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Just played the seventeenth scenario from the Fall of the Lion gate supplement: the Kranji Penninsular. Two platoons of Australians, with the support of one MMG and the promise of off-table artillery, are holding a narrow neck of land against three Japanese infantry platoons plus a large engineer platoon. Neil took the part of the Japs, I played the Aussies. The fighting took place at night: so long range fire was pretty much useless, and spotting not very easy at all.

The Australians were in two lines. The first line consisted of one platoon in a line of trenches and scrapes; and half of the other platoon occupying a now-deserted industrial building. The second line consisted of the other half of the second platoon, also occupying an industrial building; and the Company HQ of one MMG and the FOO. The Aussie's only had three Big Men: one on the Company HQ, and the other two in each of the forward platoons.

The Japanese opened the game by advancing two platoons rapidly on to the table. The Aussie's spotted with half their force, and opened up with a couple of sections: doing little if any damage to the advancing Japs. More Japanese Blinds followed, and it was obvious that a strong force was heading towards the right of the Australian line.

The Aussie FOO called in artillery, and after a couple of abortive attempts to place ranging shots in the right place, finally managed to call in a full fire mission on one Japanese platoon. This platoon had had a chance to avoid the incoming artillery, but the dice had not been kind when moving, and three of its four sections took fire when out in the open from 25pdrs firing from off-table. Carnage: one Japanese platoon effectively neutralised.

Unfortunately, the artillery couldn't be everywhere, and the 50-man strong Japanese engineer platoon, taking full advantage of the night, managed to charge one end of the Australian line, wiping out the section there for little return damage. The rest of the Australians poured what fire they could into the Japs, but it was night time and they couldn't prevent the engineers from starting to roll up the Australian line: pushing back another section with ease.

The Japanese engineers pushed forward again, but, incredibly, one and a half sections of Australian infantry managed to not only hold them but actually to push them back. Trouble was, the effort cost them more casualties than they could afford to take, and the Japs would soon rally and storm forward once more.

Desperate measures were called for: the Australian FOO called fire directly down onto the Japanese engineers now occupying half the Aussie 2nd Platoon trenches. As the other half of the trenches were occupied by the surviving half of the platoon, pinpoint accuracy would be needed. Almost unbelievably, everything worked perfectly: the chips fell just as needed, and the deviation dice didn't deviate. The engineers, rallying into their squads for another assault, took the full fire of the 25pdrs and were effectively scratched from the game. That was, however, the end of the Aussie's supporting fire: the guns were needed elsewhere! Fortunately, some regimental 3" mortars were still available, so the FOO switched channels and desperately started to try and raise them.

Now, however, the Japanese had a bit of luck. The game allows for a small chance of Japanese reinforcements arriving…and they did! Another full platoon appeared in landing craft right by where half of 1st Platoon were occupying the building in the rear Australian line. This was getting serious for the Aussie's (1½ platoons now facing three strong Japanese platoons) and they raised their game accordingly! Next chip up was for 1st Platoon, and the first two enemy landing craft made like the opening of Saving Private Ryan: losing most of their men and the Big Man with them.

Meanwhile, a third Japanese platoon had crept forward in the confusion, and charged the remains Australian 2nd Platoon whilst still under a Blind. The Aussie's were wiped out, but their sacrifice had not been in vain: the chips came out of the bag in the right order, and the Japs that had killed them took two turns of fire from the Company HQ's MMG and the two sections of 1st Platoon occupying the forward Australian line. Yes, it was night time, but the Japs were right in the heart of the Australian position and therefore at point blank range. Scratch a third Japanese platoon.

Meanwhile, the other two Japanese sections that had arrived by landing craft had rushed forward to the building occupied by the Australians. Before they could charge in, however, the Australians opened fire, doing a significant amount of damage. It was going to be very hard to shift them indeed!

As the Japanese commander was absorbing this, the Aussie FOO, who was having a really good day, found the range of the only as yet uncommitted Japanese platoon. Down came fire from 3" mortars and, at this point, the Japanese withdrew.

This was a really close game. The Australians were vastly outnumbered by hordes and hordes of Japanese. At one point we were not only recycling my Japanese infantry figures, but forced to deploy my bicycle-mounted infantry bases to represent five foot soldiers each. The close combat calculations were going: "right, that's seven figures plus two bicycles, making seventeen men in all"! It was only the almost perfect shooting of the Australian FOO and a really good run of chips that gave the Aussie's their victory.

Casualties were horrendous on both sides: the Australians lost half their defending force, the Japanese about two thirds of their attacking force: not nice at all! Historically, the Australians did hold their positions on the Kranji Penninsular, and were only forced to withdraw when…well, you'll have to read what happened in Fall of the Lion gate, won't you!

Robert Avery