Today, Neil, my regular opponent, and I played the third scenario, The Ledge, from the Fall of the Lion Gate scenario pack using the I Ain’t Been Shot, Mum rules for company level WW2 gaming.

The scenario is set in December 1941: as the Japanese invade Malaya from the north via Thailand, the British send a column of Indian troops, Krohcol, to stop them. The game involves a long, straight road bordered by jungle, with both sides beginning the game with just one infantry squad on the table, with the rest of their forces fed in randomly as the game goes on. I played the British.

The British began the game well. Almost immediately the first, second and third elements of their reinforcements arrived, and I decided that my tactics would be to slam forward up the table, set up a fire base reasonably close to where I could expect the enemy to appear, and then shoot him up piecemeal as he did so.

The single Japanese section on the table disappeared into the jungle, so I deployed one platoon to sweep through the heavy terrain towards it, and another to cover the road as they did so. A Japanese Blind arrived at the other end of the table, which I spotted as an infantry platoon, so as more of my reinforcements, this time support weapons, arrived, I deployed them as well. I now had three deployed platoons forward, with a firebase of three MMG carriers and a howitzer behind.

The Japanese then received some reinforcements that also disappeared into the jungle and began heading forward and around both my flanks. I wasn’t too worried, however: I had deployed platoons that could block them.

How wrong I was!

I had forgotten how fleet of foot the Japanese are at moving through jungle under Blinds. As my deployed men struggled to keep to a neat line formation as they moved through the heavy terrain, the Japanese infantrymen under Blinds jogged around them: not worried about maintaining neat lines as they stayed far enough away to be out of both shooting and spotting range (“it’s heavy jungle: you can see some trees…and some bushes…and more trees…but nothing that looks Japanese!”) but constantly moving towards my base line.

What happened next was just ghastly!

My support weapons (MMG carriers and a howitzer) had just begun opening up on the Japanese platoon deployed at their end of the table when a full platoon of Japanese infantry erupted out of the jungle on both sides of the road! The terms “horns of the buffalo” or “nutcracker” just don’t do justice to the carnage that followed! A combination of the right cards (Big Men, Platoons, Banzai, Rapid Deployment and Heroic Commander) meant that my support weapons were charged and neutralised within a couple of turns.

As my infantry platoons struggled back through the undergrowth to help them, the Japanese sent one platoon further on to block my exit from the table, and sent the other, under the CinC, into one infantry platoon as it arrived piecemeal itself. More carnage followed!

Those who have read the scenario background will be pleased to hear that six-foot tall Staff Officer Yutaka Asaeda, commanding the Japanese, survived the game despite leading from the front and taking part in three banzai charges.

At this stage, I had one infantry platoon deployed in the middle of the table exchanging fire with a Japanese platoon at their table edge, and one infantry platoon in the jungle wondering what to do next as the enemy had me surrounded on three sides. Then the Japanese tanks arrived and I called the end of the battle: desperately hoping that at least some of Krohcol would make it back to safety through the jungle, even if finished as a fighting force, as the main Japanese force thundered down the now open road into Malaya.

This was a stuffing of awesome proportions: all the more galling as I wrote the Fall of the Lion Gate booklet and therefore this scenario! My mistake was to deploy my troops onto the table too early, taking away my deployment flexibility against an enemy who could move quickly through the jungle. All credit to Neil for spotting the error, and taking full advantage!

My only consolation is that I now know what it must have felt like to be a British commander at the start of the war in the Far East…not pleasant being an accurate, if understated, summation!

The gallery below has some more pictures. Click on the first one shown to see the rest...

Robert Avery