The General Staff Archives

Europa Games and Military History

Author: Friedrich Helfferich (page 2 of 8)

NOVEMBER II 1937

NOVEMBER II 1937

Weather remained pleasant, even on Formosa, but a cold front with
sub-zero temperatures moved into the Gobi Desert.

Japanese Player Turn

The scene of the most dramatic events was at Canton, which, as expected,
was the objective of the Japanese 5th Fleet executing Operation Divine Wind, led
by Admiral Chuichi Nagumo. This time the fleet had no patrolling enemy aircraft
to contend with as the just-arrived little Soviet-Chinese airforce bided their
time. The Chinese small naval craft in the Hsi estuary were quickly dealt with
[both LCTF and RF sunk on first roll]. The plan had called for a main landing
near Hsaiolung in the delta south of the city [G4:4505] and subsequent attack
directly on Canton’s port. However, surprise had been lost [one turn in South
China Sea needed in order to arrive with enough MPs for amphibious landing] and
troops had been moved to the approaches as a reception committee. Nevertheless,
the landings went ahead. Seeing where the main blow was falling, the Soviet and
Chinese pilots took to the air. A furious battle ensued with the fighters from
the Japanese carriers Akagi and Kaga. Many planes went down in flames. None of
the SB-2 bombers got through, but the carrier fighters are severly battered,
and so are the Soviet volunteers [Jap 2A, Soviets 2A]. With minimal support by
the ships’ guns and with long-range aircraft from Formosa chiming in the main
landings south of the city were a cake walk [no attack supply expended], as
were those near Tungkwan on the opposite shore [G4:4404], but the attack on
Canton harbor had to be postponed. With heavy artillery, headquarters, and
supplies landed after the beaches were secured [in exploitation after transfer
to LCs] the invaders are ashore in strength, but have not secured a port and so
have to keep relying on their landing craft [next turn out of general supply
and isolated unless they convert their attack supply to GSPs].

[The landings had been planned for Nov II as the time with best chance
of good weather and calm seas after the end of the rice-growing season. No
opposition or an overrun at G4:4505 was hoped for, but overrun would have
succeeded only against a single unsupported 1-4 or 0-1-4 not in general supply.
In fact, surprise was impossible, G4:4505 had been manned by two 1-4s, and the
net and one ASP at Canton converted to GSP provided general supply for all
defenders. G4:4404 on the opposite shore was included to keep the approach to
Canton harbor open for ships and allow for shore-to-shore shifting of troops
across the narrow straits. Its 0-1-4 stood no chance. With no attack on Canton
itself, no ASP was needed and only one RF and the weaker TF were used for NGS.]

Meanwhile in the north, 5 Mountain Division in accustomed efficiency
cleared the Jehol mountains of Chinese bands [by overrun] and started back to
civilization.

At Yanku, 2 Army’s 14 and 108 Divisions ran smack into the CCP 120,
battering it but not without suffering serious losses to themselves [EX, CCP
120 and 108 cadred]. The Japanese now have the city in sight.
In southern Honan, the main body of 2 Army closed to the Yellow River
opposite Kaifeng and Chengchow after rolling over the left-behind Shansi
cavalry rearguard. At one point east of Kaifeng the river was crossed and the
Siking-Tungshan rail line was cut. To the east, 1 Army closely pursued the
retreating KMT formations, mauling a straggling force of one KMT and several
factional divisions north of Tungshan. However, no other large attacks could be
staged because of delays in bringing supplies forward across the Yellow River.
Farther south, 101 Division [nicknamed the Dalmatians] crossed Lake Weishan
while troops from the Shantung peninsula closed to the Grand Canal southeast of
the lake. The only combat action here occurred when a Chinese rearguard tried
to block a river crossing, but was brushed aside [DR].

At the Shanghai front, 9 Reserve Division attacked eastward from
Hangchow to initiate an advance along the coast toward Ningpo [parent 9
Division still on a rampage in the city]. A stronger force advanced westward
across the Grand Canal between Hangchow and Lake Tai. At the north shore of the
peninsula, KMT troops were forced back along the main rail line to Nanking. One
KMT division was wiped out. The shore of Lake Tai was reached and Wuhsien,
evacuated by the Chinese, was occupied. [Chinese travel brochures aimed at
hard-currency western tourists like to call this city, also known as Soochow,
the “Venice of China” for its being criss-crossed by little canals. Any denizen
of the real thing would scoff at the comparison and probably call the canals
oversized ditches with muddy banks.]

Chinese Player Turn

Canton is being strengthened by whatever troops can be scraped together.
Yangtze shipping and trains from Changsha are kept busy around the clock. An
airlift from Changsha has been initiated. Gen. Wu Xing-Yang assigned the best
contingent of reinforcements, from Kiangsi, to the harbor district, obviously
the enemy’s key objective. He now wishes his Kwangtung Army had been
concentrated in and around Canton instead of being spread out to protect at
least some of the many ports along the long coastline. He who defends
everything defends nothing. Hindsight! But then, no enemy foray so far south
was expected so soon, and the coastal ports would have been difficult to
reinforce.

In Shansi, factional troops moved quietly along mountain roads to close
the Ladies’ Pass and cut the communications of the Japanese forces near Yanku.
This should put a damper on their ambitions to seize the provincial capital.
Also, seeing that the threat of an advance on Yanku from the north had
disappeared, Lin Piao dissolved his CCP 129 Division and sent its soldiers into
the mountains to set up yet another guerrilla base from where to raid the Hopei
plain in the Japanese rear.

Farther south in Honan, 4 Army with KMT III Corps fell back from the
Yellow River, an excellent defense position but now completely outflanked.
Kaifeng and Chengchow were abandoned without a fight. One division was split
off and sent west to block the road and rail line to Loyang [with Kaifeng and
Chengchow one of the only three Honan dot cities, so a Japanese provicial
puppet government would be installed if it were to fall also; After Shantung
and Hopei, Honan would then become the third North China province with Japanese
puppet government, and thereby trigger the set-up of a regional puppet
government].

To the east, KMT 1 Army struggled in its retreat, fighting against being
increasingly squeezed on both flanks by strong Japanese forces. For probably a
last time, defenses were beefed up by supplies railed forward from Nanking
through Tungshan, already almost within Japanese reach.

The Shanghai front remained relatively quiet. North of the lakes KMT VII
Corps held its positions while engineers prepared to dismantle the main rail
line. In the hill country south of the lakes, only picket lines face one
another. A KMT guerrilla base was established in the Tienmu Mountains.
At Yunkia [Chekiangs last remaining dot city], troops moved out to block
the gorge where the Han river and the road along it emerge from the mountains
[G3:1909; the road follows the river rather than running across the mountains,
as it may seem from the game map].

Comments:

The Canton operation might make or break this game. Once the harbor is
taken, the Chinese have no chance of holding the rest of the city. They would
in fact fold now if the TFs were allowed to enter a river hex, from which their
NGS against the city would be doubled. With Canton gone, the loss of supply and
rail capacities, production, and possibly factories would be devastating not
even to mention the destabilization points for loss of a multi-hex city. As to
factories, the dilemma is whether to keep up production or dismantle to attempt
transfer; and if transfer is still possible, whether to use scant rolling stock
for it rather then for reinforcements. The Japanese, on the other hand, are
scraping the bottom of the barrel with res pts. For them, the Canton adventure
proves to be very expensive because the LCs needed two turns to reach the
target, and at least some must now be retained until a port has been secured.

