AP54 800 Heroes AAR

AP54 800 Heroes is the second scenario I played that is designed around the Battle for the Sihang Warehouse in Shanghai.  The first one I played was A110/ASL13 Shanghai in Flames.  I believe there’s at least one more : BFP31 Chinese Alamo that covers the same battle.  The subject matter’s the same but the scenario designer’s treatment is very different.

The date was 29 October 1937.  The Imperial Japanese Army (“IJA”) had made successful incursions into Shanghai.  Most Chinese units had retreated and the western powers were uninvolved at this stage.  Chiang Kei Shek (the Generalissimo) was determined to keep the battle in world’s view and hence decided to keep the fighting in Shanghai which was already an international city at that time.  Sihang Warehouse had the distinction of being right across a stretch of water from Shanghai’s International Concessions.

It was  the place where Chiang wanted to bring China’s struggle to the world’s attention.  A battalion from the 88th Division, a German trained élite unit was hence given the task and so the name “the lost battalion” as they were the last to leave.

AP 54 Setup

Witchbottles played the Chinese defenders and I the IJA.  This was a training game and the great tactics on both sides were his and the bad ones mine.

This was the setup.  The IJA were free to setup certain units to the right of the map or enter via the North (top) or the East(right).  IJA tankettes didn’t have radios and were therefore setup in platoon formations.  The building to the lower left of the map was the warehouse (factory) and was fortified.  The red ring denotes the area where Chinese units were fanatic.

This is a 5.5 turn game.  The victory conditions for the IJA were either to control the warehouse or to control 3 or more hexes of the warehouse plus all other buildings in the Chinese setup area.

AP54-JT1a

IJA Turn 1, the first thing the IJA needed to deal with was the heavy machine gun (“HMG“) sitting on the top of the warehouse.  After laying down white phosphorus and smoke, two tankettes started coming in from the north.  After bypassing some buildings, the world exploded around one of the tankettes.  It was a set demolition charge!  What both sides didn’t realize at the time was that set DCs don’t affect AFVs (armored fighting vehicle).

Suddenly, an IJA soldier in the woods to the right yelled :

BANZAAAAAAI!!!

The IJA worked out an Armour Assault together with a Banzai charge out of the woods.  The IJA thought if they could cut off the line of trenches from the base they might get a chance to stop the Chinese squads from retreating back into the warehouse.  An 8-0 IJA leader and his squad wandered out of the smoke cover and were the first to be met with a hail of bullets from HMG on the roof.  The group disintegrated on open ground.  The rest of the charge hug closer to the tankettes and kept on.

AP54-JT1b

A tankette overran a Chinese trench, and a IJA squad piled in.  The tankette bogged but the Chinese squad was pinned from the shock.  Pinned as they were, they survived the overrun attack and shot at the rear of the attacking tankette.  The LMG broke and so did the men, the Chinese squad broke and ran towards the warehouse.

AP54-CT2a

This was the end of the Chinese Turn 2.  The defenders took advantage of the IJA smoke.  A Chinese squad ran across the warehouse floor and threw out a demolition charge.  “CANDYGRAM!!” they yelled.  The explosion striped the approaching IJA squad who caught a DC on their laps a moment ago.

AP54-JT3a tanks went in on both sides-proc

Turn 3 IJA saw a half squad going berserk on the top left of the warehouse perimeter.  It drew fire well but got blown promptly out of existence.  An IJA tankette then smashed into the fortified warehouse on the left flank.  It was greeted by a squad on the warehouse floor.  An 8-1 leader stood a little way off.  He waved at the IJA tank and smiled, pointed at the squad and said …

“Meet my Dare Death squad.”

The Dare Death squad went berserk (PAATC free), slammed a DC charge onto the IJA tankette and set it off with maniacal grins.  BOOOMMM!!  The Dare Death squad survived but so did the tank.  The dust settled and the 8-1 leader was still there.  He said

“I am happy you survived, because I also prepared this for you entertainment pleasure.”

A little way behind him was a medium machine gun squad, and they blazed away.  On the third shot the IJA tankette exploded.  Another IJA tankette slammed into the right of the warehouse as well, one tankette in the face of 3 machine guns.  Please do not for a second mistook my blissful ignorance of tank rules for bravery though.

Nonetheless, two breaches were made in the fortified warehouse and close combat ensured on the right of the warehouse after the defenders immobilised the tankette.

The Chinese piled a hero and a berserker into the melee.  Another squad tried to creep up on the IJA tankette sitting outside so that they can blow it up before it too slams into the building.  Unfortunately the squad was shot in the rubble outside.

