"Wake up Katatonya," snarled the colonel redfaced with anger.
Blinking Katatonya rose to his feet and saluted.
"I ordered you to prepare defences," bellowed the colonel. "Where the hell are they?"
Katatonya pointed to a couple of foxholes and a small length of trench.
"Is that it?"
"Yes?" said Katatonya hopefully.
"So you plan to defend this hilltop with two spider holes and what looks like an unambitious drainage ditch?"
"Yes," said Katatonya somewhat less hopefully this time.
"It is the desire of every Japanese soldier," continued the colonel, "to die in battle for the emperor. By that measure the men under your command are very fortunate indeed."
"Thank you sir," replied Katatonya brightening, things were looking up.
The colonel stared at Katatonya looking for the slightest hint of dumb insolence but didn't get any further than dumb.
"Take your place with the men," snapped the colonel finally. "I'll be busy burning the regimental flag."
So from North Africa to New Guinea where in keeping with my apparent Axis theme I shall take command of a small group of Japanese defending a smaller group of fortifications from a bunch of over eager Australians. We're playing ASL Scenario AP68 - Odd Angry Shot. To win at game end I have to have a MMC in any of the four hexes occupied by entrenchments. That's all the entrenchments I get, I'm not permitted to dig any more. To defend these apparently precious scrapes in the earth I have six squads, one first line and five second line, a crew and a first line half squad all guided by a single 9-0 leader. To add a little firepower I have an hmg, a lmg and a 50mm mortar. Three squads of second line reinforcements led (if that's the correct term) by an 8+1 leader will turn up at some point convenient to themselves.
Mike Sexton commanding my Australian fellow countrymen has nine squads, three elite and five first line guided by three leaders the best of which is a 8-1. He also has a 76mm mortar and a medium machine gun plus some air support in the form of some (fortunately) bombless fighter bombers. He gets a pair of first line squads plus an lmg and a 7-0 leader again at a largely random time. There does seem to be a little command confusion amongst the Australians as any MMC not adjacent to a leader has to take a task check before they can move. Hopefuly this will lead to clumping and choice targets for my no doubt fanatical defenders.
I have to set up on the hill which limits my set up options somewhat. I placed a foxhole as far away from the Australian set up as I could This was in some woods down at the northwest end of the hill mass. The bulk of my force set up to protect it with the crew served hmg guided by my only leader set up in a trench overlooking the intended battlefield. Over in the east a halfsquad was set up forward so that Mike wouldn't be able to start concealed, with any luck he would waste some time shooting at it. Behind the halfsquad were some dummies and a squad lmg combo while the mortar team set up in my remaining foxhole.
Mike set his mmg team and his own mortar pretty much directly opposite these guys. Aside from that he had three main groups all sticking closely to an officer to assist movement. In the first turn his mmg team smashed my sacrificial halfsquad and sent it yelping for cover. It would later die while trying to cross interdicted ground. His troops flushed with success moved forward towards the somewhat patchy cover. Sadly for Mike disaster attended the troops on his left flank. They pushed forward boldly enough to the dubious cover of orchards and patches of woods but when his attending 7-0 officer attempted to join them my hmg team, which had held its fire with remarkable self restraint, emptied an entire belt of ammunition into him killing him outright.
|End of Mike's turn 1|
The loss of this officer proved to be catastrophic as it turned out that Mike couldn't buy a PTC to save his life. His entire left flank was reduced to the occasional disjointed lurch forward by individual halfsquads while the bulk of his force squatted sullenly under pin counters and refused to move at all. He set up his mortar and in return my mortar used its last smoke round to reduce its vision for a couple of turns.
While his left flank was reduced to virtual immobility his right had moved forward and was slowly clambering up the hill. Mike's reinforcements arrived on turn two and reinforced this move. I had little to oppose this but I could at least take heart from the fact that they were a fair distance from my main defensive point. Despite the smoke his mortar managed to hit my hmg hex several times but the achievements of his to hit dice were wasted by the failure of the subsequent kill roles which wouldn't achieve anything until it was too late.
|Things aren't exactly going well for Mike on his left|
For the next couple of turns Mike got nowhere on the left until he raced the 8-1 who was supposed to be guiding the mmg across to take command of the recalcitrant soldiers there. On his right bolstered by his reinforcements he gained a toehold on the hill but early attempts to take out my mortar team were dispatched when they picked up their rifles and inflicted great slaughter at point blank range. Despite this Mike started to make inroads on the right and finally took down my mortar halfsquad in close combat.
|Mike has breasted the hill|
My squad lmg team on the right proved hopelessly inadequate at supporting their mortar buddies, their only contribution to the war was breaking their own weapon. Having been reduced to a single half squad by failed morale checks I decided there was no harm in advancing into CC to see if they could redeem themselves with the bayonet. Mike ambushed them then rolled snakes in CC to generate an 8-1 leader which was helpful as his original 8-1 had died in a foolhardy attempt to encourage heroism amongst the deeply noncommittal troops on the left. With him dead the left flank became even less of an issue and it was becoming obvious that if Mike wanted to win this it was all up to his troops on the right. Things seemed to look up for him when my mortar finally got a result on the hmg team wounding the officer and striping the crew.
|Mike's left flank barely exists|
Mike took what he thought was his chance and charged a squad and his newly minted 8-1 forward. He had forgotten that Japanese crews stripe rather than break. Bloodied but unbowed my hmg team smashed them as they charged forward and with half his force casualties and the remainder getting nowhere Mike conceded. You'll notice I didn't mention Mike's air support. We didn't forget it. It just did nothing, three attacks resulted in a solitary Japanese pin result. His mortar did better firing out of smoke.
I must admit I feel no great sense of achievement with this victory. Mike's average task check roll for the game was 8.14. As a result most of his troops spent most of their time doing nothing. The early kill of one of his officers was crucial and Mike was playing catch up from that point on a situation that he handled with much more grace and good humour than I would have shown.
Captain Katatonya yawned and stared at the huge pall of smoke rising to the sky from regimental headquarters in the rear.
"What the hell is that?" he asked.
"The colonel was trying to burn the regimental flag," replied a smoke grimed soldier who had stumbled up to him, "unfortunately he did it in the fuel depot."
"Is he all right?"
"Oh yes sir, he's dead. I think you're in command now."
"Right," said Katatonya rubbing his hands together in decision, "time for a nap."