Saturday, August 31, 2013

Burma '44: The Road to Mandalay

Down by Mandalay
(sung to the tune of Lili Malene)

Out there in the jungle, down by Mandalay
A few forgotten soldiers slowly fight there way, 
They dream of the girls they left back home
And they soon hope to cross the foam
To see their land and loved ones
Never more to roam

Some of them are repat, some are time expired
Longing for their troopship, and their fireside
They often talk of Burmese plains
Of dust and heat, and Monsoon rains,
Of roads that lead to heaven
 And tracks that lead to hell.

Today Kent and I played  couple of demo games at TAGCON. Kent used the same forces as last time, I swapped the Stuart for another section of infantry- and added my bonus FOO. Both games we played Point Defence- first tie the Japanese attacked second game we swapped roles.

Burma 1944. The Japanese army is retreating towards Mandalay and the British 14th army is pursuing. The Japanese are down but not out and launch frequent counter attacks.One of these is against a platoon of the West Yorks.

Special Rules: Dug in- we let defending sections start the game in soft cover (dug in) and this status remains until the section moves from its original position (too many years of FoW). Being dug in is  -1 to preliminary bombardments effectiveness.

 The table is ready.
 Turn 1: The West Yorks are dug in and waiting for the Japanese attack. A section of infantry (vets) and a carrier are in reserve- but I forgot to make them outflank the enemy. Doh! A short artillery barrage heralds the Japanese attack but causes minimal damage. 
 A Japanese tank soon rumbles into view.
 Followed by fanatical infantry.

 The British hunker down (ambush) and hold their fire.
 Turn 2: A stonk called in by the FOO arrives, pinning several units. The infantry in the bottom left of the picture took 6 pins and remained pinned the rest of the game. The barrage upset the Japanese plans and the attack stalled as Kent tried to rally (unpin) his units.
 My vickers team in the building came in for a lot of attention from the Japanese tank and did not fire a for most of the game! It was also responsible for our first serious friendly fire incidents. The MMG failed an orders check and opened fire on the mortar team (which had managed to avoid being hit by the Japanese tank for several rounds) and wiped it out (note- we both forgot that team weapons have a firing arc and not being able to rotate to fire in other directions so the event probably shouldn't have happened... but it was rather amusing).
 The Japanese advance resumes, the cagey Japanese using jungle to cover the advance.

 Our "tank" a recce carrier arrives to assist.
 The Japanese attack seems stalled. Kent is playing a bit cautiously and cannot (in my estimation) take any objectives with the time left.
 A counter attack goes in, sweeping a way a Japanese section.
Result: Victory to the British. Kent lost sight of the objectives- to capture the and spent too may turns trying to rally. We ended up getting an extra turn and the tank was almost contesting one objective but he had left is run to late. 

Game 2: 
A British counter attack is launched on a nearby village to clear it of enemy forces.The British commander ordered two sections to outflank the enemy and having studied up on Cannae decided on a double envelopment (partially as I thought I needed to capture all 3 objectives).

How would our carrier cope vs a real tank? Due to the British barrage rules most Japanese sections took 1-2 pins from the bombardment. 
 Two sections advance in the centre so they can swing left or right as they support each other. As it turns out one swung right the other...
...met a Japanese counter attack led by the tank.
 Our "tank" leads the advance from the section that went right. 
 In a rather bold (some would say rash) move the section of infantry charge towards the hut (which hides an MMG team). 
 I get the first die of the new turn and instead of hitting the MMG charge  Japanese section but lose 4 men to defensive fire (or whatever it is called). Lets just say the odds were not in my favour but I was expecting to kill 3-4 teams  making the job of my reserves easier. I only killed 2 so the sacrifice was in vain as the Japanese finish off the section (close assaults are brutal in this game).
 In the centre I again charged and again failed to kill enough of the enemy- two underwhelming assaults in a row. Things were not looking good. So I threw in my platoon commander and promptly lost him too! The Japanese the charged and killed our medic.
 Yikes. The Japanese have crushed our centre. 
 Our only hope now is our two flank attacks (maybe this is going to be a Burmese Cannae after all). Note: The Stuart is one of the objectives BTW. Our flank attack arrives but Kent as learned the advantage of ambush so shreds the section before they can fire killing 4 men.
 The survivors kill the Japanese commander and assistant.
 Meanwhile on the other flank my final section arrives and shoots the Japanese killing one or two. If I can get the first dice in the last turn I will get to assault first but alas it wasn't to be. Kent got the first die and his assault took out 4 men My counter assault killed 4 in return but in the second round of combat I took 3 losses ad only killed 2 me so was destroyed-  and that was pretty much the end of the game.

Result: Japanese victory. 
Kent played that one a lot more aggressively, counter charging whenever he could. Once again he targeted my mortar early (it had one shot all day!). Our MMGs engaged in a bit of a fire fight as well. I learned that is really is not a good idea to charge full strength Japanese sections and that they need some preparation before you go in. I think Kent is starting to see the advantages of charging with Japanese- they live and die by assaults.

We are a bit hamstrung with options for the Japanese at present but I do have a 47mm AT gun coming and also want to get a Shinhoto tank (though a captured Stuart with a Japanese flag painted on the sides would be cool).

I really missed the Ghurkas come assault time but I aren't keen to use them- the Tough + Scary Blighters is a bit over the top for my liking so might use the commando rules (Behind enemy lines and Tough) to represent them instead. It fits in that the Ghurkas too were excellent at patrolling in the jungle and the points are the same as for commandos.  

Final Thoughts
Close assults are brutal. I paid the price for trying to do too much and should have gone for 2 objectives only. As in FoW a assault needs to be prepped properly and units need to work together. The games were both fun, fast and brutal and thoroughly enjoyable.

Japanese Special rules
I think Kent is a bit underwhelmed by the Japanese special rules- especially after being on the receiving end of British bombardments from free forward observers. The Japanese launched many of their attacks at night in Burma so I think we need to develop a night fighting rule and allow attacking Japanese to fight at night. Probably reducing visibility to 24" and having all teams count in concealing terrain at all times to represent it (will have to give it a go)

I'm already looking forward to the next game.



  1. Excellent report and photos Craig!

  2. That's one beautiful-looking game you've got there! Wish I was there.

  3. Thanks guys- it was well worth the effort