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 one, 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. Firstly to avoid the impact of a mortar barrage and secondly to give me a number of options to use the Ruse. We end up with jump-off-points looking like this:


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 push back the Australians when they will attempt to attack again in game four. You can follow what happens in this post.

7 comments:

  1. I have no issues with Dave thinking of this as one in a campaign, rather than a one off where risks can be taken without consequences. A very enjoyable narrative.

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    1. It doesn't make for the most entertaining AAR, but it fits nicely into the unfolding narrative that makes up the campaign. Much like how I committed the Volkssturm in the Road to Bremen campaign - I never expected them to win the scenario, just to delay the British. Dave has performed a similar task here.

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  2. Great write up, as always. Really enjoying hearing the thoughts behind the decisions. Dave certainly got it right this time.

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    1. Thanks Rich. We love the campaigns because they require decision making at both scenario level and at the campaign level and it makes for a very rewarding gaming experience with lots to consider at every step of the way.

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  3. I really love reading these. I didn't really understand how Command and Control functioned in CoC until I started reading these mini campaigns. Just great looking games and very well presented. I appreciate it a lot!

    Thanks.

    John

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    1. Thanks John. I'm pleased these help you understand some of those mechanics. The rules present players with a constant stream of challenges, not least of which is where and when to deploy your leaders. I've seen the command rolls criticised as if they were some sort of lottery that determines the outcomes and leaves players at the mercy of random dice results. As you can imagine, I couldn't disagree more.

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  4. As short as it was great AAR. totally makes sense to withdraw. Look forward to seeing the next one ūüėä

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