At 16.30 hours my raised roads for Burma arrived. Unpainted of course. By 20.00 hours they were painted and ready to play. My Japanese have been ready for a while and I recently based my new Gurkha battalion. It was three years ago when I got all keen and wrote up some notes and drew some maps for Bishenpur, Potsangbam and Ningthoukhong – Gurkhas on the Imphal Plain 1944. Finally we could play some Crossfire at Ningthoukhong.
Summary: In a tense game the Adam’s Japanese held the south of Ningthoukhong against a fierce attack by Chris’s Gurkhas.
I made the scenario up in about 5 minutes while the guys were chatting. It is kind of an amalgam of the Fighting at Ningthoukhong, April – July 1944.
I call it an “experiment” because I didn’t re-read my earlier post on the historical battles. I just knew I wanted to try out several scenario mechanics. The experiment included a few terrain elements: the raised walkways in the village, the rice paddies, the raised road, houses on stilts.
A key feature was the stream through the middle of the village.
I also wanted to experiment with orders of battle. The Gurkhas, being from 17 Indian Division, had four rifle platoons per company. And for this game they had a medium tank (Lee) in support.
On the Japanese side I fielded knee mortars (still a novelty), anti-tank rifle squads backed up by a 47mm anti-tank gun, and a 70mm infantry gun for direct fire support.
The Battle Report
The game lasted from 1000 hours to 1630 hours.
The game started with the Gurkhas approaching from the north.
The supporting British Lee also arrived on the road from Bishenpur. It drove straight to the blown culvert where it basically settled down for the rest of the game. A Japanese anti-tank rifle squad took the occasional shot.
The Gurkhas then moved into the northern part of the village.
They were also advancing through the bamboo to the east.
This was in support of an off table flank march. A Gurkha platoon arrived in bamboo, south of the stream.
The Gurkhas called in smoke to shield their advance across the stream.
But Japanese fire from a nearby house stopped the advancing squad.
More smoke blocked of the offending house, but that just meant the occupants of the house facing the Gurkhas opened up.
Thinking he should exploit his flank march, Chris pushed a squad from the bamboo in the east to the nearest house. This is when we discovered that hidden Japanese, conducting a Surprise Encounter, inflict a -2 on the moving stand. Ouch! Dead Gurkhas.
Japanese fire then took its toll in the Gurkhas now exposed as the smoke lifted.
In revenge for their earlier defeat, 1st Platoon of B Company, charged the eastern house again. Yelling ‘Ayo Gorkhali!’ (‘The Gurkhas are upon you!’) they stormed into the house and finished off the defenders.
The Japanese immediately counter attacked. First they cleared the bamboo south of the stream. The only defenders were a 2″ mortar section, who didn’t put up a fight.
Gurkhas NO FIRE meant the Japanese could pile troops into the bamboo.
But then this sector settled into a fire fight across the stream.
Things were looking grim for Gurkhas south of the stream.
A NO FIRE and a SUPPRESSION meant they could not prevent the Japanese manoeuvring nearby.
And the inevitable happened, with a Banzai charge.
The Japanese cleared the Gurkha stronghold. The southern sector of the village was back in their control.
South of the river the Gurkhas scored a kill … a Japanese PC got hit.
Followed quickly by the nearby rifle squad. These guys got taken out by the Lee. We were using my revised Armour rules and the Lee rolled a lot of dice.
The fire fight in the east the continued, with the loss of a Gurkha squad.
Immediately followed by the loss of a Japanese squad across the stream.
Chris was looking for a way across the stream, so tried a flanking manoeuvre via the rice paddies to the west.
The Gurkha movement was stopped by reactive fire from Japanese at the far end of the table. They just barely got LOS to the moving squad.
Of course, once revealed, the Japanese were fair game for the Lee.
Back in town the fire fight across the stream raged. This time a Gurkha squad suffered.
And a Japanese squad.
And more Japanese. The Gurkhas were on a roll.
The anti-tank rifle squad at the west end of the village took on the Lee but the contest was one sided. So Adam revealed his 47mm anti-tank gun.
After some desultory fire lasting 90 minutes, the 47mm knocked out the Lee.
Chris decided his flank move wasn’t going to work and brought his platoon back into the village.
1630 Hours – End Game
And time passed once more. 1630 Hours and game end.
The Gurkhas hadn’t lost many stands.
And they had inflicted a lot of casualties on the Japanese.
No Gurkhas south of the river.
And the Japanese were still firmly in control.
Observations and conclusions
The guys enjoyed the game. After a tense battle, the Gurkhas ran out of steam and called it a day (i.e. the moving clock ran out). Adam’s Japanese won in the end but it was a close battle and could have seen Chris’s Gurkhas victorious. Certainly the casualty count was very much in favour of the Gurkhas.
The scenario was out of my head based on my dim memory from my earlier post on Bishenpur, Potsangbam and Ningthoukhong – Gurkhas on the Imphal Plain 1944.