AP54-JT4a

IJA Turn 4 got even more intense.  The tankette on the right make another breach in the warehouse.  The tankette to the north was shot and killed by an MMG before it could hit the warehouse walls.

IJA troops from the north finally made it to the perimeter.  At Witchbottles’ suggestion, they decided that a Banzai charge was in order!!

AP54-JT4b

This was the situation after the Close Combat phase.  The IJA killed all defenders in 2 out of 3 hand to hand combats inside the warehouse.

AP54-CT4a

Chinese Turn 4!  The reserve unit that slipped outside earlier tried to make its way back into the warehouse.  Unfortunately it broke under a hail of IJA gun fire and was pinned outside.

This is where the story ends as the Chinese didn’t have enough bodies to take the warehouse back.

In reality, the 423 Chinese defenders held out for another two days.  They succeeded in winning international attention to the Sino Japanese war.  The British allowed them to retreat across the New Lese Bridge into the International Concessions.

The Sihang Warehouse still stands today.

What thoughts do you have?  What would you have done?  What are your experiences playing this scenario?

Please comment!

Sihang Warehouse looking from the other side o...

Sihang Warehouse looking from the other side of the Suzhou River. October 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

RPT72 Yangtze Doodle AAR

Same Setup on VASLRPT72 Yangtze Doodle is a scenario from the latest Rally Point pack – “Sons of the Rising Sun”.  It presents a rather interesting layout between the Imperial Japanese Army (“IJA”) and the Chinese.  The date’s Oct 5 1937.  The IJA had crossed the Wusong Creek (also known as the Suzhou Creek).  Wusong Creek is a river that cuts across Shanghai from the west to east which, in 1937, divided Shanghai up into the Japanese concession and the International Concession (Americans and British).  Tangbeizhai was one of the Chinese garrisons that stood between IJA and a new line the IJA wanted to establish from the river crossing.

North is to the left of the map.  The Chinese squads in the little village in the middle were elements of the 3rd Battalion, 467th Regiment, 78th Division that were surrounded by the IJA.  The Chinese squads on the far left were the 2nd Battalion sitting in reserve.  The IJA would get reinforcements coming in from the far right.  Chinese were 4-4-7s, IJA were 4-4-8s except for the two stacks you see on the right on the map.  Both the Chinese and the IJA would have to fight in two directions.  The IJA winning conditions were to control the bridge hex (which could be on the bridge or under the bridge, see A26.131) and to clear the village buildings in the middle of the map of any good order Chinese squads in 5 turns.

This was a “face to face” game, with me being the IJA and a visiting friend “John Doe” who wants to remain anonymous.

RPT72 End of C T1

The IJA moved first and this was the end of the Chinese Turn 1.  If you noticed the two hidden (“HIP”) IJA half squads deployed as speed bumps on the left of the map, you know I wasted  an opportunity.  The better use of HIP would have been to put the in the hamlet to the left of the stream and jump the Chinese while in concealment.  Anyway, since the “hidden” IJA half squads were not in concealment terrain, they were spotted immediately and overran.  The IJA LMG malfunctioned on the first shot (a common affliction for the IJA) but the IJA sniper broke a Chinese squad in the village to the right of the stream.

RPT72 End of C T2

This was the Chinese Turn 2.  In the preceding IJA turn, an IJA half squad tried to move to the bridge hex but was broken on the way.  The Chinese rushed head-on to the hamlet from the left.  I made the mistake of leaving an IJA 9-1 leader by himself with the enemy in close proximity.  While two out of the three incoming Chinese squads were pinned on the left, the Chinese 8-0 slipped through and swung around to the IJA leader.  See that smoke counter?  The IJA mortar smoked out the Chinese medium machine gun (“MMG”) and the Chinese hero dropped the gun and rushed in to kill the IJA leader from the right.  The striped squad you see would eventually ran off and dived under the bridge.  In the ensuring close combat, the IJA 9-0 was wounded and killed by the 8-0 and hero tag team.  However the half squad under the malfunctioned LMG would withdraw from close combat (Chinese rolled boxcars) and killed the Chinese 8-0 and hero in hand-to-hand during the following IJA turn!

RPT72 End of J T3

This was a shot of the cleared hamlet in IJA Turn 3.  The striped IJA squad mentioned in the earlier turn survived defensive fire and dove under the bridge.  This IJA half squad just avenged their 9-1 leader with their bayonets.  (Yes, all my counters have four healthy corners.)

