Saturday, 22 November 2014

The Assault on La Belle Josephine: Part One

All is in equilibrium;  the planets and stars are back in their proper places in the celestial firmament, and the natural order of the universe has returned.  

It was back to Napoleonics gaming with Black Powder this past Sunday. 
Rumble in the Jungle
And this time with a difference.  Having made all that jungle terrain for our Bolt Action Burma/ Pacific theatre games, and wanting to maximize the return on the investment, we decided to leave the green fields of Europe and instead do battle in the lush, disease-ridden tropical rain forests of the Caribbean.  

As Matt had recently finished a Royal Navy landing party to go with his battalion of Royal Marines, and I have been a life-long fan of C.S. Forester and Patrick O'Brian, this scenario practically wrote itself.

First the potted history bit (but don't check the sources too closely- I'm playing loose and fast with the facts here).   No apologies for its length.  I know a lot of people have neither the time nor inclination to read a lot of text, and if you are one of these people, stop here and move on.  Each to their own.  I like to place our games in some kind of context, and just enjoy writing this kind of thing.  This blog is the place I can do it.
1809, and with the decisive naval dominance of Great Britain, much of the French overseas empire has practically ceased to exist; a decade of conflict has seen territory after territory taken by the naval and land forces of His Britannic Majesty.  One of the few remaining French possessions is Guadeloupe, and the British government has its eyes firmly set on adding this Caribbean island to the rising tally.
Sugar, Spice, and Everything Malarial. Map from Wikipedia.
Service in this disease-ridden corner of the globe had long been seen as a practical death sentence, with many a soldier on all sides being carried away by the bloody flux without ever having seen any combat.

After years of campaigning, a shortage of manpower was beginning to become a major issue for Napoleon.  On top of that, war was looming once more on the continent as Austria was once again rattling its (by now somewhat dented) sabre.   

So it was decided at Fontainebleau that instead of sending experienced French troops to garrison the island- men who were far more urgently needed in Spain- Guadeloupe would be just the place to send some of the less desirable, undependable, and potentially mutinous "allied" battalions that were currently devouring the Emperor's rations and resources throughout Europe.  

The reasoning was that if these foreign outposts were inevitably to fall, better to lose expendable foreign riff-raff than to waste valuable French soldiery. Besides, most would probably succumb to yellow fever within weeks of their arrival anyway.

Two of the more particularly surly Confederation of the Rhine units were chosen for Operation Early Grave,  the Westphalian Regt. von Tippelskirch, still in their old Prussian uniforms, and the Anspach-Kartoffelkopf Feldjager Korps.  

These two units had never taken kindly to their French overlords, and had been giving trouble to the provosts for months.  Their French divisional commanders cheerfully nominated them for service overseas in the hope that they would see neither sight nor sound of the scoundrels ever again.

So the transports were loaded and their sullen human cargo sent on their way to the small island of Marie-Galante, off the coast of Guadeloupe.  There they were to garrison La Belle Josephine, an old but strongly-constructed 17th C. fort that protected the settlement of Grand-Bourge. 
La Belle Josephine
The fort covered the entrance to the town, and with its 48pdr gun covered the area south and west of the island, looking towards the neighboring Saints. 
Marie Galante, from an old map
There they would spend the rest of their (potentially short) lives in boredom amongst the ague, delirium, and numerous creepy-crawlies in the dank, humid tropics. 

But fate was to intervene. Not long after the departure of the hapless Germans to Guadeloupe, back in Paris it was becoming evident that losing all ones overseas assets didn't exactly make for good reading in Le Moniteur, and that to give them up without a struggle was resulting in an unacceptable loss of Imperial prestige among the nations of Europe. 

In an effort to be seen- well, making an effort, the authorities had a change of heart and resolved on sending an expeditionary force far across the ocean to Martinique in the West Indies to reinforce the garrison there, and if possible to turn the situation around.   While a risky policy, at the very least it was reasonably certain that the British themselves would have to divert precious manpower from the Peninsula to counter any threat to their own possessions.