For Japan, the conflicting demands on res pts—attack supply, landing
craft, extra shipping, rail capacity, bridge repair at major rivers, and
possibly restoration of dismantled rail lines—cause headaches no end.
Napoleon was want to say that, in warfare, morale is to numbers as three to
one. Had he played War of Resistance, he might have said logistics instead of
morale.

NOVEMBER I 1937

NOVEMBER I 1937

Weather remained pleasant. For a change, even plagued Formosa is seeing
beautiful sunshine.

Japanese Player Turn

The powerful 5 Mountain Division has been dispatched to the
mountains of Jehol to hunt down the roaming survivors of the Chinese 218 Division before
they can cause serious mischief.

Two divisions of 2 Army with a few tanks in support overwhelmed weak resistance in the Ladies’ Pass and continued their advance toward Yanku, now facing CCP 120 Division.
The main body of 2 Army brushed aside factional rearguards and closed to
the Wei, the last river before the Great Yellow, the “Mother of China.” Although engineers are working overtime and newly enlisted Hopei’s are put to good use, rail traffic problems persist [the now accruing puppet replacements are being taken as construction units].

1 Army pushed forward from Tsinan hard on the heels of the retreating Chinese. Troops from the Shantung peninsula also advanced, approaching Lake Weishan and the Grand Canal. The seaboard city of Tunghai was secured and patrols are heading for the large port of Lienyunkang, where Chinese Commander Leu’s torpedoboats are still holed up.

Around Shanghai the general offensive was continued with two major thrusts. In the north the Chinese position on the neck of land between Yangtze and Lake Tai was penetrated. Forward elements reached the strategic rail line to Nanking, cutting off the best retreat route of the KMT troops still in and around Wuhsien. Meanwhile, 9 Division in the south attacked across the Grand Canal and smashed into Hangchow before hurriedly summoned reinforcements had time to arrive. Among the prisoners: the Marines of Leu Force. Their capture is a set-back for any Chinese amphibious ambitions [fragile, one of only two amphibious units].

Apparently, word of what is happening in Shanghai spread to Hangchow, and events took a similarly ugly turn. It will take time before 9 Division is again in control and can resume its advance [another rampage roll of “1”]. Hangchow with its splendid historic pagodas and palaces, its Xi Hu [West Lake] strewn with little island housing tea pavilions from sumptuous olden times, its green hills on whose slopes they say China’s best tea is grown, is called the
“City of Heaven” and is one of not many Chinese (and American, for that matter) cities with real charm. May its treasures survive this rampage. [Incidentally, the hex southeast of the city should be rough at least: It is hills, wood-covered except for the tea plantations. And war damage was actually less than that wrought by Chairman Mao’s Great Cultural Revolution some decades later. Today, most has been repaired.]

Almost unnoticed over these dramatic developments, the mighty Japanese 5th Fleet has sallied forth into the South China Sea. It includes at least two aircraft carriers, two battleships, a number of troop-laden Maru’s, and a whole fleet of landing craft. Canton bound? Anyone’s guess.

Chinese Player Turn

Despite the grim situation, all provinces and warlords are still toeing the line, though not without some enticements to do so (1 res pt to each of the four most critical provinces). [There have been comments that “3” on 2D6 for downward shift of cooperation level is still too high. In this game it seems to work fine. If the Chinese spend 1 res pt for each province that really matters, the Japanese would need a “2” for a downward shift, a chance of only 2.78%. Any Japanese res pt bids can be offset with 1 pt for every 2 Japanese pts. Lastly, with another
3 res pts buy-off the Chinese have a 50% chance of reversal and an unfavorable result. At a very modest res pt expenditure, the total chance of an important province becoming uncooperative is only 1 in 72, or 1.39%.]

In Shansi, a KMT cavalry division and assorted smaller units have holed up in Yanku in expectation of the Japanese. CCP 120 Division has taken up a blocking position on the approaches to the city. Good cooperation by the Communists, as a rare exception. Seeing that the threat of an advance on Yanku from the north has disappeared, Lin Piao dissolved the CCP 129 and sent its soldiers into the mountains to train for guerrilla warfare in Hopei
[punctiliously speaking, guerrilla already is warfare, and what we call a guerrilla or partisan is a guerrillero).

In Honan, III KMT Corps has completed its retreat behind the Yellow River. The last bridge has been blown. Only a rearguard of Shansi cavalry has been left behind to blow the railway bridge over the Wei. 4 Army has assumed command over this front sector. Guerrilla activity increased dramatically with blowing up of trains and tracks near Peiping, Tientsin, and Shihkiachuang.

South of Tsinan, 1 Army with II Corps is in full retreat to the Grand Canal and Lake Weishan. One KMT division and a collection of factional troops, hemmed in on both flanks, were unable to keep up and face annihilation. The screening forces in southern Shantung are also falling back toward the Grand Canal. The problem developing here is that the Army’s left wing, southwest of
Tsinan, no longer has a rail line straight back to rely on.On the Shanghai front, the northern wing has been taken back to a blocking position on the isthmus between Yangtze and Lake Yangcheng forward of Chenchiang, just 40 miles short of Nanking. A fortress brigade has been left behind as garrison of the fortress of Chiangyin that guards a possible Yangtze crossing site. What is left of the southern wing of the front retreatedwestward into the hills and mountains toward Wuhu. Screening forces still are positioned on the road to Shaohsing and Kinhwa.

Canton is being hurriedly reinforced by whatever can be summoned from near and far. Also, the relatively safe northern districts of the city are being stripped of combat troops to strengthen the ocean-front defenses. Along the Hsi estuary, troops have been posted to stop or at least delay any invaders short of the city proper. The few torpedo- and gunboats stationed at Canton have sortied to patrol the approaches. A timely succor arrived at the city’s airport, courtesy Uncle Joe: I-152 fighters and SB-2 bombers, some complete with “volunteer” Soviet pilots, some to be flown by Chinese. As the Japanese 5th Fleet departed for the South China Sea, Commander Leu’s torpedoboats used the opportunity to sneak out of Lienyunkang (in Shantung) and make for ports in Fukien, just in time before Japanese troops arrived.

Where is, repeat where is, Fifth Fleet? The world wonders (even though not on the anniversary of Balaclava and Leyte Gulf).

OCTOBER II 1937

OCTOBER II 1937

Weather remained pleasant, except for first frost in the Gobi Desert
(who cares?)and mud and rough seas for battered southern Formosa in the
aftermath of Typhoon Dominic.

Japanese Player Turn

All quiet in Shahar and Mongolia. Security forces in Jehol keep
watch on that 218 Division hiding out high up in the mountains. Mop-up in the Wutai
Mountains is complete. 1 Infantry Division was shipped to Shanghai to
relieve 3 Division, exhausted from a month of constant street fighting (have to watch
where to put Big Number One, it gets withdrawn Jan I). 2 Army’s siege guns
were moved to Tientsin for transfer to ports still unknown. Something brewing?