RPT72 J T4 Banzai

This was the IJA Turn 4.  The IJAs on the right had to break into the village before the Chinese on the left cross the bridge and link up with the surrounded garrison.  Since the IJA sniper broke another Chinese squad in the village (he’s really earning his pay today), it’s time for a Banzai attack!

RPT72 J T4 Banzai after

Three IJA squads got reduced into 2 half squads (they do a great podcast by the way) but where they pointed, they reached.

RPT72 J T4 Banzai Took All

Hence in turn 4, the IJA sniper, a Banzai attack and a separate close combat took the Chinese garrison!

RPT72 J T5 Rush Bridge

The Chinese to the left however, wiped out the avenging IJA and took the bridge hex.  Hence in the last IJA turn, the situation called for another Banzai charge into the stream.  All IJA personnel within running distance piled in.  The other IJA squads and the MMG crew occupied key buildings in the village to prevent a Chinese counterattack in the last turn.

So one striped squad and one half squad made it through the enemy fire and piled in on 2 Chinese squads.  And do you know what I rolled?

RPT72 J T5 CC roll

SNAKES!!

Two Chinese squads got wiped out in an automatic ambush.  The bridge hex went back to IJA hands!

In the last Chinese turn, a Chinese squad piled in after some ineffective preparatory fire.  They had to kill all Japanese units in the bridge hex to retake it.

So it all boiled down to the last Close Combat die roll.

When the chatter in the dice tower died, the IJA won!!

Looking back at this,  we have a few thoughts:

  • the IJA sniper played a key role in breaking two squads in choice locations today.
  • as mentioned before, I wasted my HIP option via improper use.  A better use would be to put them in the hamlet on the left of the stream and jump the incoming Chinese while concealed.
  • I should have CX’d the IJA reinforcement coming in from the far right.  I was struggling to get enough IJA to rush the bridge at the end.  Had the IJA reinforcement got on the scene earlier, I wouldn’t have this issue.
  • On the last IJA turn I could have run another Banzai attack on the other side of the village, making it two parallel Banzai attacks for the bridge.  That would give me enough mileage to hit the bridge hex and a heightened morale level to do it with.  However that could also open the village to counterattack.

Any thoughts?  Comments?  Suggestions?   Happy to hear from you as always!!

Suzhou Creek

Suzhou Creek (Photo credit: Wolfgang Staudt)

BoF1 The Marco Polo Bridge Incident AAR

Manchuria

This was 1937.  Since the first Sino Japanese war in 1894-1895 fought over the control of Korea, Japan had since shown astonishing successes in modernising their armed forces, cumulating in the defeat of the Russian navy in the Battle of Tsushima strait.  By 1937 Japan was in control of the vast natural resources in Manchuria and sat at the gates of Beijing.  Engagements between China and Japan so far had been isolated incidents.

Until the Marco Polo Bridge.

Marco Polo Bridge was “Lugouqiao” in Chinese.  Since it happened on July 7 and opened China to eight years of hell that was the Second Sino-Japanese war, every Chinese kid learned of this incident as the “Seven Seven Lugouqiao Incident“.

Marco Polo Bridge

There are two scenarios called “Marco Polo Bridge”  according to ASL Scenario Archive  one of which is BPF28 included in “Blood & Jungle”.  The one I played with Takezo was BoF1 The Marco Polo Bridge Incident.

IJA Turn 1

North is to the right of the map.  This scenario started with the Imperial Japanese Army (“IJA”) setting up within a 2 hex radius of the east end (“bottom side”) of the bridge.  The Chinese (“KMT” or “Nationalists”) got some token troops but reinforcements enter rapidly on Turn 1.  The IJA got 2 tankettes and a couple of squads on Turn 3 coming down the bridge.

The IJA wins by taking at least 12 buildings within a 7 hex radius (thin red line) of the east end (“bottom” side) of the bridge.  Every prisoner the IJA captured lessens the victory requirement by 1 building.  Every tankette the Chinese destroyed increases the victory condition by 2 buildings.