This force, under Commodore Amable-Gilles Troude, consisted of the ships of the line Courageux, Polonais, and d'Haupoult, and two frigates, La Félicité and La Furieuse. Between them, these ships transported a brigade of six battalions; this time not of sullen and mutinous foreign rabble, but of experienced troops that were used to the rigours of service, and unswervingly loyal to their emperor.

However, it was a case of too little too late, and despite having successfully evaded the Royal Navy blockade off The Loire, the convoy sailed on undetected as far as the Leeward Islands only to learn from an American whaler that Martinique had already fallen to the British.  

Quelle dommage, but having gotten this far, it would mean an unacceptable loss of face to the Emperor if the squadron would turn back and brave the elements in an effort just to sneak ignominiously back to France. So after some considerable and heated discussion aboard the flagship, Courageux, it was agreed that the force would continue on and make landfall on Guadeloupe instead. 

Walls have ears, and placed in the corridors of power in Paris was a young captain of engineers, Samuel Alphonse de Gravino, equerry to Maréchal Berthier.   A man whose bravery on the field of Austerlitz and Freidland had made him a favorite of the Marshal, trusted with many a top-secret dispatch.  

He was also a rather impetuous, rash young man fond of drink, women, gambling and of danger.  

This had made him a perfect target for British intelligence, who with the promise of taking over his ever-increasing gaming debts, had no problem in "turning" him. 
"'Ave another drink; c'mon dearie, you can tell l'il 'ol me.  What was the name of this 'ere big boat again, and where was it a' headin' to?"
In exchange for cold hard cash he soon proved a one-man Enigma machine; and soon, through its efficient network of spies and couriers, Whitehall was in receipt of the change in destination even before it had been reported to Napoleon.

They acted quickly.  A squadron was duly dispatched under the command of Admiral of the Blue Sir Troubridge Marlinspyke, Lord Keelhall, to intercept the French force, while a convoy carrying a brigade of infantry which had been originally intended for service in the Peninsula, was to be diverted instead to the West Indies.  The two would rendezvous at Jamaica.

All this was as the French command had anticipated, and it was with very grudging reluctance- and under pressure from the highest authorities (many said to have considerable business interests in the sugar trade)- that General Wellesley agreed to giving up the much-needed reinforcements.

So the stage was set for what was to be one of the most bitter campaigns to be fought in the West Indies. 

The French brigade, under the command of GdB Pierre Hippolyte De l'Ague, arrived at Guadeloupe, and disembarked at the port of Basse-Terre.  There they soon set to work on improving the island's defenses.  However, word soon came of the impending arrival of the British.  The Royal Navy was more experienced, and had made an easier crossing with more favorable winds, thus gaining on the French and arriving a full two weeks earlier than expected.

With landfall on Guadeloupe imminent, Lord Keelhall decided after a conference on HMS Belleisle that the weakest point in the French defenses was an attack from the south.  But first, the island of Marie-Galante would have to be secured if the force was to land in safety.  A daunting prospect, but thanks to their agent in Paris, one made easier by the knowledge that the fort there was held by the unenthusiastic Germans. 

Among the British units on board the transports was a volunteer contingent of German émigrésvon Romberg's European Rifle Volunteers.  These were of dubious quality, and quite ill-disciplined themselves; but they were united in their hatred of Bonapartist rule over their homeland, and could be counted on to try and encourage the disaffected garrison at Grand-Bourg to turn over the fort.
von Romberg's ERC.  Eurotrash maybe, but they have their uses.
It was thought that if the garrison could be convinced to surrender or even to change sides, the island could be secured at minimal cost to the British. 

Admiral Keelhall was very experienced in amphibious operations in the West Indies, and knew that speed was of the essence before disease would start to decimate the ranks of his hard-to-replace troops.  He did not have the numbers to occupy both Marie-Galante and Guadeloupe, so his intent was to destroy the fort in a bold hit-and-run attack, to burn a nearby camp which was used to store cordage and supplies for local trade, and after re-embarkation to sail on to the main island and begin the invasion proper.

