Well, preparation on the Japanese side was, umm, sparse…. Following the inspired leadership of the immortal Dom-san, the Japanese team more or less agreed that if in doubt, screaming Banzai and getting stuck in might not be a bad plan. We did actually put a little more thought in, and came to the surprising conclusion that historical tactics might work. The Japanese conquered Malaya in record time by pinning the enemy in place and turning their flanks, so we figured we'd blatantly copy it. That was about the lot, really; my pet theory is that Richard felt that the scenario was probably a little too easy for the Japanese, so he'd handicap them by making me CinC! Honourable mention at the planning stage must go to Andy, who voiced great enthusiasm for the extravagant Table 3 flanking move, while still managing to talk a bit of sense into me and avoid committing too many forces there.
On the day all was pretty much as expected, which surprised the hell out of us. The expressions on the British players' faces as they were introduced to Table 3 were pretty good. After brief deliberation, forces were allocated. The main thrust on Table 1 went to Panda "I like it in the river" O'Langa and Martin "catering corps" Kay with infantry companies, and Tim "blitzkrieg" Jupp with the armoured might of the Imperial Japanese Army. Table 2, originally scheduled as a sideshow, but actually the force that made best early progress (excellent force allocation, Dom-san) went to Edward "jet-lagged" Sturges, and Martyn "shell magnet" Simmo. Finally, the ultra cunning, super secret flanking move on Table 3 went to Kelvin "are you sure the blinds card is in the deck" White, and Andy "the jungle isn't neutral" Robinson. Dom "useless tosser" Skelton was tasked with wandering around looking faintly confused, and radioing for air support whenever he could. This actually transpired as "all blooming day" with my utter failure to roll the 1 or 2 that signified no more air support probably qualifying as my most significant contribution to Japanese success.
First impressions were fairly vague, as we were facing three tables full of jungle, and a few lonely looking British blinds, with most of their army being hidden in terrain. As the initial attackers (infantry platoons on all three tables) probed forwards, resistance rapidly became apparent. On the main road of Table 1, this was initially light, and was dealt with by sending screaming hordes straight at them. Panda almost immediately demonstrated his subtle tactical acumen by charging uphill across barbed wire, and forcibly evicting a platoon of infantry using sheer weight of numbers. Which worked.
Table 2 had the fiercest initial opposition, with dug in Gurkhas astride the line of advance. These were steadily despatched with textbook Japanese tactics, as infantry infiltrated the jungle to their flanks, turned them, and evicted the Gurkhas with heavy casualties. On Table 3, things got exciting rather rapidly. The village of Pasembor, the initial objective, proved to be occupied by a company of infantry, who were there to complete their commando training. Oops. These were also backed up by every Lanchester armoured car in Malaya. Oops. Fortunately, the commanders were up to the challenge, and with a scream of Banzai! an entire company of Japanese, plus change, got stuck in.
Then the shells started falling. Oops. It was inevitable that there'd be a nasty surprise for us Japs, but this was a corker. It rapidly became apparent that at least two batteries of artillery were supporting the British, and that they had thoroughly sighted their guns, with all likely lines of advance being pre-registered. Oh, and they had an endless supply of ammo. This worked quite well, as salvo after salvo crashed down, inflicting hits on just about every Japanese blind on Table 1, and rather a lot on Table 3. At this point I started getting a bit depressed.
By lunchtime things had stabilised, which as the attacking commander didn't cheer me up much. The main thrust on Table 1 was grinding steadily down, with pretty horrendous casualties, but slowly gaining ground. The front on Table 2 had bogged down; with less troops than the other tables, and fierce resistance from the dreaded Gurkhas, gaining ground was tricky, and when casualties mounted from the constant rain of 4.5" shells, maintaining the advance became nigh-on impossible.
As for Table 3: well it was a big melee! The commandos turned out to be supported by a company of Highlanders, while the Japanese blinds card remained elusive for many turns, resulting in a massive meatgrinder for both sides. The only consolation to be found was in the bottom of a glass, as Martin Kay once more demonstrated his (wife's) culinary prowess, with Japanese cuisine and authentic Singapore Slings!
After lunch I was depressed. I must confess to having been convinced that the bold Japanese thrust had failed; with movement on all tables reduced to a crawl, and no end to the British artillery fire, I simply couldn't see a breakthrough being achieved.
Which shows how much I know! By 3pm progress was still slow, but the tenacity of the Japanese footsloggers was paying off. By 4pm the Japanese were marching once more. By close of play the Brits were still fighting, but the writing was incredibly on the wall. On Table 1 both sides were utterly ground down: many Japanese sections were down to a single die or utterly destroyed, but the survivors had been pushed on, forcing the British right back to their gun line. By close of play, British 25 pounders were engaging tanks and infantry at ranges of 50 yards and less. Table 2 was deadlocked, with the single Japanese company present utterly exhausted; they'd made it half way down the table, but in the end entrenched Gurkhas and the constant rain of artillery had forced them to a halt. Table 3, however, had finally been won: by game's end the British forces there had been steamrollered: with a couple of sections of infantry making their way to "reinforce" the main gun-line on Table 1, hotly pursued by hordes of vengeful Japanese. This last resulted in a marginal win being declared for the Japs, to the infinite surprise of their incompetent CinC.
Honours must be distributed all round, with Robert and the table umpires running a cracking day, while my subordinates proved far more competent than me, grinding out the victory in spite of everything. As for me, I went commit Seppuku, but apparently cocked it up, as Richard pointed out that I had two 8's in the top row…