Sunday, 21 May 2017

IJA Reinforcements

Recent swag.  

Here are the latest additions to my ever-growing collection of Imperial Japanese for Bolt Action:

A squad of starving and desperate spear fighters is a pretty dark subject for gaming it has to be said; but there were a number of situations where the Japanese were fighting an end game, while suffering from a lack of all kinds of supplies (not to mention from malnutrition and a host of untreated nasty jungle fevers and infections). 

For any clever and ambitious young officer in the IJA, going into the logistics branch was a dead-end as a career path, as it was neither glorious nor held in any esteem, being well down there in the pecking order. A hangover from the samurai days, where a warrior was supposed to be just that; a warrior, not a clerk. 

Unsurprisingly, when push came to shove the lowly bean counters were told by their superiors to "knock it off with them negative waves", and trust in Japanese martial spirit overcoming mere material needs. 

Yeah, right.

Of course the soldiers in the field paid the price for the ensuing neglect, especially if they found themselves marooned on some island or other blockaded by the USN, or if their over-extended supply lines were under constant interdiction by Commonwealth Hurricanes and Beaufighters.
Field Marshal Neglect and his subordinates, Brigadier-Generals Disease and Hunger- probably the most dangerous opponents the Japanese soldier faced.
The sculpts actually capture this quite well, being ragged, lean, but mean. And they are a doddle to paint.

In game terms, the Bolt Action rules allow for squads of these last-ditch desperadoes. A lot of players will want to have a few units of them because they are very cheap in terms of point costs, they count as fanatics, and can still be deadly if enough get into close quarters. Good for soaking up incoming fire as they assault the enemy head-on, while your squad of rifles works its way around the flanks. 

Brigade Games do a good selection of near-naked and emaciated ragged infantry with rifles. I'll be mixing these in with the Warlord spearmen for more variety, and because I doubt very much that you would have found squads armed wholly with spear-armed troops alone.  

Fielding a whole squad consisting of half-starved & filthy fanatics with bamboo spears seems pretty "gamey" to me (in every sense of the word). Which is fine if that's the way people want to play it, but I feel it probably makes more sense historically to use them to beef up the usual rifle squads, rather than have them in separate units. And calorie/protein deficiency coupled with a near-constant case of the runs would probably mitigate against giving them any fanatic bonus. 

I will probably play it both ways, and often end up somewhere in the middle depending on situation and inclination. If it's a scenario I'm playing at my place, I'll most often want to play it more historically and distribute them equally among my rifle squads. If it's for a comp at one of our pub events, the emphasis is very much on the game, on rolling dice and socializing over a few beers, so I'd go with the flow. 

I'm quite comfortable wearing either hat on different occasions. Sometimes I'll look to contemporary accounts and my copy of the US War Department's FM72-20 Field Manual for Jungle Warfare as inspiration for wargaming WW2 in the Far East. Other times, it's an unrepentant homage to the action-filled romps of Commando Comics, no matter how improbable.

To be honest, I'm sometimes happier with the latter as when reading about the reality, I find it can be overwhelmingly grim.

Bolt Action can work for both approaches; it's just a matter of how I organize my force, and which of the rules I want to include/ tweak and which I want to leave out. For example, I never use any special character rules as I find them- well, silly, most being characters who would command well above the level that is being represented in the game. And all my squads have LMG's regardless of how effective they may or may not be for their point cost.  

The Warlord tanks look good, and allow me to build either the original version with the 57mm gun/howitzer or the later 47mm Shinhoto Chi-Ha. They will be far easier to assemble than the resin vehicles, which with flash and mould bubbles can be a right old pain in the derrière to clean up.   Not to mention that the plastic ones come with decals, data cards (good idea), and even explosion markers- very necessary for the Japanese tracked sardine tins.

I might even do a kit-bash to make one of them a command tank, with the older turret carrying another MMG in place of the 57mm, and a 47mm ATG mounted in the hull. There are enough extra pieces in the box to do this.

I've also found the time for working on more grunt-sans, these ones much better fed.

Fiddling about with plastics & putty
More infantry prepped and ready for priming.  These are mostly heavily-modified Warlord and Westwind figures.  ATG and crew Brigade Games.  Lots of Warlord head swops.

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