His squadron tacked along the Guadeloupe passage, and then set a course south down the eastern coast, where it sailed past the island of Grande Anse.  Here it was seen by a local fisherman who- for a small consideration- brought word of the approaching force to the French commander De l'Ague, who was now setting up a camp at Petit-Bourg for his men.

De l'Ague was a man of action despite his large bulk, and quickly devised what the British were up to.  He made the bold decision to immediately embark four of his six battalions, sail over to Marie-Galante, and inflict upon any landing force a sharp reverse which would buy time for the defense of the main island.  
Men of von Tippelskirch's Battalion mount guard
He knew that only a few days earlier the Governor of the island had sent a unit of local Chasseurs Coloniaux de Guadeloupe and a half-battery of the Voluntaires d'Artillerie Coloniaux de Guadeloupe over to the island with the task of stiffening up the resolve of the garrison to hold out against any attack, so he felt confident he could deal with any attempted descent upon the fort.
The French break camp.

In the glory of a magnificent West Indian sunset, the rival squadrons could see each other off in the distance as they both approached Marie Galante from opposite directions.  The British force was embarked aboard the 74's HMS Belleisle, HMS Pompee, and the frigate HMS Acasta.  In the distance they could just make out the shapes of the French 74-gun d'Haupoult, accompanied by two frigates, La Félicité and La Furieuse.
Trouble ahead...
Aboard the British ships, and once landed to be placed under the command of Col. Lord Bayley Whitlocke, KB, MP, were the following:
  • 1/45th Foot
  • 1/74th Foot
  • 1/88th Foot
  • Capt. Blunt's company, the 60th Rifles
  • Capt. Trunnion's composite battery, Royal Foot Artillery. 
  • Converged Battalion, Royal Marines
  • Naval Landing Party,  HM ships BelleislePompee,  and Acasta under the command of 1st Lt. Aubrey Jackstaff, HMS Belleisle  (including two 9pdr naval guns)
  • von Romberg's European Rifle Volunteers

Aboard the French vessels, De l'Ague had embarked the following units:
  • 1er et 2e Battailons, 39e de ligne
  • 1er et 3e Battailons,  29e de ligne
  • 8e batterie d'artillerie

In the camp near Grand-Bourg:
  • 1e Batt. Chasseurs Coloniaux de Guadeloupe 
  • Vol. d'Artillerie Coloniaux de Guadeloupe
 Garrisoning La Belle Josephine:
  • Regt. von Tippelskirch
  • Anspach-Kartoffelkopf Feldjager Korps


With both French and British ships laden with troops waiting to be landed, neither commander was in a position to fight a naval engagement; but nor were they prepared or willing to sit out a siege of La Belle Josephine and to watch their respective forces waste away in the malaria-ridden jungle and plantations.

It was evident to all present they would soon find themselves with a serious fight on their hands.

This post is too long already, so next will be the report on the battle and how it turned out.  Lots of pictures!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Trio of Tanks

The latest addition to my Japanese tank park.  A Warlord Games Type 97 Chi-Ha.  Painted and generally tarted-up since its last outing in a near-naked state.
This is one of the most iconic Japanese tanks, so having one in my force was pretty well a must. 

I tried to give this one more of a faded, worn and beaten-up look. 
To be honest, a bit of a swine to put together and paint; I didn't find myself developing the same "affection" towards it as I did the other two as I was working on it, so I'm relieved its finally done.  Can't really say why, it just didn't grab me the same way as the Ha-Go did.  

All three vehicles I've painted so far.  
Two more to go, a Chi-Nu medium tank and a Ho-Ro self-prepared gun.  

Earlier this week I cleaned up the parts of an LVT-4 for my US Marine force, another icon of the Pacific War from the other side.  It is a massive piece of resin, one I really am looking forward to painting.  But only once my Japanese are all done, and I've a bit of work to do there first.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Loose ends

Yesterday I had the time, energy, and motivation to get some painting in.  Three particular ducks that haven't always been willing to get themselves into a row recently.

The latest finished product off my painting table.  This is a Ha-Go light tank, a resin model from Warlord Games.
A vehicle I've always liked the look of, and one of the most iconic in Japanese service- although it must have been a death sentence to have been serving in one when there were Sherman and Lee tanks around.  Or much anything else in the Allied arsenal for that matter.  

Still, with its two machine guns and light cannon it will be a welcome addition to my Japanese force.

I've also got back into painting Napoleonics.  The tank was done in between production-line painting of long black coats with red piping, which should be a clue as to what I'm working on now.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Pub Brawl!

More Bolt Action, where a bunker that I recently completed has seen the elephant.

On Sunday we had another WW2 Burma theatre game featuring Matt's British and my Japanese.  This wasn't held at our usual venue, but this time we had it at a British-style pub near Shibuya here in Tokyo.  The owner, Paul, had been a wargamer himself at one time, and kindly gave us the run of the place during the day, subject to us buying lunch there and downing a pint or two.  Twist my rubber arm...

There were two Bolt Action games in play, as well as a number of boardgames.  And having the author of Bolt Action, Alessio Cavatore, in attendance as well was a nice treat for all.  Not to mention being the ideal person to go to should we have any rule queries! 

Alessio had been staying with a mutual friend; my neighbour and the Grand Poo-Bah of the West Tokyo Wargamers, Giovanni. 
Alessio and Giovanni: La Bande Nere, a.k.a. The Torino Mafia of Gaming
So there was lots of wine, beer and gaming talk throughout the whole weekend for us, which was really fun.

Having the game at a pub had its merits from the beer and food point of view, with the best fish 'n chips I have had in many a year- certainly the best I have had in Tokyo.  A piece of succulent cod the size of my forearm.  
On the other hand, space was a little tight for setting up tables, and the lighting could have been a lot better. This was especially a nuisance as the sun started going down.

Not a huge problem, but it didn't make for taking very good photos, so I had to play a lot with iPhoto just to make them barely presentable.
Aquarium plant producers are probably scratching their heads at a totally inexplicable spike in sales.
It was a really narrow table, liberally covered with jungle, although we had a lot more we could have added had we a larger table.  Alessio remarked that it was one of the more heavily-terrained tables he had seen for its size in a Bolt Action game.  All that vegetation certainly made for a flavourful game.

Lots of greenery and meandering paths through the brush meant plenty of scope for infiltration, cautious advances, short-range gunfire and sudden ambushes- which was just our image of what jungle fighting should be like!  

In fact, at one point Matt's A/T rifle squad fell victim to my sniper team, largely because Matt hadn't noticed it in all that underbrush!
The game also featured my latest terrain piece, a large bunker.  The basic shape of the bunker was made from foam board, wooden doweling and papier-mâché.  I then coated it with layers of a sand and PVA mix to build up the earth banking.  
The top is removable, and I made it so that it will hold about five or six miniatures.  The sandbags lining the top of the weapons pit were made from epoxy putty. 

Other additions to my force included a Chi-Ha.  I had airbrushed on the undercoat, but I hadn't been able to get around to adding the tricky camouflage. Still, it was painted after a fashion.  

I could have brought a Ha-Go light tank, which is closer to completion, but I really wanted the (relatively!) heavier gun of the Chi-Ha.

We rolled for the demolition scenario, where each side had to try to take out the opponent's command HQ.  We had set our respective HQ's on the opposite diagonal corners of the table, mine in my bunker and Matt in a thatched village hut.  

A fordable river crossed the centre, and the rest was jungle with winding paths through it.  
Alessio commented that this is a tough scenario for either side to win, usually ending in a draw.  That proved to be the case this time round as well, but it was close!  we were both using the flank march rule, and as it turned out the British almost scored a coup as a result. 
The sport begins and Matt moves his troops, the illustrious King's Own Academicals.  A rare picture sans his trademark flat cap, which we had to press into service as a dice bag. Good on 'ya for "taking one for the team" there, Matt.
A ground-level view of my bunker looming menacingly out of the jungle.  You can almost smell the jungle-rot.  Although it must be said that all our club members do, indeed, bathe...
The Chi-Ha was eventually knocked out by a flame-thrower after trading shots with a nimble Daimler, which dashed in and out of trouble taking good advantage of the recce rule.  The Chi-Ha had managed to collect pins like they were hockey cards, but it succeeded in holding the road crossing over the river.
When incoming artillery was imminent, I moved my mortar out of the bunker, but artillery and mortar fire on both sides was pretty pathetic that day.
Note giant venus-flytrap-like plants, more at home in a John Carter novel.
Flank attack!  My tankette had been immobilized by A/T fire from somewhere, and by this stage of the game was no more than thinly-plated pillbox.  You can imagine my chagrin when, and at the beginning of the penultimate turn of play, Matt rolled for a successful appearance of his dreaded Grant- and as luck would have it, it emerged smack between my defensive line of Japanese infantry and the bunker itself.  

Completely impervious to whatever fire I was able to throw at it, the jungle-green, heavily-armed behemoth merrily dispatched the tankette.  It then proceeded to rake one of my infantry sections with all guns blazing, depleting our ranks dreadfully. 
Matt then had the good fortune to draw the next order dice, and promptly sent one of his own sections of infantry racing out of cover towards my bunker (now empty of troops, as I had had to commit the garrison elsewhere).  It looked like being all over for the Japanese.   

Only one thing left to do...

Out of time and options, and with the help of Alessio who walked us through the complexities, I was successfully able to mount a charge against the British troops in the rear, wiping out the platoon and saving the bunker. Being fanatics they were able to shrug off their pin markers and throw themselves at the hated round-eyes.

Next turn they of course paid the ultimate price for their devotion to the Emperor, but only after they had tried close-assaulting the Grant.  These guys were rabid!

Having the Grant perched so close to the bunker was of no avail to Matt, as only infantry could take it out, and his nearest infantry was more than a move away.  So--- the game ended a draw!!  One huge sigh of relief from the Japanese player.  

Loads of fun;  I'm really starting to enjoy playing with my Japanese army.  I'm learning that with the Japanese in Bolt Action, a really aggressive game play pays dividends.  

A visit to the Warlord Games store here last month saw me acquire some more goodies that I can use to smite Matt the next time we face each other in the steamy jungles of Burma.

But our next get together on November 16th is a return to Napoleonics.  One possibility is an all-cavalry action, or possibly a naval landing- if I can get a Martello tower done in time, which is doubtful.  We haven't played a Napoleonics game for some time now, and are itching to get back into it.  

Also on the horizon for early next year is some Wars of the Roses skirmish action, using the Osprey Lion Rampant rules. And Giovanni is anxious for us to try a Darkest Africa game, where I might run an expeditionary force using my long-in-the-tooth collection of Foundry Indian Mutiny miniatures.

Unfortunately, our gaming opportunities haven't been keeping pace with our aspirations!  Hope springs eternal, though.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Gaming, Boozing, and Wounding.

Time for a post, just to keep up to date with things.

First of all, despite originally not having any game scheduled in October due to a lack of room availability at our local community centre, we now find ourselves with a coming up next Sunday after all.  

Giovanni and Brian were able to arrange a game at a British-style pub in Shimo-Kitazawa here in Tokyo.   Paul, the owner who has himself done some gaming in the past, has kindly agreed to let us put on some games there next Sunday, just so long as we have lunch and enjoy a few beers there while we game.  Twist my rubber arm.

It will be Bolt Action again, largely as there may not be a lot of table space and Bolt Action doesn't need much space with all the terrain on the board.
Matt and I will be facing off one another again, and I'll be taking along Giovanni's former work colleague and friend Alessio Cavatore for the game as well.  Some of you may already know that Alessio is the author of Bolt Action, so there will be no creative interpretations of the rules this time!

I have been doing a lot of web browsing on Bolt Action recently, and I have to say that while I really enjoy the rules, I have absolutely no interest in the tournament aspect of gaming that seem to draw a lot of adherents.  Each to their own, and I don't mind reading about how other people are enjoying their games.  But we have our own way we like to play, and the focus on creating lists to strictly-enforced criteria just doesn't do it for us.

Certainly point systems have their uses, but mostly for getting a general balance subject to scenario conditions.  Neither Matt nor myself get hung up on them and would prefer to paint and game rather than number-crunch lists without much regard to how units were actually organized.  That does not mean we are puritanical Grognards about the history, but we have our own comfort zone regarding what can and should be done in a game, and we stick to it.

For example, I am willing to stretch history by using vehicles such as the Chi-Nu, a Japanese medium tank which really didn't see any combat as they were all held back to defend the home islands from invasion.  It comes close to matching the Sherman at best, and it looks cool.  A plausible "what if".

But having Japanese infantry run around in Kurugane staff cars along the front lines and having some dude jump out with a flame thrower as some players apparently choose to do it, is way too "gamey" for me.  Just because something is possible under the rules doesn't mean it should be done, and this one is way beyond the pale as far as I'm concerned.  Sounds more like the Viet Cong with their RPG's and taxis at Tet, rather than the Imperial Japanese Army.

Likewise Matt and I use LMG's such as Bren guns in our sections regardless of their effectiveness under the rules, for the simple reason that historically many nations built their squads around them, and organizing our miniatures squads the same way simply seems the right way to go if you are gaming WW2.  Whether they are "good value for points" is irrelevant to us, and anyway we have been finding them useful enough.

I find that how historical- or otherwise- a wargame can be most often has a lot more to do with the mindset and attitude of the players rather than the rules themselves, be they Bolt Action or Black Powder.  In fact, I still think the original version of the Flames of War rules made for a very satisfying game, and are still well worth playing despite subsequent "improved" versions coming along.  Microsoft Windows has certainly had its effect on people's mindsets, it seems.

So over all, it has been an eventful few weeks.  We have been needing bunkers for our WW2 games, so while making this...
...and this...
I managed to do this (avert your eyes if you are the wimpy and squeamish type):


Emergency visits to the hospital and blood spraying over the walls and floor like champagne at a Superbowl victory celebration does not endear the hobby to your significant other.  

Trust me.

Monday, 29 September 2014

The Sentinel of Cap Guano

Just a quickie post from my iPad. 

I've been in terrain-building mode over the past month, churning out bunkers and jungle vegetation for our Bolt Action games.  But I've also been working on this; a harbour defense gun tower.
This was intended to be a tutorial/ commission job for Giovanni, who originally just wanted a terrain piece to feature a plastic Italeri farm house.  Well, as we discussed it the concept grew from the original one of a fortified farmhouse, into something much more imposing! 

The baseboard is a sheet of MDF and foamboard.  I took a round cardboard gift box and added a tower and stairs from foam offcuts and wooden craft blocks.  The gun is a 24pdr naval cannon from Brigade Games.

The plastic building will be placed in the courtyard to house the garrison, so the finished model should be quite compact.  It will be finished in a warm, buff-yellow stonework suitable for the Med.

Which means Spain, inspiration, and a return to Napoleonics!  Giovanni and I have boats, Matt has Royal Marines and some Jack Tars, so in November we will be putting on a game where the entrepreneurial British descend on the Spanish coast to spike the guns and to see what other merchandise and prizes may be within their reach.

Time to re-read Hornblower and The Aubrey/ Maturin books for scenario ideas.  We'll need a wharf too.

Monday, 8 September 2014

With Enemies like This...

Who needs friends!

Gaming day was this past Sunday, and our Napoleonic miniatures sat pouting on the sidelines like jilted teens at a high school prom, as instead we had my third, and Matt's second, game of Bolt Action

We diced for one of the scenarios in the book, and this turned out to be Hold until Relieved.  As I had a smaller force than Matt, we agreed that I would be defender.   

It was to be the stuff that legends are made of.   Here is an excerpt from the King's Own Academicals' Regimental History. (Thanks, Matt!)
Early in September 1944, the 1st Battalion was thrown deep into the Kabaw Valley as the pursuit of the Japanese stalled temporarily (?!? -Ed.) at a defensive line of bunkers, thinly manned by some sickly, but fanatical rear guard troops. (Ha! -Ed.) On the 8th of September a general attack was launched by the 1st battalion of the Academics on six of these bunkers. A company was ordered to attack two bunkers nicknamed Annie and Angus, B company was ordered to capture Bernie and Brutus, while C company was given the targets nicknamed Clarabel and Chummy. While a success overall, (Ha, again! -Ed.) the battle was to become famous in the 14th army and Academical folklore for the events surrounding the battle around Angus Bunker.
The rest, as they say, is history.  What follows is the version without the Imperial whitewashing by the British official historians.  A ripping good yarn indeed.

The unit activation mechanic of Bolt Action means that the game moves very quickly.  One of the unforeseen consequences of this was that I frequently forgot to take pictures of the action as it unfolded, so that this report doesn't have as many pictures as do most of my posts on our Napoleonic games. 
Not 100% finished, but they will be the next time we play.  Ragged soldiers, but bright bayonets.
I had placed an MMG in the bunker, supported by a squad of infantry with another squad and various support teams coming on in subsequent turns.

The British were tasked with turfing the Japanese out and destroying the bunker, the Japanese with making sure they didn't.  The river was fordable all along its length, but with the onset of monsoon season in the highlands the river would soon become a raging torrent making it much more difficult for the British to eliminate the Japanese position.  So time was of the essence (six turns in fact).

The British horde:
I had recently painted up a Grant tank for Matt, and on top of that he had just finished working on his new Daimler armoured car.  So it was evident that my pathetic, under-armed and under-armoured Type 94 Tankette- whilst being well-painted and undeniably as cute as a button- would be outclassed to an exponential degree in this game.   

In fact, other than some anti-tank grenades and lots of Seishin (a.k.a. "I do-believe-in-fairies!"), I had pretty much sweet Fanny Adams' worth of anti-tank capability, especially as I wasn't able to find the time before the game to finish my recently acquired Japanese anti-tank team.
Matt had sent his own ATR team forward to flank the tankette.  I had the recce rule, but instead of fleeing decided to brave the shot.  He hit it with a a pin, but failed to cause any significant damage beyond having loosened my bowels a bit.  His ATR team was subsequently shot to pieces by a squad of my infantry for their impertinence, which was satisfying.  

But at the next draw of the dice, a jungle-green monster appeared menacingly on the road directly ahead of the tankette.  Having had placed his infantry to cover the river, Matt ordered the Grant on the table for the first time, providing cover for a following section of infantry tasked with taking out the bunker.
A Lee-Grant Looms Large. I had painted this for Matt at the expense of time available to work on my Japanese, but the fates were to reward me for my sacrifice.
With the range to reach out and do me some potentially fatal GBH with both its turret and hull mounted guns, discretion was the better part of valour.  

Thank the Gods I had elected to go with the recce rule; the tankette almost tore its gearbox out while roaring into reverse, and ended up parking itself behind a thick piece of jungle.  There it was to remain for much the rest of the game, the crew suffering from terror and diarrhoea while all the time refusing to pass their order rolls.  

And who could blame them, when in a vehicle with all the shell-stopping protection of a sheet of kitchen foil?
Like bringing a plastic spoon to a machete fight.
After the first few turns, things were not looking good for the Japanese.  My mortar spotter had been gunned down by the Daimler; we had come out the worst in some sporadic, yet inconclusive and wasteful, firefights.  Finally we were just horribly outgunned, with nothing to counter the tank apart from just making nasty faces at it.   

I considered sending a squad of my infantry across the river to attack it in flank; but there were still lots of order dice to be drawn in the turn (most of them Matt's), and it was clear that once my men splashed into the water, they would have been shot to pieces by the British squads lying in ambush along the opposite bank.  Aside from having a Vickers MMG in support, the British had the special rule for being good shots.  I'd faced them before and knew how devastating Lee-Enfield fire could be.

