The first game that I played at this year’s Operation Market Larden was a game of Chain of Command set in Malaya 1941 put on in 28mm by Mark Backhouse.
The British, played by Matt Slade and I, were represented by a platoon of Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. We were defending: our mission was to prevent any Japanese troops exiting the table on our side: Mark, in the picture above, is standing behind the British baseline. A sub-plot also involved us getting a senior officer to the knocked out ambulance to rescue certain vital supplies.
As mentioned, we had a full platoon of Scottish infantry at our disposal: three sections, a light mortar team and a Boys anti-tank rifle team led by lots of officers. In support, we chose a Lanchester armoured car (mainly because this theatre is about the only place you can use one) and a roadblock, which we used to prevent the Japanese bringing any tanks on from the side road on our right flank.
The Japs, played by Jeff Davis and Ian Gilbraith, had the opposite idea. Their aim was to capture two thirds of the table (horizontally) allowing them to exit troops off the British baseline. They also had a secondary mission: explore the two huts in search of rice supplies.
The Japanese also had a full platoon to field, but their sections were enormous: fourteen strong IIRC. In addition to their three regular rifle sections, they also had a grenade launcher squad with three Mk89 teams. In support, they had a Chi Ha tank: something we were not looking forward to facing.
The Patrol Phase happened quickly, with the Japanese ending up with their Jump Off Points largely on their left side of the table. We had two of our JOPs on that side of the table too, but as we’d had to protect out entire front instead of being able to schwerepunkt along one road, we had another behind the hut on our left hand side of the table.
The Main Game Begins
The dice really fell for the Japanese in the early stages of the game. I’m not quite sure of the mechanic, but something about them rolling lots of 6’s on their Command Dice twice in a row meant that they shot up the battlefield until there was a section in the jungle to our right, the grenade launchers behind the hut just in front of our positions, and another section right in front of us in front of the hut.
The Japanese opened fire, promising huge amounts of devastation on our lead section. Fortunately (me rolling lots and lots of very low dice) the potential for large numbers of deaths was never realised. In fact, our only casualty was a junior officer knocked down…who promptly got back up again. This did, however, cost us two Force Morale points: the officer was obviously deeply unpopular!
Now the dice swung our way, and we had the chance to pour fire into the Japanese squad out in the open: which we did, knocking their strength down by half. At the same time, our Lanchester appeared, and promptly shot up the Japanese squad to the right.
It was all going so well…then this happened:
The Chi Ha took a shot at the Lanchester, hit it, and almost knocked it right back off the table. One more of them and we’d have no Lanchester left, and a dwindling number of Force Morale points.
Our light mortar popped some smoke down on the road between the Chi Ha and our armoured car, which gave us a little time to breathe…but what to do? There were still lots of Japs on the table, albeit half of them were pretty bashed up, but we needed to do something quickly and decisively if we weren’t going to spend the next four years building railways!
There was nothing for it: we would have to go forward and take the fight to the Japanese!
Bursting from the undergrowth, one of our sections rushed across the road to the right shouting strange Scottish epithets as they closed with the enemy. There were more Japanese there than we expected (the figures were hiding in the scenery!) and we lost the first round of close combat. This boded ill, but then Mark reminded us that as we were Scottish, we could ignore a loss by a mere one man, and carry on fighting until we were properly wiped out!
Back in went the Argylls, and in another two rounds of fighting (the Japs weren’t giving up the ghost easily either) we killed every enemy solider except one senior leader, who fled the field not to be seen again until 1966, when he finally emerged from the jungle not knowing the war had ended in ‘45!
The loss of so many of their men was too much for the already battered Japanese to survive. With a Force Morale of zero, they melted away back the way they’d come. Another successful Argyll ambush: time to fall back and do it all again tomorrow!
A cracking game of CoC, and one after which I am actually starting to remember the rules. I don’t think I’m switching from gaming companies in 15mm (IABSM, CDS, Q13) but I shall definitely play CoC again when I can.
Thanks to mark, Matt, Jeff and Ian for making it such a great game. Here are a few more piccies: