It took a while to get going and we had to cancel once, but we finally got to rumble on the Mongolian steppe one Saturday. The game was at The Panzer Depot in Kirkland, WA.
Jerry, Dick, and I were the Japanese. Bill, Phil, and Bob "Mad Ivan" Mackler, pony-killer of the steppe, were the Russians.
I laid out the terrain: hills, a mostly dry riverbed (using my excellent Wizard Kraft river bits), and scrub. Bill and Phil gave me much grief over the scrub. However, we needed something to break up the bleakness of the table and to provide the micro-contours that troops in a skirmish game need for cover to distinguish between totally completely open terrain and some bits of concealment and protection in what appears otherwise to be a vast open space. I need point out, too, that both Phil and Bill deployed in and stayed in the scrub the entire game. I feel vindicated.
The key terrain piece was a ramshackle wooden bridge across the dry riverbed that both the Russian and Japanese high commands had deemed "must hold." The Japanese deployed first no closer than 12" to the bridge. The Russians followed deploying no closer than 18" to an enemy unit or 12" to the bridge.
I was on the left with a reinforced Japanese platoon of three 12-man squads, two MMGs, a sniper team, a flamethrower team, and a light AT gun. Jerry was on the right with a similar command, but with no flamethrower and a wee 70mm mountain gun in place of the AT gun. Dick, the Japanese Patton, was in the center with five tanks: two Type 97 Chi-Ha and three Type 95 Ha-Go.
Facing me (on the Russian right), Phil had his three BT-7s and a reinforced platoon of three 9-man squads, one MMG, and a medium mortar. Bob was in the center with three squads of Cossack cavalry and a Putilov horse-gun, Bill had the Russian left opposite Jerry with three squads, an MMG, and a mortar.
|The Russians deployed, tanks 'n' horses|
I started out by putting a 37mm AT round into of one of Phil's tanks. I managed to penetrate and start a fire, but the uncharacteristically phlegmatic Russians just put it out and went on fighting. I laid down some fire on Phil's MMG and managed to knock out two of its three crew and suppress it.
|My advance across the dry river|
I've always considered the Banzai rule to be a mixed bag. If a Japanese unit is pinned down to a point of near-immobility, the rule lets a Japanese player make the most of a bad situation by just charging in. Moving at 12" per turn on a Run order, they're likely to make contact within a couple turns and, assuming they have enough figures remaining to make an effect, they can cause a lot of damage. The Banzai rule also requires fighting to the death, i.e., they don't go away after losing a round of close combat; like the tough fighters rule, they keep fighting until they're all gone or until their opponents lose. In my experience, as both Japanese and opposing player, it's dicey. They'll take a lot of fire going in and may be too shot up to pull it off. I have failed spectacularly to make a Banzai attack work and have foiled a few with sheer gunfire.
I'm also a bit uncertain about some of the fine points of the rule. As long as the Japanese player gives a Run command to the unit, it can move without taking a command check even if it has one or more pins on it. But how does that work if the unit is going through rough terrain. You can't give a Run order to a unit in or moving through rough terrain, but an exception allows it if the unit will make contact. So, is it OK to give a run order to a unit to move through rough terrain against an opponent that is more than 6" away?
In any case, Jerry went into the game expecting to be able to Banzai! to victory. It turned out to be glorious, but fell somewhat short of victory.
He launched his platoons towards Bill's positions and kept a steady advance all the while racking up pins (and losses) from Bill's fire. Jerry's right-hand platoon managed to get into contact with just a few figures remaining. Bill was able to wipe them out easily losing only a couple figures himself.
|Two against too many|
Jerry's left-hand platoon got war-Macklered. Jerry gave it a Run order that put it within 18" of of one of "Mad Ivan" Mackler's squadrons. He had no option to fire defensively and "Mad Ivan" came in rolling three dice per Cossack (i.e., 24 dice!). Jerry's Banzai Buddies got Ginsu-ed by the Cossack sabres.
|When banzai isn't fun any more|
One of Dick's tanks got a bit close to the Cossacks, apparently thinking it was immune to men on horses. "Mad Ivan" answered the challenge and came galloping up. It was a long-shot from the start. Already shackled with a few pins from machine-gun fire, "Mad Ivan" passed his morale check to charge tanks and came on across the bridge with sabres flailing. He rolled for his penetration modifier and score a bunch of pluses. However, because troops without AT grenades can't do more than superficial damage, he couldn't knock it out outright, but he did set it on fire (we assumed that every Cossack had a bottle or two of Vodka to make ersatz molotov cocktails). Dick failed his morale and the tankers bailed out, presumably to the tender mercies of the surrounding Cossacks.
|Sabres on steel|
Back on my end of the table, I chipped away at Phil's infantry and plinked useless shots at his tanks with my single AT gun. Phil kept up a lively fire on the AT gun with his mortar, but failed to hit after several attempts. I managed to Banzai! away one Russian squad, though it left my attacking squad much reduced and in the open where it hung on in tatters, having been badly shot up.
My other two squads, one mostly intact and one untouched, worked away on Phil's remaining foot troops uphill and burrowed in the scrub. By game's end, I was encircling his MMG, a much-reduced squad, and mortar. These and two of his three tanks were all that were left. I was moving my flamethrower team up to attack the tanks, but we called the game before then.
|Bardsley's last stand|
|Larson-san takes the bridge|
|Bill holds to the end—good thing he had scrub for cover!|
|Lonely on the steppe - Jerry's last remaining unit|
This is one of those posts that I mentioned earlier were in perma-draft state. I started this just after we played the game. Now, months later, I've finished and posted it (my New Year resolutions in action!), although I've forgotten now much of how the real game actually went.