In the event, I was able to count on an unexpected ally in the shape of the Royal Artillery.  The scenario gave Matt two opportunities to call in off-board artillery.  He held off on the first turn, and called for it on the second, targeting the bunker itself.  Unfortunately for him, there must have been some kind of administrative snafu at HQ, so the barrage ended up being delayed by not just one, but two turns while all the time his troops worked their way closer to the bunker. 

When the order did go through, the barrage landed right on top of the bunker.  However, it would also take in everything within an 11" radius around it.  This resulted in the rounds coming down and plastering not only the bunker and any Japanese in the vicinity, but also Matt's tank- along with his infantry squad advancing right behind it.  Pins and hits galore; the tank was knocked out and the battered squad came out with four pins, with the survivors hunkered down in fetal position while their ears bled.

In contrast I got off lightly, with the "woodpecker" in the bunker only receiving one pin- which it later shrugged off.  A nearby sniper team copped three pins, but as there was nothing in their neck of the woods they could shoot at that didn't have several inches of armour plate protecting it, this was no big deal.
...and closer...
BOOM!  An almighty eruption of tissue paper (we forgot to bring the kapok).
I must confess to not being overly demure and restrained at the moment of victory; I was bloody ecstatic.  Matt, for his part, learned the hard way not to get too close to incoming of any side. He took it- and my gloating- as a gentleman and sportsman should, hey, what? 

In one fell swoop, this effectively tore the guts out of the British attack, as without a honking great HE gun at their disposal, the bunker was to prove well-nigh impossible to take out, given that there were only a few turns remaining. 

There was some further action along the river, where as I mentioned my infantry had taken plenty of hits.  In desperation, one of my depleted squads fearlessly banzai'd a squad of British infantry as they got close, and destroyed it.  My men paid the price as the few survivors were then mowed down by fire from the British units on the other side of the river, but in doing so they delayed the British attack on that flank back by a precious few turns.  Eggs, omelettes and all that.
Empty space showing area of mutual annihilation.
In the twilight moments of the battle, the British managed to flank the Japanese command group and massacre it to a man, but too little too late, and anyway there are plenty more officers to be had off the Ichigaya assembly line.

Time was soon up, and with the river rising the British would have to pull back.  This left the Japanese in possession of a thorn in the side of the British advance, and able to consolidate and strengthen the salient, while conversely the British would have to commit more resources into assaulting it sometime in the future, with the prospect of heavy casualties against a well-entrenched enemy position.

Ah, the sweet smell of success.  A glorious victory for my Japanese, due very much to the spectacular "own goal" by the British artillery (clearly Indian or Glaswegian gunners with fifth columnists in the ranks).   You'd have to ask Matt for details about the great "Rangoon Rumble", an almighty brawl between the RA and the Kings' Academicals that took place after the war.

We both really enjoyed the game and the scenario.  In the three games of Bolt Action we've played so far, it has been one Japanese defeat, a draw against the US Airborne, and now a Japanese win.  I'm doing a lot better with these guys than I usually do with my Napoleonic French.  

The mechanics are simple and there are no reams of charts to look up, so we can concentrate on the tabletop tactics rather than the rules.  And we are really liking the order dice system; it makes for interesting decision-making and maintains the tension. Things can change fast, and Fortune is always a fickle mistress.

In fact, we are wondering if we can adopt something similar for our Black Powder games.  

NB- To be fair, Matt has informed me that while his tank was well and fairly toast, since the game he checked again and found out that if anything the damage was underestimated.  Aside from probably wiping out all his infantry rather than just pinning them, the MMG in the bunker should have been sent to Nirvana as well.   

Chalk it all up to experience- oh, and pass me another shot of celebratory sake


Finally, I would like to remind everyone that La Bricole- our small but ever-so-friendly Napoleonic wargaming forum- is up and running again after yet another cycle of migration (and neglect- I kept failing my morale rolls for some time after the damage it did, and the migration couldn't have come at a worse time given all the stuff I had going on in my life at the time).
We'd like to make it more than just a Napoleonic forum, and widen the scope to anything that falls within the Horse-and-Musket period (with a little corner of the forum for other projects as well!)

Here is the address; please update your bookmarks if you haven't done so already!