2nd Army around Shihkiachuang split off two divisions (14 and 108) to
press on westward to the famous Ladies’ Pass on the road to Yanku, Shansi’s
capital. The main body of 2 Army advanced south along the Chengchow rail line
across the Fuyang river and through deserted Hantan. They encountered no
resistance and are now approaching the Tangyin river [another successful
reaction roll had speeded things up a bit] and are beginning to feel the
strain of supply shortages [beyond range of unlimited supply from Tientsin’s big port
and high-volume RR, forward units must now draw on scant capacity of net].
Engineers are busy repairing bridges and railway tracks.

1st Army crossed the Yellow River in strength, stormed Tsinan defended
only by rearguards, and is hard on the heels of the retreating Chinese, now
consisting almost exclusively of KMT regulars. Contact with forward elements
from the Shantung peninsula was established. Troops and civilians in Tsinan
have remained orderly [rampage roll negative].

The battle for Shanghai continues. Reserve divisions for those in
combat were landed at Woosung. The strongest thrust, with three divisions, ample
artillery, and naval gunfire support was launched along the Yangtze shore
against a well-entrenched enemy at Lotien. The fortified position was taken,
but the defenders managed to fall back in good order [DR]. In the city itself,
the southeastern portion was cleared of rearguards in actions supported by
siege artillery and ships. Prisoners were taken. The farthest advance was made
by 9 Infantry Division south of the city. Here, Chiahsing on the main rail
line to Hangchow was reached by forward elements. Also, engineers were landed at
Woosung to begin repairs in the city and eventually get the rail net going
again.

The fall of Shihkiachuang has prompted the formation of a rival
government of Hopei in Tientsin under Japanese auspices. However, Hopei
strongman Gen. Shang Chen laughed at this subversion and is keeping his few
remaining troops firmly in Loyalist China’s camp.

Chinese Player Turn

In the far north the flight of the last remaining factional rabble
toward Yanku continues, shielded by CCP 129 Division. Shansi troops backed by
CCP 120 Division set up a defense at the Ladies’ Pass to delay the Japanese
advance on Yanku from that direction.

Having destroyed rail lines and bridges, KMT III Corps abandoned the
Tangyin river position and pulled back to the next and last river short of the
mighty Yellow, the Wei at Hwahsien (same name, different river, this one in
Honan rather than Shantung).

KMT II Corps, in full retreat from Tsinan, is struggling to extricate
itself from threatening flanking moves and to establish a reasonably coherent
front with the weak forces that had been screening the Shantung peninsula. 1
Army has assumed overall command. A Japanese breakthrough here would endanger
the retreat of the troops farther west.

The KMT elite troops withdrew from Shanghai city, leaving only
factional rearguards with artillery support behind in the southwestern and western
precincts. A retreat was ordered to a position running along the Grand
Canal in the south and across the neck of land between Lake Yangcheng (huge but only a
few feet deep) and the Yangtze in the north. This time, however, the situation
has become uncomfortable as the Japanese followed up immediately and
penetrated the defenses in the north while at the same time completing the mop-up in the
city itself (another successful reaction roll, here with good troops in ZoI
and attack supply stacked with the HQ). After weeks of bitter street fighting, tempers both of civilians and of Japanese troops in Shanghai flared. Soldiers of the reserve divisions went
on a rampage and civilians were quick to defend themselves with whatever weapons
the departed troops had left behind. The situation is temporarily out of control
(riot roll “1” = F*).

The defenses of Canton were beefed up with troops hurriedly brought in
from all directions. A new guerrilla base was set up by CCP 115 Division in the Taiheng
Mountains of Honan. One of the two regiments of the division was kept equipped
for regular warfare. The two strategic rail lines leading south from Peiping
and Tientsin were again sabotaged. The Japanese are beginning to feel the
pinch.

Upon arrival in Chungking, Chiang Kai-Shek was displeased with
inadequate communication facilities and had a contre-temps with the imperious
governor of the province. He promptly redirected his just arriving government
to set up shop in Hankow instead. [The move to Chungking, if perhaps not premature, was a terrible
mistake. While undoubtedly the safest location, that city is out of KMT “home
territory,” so that 3 stabilization points less would accrue upon each
subsequent stability-level check. Hankow is safe for the time being, and the
1-pt penalty for another move at a later time is a small price to pay for
avoiding a 3 pts loss upon each check until then.]

Comments:

If you are a masochist, play War of Resistance. As the Japanese you have
all these beautiful troops, almost as strong as Panzer Divisions, but are
hamstrung by supply problems and a sneaky enemy that pops up here and there to
cause you grief in your rear (truly a pain in the …). As the Chinese you get
knocked over the head wherever you don’t run fast enough, and just have to
outlast the punishment you are taking.

The Chinese tactics of putting up a strong defense in a good position
and then run before it can be attacked in strength has finally proved
counterproductive. Several successful Japanese reaction rolls in succession
have led to a dangerous situation that might well result in severe losses.
Only well-conducted scorched-earth tactics and guerrilla sabotage, causing delays
for the Japanese in getting their HQs and attack supply forward, have
prevented a tragedy. A key to success of the tactic is to have a rail line straight
back, for ease of retreat when time comes as well as for railing GSPs forward to the
HQ for defense at full strength. Unfortunately, 1 Army no longer enjoys this
luxury as the forward portion of its rail line (Kaifeng-Tungshan-Nanking) now
runs parallel and precariously close to the current front. Quite possibly I
became overconfident after the initial successes of the tactic and have after
all overestimated the Chinese ability to delay the Japanese advance forward of
Shanghai and Nanking.

OCTOBER I 1937

OCTOBER I 1937

Weather remained pleasant and dry, except that Typhoon Dominic still lingers off southern Formosa and locally causes mud and stormy seas.

Japanese Player Turn

In northern Hopei, mop-up in the Wutai mountains continues apace. The rail line to Changkaikow has been repaired. The crack 1 Infantry Division, no longer needed here, has been pulled back to Tientsin. The Senda mechanized division group remains in Changkaikow to discourage any attacks by the CCP 129 Division. With so little Japanese strength left and the Hopei troops confined to their province, the advance toward Yanku from the north has been halted.

On the main Hopei front, weakly held Shihkiachuang has fallen to a concentric attack, but its defense and extensive rail and bridge destructions to the rear have prevented more than vanguards to be pushed forward in pursuit of the main KMT force. The city has remained quiet (no garrison required). Not needed at Shihkiachuang, the Army’s siege artillery was pulled back toward Tientsin.

A few more factional Chinese units were bagged in the canal country around Tehsien by 1 Army, whose patrols now are within less than 50 miles from the Yellow River and should soon establish first contact with forward elements from the Shantung peninsula.

The relatively weak forces in that peninsula advanced only cautiously, mindful that too great an expansion of their front lines might invite enemy infiltration and a threat to Tsingtao and Kaiohsien, the ports on which they rely for supply.