Chinese Turn 2

Anyone who read Ramón Real Bernal’s AAR Marco Polo Bridge Incident BoF1 vs Pakko Belmonte (IJA) will recognise my Chinese setup.  The IJA would no doubt be grabbing as many buildings as possible on the first turn.  The Chinese need to hold out until their reinforcements arrive, which was tough considering a third of the reinforcements were conscripts and they marched slow.  The Chinese need to limit the IJA land grab and yet not get close enough to be captured.  The above picture was the Chinese Turn 2.  The Chinese got a medium machine gun (“MMG”) setup with a leader on the 2nd level in the big stone building on the left.  The intention was to limit IJA movements.  However as it turned out, it was too far from most of the action and there were too many blind hexes among the buildings.  The Chinese armoured car sporting two coaxial machine gun turrets arrived at the bridge over the stream.  The Chinese squad in the big “T” shaped wooden building was already captured by Turn 2.  Chinese reinforcements attempted to rush a couple of the IJA buildings but were beaten back.  On the far right you can see two stacks making their way to the river hoping to hook around the rear of the IJA positions.

IJA Turn 3

This was IJA Turn 3.  The IJA reinforcement came over the bridge.  The MMG perched on the stone building to the left opened fire but to no avail.  The IJA tankettes rolled into town, seeking to plug what my opponent saw as a crisis point : where my Chinese reinforcements threaten to hook around on the far right.

The lead IJA tankette rolled into view around the woods and the LMG squad at the end of the street threw off their concealment, opened fire, got a side shot and blew it up!  (See “A Moment in ASL : LMG vs Tankette”)

Chinese Turn 3

In the next Chinese turn, the IJA continued to hold out well.  Chinese squads kept breaking before they could be productive.  My brains must have frozen because I should have conducted an armoured assault from the left with the armoured car to distract and to encircle the IJA.  Meanwhile the squads to the far right were more successful in drawing IJA forces off the center.  The armoured car had instead moved to stop the IJA reinforcements from joining the fight in the middle.  I was hoping to risk bogging, run the armoured car across the stream and “freeze” some of the guns in the middle clump of buildings so that Chinese squads could cross the street.  That never happened since the crew, lacking a radio, didn’t want to move again before the game ended.

Chinese Turn 4

The Chinese went all out in Turn 4.  They finally started moving in cautiously from the left as well.  They couldn’t make any inroads to the semi circular clump of buildings in the center but they managed to break into the “T” shaped wooden building.  May be now the Chinese could cut into the woods, cut off the IJA on the top of the map and get to the prisoners held by the river?  The Chinese squads on the far right ended the charade and turned left, looking to capture the little stone building to the right of the “T” shaped wooden house.

IJA Turn 5

This was the last IJA turn.  The IJA reinforcements, although harassed by the armoured car, managed to get into the wooden buildings to the left of the IJA perimeter.  The IJA in the middle counterattacked, assisted by a “vehicular bypass freeze” of the occupying Chinese squads.

Chinese Turn 5

This was the last Chinese turn.  The Chinese needed to either kill the tank or to take two more IJA buildings to win.  The Chinese conscripts in the “T” shaped building hopped upstairs to avoid gunfire and to deny the IJA control of the building. The squads on the right used some conscripts and a leader to distract the IJA MMG while the rest rushed the little stone house again. They were unsuccessful, and their compatriots on the far left was broken crossing the street, not being able to capture the other building needed to snatch a Chinese win.

So here we were, truthful to the historical turn of events, the IJA gained a beachhead on the east side of the Marco Polo Bridge and marked the start of the Second Sino Japanese war.

If I were to play this scenario again I would move the MMG from the big stone building (building H4) on the left to the big stone building on the bottom of the map (building W8). Having it in “building H4” gives you opportunities to snapshot at the IJA as they go from building to building. However it was out of normal range to most of the buildings in the zone of contest. Putting the gun in “building W8” would put it in play for most of the game.  I would also use the armoured car more along with a couple of squads from the left side of the map.

I am sure some of you must have played this before, or have thoughts about what you would have done.

Please leave me your thoughts!

A110 Shanghai In Flames

West wall of Sihang Warehouse, Shanghai, China, late Oct or early Nov 1937

Chinese soldiers on the roof of Sihang Warehouse, Shanghai, China, late Oct 1937

It was October 27 1937. The Imperial Japanese Army had already been in China for years. Manchuria and Beijing were already under Japanese control. Chiang Kai-Shek, the leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party and a graduate of the Imperial Japanese Army Academy had been until then, conceding to Japan’s demands at every turn while building up an army with the Germans (see the German helmets in the photo? The Tripartite Pact wasn’t signed until 1940.) The 88th Division was the elite of the Nationalist Chinese forces. Its 524th Regiment held out against IJA’s 3rd Divison at Sihang warehouse situated across the Whampoa River from the “foreign concessions” long enough to sway western opinions about IJA’s aggression on Chinese soil. (Here’s a GamesSquad Forum thread with a great writeup about the battle.)

