Lieutenant Frank Devious peered down the overgrown track. Somewhere up ahead was a roadblock or more accurately a trackblock manned, no doubt, by battle hungry Japanese. Nothing could be seen except a bunch of suspicious looking question marks. Still the attack was to proceed. He stared at a group of his men struggling to position a large green sheet of cardboard above them. On it was painted a crude question mark. Devious wasn't sure whether this was an effort at concealment or a nod to the latest Batman movie.
"This attack is important," he told himself reaching for his own question mark. "If we manage to break this trackblock..."
"We're still going to be stuck in a nameless village surrounded by Japanese," came a voice from the undergrowth.
Devious jumped and looked around wildly. All about him a bunch of question marks gazed innocently at the sky.
"Who said that," he demanded.
"He did," replied every question mark in unison.
Devious decided not to bother.
"All right, everyone move out."
There was an outbreak of swearing as question mark collided with question mark. Up ahead yellow question marks could be heard sniggering quietly. And so the attack began.
Richard Weilly and I played Scenario A115 - Blockbusters a few weeks ago. This is one of the scenarios from the Nhpum Ga mini that was included in ASL Annual 97. Here I shall command a bunch of elite but somewhat desperate men of the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) as they attempt to clear a bunch of Japanese from a blocking position that had surrounded them. To win I had to ensure that all hexes on/adjacent to the trail were free of unbroken Japanese MMC while simultaneously ensuring there was no sneaky infiltration of my set up area.
To achieve the above I had eleven elite squads led by a trio of officers including a 9-2 (who astonished me by surviving until the end of the game), a heavy machine gun and two mediums. Richard on the defence had eight squads evenly split between elite and first line plus a crew for their very own heavy machine gun. A pair of officers including a 9-1 commanded the defence and support weapons were rounded out with a trio of light machine guns and two of the ubiquitous 50mm mortars.
Beating the Japanese wasn't my only concern. First I had to get to them. Interior jungle hexes were dense which limited my capacity for fancy movement. I looked at the map and realised I had few options.
|Here is our set up before we added the concealment markers|
As you can see I have bulked up at the bottom of the board closest to the trail while a scattering of other squads were intended to prevent Richard from any sneaky movements into my set up area. These guys would ease forward into the gully and struggle out the other side. Near the trail I sent a sacrificial halfsquad charging forwards hoping to attract some attention but Richard's fire discipline was excellent and his troops glowered out from under their concealment counters daring me to do my worst.
|End of American turn one. I'm treading on Richard's toes and have built a couple of impressive fire bases|
In his turn Richard declined to stand and fight like a man. With the exception of one shot that broke an American unit getting just a little cocky the remainder of his squad skulked and shuffled to the rear proudly maintaining their concealment counters as if they were badges of honour. I essentially had to start again. I was somewhat closer but also with a turn less to achieve my goals.
|End of Japanese turn 1, they can't run forever|
Richard may have successfully skulked for a turn but that also meant that the bulk of my force had closed up and there was very little space left for him to trade for time. I lost my bold halfsquad to the first close combat of the day. I was already feeling a little stressed. Time was passing still the time was coming when he would either have to stand his ground or surrender the path to me. Either was ok as far as I was concerned.
|End of American turn 2|
Come my next turn I was ready to go. Having finally decided that Richard wouldn't be infiltrating anyone into my set up area my gully dwellers pressed forward into the jungle while halfsquads stripped concealment (at a certain cost in lives) and American firepower managed to actually stripe and break a number of Japanese MMCs. I wasn't crazy about close combat (this demonstrating a rare flash of intelligence) but I was bullying his front line while my hmg team (with 9-2 in tow) engaged in what they fondly imagined was a flanking manoeuvre. For the moment things looked quite good.
|Have you ever seen so many broken Japanese units|
The trouble with broken Japanese is that if there is a leader present they don't tend to stay broken for long and in his turn Richard managed to rally and extricate his force once again. I was now looking nervously at the turn counter as time ticked away. Richard had taken losses but a decent amount of his force was still intact and once again hidden under concealment counters. On the other hand his back was literally against the wall, or at least the board edge. Going forward he would be faced with a stark choice; fight or leave the victory area.
|End of Japanese turn 3. Time to start all over again.|
In retrospect turn four was one of wasted opportunities for me as I settled for consolidating (and regaining concealment) rather than going for the throat. I did take his mortars out of the game although to be fair they hadn't played much of a role anyway. Richard is entitled to feel a little disappointed with his mortars. Normally they're quite a force multiplier for the Japanese but in this scenario they did little to nothing. I killed one manning halfsquad in CC and broke the other one some distance from a Japanese leader. They would not swiftly return.
|End of American turn 4. That huge Japanese stack has a hmg in it which isn't going to be pleasant|
In my next turn I started to get moving (only four turns late). Richard had positioned his hmg stack outside the victory area and I was very happy to leave it there. I say "started to get moving" that was more a statement of intent than reality. In actual fact I incremented forward a little but now Richard had no choice but fight or flight. He opted for a little of both. My main concern was now whether I had left myself enough time for victory.
|There's nowhere to run Richard.|
Having just gloated that there was nowhere to run Richard promptly proved me wrong. I had indeed cleared him from the side of the path closest to the bottom of the map (or more accurately he had cleared himself) but then he sent troops circling around to attack me in the rear just when I needed everything to clinch the final victory. I wasn't particularly concerned that they would force their way through to the track but of course he only needed to get one MMC into my setup area and my efforts would be for nought. The end result was that a portion of my force would spend the rest of the game warding off that possibility rather than contributing to the final assault.
|Oh, okay maybe there is somewhere to run after all.|
So I spent a turn messing about behind the scenes. The close combat ended in the traditional mutual carnage and I was able to inflict a few more casualties at the front line but I had been stalled. Richard's threat to my start area was more apparent than real particularly after I managed to pin his squad thus ensuring my start up area remained safe. Reining in my temper and only swearing a quite modest amount really I prepared my final assault.
|Well, that was annoying|
With the final turn upon me I looked at his forces. He had precisely three stacks in the set up area. I couldn't hope that I would be able to shoot them all to pieces so it would have to be close combat. I had the troops, I had the leadership I had the desire. Forward my boys charged. Richard disdained the fire opportunities in return for the ambush option. I would need to win all three close combats to win the game. I won one of them. Still I didn't feel too badly about myself. Richard is a good player and I had pushed him all the way. I fancy I said something to that extent because then he cheerfully pointed out that he had a HIP unit in the victory area that I had never discovered and I would have lost the game even if I had won all three close combats. At that point I told him that I heard my Mother calling and I needed to go home.
This was actually an extremely enjoyable game and I don't think the AAR really does it justice. In my defence we played this game several months ago and I have difficulty remembering my own name. The game was tense with incremental advances and jockeying for position. Skulking, sneaking and taking advantage of momentary opportunities was the order of the day. Oh yes and hiding a unit in the victory location. I had completely forgotten to search the areas I passed through so Richard spent the entire game essentially attracting my attention so I had no time or inclination to search anything.
Lieutenant Devious gave a weary salute as his colonel approached. The attack hadn't exactly gone well but he felt that his men had given of their best. He could tell from the look on the colonel's face that this opinion wasn't universally shared.
"Not a good result Devious," said the colonel.
"It could have been worse sir."
"We managed to make it through the entire scenario without anybody making a joke about a video store."
The look on the colonel's face made Devious wish he was still wearing his question mark.
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