase. Unfortunately a roll of 543 means he can't activate the anti tank rifle without a senior leader. That said, he has other pressing matters to worry about near his jump off points. A third Australian section manages to deploy into the jungle. Now that the support section has routed, all the remaining sections are from the core platoon and below strength, so while they can add to the firefight they don't bring as much as they would have if all men were present. That said, they do fire immediately at the nearest Japanese squad. 

The Japanese take another two points of shock and the Australians try to add to this by throwing in a grenade, but it has no effect. 

The Australians try to deploy the platoon sergeant so he can have the anti tank rifle fire, but like others before him, the sergeant is held up by the barrage, which is really proving excellent value for the Japanese today. 

While the Japanese have five command dice to roll they now take a turn to find they have limited options, rolling 65553. It is enough for a CoC dice, which is always handy. It's also enough to activate the squad in the centre to try and engage the weakened Australians in close combat. First the corporal has them throw a grenade, which kills one Australian and adds to their shock. That's a promising start. 

With that it's time to rush them. The odds are against the Japanese, but it's the Australians who can least afford the losses. There follows a vicious round of hand-to-hand combat. The Japanese take five points of shock and suffer the loss of seven men, including the squad corporal. The Australians lose four men and their corporal suffers a light wound. As 'stubborn' troops they can disregard any shock from the close combat.

The loss of the squad corporal sees Japanese morale drop a point down to 9, while Australian morale is unaffected by the wound to their corporal.

With that the Japanese are thrown back suffering from enough shock to see them pinned. It's clearly not over yet, the Australians have plenty of fight left in them. Yet despite the loss, I feel the Japanese benefited far more from the exchange, as that was another four men the Australians could ill afford to lose.

In the Australian phase the final and much depleted section from the core platoon deploys. In fact the section is so depleted there are only enough men present to make up an enlarged bren team, which their corporal places on overwatch.

Dave is also able to activate the anti-tank rifle team and they prepare to fire once more on the Ha Go. Before they can, I use my CoC die to interrupt and the Ha Go fires its turret machine gun, but has no effect. The AT rifle fires and it's enough to halt the Ha Go and force it to engage the team in the next phase. 

In the Japanese phase the Ha Go turns and fires at the AT rifle team with the turret MG. This time the team loses a man. With a good chance of wiping out the AT rifle team the Gunso orders the MMG to fire, but it only manages to inflict one shock. I'm determined to wipe this team out, not only to save the Ha Go, but also to try to drive down the Australian force morale. The Gunso now orders the squad to fire and that does the trick. The team is wiped out, although their force morale holds steady.

On the Japanese right flank the squad moves into the jungle. 

They come within sight of the Australians, some of whom are on overwatch and they immediately open fire. The Japanese take two casualties and a point of shock.

When we reach the next Australian phase I begin to wonder why Dave is not withdrawing, but it occurs to me that his core platoon is now so weak he doesn't expect to have them available for the next scenario.

He has some options in this situation. He can try to roll for replacements for the core platoon, however as these men will most likely come from support units and rear echelons they will drag down the force morale by two points for the scenario. With his current number of casualties he is unlikely to restore the platoon to full strength by rolling for replacements and so risks gaining a handful of men at the expense of lowered force morale. It is not a particularly attractive option.

The alternative is to replace the entire platoon. While this will give him a full platoon, the downside is they will be green. Nonetheless, given his current predicament, this is probably the best option. That being the case he seems prepared to have the core platoon go down fighting and take as many Japanese with them as they can.

That said, his next command roll is 225. As all of his sections are now reduced to single teams he's unable to use the 2s to activate them. He opts to make a 4 and bring on the platoon lieutenant, but alas once again the pregame barrage proves its worth and he doesn't deploy. Those Japanese gunners have done some sterling work today.

On the other hand the Japanese command roll of 33332 provides a host of activation options. The squad on the right flank in the jungle throws a grenade and the Australians lose a man, they then open fire and another Australian goes down and they accumulate three points of shock. 

With the AT rifle gone, the Ha Go turns off the road and into the paddy field towards the Australian jump off point, followed closely by a Japanese squad.

On the left flank the under-employed Grenade Discharger squad also advances across the paddy field. 

With the Japanese closing on all sides things look grim for the Australians. It's doubtful whether inflicting any more casualties on the Japanese will make much difference. With Australian FM on 3 and the Japanese on 9 the chances are that any further losses will only end up being returned immediately when the Australian FM is driven down further, which is the most likely outcome. With that, in the next Australian phase, they withdraw.

Well, that was a short, sharp and vicious encounter. It was also the most bloody to date and an encounter marked by our first close combat of the campaign. The Australians lost thirteen casualties from the core platoon and six from the support section, nineteen casualties in all. The Japanese lost ten casualties including a squad corporal, but having won the scenario and with a force morale difference of six, many of those casualties will return immediately.

The Japanese CO's Opinion continues to rise at the ongoing success and now stands at +7. The Men's Opinion is also up to +5, while the platoon leader's Outlook remains confident. The high CO's opinion will mean the Japanese can replace the remaining five men in the platoon and so it will go into the next scenario at full strength .

On the other hand, the Australian CO's Opinion drops to -2. Despite the high losses the Men's Opinion only drops to +4, however the platoon leader's Outlook has gone from relaxed to worried.

So we move to the last and final map. Success for the Japanese here at the first attempt will give them a minor and historical campaign victory, if the Australians manage to hold on they will do enough to put the Japanese behind schedule and prevent Japanese victory. All to play for then. You can follow what happens in this post.