The troops of Operation Tradewind in Woosung reorganized and were reinforced by several reserve divisions and regiments of heavy artillery. Belatedly, the planned attack up the Whangpoo river to link up with the defenders of the International Concession was launched with massive support from the guns of the fleet and was a full success. Also, factional rearguards supported by a few pieces of KMT artillery were cleared out of the eastern precincts. About half the city is now in Japanese hands.
Much like their opposite numbers, the Japanese chief engineers decided to discontinue the now useless upgrading of the rail line leading south from Tientsin. The specialized railway engineers were moved to Tientsin’s port for transfer elsewhere.

Chinese Player Turn

Public confidence in Chiang Kai-Shek’s leadership and the future has taken a beating (as had become inevitable, stability level dropped to “3”). However, the provinces still held the line. Only Governor Lung Yun of remote Yunan became restless, but was mollified by generous gifts (shift to uncooperative level on 2D6 of “3,” but successful buy-off with 3 res pts). Hopei, of course, had been written off.

Although not yet under attack, KMT III Corps pulled back from the Fuyang position at Hantan to the next river line, the Tangyin at Anyang. Its neighbor to the east, KMT II Corps, pulled its rearguards back behind the Yellow River. Its eastern flank retreated from that river to maintain a coherent front with the forces that had been screening the Shantung peninsula. In Tsinan, now exposed, only a factional rearguard was left behind to destoy everything the of possible use to the enemy. The pull-back proved to be just in time as Japanese troops crossed the Yellow River upstrem and downstream of Tsinan earlier than expected (finally a successful Reaction Roll, but with too few units in HQ’s ZOI to move and none to stage attacks).

While the city of Shanghai offers by far the best defensive positions, the dilemma here is that it can be outflanked north and south. With troops diverted to protect the flanks, the defenders in the city itself may not withstand the Japanese onslaught for long. Yet, the decision was made at least to delay the capture of the remainder of the city while still trying to presere the best troops.

Two of Shanghai’s factories are being reassembled in Wushang and Changcha, the third is still in transit. Nanking’s factory was prepared for transfer. The central government was moved to Chungking by river and will resume its functions again later this month.

Guerrilla activity was slack. Only one attempt at blowing railway tracks succeeded and is causing temporary disruption near Tingyuan.

While the Emperor in Tokyo smiles, a despondent Chiang Kai-Shek went on vacation to his mountain palace near Siking, known to latter-day tourists as Xian. He went better protected than last year, when he got himself arrested by a dissident favoring a harder line against Japan and a reconciliation with the Communists. Is he thinking of summoning the buried and as yet undiscovered gargantuan terra-cotta army of ancient warriors to his teetering cause?

SEPTEMBER II 1937

SEPTEMBER II 1937

Sunshine and dry weather have returned to all of mainland China, but another typhoon is passing close to southern Formosa. Seas are calm except off the Manchurian coast and around Shanghai and Hanchow (Zones 7 and 9), not counting Typhoon Dominic near Formosa.

Japanese Player Turn

The hardliners in Tokyo have finally won out. Hideki Tojo has been named Prime Minister, and his cabinet has lifted all restrictions on operations in China (2D6 mandate roll “12”)!
Mop-up continues apace in the northern Wutai mountains, where the formidable 5 Mountain Division unmercifully hunts down factional remnants and stragglers. Farther west, the garrisons of Changkaikow and Kweihwating have hunkered down for defense against a possible attack by the CCP 129 Division. Chahar cavalry is moving southward east of the Wutai range in the direction of Yanku.

The 2 Army operating from Peiping toward Shihkiachuang is severely hindered by extensive destructions of bridges and railway tracks. Its vanguards have reached the Hoto river opposite Shihkiachuang, but were not strong enough to attack the strongly held city. Mop-up in the swamps west of the Tientsin-Tsinan rail line has been completed and many prisoners were taken (for the first time, a majority of units isolated when eliminated). The main forces of the 1 Army operating along the Tientsin-Tsinan rail line, also severely hampered by bridge and railway destructions, reached the area just north of Tehsien, about two thirds of the way to Tsinan, their first major objective.

The Shantung beachhead received reinforcements and was extended beyond the Wei river and along the south coast. Shantung forces now allied to the Japanese ‘liberated” the north-coast city of Chefoo, from where renegate warlord Han Fu-Chu hopes to rule the province while Tsinan, the capital, is still full of KMT troops.

The most dramatic events played out around Shanghai. An amphibious landing at the major port of Woosun in the Yangtze estuary just north of Shanghai had been planned, based on speculations that, before the end of the month, Tokyo would lift the restriction of operations to North China (either Chinese “aggressive posture” or a mandate die roll roll of at least “10,” both indeed then having occurred).

This Operation Tradewind was to be staged by a landing of the Kure and Sasebo Marines of Kaiohsien fame and two new first-line divisions (9 and 13), backed by a strong naval force including the carriers Akagi and Kaga and the battleships Mutsu and Nagato. The bold plan envisaged an overrun of the weak Woosun garrison (expected to be unsupported and not in general supply), followed by an attack up the Whangpoo river on northeastern Shanghai proper to link up with the forces in the International Concession. Three factors threatened to compromise this plan: the unexpected sortie of the Chinese mini-cruisers Ning Hai and Ping Hai with a few torpedo boats (DCTF, strength 2) to patrol the entrace to Woosun harbor, Chinese naval air patrol, and the worsening sea conditions (rough). Ning Hai and Ping Hai, pride of the Chinese Navy, put up a brave fight to the last against formidable odds, but were sunk (two naval combat hits needed to clear the hex; the two GCs and one TF were lucky to score them in their three rolls, each with 50% chance of success after modifiers for rough seas and protected waters). A Chinese air strike found the little armada, the carrier-born fighters intercepted and shot down a few bombers (an A result), flak remained ineffective, but no ships were hit. The landings also went well, except for some damage to landing craft from heavy swells, and the troops overwhelmed the defenders. However, the confusion of landing in rough seas had disrupted the troops so badly that they were unable to stage the planned follow-up attack up the Whangpoo (because of halving of strength owing to rough sea, odds upon landing too low for overrun). Still, even if the original objective was not attained, the troops are ashore in strength at a major port right next to Shanghai and will hardly be dislodged. (Whew, what an operation! I just hope I got all the rules right. Do tell me if anything seems fishy.)

In anticipation of the fall of Tsinan, plans were made for installation of a Japanese-leaning puppet government of Shantung. For this purpose an infantry brigade from Darien was shipped to Chefoo, to be the new “capital.”

Chinese Player Turn

In the north the retreat of the few battered survivors from Chahar toward Yanku continued. With the formidable Japanese 1 Infantry Division still in the area, the CCP 129th did not intervene.

In Hopei, KMT III Corps retreated in good order from Shihkiachuang to the next holding position about 80 miles farther south at Hantan behind the Fuyang river. Only a factional cavalry rearguard was left in Shihkiachuang to delay the Japanese advance and blow the railway and road bridges. Communist guerrillas scored their first success by blowing up the rail line from Peiping north of Shihkiachuang. KMT II Corps nearer the coast also retreated about 80 miles to a last blocking position foward of the Yellow River and Tsinan. The latter are prepared for a delaying action to slow the inevitable Japanese advance on Nanking. All but one of the Yellow River bridges downstream of Kaifeng have been blown up
In Shantung a lose chain of strongholds has been set up to delay any enemy forays from the Tsingtao beachhead.