I am playing another scenario around this battle at the same time – AP54 800 Heroes. You will certainly see an AAR here once that’s done. By the way, there was only 423 men and 16 officers defending the warehouse but they reported their numbers to be 800. Hence this incident is known to the Chinese as “800 Heroes” or “八百壯士”.

The interesting bit about A110 Shanghai in Flames is that the Blaze is the 3rd player. Both players need to work around it and even with it, as you will see.

I am fortunate enough to be playing the Chinese. Here’s the IJA Turn 1.
End of T1 Axis
The Sihang warehouse is the factory on the lower left of the screen. Three hexes within were fortified. I find the row house in front to be incredibly useful in providing blind hexes against IJA machine guns situated in the multilevel buildings at jump-off (top part of the picture). The IJA could slide down the far left, come through the row house (using the big stone building in the middle) or swing around the far right. I made sure that I got fire lanes down some of the streets and the leaders (there are only 2) sited to keep the chaps from cowering. I also made sure approaches to these machine guns were covered even if it’s the inherent firepower of lone squads, FFMO+FFNAM (penalties for moving on open ground and not using assault movement) is a deadly thing.
Axis Turn 2 - Chinese squad volunteered routing on the left to avoid CC
The above was the IJA turn 2. IJA pressed down on the left and the middle. A Chinese squad broke voluntarily to avoid close combat on the far left. The mission was to survive long enough to delay the IJA onslaught for as long as possible! The IJA machine guns from the top of the map were pretty threatening but my opponent had the worst of luck with the dice. They broke repeated and finally knock themselves out of the game!

The best thing I did was to lit the building on the bottom left of the screen above the factory (see the “flame” blow the broken unit?) up early. It soon developed into a blaze that denied the IJA use of a terrific jump off point for the final attack on the factory.
T5 Axis Move-proc
Okay, this is the Axis Turn 5 where the Chinese took the wraps off their heavy machine gun (lower left, “First Fire”) from within the factory and laid a fire lane down the street. Unfortunately it malfunctioned not long after. A light machine gun in the row house did the same joined by the medium machine gun from the bottom right at the end of the long street.

You can also see that the big stone building the middle was pretty much engulfed in flames. The IJA was forced to come through its immediate right. The Chinese was able to put a HS up the wall and laid out some pain as the IJA squads came towards it on open ground.

This is what I mean by the Blaze being the 3rd player. Time and time ahead the Chinese had to rout out of buildings as their hex bursted into flames but it also denied the IJA some really great positions.
T5 Allied AFPh - Sulking-proc
Two more IJA turns to go, the Chinese troops skulked like the best of them. The MMG on the bottom right should have went down to the other side of the row house and prep for the last fire lane but had to scoot upstairs instead to avoid the pesky IJA half squad hanging around the streets. The row house defence line was collapsing at this point.
T6 Axis Move-proc
IJA Turn 6 – the legendary IJA step-reduce steamroller! I was careful about planting each residual fire right but it’s awe-inspiring to see them running through the bullet storm.

The board’s on fire ..

After the Final IJA Movement PhaseThis was the scene immediately after the last IJA Defensive Fire Phase.  The Chinese saw no less than three Banzai attacks after waves of feints from reduced-strengths/half squads.  You can see where they were from the red “Human Wave” markers.  The Chinese heavy machine gun had already malfunctioned and their medium machine gun was out of place, so no fire lanes were possible.  They had to be careful about their shooting so they don’t run out of bullets before the IJA run out of squads.   The focus of course was to build a “wall of fire” in an inverted “v” immediately north of the factory.  The top three factory hexes in that “v” was fortified and was invaluable in stopping two out of three banzai attacks.

You can see the two places where the IJA broke in as well.  The Chinese could only spread out inside the factory so that the IJA couldn’t engage them all in close combat before time ran out.  Oh, stacked underneath the broken squad on the bottom end of the factory right next to the IJA squad was a 8-0 leader holding out his corner with a light machine gun!

Both players had to account for and in the Chinese case, “ally” with the Blaze.  The triangular cluster of houses top left of the factory should be lit up as soon as possible, as should the big stone complex (H2) in the middle of the board, top of the row house in the picture .  Blazes in these locations denied the IJA important jump-off points for attack.  The row house top right of the factory was a terrific defense line that allowed routs back into the factory (especially when the  left cluster of buildings were on fire).

Overall, an awesome scenario and I had an awesome opponent!

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