Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tales from the Front (Part 3)

Part 3 of the synopsis of our first BKC game. I said it would be the last, but I lied; there will be one more! This post will look at how the battle went, but I decided to hold off my commentary on the rules themselves as I think they deserve a post of their own.

Suffice to say for now that after re-reading the rulebook, and looking at  commentary out there on various Internet fora, I'm quite excited about their potential.

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As mentioned in the last post, the Soviets were making a frontal assault with their infantry and four T-34/85's against the lines held by the Japanese infantry with their dug-in Type 97 Shinhoto, another dug-in Ho-Ni SPG, and two piss-pot pathetic Ha-Go light tanks as a mobile lightning reserve.  Talk about bringing a dull knife to a gunfight.

We played with using measurements as given in the rules, although in subsequent games I think we will multiply them by 1.5 in order to better suit the 20mm miniatures and 1/76 scale models we use.

The game started with the Soviets making a tentative advance on the Japanese position. 

As soon as the Red Tide came in range, the Japanese commenced dishing out nastiness in the form of mortar barrages and the fire of the 75mm gun of the Ho-Ni. This disrupted the Soviets neat attack line somewhat, but evidently wasn't causing too much damage.  

General Danielov had some abysmal command rolls early in the game, but at this stage it did not seem to make any difference to game play other than giving the Japanese an extra turn to pop off some mildly annoying suppressive fire.  In fact, the first impression was that the rules were written by Bertrand Russell, as they certainly did not appear particularly lethal.

But then yours truly discovered that amazingly (ahem) I had gotten it wrong; not only were the infantry saving on anything but a six- it should have been a six only- but I had forgotten that suppressed units receiving subsequent hits have to fall back.  This requires a roll of one dice per hit, and the total being the distance a unit retreats.  If that distance is over 10cm, then it's down tools and call it a day for the unit(s) concerned.

Well, this changed things pretty dramatically, and now the Soviet infantry must have felt like the French infantry assaulting Les Chemins des Dames in 1917.   Andrew with the Japanese twigged on quickly that using your command opportunities to dump as much high-explosive hate as possible amongst the enemy was a pretty efficient way to take them out.  The mortar barrages were amazingly effective against troops in the open, and as the Soviet infantry were fairly compact formations, the barrages were soon merrily turning the Soviet assault into a khaki purée, especially once it got into range of the MMG's.   
 
Verdun on the Amur?
 
In short order the Soviets lost their mortar, one of their MMG stands, and their flamethrowers.  One could almost hear the Japanese shouting "No-mon-han!  No-mon-han!" in full-throated vengeance.

The two T-34's who were supporting the attack were clearly not in an agressive mood. Gen. Danielov sized up the situation and decided that they would best serve as mobile artillery.  Hence the infantry went to ground, and for the rest of the game the Soviet commander used the tanks to "soften up" the defenders, as they pumped round after round of 85mm high-explosive shell onto the Japanese positions.  

Hardly armoured spearhead tactics, but it worked; at one point he required a roll of two or less on two D6 to make his command roll.  The lucky stiffski ended up rolling snakes-eyes, meaning that not only did he pass, but he got an extra action as well.  This knocked out the mortar, followed a short time later by the Ho-Ni.  

Losses the Japanese could not afford, seeing as the next turn was to see the flanking force appear on the Japanese right flank.  (NB- We decided that the flank attack would come in on the pass of a command role; otherwise, it would be considered lost). 

 Peace through Superior Firepower...

At this point luck was beginning to desert the defenders, while the Soviets were beginning to flex their full firepower.  

First of all, the Japanese began to come under increasingly more intense tank gun fire from the T-34/85's. This resulted in many a unit finding itself suppressed, and then as more shells rained in these were steadily forced back.   

But when you are forced back in a trench, and there is no place to go, you end up being knocked out; so now that the Russkis were concentrating their fire from one enemy stand to another at a go, the Japanese found themselves inexorably losing unit after unit.

To make matters worse, the good fortune they had enjoyed in the earlier part of the game concerning the command rolls was beginning to desert them, so the Soviets were beginning to find themselves gaining the battlefield initiative- and more opportunities to pound the Japanese lines.
 
Gaping holes begin to appear in the flank of the Japanese position.
Meanwhile, the crews of the Ha-Go light tanks sit uselessly in their vehicles, 
knocking back sake and playing Mah-Jong...

And bear in mind that at this point the opposing infantry hadn't even fired a shot at each other, apart from the MMG's.

By this time it was clear that the battle was to end in a Soviet victory;  now that the enemy guns and mortars were dealt with the armour could just stand back and knock off stand after stand of enemy troops, and then with their (by now re-organized) troops, just assault the survivors and take the works.  The Japanese player wisely did not place a lot of faith on the ability of his two remaining Ha-Go light tanks to turn things around.

All the players had by now learned that the secret of success was to concentrate fire, achieve local superiority, and in doing so grind down the opposition until they crack.  

Now of course some mechanisms and tabletop events raised some eyebrows, but given our inexperience with the rules and the simplicity of the scenario, the overall feeling was that the rules made for an good game, with the issue being in doubt until towards late in the game.  Certainly it was not the "Walk in Gorky Park" that I expected it might be for the Russians given their armour superiority. 


*****
The next- and last- post in the report I will look at the rules in more detail- what worked, what we did wrong (quite a bit as it turned out after a re-read of the rule book), what we were not sure how to handle, and what we would do differently next time.  

1 comment:

underthemountain said...

Nice write-up, Robert. I'm looking forward to the next installment on the rules.