The misguided upgrading of the Nanking-Tientsin rail line was discontinued. The effort would have been better spent elsewhere, perhaps even in obliterating that rail line.
Shanghai’s dismantled factories were evacuated by rail and river transport using all available rolling stock and barge shipping. They are destined for locations in the deep interior. The KMT troops in the city, among them some of Chiang’s best, concentrated in the western districts, leaving only factional rearguards in the east.

The rapid deterioration of the military situation has prompted Chiang Kai-Shek to order his government to prepare a move from Nanking to a safer location, possibly Chungking (with Chengte, Peiping, Tientsin, Tsingtao, Kweihwating, Tsingyuan, and by Oct I inevitably also Shihkiachuang in Japanese hands and no stabilization points to show for Japanese losses, a stability level drop in Oct I is certain, so the move is better initiated before the Oct I check, even though Nanking is not yet in danger).

As if the Chinese command did not have enough to worry about, seeing the hardliners at the helm in Tokyo forces them now to start thinking about how to protect Canton against amphibious landings (Mandate Roll “12” = Level 0 now allows operations even in South China). At present, the city is garrisoned only by the regiments of two KMT divisions, a KMT construction brigade, and a few factional units, no match for a determined assault.

Chiang Kai-Shek is now looking for British advisors to teach him how to win a war while losing the battles. No takers so far: it’s to be kept a well-guarded secret.

SEPTEMBER I 1937

SEPTEMBER I 1937

The monsoon season has finally run its course: Sunshine has dried the
ground in all of China and the seas have calmed.

Japanese Player Turn

With improved weather conditions, fighting has accelerated. The 5 Mountain
Division, victors of Tsingtao, was ferried to Tientsin and hurriedly railed
north to take a leading part in the fight in the Wutai mountains that is to
open up and protect the rail connection into Chahar. Also moved north was
the Senda Mechanized Division Group, which pressed forward through the
Yungting gorge along the rail line itself. Its leading elements made first
contact with those of the 1 Infantry Division from Chahar not far Badaling
at the Great Wall where in ancient times a handful of Chinese are said to
have stood fast for weeks against a whole army from the north. Now, the
factional Chinese are being battered from north and south and squeezed into
the northermost part of the Wutai mountains. Many prisoners were taken. One
Chinese division, the 218, has been cut off east of the gorge and driven
into the mountains of Jehol.

Substantial reinforcements were landed at Tientsin and other nearby ports
and railed south and west to strengthen the thrusts along the
Tientsin-Tsinan and Peiping-Shihkachuang rail lines. Along the former, the
Chinese front for the first time has been brought into serious disarray;
along the latter, resistance has just about dissolved. The small city of
Tsingyuan has been overrun and the way to Shihkiachuang is open. Blown
bridges and rail lines now are more of a hindrance than is the enemy.

Over objections from the naval command, parts of the so-called Shanghai
Expeditionary Force were diverted to Tsingtao and Kaiohsien to fan out from
the beachhead. Tanks of a spearhead reached the sea on the north shore of
the peninsula, cutting off most of the Shantung forces to the east.

All quiet at Shanghai, where the small garrison of the International
Concession holds out under the protection of the ships’ guns. A major air raid against the main railway station of Tsinan remained unsuccessful.

Chinese Player Turn

In a dramatic frenzy of political maneuvering, Shantung’s wavering warlord
Han Fu-Chu has broken with the central government and allied himself to
Japan! (violations by KMT, first entry of Japanese troops from Tsingtao, 3
res pts bid by China, 5 by Japan, 2D6 of “3” gives downward shift of
cooperation level, 1D6 of “5” results in puppet status, Chinese buy-off
attempt with 3 res pts fails on 1D6 of “5”). Most Shantung troops just melt
away, a few join the Japanese. All other provinces remain faithful.

In Chahar the surviving factional forces that had fought in the Yungting
gorge retreated westward into the mountains. Still farther west, whatever
can still move is attempting to flee in a general direction of Yanku. The
CCP 129 Division is set to block a Japanese advance here. The cut-off
Chinese 218 Division has sought sanctuary in the mountains of Jehol.

The defection of Shantung and the rapid expansion of the Japanese Tsingtao
beachhead has compromised the Yellow River position, and a retreat from
Hopei all the way to the Yangtze river has been ordered. On the
Peiping-Chengchow rail line the major city of Shihkiachuang is being
prepared for a delaying defense to gain time. This strongpoint shielded by
the Hoto river with escape routes to both the south and west is expected to
hold for one to two weeks (one player turn), but will be evacuated as soon
as the Japanese have concentrated for an attack. To the east, the position
of the remainning factional units defending astride the Tientsin-Tsinan
rail line has deteriorated beyond hope. They will be sacrificed to shield
the withdrawal of the main force to the Yellow River and beyond.

On the Shantung peninsula, a hasty and temporary defense has been
organized to shield the flank of the forces flooding back from Hopei to the
Yellow River, but cannot be expected to hold in the face of any determined
Japanese attack.

Additional troops were moved into Shanghai, and dismantling of the
factories for transfer has begun. In another air raid on the Japanese
vessels in port, several bombers were lost to Japanese carrier-borne
fighters, and again no hits were scored. Fearing Japanese retaliation in
the form of a sea-borne landing, the small Chinese Navy bravely sallied
forth from their ports in the Yangtze estuary to patrol the harbor entrances.

With Chahar gone for good and Inner Mongolia for the time being, Shantung
defected, the Hopei front in disarray and outflanked from Tsingtao, the
threat of an enemy landing at Shanghai at any time, and still oodles of
fair campaign wheather to come, the overall picture looks grim. Kung Fu,
Charley Chan, the Flying Buffaloes, where are you when we need you?

AUGUST II 1937

AUGUST II 1937

The brief spell of fair weather in central China is over. The entire
country is again flooded by monsoon rains, except only the extreme north
and west. A typhoon is passing over southern Formosa (Taiwan). Seas
elsewhere are mostly stormy.

Japanese Player Turn

Tsingtao has fallen after only a token resistance of its small and
disheartened garrison. The city is quiet (pacification roll 5). The cruiser
taskforce that had supported the Orca beachhead returned to Shanghai, ready
to shield the small contingent of naval troops against the mounting Chinese
threat.

Advance along the Peiping-Shihkiachuang and Tientsin-Tsinan rail lines has
slowed to a crawl through mud and against stiffening resistance now backed
by a KMT Infantry Corps. Engineers contend with blown bridges and rail
lines. Farther north, the advance out of Peiping along the rail line into
Chahar has reached the foothills and the entrance to the Yungting gorge.

Tokyo has given the go-ahead to General Hideki Tsunoda’s Chahar
Expeditionary Force, a powerful army that includes the elite 1 Infantry
Division, one of the few well-equipped with artillery (most others are just
self-supporting). In a sweeping move favored by fair weather, the stronger
its two columns overran the weakly defended Chahar capital Changkaikow
while the other force-marched into Inner Mongolia and smashed its way into
Kweihwating, one of only two of Inner Mongolia’s settlements that can lay
claim to being called a city. The CCP 129 Division from the 8 Route Army,
delayed by poor weather and terrain, was not in time to save the city from
the invaders. Preparations for formation of local puppet governments in
Chahar and Inner Mongolia are under way. The surviving factional Chinese
northeast of Peiping now find themselves pinched in between the Japanese 2
Army to the south and Tsunoda’s Chahar Force to the north, but they still
cling to the mountains astride the Peiping-Changkaikow rail line that
Tsunoda will need for supply.

Carrier aircraft subjected Leu Force in the port of Lienyunkang to a
fierce attack. Most of the transports were destroyed. For the time being
that removes any threat of a Chinese amphibious raid as the only KMT
Marines are now stranded without transports.

Long-range bombers attacked the marshaling yard of Tungshan and caused
extensive damage. The city is the hub of the Chinese rail net connecting
Nanking, Siking, Tientsin, and the port of Tunghai with one another, and
the destruction of its yard will add to Chinese logistics problems.

Chinese Player Turn

In the north, the 129 CCP Division reached the area south of Tatung and
will pose a threat to the Japanese presence in Inner Mogolia. The other
parts of the 8 Route Army crossed the Wutai range into Hopei. Guerrilla
bases were set up in the mountains and the Hopei plain near Tsangchow. The
III KMT Corps and the 115 CCP Division concentrated in and around
Shihkiachuang in preparation for a delaying action. Farther foward,
factional rearguards retreated to the line Tsingyuan-Tsangchow, backed by
the II KMT Corps.

On the Shantung peninsula, KMT troops prepared for temporary defense at
the Wei river to keep the Tsingtao beachhead contained and gain time for
the Shantung factional forces farther east to retreat to safety. Bridge and
track destruction along the Peiping-Chengchow and Tientsin-Tsinan rail
lines continued apace.

Additional KMT divisions were moved into Shanghai to complete sealing off
the International Concession and protect the crews sent in to start
preparing the city’s factories for transfer to safety. Also, the Hwangpoo
river, the lifeline to the sea for the small Japanese Navy contingent in
the International Concession, was blocked. A half-hearted air raid against
the Japanese warships on the Hwangpoo was unsuccessful. Although no ground
attacks were launched, the Japanese were quick to declare the actions as
“aggression” (more than 7 RE now adjacent to the International Concession)
and threaten decisice retaliation.
Long live double-speak!

AUGUST I 1937

AUGUST I 1937

While monsoon rains continue in most of China, sunshine and a first spell
of dry weather have arrived in the plains of Shantung and southern Hopei
(Zone 8), seas rough.

Japanese Player Turn

Dead set to give the enemt no respite, the Japanese juggernaut ground its
way forward from the Peiping-Tientsin District through deep mud at a
painfully slow pace of about three to four miles per day (2 hexes per turn
in the old one-two of overrun and combat) through hordes of factional
Chinese. Prisoners were taken by the thousands. The main axis of attack is
southward along the Tientsin-Nanking rail line. The tactic is to push
full-tilt along the road and thereby force the defenders right and left to
pull back lest they be cut off. Last resistance by the 37 Division in
Peiping’s northern suburbs was quelled. Some ground was also gained to the
west and northwest of the that city.

Railway engineers were brought into Tientsin to start repairing and
upgrading the Nanking rail line.

A daring amphibious operation code-named Orca, led by capable General
Hwang Yng-Long, was staged close to Tsingtao. Marines and the 5 Mountain
Division landed on the bayshore opposite the city and overwhelmed the
hapless defenders of the little port of Taiohshien. However, even in the
more sheltered waters of the Bay a good number of the landing craft were
damaged because of the high swells from last week’s storm and will require
repair. Orca has cut off the Tsingtao peninsula from the mainland, but the
Japanese foothold is tenuous as long as the city itself has not been taken.
A cruiser squadron and the carriers Kaga and Akagi stand by off-shore to
help repel any effort to relieve the city. Also, a squadron of fighters has
transferred to Kaiohshien to provide CAP.

In Tokyo, the fact of all-out war has been grudgingly accepted. The debate
now centers on the assembly and release of a strike force to relieve the
Navy troops in Shanghai’s International Concession before they are
overwhelmed.

Chinese Player Turn

A heated debate at the Generalissimo’s headquarters over what to do about
Orca. The chances of success of a relief attempt were carefully weighed,
but judged too slim in the face of massive Japanese naval support and
because of the impossibility of bringing enough troops and attack supply in
over the poor roads and the single, low-volume rail line with precious
little rolling stock. A number of the good regular National divisions
heading north from Nanking were redirected to the Shantung peninsula at
least to contain the Japanese beachhead. An air drop of supplies from
Nanking was considered, but was also decided against: even if the
transports survived the Japanese fighters and flak, their loads were too
likely to becomes hopelessly scattered. This leaves the small Tsingtao
garrison in the lurch.

Orca paid an unexpected dividend. Nationalist Navy Commander Leu Rong-Jin
at Tsingtao had been under orders to launch an amphibious raid directed at
the Jehol coast with his destroyer escorts and a Marine battalion on
commandeered coastal barges (an MNF RT). Orca upset the preparations (had
to be cancelled because Leu Force at Tsingtao came into Japanese ZoC).
Considering the situation at Tsingtao hopeless, Leu nevertheless decided to
break out in a moonless and foggy night. He succeeded in evading the
Japanese taskforce off Tsingtao (to react, the TF would have had to break
off its preparation for NGS, without which the beachhead would have been in
jeopardy). Although spotted at dawn by reconnaissance aircraft from the
Japanese carriers, he reached safety in the port of Lienyunkang near
Tunghai (had to cross open sea to reach protected waters, but contact rolls
failed; an escape northward would have emabled Leu to sail in protected
waters throughout, but would have left his Marines out on a limb on the
Shantung peninsula that is in danger of being cut off).

At the Tientsin front, the order of the day is sauve qui peut. Rather than
throwing in fresh troops piecemeal, the Chinese appear intent on merely
gaining time to prepare defenses where the Japanese onslaught will have
lost momentum. Usually reliable sources are quoted as saying the KMT’s
original plan called for a defense at the mighty Hwang Ho (Yellow River),
possibly combined with a delaying action in the line Tsinan-Shihkiachuang.
Now Orca, outflanking the Yellow River position, has given rise to second
thoughts and a retreat to the Yangtze is in the cards.

Thanks logistics Tsar Chen, most of the troops at the wavering Tientsin
front now enjoy supply (can be traced to the net but is limited by the
net’s capacity). This is being put to good use as it enables even the
poorly equipped factional “divisions” to engage in scorched earth. Bridges
and railway tracks are being blown to slow the Japanese advance. Even so,
in the long run their low mobility will spell doom for the bulk of the
factional rabble. Their loss is the price to pay for gaining time to scorch
the soggy earth and set up of guerrilla bases and for forcing the invaders
to expend precious supplies and resources.

In Shanghai city, the Chinese consolidated their positions around the
International Concession and occupied the industrial sections in strength,
in preparation for removal of the factories (still a little too weak here
to risk assuming aggressive posture).

Lin Piao’s 8 Route Army made good progress and is approaching the Wutai
mountains. Its 129 Division is marching north toward Inner Mongolia in
anticipation of a Japanese move into that province.

