Of Mules and Men
I had picked up a copy of Peter Pig’s Poor Bloody Infantry rules at some point but had not gotten to try them out, so when I decided to go to Historicon and run a couple of games, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. From reading the rules, I thought they would work well for jungle fighting and realized that the use of a square grid to regulate movement, shooting, etc. in these rules would also allow me to easily do some very simple hidden movement, which adds to the confusion in a jungle warfare game.
Since this year’s Historicon theme was the wars of south Asia, I decided to do a game set in Burma and chose one of the initial encounters between Merrill’s Marauders and the Japanese near the village of Walawbum. Elements of Orange Combat Team were tasked to move to Walawbum and interdict Japanese movements along the Kawaing Road. This would interrupt Japanese supplies and aid Stilwell’s Chinese forces.
For the scenario, the Marauders had a couple of infantry platoons, the I&R platoon, a platoon of machine guns, a section of mortars, and some headquarters personel. All these troops were rated veterans. The Marauders also had a number of special elements such as medics in each infantry platoon, a Nisei interpreter in the I&R platoon, and several mule teams able to provide extra ammunition to Marauder units. The I&R platoon had crossed the river the day before and established positions on some high ground on the other bank. Those positions had been repeatedly probed and Japanese patrols had been contacted in the area, including in the village of Lalong Ga, which was serving as the headquarters for the operation and where the Marauders had hacked an airstrip out of the jungle. The Japanese attackers, all rated as average, included 5 infantry platoons, a couple of machine gun platoons, a section each of regimental guns and infantry guns, and a smattering of snipers.
The Japanese had some forces on table and deployed in the jungles just out of sight of the Americans. In addition to the forces across the river, the Americans had one platoon on the way to Walawbum and the rest deployed around Lalang Ga.
After a brief explanation of the rules, the game got underway and units began popping out of the jungle. The I&R platoon was in constant contact and soon inflicting heavy casualties, especially by directing 81mm mortar fire onto the Japanese. Other Japanese units popped out of the jungle across the river from Lalang Ga and began attacking the Company HQ units with small arms and knee mortars. One of the American infantry platoons move to cover the rather than pushing on to the high ground opposite Walawbum. This would prove to be a critical decision in the game.
As they received additional units coming on board, the Japanese began to press hard at the I&R platoon, launching several assaults. The platoon firing across into Lalang Ga caught and held the attention of the US machine gun platoon and the US tried to send the platoon guarding the river across the the aid of the I&R platoon, but unknown to them a Japanese machine gun platoon had set up on the high ground there with excellent fields of fire down the river. As the Americans waded the river they were hit by heavy machine gun and sniper fire, resulting in many casualties. As the medics moved among the wounded they too drew heavy fire from the Japanese and most of the platoon was forced to fall back. Only a few teams reached the other side and those were soon overwhelmed by more numerous Japanese forces. Eventually the 81mm mortars cleared the hill, but the damage had been done. US strength was too low to continue the offensive toward the Kawaing road.
As the game closed, the Japanese had a minor victory. They still had troops firing into Lalang Ga, disrupting operations there and the US was nowhere near the Kawaing Road. The Marauders had lost significant strength and importantly for a force operating behind enemy lines, had been forced to leave casualties behind.
Overall it was a very enjoyable game that went off with little problem. The players seemed to have a good time all around and were a very enjoyable bunch. My only regret is that I didn’t get more pictures…