My memory let me down on the geography. It turns out Ningthoukhong should have spanned the road with some houses on the west side, with the rice paddies. There was a raised road but really only the bit of the road immediately north of the bridge; the rest should have been low roads. The village was green … so I need more trees amongst the houses. I don’t know whether they would be woods features, as per Crossfire, or just tree models for aesthetics.
And this scenario didn’t really correspond to any of the battles in Ningthoukhong. If anything it was more reminiscent of the fighting in Potsangbam. But hey.
None the less, the scenario posed interesting challenges. A good experiment.
We always use a clock now days. Usually a HTD style Moving Clock unless I’m trying to be clever. For this game it was a standard moving clock starting at 1000 Hours and ending at 1630 hours. I mention it because it worked perfectly as a game mechanism and, for a change, I noticed it. The moving clock does two things: puts the pressure on the attacker to attack and provides ebbs and flows in the after action narrative. If you look at the timeline in the battle report you’ll see periods of intense activity followed by relative quiet periods. That is an accurate simulation of real battle. During the game, of course, there are no such lulls Crossfire games rush along in a relentless pace. Lulls are boring to play but good for the narrative – and Crossfire acknowledges that.
A simple water feature, just a narrow strip of water, but the stream dominated the battle. The challenge was to get across the stream unscathed. The Gurkhas managed it, but only via an off table flank march. Every on table attempt ended in failure.
Terrain height: Raised roads, walkways, and houses
The roads, walkways, and houses were all high. We had a quick conversation about the impact, in Crossfire, of these raised features. On balance we decided the elevation had to be modelled in the game.
The main road passing near Ningthoukhong was raised for part of its length. I’ve posted about Designing Modular Raised Roads sections for Burma. These features arrived at 16.30 hours on the day of the game and by 20.00 hours they were painted and ready for the table (I didn’t have time to flock them).
Raised walkways were a feature of the real Ningthoukhong. I used straight Crests as my walkways.
You’ve seen my Burmese houses in my post on How does my Burmese battlefield look? I’m quite happy with them. If you look closely, you’ll see all of the houses are on stilts and some are on high stilts. This is because flooding was a constant threat, particularly in villages like Ningthoukhong, which was close to a lake.
My thinking was to make both the raised roads and walkways HTD style crests. But the guys though the houses should be able to see over them. So I compromised and let troops in the houses see over one crest feature but not two. This seemed to work, but I do still wonder if that tweak was an unnecessary embellishment.
It isn’t obvious from the battle report but we used the HTD bogging rule. So the Lee, attempting to go down the steep banks of the raised road or into terrain, had a risk of bogging. That meant, as historically, the British tanks stayed on the road. The steep banks gave the Lee good visibility but also exposed it to attack.
Guns in buildings
We allowed the Japanese guns to deploy in the houses. This is because the at my assumed ground scale in Crossfire, each building model actually represents a section of town not a specific building.
Japanese special rules
The reckless charges of Japanese in Crossfire work alright as a Banzai. The room echoed with “Banzai!” as they went in. Crossfire doesn’t need more.
We did discover a Japanese rule we hadn’t spotted before. We hardly ever play “Surprise Encounters” so I had to re-read the rules (CF8.3, p. 15; CF8.5, p. 16) when it came up. A Gurkha squad closed with some Japanese hidden in a house. To my surprise, and the surprise of the Gurkha squad charging an apparently empty building, the close combat modifiers favour the Japanese: “Surprise Encounter: -1 to mover; -2 vs Jap. defenders”. I’ve since added this in my musing on Japanese house rules in Crossfire.
We also had some debate about whether the close combat of the Surprise Encounter happens immediately. The normal close combat rule is “the moment for resolution is determined by the Phasing player” (CF8.2, p. 14) and obviously the attacker, exploiting this rule, would pile in extra troops to undermine the surprise. But “a Surprise Encounter results in a Close Combat” (CF8.5, p. 16). We interpreted this to mean the close combat happens immediately. True, the rules are not explicit, but it seems in the spirit of the Surprise Encounter. I’ll add something about this to my Wishlist for Crossfire Version 2.
I need more
I ran out of Burmese houses. How embarrassing. It is like a total failure as a wargaming host. Clearly I need more tropical houses.
And I also ran out of my straight crests for the walkways. More. I need more. In this case I might get some longer pieces, say 300mm long. In a couple of places, to get the right length, I had to use two shorter pieces.
Because I ran out of Burmese houses, I used one of my Burmese Pagodas to make up the shortfall. It seemed logical at the time, but in hindsight it was the wrong look. Despite being part of the Burma Campaign, the battles at Ningthoukhong were in India, not Burma. The houses were fine and could do duty all through the tropics, but the temple was wrong. You see the Burmese Pagodas are uniquely Burmese – they feature a golden umbrella in a variety of patterns but basically a spire with wider and narrower bands around the spire, over a white dome.
The neighbouring Indians are Hindu and their temples look quite different, flatter, more middle eastern (at least to my eyes). A quick google shows that Ningthoukhong has at least three Hindu temples, so I can see some modelling coming in the near future.