A KMT guerrilla base has been set up in the rice paddies of central Hopei,
a CCCP. Having failed to obtain material aid, the Chinese government has asked
President Roosevelt personally for the loan of a group of Zuni or Navajo
Indian medicine men to perform rain dances.

Comment

The comments I have seen so far on the list seem to indicate that I am
overestimating the ability of the Chinese to resist forward of the Yangtze
River. This may well be so. But then my Chinese have been rather lucky with
the weather (always mud where it counts), Japanese reaction attempts (none
successful so far), and Tokyo Mandate rolls (always “9,” maddeningly just
short of triggering). It is true that losses of Hopei and MNF ants at the
Tientsin front have been significant, but so far not a single KMT unit has
bit the dust. A few KMT divisions are now in action south of Tientsin, but
only behind overrun-proof stacks of factional units, themselves in stacks
strong enough to discourage direct attack, and so placed that they have a
safe retreat route. However, this tactic will no longer work when the
weather turns dry, and a speedy retreat will then surely become necessary.
Meanwhile, as the old saying goes, make hay while it rains!

JULY II 37

JULY II 37

Japanese Player Turn

Out of partience with a deeply divided Tokyo government, Japanese troop
commanders in Manchuria took matters into their own hands and staged
massive raids into the Beijing-Tientsin District of China. Clashes
snowballed, and all-out war sems at hand, faster than the hotheads may have
wished, for the monsoon season is far from over and the going or rather
slushing in deep mud is agonizing.

The main Japanese thrust was launched into Tientsin by the elite 20 Light
Infantry Divison with ample support by siege artillery, railed right into
the city under the noses of the feeble Chinese “peacekeepers.” Additional
forces and supplies were shipped into Tientsin’s port, the city was quickly
cleared, and the vaunted 20th secured the railway bridge over the Hai and
gained a solid foothold on the far bank.

A secondary thrust was directed into Peiping from Chengte. Here,
resistance was a bit stiffer. The downtown and industrial areas were
secured, but scattered Chinese remnants are still clinging to the
northwestern suburbs.

The week has not been kind to the National Airforce. Bombers from Weihsien
in Shantung Province on patrol failed to spot the Tientsin-bound convoys
that were ducking in and out of rain squalls, but aircraft from the
escorting carriers followed them home and bombed them out of existence on
the ground (overkill: 2 hits on a 1-capacity base). At Tientsin’s Hai
bridge the KMT fly-boys attempted to provide air support. Japanese fighter
pilot superiority exacted a fierce toll: Half the escorting KMT fighters
went down in flames, as did some of the bombers (1K, 2A for no Jap losses).

While having gained firm control over the Peiping-Tientsin district, the
invaders now face quite a slugging match through mud and flooded rice
paddies if they wish to continue their advance. The moderates in Tokyo are
distressed. If at all, they would have preferred to see the war started
after the monsoon season was over.

Meanwhile, the small Japanese naval troop contingent in Shanghai’s
International Concession have kept their peace. They feel reasonably secure
under their mighty ships’ guns, but are not strong enough to risk expanding
their perimeter, nor are they encouraged to do so by their superiors, who
have enough other problems.

Chinese Player Turn

A rude awakening for the National government! But Generalissimo Chiang
Kai-Chek took matters into his hand very quickly. His first order of
business was to appoint his trusted advisor Chen Jia-Ming as infrastructure
Tsar and accord him first call on transport, rear-echelon troops, and
resources. Rolling stock and river transport were used to the utmost to
ferry administrators and small contingents of KMT troops to cities and
production centers throughout all of China to build up a nation-wide supply
net as quickly as possible and shield it against local warlords’ appetites
(a small KMT unit can “control” a city even if it shares it with any number
of factional troops that meet “garrison” requirements.) Except in the
southermost provinces this job is now all but completed. Also, railway
engineers have begun upgrading the strategically important Nanking-Tientsin
rail line, starting from Nanking.

At Tientsin and Peiping the poorly equipped and incompetently led
divisions controlled by a plethora of local warlords reeled under the
Japanese onslaught, but managed to reestablish a coherent front. Rail lines
were damaged and some bridges were blown. The best ally proved to be the
monsoon weather.

Whatever rolling stock was not requisitioned by Chen Jia-Ming was used to
rail some first-line infantry divisions of the “Generalissimo’s Own” elite
from the Nanking area forward in anticipation of a continued Japanese
advance from Tientsin. They will come too late for setting up a defense in
the rice paddies, but even in open terrain they might prove a hindrance to
the Japanese, who will have to contend with supply problems when advancing
into Shantung and Kuangsi.

In Shanghai, KMT and other troops, no longer shackled by treaty
obligations, cautiously felt they way into the city. However, they are
still under orders not to attack the Japanese in the International
Concession and to avoid any provocation.

Far west in Shensi Province, the strong, well disciplined Communist 8
Route Army under Lin Piao started quick-step marching northeastward. Their
suspected goal is to set up guerrilla bases in Honan and Hopei Provinces
and to threaten the lines of communication of any Japanese advance
southward from Tientsin.

Appeals for help went out from the National government to the Western
Nations and the Soviet Union, but so far only France has lent a sympathetic
ear and is channeling some shipments of aid to be picked up at Haiphong’s
port in French Indo-China. Britain and the U.S. seem loath to get involved
as long as their direct interests are not threatened, and Stalin may be
well pleased seeing a hostile Japan getting embroiled into what promises to
be a drawn-out conflict with the Chinese Nationalists, for whom he has no
sympathy either. But someone is not satisfied and intends to do something
about it: Claire Chenault, the Generalissimo’s chief air advisor and an
avid wargamer is rumored to work on constituting his own private airforce
of American volunteers, to be called the Flying Buffalos.

SPANISH CIVIL WAR: Highlights and Comments

This was a truly fascinating and exciting match. Here is a brief recap:

AUG 36: Great battle for Gijon, which changes hands three times, finally secured by Insurgents with help of Regia Marina which sinks the entire Republican Atlantic Fleet. Another RM squadron helps a weak Insurgent force to secure Malaga, whose main garrison had taken to the hills in a futile foray against Granada. Basques and Santanderos on offensive, but attack on Pamplona fails. PA cavalry raiders from Cataluna penetrate into Zaragoza but are overcome. Teruel is surrounded.

SEP 36: Insurgents break through overextended Loyalist lines to seize Bilbao and San Sebastian. Santander falls soon after. Breakout of pocketed Basques southward to join main Loyalist forces in Aragon fails. Loyalists take Zaragoza and Huesca. teruel supply by air drops holds out.

OCT 36: Mop-up in the Biscay gobiernitos is completed. Insurgents secure Sierra Guadarrama (north of Madrid), recapture Toledo, take Guadalajara. Almeria changes hands three times and Insurgents advance to just short of Lorca. Loyalists finally overwhelm defenders of Teruel.

NOV 36: Insurgents shred front south of Madrid. Alcazar de San Juan on Madrid-Murcia rail line changes hands three times.

DEC 36: Insurgents cut last rail line into Madrid north of Cuenca. Loyalists abandon supply corridor to Madrid, hole up in city.

