The Christmas break gave the boys from Benson and I a chance for a whole day’s gaming. We’re currently working our way through my Fall of the Liongate scenario pack for I Ain’t Been Shot, Mum!, covering the Japanese invasion of Malaya and Singapore in 1941/2. Today’s game would feature the battle known as “The Ledge”: when a Japanese column from the 42nd Infantry Regiment ran into Krohcol, a British Indian column consisting of troops from 28th Indian Brigade and their parent Corps reserve, on a narrow stretch of the Kroh-Patani road carved out of the side of a mountain just over the border with Thailand.
Two factors make this game particularly interesting. The first is the terrain: although the road runs north-south along a fairly flat piece of cleared land about 24” wide, the rest of the table is covered in thick jungle (-3 pips off EACH dice rolled for movement), with the slope to the east running up and the slope to the west running down. The road really is on a ledge!
The second is that this is an encounter battle. Both sides will start with only one squad of men on the table, with the arrival of the rest of their forces determined by the appearance of the Turn Card and a roll of the dice. On paper the forces looked fairly evenly balanced: each building to a company of infantry plus a few supports. In reality, the Japanese were much stronger: their platoons were forty-strong compared to the Indian troops’ twenty-four strong, and the final two lots of Japanese reinforcements were a platoon of three medium tanks followed by a platoon of three light tanks, with the British having only two anti-tank rifles and a 3.7” howitzer to stop them!
The First Game
For the first game, John and Bevan took the part of the Japanese, with Dave playing the British Indian commander. I refereed.
Both sides began with a single Blind covering their single squad at opposite ends of the table. Each side quickly spotted the other, with the Japanese squad heading straight down the middle of the road, and the Punjabi squad heading into the undergrowth at the side of the road in search of cover.
More British troops arrived in quick succession: the other two squads of 1st platoon and the whole of 2nd platoon, and it looked as if the Japanese would be overwhelmed before they’d had a chance to even get started. A second Japanese platoon then arrived, and then a third, and suddenly things weren’t looking quite so good for the Brits. Casualties were still very light at this stage, as both sides had chosen to take cover in the undergrowth or go into deep jungle and creep towards each other in a very slow but steady manner.
With any further reinforcements on either side seemingly lost en route, the Japanese now had a numerical advantage: 120 infantry verses 48. Worse for the Brits, one Japanese platoon was still under Blinds and had begun to outflank the British firing line by moving rapidly through the jungle to the west (Blinds in the jungle lose only one dice of the four they have available for movement).
The Japanese platoon under the Blind charged forward and hit the 1st British platoon in the flank. The two squads up forward were annihilated almost immediately, but the one squad held back did stirring work: pouring fire into the previously rampaging Japs, causing them heavy casualties.
Unfortunately for the Brits, now down to one platoon and one section of infantry (about 32 men), their reinforcements still showed no signs of arriving, and the other two enemy platoons (80 men) were now starting to get within effective fire and, worse, charge range. Dave decided that discretion was the better part of valour and, as his orders permitted, retreated his remaining troops off the table in good order. Much as happened historically, he had lost the battle, but given the Japs a bit of a bloody nose (only a little one!) and kept enough of his force together to block their advance at Kroh itself.
The Second Game
As Dave had to go, for the second game John played the Japanese again, but I took the British with Bevan refereeing.
The game began as before, with both sides rapidly getting their infantry onto the table, but this time instead of skulking in the undergrowth, I formed two of my platoons into prone (i.e. under cover as much as possible) firing lines across the road as soon as possible. As John’s Japs advanced forward as they had done before, I was therefore able to pour two platoons worth of fire into the rustling bushes at the side of the road, causing either casualties or, perhaps more importantly, enough shock to slow him down significantly. As his troops were necessarily in column, he just couldn’t return enough fire to worry my men, especially as my light mortars were also raining fire upon his closely packed men.
The lead Japanese squad did manage to make contact with one British blind, only to find it concealed two sections of Sikhs, who managed to hold off their charge, and then largely destroy them with fire.
British reinforcements were not so scarce in this game, and soon I had three Indian-pattern carriers up on the road, also pouring fire into the Japanese columns. If things continued as they were, there was no way they were going to break through.
It couldn’t last, unfortunately. More Japanese reinforcements arrived, and two Japanese MMGs set up high on the ridge line and forced one British platoon to take cover. Yes, they were blocking any advance on that flank, but they couldn’t contribute to the fire needed to keep the huge numbers of Japanese back.
Worse, the Japanese tanks then arrived: both the medium Chi-Has and the light Ha-Gos in quick succession. They headed straight down the road and rapidly dealt with the British carriers: two being abandoned by their crew, the other heading for home with bits hanging off it!
By this stage, however, I had my howitzer on the table. Firing over open sights, it blew one Japanese tank to bits (a 3.7” HE shell will do that to a tank with little armour!) but lost a crew member to return fire.
At that point, unfortunately, we had to end the game. The Japanese had easily lost one platoon of infantry, probably more like 1½. They had also lost one tank, and were about to lose another. The Brits were in a good position, but had also lost about a platoon of infantry, and both carriers. The referee declared the game to be a draw, but a draw in the British favour.
A Great Day’s Gaming
In all, it was a great day’s gaming. What really stood out was the need to really be pro-active against the Japanese. No, I’m not suggesting you charge forward at them as they want to do to you, but you do need to quickly establish proper firing lines, supported by Big Men to direct the fire, and to hold your nerve as those large platoon columns get closer. We’re already looking forward to the next encounter!