FEB 37: Madrid falls. Insurgents shift troops to start offensive in Aragon. At south front Lorca is taken.

MAR 37: Insurgents recapture Zaragoza.

APR 37: Insurgents Aragon offensive reaches Cinca river. Barcelona revolts.

JUN 37: Insurgents stop Aragon offensive, initiate new one south of Madrid, take Albacete.

AUG 37: Loyalist front in Murcia breaks, Legion Condor’s 88 Regiment races through gap to cut vital coast road at Alcira, just short of Valencia, hold out until relieved.

NOV-DEC 37: Cartagena-Murcia-Alicante pocket is liquidated.

JAN 38: Insurgents start new Aragon offensive along Ebro.

APR 38: Condor 88 Regiment reaches sea just south of Tortosa. Loyalist attempts to break through corridor to sea fail.

JUN 38: Tortosa falls.

JUL 38: Valencia pocket implodes, Loyalists retreat best units into city, Insurgents mop up everyone else. Lerida falls.

OCT 38: After months of slugging, Insurgents finally break into Cataluna’s last, Pasionaria defense line shielding Barcelona. Loyalist counterattack fails to restore front, which disintegrates.

NOV 38: Cataluna collapses. Last-minute Insurgent attack on Valencia fails. Loyalist government surrenders.

The highlights were the great battle for Gijon, the breakthrough to Bilbao and San Sebastian that broke the back of the northern front, the capture of Zaragoza by the Loyalists, the siege of Teruel, the envelopment and capture of Madrid, the Condors’ 88’s two races to the sea at Alcira and Tortosa, and the final shredding of the Pasionaria line.

This contest certainly had the drastic changes of pace typical for Bell Tolls Civil War games: from the chaotic scrambling at very low unit density and raids far behind porous font lines to consolidation of positions, to World War One-style slugging to crack entrenched defenses hex by hex, to eventual disintegration of one side’s front. Early on there was ample opportunity for daring maneuver. Then, when the Insurgents had gained the initiative, it was their choices of where in Spain to attack to best effect. The last phase then a head-on pounding of maximum-strength stacks against maximum-strength stack on an ever narrowing front.

Yes, with no longer any room to maneuver, that last phase would have been quite dull, had it not turned into a race against time with everything depending on a very few nail-biter die rolls. The Insurgents made it just under the wire, on the last turn of fair weather with their last combat engineers and almost last ASPs (only 2 were left) and just before the Loyalists would have started to collect VPs for Cataluna and then the central government not having collapsed.

Success in that race gave the Insurgents a lopsided VP score, two-and-a-half times as high as needed for a “decisive” victory (see below), properly reflecting the sorry state of their opponents at the end: control shrunk to only 3% of Spains area, 274 RE in the pool, the Fleet gone except for two LCs, the airforce down to two squadrons, all that as opposed to the Insurgents with only 3 RE in the pool (combat engineers), over 200 replacement points accumulated, the airforce completely intact, the Fleet still at respectable strength, nine factories producing. However, the score obscures how close-run the game actually was. If the Cataluna front had held for one more turn, weather would have put a stop to attacks (3:1 -3 at best is a recipe for attacker’s disaster), the Loyalists would have started to garner VPs every turn and, if they had held out until May, the score would have dropped to a “substantial” or even only “marginal” victory (ratios below 4:1 and 3:1, respectively). That “marginal” (ratio above 1.5:1) as a minimum was never in doubt, however.

Victory Point Score

 

Insurgents:  
current score Oct II 300
Cataluna collapse 20
enemy surrender 100
pacified cities held 222
enemy pool 274
surrendering enemy units 108
total 1024
   
Loyalists  
current score Oct II 98
enemy pool 3
total  
   
VP Ratio (Insurgents : Loyalists) 14:1

 

I believe both Elias and I at first underestimated one another. Even later on, our attacks were well planned and executed, but often did not fully anticipate possible enemy reaction. I learned a lesson early on at Gijon, Elias a little later when he lost Bilbao and San Sebastian, but neither of us ever quite overcame that tendency.

In retrospect, my greatest mistake was not to switch my trucks earlier from supply ferrying to motorizing artillery for support of my puny unsupported m/c units to threaten overruns in exploitation. I could have forced Elias earlier to provide stronger back-stops, to the detriment of his front-line strength. Elias overextended himself early on in the north and in an attempt to link up with the Basques along the French border, and paid for it. Also, I believe it was a mistake to have his strongest divisions in the mountains at Teruel, backed-up even though they had overrun-proof cadres (he even fortified the mountain hex on the Teruel-Valencia RR) and in a position they later on had to abandon without a fight. Second-line divisions could have held that spot, that fort would have been better placed in Cataluna, and the elite was later sorely missed there. Instead, the heavies then languished in Valencia, whose fall would not have materially affected the game. But then, he might give you an argument to the contrary.

The last phase with its predictable slugging on a four-hex front to which all of Spain had been reduced was exasperating except for the suspense of seeing how the die rolls would turn out. But that is not typical of Bell Tolls: Normally, if the Loyalists were swept from everywhere into so little a corner, they’d collapse from attrition in a very short time. In our game, Elias managed to avid losses in almost all major attacks. In these, his luck index (probability of faring so well or better) in the end stood at abour 1 in 1000, and that kept his front and the game alive for so long.

To be sure, that fantastic luck index pertains only to the one-per turn major Insurgent attacks in Aragon and Cataluna. Overall, things were much more even, with the Loyalists only slightly ahead. Specifically, luck was against the Loyalist in their counterattacks to break the corridor to the sea that cut off Valencia and to restore the last, Pasionaria line (they fumbled the chance of trying to break the corridor that formed the Cartagena-Murcia pocket) as well as in air-to-air combat and destruction of the Loyalist Fleet by naval combat, bombing, and submarines.

The last phase with Republican units rotated on limited supply from Barcelona city hexes required a fearsome amount of bookkeeping: about fifty units with eventually seven different states of the U-clock, and few stacks with units in fewer than four different such states. We might have saved ouselves some work by stipulating that everyone would be in full supply as long as the Loyalists would convert at least 4 ASP per turn to GSP, but then we could have run into trouble if, because of poor French-border rolls come December, the stockpile of ASPs in Cataluna had run out. The effect of the U-clock being reset by limited supply may be right, but someone should come up with a better idea how to achieve it.

This wrap-up would not be complete without my stressing that Elias and I played this game WITH, not AGAINST one another. This was a friendly game played for enjoyment, not for the sake of winning. We pointed out to one another obvious goofs or clerical errors rather than trying to exploit them, and the frequent differences in rule interpretation (once or twice in the other party’s favor!) were always quickly settled in a spirit of friendly cooperation. In Bell Tolls with its convoluted, disorganized, and not always unambiguous rules this is a must, but we went well beyond that call of duty. From among all the opponents I have played in decades, if I had to choose one for my next game, it would be Elias.

Well, here you’ve had my story. Elias might add a few words from his perspective of the game, maybe even point out some errors of mine I still haven’t realized. And if we ever play again, we’ll be sure to let you in on it.

this game report (c) 1999 Friedrich Helfferich

 

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